When we first moved to London we both sold our cars thinking surely no one drives in London what with the amazing tube and train networks and no doubt crazy traffic jams all the time. How wrong we were. Yes, lots of people don't drive to work but the majority do have cars ready waiting for them at the weekend where road trips and heck even just trips to B&Q await them. We got by pretty well for the first year, taking the train or often multiple trains when visiting friends in suburbia (yes the ones with houses and kids, so grown up) and sometimes renting cars for longer trips and weekends away. But in March we finally got ourselves four wheels in the form of a little Mini Cooper, I know I know, how very London of us. But really it is the handiest thing for parking on street and whizzing around the mean but often traffic free (really) streets of London.
Of course we thought of all the road trips that would ensue but just after we got it we flew off to India for a couple of weeks and then spent the next few weekends flying to Dublin and back and all of a sudden it was May and we had gone nowhere further than our local common and Waitrose. A few more trips to Dublin over the following months and lots of busy weekends meant the poor Mini never really got to stretch its legs until my parent's came to visit last month and I drove all of 30 miles to Gatwick to pick them up. My parents though were more than happy to have the luxury of a chauffeur and made sure the car got a good driving, we went all the way to Greenwich (about 20 miles) and of course another teary eyed trip back to Gatwick.
It wasn't until this month that me and Brian got the aul map out and said we REALLY need to go do some exploring and see some of the amazing countryside at our doorstep. Not wanting to over do it we started small and steady heading south of London, down the A3, to Surrey Hills which is an area of outstanding natural beauty and home to The Devil's Punchbowl, which has a variety of walks and hikes perfect for any level. We packed a picnic, loaded up our backpacks and headed off down the A3 ready for some adventure. The sun didn't feel like coming but that probably wasn't a bad thing as Chaill, our dog, tends to give up when it's too hot. It was still a balmy 23/24 degrees so we were hot enough climbing some of the slow inclines. As the name indicates The Devils Punchbowl is a large amphitheatre which looks amazing and is fun to walk down into but not as enjoyable coming back up the slow incline.
We chose to do the Highcombe Hike which has all the inclines and pretty uneven surfaces in parts but we wanted a wee bit of a challenge. As the hike was only 2.8miles we decided to do a bit of the ROAM 639 trail too which is 6.39 miles in total, I'd say we just did 2 miles or so of it too. The scenery along the whole trail was just stunning, you can see for miles ahead at the top of the amphitheatre and as you trail down into the depths of forest a whole new scenery of lakes and trees appear. There are farms along the way too with the biggest long horn cows I've ever come across, and Chaill too, the little divil got way to close to one of them but the cow wasn't bothered, thank God, friendly fellow.
We carried our backpacks the whole way but didn't stop for a picnic, there aren't really any picnic spots along the trail so we ended up having it when we got back to the carpark where there are loads of picnic tables. It didn't really bother me as my bag was light as a feather, Brian on the other hand had all the food and a two litre bottle of water. Oh well, won't make that mistake again, best to leave the picnic in the car. We had such a lovely afternoon as soon as we got home we were looking up where to go next. The National Trust have a really great website (check it out here) which gives lots of inspiration for places to visit be it a park, beach or building, they have 575 altogether so you're sure to find one.