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mapmywalk, the pilgrims way, walking the pilgrims way, long distance walks england, backpacking, women walking soloMonday 27th August 2018 Day 7 – Tanners Hatch to Mertsham : 18.90 kms / 43,317 steps elevation 374 meters.

Even though it’s a hostel, with all the accompanying irritations like snoring, switching lights on in the middle of the night, early risers repacking their bags, I do enjoy sleeping at the YHA. Tanners Hatch YHA was a delight.

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see that bed….bottom left…that was my bed πŸ™‚ perfect – (pic captured off their website)

By morning I was even more determined to book another stay. In the light of morning, sans rain, I had a chance to explore a little more fully….the setting is beautiful, and quite enchanting.

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A couple staying at the YHA offered me a lift to my starting point for today; Box Hill & Westhumble Station. I gratefully accepted as were seriously wayyyy off the Pilgrim’s route. I made myself a quick breakfast of plain pasta and a cup of herbal tea. I was rather hungry by then. Fortunately my trainers had dried out in front of the fire and my clothes too were dry.

A longggg walk later, we finally reached the car park. Note to self….if I do book to stay again, it’s a long walk to the location….don’t take too much stuff. LOL

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Box Hill & Westhumble Station, the starting point for the section to Merstham

By 09:32 I was on my way. I passed the Stepping Stones pub and made a mental note to eat there (next trip??) LOL I loved the house across from the pub.

Within 10 minutes I crossed beneath the motorway….I stopped to admire the beautiful mural before continuing.

Page 78 of the guide: “Walk south along the road with the traffic to the right. At the bus stop go left into a wide entrance. Keep forward past a car park”. Car park?? Uhmmm nope. This I did, except if you go forward you end up on private property. What the guide could have said was ” At the 2nd bus stop go left ….”. This was one of many inconsistent/obscure instructions in the guide book. There were a few more still to come.

My instagram post later that morning: “Box Hill viewpoint: I’m beginning to hate this guide book πŸ˜žπŸ˜žπŸ˜“ After saying goodbye to the ever so delightful Tanners Hatch YHA, I started off from the Westhumble and Box Hill Station. Not long and the guide doesn’t give sufficient information and once again a local had to direct me. Safely traversed the Stepping Stones across the River Mole and started up Box Hill. Now if you’ve never climbed Box Hill..seriously give it a miss, its a bastard and very HIGH with HUNDREDS of very steep steps. The guide says at the start of the 3rd set of steps go right into the trees which I did, and the field is on the right, but it wasn’t it was on the left, so I climbed back up to the steps, carried on climbing, but no further turning to the right and now I’m at the top of the bloody hill, and if I’ve come too far up (no other paths to be seen), then that means I have to go back DOWN these horrible steps and go back along the path I took originally.. I’ve already fallen coming up the slippery slope. No damage but I’m fed up now with the guide. Either way I guess I’ll have to just crack on“.

Box Hill Stepping Stones. Of all the route I had seen or read about along the Pilgrim’s Way, this was what I was most afraid of. The Stepping Stones. My sense of balance is not good and I was wary of crossing them, but I took it slowly, delighted to reach the opposite bank without falling in. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜πŸ˜

Ahead of me was Box Hill. Little did I know that this was going to be the biggest challenge of the whole walk, and also the beginning of the end….

As per the guide: “At the start of the 3rd flight of steps go right, on a narrow path into the trees. The way, which bears slightly left, can in season be sometimes indistinct“. hmmmm

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Box Hill steps….this was not fun!!

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what do you mean I have to go up there?

At what appeared to be the 3rd flight of stairs (the guide doesn’t say how many steps are in the 2nd flight) I turned off and followed the path. “Later it climbs a little and soon is near a field (right)“. Again…hmmmm??? Nope, the field was to my left?? I checked mapmywalk and saw that I was headed very close to the river, closer than indicated on the map in the guide. So I walked back up the way I had come and started climbing the next flight of steps….and climbed and climbed and climbed. All the way I kept looking for this narrow path the guide talks about…and I couldn’t find anything. Further along in the guide he mentions “The path, running ahead and with pylons to the right, is on the line of the PW….” Well, no matter which way I looked at it, I could not find a path that would put the pylons on my right! Unless it was this one? Which was a National Trust nature trail?

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was this the way? it didn’t look like it. it did however look a lot like the path I fell down yesterday

So instead I just kept climbing and after about the 1000th step, steps that are in places so high that I had to lift my legs up individually under the knee with my hands …..and then.. I fell UP a step. A very hard fall that smashed my right shin, left me flat on my face and unable to get up – I just did not have the energy to lift myself up with the backpack on. Fortunately I didn’t fall BACKWARDS, and there was someone on hand to help me up. Seriously, I was exhausted by that stage. I simply couldn’t bear the thought of climbing anymore steps, but I had no choice….all I could do was just to continue going UP and up and up. There were some lovely trees to see….as a bonus LOL

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one of the benefits walking through the countryside…lots of beautiful old trees

More steps….

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more steps…..the gravel between was treacherously slippery

Finally after what felt like hours of climbing more steps that I ever want to see in front of me ever again. I reached the Box Hill viewpoint.

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what a view πŸ™‚

Referring back to my instagram post:Β “Box Hill viewpoint: I’m beginning to hate this guide book.

