In the South West of Surrey sits Godalming, a fine little town on the River Wey. It has managed to keep the best of and escape the worst of modernity. Some commute from here to London: there may be a better way though, on foot. Could one walk from peaceful, happily forgotten Godalming to that centre to which all eyes turn in Downing Street? Some might wish to make that journey by their own efforts….
The distance on our route is 42 miles, so it should take about 2 days. It passes substantially through just one county, Surrey and finally into the edge of Middlesex.
It has been a glorious day, and the perfect one for a short Chiltern walk. As we wait for the joy of Easter, we are in anticipation. Nature is bursting forth in readiness for the rebirth of summer, in all its variety giving praise to its creator. We then stepped out to enjoy it, as we wait for Easter.
Aldbury stands below the scarp of the Chilterns, a perfect little village set around a village pond, and buzzing with activity when we arrived – cars had begun to circle like sharks for parking spaces. Rising above the village is the wooded slope of the hills, which here belong to the National Trust’s Ashridge Estate.
The eagle-eyed may notice that I was here in Aldbury on Day 2 of my Herts Embraced walk. That day was very different: it was raining so hard I thought my map would dissolve into papier maché and my camera would fill with water. I still recognised that this was a pretty village and the woods were lovely even in those conditions, and the coffee in the National Trust café at the top of the hill was very welcome. Today though was dry, bright and the hottest day of the year so far.
We started down an intriguingly named road, Trooper Road, a name which was explained as we arrived at The Valliant Trooper, one of the village pubs, and at once lost the crowd. We continued out of the village across a field to a cross-track, the east, across the road, and began climbing the hill (past a lovely arts-and-craft house, worthy of Lutyens) and up through the woods. As this is woodland held by the National Trust it is left to be more natural than others. At one point a group of roe deer appeared, close to the path and apparently unbothered by walkers.
While the escarpment is steep, the tracks climb this part across the contours to make it a gentle climb for the family. Crossing a corner of the road we entered a part of the estate which was suddenly full of other families: The National Trust in partnership with Cadbury were running an Easter egg hunt. Whatever you might think about cheapening the Church’s most precious day, it was getting families out and walking, which is a good thing.
Before too long we were joined by a path climbing more directly from the village which I had taken on ‘Herts Embraced’, and soon we arrived at the Bridgewater Monument, the centrepiece of the Trust’s estate. Before the estate was broken up by Lloyd George’s taxes, the monument was part of the scheme of the Duke of Bridgewater’s private estate, standing as it does as a focal point on a two mile vista from Ashridge House, which is not owned by the Trust. The monument was open, so we climbed it, and the views are wide all around, and clear in the brightness of the day. (The last time I was here I did not see if the tower was open, but it would have been hard to see anything very far at all in that weather.)
We turned north-west around the Monument and headed back into the woods, then by a cottage lost in the woods turned south-west crabbing down the scarp until at the foot of the slope we emerged into fields by Stocks Farm. From there, across the fields it is just a step back into the village.
The whole walk is only about three miles – just right with two tired but enthusiastic children to break a busy day
The south of Northamptonshire has a cluster of pleasant villages, and from these one may set out by a determined route of six days into the complete contrast that is central London; from the homes of the ordinary folk of the land, to the towers of the overmighty.
The route takes on Buckingham, then the whole Grand Union Canal path from Milton Keynes – if you start something like this, you have to continue to the end. Then a series of Royal parks brings the walker to the seat of power.
We start at Syresham, at the head of the Ouse Valley Walk, though many of the pretty villages in the south of Northamptonshire are linked here. From Syresham the walk passes through four counties: Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and finally Middlesex, to end at the gates of Downing Street. It is one of a growing series of “Downing Street Walks” on WildþingUK.
The Miners’ Track and the Pyg Track are two parallel tracks up Snowdon from Pen-y-Pass; the head of the mountain pass, the Pass of Llanberis, on the east side of the mountain.
These paths are each 3½ miles long and while not the most challenging of the routes to the summit are very punishing in stretches and make for a good challenge for those with strong thighs.
