Members of the Longer Walks Group started this walk at Petts Wood in the suburbs of south east London, from where we were able to follow footpaths that took advantage of local woodlands and open space to join the London Loop. Heading for Farnborough, we crossed Farnborough churchyard to continue on into High Elms Country Park, passing through ornamental gardens and alongside a golf course before emerging into farmland. At this point we had our first encounter with narrow, muddy footpaths, the mud in particular being a feature of the day! At a junction of paths, we headed south along a track which emerged on the road just outside the village of Downe. With its historic core of flint cottages, two pubs and a 13th-century church, it was hard to believe Downe is located well within the boundary of Greater London, and we were grateful for the benches on the village green and the warm welcome in the George and Dragon as we paused for lunch.
Shortly after leaving Downe, we walked past the home of its most celebrated resident. I am not of course referring to the former leader of the UKIP party, but the naturalist Charles Darwin, who wrote On the Origin of the Species while living in Down House on the edge of the village.
From Downe we headed south-east across farmland and through woodlands towards the village of Cudham, where we experienced the first of our afternoon climbs. From the delightful mediaeval church at Cudham we continued through a similar landscape to reach Foxberry Wood, where we turned to head generally east, descending the steep Stubbs Hill only to climb up the other side of the valley to Rushmore Hill. We were now on our final section, as we continued across not one, but two abandoned golf courses to reach Knockholt station.
While we waited for our train at the end of our 12 mile walk, it was hard to believe that after passing through such picturesque villages and some wonderful countryside we had never left zone 6 or the London Borough of Bromley.