There and back in Merstham

Eleven walkers, including debutant Niall McNevin, gathered at the Feathers Merstham on September 3 and set out northwards in glorious sunshine. Following a mile along the A23, with rolling downland paths in prospect, they started their ascent on Shepherd's Hill where the Joliffe Arms pub is being redeveloped. Local Tony Keel reminisced about many a pint being quaffed there, despite a tendency of his drinking buddies to ignore his directions and end up at the homophonic Jolly Farmers.

Striding out near Merstham

Halfway up the hill the group turned on to the paths, first in a wood above the old Merstham quarries, then making a lengthy ascent over open farmland to the crest of the downs. We passed Tolsworth Manor, one of the oldest houses in Chaldon which had served many purposes over the years, including a youth hostel 40 years ago. We entered Six Brothers' Field, an open area donated to National Trust and the home of Chaldon Cricket Club.  Dave recalled starting his club cricket career there aged 11 in a rickety pavilion whose plumbing was limited to one tap and sink.

The route now lay up the North Downs Way to Willey Park Farm, a former outpost of the monks of Battle Abbey providing views northwards to the London skyline. After nearly four miles the group were delighted to find refreshment at the Harrow pub. 

Completing the long descent from the North Downs Way (photo: Banners)

The return leg provided even more dramatic scenery, skirting the lip of the downs with open vistas southwards. After Quarry Hangers and Park Ham Bowl, the group followed the crest of the North Downs Way then began a long open descent. The tunnel under the M23 provided excellent acoustics for My Lord before the group crossed the M25 and the railway at Merstham station, finally subsiding at the Feathers after 6.7 miles for beer and food.

The eleven walkers pause near Merstham

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