The rain, which I don’t remember being forecasted at all, fell on the roof of the camping barn from late last night until some time after 9am. Fortunately, the barn roof seems to be watertight. After a breakfast of Rice Crispies, I chatted with Eddie and Mary, the wardens, and waited for it to let up.
My first stop, Watts Memorial Chapel in Compton, required a slight detour from the North Downs Way but one that I was eager to make, having visited this place with an Anglo-Japanese walking club some years ago. The chapel, designed by local resident artist Mary Fraser-Tytler, the wife of painter and sculptor George Frederic Watts. It’s tiny but the Celtic Art Nouveau decoration is exquisite in its detail. Stepping inside, I was stunned again, even though I knew what to expect.
From here I stopped at the Watts Gallery tea room for a piece of Welsh rarebit, for which it is supposedly known. (Reputation undeserved; too spicy, not tangy enough for my taste). And then I got straight out of Compton. I’ll make a trip to the gallery one day when I don’t have a walk ahead of me.
From here, I followed the North Downs Way and ignored the Pilgrims Way alternatives, which tend to avoid climbs where possible. But I don’t want to avoid hills like St. Catherine’s Hill, with it’s chapel ruin (painted by Turner), and St. Martha’s Hill with its view over the downs. So I followed the north downs way as much as possible.
In the pretty village of Shere, I stopped at the White Horse pub for a bit of refreshment, and by chance met Rowan, who has the same rucksack as me. With that as our icebreaker, we chatted about his dream to make films about a post apocalyptic future. He studied media at university and worked in film and TV production. I hope he gets to do the exciting things that he wants to do. For now he’s walking trails and sleeping under a tarpaulin.
I walked from there to Holmbury St. Mary, where there is a youth hostel. Unfortunately this has taken me quite a long way off the North Downs Way. (Tanners Hatch hostel would have been a much better choice – bad planning). The silver lining in this cloud is that I had an excellent dinner at the Volunteer Arms about 10 minutes walk from the hostel.
Tomorrow I’ll need to find my way back to the beaten path. I don’t want to go back to Shere, so perhaps I’ll cut across to Reigate, and rejoin the North Downs Way there. I have low expectations for the next couple of days walking. which will take me through the area between the M25 and Gatwick Airport. On the other hand, the forecast is pretty good, so I might have a pleasant walk after all.