This section of the North Downs Way is pretty straight, following the various motorways from Merstham to Oxted. It was easy to get to from London with public transport (with Southern trains from London Bridge.) The bad thing about this section of the walk is, although you can’t always see the motorways, there is a constant moan (or roar!) of cars and lorries hurtling past.
We all liked the look of Merstham. There are huge, tudor-esque houses and a pretty church. Plus we found a street named Quality street! I think the residents should all be given free chocolates at Christmas! It is just a shame any bird songs and sounds of the countryside are drowned out by the proximity of the M25! In fact, almost as soon as you leave the village, you get to cross the M25.
You walk past the pretty St Katherine’s Church, and then walk along the A23, before crossing two train lines that have huge bushes of Old man’s beard. I love the way the light shines through the fluffy seeds, so I always seem to take too many photos of these plants!
Next, the route crosses the motorway *again,* this time through a slightly creepy tunnel under the M23.
Although you can still hear the hum of traffic, the trail quickly feels like you’ve made it to Merstham’s countryside, with an easy, slow assent through fields. This then joins a path through trees while you walk along near the top of a ridge.
Our guidebook told us to look out for the Whitehall Folly. However I was slightly more excited by the aeroplane we spotted in someone’s garden!! Anyway, once you’ve seen the folly, turn along War Coppice road. This must be beautiful and green in spring, but we were slightly too early. Ah well.
Next you turn right onto Gravelly hill, which has some beautiful trees! I love these old woods as it is easy to imagine a Disney’s Snow White running through them to escape an evil stepmother. It’s just a shame we didn’t get to see Bambi or any singing woodland critters. The path comes out at Caterham Viewpoint. This is a teeny bit disappointing after the amazing view points on the previous walk from Dorking to Merstham.
However, I found some nice logs with faces to distract me from the view!
After winding through the woodland, you need to turn off the main path and descend down some steps towards the A22. After crossing the main road, you emerge next to a huge warehouse. It’s not really a quaint countryside view…but you can rush straight back into the woods! Past the quarry and a vineyard, you’ll find yourself climbing another hill in Marden Park. Near the top of this hill is a bench, and a perfect place for a picnic.
The following section of woodland is gorgeous! I loved all the wonky, gnarled trees. Maybe it would be less noticeable once their leaves arrive. Every so often the trees open up to give views of the surrounding countryside. It is a little funny, that this basically means a view of the M25(!) as it cuts through the countryside parallel to the walking route. There are some benches at some of these viewpoints if you need an alternative lunch spot.
The next part of the wooded walk goes through a really sticky forest. It’s not actually sticky, but the trees look like they are made from bundles of sticks. What kind of trees are these?
After that there is a long line of steps to take you down from the ridge, followed by a walk along a skinny chalk path to a chalk pit.
Here is the view along this pretty, easy going section along the M25:
Once you have walked down the hill and around the chalk pit, you have to climb back up the hill! Don’t worry, it’s just a short (if steep) climb. The last path is along the Oxted Downs. If you’re lucky (we were) you’ll get to meet some super-fluffy cows!
Next you follow the path closer to the motorway, until you cross it again, to head into Oxted.
The section from Merstham to Oxted is shorter than the walks, so we finished quite early. However we didn’t think we had enough day light to walk all the way to the next station. So we opted to head into Oxted to find a pub. It turns out that if you don’t mind walking an extra 10 minutes away from Oxted station, into Old Oxted, there are several nice-looking pubs.
If you’d like to see this walk, but you don’t quite want to walk so close to major motorways, you can see the whole way on google street view!!