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
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.
- None of the route is dirt.
- Less than 0.1% of the route is dirt.
- Less than 1% of the route is dirt.
- Less than 10% of the route is dirt.
- Most of the route is BLA or better.
- 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?
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 🤨
- None of the route is of any concern.
- A short section is a little difficult but can be bypassed with ease.
- Some of the route is a little difficult but can be bypassed with effort.
- A section gives significant difficulty and cannot be bypassed easily.
- A section is passable only with great difficulty.
- The route may be completely impassable at some point.
🚚 Avoiding roads.
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.
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
The Rolling English Road.
- 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.
- No walking along any public road lacking a footway. (Private roads, though common in Surrey, are frequently unmade and have predominantly light, slow traffic.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Walking beyond the above limits. My routes include none such.
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.
- At least one hilltop marked as a viewpoint on the OS.
- At least one hilltop over 150 metres without predominant vegetative cover.
- At least one hilltop up to 150 metres without predominant vegetative cover.
- Some higher ground coinciding with breaks in vegetative cover.
- Predominantly on the flat, but with breaks in vegetative cover.
- Predominantly on the flat. Predominantly view-obscuring woodland.