Sunday, July 3, 2011


One of the activities the American Women's Club plans is a monthly day hike in the country.  I was reading the description of the upcoming walk to Josh, and he said, "That sounds great!  When is it?"  When I told him it was on a Wednesday, he was very disappointed.  At last week's meeting, I mentioned this to the woman who leads the walks, and she directed me to a website where we can download the directions and do any of the walks on our own.

The Saturday Walkers Club has more than 200 walks listed on their website, with maps, photos, detailed directions, and suggestions for places to stop for lunch and afternoon tea.  All of the walks are accessible by train (or even by Tube), and start and end at train stations.  They post which walks they are planning for the upcoming weekend, so you can join them or do one on your own.  Nice!   We decided to do one that would allow us to start and end at the Wimbledon train station, so we didn't have to work around all the weekend transit closures to get to one of the main train stations in the city.  After perusing the list, we settled on the Dorking to Reigate walk -- an 8-mile trek along the Mole river.

Saturday morning we took the 11:10 am train from Wimbledon to Dorking, arriving at 11:45.
Being a dork in Dorking
England is crisscrossed with public footpaths, and walking along them is a popular pastime with the locals.  Some are well marked, while others would be hard to find without detailed directions, a compass, and an Ordnance Survey (OS) map.  Fortunately, the directions we downloaded from the SWC website were pretty detailed, and we had my iPhone compass and a printout of the local OS map, just in case.
Within minutes of leaving the train station, we were on a lovely, flower-lined footpath...
And eventually emerged into a meadow, with 2 lone lawn chairs.
 At one point, the path actually went between someone's house and garage!
And then past the base of Box Hill.  If you ever read Emma by Jane Austen, you might recognize Box Hill as the destination of Emma's ill-fated picnic outing.  It is a lovely spot, and there appeared to be quite a few people at the top enjoying their own (hopefully less awkward) picnic.
We crossed over the river Mole several times

And after walking through a golf course, found ourselves in the cute little village of Brockham.  Just then, my cell phone rang, and we ended up having a nice conversation with the Rylander family as they were driving from Cape Cod to Maine for a family reunion.  They were tickled to hear that we had just walked through Dorking.
Across the village green was the Royal Oak pub.  Since we had started the walk a little late and it was nearly 1:00 we headed there for lunch after the phone call.
Royal Oak pub
The weather was nice -- overcast, but warm (low 70's) -- so we sat out back and enjoyed a hearty pub lunch.  I had the ploughman's lunch (which I shared with Josh and STILL couldn't finish), and Josh had sausage, eggs, and chips.  Yes, that was one of the menu options.  Second breakfast with fries, essentially.
After an hour break for lunch, we continued westward towards Betchworth, passing a few historical landmarks along the way.
The Pound
Old WWII bunker?
The trail led us through an interesting variety of meadows, farm fields, woods, footbridges, country roads, and small villages, so the scenery changed frequently enough to keep us from noticing the distance we were walking.
chalky downs

Rosa rugosa

wildflower meadow
Angler's pond
We must have climbed over at least a dozen stiles
But that's because we passed a lot of animals
very friendly horse
In Betchworth, the patch took us through the churchyard of St. Michael's Church.  If it seems vaguely familiar, that's because it was the site of the first wedding in the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Around 4:00, we found ourselves at the Skimmington Castle pub, just in time for a spot of tea. 

After a half-hour break, we wound our way uphill, past some lovely views.
see the windmill?
At the top of the hill: ferns!
BIG ferns!
LOTS of ferns!
And a nice view of the town of Reigate.
We came down the other side onto the grounds of Reigate Priory, which dates back to 1200 and is now a school and museum.  It is surrounded by playing fields and a huge playground, so there were lots of families with kids enjoying the nice summer weather.  Quite a contrast from the rest of our walk.
We walked into the main part of town and strolled up and down the high street.  Lots of cute shops, most of which had just closed for the day.  Since it was a little early for dinner, we walked to the train station and took the train back to Dorking.  We were chagrined to discover that after walking for nearly 6 hours (including breaks), it only took 7 minutes by train to get back to where we started!  I supposed if we had walked along the train tracks it would have been faster -- but certainly not as scenic.  We found a nice restaurant in Dorking for dinner (despite being somewhat underdressed), and then walked back to the station and took the train back to Wimbledon.

I'd estimate we walked at least 10 miles yesterday -- which my friend Diana could probably do before breakfast -- so we slept very well last night.  We got to see a good bit of the Surrey countryside, had some nice meals, and made friends with a horse along the way.  All-in-all, a great day, and we look forward to trying out some more of these walks and exploring other areas on the outskirts of London.


  1. Now THAT totally sounds up my alley! Course, I'd be taking photos every 5 seconds so it'd be more like 10 hours! ha! But in all seriousness, what a low-stress workout and quality time spent together. Tell Josh he looks a little like Steve Urkel in that photo....j/k :)

  2. I LOVE this post!! I was thinking to myself that this walk would be right up my alley, even before I saw you'd made reference to my walking. :-) I love all of the scenery. Thanks for all of the great pictures!


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