Looking up at the departure board at Waterloo Station our train appeared with the unexpected word CANCELLED!  Oh no!  I enquired at the information desk;  ‘a faulty train’. They were sorry.  The next service to Witley would be a full hour later.   I had previously realised that an 8.8 mile walk from Witley might be an issue because of sunset at 16.04 so this was bad news indeed.

A few minutes later several more of my fellow ramblers arrived and with everyone’s help we figured out a new plan of getting the 10.00 train to Haslemere (a fast train which does not stop at Clapham J nor Witley) and doing the walk in reverse [gulp! Never done the walk in that direction].   The ramblers due to join our now non-existent train at Clapham could join our new train at Woking.   We got the comms out in a scramble and set off.  I thought we might not have time to complete the walk because of the later start so I changed the route to end at Chiddingfold where we could get a bus back to Haslemere.

Anyway, enough of all that train stuff.   It was a crisp autumnal day, with a nip of frost in the early morning air but dry and sunny.  Lovely for the time of year.   The route itself is very rural, deep in the bucolic countryside.   We visited an old well (now disused) just on the edge of Haslemere High Street then plunged down into the  valley which has several National Trust farms with many small meadows.  It was still very muddy in places which surprised me because we’ve had little or no rain for a week.  We made good progress in spite of the leaf fall obscuring the path in some places.  My thanks to Mary for helping me throughout the walk by reading the guide book steps in backwards order and reversing directions which can’t have been easy. 

We had a brief lunch just after 13.00 standing up in a field with the birds looking on enviously.   It was a lovely sunny afternoon.   We carried on through the fields until eventually getting lost in a large undulating wood near Sydenhurst Farm (I found this part hard to follow on the map).  After about 15 minutes lost in the woods we got back on track.  It’s surprising how difficult woods can be sometimes!   At one point I looked back and couldn’t identify the way we had just come…

Then we had a relatively easy walk to Chiddingfold.  Which perhaps restored my credibility as a walk leader a little bit!   We got to Chiddingfold just after 14.00 and it was still early so I figured it would still be possible to make it to Witley before sunset.   Five of our party opted to leave the walk at this point and caught the bus back to Haslemere.   Fair enough, this was the official end of the revised walk anyway and some people had to get back by a certain time and there was always the worry about further train cancellations.  Also the pub at Chiddingfold looked inviting! 

The remaining eleven of us climbed up a steep slope above the village and headed for Witley.

It was a glorious autumnal afternoon.    We clambered over many tall stiles and passed through fields and a muddy wood with signs warning not to stray off the path because of shooting parties!   No shots were heard and later we safely crossed the railway line between Witley and Haslemere.  No barriers here so you just have to look both ways first.   We passed through another muddy wood and by a donkey sanctuary and arrived at Witley station around sunset.   We had made good time.   We were the only passengers at the little station and then an announcement came saying our 16.17 train to Waterloo was no longer stopping here!  It duly shot past us at high speed looking fairly empty.  Thanks SWR!  So rather than wait and hope for the next one we decided to go south by train to Haslemere.  After a half hour wait while getting cold we got the next train to Haslemere and from there it was but a short wait before we were on the next train bound for the big city.

It was a good walk in spite of the train problems and I think everyone enjoyed their day in the countryside.   My thanks to everyone for bearing with me and helping find a solution to the broken train!


Photographs by Ida and Stuart