As a confession, I have never climbed by either path yet, and only a couple of pictures here are mine, so thanks to Geograph.org.uk for the others. I am though familiar with Pen-y-Pass, and I have several times looked down on the Miners’ Track meaning to tackle it next.
Each path begins at Pen-y-Pass; it is a busy spot with a large car park and a café. From here, the track splits.
The Miners’ Track begins at a gate leads gently up and round, with only a gentle climb to a small tarn named Llyn Teryn and westward to the end of . The lake has an odd name: “Brittany Lake”, but the name might be coincidental and unconnected with ‘Little Britain Beyond the Sea’. I am quite sure it used to take stepping stones over the lake, but there is a causeway now.
From the crossing of the lake, the track is a gentle walk beside the lake shore for a short way: then it climbs steeply to Llyn Glaslyn (source of the river of the same name, the one that has a string of lakes south of Snowdon before prettifying Beddgelert). From here the track becomes much steeper as it zigzigs scaling up the crags below Crib Goch. Amongst these crags the Miners’ Track meets the Pyg Track, which has come the high route, below Garnedd Ugain.
The two then march together the short way to the summit.
From the summit the path of the Miners’ Track across the lake is clear and inviting, until you follow it to the precipitous climb.
The Pyg Track heads upwards earlier. It is considered the toughest of the standard routes to the summit after the Watkin Path (which I have walked, but that is another article). There are competing theories about why it is called ‘Pyg’; some say it is named after the black tar, or ‘pyg’ carried up the copper workings on this track; others that walkers named it from the Pen y Gwryd Hotel (which is why the name is often written in capitals as if an abbreviation), and others that the pass here was named ‘Bwlch y Moch’ (‘Pig Pass’). Whatever the origin, this a well known and popular route, but not for the fainthearted and not for bad weather.
This is perhaps the shortest route to the summit, as a direct one, and the views of the mountain this way are unequalled. It can be busy.
This track diverges at once at Pen-y-Pass, heading west. It climbs the flank of Crib Goch, not to the summit ridge (that is another route, but not one of the classic ones). It is somewhat rocky and paved with large stones. The most spectacular section is a long climb up a rock staircase built into the side of the mountain (which by all accounts is ‘interesting’ in the rain).
The track continues upward beneath the crags of Crib Goch then Crib y Ddysgl, and is eventually joined by the Miners’ Track, climbing from Glaslyn, with the 3.494-foot summit of y Garnedd Ugain (‘Peak of Twenty’) looming above. About half a mile one from here the tracks meet the ridge that carries the Llanberis Path to the summit.
Here at the summit it wild beauty and isolation to be found, if you can ignore a hundred other visitors and the café in Hafod Eyri just below the summit itself. You can look back down the whole course of the walk, with Llyn Llydaw beneath and reflect on a job well done.
Maps for the walk:
The best maps for Snowdon are of course the Ordnance Survey maps; the ‘Explorer’ at 1:25 000 and the ‘Landranger’ at 1:50 000:
Surrey heath, or rather Surrey’s heaths as they are many, is a landscape which is world away from the jumbled suburb and urban sprawl for the rest of the north of the county. It is a good starting point to explore all these aspects of a jumbled county in a two day walk, from Chobham to Downing Street, passing through northern Surrey and into Middlesex.
I call it a two-day walk but this is army country and I would not be totally surprised to see man going at it in one. Chobham is famous for its tank armour, and close by and using the heaths all around are the Bisley ranges, the Deepcut Barracks and just to the north is Sandhurst.
A starting route can be added from Camberley Station cutting through the town and east across the heath. The footpath runs between live firing ranges, so for anyone contemplating going from the Surrey heath to Downing Street – try not to get shot.
From Chobham the route runs across the heathland to the River Wey, along the towpath of the Navigation to the Thames, along the Thames Path, through two Royal Parks and ultimately across the Thames and to the gates of Downing Street.
A route map is provided on the main page. One thing it cannot do it tell you how to get into Downing Street – that may be achieved with ambition and guile.