An app with maps of the trails
Some food and water in my backpack
My trekking shoes, which hadn’t been used in years
A mindset for adventure
Since the covid pandemic hit the world just over 2 years ago, and my life was turned upside down as a result, my travels have reduced to almost zero.
During lockdown, exploring was confined within the boundaries of a handful of London postcodes. Post-lockdown travel restrictions made any attempts at crossing the national borders a major hassle (not to mention the cost of all covid tests!). And my covid-anxiety didn’t help.
Now I am adjusting to the new normal and finding my feet again.
Traveling and adventure can begin at my doorsteps too, so yesterday I checked a map of local trails, packed my day backpack and hopped on a train to Dorking in Surrey (about 45 minutes by train from London).
As I stepped out of Dorking train station, the air felt different. It felt fresher. It felt like I was on a holiday in the mountains. I felt ready to explore. Adventure awaits!
The Dorking to Gomshall circular trail lies within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It initially takes you through the town and its high street full of antiques shops before starting the climb up the hill. Be prepared for some long-steady and some short-steep climbs, including some steps, through the woodlands! Overall, though, this hike is rated as only “moderately challenging” and you’ll meet families and dogs on some of the segments.
The varied terrain and the spectacular views throughout make the route really enjoyable. For once I decided to put away my headphones, focus on the sounds around me and be more present. I started taking it all in, all my senses tuned into the experience. The weather was glorious and the sun burning on my skin reminded me how strong sun rays can be at lunchtime, even though it’s only April.
As I continued my walk, I noticed several pillboxes dotted along the route. A plaque on one of them explained that viewpoints along the North Downs were strategically important during the Second World War.
The second half of the route involved a steep descent followed by a long and almost flat walk along chalk grasslands and through some countryside residential areas. While I much preferred climbing through the woods and the views from higher ground, the scenery on the flatter land was very beautiful. The colours of spring in full bloom making it very enjoyable and picture-perfect.
After 4 hours on the trails I was eventually back in Dorking. Unaware that one more surprise was waiting for me…
As I was walking near the Mill Pond I spotted a white and fluffy tail on a tree. I went closer and could not believe my eyes when I realised that I was looking at an albino squirrel! Did you know that an albino squirrel is so rare that the chances of spotting one are just one in 100,000?! Apparently around only 50 of them are living in the UK so I feel very lucky to have had a chance encounter with one.
On the train home I felt happy and fulfilled. Back in my flow and looking forward to more adventures, close or afar.
Adventures nourish your soul
I am going to end this post with a map of the full route. I used the AllTrails app for navigation but other apps and websites hold similar information. Note: this walk follows public rights of way that cross public, private and National Trust land.