It was now November 2006 and I took the opportunity of heading out onto the North Downs again to enjoy some autumn tints on a fabulously sunny and warm day. I parked in Oxted on the outskirts where the link path from the Greensand Way to the North Downs Way met the town. From here the easiest way to get back to Merstham was to go by train via East Croydon although this was a fairly costly and time consuming business.
Crossing the M25
By the time I actually got walking it was about 10.30am, about an hour after I had started my train journey (by road it was only about eight miles!). When I got to Merstham I took more of an opportunity to look around a bit more than last time I was here. It was difficult to appreciate that this small town was only a stone’s throw from one of the busiest motorway junctions in the country, the M23/ M25 interchange. The A23 which still passed through town was pretty quiet, but it must have been grim before the motorways opened. On my way to the path from the village I found an old fashioned fire station that had presumably only had room for one small appliance. It was well preserved but was now functioning as a upholsterers.
The path left town along a narrow lane that was obviously frequented by dog walkers as there were numerous signs telling them that they should not allow their dogs to foul. Although the roar of the traffic should have given me the clue that the motorway was close, it was nevertheless quite a shock to come out blinking into the sunlight from the shady lane to find myself on top of the M25 quite literally. As I crossed the footbridge I couldn’t help but speculate about where all the vehicles were headed and thank my lucky stars that I was out enjoying the sunshine rather than be cooped up in my car!
The Quarry Line
Once across the M25 it was back to rural England and I quickly came upon a very hidden pond where the reflection on the water was a complete mirror image of the surrounding bushes. I then went past a very large church and back across the A23 to head east once again. Considering it was such a wide road it was a cinch to cross, with all the traffic now diverted away a mile or so to the north. Once across the road I then crossed an older transport corridor, the London to Brighton rail line. This is in two parts, as the slow lines were by-passed by the ‘Quarry Line’ which ran parallel but would avoid Redhill to the south. As soon as I watched a train go past (which happens every few minutes), I continued on my way.
After wandering along a road with some very well-to-do houses with some great views, I crossed the M23 although this time it would be underneath. On the other side I climbed up on to the North Downs Ridge and continued along various farm tracks for the next few miles. There were actually a fair few people about, mostly using the opportunity of such fabulous weather to get their houses and animals ready for the winter. I had now gone behind the crest of the ridge slightly and across the fields in the distance I could see central London and Croydon, both scarily close!
I passed Chaldon village, which had a very nice sign installed in 2004 (although they don’t say why?). Across the road was Whitehill Tower, which looked like it was once some kind of fortification but which was in fact a sham. Now a bit derelict, it is a folly like many others that litter our countryside and turn it into some kind of landscape park. That’s not to say I don’t like them however, they make our country special and give it bags of character.
Eventually after passing through some lovely woodland stretches I reached the A22, yet another dual carriageway heading into Croydon. This wasn’t as busy as the motorways though and the footbridge was a welcome way of crossing. I next climbed up Winders Hill and passed a very attractive Lodge House before heading into the woods. The sound of the motorway running along the foot of the Downs was still very evident although fortunately it was a little dulled by the foliage still left on the trees. The leaves were now golden and gleamed in the sunlight and there was still quite a lot of birdsong.
Eventually I came to a set of steps above Oxted that were in direct line with the rail line that emerged from the tunnel I had passed through on the train in the morning. From here I continued around a large redundant quarry that was slowly returning to nature. A couple of fields later and I was crossing the M25 to head into Oxted and reunite with my car.