Wednesday 11 June 2008

A Walk

So I did. Walk, that is, on the eastern fringes of Surrey, and a very fine day's walking it was. Grand rolling country, fat land, with plenty of oakwood and wide views, except where the road ran between impressively high, dense and ancient hedgerows. All this subsisting, indeed thriving, as rich farmland and as the dog-walking extended back garden of a string of prosperous commuter settlements - on the railway, with the M25 on the doorstep (but the roads are quiet). Outside the villages, I scarcely saw a human all day. How strange England is...
I began at the isolated and high-up (and High Church, by the look of it) Tandridge church, done over by the much maligned Scott (a local), but retaining its vernacular charm. It was locked, but this was probably no huge loss. In the churchyard are a yew tree of spectacular grandeur and immense age, and the tomb of Lady Scott, G.G.'s widow, a rather beautiful Victorian Gothic job in marble, which could do with a little restoration.
Hghlight of this walk, and my main destination, was Lingfield, a large village of patchy charm, with an ancient oak beside a stone-built Cage - a fine old lock-up for felons, sadly not used since 1882 (I'm sure it could be well filled every Saturday night, even in sedate Lingfield). The jewel of Lingfield - and one of Surrey's finest churches (from a not huge field, admittedly) - is St Peter and St Paul (it seems to be of great interest to the Medieval Combat Society). This is a handsome, spacious (for these parts) Perpendicular job, which appears to have two naves, but one's an aisle. The monuments, obviously, and brasses are the main interest, and they are stunning. The feet of the first Lord (the coloured monument) rest on a mildly resentful-looking reclining Saracen, leaning on his elbow, glum head on hand. The head of Sir Reginald Cobham rests on a beautifully carved, ferocious Saracen's-head helmet. So much for inter-faith dialogue.
The other church on the walk - St George, Crowhurst (Crowhurst, Surrey, that is) - is one of those quiet, peaceful, unshowy little churches that abound in most of England, as soon as you're off the beaten motorway. And it was open (and contains the only example in Surrey of a Wealden cast-iron tomb slab, though half of it is obscured by the altar table). The ancient Crowhurst Yew, which at one time was hollowed out and a room created inside - nothing remains of that but a hangdog remnant of a door - has been certified 4,000 years old (hmmm) and is officially a Great British Tree. Excellent, though, as a tree, I must say I found the Tandridge yew more impressive.
Anyway - much walking, fine country, three churches worth seeing, and some handsome houses, high and low, along the way. But what about the butterflies? Ah well, there, I'm afraid, I have little to report - a few skippers, rather more speckled woods, a meadow brown, almost nothing else. A bad summer so far. Bird life was much more in evidence, with warblers and finches everywhere, linnets, yellowhammers, woodpeckers, a close-up view of a nutchatch... And the wildlife highlights of the walk came when I was making my way along a field margin. A large bird I couldn't see took off in a flap from an oak tree - and I heard a dull thud as something hit the ground. This turned out to be a young rabbit, very dead - and the bird that foolishly dropped it, I discovered on looking up, was a buzzard, which was now circling in a faintly embarrassed manner. I hope it came back for its lunch when I'd gone.


  1. I was walking beside you Nige, I think there's a touch of Kenneth Grahame about you, go on, tell us about buttered toast.
    I will make it my mission in the coming months to revisit some Northumbrian churches and photograph them, watch this space, there are some hidden gems.

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