Saturday, 20 August 2011

Stage 17 Alford Bars to A283 Ramsnest Common – 7.1miles (and return 8.6 miles)

As mentioned in my previous post, I decided to do this walk alone, without either of the dogs, so I didn’t have to worry about the weather being too warm for them.  I was going to do another circular walk so the SBP section was again rather modest, but at least I am continuing to chip away at it (the return route was somewhat longer at 8.6m).  I did also wonder in advance how I would feel during the walk itself, as I never walk entirely alone in the countryside – would I feel uneasy or lonely?

Parked up outside the Roger Tichborne pub

Someone's getting married today ...
I parked up outside the Sir Roger Tichborne pub in Alfold Bars at just before 9am, and set off south down the B2133 for a 100m or so, before turning right (SE) down a bridleway.  At the roadside there was a sign directing people to ‘Leigh and Katie’s Wedding’.  A little way along the lane I caught sight of something very unusual in the adjacent field - statues of the bride and groom constructed out of those large round straw bales. They must have been over 15feet tall! I have to admit that I did trespass a little into the field to get close enough to photograph them.

... and here are the happy couple!

Construction work at Oakhurst Farm
Just before Oakhurst Farm the bridleway was diverted into a field.  There was a huge amount of construction work going on at the farm itself.  The route then continued initially on a wide dirt track and I could see the wedding reception preparations going on in the adjacent field.

Wide dirt track adjacent to the wedding reception field (over hedge)

Junction with the Wey South Path at Barberry Bridge
I soon reached a path junction at Barberry Bridge – the SBP was crossed by the Wey South Path, a route of some 36 miles from Guildford to a junction with the South Downs Way above Amberley, West Sussex. It was devised in the early 1970s on behalf of the Wey & Arun Canal Trust, then a newly established body aiming to restore the waterway which had previously linked the rivers Wey and Arun. This is the point where my return route would bring me back to the SBP later.
Crossing the corner of a small field
After crossing the corner of a small field, the path then took to the trees again, as it ran alongside Oxencroft copse.  There was a lake marked on the map but I couldn’t see it.

Oxencroft copse

Path skirting the garden of 'Forest View'
 I skirted the large garden of an isolated house called ‘Forest View’ (a tad unimaginative perhaps, considering its position deep in Hog Wood) and then joined the long driveway leading to Lee House Farm.  This section was only about 1km long, but straight, rough metalled/cinder tracks through woods are probably my least favourite paths (even worse than road walking), so I was glad to reach the end. At the farm there were some free range piggies in a field which is always nice to see.

Long straight driveway to Lee House Farm

Free range piggies
Once past the farm the path soon left the wide track and followed a meandering footpath between Weald Barkfold Copse and Upper Ifold Wood.  My guidebook (which I am not actually following as it describes the route in the opposite direction to that which I am walking it) mentioned that the SBP may not follow the route here as marked on the OS map.  This indeed appeared to be the case, as I deviated from the track I had previously downloaded to my GPS.  Fortunately, the route was very well way-marked on this section.

Crossing a dry stream in Upper Ifold Wood
On the last bit of this woodland section the path became very overgrown – it looked hardly used, despite being a Forestry Commission wood.  I had opted to wear cropped trousers that morning, a decision I began to regret as I got stung by nettles and scratched by brambles!

Overgrown path

Muck-spread field
I emerged from the woods into a ‘fragrant’ field which had been spread with cow manure.  Fortunately this had clearly been done some days or even weeks earlier and the smell was really little more than a faint odour.
Dungate Farm

Path leaving the Plaistow/Dunsfold Lane
After passing Dungate Farm, I emerged on the Plaistow/Dunsfold Lane.  Crossing straight over, the route dived down a dark tree-lined path that ran alongside houses and across the head of a nice private road.  There were quite a few properties grouped here, but the hamlet doesn’t appear to have a name on the map.

private road in nameless hamlet

I passed a couple of fine properties including one called Timbers (that woodland connection again!), and then the path skirted the edge of Durfold Wood and Downlands Wood. The latter had been partly felled, so there was rather more bracken than trees at this point.

Path alongside Durfold Wood

Downsland Wood without the trees
Striding purposefully along on what appeared to be a clear path, I was suddenly met with branches and brambles completely blocking the route.  I couldn’t believe that the path could suddenly disappear like that!  Fortunately, by back tracking about 30m I found a turning I had missed (the way-marking failed for once here).  Looking at the map in detail it appears that the route had been diverted slightly from the field edge into the wood, and I had arrived at the point where it dog-legged back out of the trees again.

The path comes to an abrupt end .....

... but backtracking I found I had missed this path
There were views to the south briefly and then as the path emerged more into open countryside, there were also good views to the northeast towards what I assume was the Greensand Ridge.

At last, a view (south)!

