As I said in my previous post, we wanted to take advantage of our rental car as much as possible whilst we had it and venture into the countryside a bit. A friend of mine is always raving about the lavender fields near Epsom, and the end of July/early August is peak lavender season, so we’d thought we’d give it a go. Unfortunately, apparently everyone else in London had the same thought, because the place was completely rammed, even though it was early afternoon on a Monday. With cars queuing down the road just to get in the car park, and another queuing system set up once you got out of your car that didn’t look like it was allowing for proper social distancing, plus the £4 charge just to walk around a field, I was most decidedly not keen, so we gave up on that idea. (I had to laugh when I saw the lavender farm posted on Secret London’s Instagram a few days later. Sorry mate, secret’s out.)
However, all was not lost, because we spotted another lavender farm down the road that made a point of advertising their free admission. The fact that the car park was almost empty probably should have been a clue that there was a reason it was free, if the appearance of the place as soon as we got out of the car didn’t make that clear. Still, we’d come all that way, so we persevered. And boy, it’s good we did, since you can see all the fun attractions we spotted! There’s the random hay bales and empty greenhouses surrounded by hoarding, and the big dirt/rubbish heap.
And of course the beautiful lush ankle-high lavender fields, filled with millions of bees and other insects that flew up into our faces when we walked past. Just like being in Provence (actually, sort of, since I don’t like Provence much either, but their lavender is definitely more impressive)! There was a small stall set up selling lavender products, but I think lavender in food is vile, and I’m not all that keen on lavender soap either, so we went home empty handed. I probably shouldn’t be too hard on them, because they are a new farm and it takes time for lavender plants to grow to impressive heights, and at least we didn’t pay for the experience or have to encounter other people in a significant way, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it or Mayfield Lavender Farms, which is the insanely crowded place down the road, to anyone at the moment. Total waste of a trip.
Our walk in the North Downs was more successful. We used to go for walks in the North and South Downs quite frequently back when we had a car, but I’ve never been very into walking, so we would usually have to combine it with a visit to an ice cream shop so I had some motivation. However, we sold our car back in 2016 to finance our trip to New Zealand, and have only rented them occasionally since then. So we thought it might be nice to visit the North Downs again, since I’ve gotten sick of Richmond Park even though I’ve really only started going for regular walks there fairly recently. (I know I’m lucky to live near it and have a massive green space to use practically on my doorstep, but it does get old after a while. There’s just too many damn people to dodge.) I checked out the North Downs walks on the National Trails website, and we settled on the Puttenham Circular based mainly on the length of the walk (I get real sick of walking after 4 miles or so, so 3.5 miles is usually perfect) and the ease of driving there (I think Marcus may also have been enticed by the mention of hops, though we didn’t end up seeing any).
I was definitely irritated for a lot of this walk because the sun was much too strong, even though it wasn’t a particularly hot day, but I actually enjoyed following the route I downloaded from the National Trails site rather than the clearly marked trails everyone else was following, both because it meant we were the only people on our particular walk, and because it made it feel more like a scavenger hunt since I had to keep looking out for landmarks to know where to turn. On the downside, the fencing seems to have changed since the walk was written, and we were definitely lost for a bit, though we came out where we were supposed to in the end; also, there were portions of the walk where you had to walk along a winding road that had lots of blind corners, and even though there wasn’t much traffic, I was so paranoid I was going to get hit by a car that I fairly sprinted along those stretches to get back into a field again.
Most of the walk was just fields and small stretches of woodland, but we walked through the village of Puttenham, which was quite quaint (though undoubtedly still expensive to live in, as it’s close enough to London to be considered a commuter town), with a parish church and some oast houses (still not totally clear on what an oast house is, other than that it relates to hops somehow, but no matter). We also came across various fields full of horses, which was a bit stressful at one juncture where we had to open a gate right next to a horse. I warned the horse I was coming from across the field so it didn’t freak out, and tiptoed very quickly around it in case it tried to kick me or something (I was never one of those girls that loves horses. They kind of make me nervous because they’re so jumpy themselves. I feel more comfortable with cows because I think I’m a bit of a cow whisperer). I spared you the view of a different horse’s giant erect penis in the photo at the start of the post, which I took from an angle where the tumescence is blocked by the horse in front of it.
All in all, it’s not a terrible walk in dry conditions if you bear in mind that “gently undulating” is code for “there are lots of hills,” and don’t go in actually expecting to see hops, because we certainly didn’t (maybe it’s for the best. One of us might have ended up like Fanny Adams). The various “dog fouling” signs made me laugh anyway!