Covid-19 Guided Walk for One. Number 2: Holmwood Common.

Posted on 19/04/2020 By

Number 2: Holmwood Common

Holmwood Common. A tree lined earth pathway.

Holmwood Common Map and Information Board.

Bobby grew up in North Cheam. Surrey then. Greater London now. In his young days, he loved cycling south to the Surrey Hills at Boxhill and Dorking. He made friends with a young lady. They were both still at school, but shared a love of walking in the Surrey Hills. Many is the time they caught a London Country bus no 408 or 470 – to anywhere between Dorking and Guildford.

RT4048 LUC 397: London Country 470 in Dorking High Street 1969. Living in Carshalton. A ten bob Green Rover ticket and a ride to Dorking to walk in the hills. And eventually live there.

1967. Woollies, and a building adjacent that appears to have collapsed.

Each weekend, they walked in what is largely National Trust countryside. Eventually they married and lived in Carshalton. Conveniently close to the same two bus routes. And carried on walking in the Surrey Hills. Finally, moving to Dorking with a young son and being spoilt for choice in a town surrounded by glorious countryside. A town with very interesting local geology.

To the north, Dorking is close to the magnificent North Downs. Denbies Hillside and Boxhill just two NT properties on chalk. The flora and fauna typical of rare chalk downland. The next chalk downland is thirty miles south with the mighty South Downs. In between is the Weald. Heavy clay. Here and there there are pockets of other strata. Dorking itself is built on sand. Abinger Roughs is on sand. A few miles south is the Greensand Ridge that includes Leith Hill. The highest point in south east England.

Walking is far more enjoyable in sandy areas. The chalk is fine too. But the clay could be a challenge that the couple tended to avoid. Most notably Holmwood Common. The subject of this story.

With a cornucopia of opportunity, why would you chose a woodland that was gloomy in winter and quite often a swamp? Andrew, as a young lad, once became separated from his wellingtons glued into the bog-like winter conditions.

For many more years they walked in the Surrey Hills. They were lovely times. Until one day in 1992 they went their separate ways. Bobby carried on walking in the Surrey Hills, but now on his own. It soon became apparent that this was how he now preferred it. And, of course, he wasn’t entirely on his own coming home to me (and Trevor).

Some years later he met and married Diddley. We moved into Laurel Cottage. On the doorstep of many wonderful walks. They walked the Surrey Hills together, but he had found peace and serenity in walking on his own. Not just Surrey, but further afield. Including those wonderful times alone in the Austrian mountains.

They both worked at the Highways Agency in Dorking. She drove the car. He walked or cycled. And the route started walking for half an hour through Holmwood Common. They were heady days of love and romance. Suddenly, he started to like the area.

Apart, that is, from the dogs that are endemic there. Many was the time he would be harassed by man’s best friend on his early morning walk to Dorking. One notable occasion being surrounded by seven Alsatians, and their flustered owner demanding “Where’s your dog?”

“I haven’t got a bleedin dog.”

“WHY NOT?”

“Apart from it being none of your business, I am walking to work!”

She clearly thought that anyone without a dog had an ulterior, dodgy reason for being there. That was certainly how he was made to feel. He persisted and was gradually accepted as being “without dog”.

When he retired, he went back to his first loves of Denbies Hillside, Leith Hill and Abinger Roughs. A plan to put much needed all weather paths through the Common by the National Trust was thwarted by local misguided opposition. The common, just a few hundred yards from Laurel Cottage, was consigned to the dogs.

Until finally, Covid-19 hit the world. At first, he was allowed to drive to Denbies Hillside and walk the nature trail. But then, the National Trust closed all the car parks and it became clear that he was only allowed one walk a day for exercise. No car. Once again Holmwood was in favour.

Holmwood Common

Mostly woodland, with many quite ancient trees. If you read the National Trust’s excellent website, you will discover (as he has just done) that it had a connection with the suffrage movement .

