On a sunny day at the end of February we set off for a walk from Haslemere. We were staying at Hunter Basecamp, accommodation for volunteers provided by the National Trust, for the weekend, and having arrived early on Friday this was the perfect opportunity to explore before we met up with our fellow volunteers in the pub for an evening meal.
We’d found a walk on the i-footpath app, which ran straight past where we were staying, an achievable 9 mile circular walk for a Friday afternoon. We started the walk by making our way into the centre of town and meandered down Haslemere’s pretty high street. There are lots of independent shops to spark interest, but retail therapy was not the aim of the day so we carried on walking.
Soon we left the High Street behind, turning left up a narrow alleyway, which was the start of a long section of the Greensand Way taking us all the way to Gibbet Hill, 4 miles distant. Up the alley we went, along a suburban street and onto a footpath, with cheerful crocuses blooming under hedges.
We continued up a quiet lane, which turned into a sunken holloway, leading us steeply uphill. When we reached the top of the hill, a short stroll along a lane took us onto a footpath across heathland. The sun was shining, birds were singing, bees buzzed in the gorse, it was a beautiful late Winter day.
The path lead us down and uphill through the heath, until eventually we reached the edge of the parking area at the Devil’s Punchbowl. We were last here several years ago, when the A3 had just been diverted into a tunnel beneath us. Then it was a sodden day, relentless rain soaking us as we litter picked the muddy area where once the road ran, removing decades of detritus from the bushes that had sat beside the busy road. Now, it is hard to imagine where the road was, somewhere that was so busy and snarled with traffic now quiet and peaceful.
We stopped at the cafe for lunch before carrying on towards Gibbet Hill. This is the second highest point in Surrey at 272m above sea level and, on the clear day that we were blessed with, the views were spectacular. We could see the skyline of London in the distance from the Trig Point.
Gibbet Hill, as the name suggests, was once the site of executions. The bodies of executed criminals were hung in the gibbet in metal cages to deter others from misdeeds.
There’s a cross on the hill in commemoration of a sailor murdered nearby, his attackers hung in the gibbet.
Leaving the hilltop we headed steeply downhill and then back up again and back to the summit as I had momentarily forgotten how a clock face works and taken us down as 10 o clock and not 2 o clock- oops! Back on the right path we left the hill and set off through the woods below.
Along the path we reached the Temple of the Four Winds. On the platform a hunting lodge once stood, built in 1910 but abandoned and derelict by mid century. What a spot for a lodge, with beautiful views.
Down through the woods we went, past Halcyon House with it’s lake, paddocks of horses, the way getting muddier underfoot as we descended, slipping, sliding and eventually ending up on my bottom!
We made our way into the village of Grayswood, before skirting a lake, once the pond for a local forge. The woods were carpeted with snowdrops and in fields old agricultural machinery was left abandoned. In fields close to the end of our walk, nosy sheep grazed, curious to see us walking past.
We returned to the basecamp as the sun began to set, perfect timing to watch the day fade and a quick change of clothes before heading to the pub.