Founders' Footpaths, 28 January 2011

An Anytime Challenge

On the "Wander round Woodcote" last autumn I was asking a few people about the Founders' Footpaths Anytime challenge. I am glad to say after putting it off at the time I finally did it on Friday 28th January. I thought my account might interest anyone else planning to do the walk from our general area.

I decided to travel by train rather than driving down, but on a weekday to have the best choice of trains, not knowing what time I would finish. There are three points on the route which are near-ish stations and the route can be started from anywhere but I chose to start at Steer's Field and walked up Ranmore Road from Dorking West, about a mile and a half. There is a walker's path up part but not all of the road though there is also an option to walk due west on a track, Pilgrims' Way. On the return I walked back to Dorking Deepdene where more trains stop, luckily just in time for the next one. This plan worked very well except that it was a bitterly cold day which had not been a major problem on the walk, but the trains were freezing cold: I didn't warm up until nearly back at Reading. On the other hand, the cold meant that most of the mud was frozen on the route.

For someone not familiar with any of the route apart from the bits each side of Steer's Field, the route description seemed very clear and also informative: as well as the places of Founders' interest the route boasts a Roman temple, a wealth of information on gunpowder manufacture, and some fake deer!

I did go wrong a couple of times in the section between Jelley's Hollow and the end of Blackheath Forest where matters were not helped by an expected bridleway sign not being there (retracing my steps I found it had just fallen down next to the less obvious of 2 paths) and this was a part of the route where it definitely paid to check the compass bearings.

Regarding facilities en route, there are a few pubs and one shop at least, at Shere. Back at Dorking Deepdene there is a garage next to the station so possibly some food and drink (and shelter!) there too.

In the photos below, number 5 shows St Martha's Hill viewed from below for a change - last seen on the Guildford Boundary Walk where the route climbed it. Number 6 shows the top of the Downs Link joining the North Downs Way with a pillbox featuring in the route description, and number 7 is a view of the escarpment a little further on.

Helen Abbott.