I have to admit, the outside of my front door is rather horrific. It’s the worst example of 1960s planning; a council estate on the border of Surrey and London with as many houses crammed into as small a space as possible. Parking is a premium, there is no space for the raft of bins we now have and all in all it’s not particularly picturesque.
However, leave via the back door and you walk straight into a 6 acre nature reserve with woodpeckers, rabbits and badgers. Bluebells carpet the wood in the spring and there are rarely others who find this little oasis. Leaving the woods, a 10 minute walk through a park (with three different play areas including a zipwire!) will take you to Farthing Downs. This beautiful large space is easily accessible with the mainline train station only a 5 minute walk away.
There are fields, woods, tracks that disappear ahead. Rabbits run across the path and if you’re lucky you’ll see one of the deer that live in the area. Runners, horse riders, walkers, picnickers – so many different people enjoy this area. If, however, you want a little bit of history then find the track opposite the station and wander up into the Cane Hill hospital – an old mental hospital that is yet to be developed. Many of the buildings have been destroyed through vandalism which is a shame as these visits punctuated my childhood. The wards still had beds, there was still evidence of the patients over the years and the swimming pool and staff area were almost entire. Many people are not aware of this secret location and I love walking through imagining the stories of those who were here.
Back to Farthing Downs and there are infinite options. I have two favourites. One is to walk through the valley, up the other side to the glorious church in Chalden. I love exploring the graveyard and simply sitting to take in the tranquillity. Another walk is to the pub – that good old English tradition. A decent walk followed by a good meal and a beer and then either walk back or hop on the bus if it’s been one beer too many.
I always walk back via the duck pond complete with duck house. The dog always stares, trying to figure out what the different water birds are, and then we wander through the park, into the golf course before leaving to cross the street and back into the 1960s estate.
So, the immediate few metres outside my front door might not be all that it could be but the infinite space, the green oases where you can see the peaks of London and the rolling hills of Surrey mean I’m pretty addicted to the space around my front door and it takes a lot to beat it!