The Dutch House.

The Dutch House.

Blue Plaque by Dorking Museum / The Dorking Society announcing Emmeline Pethick Lawrence and Frederick Pethick Lawrence lived in the Dutch House 1901-1921.

The suffrage movement.

Black and White image of a German Dorier Fighter plane.

Also a crashed wartime German fighter. A Dornier.

The sun beamed down in early April and he found himself in that strange world of self isolation. Social distancing. Allowed one walk a day for exercise. Walking to the Common each day for breakfast at the viewpoint. A bowl of fruit. Then various routes back to Laurel Cottage. Discovering paths and areas for the first time, despite living in the area for nearly fifty years. More than anything, hearing the bird song of advancing spring. Summer warblers, without the hum of busy traffic on the A24. It’s been a revelation.

A time of great sadness and worry – completely nullified by the serenity he has found on Holmwood Common. A serenity born of freedom from all the pressures of life, of fun, of trips to London, of holidays… suddenly reduced to one socially distanced walk a day and the rest of the day at home in the lovely garden of Laurel Cottage. A time none of us will ever forget. But a time when he found that he finally loved the Common. The following pictures follow a circular walk.

Laurel Cottage (left) and Vitae Cottage. The first two houses in the village. 1870.

Laurel Cottage (left) and Vitae Cottage. The first two houses in the village. 1870.

Warwick Road. Vitae Cottage. White, in the middle of the picture.

Warwick Road. Vitae Cottage. White, in the middle of the picture.

Warwick Road. The usually busy A24 dual carriageway. The bus shelter. The Common beyond.

Warwick Road. The usually busy A24 dual carriageway. The bus shelter. Holmwood Common beyond.

Here's the bus stop and you can see Vitae Cottage with the hills of Redlands beyond.

Here’s the bus stop and you can see Vitae Cottage with the hills of Redlands beyond.

Blackthorn.

Blackthorn.

Mostly woodland and soon to be shady with the emerging summer leaves.

Mostly woodland and soon to be shady with the emerging summer leaves.

Mostly woodland and soon to be shady with the emerging summer leaves.

A pile of cut wood in a clearing.

Clearing overgrown woodland. Mostly holly, which plagues the common.

Heading towards the "Viewpoint". Looking north to the North Downs and Denbies Hillside.

Heading towards the “Viewpoint”. Looking north to the North Downs and Denbies Hillside.

The Viewpoint.

The Viewpoint.

A wooden bench under a tree, with Bobby's walking sticks leaning on one end.

This blog was written on this seat (see “ps” later).

A wooden bench under a tree, with Bobby's hat and coat on one end.

Writing a blog with a view for inspiration.

Wooden seats made from carved out tree trunks.

Some big seats at the Viewpoint.

Close up of wooden bench carved out of an old tree trunk with "Live your life" cut into the front.

“Live your life”

Close up of wooden bench carved out of an old tree trunk with "Laugh again" cut into the front.

“Laugh again”

Close up of wooden bench carved out of an old tree trunk with "Be free" cut into the front.

“Be free”

Heading south to Fourwents Pond along a tree-lined track.

Heading south to Fourwents Pond.

Fourwents Pond.

Fourwents Pond.

National Trust Notice Board for Holmwood Common. The leaflet dispensers are empty.

No leaflets, due to Covid-19.

Dog Walker's Guide on the notice board at Holmwood Common.

Dogs rule. (or is it Dog Rules?)

Fourwents Pond.

Fourwents Pond, with a tree and bench in the foreground.

Fourwents Pond.

Fourwents Pond.

Fourwents Pond.

Fourwents Pond.

Bobby's heathy lunch in a bowl on a wooden bench by the pond.

Healthy Lunch.

Bobby looking out over the pond.

Finding Serenity.

The Dog Pond.

Dogs rule.

The Dog Pond.

Notice about the renovation of the Dog Pond.

