Tag Archives: oxted

All wandering and no genealogy

24 Apr

Today my friend Chris and I continued our walk along the North Downs Way. It was our first proper walk of the year, but hopefully the first of many. We picked up more or less where we left of last year.

We are slowly working eastwards along the North Downs between Farnham in Surrey and Dover in Kent, although we are generally heading eastwards, each section seems to have been walked from east to west for some unknown reason.

Today was no exception, we started from Otford, Kent and made our way westwards to Oxted, Surrey. The total distance was about 14 miles including the final stretch from the hills to the centre of Oxted and the railway station. Despite being on hills, most of the route was pretty level with only one steep climb at the start.

I quite liked Otford. It was the first time I have been there and it is quite a charming place. We counted four pubs within the first mile of our walk, three or four antique shops and a small pond in the centre of the town/village. There is even a heritage centre, which wasn’t open when we went past. I wish I had an excuse to go back again, perhaps one day I will.

The weather was absolutely fantastic, the sun shone and remarkably I was in a short sleeve shirt and shorts. I can’t believe it is only April and I am already wearing shorts. The ground is incredibly dry, we haven’t had any proper rain for three weeks now. This fills me with optimism about the summer weather, but I am trying not to get my hopes up, rather I am making the most of the good weather whilst it lasts.

There were only two negative points from today’s walk, the presence of the M25 motorway, the noise of which was a constant companion throughout the day. The other drawback was that there was still a slight haze, so the views were not as spectacular as they should have been.

View from the Surrey hills

The most interesting feature of day were a couple of groups of young women (probably students), armed with maps and wearing large backpacks. They appeared to be on some sort of orienteering challenge, but were seemingly hopelessly lost. Hopefully I was able to put one group back on the right track, but as I write this I wonder if they are still wandering across the hills?

So genealogy took a back seat today. Although we were walking in an area where my GASSON ancestors probably came from, I can’t really claim any genealogical connection. Weather and aching muscles permitting we will be back in Kent next Saturday to complete the next section, that will be two Saturdays in a row without genealogy, so I will probably start suffering withdrawal symptoms and have to get back into an archive the following weekend.

Walking on the North Downs again

26 Sep

My good friend Chris and I completed another section of the North Downs Way today. Bit by bit, as time and weather allow, we are going to walk the whole length of it. Today’s section was from Oxted to Merstham, both in Surrey, and I have named it the motorway section (freeway for any Americans reading this) as we had to cross three stretches of motorway and the noise of traffic was an almost constant companion throughout the walk.

I think this was the first time I had been to Oxted, I have no ancestors from there so why else would I need to go? From what I saw it was a nice little town, from the railway station we had about a mile and a half to walk before we actually got to the North Downs Way, crossing the M25 in the process.

The M25 north of Oxted, Surrey

The M25 north of Oxted, Surrey

The weather was almost perfect for walking, the grass was a bit damp to start from the early morning dew, but apart from that it was bright and sunny most of the time. There was some cloud later on, but it was by no means cold, in fact the first few miles were out in the open and it was getting a bit too warm. Most of the rest of the walk was shaded, which restricted the views but made conditions much nicer for walking.

Looking South across Godstone Vineyard

Looking South across Godstone Vineyard

Although the weather was good, the visibility was not perfect, and although at one point (near Willey Park Farm) we could just make out the tall office buildings of London, it was not possible to see them clearly. It really surprised me, to be in the open countryside and still be able to see parts of London, I wish I had taken my binoculars with me.

The derelict Whitehill Tower

The derelict Whitehill Tower

As I said the views were limited, but the were a couple of features closer to the path that you couldn’t miss. One was the wonderfully Whitehill Tower (pictured above) described in my route guide as a “derelict folly”, although I have been unable to find precious little else about it.

Another trig point for my collection

Another trig point for my collection

No walk along the North Downs would be complete without spotting a trig point, and today was no exception. This beauty was just before we started our descent towards Merstham.

The M23 cutting through the landscape

The M23 cutting through the landscape

The descent to Merstham and the train home involved crossing two motorways the M23 and back over the M25 again. Fortunately an underpass was provided for the first and a bridge for the second. All in all this was quite an easy section, about 10 miles in all (including getting out of Oxted), although most of the route was undulating their were only really one or two challenging climbs, and they were mercifully short.

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