2016 - January - 17

Merstham Saint Katharines Cross Country Well House Inn Gatton Park Map and Heights Thanks Readme index banner

Our Walk

Our IVC walk this Sunday was in North Downs country and was packed with "winter punch". It was capably led by Peter, our IVC stalwart. Our walk may have been foreshortened by about 1½ miles from the intended distance, yes, but it was still seven miles (11½ Km) of good exercise for body and mind alike. The frosty landscape of mid-January had its great attractions, and Gatton Park, - Hall, "Town Hall" and St Andrews Church - gave us an interesting insight into English history. Indeed, one of IVC's great points is attractive walks like this, walks which combine good exercise and a nice way of contributing to one's life-long education.

On the first part of our walk we have a chance to enjoy Winter's snowy mantle.
A bit more of the "white stuff" and tobogganing could be on our agenda.
As it is, our feet echo to the crunch, crunch of a winter landscape.

From Merstham Station we struck roughly north west over frosty fields and along equally frosty side roads, reaching, after two to three miles, "The Well House Inn", our lunch stop. We warmed ourselves up nicely for about an hour, and were then ready to strike south, across open country, reaching the highest point of our walk at 200 metres above sea level. Then it was a descent to join the North Downs way as it it meandered through the historic grounds of Gatton Park, that well known "Rotten Borough" of English history. We reached Merstham Station well before night fall. It had been another successful and enjoyable IVC Sunday walk.

So here is what this page has in store for you. Even if you were not able to join us, here's your chance to find out how we enjoyed our nice early 2016 Sunday IVC event.

Enjoy your browse!


Being an early bird is not without its benefits. I thought it might be nice to put this to good use and see some more of Merstham. The village nestles at the foot of the North Downs and is steeped in railway history and other history besides. It was the southern extremity of the famous horse-drawn Surrey Iron Railway and, in later Victorian times, found itself at the southern end of both the Merstham (SER) and Quarry (LBSCR) Tunnels, belonging to the two mentioned railway rivals. As is often the case, in Merstham the two aspects spiritual seemed well catered for - the old church and the many pubs.

The train departs for Tonbridge, leaving me to enjoy
the quiet silvery beauty of a frosty January morning.

An ensuing London-bound train serves to emphasise the aesthetic quality of the morn.

Merstham Station in 2016 seems to have changed little from the Edwardian picture in the waiting room. Only that little red sign on the left reminds us that we are now in a more modern age.

Merstham is well served by drinking establishments - or watering holes if you prefer.

I wonder if the publican of this Merstham establishment is aware that Merstham is firmly in Southern Railway territory, and that in this context, the depiction of a GWR 4-6-0 with carriages to match can hardly be said to represent the erstwhile days of steam in Merstham.

Here is Merstham's ancient church in its wintery, silvery, sylvan setting. A Christmas card picture. We would pass the church at the start of our walk.

Saint Katharines - Merstham Old Church

Saint Katharines is Merstham's original parish church and apparently dates from around 1220. The spelling of its name is unusual. From the outside, as we found, the building looks quite attractive in its wooded setting, but it is rather plain within - not a monument or hatchment in sight! Anyway, it was a picturesque and frosty landmark on our route out of Merstham.

A frosty January morning leaves its picturesque signature on the church ...

... when viewed from different angles.

Here is the view from the church steps.

Here is another view from the churchyard.

Cross Country

In the morning we strike cross country over a maze of fields and quiet side roads. The frost at this hour keeps some of the mud in check, although the harder surface of the small roads is still quite welcome. Uphill and down dale our feet take us, until eventually, the rambling edifice that is "The Well House Inn" hoves into picturesque view.

We pose for a piccy and ...

... then turn at the same spot to get another - perhaps even more rural - background.

Here we still are!

It's a tad easier on the - quite quiet - road.

With a bit more snow and toboggans we would have been flying through the landscape.

Here we are in close-up as we descend from on high.

This is probably a reasonably recently built lodge for the nearby estate,
but is looks the part in this part of Surrey.

Stately trees accompany us as we pass Reeves Rest.

It all looks quite pretty in January's frosty mantle.

