North Downs Way: Merstham to Oxted

We completed this 8-mile leg on August Bank Holiday Monday, meeting Jacqui at Clapham Junction where she was already breakfasting on a bacon roll. We bought pastries which we saved for the Merstham train.

Leaving Merstham Station half an hour later, we quickly found our way back to Quality Street, which was named after J M Barrie’s 1901 play of that name.

The London premier featured husband-and-wife stars Seymour Hicks and Ellaline Terriss. During the run, the thespian couple took up residence in the Old Forge, at the end of this cul-de-sac, previously adjudged part of the High Street.

Just beyond, the path crosses the ubiquitous motorway before passing St Katharine’s Church. This has Thirteenth Century features but was extensively remodeled in the Nineteenth Century. It is one of several boasting mosaic floors allegedly worked by infamous prisoner Constance Kent.

We continued along Rockshaw Road where one of the gardens holds a collection of rusting military vehicles, then underneath the motorway before ascending to the Downs through a large, steeply-sloping field.

Passing a trig point and along a bridleway past several houses, we found a second rusting garden display, this time comprising broken small aircraft and helicopters.

Soon afterwards we found ourselves opposite White Hill Tower, a ruined 1862 folly, the work of one Jeremiah Long. It seems unclear whether this was to commemorate his son, who had been lost at sea, or built so that he could see the sea, or both.

Connecting with a pleasant woodland path we eventually arrived at Caterham viewpoint, located on Gravelly Hill, where we stopped for an early lunch.

Continuing through the woodland, we met a yawning pony, crossed the A22 and passed Godstone Vineyards before halting again on a lopsided bench to celebrate Jacqui’s birthday with Tracy’s homemade blueberry muffins. Jacqui’s candle wouldn’t stay alight quite long enough for her to blow it out.

Back on our way, we continued above the M25 as it approached Oxted, passing above the Oxted Railway Tunnel and skirting Oxted Quarry.

Descending into a field, we had to navigate a big yellow combine harvester, thoughtfully parked across the path – or perhaps it had broken down. This section officially ends on Chalkpit Lane, at a gap in the hedge, but it is well over a mile in to Oxted Station.

We enjoyed a kitsch gnome abandoned in the roadside bushes.

The signage not being the best, (non-existent in fact), we were fortunate to meet a very kind man who guided us through a large field full of sweet corn, pointing us in the direction of the Station. He was about to check on the goats employed to keep the grass short in the churchyard of St Mary’s.

The train arrived on time and we were done for the day.

This is a rather nondescript section of the North Downs Way. There are a few nice sections and some pleasant views but it is otherwise unremarkable.

TD

September 2021

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