Our Saturday Walk of about 14½ miles from Caterham to Westerham took in parts of the North Downs Way and the Greensand Way. Our walk traversed attractive hilly and wooded landscapes, which had a good sprinkling of local and national history. The weather was fair for walking - no rain and not unduly hot. The starting time of about 10:30 enabled us to reach the start of our walk comfortably. The walk was ably planned and led by Nick, to whom many thanks for an enjoyable and invigorating day out.
Here are some of us in front of the enormous yew tree next to Tandridge Church.
This tree is reckoned to be about 1,500 years old.
It must have witnessed many comings and goings over the centuries. If yews could tell!
The start and end points - Caterham and Westerham - of our walk were conveniently within the TfL Travelcard Zone 6, which simplified ticketing. Getting to Caterham from London Bridge Station was quick. However, at London Bridge Station, the staff not in the know said "change at East Croydon" and those that thought they knew, said "the train is going to Tattenham Corner". When the train reached East Croydon, staff said it was going to Caterham and didn't seem to know about Tattenham Corner. Oh, what fun! Anyway, nineteen Cloggies arrived, and we soon moved off on our Saturday exercise.
Here is Caterham Station, terminus of the branch from Purley.
These class 377 EMUs are quite nice to travel in, but then,
they serve an affluent part of the South East.
Traces of the Victorian age still grace the platforms.
This plaque, on the outside of the station,
shows that there are folks hereabouts who care for their local history.
Here are some of us "ready for lift-off".
We skirted around the western outskirts of Caterham, a seemingly affluent commuter town. We crossed Queen's Park, with its view of the church behind the drinking fountain. We stopped awhile here, admiring the handsome crest of the local bowling club. Onwards we went to meet the North Downs Way at the point where is makes a 90° turn. Here we stopped to admire the distant view of London. Then we headed on to Whitehill Tower, now dilapidated but still proudly guarding the entrance to Tower Farm. We proceeded around the foot of Gravelly Hill and crossed the din and racket of the M25 to reach Godstone country.
In Queen's Park we stop for a short while. On one side are the church and the drinking fountain.
On the other side is the bowling club with its colourful crest.
Time for a natter about the walk in particular ...
... and the world in general.
On we go to greet the North Downs Way, ...
... at which point we take in the distant view of London.
We could clearly see Wembley Stadium, but here it is just off the picture to the left.
Yes, here we are enjoying the view and a swig of water.
On we go past some distant views of Leith Hill.
And here is Whitehill Tower, a "folly" built in 1862 by a local Mr Jeremiah Long. Didn't he have anything else to spend his money on? One source says he built the tower because he wanted to see the sea from the top if it! Admittedly, public transport in 1862 wasn't what it is today.
The tower needs some loving attention if it is not to lose any more bricks.
The Tower stands in the grounds of the suitably named "Tower Farm",
which, it would seem, has found a nice niche in equitation.
Another view of Leith Hill.
Yet another view of Leith Hill,
before we cross the din and racket of the M25 to reach Godstone country
In Godstone we had our lunch stop of about 1½ hours; some enjoyed their packed lunches on the green, others visiting the "Hare and Hounds" (16th century) on the north side of the green, and yet others going to the "Bell" (pre-1500), south of the green. We then admired the greenness of the village pond, agreeing that the summer algae had worked really hard to make the pond look like the grass on the village green. On our way out of Godstone to Church Town, we passed another large pond; this one was the site of the former Leigh Mill of Gunpowder fame.
On the other side of the roaring M25, near the music school for disabled children, is this rather traditional barn. In fact, it is so traditional that
green mould has started to embellish its thatched roof. How traditional can you get?
In down town Godstone by the green, a number of us visit the "Hare & Hounds" (16th century), either immediately, or after a packed lunch on the green. Here we are in the post-prandial phase, ready for the next stage of our walk.
Some of us visit "The Bell" (pre-1500) to the south of the green.
Here we are looking up the main street towards the "Hare & Hounds".
The village green is on the left behind the tree.
The up-market "White Hart Inn" (early 16th Century)
was reputedly visited by two queens: Elizabeth I and Victoria.
Godstone Village Green.
No, this is not part of the village green, only next to it.
Lots and lots of summer algae.
PLEASE DO NOT WALK ON THE ALGAE.
The pond is so green that it attracts our photographic attention.
Now for the other pond. This one looks like any old pond. But wait.
The Leigh Gunpowder Mill once stood here and has an interesting history (q.v. in Wikipedia). Added to this, this pond represents a mediaeval battery, a form of energy storage. Water coming into the pond to work the mill was (as of course expected!) higher than the water leaving the mill. So, the water was stored and only released to the mill when needed - hence the mediaeval battery effect.