Views NE towards Greensand Ridge
The map showed the presence of a golf course near Shilinglee Park, but I certainly didn’t see one. Later research indicated that the course closed back in 2002 after a change in ownership. Instead, there are now some racehorse gallops, but unfortunately the only horses I saw were those at rest in their fields.  Shillinglee Golf Course

Warning signs near the old golfcourse at Shillinglee Park

Nice horses, but not of the racing variety
After crossing a narrow lane the path followed a hedge line through a large arable field.  The corn had been harvested, but the straw still lay on the ground waiting to be baled.  I met a woman with her small daughter and elderly Dalmatian dog.  At a field boundary I took off my rucksack and sat on the stile to enjoy a coffee break – it was a little after 11am afterall!

Harvested arable field

Time for a coffee break
In a patch of woodland called Furze Field, a lot of clearance work was being undertaken.  There were felled trees everywhere, and initially I was concerned that the route may be blocked.  However, I found the path after a few moment’s searching, although unfortunately it was another one of those nasty overgrown ones and my legs got scratched and stung again!  

Timber cutting in Furze Field

Oh dear, more brambles!
The final km or so was on a rather muddy path through light coppiced woodland.  It was wet enough to require some small diversions off the path round the worst of it.

The muddy path leading to the A283

When I reached the A283 near Ramsnest Common I turned left (south) and walked the short distance to where the SBP leaves the road again on its journey south west. 

The route from Alfold Bars to the A283 near Ramsnest Common
My walk along the SBP was over for the day – I had completed 7.1 miles, which included my slight diversion to photograph the bride and groom statues near the beginning of the walk.  I turned round and began to retrace my steps until I reached the overgrown footpath and felled trees in Furze Field, where I turned left on a bridleway to begin my alternative return route.

The key points of the return trip were:

  • The guide book mentioned that the paths east of Gostrode Farm can cause problems.  I don’t know what the problems were in 1999 when the book was written, but when a footpath left the bridleway and climbed a hill, it took a few moments to find the way out of the field at the top.  I was then confronted by a large field of maize, about 6ft high.  Initially there appeared to be a wide track running through it, but this narrowed considerably almost as soon as I entered the crop, and it was quite surreal walking through the maize without being able to see anything – I did keep my GPS in my hand to ensure I was walking in the correct direction. It started to spit with rain as I left the maize field.
Yes, there really is a footpath through here!
  • After a little road walking the footpath effectively went through the gardens of a couple of properties – something that always makes me feel a little uncomfortable.  The second house was Follies Farm, and it was a lovely rambling property. Two Bernese Mountain Dogs barked at me from a distance, and when owner came out to shut the dogs up I did check with her that I wasn’t trespassing.
Follies Farm
  • The route continued for a little over 2km on woodland paths and tracks and then it skirted the northern end of a lake.  It was now raining lightly and the rain drops made patterns on the water surface.  I initially thought this must be part of the restored Wey & Arun Canal, but I’m not so sure now.
Raindrops pattern the surface of a lake near Durfold Hall Farm

  • After crossing the Plaistow-Dunsfold road again, the path soon returned to woodland.  I was just coming up to the 12mile mark on my walk, and had promised myself some lunch at this point even though it was still raining.  Suddenly I heard shouts to my right, and peering through the trees spotted a game of polo in progress.  Continuing a further 200m along the path, I reached a gateway which allowed access to the polo field.  There were a number of cars parked, and I asked a guy (who was putting on this boots prior to competing in a game), if it was OK for me to sit and eat my lunch there (in the rain).  I was at the Burningfold Polo Club and they were apparently competing for the Alfold Bowl.

About to start the next match in the Alfold Bowl

Polo ponies heading for the chukka field
  • Near Hurlands I had trouble finding the route and spent 5 minutes walking round a barn and then tracking back and forth in a narrow field with the GPS in my hand.  Eventually, I found a partially hidden stile, and gratefully escaped (although not without a couple more stings to my poor legs).  I then walked through a very pretty wild flower meadow and even disturbed a deer which ran for cover as soon as she saw me.
Wild flower meadow
  • After a bit of road walking I headed into Sidney Wood and joined the Wey South Path, mentioned above.  For part of the way I was obviously walking next to the old Wey and Arun canal , but there was only a very small section near the end, before rejoining the SBP, that actually had any water in it.  The main restored part is a bit further south between Loxwood and Billingshurst. 
The Wey and Arun Canal devoid of water

One of the few stretches of water on this unrestored section of canal
  • I rejoined the SBP at Barberry Bridge and retraced my steps back to Alfold Bars.  It was now mid afternoon.  The wedding reception didn’t appear to have started yet, but someone had tied mauve balloons to the direction signs since I passed this way in the morning.

Return route
The weather, which had started grey, got rather damp in the middle and then turned out wonderfully sunny by the end of the walk.  The majority of both outward and return routes were in woodland of some kind, so the views were in rather limited supply, but it was still an enjoyable walk for all that (I would have liked a few less stings and scratches on my shins though!) And how did I feel about walking 16 miles alone?  Absolutely fine, so I’ll be doing it again.

No comments:

Post a Comment