Ashtead and Epsom Commons
A short six mile, birthday walk around the London/Surrey borders
(Photos © urban75, Apr 2008)
With a big birthday party lined up for the next night and the prospect of a whole weekend of hard drinking fun, I decided to take a relaxing country walk on my birthday.
We caught the train from Vauxhall overground station.
There's a level crossing at the eastern end of Ashtead station, and the fence seems to have turned into a community noticeboard.
Unusually for a London station, the countryside comes right up to the railway, so you're only seconds away from parkland.
Walking into Ashtead Common, a 500 acre mix of ancient woodland and open countryside which has been a national reserve since 1995.
Some of the signs were a bit confusing for walkers. What's a 'Concessionary Ride 1' when it's at home?!
The walk was a lot muddier than we anticipated so we had to carefully navigate some of the wetter patches.
The beginnings of spring!
Over 50 tree species and shrubs can be found in the area, along with over 300 types of plant. I'm absolutely rubbish at identifying flora and fauna, but the greater yellow rattle and southern marsh orchid apparently lurk nearby (whatever they are).
Em snapping some foliage.
More puddles to totter around.
Although it feels miles from London, the common is on the southern edge of London's boundary.
We stopped off by a felled tree for lunch. And very nice it was too.
Cast iron London boundary marker.
Curious stripy tree.
Another London boundary marker in the middle of a wood.
Stew Pond on Epsom Common.
The Common was owned by Chertsey Abbey which dug the ponds to provide a supply of fish.
In 1618 a passing cowman discovered a spring which produced the original Epsom Salts. The spring became so fashionable that the likes of Samuel Pepys and Daniel DeFoe hot-footed it down from the metropolis, but by 1740 the celebs had moved on to trendier spas elsewhere.
Trees felled in the wood are cut with a mobile sawmill (wood mizer), with the wood being used to make signposts. As part of the site management, newer English Oaks surrounding ancient pollards are felled to ensure the survival of the older trees.
Cool little wooden house.
A brief glimpse of sunlight!
There's so many paths criss-crossing Ashtead and Epsom commons that it's quite easy to get lost - which is exactly what we did. We didn't mind though as it was pleasant walking and it's easy to work a way out (just head south west!)
Woman and dog.
We headed back to Ashtead station and were soon on our way back to London.