Churchtown is actually a part of Godstone, and is where we found St Nicholas Church and, next door, St Mary's Alms Houses which were founded in 1872. We visited the Alms Houses first, which "were built in a romantic half-timbered free Tudor style to a design of Sir George Gilbert Scott". Scott is particularly well known as the architect of the St Pancras Station Hotel, the Foreign Office and (in Kensington Gardens) the Albert Memorial. Now, back to St Mary's Alms Houses. Mrs Augusta Nona Hunt was a wealthy local parishioner. Her daughter, Mabel Fanny, died at the age of 16 from heart failure. The Alms Houses for the elderly of the parish were founded by her grieving mother as a memorial to her daughter. We tarried awhile to visit the chapel.
Here are some of the Tudor-style alms houses.
This is St Mary's Chapel
This is St Mary's Chapel again - this time a broadside view lacking the top of the spire.
Scott's Norman Arch and altar rood screen.
Details of arch and rood screen.
Dedication window: stained glass with a picture of Mabel Hunt.
This is Mabel Hunt who died aged 16.
Stained glass with the initials "ANH" for "Augusta Nona Hunt".
The four white roses might suggest a Yorkshire connection.
The Almshouses were founded in 1872. "H" stands for "Hunt".
The dog looks like a long extinct Talbot, but here my interpretation has met its bounds!
"H" stands for "Hunt". The colouring is attractive.
However, those red heads look a tad devilish.
Again, however, my interpretation has met its bounds!
This is the view from the porch of St Mary's Chapel.
Here we have the last view of the "Tudor style" houses.
St Nicholas Church, which dominates Church Town, apparently dates back to the 13th century, but it was extensively restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1872-3. At the same time Scott also worked on the St Mary's Alms Houses next door. Of special interest in the church was the Evelyn chapel, which contains the marble effigies, on an "altar tomb", of Sir John Evelyn and his wife Dame Tomasin, dated 1664. The Evelyn family are well represented by the monuments in this church. The Evelyns carried on the gunpowder industry at the erstwhile nearby Leigh Mill. John Evelyn the Diarist (1620-1706), a contemporary of Pepys, was also of this family.
Please note that the inscriptions transcribed from the first two of the monument tablets, as depicted here, are, of course, in the English and style of writing of the era in which these stone tablets were made, chiselled and inscribed. You might receive strange looks if you used such language today!
We go up the steps to St Nicholas Church.
The church warden hears me turning the door knob and
she is kind enough to let us have a look around the church.
The first impression on entering, is that the church is rather plain within. But then, that's the result of Scott's "restoration". The Victorians seemed to want to "restore" any traditional church left standing.
There is the almost obligatory stained glass above the altar. However, we find that there are also some interesting monuments that have soldiered on despite the Victorian "restoration" work.
Near this place
lyeth the body of
born at Great Bardfield in Essex
late Vicar of this Parish
where having spent himself
exercise of his Ministery
for the space of 27 years
He departed this life Nov
1675 without Issue.
In memory of whom
His Beloved Wife &
Executrix Erected this
This is a memorial Tablet to a
"Mrs FRANCES GLANVILL"
The inscription goes on to say that
"... she had issue one Daughter.
"With a very plentiful Estate, she enjoy'd a
"pure Charitable & humble Mind free from
"all Passions & possess'd of every Virtue.
"She died a remarkable Pattern of Christian
"Patience & Resignation, July ye 23d A:D: 1719
"Aged 22 Years."
Note the age of her demise. Childbirth?
This is a memorial tablet to:
George Raymond Evelyn Esq., who died on 23rd December 1770.
It looks as if his age at death was 52, but I can't quite read the "photograph"!
Of course, in those days the average age of death was considerably less than it is today.
Now for the long-term residents.
In the Evelyn chapel there is "a black and white marble altar tomb" dated 1664.
The effigies are those of Sir John Evelyn and his wife Dame Tomasin.
Here the two are again.
A winged "beastie" (is it a canine?) nestles at the feet of Sir John. Why, I do not know!
On the side of the tomb is this description.
That's the sort of thing historians like "to get their intellectual teeth into".
The side chapel also received the attention of Scott.
The colourful ceiling is very much in his style.
It's time to get back to the outside world of the here and now.
With the church behind us, ...
... we make our escape through a pleasant avenue of lime (I think lime!) trees.
