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clarcana: Project: Walking:

List of walking routes.

A graphic denoting the subject of this page.

Project 'One-foot-in-front-of-the-other'.

In common with others during Covid 'lockdown' I was mostly working from home in front of a computer screen for five days a week. Two, or even three, times an hour, my 'mouse' finger made a detectable movement. Exhausted through such intense effort, I resorted to the couch for recuperation.

How great was my surprise to hear the word 'obese' at my GP's? Rarely can a patient have received so complete a misdiagnosis. Not for an instant need I have taken seriously their admonishment to get 'some exercise'. You may as well demand that Hercules should peel his own grapes.

So, only to appease these medico-tyrants do I now endure the punishment called walking. Had he survived all his walks then great grandfather would surely have comprehended my maltreatment. Read here, then, the lengths gone to by the NHS to have me flattened by every passing Lanchester .

Suggestions that I use the routes here documented with my 'phone merely to navigate unfamiliar Surrey are baseless and derogatory. I caution any skeptic (who notes that several routes closely pass houses open to the public) against slanderous remark.

Route award points categories.

Please note that my opinion of a route cannot serve as a Risk Assessment. Please do your own research when necessary. Also, the assessment is of the route's viability with respect to a human walker and not a hound or a bicycle (or a horse, come to that). You may think that nothing bad can happen to you while out for a stroll in the countryside. I, too, use Shank's Pony, in part, because calamity seems less likely than it does behind the wheel. Wearing my genealogist's hat, I know this point to be somewhat moot, as both great grandfather and 4th cousin Alfred might both have confirmed.

🚧 Path construction.

In ascending order of quality, paths are -

Dirt path.
A dirt path (in official parlance, an unmade path) is one whose surface is nothing more than the natural geology. These comprise at least half the routes in Surrey shown on the OS as a public footpath, bridleway or byway. I include here paths traversing cultivated land where, for example, grass or corn stubble may be present.
Dirt is not necessarily a problem for walking in dry weather. Even in the rainy season it may be useable if the vicinity has adequate drainage (e.g. sandy soil), the route is on the flat and carries little traffic.
Surrey has a wide variety of soil types but, as often as not, clay is your enemy. Near streams or ponds, dirt can turn to mud at any time. The path along the southern edge of The Moors in Merstham is a prime example. For the dog walker, wellingtons are an option that I don't have on my ten-milers.
The North Downs , little of which is on the flat, can be a menace in the wet when bare chalk becomes slippery. Ditto icy in winter. A kindly council, or The Ramblers, install steps sometimes.
The points I award to dirt-free routes are perhaps less significant than those I give for path condition. The latter attempts to take the effects of waterlogging into account. The former does not.
Base layer aggregate.
A step up (ha!) from the dirt path surface is a base layer aggregate (BLA). This is fairly common because it is the cheapest means of improvement, being commonly used as an underlayer for road construction. It consists of a mix of crushed rock (usually limestone, though slate waste may be used) in assorted sizes, together with gravel or sand. It has to be levelled with a roller.
As BLA is worn away, it may reach a point where I reclassify it as dirt.
Small, regularly sized stone chippings are sometimes seen across parks or short stretches of private land where its aesthetic properties justify the cost.
At the top end is asphalt or concrete. Very rare in country locations where its benefits last only until the base layer is washed away or tree roots or ice break up the surface. Farm tracks such as the stretch south of Dean Farm in Salfords come to mind. Luxury, indeed.
Where a walk uses a hard public road, I class it as tarmac even if both verges are dirt.
See also Sustrans.
Five bananas awarded.
None of the route is dirt.
Four bananas awarded.
Less than 0.1% of the route is dirt.
Three bananas awarded.
Less than 1% of the route is dirt.
Two bananas awarded.
Less than 10% of the route is dirt.
One bananas awarded.
Most of the route is BLA or better.
Zero bananas awarded.
Most of the route is dirt.

🌧 Path condition.

Paths are stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, any path can become unusable if left to deteriorate over time. One October day, a fallen tree will block the M1. In practice, it is dirt paths that succumb most rapidly. Steep gradients across chalk on the North Downs are vulnerable to heavy rain turning paths into streams. The topsoil gets washed down the hill and the water cuts a channel along the middle of the path which becomes obstructed by a mixture of the larger flints uncovered by the process, and finer (but more slippery) chalk 'porridge'. The route into Godstone from the north-west is representative of the issue. Heavy usage (especially vehicular use) in winter will also churn up a route, transforming it into the dreaded Downlands Ankle Breaker (DAB).

OTOH, paths walked once in a blue moon tend to become choked with nettles, brambles and (eventually) growing trees. Grazing cattle with calves, locked gates, broken stiles, SPs or bridges will feature occasionally. I will usually say which problem applies, and whether it is seasonal. I deduct points even for short stretches that are really impassible. Likewise, longer but less difficult stretches get a thumbs down.

Assessment is on a 'worst case' basis. A route passable in the spring can become a jungle by autumn. Although dry in summer, you may face a quagmire in spring. Does the next sinkhole in Redhill have your name written in it?

Another maintenance issue is that of the Derelict Right of Way (DRW). It's one that crops up in several of the walks listed here and, indeed, wherever you have paths under the care of those owning the most extensive stretches of countryside: the NT, the Forestry Commission, Councils, the Woodland Trust, golf courses et cetera. OS maps may say that a historic or 'definitive' right of way exists in the vicinity, but such routes are not always best suited to modern needs. Land owners are perfectly entitled to improve on, supplement, or upgrade them as they wish. This would be fine and dandy if the old route were deleted from the map and the new route substituted. Well, that tends not to happen because officially sanctioned alterations to a public right of way involve more red tape than depicted in any story by Franz Kafka.

