Covid-19 Guided Walk for One. Number 10: Abinger – the Secret Snowdrop Walk.
Number 10 : Abinger – the Secret Snowdrop Walk
This walk was sent to us by Bernard and Aldith. Past guest contributors. The snowdrop photographs by Bernard. The route by Aldith.
We walked the route last Tuesday and it is a lovely walk of considerable variation and interest. Originally just intended to see the snowdrops, it is far more than that and will be a real pleasure at any time of year. At present it is particularly attractive, being on sand with very little mud.
The walk induced profound feelings in Bobby which follow. The walk itself is described further down. The walk starts at the National Trust car park at Abinger Roughs. If you just want to see the snowdrops (soon be over for this year) follow this route. The full walk follows after.
Many, many years ago, before Bobby and I got together, he really loved walking. We described those early walking days with his first girlfriend in Walking to Wintershall in 2017. As you can see, they moved to Dorking to fulfil the promise of walking forever together in the surrounding Surrey Hills.
‘Forever’ ended in 1992, and he suddenly found himself walking on his own, without the companion who had always been at his side. I was back at home now, so he wasn’t completely on his own. In true Bobby style, he soon realised that far from being sad, this was a new opportunity. To go further afield and be more adventurous. Leading right up to backpacking on his own along the glorious Pembrokeshire coast.
Years later, when he met Diddley, he didn’t want to walk with company any more and she obliged by not being too keen anyway. He has been a member of walking groups with friends but in general, for him, on your own is the only way to be fully immersed in the world around without distraction. Could he ever forget walking along the coast path in Pembrokeshire, thinking how glad he was that the enormous black cloud was set to pass him by? Then realising it was coming straight at him. With just a gorse bush between him and a 100 feet drop into the sea, the storm crashed down to be followed by the most vivid rainbow he had ever seen. Completely on his own. Yet not too far from civilisation.
That caveat failed once in the Lake District walking in the Fells, when he realised he was lost and panicked. It was October, the light would start fading soon when he saw, some way away, a couple with bright red jackets clearly, he thought, knowing exactly where they were going. And he followed them down off the Fells. We are going back to the Lakes in October, but the walking will be of a much more modest kind. The pinnacle of walking came from a number of years walking on his own in the mountains and lakes of Austria. Carinthia, Lammersdorf, Millstätter am See.
Even now after all these years, he has never forgotten those early walks with a friend. The little walking books they followed assiduously. And being reminded by a chance email from Bernard of a walk he and his wife had just done. The true object being snowdrops.
Bobby and Diddley loved snowdrops. They have been featured many times in Mindfully Bertie. The problem was that Diddley maintained that Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds were true snowdrop country and Surrey was poor in comparison. She was right. See the Harbingers of Spring. There are snowdrops in Surrey, but nothing to compare with the southern Cotswolds near Stroud. So it came as a shock when Bernard emailed some photos of exceptional snowdrops literally a ten minute walk from Diddley’s Bench.
Drop everything. Including next Sunday’s story. It’s a good one, so be patient. Bernard has kindly given us his pictures of the snowdrops at Abinger and we have weaved a Covid walk around them. Most importantly, Bobby knew the snowdrops were there as he remembered a walk from that little walking book that he and his friend had walked from many years ago. Why had he not been back? Who knows, but he has now.
Most important is the history of the area in which the snowdrops are. Or rather were planted. The derelict kitchen garden walls and other remains are all that is left of a grand mansion, Abinger Hall, that was demolished in 1959. Plans for future development were shelved due to changes in regulations regarding the green belt. And so it has slipped further into decay, while the snowdrops have flourished.
We will describe the whole walk that Bernard and Aldith undertook further down. It turned out to be a lovely walk on a beautiful sunny day last week. But, if you just want to see the snowdrops, you can walk there and back in half an hour or so. They will be over soon and you will have a lovely Covid walk to add to the portfolio.
At the exit to the main path from the car park, turn immediately left and follow the nature trail waymarkers.
The path follows the southern boundary of the Roughs, gradually heading down to a junction where you can see a kissing gate leading into a field.
Go through the gate, across the field, through a similar gate into woodland where you will find the snowdrops. The path ends at the A25. Return the same route to the car park.
Our Covid-19 Guided Walk for One: Abinger Roughs to Abinger Common
Aldith described the route clockwise. Bobby was more familiar for the start of the walk going anti-clockwise. Leave Abinger Roughs along the main path, heading west. Passed the Witches Broom tree up a hill until you come out onto the open area of Broomy Downs. At the far side is a junction of paths. Take the first one, leading downhill south westwards through a couple of gates down a sunken path to the A25 opposite Paddington Farm.
Take great care crossing this busy road. Head up the lane opposite, past Paddington Water Mill (see lead picture) and through the farm on a bridleway. The farm is home to Belted Galloways. Delightful small panda-like cattle that all have names.
Follow the path through Raikes Farm into Abinger churchyard. Keep your eyes open for farmland birds on the open stretches between Paddington Farm and Abinger church. We saw a wonderful singing Yellowhammer close to. Heard Skylarks singing. And then saw a small flock of Skylarks on the ground and whirling around.
Song of the Yellowhammer – “A little bit of bread and no cheese”
The song of the skylark delivered from on high.
The churchyard of St James Abinger is a great place to stop for a picnic. (See War Baby for recent history of the church in WWll) When the pubs are open again, there will also be the Abinger Hatch opposite.
Leaving the churchyard to the left of the pub is a path leading right past the school downhill to Hollow Lane. Three Buzzards high in the trees here. Turn left into the small very interesting hamlet of Wotton.
Since time began one house here has always flown the Skull and Crossbones. Notice the predominance of dark blue front doors with yellow surround. Notice also that some houses have a terracotta plaque within their brickwork. They are all owned by the Wotton Estate. The Griffin plaque is the symbol of the estate. There are numerous signs around the woodlands to remind you that the adjacent woods are private.
When we wrote the Watercress walk, we wondered about similar plaques in Abinger Hammer. This house and the old school. Now we know all are owned and leased by the Wotton Estate, who clearly stipulate that part of the agreements are to keep the plaques and coloured doors.
Driving home, we saw this new sign at the popular National Trust car park for Leith Hill. It seems the NT do not own the car park. Wotton Estate do.
Just past the last house, turn left over a stile into Townhurst woods. Eventually reaching Abinger Lane. Proceed downhill, turning right at the T-junction and then left over a stile to follow a path for a short distance behind Crossways Farm. We saw a massive flock of Rooks wheeling around the sky here. The next stile takes you back to recross the A25.
Immediately into the area of the snowdrops and the visible remains of what had once been Abinger Hall. Continue along this path to reach a kissing gate to an open field, another kissing gate and you are back in Abinger Roughs. Turn right and follow the nature trail waymarker.
Just before the Witches Broom tree, take the left fork along signed Route 22 to the Wilberforce memorial. Turn sharp right uphill and sit on Diddley’s bench and admire Diddley’s View. The car park is immediately behind you.
Lighting a Candle for Diddley