St Peter's Church in Tandridge is Grade I listed and has a nave dating back to the 11th century and a tower and spire combination dating back to the late 13th or early 14th century. The church was closed when we came, but we were impressed by the very large adjacent yew tree regarded as "one of the oldest in the country" and dating back about 1,500 years. Photographic opportunities. Hey, take a picture of yourself with a 1,500-year-old yew tree - you won't see many more (ancient yews that is) in the whole country!
On the way to Tandridge we pass a pond, this one without algae.
Shame! Godstone's village pond really was impressive!
A short stop for a natter and a "water swig".
Here is Tandridge's church of St Peter ...
... and next to it a ginormous yew tree.
Has it already celebrated its 1,500th birthday?
What comings and goings has it seen in the last 1,500 years? Ah, if yews could tell!
Here are some of us in front of it.
And here we are again, still in front of it.
Here's one of us, giving an impression of the enormity of this yew.
Here's another view of St Peter's
before we set off to several points west including Oxted and Westerham.
Oxted has some points of historical interest (e.g. church, houses, ...). It also has a rail connection to London, but it is outside the TfL boundary unlike the start and end of our walk. However, for eleven of us, Oxted was interesting because, despite being outside TfL Zone 6, it was a convenient point from which to return to the capital.
On Broadham Green we tarry awhile ...
... ere we move on to the "Haycutter".
No, it's not for a drink.
Opposite is the footpath towards Oxted.
South of Oxted we reach the "pond of separation".
Eleven go to Oxted and eight go to Westerham.
A little bit further on we (the remainers) cross the Greenwich Meridian (0°),
but, seasoned as we are, we survive the experience without barely batting an eyelid.
Limpsfield Common is on our route to Limpsfield Chart. In Limpsfield Chart, we pass the "Carpenter's Arms" and take a quick look at the Church of St Andrew (1895) with the chequer pattern on its tower. Within Limpsfield is the halfway point of the 110-mile Greensand Way (Haslemere in Surrey to Hamstreet in Kent). Behind the church we once more take up the Greensand Way. About half a mile further on through the woods we reach a road. Soon we leave this road and the main Greensand Way to join the "Westerham Link", which, as the name implies, connects Westerham with the Greensand Way; the start of the "Westerham Link", the last part of the walk, is not clearly marked, so some careful map reading must stand in for the omission.
It's nice and woody on the way to Westerham.
This is Limpsfield Common.
Coming out of the woods we reach Limpsfield Chart.
Here we find the "Carpenters Arms". No apostrophe. Can't stop here!
Yes, we have no apostrophe.
There is also the church with a distinctive chequer pattern on its tower.
This church actually has a tower supporting a spire,
but the OS® map says it is a church with a spire and doesn't worry about the tower.
That's what happens when niceties of ecclesiastical architecture
come face to face with cartographical considerations.
The Greensand Way is to be found on the north side of the church.
More woods for a ½ mile and then comes the turn off on to the Westerham Link.
From Westerham it was easy to get back to London. But before that, there was time to absorb something of this historical town. It is thought that St Mary's church (in Westerham, not the chapel in Godstone) dates back to the 13th century. Westerham is the birthplace of General James Wolfe of Quebec fame; we saw his statue on the green. Churchill's statue is also on the green; he lived at Chartwell on the southern outskirts of Westerham. So, there was a fair bit of history with which to end our walk! An inducement not to try and make a frenzied rush back to the capital.
Before coming into Westerham we had this view towards
the north west and the northern reaches of Oxted.
Westerham lies almost straight ahead in the valley.
The Westerham Link emerges, without undue ceremony, in down town Westerham
with its green, its monuments to Churchill and Wolfe, its hostelries, ...
... and its busy main street. Well actually, it was quite busy.
I just caught a quiet interlude to take the picture without being run over.
Here is Westerham's time-honoured Church of St Mary.
One of Westerham's famous sons is General James Wolfe (2 January 1727 – 13 September 1759). He took, and died at, Quebec. The battle meant that Canada became British. His childhood home, Quebec House (now National Trust), is just behind the church.
It was easy to get back to London. Westerham, like Caterham, is still in the TfL Travelcard area. No administrative details of zone boundaries to hassle us. The 246 bus to Bromley South Station traversed some attractive countryside, passed the perimeter of Biggin Hill Airport (very much open for business for small aircraft) and also passed Keston Church (starting point for other walks - e.g. to Addington Hills via the ever-delightful hamlet of Fickleshole) before reaching the suburbia of Bromley. From Bromley South there were convenient fast trains running non-stop to Blackfriars.
Thanks Nick for leading this walk. Thanks to all for your company. Thanks to the Weather Gods for the fair weather, which was just right for a good walk. We all had good exercise! We all saw and learnt new things. That's what life is about!