While the OS cannot delete the old route (because no instruction to do so comes from above) no one cares any longer about it. Maintenance dwindles or stops altogether. After a few decades, all traces of it can disappear. The poor, ignorant rambler however, is left staring at his GPS, wondering why the path it shows has vanished like the dew in the morning. How is he to know that the perfectly useable path two hundred yards away is what everyone now uses? The insidious aspect to this is that, although Rambling Richard remains legally entitled to use the definitive route, in practice he cannot do so because of its condition. To top it all, the landowner can, at any point, restrict access to the new route because it has never been declared a right of way - gotcha!

Councils can, in theory, order remedial measures to be taken. In practice, tightened budgets make such work less frequent than might otherwise be the case. SCC has a page via which you can report faults. NB The lack of a pub en route does not appear to qualify as a fault 🤨

Five bananas awarded.
None of the route is of any concern.
Four bananas awarded.
A short section is a little difficult but can be bypassed with ease.
Three bananas awarded.
Some of the route is a little difficult but can be bypassed with effort.
Two bananas awarded.
A section gives significant difficulty and cannot be bypassed easily.
One bananas awarded.
A section is passable only with great difficulty.
Zero bananas awarded.
The route may be completely impassable at some point.

🚚 Avoiding roads.

The Rolling English Road.

Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire;
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.

G. K. Chesterton

Being squished by a forty-ton HGV can significantly impair the enjoyment of one's ramble. As we say in Reigate "Babylon Lane: Complete Pain."

On taking up walking, you notice that, along winding country lanes, although there is frequently a verge along the outside of a bend, more rarely is there one on the inside. Approaching a right-hand bend I must often switch over to the 'wrong' side of the road until I'm back on the straight. So it goes.

Five bananas awarded.
No walking along any public or private road (including driveways) lacking a footway but carrying vehicular traffic. No crossing of classified public roads except at formally designated points. My routes include none such.
Four bananas awarded.
No walking along any public road lacking a footway. (Private roads, though common in Surrey, are frequently unmade and have predominantly light, slow traffic.)
Three bananas awarded.
No walking along any classified road lacking a footway. Sections up to 2 km of unclassified roads, with a contiguous verge and speed limits of 30 mph or under, exempted.
Two bananas awarded.
No walking along classified roads lacking a footway except sections of 'B' class up to 100 metres with a contiguous verge. Longer sections of unclassified roads with a contiguous verge allowed.
One bananas awarded.
No walking along classified roads lacking a footway and a contiguous verge for more than 100 metres. Longer sections of unclassified roads without a contiguous verge allowed. Cooper's Hill Road is an example of the latter and, if used at all, in extremis only.
Zero bananas awarded.
Walking beyond the above limits. My routes include none such.

🔭 Vistas.

Oscar Wilde

I hate views — they are only made for bad painters.

Well, Surrey isn't the Peak District. Worse, it often has weather like the Lake District. Tour guides make much of ' The Surrey Hills', but these are often so covered by woods, or suburbia, that they impart little or no view. It's a lot easier to drive up Box Hill than it is to leg it. However, the view seems improved, somehow, when attained under your own steam.

Five bananas awarded.
At least one hilltop marked as a viewpoint on the OS.
Four bananas awarded.
At least one hilltop over 150 metres without predominant vegetative cover.
Three bananas awarded.
At least one hilltop up to 150 metres without predominant vegetative cover.
Two bananas awarded.
Some higher ground coinciding with breaks in vegetative cover.
One bananas awarded.
Predominantly on the flat, but with breaks in vegetative cover.
Zero bananas awarded.
Predominantly on the flat. Predominantly view-obscuring woodland.


Ferric history of The Smug.
Photo of iron fencing.

Included in the pleasures of my country walks is discovery of incongruous items of ironwork occasionally that I see around property boundaries. Mostly, these are fences with sturdy iron posts, perhaps topped by finials, joined by heavy gauge horizontals. Sometimes it is a gate, such as that shown here. All traces of paint have long been replaced by rust but the structures otherwise will endure for all time, or until a tree blows over onto them.

Vegetation seen behind these barriers may include exotic specimens such as laurel, rhododendron[1], magnolia, bamboo, eucalyptus, juniper, cedar or cypress. These signs tell a story of what once was within landscape so endowed. The ¢19 saw changes in land ownership away from the church, landed gentry or nobility and toward 'new money'. The latter might work in the City, commuting by the new trains, but aspire to the country estate and life style of the former. Well, if you had cash to splash then where better than the fence surrounding your spread? Unlike the silver spoon on your dining table, your property boundary is seen by all and sundry. A real win for loadsa money! While we are about it, convert old style farmland into a park, where she and me can stroll whilst admiring the bank balance.

Examples of perimeter history can be seen anywhere within the Home Counties and commuting distance from The Wen. That shown is just east of Horsham (and its railway station).

Footpath Maintenance

Richard on a path clearance Task Day
Photo of Richard on a path clearance Task Day.

There is one wise old saying: 'Never volunteer for anything'. There is another that says 'If you want something done then do it yourself'. There is much wisdom encapsulated in them both. Since 2022 I have volunteered about one day per month as part of a team helping to keep the footpaths and other public rights of way around Reigate open. Usually, this means 'vegetation clearance': chopping back encroaching scrub, weeds and branches. Sometimes it involves repair of steps, gates, stiles, bridges, fences or direction signs. A big thanks, here also, to the many path users who keep me busy picking litter 👏

The Bedstead Men.

Three treadless tyres, a half-eaten pork pie,
some oildrums, an old felt hat,
a lorryload of tar blocks …
and a broken bedstead there.

Michael Flanders

It really makes my day when outside during winter, as here, near Shepherd's Hill in Merstham, and the temperature drops to -2°, so my fingers start dropping off, one by one.