I love to get outside in the fresh air at any time of year, but there’s something about January that makes you feel, I don’t know… that it requires a little more effort than those long, lazy summer walks, you know?
It’s no surprise that January is regarded as the gloomiest month of the year, and with it comes the third Monday of January, AKA ‘Blue Monday’, statistically the most depressing day of all.
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So, when Berghaus challenged me to turn this notion on its head and celebrate January and all its flaws in their Silver Lining Sunday campaign, I thought ‘why not’?
The idea behind Silver Lining Sunday is to take a hike with friends or family and celebrate the beauty of nature; turning around the most depressing day and making great memories to look back on.
Not to mention, I always find that I have the best conversations with people when I’m walking. There’s just something so rhythmic about putting one foot in front of the other, and pretty soon you’re exposing your innermost thoughts (in between greeting the dog walkers and shouting ‘nice day for it!’ at random strangers, of course).
So, for this challenge, I took myself to one of my favourite areas – the Surrey Hills. Under an hour by car from London, it’s the perfect area to stretch your legs and then return to the Big Smoke within just a few hours.
The Surrey hills are a great place for a Sunday hike to clear your head and set yourself up for the week ahead. I’ve previously written about the Surrey Hills Box Hill hike, if you’re after a short walk. However, for today I fancied something a bit longer, and so headed to Albury, near Shere.
My dad grew up in a little village called Gomshall, about a 5 minute drive from Shere, so this is my ‘hood. Shere is your typical picture-perfect village, and appears in lots of films from Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason to The Holiday.
The nearby Silent Pool and St Martha’s Hill hike is a particular treasure. I love it because there is such varied terrain, and at 6 miles, it’s just about long enough to tire you out without exhausting you so much that you can’t manage the drive home!
It’s a circular loop so you can start it at any car park along the way, but I like to begin at the Silent Pool car park. There are a couple of reasons for this; there’s a steep-ish climb at the start of the hike that I find easier to do when you’ve got a lot of energy, and it’s also the location of the Silent Pool vineyard and distillery, so if you’re a wine or gin fan, you can pop in at the end of the walk and reward yourself with a nice bottle to go.
The walk took us about 2 and a half hours in total, with a couple of stops to enjoy those great Surrey views.
Ready to begin? Let’s go!
You can find technical details about the hike here including map and detailed directions.
Alex and I left the car at Silent Pool (free parking), and started the walk to the Silent Pool itself, which is conveniently just a 30 second stroll from the car park.
Legend has it that this pool is haunted every night at midnight by the ghost of a woodcutter’s daughter. The daughter was apparently driven to her death by King John, who ruled England between 1199 and 1216.
According to the story, the young lady was swimming in the pool when she was approached on horseback by the king.
The girl was forced to retreat into the depths of the pool, where she drowned. It is said that King John made no attempt to save her but as he left a feather from his hat became stuck in a tree, incriminating him in the young girl’s death.
Spooky huh? Let’s not hang around here too long. Wouldn’t want to be stuck here at midnight!
We headed up the steep track, with a vineyard passing us to the left. This hike is gorgeous in the spring and summer when the vines are in fruit, but today it looked a little brittle. No bother, I’ll be back soon.
At the top of the path, you’ll join the North Downs Way, one of the most famous walks in Southeast England. Today we’ll be walking a small section, but you can hike this trail 153 miles from Farnham to Canterbury.
Hang a left and tread the muddy path (bring waterproof boots at any time of the year!) towards the A25. Once there – you’ll need to cross with caution as it’s a busy and fast road – you’ll be at Newlands Corner.
Newlands Corner is a place very dear to me. It’s my late nanny’s favourite place to sit and watch the world go by, and the Squirrel Hill Café is, for me, the embodiment of nostalgia. It’s the place that Alex first met my parents, and also the place my nanny used to come to regularly for their tangy burgers.
I simply cannot tell you how much I love Newlands Corner. And once you see the views, you’ll see why, too!
At weekends it gets busy with bikers stopping for a coffee, but if you do this hike on a weekday, you’ll most likely find it empty and peaceful.
Continue your walk and you’ll find that the path widens, but you’ll still have to pick your way through the mud for the next couple of miles. It’s an undulating pathway, cutting through forests and tracing valley edges, so more often than not, you’ll have some beautiful views, as well as seeing a few quaint houses too. This is pure rural England at its best.
After around an hour to an hour and a half, you’ll reach the pinnacle of the walk – a charming church perched on the top of the highest hill in the area, aptly named St Martha’s Hill, after the church of St Martha’s. As we arrived, the sun came out so we rewarded ourselves with a snack and a rest, joining the dozen or so people who had turned out to admire the valley.
It being January, the wind was cold and biting, so before long we had to push on, to avoid our fingers turning blue! How misleading these photos are – it was BITTERLY cold!
The final part of the hike takes you on a loop back to the Silent Pool, through some swaying cornfields which, in summer are truly astonishing!
Weary and hungry, we made our way back home for a decent feed and a foot rub. What a wonderful idea to banish the January blues with a nice long leg stretch in one of my favourite places ever. As I write this on Blue Monday itself, whilst the rain pours down outside I can’t help but think… Blue Monday? What Blue Monday?
This post was inspired by Berghaus’ Silver Lining Sunday campaign. All opinions as always, remain my own.