Given I have some relatively long trek’s coming up this year, I recently splashed out on a new pair of Scarpa boots. Historically, I’ve had a lot of trouble with footwear, and naturally want to start the breaking process early, so am trying to get out and about as much as possible with them. Its also a good excuse to drag myself, and friends, away from London.
This week, I decided to head down to Leatherhead in Surrey and walk the Mole Gap Trail. The trail itself is relatively easy to get to from central London. It’s a single train from Waterloo and while it is painfully slow, it’s hard to get lost en route!
The first thing to note is that if you are not familiar with the area nor the route, it is worth reading up about the trail before hand. Given it’s a simple stroll around the English countryside I neglected to do so and instead just printed off the directions from the Visit Dorking website (here). While the instructions are written fairly well, the one complaint I have is it doesn’t have any reference to distance between way-points. What may seem a short amble in the text can actually be quite a substantial distance, and vice versa. Now of course, the blame lies with me for not preparing better and, in truth, I only once strayed from the path and even then only for a matter of minutes. However, it is something to note if you plan on doing this walk.
The walk itself, however, was very pleasant. While only 6 miles in length (10km) you will find yourself strolling through very different aspects of the English landscape. From vineyards, to farm-yards, from the riverside to rolling meadows, it is definitely not short of classic, English, beauty. If you have any interest in taking photographs, the 6 miles will almost certainly become longer, and the recommended three hours will certainly be stretched. Given it is the end of February, I sadly wasn’t lucky enough to see any wildlife along the way. The Visit Dorking website suggests its possible to spot dragonflies and kingfishers and the river itself boasts incredible diversity of fish species. However, whether flying or swimming, the animal kingdom, on this walk, managed to elude me. Perhaps you’ll have a more determined eye for the nature. I did see an abundance of Mole hills, though. Whether or not that has anything to do with the naming of this area, I couldn’t say (n.b: it does not).
One interesting aspect is that the trail interchanges between following the River Mole and a railway line. While I do lament human’s footprint being stamped upon nature, it can also create quite a beautiful juxtaposition. It’s also very hard to avoid in many parts of the English countryside. Certainly, the bridges that bisect the River Mole on numerous occasions have managed to generate quite a beautiful contrast to the meadows and do contribute to the walk’s beauty. Given the UK’s history of industrialisation, maybe it isn’t fair to lament to strongly.
All in all it was a nice day out, and a very quintessentially English stroll. Another word of advice, if you do set out on this walk. The return journey from Dorking can be a pain, particularly on Sundays, where trains seem to be as abundant as hen’s teeth.