I saw that the North Downs Way, which is so well marked, was in my vicinity. So I packed the guide book in my backpack,Β  and carried on walking….I figured that since most of the Pilgrim’s Way is largely a ‘made up’ route and much of it follows the North Downs Way which is well marked, whereas the Pilgrim’s Way isn’t marked at all….

After walking for a while I reached Salomon’s Memorial where I stopped to take a few photos and then carried on walking along some seriously tricky terrain I came out of the trees to a welcome sight before me…a restaurant!! Hoorah. It was 11:46 and the restaurant; Smith & Western opened at 12noon….I figured it would be a good idea to wait and have some proper food….I hadn’t had a proper solid meal for a couple of days. Good move. I had the MOST delicious veggie fajita, a pot of tea and a lovely cold coke. I don’t usually drink coke, but I was in dire need of sugar. After relishing my meal and resting my feet, after an hour I set off once again. Although to be honest, I have no idea how I actually ended up at this place….but boy am I glad I did.

Diving into the gloom of the trees, with the guide still packed away (?) I discovered that the terrain was really difficult with lots of tree roots, and steps…..more steps!!! Jeezuz. I was sick to death of climbing steps whether up or down. In all I was not a happy bunny. This day was turning out to be a nightmare.

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This last section was a true test of endurance. I’m still not sure how I managed….but I did. Trudging on I followed the markers crossing Reigate Hill

and passed the ‘Flying Fortress’ B17 WW2 memorial,

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This clearing in the trees was created at 5.42pm on 19 March 1945 when a B17 (G) aircraft, a ‘Flying Fortress’ creashed into the side of Reigate Hill, killing all 9 crew members on board

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the two wooden sculptures reflect the wing tips of the B17 that crashed

then Reigate Fort, which I briefly explored,

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crossed the Reigate Hill Footbridge and finally Gatton Park where IΒ  stopped at the refreshment booth for an ice-cream and a drink, had a rest, a quick pit stop to the loo and after taking a photo of the views and the sundial I picked up what was now the Pilgrim’s Way again and set off towards Merstham and my bed for the night.

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what a fantastic view

Its been a day of sheer unadulterated endurance. But I’m nearly at my destination. Hoorah

Gatton Park is really beautiful and I so enjoyed walking along what was now fairly flat terrain.

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hoorah….no steps

On the way down the hill I passed theΒ Millennium Stones; these awesome stones, built to resemble a megolithic stone circle, were created by Richard Kindersley during 1998 to 1999 to mark the double millennium from AD1 to AD2000. The first stone in the series is inscribed with the words from St John’s Gospel, β€œin the beginning the word was …”. The subsequent nine stones are carved with quotations contemporary with each 200 year segment, ending with the words of T S Eliot.

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Millenium Stones

After examining the circle and reading some of the inscriptions, I left the stones behind me and after crossing one last green field, I soon reached a more suburban area….nearly there πŸ™‚

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at the end of this field was my destination…Merstham

Finally I was in Merstham. It was exactly 7pm and I was so ready for bed.

Thankfully the AirBnb wasn’t too far from where the path ended so in no time at all I found the venue and was greeted by two of the loveliest hosts I have ever met. They were so welcoming, made me a lovely mug of tea and provided some hot food. We had a lovely conversation and then with my eyes barely held open, I made my way upstairs, had a hot hot shower and hopped into bed. Bliss

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my wonderful bed at the Merstham AirBnb

My instagram post: Merstham: Well. All I can say is that today’s lesson was about not giving up despite the pain, the exhaustion, the frustration and climbing more steep steps than I ever expected or wanted or ever plan to do again πŸ˜‚ πŸ˜‚ πŸ˜‚ Frankly I even amazed myself today at my capacity for endurance. But I can say for sure that I did not enjoy today’s walk. I am shattered, and walked so slowly that I’m surprised 🀨 🀨 that I actually got to Merstham at the time I did. My right hip was exceptionally painful today after yesterday’s fall and falling on the steps at Box Hill today didn’t help matters much. Getting to the top of the hills; Box Hill and Reigate, was excruciating but oh my gosh, the views… Stunning. I dosed myself up on 2000 mg of paracetamol over the day and just kept putting one foot in front of the other. However, arrive I did. My Airbnb hosts are absolutely lovely and we had a wonderful chat over a hot cuppa, I’ve wallowed in a scalding hot shower and now I’m horizontal on that fantastic bed. The route was meant to be 15.6 kms, I walked 18.9 kms which included about retracing my steps 3 times. I left Westhumble Station at 9.15 am and arrived at Merstham at 7pm with an hour for lunch and 3 short breaks. The guide book suggests it should take 3.5 hoursΒ  πŸ˜‚ πŸ˜‚ πŸ˜‚ πŸ˜‚ πŸ˜‚ on another planet maybe πŸ™„πŸ™„πŸ™„

Both the best and most challenging of days. Once again I had to dig deep to carry on, tried to ignore the pain of the 2 falls, enjoyed the views, appreciated good food and climbed more stairs that I ever want to EVER again LOL. But now I’m in a deliciously comfy bed, clean and refreshed….Goodnight…..

p.s. that bottle of water on the bed-stand….remained unopened.

In case you missed Day 6 of my pilgrimage from Winchester click here

Today video of scenes from Day 7

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