Devil's Punchbowl & Thursley

14th March 2018

Greensand Des Res Punchbowl Thursley Witley Features Thank You Read Me

Our Walk

This walk from Haslemere Station to Witley Station takes us to the famous Devil's Punchbowl and the Gibbet Hill viewpoint. The village of Thursley, with its historic 11th century church, is also on our agenda. The walk is about 10 to 11 miles and has tough ascents and descents which become very slippery with mud and leaves after a period of wet weather, as I experienced. But it was all very good experience and, indeed, much needed exercise!

This is the view above the Devil's Punchbowl, looking north.
The view from the nearby Gibbet Hill is towards Godalming and towards the east of Guildford.

There is an old inn at Thursley. However, I managed the walk between about 11:40 and 18:20 without anything to eat or drink, and that includes water. This is not to be recommended, but for me it was an example of the traditional "mind over matter"! Why make time for ingestion in good walking weather? I reached Witley Station by candlelight, as my last picture on this page shows.

Greensand Way

The Greensand Way (GSW) follows the Greensand Ridge along the Surrey Hills and Chart Hills and is 108 miles (174 km) long. As you may know, the GSW stretches from Haslemere in Surrey to Hamstreet in Kent. It was opened in 1980 but was updated in 2012. This explains why my pre-A3-tunnel OS map gave out of date information about the route of the GSW between Haslemere and the Devil's Punchbowl. This called, on my part, for some improvisation and for some consulting of helpful locals many of whom were giving their happy canine charges their daily treat. For me, "all in a day's work", as it is said.

On leaving Haslemere we pass Saint Bartholomew's Church
which the Victorians tried hard to make uninteresting.
However, they left the old tower and put in a monument to a famous local, Alfred Tennyson.

Getting out of a village can often be an interesting experience, as some of you will appreciate.
It took a while before I spotted my first Greensand Way sign.

To make sure, I took a closer look!

After that it was a "down and up" in the landscape ...

... and a further GSW sign ...

... to give me confidence that I was on the right path.

Cosy Retreats - Many a "Des Res" in the Woods

Between Haslemere and the "Punchbowl" I was "freewheeling", for, due to the 2012 updates, the actual GSW had done a disappearing act in real life and in print on my OS® map. However, at least I could use the OS® map to see more or less where I was. On the way up to the Punchbowl, the landscape was punctuated by many a "des res".

The first "des res" to catch my attention was actually a dovecote - accommodation for feathered occupants. However, it seemed to indicate the affluence
of the nearby house built for human occupants.

This looks like a Victorian house, which,
for all its age, probably is worth more than a pretty penny.

This looks like an Edwardian house, whose red brick contrasts nicely with the green lawn and the colours of the surrounding trees and shrubs.

The Devil's Punchbowl and Gibbet Hill

The Devil's Punchbowl and nearby Gibbet Hill are local landmarks. The Punchbowl is an interesting geological formation with distant views to the north. Gibbet Hill is a prominent view point with views towards Godalming and the east of Guildford.

Both the Punchbowl and Gibbet Hill are connected with the true story from 1787 of the sailor who had come up from Portsmouth with his Gold Sovereign which he had received as pay for his services in the navy. With his sovereign he offered to buy some refreshment for three men in the inn in Thursley when the men pleaded poverty. As a reward he was then set upon by the said men and killed. The three men were caught at the Sun Inn in the village of Rake (a few miles to the south west just over the county border), brought to justice and hanged on Gibbet Hill. The sailor's stone records the event and the Celtic cross on Gibbet Hill marks the spot of the gibbet.

The OS® Trig Point nearby was erected in 1936 and is, in a way, a memorial to the pre-digital era of map-making.

From above the punchbowl there are distant north-facing views.

The line on the right of the punchbowl is the course of the pre-tunnel A3. Now attempts have been made to cover it with grass to make a path for leisure walking.

Here we see again the punchbowl and the course of the pre-tunnel A3.

The Sailor's Stone sits high up on the edge of the Punchbowl.
The stone bears inscriptions to mark the sad events of 1787.

On nearby Gibbet Hill is the "pre-digital era" OS® trig point of 1936.

The Celtic Cross, with the Latin inscriptions at its base, marks the site of the gibbet.
The trig point can be seen on the far right.

On leaving the Punchbowl for Thursley, there is another view of the old A3.

For a while there is a concrete path ...

... but after leaving the National Trust area, we are back to a muddy track. Thursley awaits.


The tree-lined way out of the Punchbowl to Thursley is not really that steep, but it is wet and muddy. Then there are some more fields to skirt around before we reach Thursley with its 11th Century church. As you might expect, there is an inn in Thursley, though not just next to the church. I thought I might savour the delights of the inn on another visit - perhaps some time in summer when the paths hereabouts are not so muddy and slippery.

The way down to Thursley is muddy and in places very narrow and slippery. But what would anyone expect hereabouts after rainy weather? Anyway, the tree-lined way is moderately level unlike our experience earlier in our walk and unlike what we would experience later in our walk.

No not our "ER"! So, this has been here since Edwardian times with - so typically British - layers and layers of "Post Office red". Well, that's why this post box looks bright and shiny.

The nave and chancel of Thursley church date back to the 11th century, although the church itself was founded in Saxon times. The church also has Victorian add-ons.

The wooden roof impresses. This is the first church that I have seen with the bell ropes immediately accessible from the nave. Well, that's because of where the tower is placed, of course!

Charles II said that all churches should have the royal coat of arms. This example is well post Charles II. In fact, it goes back to George III (as in "The Madness of King George"), to 1783 no less. Note the German component in the Royal Coat of Arms.

The mediaeval window in the chancel catches our attention.

Wall monuments tell of ...

... life and death in this once remote community.


From Thursley our route takes under the ever busy A3, near Cosford House, and then across the A286 just north of Brook. Eventually we reach Witley Station, just as night is closing in. Trains call hourly at the station, but, as luck would have it, the next train is due in less than 20 minutes. A warm and relaxing journey to London awaits.

After we cross under the A3, our way then skirts around Cosford House

Eventually we reach Witley Station. Just in time before candle light.
Trains call every hour, but luckily, today we don't have to wait more than 20 minutes.
It's getting cold and dark, but it's nice and warm on the London train.

Thank You

The idea for this walk along the first (or final) part of the Greensand Way came from Tim's CLOG walk on Saturday 24th February 2018; Tim's walk was in the reverse direction and probably took some slightly different routes, especially between the Punchbowl and Haslemere; he may even have had a less muddy terrain than today! However, Tim's walk implied an early start (Waterloo 09:30) which precluded me coming on it at the time, especially in view of the rail-replacement buses covering for the ongoing Rail Engineering works in Essex.

Of course, I would like to thank the Weather Gods for the sunny, if cold, weather. The walk was good exercise, both physically and in the art of navigating - in a muddy terrain and with an out of date map!