The Well House Inn

We had our lunch at the Well House Inn, so called because of St Margaretís Well in its garden. According to the Chipstead Village News, the Well House Inn was originally a row of four cottages built in the 18th century. These cottages were then merged to form a tea house, but it was as late as the 1950s, that this tea house became a pub. (If you visit the above link, then of course search for "Well House Inn"). Anyway, for us it was a pleasant lunch stop, whatever the historical credentials of the said hostelry.

The rambling edifice of our lunch time sojourn greets us ...

... as we head for one of the doors. Nice pub, but can't see the "Food Hygiene Rating", whose positive and clear presence helps to make the visitor especially welcome.

The sign writer has been kept busy, for there are at least four inn signs, two narrow and two wide. Can't miss the pub with this amount of PR!

Here's one of the wide signs, nicely executed without the need for an overdose of colour.

We take our seats amid the pub's cosiness ...

... and now have just ordered food and beverages.

We settle down for a pleasant lunch time hour.

The pub is full of pictures and other memorabilia garnered from the past.

We have "wined, 'beered' and dined" and are ready to meet the afternoon.
Outside, we see the hill to the left that separates us from down-town Chipstead.
The conurbation is so near and yet so far.

In the afternoon, we rise to higher things - to 200 metres (656 feet) in fact - and enjoy distant wintery views to the south. Here we still have to reach Gatwick Farm (where the footballer, George Best, once lived).

Gatton Park

Gatton Park was the cultural highlight of our walk, and definitely not to be missed. As it was, we only managed to see a small bit of this interesting part of British history. Gatton Park was, of course, one of the famous Rotten Boroughs, which, from 1450 onwards, was able to elect and send two MPs to the House of Commons, however small the number of voters. Eventually this privilege was regarded as anachronistic and undemocratic and all Rotten Boroughs - at least nine of them, but probably more - were finally abolished by the 1832 Reform Act. Anyway, we had the chance to see the "Gatton Town Hall", as well as the very interesting Saint Andrews Church and also part of the Palladian exterior of Gatton Hall itself.

We enter Gatton Park via rolling park land ...

... designed by Capability Brown.

On the way to Gatton Hall we see the Millennium Stones which mark the year 2000 ...

... and then pass this interesting tree before encountering the 50s and 60s style school buildings. The Royal Alexandra and Albert School now owns the Grade II listed Gatton Park estate and house, although the National Trust partly administers it.

This is part of the Palladian-style Gatton Hall.

Here is a closer view. Old age is creeping up on me, because I missed taking a snap of "Gatton Town Hall", a small white open-sided Greek-style temple and associated large urn, on the green opposite. It was here, that according to custom, the two MPs were duly elected by the small number (i.e. 20 or so) of constituents. Still, there will hopefully be another photo opportunity.

Corinthian columns were almost "de rigueur" for Palladian-style county seats. Interestingly, Gatton Hall and estate were at one time owned by the Colman family of Colman's Mustard fame.
Their motto and crest hide high up on the wall behind the columns.
"Sat cito si sat bene." "Quick enough if well enough." So there!

Near the Hall is the 13th century Grade I listed church of St Andrew.
In 1834 it was filled with interesting carved woodwork from various parts of Western Europe and latterly it won Niklaus Pevsner's praise.

Of course, a building like this merits a closer look, and indeed, any number of things catch our discerning eyes. We would like to thank Tim
for alerting us to the splendid artistic features of this church.

Stained glass windows grace the altar and come from near Leuven (Louvain) in Belgium.

Linen-fold carving - also from near Leuven - graces the walls.
(This view is "brightened up" to show the richness of the carving.)

The angelic choir stalls originate from Ghent.

By the entrance there is more colourful stained glass, also from near Leuven.
Bits of the old English standard - lions rampant and the fleur-de-lys - adorn the crest.
European history is so intertwined!

It's time to leave the artistic and historical delights of Gatton Park,
and this thatched gate house seems to wave us goodbye.

There's a bit more open country as we descend into Merstham.

The "Ich Dien" feathers, sported by the "Feathers" pub tell us that Merstham Station is close by.
So ends another successful IVC Sunday Country Walk.

Thank You All for a Nice IVC Day Out!

Thank you Peter for suggesting and leading this walk. Thank you all for making this a good IVC day out. The area, as we saw, has pleasant undulating landscape filled with a good dose of British history. We also had nice winter weather, even if the sun was a tad reticent. Overall, an excellent IVC Sunday day out and a seed for future walks in this interesting part of the Home Counties. Again, Many Thanks to all!