The parish with no beer 

Navigator Dave was keen to take the group to the beautiful Marden Park, an area in which he had run for many years, but this required some creativity due to the dearth (i.e. zero) of pubs in the parish of Woldingham. The solution was to meet at the familiar White Lion in Warlingham, from where the group drove a few miles to the Gangers Hill car park on the crest of the North Downs to start the walk.

The walkers at Marden Park (photo Mike Pardon)

The initial stretch along the North Downs way led to an glorious viewpoint after which the ten-strong group turned north into woodland. Soon they emerged on to a slope above the hidden Marden Park Valley, with Woldingham School, previously the Convent of the Sacred Heart, nestling below.

The group could well understand diarist John Evelyn's words about the valley in 1677: "Such solitude among hills as being not above 16 miles from London seems almost incredible". After descending to the school, Dave pointed out the rebuilt Marden Park Manor, where Sir Robert Clayton, Lord Mayor of London had lived in the 17th century,  before it was burnt down in 1879. 

 

The 12-strong group at Godstone Vineyard - Ted and Pete running the freight service (Mike Pardon)

We then ascended from the school on to open farmland and contoured round the valley, with sumptuous views in all directions. A steep descent on woodland steps led to the other unusual aspect of the walk: the refreshment stop was at the picturesque Godstone Vineyard rather than the customary pub. The walkers quenched their thirst on local Westerham ale rather than the local wine, but some could not resist topping up their cellars by purchasing a few bottles of "Chateau Godstone". Fortunately Ted Mouat and Pete Smith had come by car to assist with carriage.

It was back up on to the North Downs Way for the return leg, with further stops to enjoy the sunshine and open vistas to the south. Ted and Pete joined the group for dinner at the White Lion, and the excellent little side room in the ancient pub where we ate soon resounded to a number of our favourite songs.

 

 

 

 

 

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