Saturday blessed us with some gloriously fine sunshine – 4 of us met at Merstham Cricket club at 10 am to begin our explore of Gatton Park and Nut Wood – I was joined by Rosemary, Heather, Eleanor and later Margaret – it was a cool, dry day – perfect for walking. We had a lovely walk cross the North Downs over the golf course – after climbing the hill we stopped and admired the view behind us – it’s always good to stop and admire the view – or smell the flowers or admire butterflies – nothing to do with catching our breathe because we’re unfit…….
Further on we went through the woods and came out onto Rocky Lane – very busy with cyclists using the London to Brighton cycle route and sat nav users – blindly following their Sat Navs travelling to the A23. I often think that road should only be for access for residents, school visitors and cyclists. Anyhow, we eventually crossed the road and into Gatton Park. We admired the thatched roof at the entrance cottage and strolled down to St Andrew Church where we found Jeremiah Colemans Grave, he of Colman’s Mustard fame and the Grave of Lord Monson – no idea what he’s famous for other than the fact he used to own Gatton Park. Interestingly the Monson family do still own pockets of land locally including land near St Katherine’s and I believe the houses and shops on Nutfield Road where Juniors hairdressers and Susy radio are.
Talking of mustard (were we?) Jeremiah Colman was also famous for cultivating orchids. Historic pictures of Gatton Hall before 1939 show large greenhouses in the grounds. Twenty or so years ago when volunteers were restoring the rock garden, there were still people alive who worked on the gardens before the war when Mr Colman lived there who came to see the restoration work by volunteers which still goes on today. The guided tours on open days are well worth attending. A picture of Mr Coleman’s grave is below.
Further down the path we saw Gatton ‘Town Hall’ – home of the hustings for England’s most notorious ‘Rotten Borough’. The voting population of Gatton was between 2 and 7 registers voters and they returned 2 Members of Parliament to the House of Commons. Bletchingley was also a rotten borough – thank heavens voting is fairer now!
More information on early politics and the history of Rotten Boroughs can be read here: https://juliaherdman.com/2017/04/21/history-of-politics-the-rotten-boroughs-of-england/
Further along we found the Gatton Millennium stones – created in the year 2000 and are on the ancient pilgrims way – allegedly this path follows the North Downs between Winchester and Canterbury and pilgrims would walk there staying at inns and hostels along the way. Some say this is an original route dating over 1000 years – others say it’s a romantic Victorian story and pilgrims would have taken a far more direct route though our county towns – an actual route of pilgrimage or a Victorian work of fiction? You decide – however people today do take that route as a challenge route. Some stay in hotels and bed and breakfasts along the way – others ask host churches to put them up. Pilgrims either use it as a challenge walk in itself or as preparation for walking thorough Southern England and Europe the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain – The Way of St James. You can find more of Gatton Parks history and a chance to attend open days can be found on their website https://gattonpark.co.uk/about/the-park-and-gardens/
Soon we are back on our way, walking through woodland and catching some glorious views as we climb up the North Downs again. Pausing to catch our breath (tiring these hills) we see a bird of prey (kestrel?) and a crow hoping around the ground in the field below and also lots of cows grazing – earlier we’d seen two buzzards up above us. A beautiful sight to see on a perfect spring day. The stunning views were well worth the climb.
Eventually after a pleasant stroll, we arrived in Nut Wood – home of thousands of glorious bluebells – a really beautiful sight - they were all around us and interspersed on occasions with celandines and cowslips. Definitely worth the walk. We took our time exploring the woodland around us as we made our way down hill, admiring the carpets of blue flowers around us.
Taking the bottom path through the woods we made our way back to Gatton Park – back up hill again! You really can’t avoid them round here! Back through the right of way through the school grounds and down the golf course where we met Margaret. Admiring the view we’d looked back on earlier we made our way back to the start of our walk and for a much deserved coffee and cake (or in my case a pizza!) at Pizza Project in the sunshine.
A truly lovely walk, enjoyed by all. Lovely weather, beautiful views and great company. Please do take the chance to explore before the bluebells die away – if you want to avoid the hike across the Golf course, lovely though it is, you can park on Reigate Hill car park (charges apply for non NT members and at weekends it is often overflowing) or park on Carlton Road, which is free street parking and access Nut wood from the public bridle way off Gatton Park Road. I will be organising an early evening walk there either in the week of 26th April or the week of 3rd May. If you’re interested to get in touch. Next blog will be a report on our willow weaving work shop. Why not join us for our next walk in May – Spynes Mere and Nutfield with a garden visit to the pub! Short cut available.