We had a three day, two night trip out to the Dorking area, staying at Tanners Hatch and Holmbury St Mary Youth Hostels. Classic COPSE activity, hiking between hostels, with the added bonus that it was just a 30 minute train ride from Croydon, so we got maximum activity with minimal travel time. We had a party of around 12, with various members joining and leaving us along the way.
On Friday we took the train to Box Hill station and walked up to the hostel in under an hour. Tanner’s Hatch is a magical little Tudor cottage, hidden in the woods of Ranmore Common. No car access makes it a calm, secret place, like the cottage in the woods from the Hansel and Gretel story. We had fair weather, and the forecasted evening rain turned into a five minute light shower. Extra fun with two outdoor fires, campfire made by Paul and barbecue by Deanne. Great feast of barbecued sausages helped by rolls, salads and more brought up by Paul. The adventure continued, collecting firewood from the forest in the dark, and the fire burned bright until after midnight.
Recent changes in YHA policy allowed our little dog Jazz to join us, as dogs are now allowed on YHA grounds with campers, so Richard, Lib and Jazz stayed in a hiking tent by the campfire while the other COPSErs stayed inside the hostel. Jazz enjoyed her first hostelling trip and she will recommend it to all her friends.
Setting off from Tanners Hatch on Saturday morning we were soon up at the Denbie’s Hill viewpoint looking out over Dorking, where we could see Leith Hill tower and the woods under Holmbury Hill, where Holmbury St Mary Hostel is located. We hiked along the ridge following the North Downs Way, where Barry met up with us. Descending from Hackhurst Hill into Gomshall, we were ready for lunch in the Compasses Inn garden on the riverbank, joined by Margaret too. After lunch we headed east along foot paths, through Piney Copse. Seems most COPSE walks pass through at least one “copse” named place. Skirting Abinger Hammer we walked up through fields to Sutton Abinger, where we stopped at the Volunteer pub before heading on to Holmbury St Mary hostel. This is a much bigger place with more facilities, including bar and catering, so we had an evening meal and booked in for breakfast, using the logic that all of the walking must allow us to eat whatever we felt like with no consequences, not sure if the logic is right, but it felt good at the time, with curry, pizza, puddings. As night fell some of us took an evening walk up to Holmbury Hill viewpoint where we could see the planes landing at Gatwick and a firework party in Horsham.
On Sunday, following generous hostel cooked breakfasts, we were off on the walk to Capel, led by Andrew T. Keith Rix joined us for the day’s walk. First stop at Leith Hill, with similar views to the Saturday night walk, but this time in brilliant sunshine. We could see an off-shore rig in English Channel by Worthing, over 30 miles away, and to the North we could see the big London towers and Wembley Arch. Andrew took us down from Leith Hill, South, to Ockley, where we stopped in the Cricketer’s Arms for lunch, with baking suntrap garden and monster carp swimming in the pond. Surprise bonuses on the way included a super crop of blackberries, which often slowed us up for “just one more”, unbroken sunshine, and unexpected treat of tea at cake at the church in Capel, with about 20 different cakes to chose from, it was hard to resist going back to try another. From Capel, we took the bus to Dorking, where we caught the train back to Croydon, arriving around 7pm, feeling sunburned, weary, and very happy.

Great credit to Paul D, who organised this trip, and Andrew T who led the walk on Sunday.