Monday 26 October 2009

The Best Time of Year?

Today being one of those perfect autumn days that seem almost too good to be true, I was out of the house like a shot to continue my Picturesque Tour Through Ye Whole Countie of Surrey - or rather those of its more agreeable parts that are within reach of the railway network. A day of duckegg blue skies, warm golden sun, the trees in all their autumn beauty. My first destination was Great Bookham, one of those cosy, low-slung, brick-built and tile-hung, well-fed and prosperous Surrey villages that still retain a villagey character and life, with plenty of shops, plenty of people about, plenty of smiles and good cheer and unsolicited Hellos - at least on a day of such cheering weather. I wanted to see the church, which stands at a crossroads in the middle of the village, a big stocky weatherboarded tower at the West end, a neatly restored 14th-century chancel at the other, the body of the church still recognisably Norman, with short fat scalloped piers, the general effect very charming. Some surprisingly grand monuments of the 17th and 18th centuries dominate the interior - and the best of these is a gem. It commemorates Cornet Geary, killed in the American War of Independence, in 1776, at Flemington, New Jersey. Britannia mourns over a portrait medallion of the young man, beneath which a delicately carved relief depicts his death, in an ambush. Pevsner raves over it- 'a composition as elegant and tender as an early Mozart symphony' - and accords it a photographic plate (sadly I cannot find anything more than the relief online, and that too small to reproduce). Well, Cornet Geary alone was worth the trip, but I carried on, walking by tracks and byways over to Westhumble, ending with a brisk climb up the dip of Box Hill to admire the view. Ah those trees - every shade from the blue-black of yew and box, to tired deciduous greens, through every tint in the yellow-orange palette, copper and bronze, pink and claret and burgundy and fierce splashes of blazing red. Glorious. This time of year, in warm sunny weather, is surely the best of all - apart from the lack of butterflies (though I saw a couple of lingerers - a Painted Lady and a Red Admiral)... I made my way down to Westhumble station - also admired by Pevsner - and so, warmed and cheered and sustained, home.


  1. Box Hill got a big plug on the Beeb last night. Good spot for bonnet drama.

  2. Yes indeed - and Fanny Burney lived in Westhumble - Camilla Cottage - married her French aristo in Mickleham church.