the downs link stage one
run common - bramley - st martha's hill
The Downs Link bridleway was established in 1984 to link together the North Downs and the South Downs Way. The trail crosses the Low Weald and mostly follows two former railway lines. Much of the track is owned and jointly managed by West Sussex/Surrey County Councils and Waverley Borough Council.
We cycle alongside former navigable stretches of the Wey & Arun Canal, which closed in 1871, through Run Common. The Wey & Arun Canal Trust aim to restore London's lost route to the sea, back to navigation.
Under a railway bridge along leafy woodland paths where I spot a grey squirrel rummaging in the undergrowth.
Through replica crossing gates into the grounds of the old station. Click on Cranleigh Railway Info for nostalgic photos from the archives.
So the story goes, the enamel sign was returned to the station in the mid 1990s, after being used for many years as a shelf in a greenhouse in Worthing!
When the station building was finally demolished, the corner holding the postbox was left.
A replica waiting room has been built alongside a restored platform edge.
The last train pulled out of Bramley & Wonersh station on its way to Horsham, on the 12th of June 1965.
Blackheath village traces its roots back to 1833, before which there is no record of a rate paying inhabitant. There is a monastery nearby.
Pine with needles and roots underfoot, along with birch and oak, define the landscape in this area.
85% of Surrey heathland has been lost since 1752, and the careful removal of trees is helping to restore this. The acidic, sandy soil is perfect growing conditions for heather and gorse.
During World War Two, the Canadian army were based on the common, which excluded villagers and livestock from the heath.
No doubt this stage is the most enduring, only the superfit can cycle the steep hill up towards St Marthas. My bike was pushed for me on this stage, with me lagging behind with hands on waist!
A 59 kilometre (37 mile) route which is open to walkers, horse riders and cyclists. By reaching this plaque we have now completed each stage of the Downs Link.
Looking down on a beautiful Weald & Downland landscape where on a clear day eight counties can be seen. The woodland here comprises of oak, holly, hawthorn and hazel, and in Spring, bluebells.
Having come to the conclusion we may not visit this area again, we took the final steep incline up to St Martha's church, which sits on the top of the hill. Dating back to the twelfth century, this church became a ruin after the dissolution of the monasteries, and was restored during the nineteenth century.
On the way up we passed a couple of walkers, who had great pleasure in letting us know there is free tea and cakes on offer. No time to sit on this bench!
We parked up the bikes and headed towards the gathering crowd, the friends of the church, who were holding their annual Easter Fun Day. We left a small donation towards the restoration fund, and with cup of tea and chocolate buttercream slab cake in hand, we sat for a short while before making tracks back to Bramley Station.
After having cycled this stage in drizzly rain and poor visibility, which makes for very difficult cycling and muddy conditions underfoot, it was an enormous relief to see our van parked up, waiting to bring us back home, and dry!