Dogs rule.

Comfrey.

Comfrey.

Moss growing on some rubble.

Just a bit of rubble showing what nature can do.

Close up of some gnarly tree bark.

Bark. Not dogs.

Ladies Smock, or Cuckoo Flower (named as it flowers when cuckoos start to call).

Ladies Smock, or Cuckoo Flower (named as it flowers when cuckoos start to call).

New Horse Chestnut leaves.

New Horse Chestnut leaves.

Ajuga.

Ajuga.

Gorse.

Gorse.

Foxgloves in leaf, soon to flower.

Foxgloves soon.

Bluebells.

Lots of Bluebells.

South Holmwood War Memorial.

South Holmwood War Memorial.

A box, hanging from a wooden fence, containing Easter Eggs, with a note saying "Happy Easter".

Happy Easter: All goodies have been stored safely for 2 weeks, but please wash your hands when you get home.

Happy Easter.

PS

This picture is not included for its photographic reproduction, but for what it represents. Go back to the picture with the caption: "This blog was written on this seat." You will recognise the distinctive trunk of the tree. Diddley lived in Laurel Cottage before Bobby. Here you see Sue, Angie and Diddley in 1995 on that very seat. Friends reunited, who grew up in the Cotswolds together. Taken 25 years ago.

This picture is not included for its photographic reproduction, but for what it represents. Go back to the picture with the caption: “This blog was written on this seat.” You will recognise the distinctive trunk of the tree. Diddley lived in Laurel Cottage before Bobby. Here you see Sue, Angie and Diddley in 1995 on that very seat. Friends reunited, who grew up in the Cotswolds together. Taken 25 years ago.

NHS We Love You

Bertie, Eamonn and Ellen in the window of Laurel Cottage with rainbows and NHS We Love You.

Lighting a Candle for Diddley

Copy of a memo sent by Bobby back in 2000.

They were heady days back in 2000. So happy to be alive with Diddley. Misquoted “Midsummer Nights Dream” even. I still remember that morning cycling passed Fourwents Pond when it seemed the air was full of the smell of Woodbine. We wrote letters. Many of mine from Skomer. We made our own cards for any excuse whatsoever. We worked in the same office and exchanged emails. It was only after she had gone that I found the drawer full of everything I had ever sent her. Even printed emails like this one. Twenty years ago.

A candle lit for Diddley in front of the Bluebird window of Laurel Cottage.
– – – – – – – –

Countryside    


  1. Avatar Fliss Drewett says:

    I have explored more of Priory Park and its surrounds than ever before during lockdown. The bluebells are lovely but not as good as at Leith Hill where we visited after my dad died.
    This was a lovely trip down memory lane, Bob. Was it really 20 years ago we sat opposite each other?

  2. Avatar Anne Nugent says:

    Bob, they are such beautiful photographs, they are amazing, especially the ones of holmwood common and fourwinds pond. I love the old pictures of Dorking, I used to go to school on the 470 bus to Ashtead.

  3. Avatar Amanda Root says:

    Such lovely writing and pictures. Reminding us of Spring, gratitude and the pleasures of solitary walks. Thank you.

  4. Avatar Chris Norman says:

    Bob, like your pictures of Holmwood Common. Spring has certainly sprung and before we know where we are, (apart from being in lockdown) it will be summer. You’ll be monitoring the seasons of Holmwood Common this year.

  5. Avatar katherine says:

    beautiful pictures.. so springlike…
    x

  6. Lovely virtual walk! I shall have to pass on a tip to Jess, the dog I know in Surrey, about where she can find a great pond to swim in! It’s her favourite activity.

  7. Avatar Jenny dobson says:

    Used to cycle from Goldwyn when l was a teenager in the 60s and get back in time for Sunday lunch.
    To forewrnts pond happy days

    Did u know that rows of holly bushes
    Used to be staple food for cows in the good old days.

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