Chessington South to Epsom Downs; 6 December 2014

Ashtead Park, Surrey

On Saturday, 6 December we went for a walk. The weather was moderately cold, but bright and clear, and there was almost no wind.

We decided to walk from Chessington South in a roughly south-easterly direction and then take a train and/or buses back into South London from wherever we ended up. Because we started out rather late, we only made it as far as Epsom Racecourse.

We began by taking the tube from Manor House to Victoria, then a train to Chessington South. A short distance from the station, we picked up a footpath that took us uphill and east, by the side of a golf course, to Green Lane.

Turning south on the lane, we passed an outpost of early-twentieth-century suburban development – a string of houses with fanciful names such as Hybola, Windy Dene, and Sunny Field. These petered out after a while, and we continued through a narrow belt of woodland, stopping briefly at one point to observe a squirrel dragging a plastic bottle high into a tree.

At the junction with Chalky Lane, near Park Farm, the footpath turned south-east across fields and then skirted the northern perimeter of the former West Park mental hospital; however, as we advanced along the narrow path between two metal fences, the way ahead became waterlogged and impossibly muddy. Luckily, we were able to pass through a gap in the fence and instead use a road through the old hospital grounds, now partly redeveloped as housing.

Beyond Christ Church Road, we entered the woodland of Epsom Common, where some of the paths were well trodden by horses, leading to further struggles with mud. At length, we crossed a railway line and shortly after emerged onto Dorking Road.

Epsom Common, Surrey
Above: Epsom Common

A little further on, we found the entrance to Ashtead Park and continued south through the landscaped grounds; however, at Rookery Hill we were forced to make a long and rather tedious detour around Park Lane, as the area containing the eighteenth-century mansion is inaccessible to the public. Since 1924, this has been the home of the City of London Freemen’s School. Of the people mentioned on Wikipedia as being former pupils of this public school, the two names that jumped out were Simon Cowell and Joe Strummer.

At the eastern end of Park Lane, we took footpaths along Greenslade Avenue and Chalk Pit Road, then descended in the fading light to Langley Bottom. At this point, lack of time and light meant we had no alternative but to change direction and head north to Epsom, so we climbed uphill, crossing various gallops, and finally reached the racecourse and Epsom Downs not long after sunset.

Emerging onto Tattenham Corner Road, we were still a mile or so away from the centre of Epsom, but we spotted a bus stop just by the huge racecourse grandstand. The fare for our short trip on the local 480 bus was a rather steep £2 each, but the blow was softened somewhat by the windfall of a pound coin we found on the empty seat in front of us.

From the traffic-choked town centre, we took a 470 London bus to Colliers Wood, and then the tube to Turnpike Lane.