South to the sea part 2 - starting out solo

The previous day's 16 mile stroll was literally a walk in the park compared to what I had ahead of me on my adventure to the sea.

Day 2 Kingston to Dorking

When I first joined the Ramblers campaigns team I had some very experienced people teach me everything there is to know about the laws around footpaths and accessing the countryside, they soon became my rambling fairy godparents. My rambling fairy godfathers, Grumpy Justin and Eugene the Eccentric were two very different people who took me under their wings, fed me coffee and pointed out the best pubs in the South-East. Day two would be an adventure from Grumpy Justin’s in Kingston to Eugene the Eccentric’s in Dorking. I would be a Rambling Red Riding Hood, only wearing a blue Berghaus and hoping to avoid any wolves.

Rule number two of a good walk – start with a good brekkie

Fact about Grumpy Justin, he makes the best coffee in the world. Every morning in the office, he pops a caffetiere on my desk and helps me face the day. Today was no different, only with a Full English thrown in for good effect.

EpsomOver breakfast I pulled out all my maps and plotted my route for the day. Using 5 different maps (2 x OS, 1 x iphone showing Google maps, 1 x A-Z of Kingston and 1 x cycle map of South-West London) we worked out how I was going to get myself from one of my rambling fairy godfather’s house to the other.

Getting out of Kingston turned out to be the tough. On Day 1 I was very relieved that Grumpy Justin lived in North Kingston, on Day 2 I was less relieved as it meant I had to walk for 3 miles before reaching my start point – the Hogsmill River and the Thames Down Link path.

The Thames Down Link made my navigating very easy. It leads from the Thames Path in Kingston to the North Downs Way in Dorking. I just had to follow the sign posts, which with the exception of one small bit of annoying road walking near Chessington, was very easy to do.

Once I was out of Kingston it became a lovely walk. I walked along the peaceful and scenic Hogsmill River, through the Horton Country Park and onto Epsom Common. It was a lovely day, and I walked past many parents taking their kids out for walks and bike rides, it made me smile. Although, I was still in the confines of London, so obviously couldn’t smile and say hello to them.

Horton Country ParkI reached Epsom Common 10 miles in and had definitely walked up an appetite for lunch in the Cricketers Inn. I enjoyed eavesdropping on the Sunday football chat of a family next to me.

My walk after lunch was some of my favourite on my whole adventure. I loved walking through Epsom Common and through Ashtead Park, which were alive with autumn colours. In Ashtead, I peeked at the grand houses belonging to city bankers with Range Rovers in the driveway and perfectly manicured front gardens, knowing it was a life I was never going to live.

There were various signs that showed that I was moving in the right direction (south), passing the “Welcome to Surrey” sign, more people saying hello to me when I walked past, and crossing the M25. I heard the M25 before I saw it, and felt such a burst of energy in my tired legs as I crossed over 8 lanes of thundering traffic. I was definitely leaving the busy big smoke behind me and heading towards a peaceful rural idyll.

The M25After crossing the M25, I put myself on auto-pilot. I joined an old Roman Road and walked for 3 miles through woodland, past brand new golf courses and into the North Downs, without really thinking about anything except how close I was to my final destination.

Passing Box Hill made me reminisce. I remember climbing it as a kid and eating KFC at the top and studying the footpath erosion for my GCSE geography coursework. As a fully fledged Rambler, I’ve continued to walk it on midnight rambles and social strolls. I wasn’t scaling it this time, but I did give it a respectful nod and smile as I walked past.

After 20.64 miles of walking I arrived at my fairy godfather’s house. Again, I was exhausted, but the sight on arrival perked me straight up. There was Eugene standing in front of a roaring fire, with Vaughan Williams’ choral music playing behind him, and a glass of one of his special “isotonic drinks” in hand. It was exactly what I needed.

Day 2 facts and figures

AM – Kingston to Epsom Common. 10.99 miles, 20.41 minutes per mile, 860 calories burnt
Lunch – The Cricketers Inn, Epsom. Club Sandwich, chips and pint of cider - £10.95
PM – Epsom to Dorking. 9.65 miles, 21.08 minutes per mile, 763 calories burnt
Total – 20.64 miles
Best sight: Epsom Common in all its autumnal glory.

Anastasia French is the Ramblers campaigns officer. Find out more about her, including her previous blog posts and follow her on twitter @ramblingfrench.