A good walk is a tonic, but it must meet certain criteria – and here’s one that ticks all the boxes
There’s plenty of evidence linking walking with wellbeing. It’s partly about giving the lungs a good workout and unleashing those energising endorphins, but it’s also about connection. A jolly good walk is the perfect opportunity to reconnect with family, friends and colleagues while enjoying beautiful views, good pubs and picnic spots.
But what constitutes a jolly good walk? There are several crucial elements.
It needs to be long enough to make getting to the start worth the eﬀort. And there should be a Plan B for those who don’t think they can complete the whole thing. Also, it should be accessible by train. There is something quite exciting about alighting at a station you don’t know and heading oﬀ into the unknown. Of course, there needs to be a coﬀee stop, a picnic place and at least one country pub. The walk should be oﬀ the beaten track as far as possible and incorporate hills and views (you can’t have one without the other), as well as points of interest and plenty of ﬂora and fauna.
It’s not easy pulling all these essential elements together. I have relied upon friends to give me their best ideas, treating them as curators or even alchemists. One of my favourite walks is within 40 minutes of London by train, and I am indebted to my friend Bertie and his dog Ruby for the inspiration. Nobody knows the Surrey Hills like Bertie and Ruby!
Buy a return to Guildford from Waterloo, having bought some light sustenance at M&S. Dwell for a moment over a coﬀee in Costa at Guildford Station, and within ﬁve minutes you are walking beside the River Wey and heading out of town faster than you know. Stresses and strains are already receding from your mind as you enjoy the tranquillity of the Shalford water meadows. Joining the Pilgrims Way and heading up through the ancient Chantry Wood, those endorphins are kicked into action as your heart begins to take the strain. Payback time arrives soon after with your arrival at St Martha’s Church, perched precariously on top of the hill with panoramic views to the south. Linger awhile in the graveyard and take note of the Victoria Cross hero buried there.
Bertie discovered a lovely bench sitting all on its own just below the church. It’s the perfect spot to break open the snacks. I am tempting fate by writing this, but I have never
yet bumped into anyone else there. We’ve christened the spot “Bertie’s Bench” and it is an ideal place for taking a short breather and a moment to reﬂect. Refreshed, continue on the footpath past streams (ideal for paddling) and lakes before thoughts turn to lunch.
We have incorporated the Drummond Arms in Albury into this walk. Jay is a very welcoming landlord and the lunch is delicious. It does mean a little bit of walking on the main road, but that is a small price to pay. For those who have had their ﬁll of walking by this point, there is the additional beneﬁt of having the bus stop bang opposite for a direct journey back to Guildford Station after lunch. It’s amazing how reassuring a Plan B is for those who are not sure they can manage the whole walk. More often than not, the least conﬁdent at the start are the most eager to get cracking after lunch!