Chobham Common


On Easter Saturday 2008, my mum and I walked around Chobham Common in Surrey, a circular walk from Sunningdale station. We were attempting to follow directions from a book, with mixed success.


Sunningdale station is conveniently placed for the town's two Rolls-Royce dealers. (What? You want another type of car? Well, they probably had Bentleys... I think one even sank to BMWs.) Ignoring these, we found a footpath that twisted around the backs of houses in an interesting manner. It reminded Mum of the 'tenfoots' in Hull, although nobody buys Rollers in Hull. This joined a small road across the railway and from there we followed a track into the common.

Chobham Common

We passed through a narrow belt of trees and the scenery suddenly changed from Surrey town to relatively wild-looking commonland. It's apparently 'one of the finest examples of lowland heath in Europe', and to be fair it's pretty impressive.

Our path initially led uphill towards a monument. What for? We didn't know, but we soon found out.

The monument: 'In memory of the noble life of Queen Victoria', who apparently reviewed some troops on the common. The grade she gave them isn't recorded. The monument, meanwhile, was paid for by 400 townsfolk who evidently suffered then from the same surfeit of disposable income that today is resolved with expensive cars.
1/750 at f8, 10mm, ISO200
Near the monument. V for Victoria? This picture demonstrates two features from the common's total of three: silver birch trees and gorse. (The other one is heather.)
1/500 at f8, 16mm, ISO200

We then joined a path which looped around near the railway line to the north before turning toward the military base at Longcross.

Ironically, I actually took this picture of the sign so I could see what it said (it was down a long drive). I was hoping for maybe the name of the establishment, but, well...
1/350 at f8, 250mm, ISO200
Opposite the base, a conveniently-placed armchair.
1/90 at f8, 55mm, ISO200

In the south of England, there's a law that all large areas of common land must be split directly in two by a motorway, and Chobham Common is no exception. We joined a local road to cross over this (it's the M3) and entered the southern half of the common.

In some places it was a little damp.
1/125 at f8, 16mm, ISO200
This side looked a little different; less of the gorse, more of the long yellow grass...
1/90 at f8, 17mm, ISO200
...except where it had been torched, apparently.
1/90 at f8, 16mm, ISO200
A tree marked on some of the maps as 'Lone Pine'. Well, it is. (And the gorse is back!)
1/500 at f8, 74mm, ISO200

We took a break for lunch under another pine tree some way distant, which wasn't terribly well-provided with anything so convenient as leaves, but nevertheless helped keep some of the rain out when it began.

A cleared area in a woodland plantation.
1/45 at f11, 20mm, ISO400

Setting off again, we proceeded to get lost (or loster, depending on whether we had actually been in the right place before). This resulted on us taking an unfeasibly long route (and at one point checking the compass to find we were headed about ninety degrees wrong - yes, it's a good idea to take a compass even if you're walking in a safe place in the middle of civilisation). However, we did eventually arrive in an area known as Gracious Pond. Yes, really. I don't know what's gracious about it (not sure we actually saw the pond).

After this there was a bit of walking along roads and then footpaths through the grounds of a farm, now a stud farm. This had an infeasibly large mansion (hotel?) in its grounds. Anyway, we soon reached a small village where we stopped briefly at the pub that hadn't been changed into an oriental dining experience and/or Harvester.

We took care on the road. (There wasn't anything particularly dangerous in the region, as far as I could see, but you never know.)
1/180 at f8, 22mm, ISO200

After that a footpath led us back into the western side of the common. Shortly afterward, we encountered a bizarre construction; at one point along a line of electricity pylons, two tall scaffolding towers held a mesh of neeting high above the ground. Maybe to keep the wires from falling onto the small electricity line that run beneath at that point? Anyway this looked pretty cool.

Sunlight in one direction...
1/1000 at f8, 22mm, ISO200
...but not the other. Isn't that scaffolding awesome?
1/1000 at f8, 22mm, ISO200
Close-up of scaffolding.
1/1000 at f8, 131mm, ISO200

The path then climbed almost to the top of a ridge above the motorway.

The motorway's just beyond there, maybe two hundred metres ahead and some way down. Hard to tell from the picture...
1/500 at f8, 21mm, ISO200
A chrome bumper. What? (There wasn't any other litter around here, but it's pretty near a car park.)
1/180 at f8, 22mm, ISO200

We then headed down to an underpass which led us safely beneath the M3 and back up; from here it wasn't far to the monument and then back to Sunningdale.

(The end!)

All images © Samuel Marshall. All rights reserved.