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Frank's travels around Britain 2007.

Dorking.

I find these places purely because the Travelodge has an offer on there at the time I want to go. This trip was a little under planned, very attractive and unbelievably good weather.

The lodge overlooks the church yard and Box hill, its very convenient for everywhere. Dorking itself is very ordinary its what surrounds it that adds to the beauty of the area. Box Hill is one of the best-known summits of the North Downs, a prominent 193m (634ft) in height. It is a place to walk, cycle, picnic, enjoy the open air and watch an abundance of wildlife. Sir Robert Hunter, lived in Surrey and was instrumental in securing the future of Box Hill at a time when it could well have been swallowed up in the suburban growth of London. In 1912 94 hectares (230 acres) of Box Hill were offered for sale on the open market. After difficult and protracted negotiations, this parcel of land was purchased for the nation by Leopold Salomons of nearby Norbury Park for £16,000 and given to the National Trust in 1914. Since then the Box Hill estate has expanded through purchase, legacies and gifts; today it covers some 490 hectares (1,200 acres), including Mickleham Downs. The North Downs is a great chalk ridge, and plants flourish in the chalk soils on the escarpment and the sides of the valleys at Box Hill. Over a dozen species of orchids have been recorded on Box Hillís down land, along with at least 400 species of other flowering plants. It has long been an entomologist's delight, with numerous insects to watch out for. However, butterflies are the real showstoppers here, providing a habitat for 40 of the 58 British species. Of course it was too early in the year! (Must make a note ... come back again!). The view was a little misty but outstanding. The weather was cold but almost cloudless & it got quite warm even at that height.

Just up from Dorking is Buckland. Buckland is one of those tiny villages you can drive past without realising. It has something called the Buckland Bends, which isn't some strange local affliction but a series of very sharp river-like bends on the A25. On one side of the A25 is the 13th century St. Mary's Church and the village stores and post office, and on the other side is the village green and pond. But it is well worth stopping to visit. Buckland Windmill is the only known surviving wind-powered sawmill in the UK. Listed Grade II by English Heritage, I of course didn't know this & missed seeing it! Research Frank, research! The pond was frozen over, it was picture perfect and you could smell the money! You would need to be seriously wealthy to move in here.

After having trouble with the Smart door and finding a Smart dealer on the other side of the M25, I wandered back through the commuter belt of south London. Its not pleasant but it is amazing to see oasis of calm in very busy areas. Ponds abound but its much better to get below the M25! Places like Carshalton & Elmore village. It's not nice in-between but the little oasis of calm & beauty really stand out.

I had a plan to cross the New Forest, which wasn't that far away, I was aiming for Bournemouth. But was usual, plans & Frank don't go together. I took the wrong road out of Dorking & ended up heading south and hitting the coast at West Worthing. Its a strange place! Miles of pebble beach, loads of long sea front walks but it is truly God's waiting room. Flats abound, pensioners wrapped up against the cold, walk up & down this long sterile area, no character, no shops, no history, no life! The only relief is in seeing the gannets in the bright sunshine & eating at a very nice place on the seafront called The Sea Lane cafe at Goring, further along the coast. Good food in large helpings, filter coffee and all at a reasonable prices. The best I can say about the place was that this is certainly a flat area that you could use to keep yourself fit, if you can still walk.

At the end of the journey I ran into the TV weather man! You know that snow is forecast. You have a long way to come back to the North & home. You switch on the TV & the first words are, "The worst snow storm of this century is here" each program seems to ladle it on. Vaguely attractive women are sent outside in the light flakes of snow to tell you its really bad. Men are sent to a main road in Wales hoping to show you an impassable road. Maps demonstrate that you have to go through the thick of it & its going to get even worse! Schools, airports & the whole rail network are closing down. You should take Wellingtons, hot food, shovels and instead of an American general saying "Smoke 'em if you got 'em", a guy in a studio, dressed fashionably, with a strange haircut, recommends snow chains if you have them! Should I blow my budget and stay another night? No sir, it's going to be even worse tomorrow! It's going to be this with ice!

Of course, not being too rational and expecting to get stuck in a snowdrift & having to be guided to safety by the rescue services, I fail to take in the fact that the road outside is clear, the fella on the telly in Wales, waiting to show you a blocked off road, is passed by a truck doing at least 50. None of the cameras on the motorway shows stationary traffic, in fact all three lanes are moving quite steadily.

The truth is, I sailed home in about the same time it took to get down here. I have never seen the M25 so quiet, there was not one delay, even the 40mph restriction area around the M6 in Birmingham flowed without any hold-ups. (It doesn't normally!) All the gritting kept all three lanes open & the only good thing was that the TV presenters kept everyone else at home!

 

Links for information on this page:

Box Hill

Buckland