UKlandscape are very happy to join forces with the South East Walks Partnership in order to promote the beauties of the unspoilt countryside in Kent and Surrey. It's amazing to think that less than 30 miles from the vast conurbation of London there are huge tracts of open countryside that are little known or visited. With the possible exceptions of Box Hill or Leith Hill how many beauty spots in Surrey or Kent are well known?
In order to promote more knowledge of these areas, and the towns around them, UKL and the South East Walks Partnership are planning a series of illustrated articles describing walks and places to whip out your photo gear to get some good shots of landscapes and local wildlife.
First Walk - Ranmore Common to Denbies Vineyard
Just a gentle walk of about three miles to start, particularly as some of our somewhat jaded members of the group had spent the previous night partying riotously! It was a fantastic day weather wise, with mares tails of cloud, blue sky and SUNSHINE! The sun certainly offered a promise of better weather now the winter is over.
Ranmore Common is just outside the Surrey market town of Dorking. Noted for its vernacular architecture, antique shops and one of the many places where it seems impossible to get away from Thomas Hardy! It is National Trust land and you get to it by following the back road out of Dorking to Effingham which crosses Ranmore Common. This road is easy to find on an OS Landranger map number 187.
From the first NT car park out of Dorking (£1.50 per day) follow sign posts pointing out the North Downs Way, the North Downs Way National Trail that follows some of the route of the old Pilgrims Way, past St Barnabus Church.
This path wanders through quite pretty woodland before cutting down a long winding hill eventually crossing onto the vines of Denbies, possibly Europe's biggest privately owned vineyard,
Denbies is situated in a valley very similar to that of the Champagne region of France. Not only in the geography but also in the soil and the weather patterns. Ideal conditions for growing grapes to make wine! Unusually for a British vineyard they make a very passable red wine called Redlands and a possibly even better varietal wine named Yew Tree Pinot Noir. Certainly, on tasting the Redlands, it is very easy to drink. They also make a highly popular Champagne type drink, which due to the litiginous French Champagne industry, nobody is allowed to call Champagne. So its referred to as "Sparkling Wine".
The path follows the ridge around the northern part of the huge Denbies estate which has 265 acres of land under vines. A fantastic view opens before us with Box Hill closing the eastern end of the sweeping valley we were standing at the top of. To our right the entire town of Dorking is laid out like a town planning application for approval. To our left woodland filled with blossom and just blooming wild flowers. To my amazement there is a plethora of butterflies! More butterflies in one day than I've seen in the entire spring so far. Orange Tips, Speckled Woods, Tortoiseshells and Brimstones fluttered past our group. David, our guide, named them effortlessly as they flew by. Nearing the end of the walk our group find more motivation and get more excited as the prospect of lunch gets ever closer
An amazing walk across some very beautiful countryside. An easy to reach location with close facilities for good food, drink and refreshments in either Dorking or the Denbies Visitor Centre, where the walk finishes. Dorking is very easy to get to, particularly by Rail. Or get off at the Victorian station of West Humble with it's stunning architecture and take a walk up Box Hill. Other walks from Ranmore Common take you to Polesden Lacey, a National Trust property set in very lovely gardens and woodland. Or simply walk the common itself which is a scenic forest filled with flowers.
For more information on these walks visit www.nationaltrails.gov.uk