Sunday 5th August: Summer Walk:
Farming and Land Use in Chaldon through the Centuries
On a hot sunny day, a group of twenty or so started off from outside the old farmhouse and granary of Court Farm, on a walk through fields and into farmyards across the village and to see some remains of farming innovations of the past, finishing with tea and cakes in the Hazell Room at the church.
The walk included some time with Roger Colebrook who farms Court Farm and Tollsworth, and a look inside the old timber framed cartshed and collapsed barns at Court Farm. The group then walked on the farm’s track to Tollsworth, dodging the combine harvester and a tractor coming the same way.
The ridge walk along the North Downs Way led us to Hilltop Farm and a view of the long low roof of its old dairy building.
Geoff Hewlett, a Voluntary Warden for the Quarry Hangers Nature Reserve (Surrey Wildlife Trust), led us through a route not usually available to the public including a recently cleared site. Geoff talked about the management that has gone into restoring the chalk downland on this Site of Special Scientific Interest on our Chaldon boundary.
We saw some wonderful butterflies and wildflowers.
Thanks to Stephen Slaughter for these lovely photographs.
After lunch at the Harrow, the group walked through Grubbs Wood, then up Roffes Lane and Chaldon Common Road and up the drive of the Golf Club.
In the welcome shade of a large tree, Liz Bonsall talked about land use on this area. Further on, in two separate sites, she showed the drainage channels and a sluice gate, evidence that remains of farming innovations made by the Metropolitan Asylum Board in the 19th century.
The route led past the site of where some stuff was tipped when St Lawrence’s hospital was demolished, and another site of an earlier Council rubbish tip, to the corner of one of the hay meadows of Happy Valley. Stephen Slaughter then led the group through Piles Wood, pointing out coppiced hazels and large stumps from felled trees. Madeline Hutchins contributed some information on timber harvesting and uses gleaned from the archived Estate Records of the Merstham Estates, held in the Somerset Record Office.
The walk ended with tea and cakes in the Hazel Room at the Church and an opportunity to see some of the documents and photos that Liz and Madeline had put together. These included a nineteenth century tithe map onto which Liz had written the old names of all the fields.