Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Puttenham Common

Car Park View

What happens when you give your children a free choice about what walk to do from a choice of 3 different Pathfinder Walk books?  The shortest one available of course!  This is what happened for our latest walk - they were both keen to go out in the absence of their Mum but when it came to choosing they decided on the one with more car time to and from the walk than the walk itself!  Still on these short wintry days that is probably a blessing.  This is walk 1 in the Pathfinder Guide volume 65 Surrey Walks.

As it happens this turned out to be a pretty good choice as despite the wet weather that we have experienced this area is pretty dry thanks to the sandy geology of this corner of Surrey.  It was a pretty hairy drive to get to the car park at the beginning of the walk - the lane is very narrow with some steep sides in places and thank goodness we didn't meet any cars coming the other way!
Hanging on to Summer
The walk starts from the upper car park (the first one that you reach if you come from the Puttenham direction).  Immediately the view across the sandy heathland that characterises this part of Surrey was magnificent and we could see some considerable distance.  As we did on my last walk with younger daughter we had our lunch first before heading out - this is a good tactic as then we don't have to carry it!
The Tarn
Immediately our path headed down away from the car park towards the lake that is at the bottom of the hill, but which isn't obvious until you are almost upon it.  We had to walk along a short stretch of road on the way down which wasn't very pleasant.  I suspect that if you become familiar enough with the woods here you would probably be able to avoid that.  When we re-entered the woods we passed by some very large parasol mushrooms which rather fascinated all of us.  Despite the lateness of the season these were in fine fettle.  However, it has to be said that temperatures have been pretty high throughout the autumn and winter seems not to be in a hurry to properly arrive.
General's Pond
In fact as we got down towards the lake there were even signs that some trees were having a hard time letting go of summer let alone autumn!  As we reached the lower car park we passed by an oak tree that still seemed unusually green for the time of year.  A little beyond that and the reflections off the lake itself made the temperatures feel positively warm!  As we reached the lake the path continued along the shore for a little while and then headed off back into the forest.  That was rather a shame as for my money the stretch along the lake shore was the highlight of the whole walk.
Puttenham Common
As we walked through the woods I became aware of a fence blocking further access to the lake so we couldn't even wander across from our path for an extra look.  The woods themselves were pretty dark and the low sun clearly makes little headway through the trees.  Soon we reached another smaller lake, called the General's Pond. This is almost completely round in shape and the only gap in the woods for quite some distance.  It was also perhaps the only area where we found some mud and there was some extra entertainment in the shape of an overflow channel that we had to jump to continue our walk.  The pond itself is named after General James Oglethorpe, a philanthropist and prison reformer who founded the state of Georgia in America, who bought this estate in 1744.
Looking Towards Hogs Back
As we continued along the path my younger daughter commented on similarities in the countryside to the walk we did at Waverley Abbey earlier in the year.  This was a spot on observation for the path continued up on to a heathland in much the same way that we had done back then.  At the top we came across an Iron Age hill fort although to be fair I am not sure I would have recognised it if it had not been pointed out in the guidebook.  The ramparts were largely buried under vegetation and bushes but they could be picked out.  Ahead of us was the ridge of the Hog's Back, a feature that I recognised from many car journeys along this spine of hills leading westwards from Guildford.
Lascombe House
There was little time to enjoy the height we had gained though as we headed downhill once again to eventually join the North Downs Way.  This is a stretch I have walked but I must admit that in the 11 years since I walked it I barely remembered any of it!  The small Totford Hatch cottage was one I remembered but the short stretch that we walked was largely in trees and devoid of views so perhaps it isn't surprising that I don't really remember it.  I got told off by my children as we walked along here for I picked up a number of beer cans along the way.  My children don't like it because they think I look like a drinker but I can't bear to see unnecessary litter in the countryside, especially when it is good quality recycling!
At the top of the hill where the heathland opened out again we saw a very large looking pile ahead of us.  This house was designed by the celebrated architect Edward Lutyens and the surrounding gardens by Gertrude Jekyll.  This famous double act often collaborated and left their mark on many late Victorian developments.
Fading Light
From here it was a short stroll back through woodlands to the car.  Being such a fine day we saw lots of people out and about in this area - it is clearly a popular spot with locals.  Was I disappointed by the shortness of the walk?  Not really - it was good to get some fresh air in my lungs and even a short walk is better than no walk at all!

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