Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Roaming along the Greensand Way Day 4 Dorking - Earlswood

View From Rose Hill
After Day 3 of the hike, Day 4 is a bit of a shock. Almost as soon as you leave Dorking all trace of the Greensand Ridge completely disappears and the path crosses fields in the clay vale at the foot of the North Downs. Unlike previous days I would suggest that you park at the start of the walk rather than the end, since spaces are at a bit of a premium in Earlswood, just south of Redhill.

Where's The Ridge?
Parking in Dorking proved to be quite easy. I parked by Dorking Halls just off the A24.  There is an hourly bus service from Earlswood back to Dorking, or you can walk down into Redhill and catch the train back (which is far quicker but less regular).

Brockham Church
From Dorking Halls, walk out of town through the Rose Hill area until you meet the path. Soon afterwards you will cross over the A24, which can be very dangerous so be very careful. Fortunately, when I passed by there were roadworks going on so was able to use the traffic lights to my advantage. On the other side you will climb up through the rhododendron terraces of the former Depedene House, a large palatial house that was demolished in 1969 after years of dereliction. You can get a sense of how impressive the grounds must have been from the landscaping that still exists. At the top of the terracing there is a lovely view of the Weald, the last such view until the end of the day.

Betchworth Church
The path passes through an area of salubrious housing before you leave Dorking for good and head out across the fields. At this point you suddenly notice the disappearance of the ridge, which had been so impressive on day 3. You soon reach Brockham village, once an important coaching station on the Reigate road but now by-passed to the north by the A25 and now a very peaceful setting with an attractive green at its centre.

Reigate Mill
As you leave Brockham you cross the River Mole, a tributary of the Thames. Here you pass by a couple of pillboxes, a relic from World War 2, when hundreds of these structures were put up to help defend the country against an invasion that thankfully never happened. Soon after you come to another village, Betchworth and pass through the churchyard of the very attractive white church. The style of the church is very different to the much grander one at Brockham and perhaps indicates the relative importance of the two neighbouring villages.
Looking Across to the North Downs

Once past Betchworth there are signs that the Greensand ridge returns although it is a fairly modest affair compared with the nearby North Downs Ridge which dominates the landscape to the north. After some road walking, you regain the path and at this point you get a rare glimpse of the underlying Greensand rock. You cross a number of fields before Reigate windmill comes into view. This is a landmark that you can see from many miles away due to its prominence on a small hill surrounded by much lower ground. When you reach the windmill, it is actually situated in the middle of a golf course and this presents the only navigational problem for the day since the signage in this area is fairly poor and the map is not particularly helpful. 

Reigate Park
The path passes through the hamlet of Skimmington, where there is a very attractive pub that would be worth using for lunch. Shortly afterwards you climb up to a recognisable ridge, which is Reigate Park. This is an attractive piece of heathland with very good views across to Reigate and the North Downs and to a lesser extent the hills far away to the south. The last part of the walk for the day is a switchback through residential streets until you either reach Earlswood station from where you can catch the bus, or Redhill if you elected to use the train.

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