SOC Walks Programme 2014


Thursday 10 April - Ashdown Forest, East Grinstead

As the pub where we used to meet for this walk is no longer available, we now meet and leave our cars in a free car park owned by the Forest authority. It is on the west side of the A275 half a mile south of its junction with the A22 at Wych Cross. The walk will start and finish here, GR: TQ417311 where we will aim to meet at 11.45. The walk is a lovely circuit around the High Weald with a good mix of delightful wooded tracks and heath land paths, providing spectacular views across to both the North and South Downs.

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Tuesday 22 April - Charlbury, Oxford

An attractive circuit through the rolling Cotswold Hills with woods and hedgerows providing plenty of opportunities to walk nude. Our route takes us through the impressive grounds of Ditchley Park. This former stately home is now an international conference centre.


Wednesday 7 May - Bury Down, Didcot

This wonderful walk over the downs starts from Bury Down car park on The Ridgeway path. We head west along the ridge before turning south to drop down through a winding valley to make a wide circle through beautiful chalk downland. This walk has been extended through the village of East Ilsley, after finishing the walk where we started, we can now drive back 2 miles to East Ilsley for dinner.

See photos of the walk,

and the demolition of Didcot A Power Station

Tuesday 22 May - Red Shoot, New Forest

This year we repeat the route heading north from the Red Shoot Inn & Brewery which we first used in 2010 as it has advantages over our original route heading east because it takes us further from civilisation. While there are sections through woodland, mostly we walk over heath land using well marked paths or unmade roads and tracks through the heather.


Friday 6 June - Ackling Dyke, Salisbury

This is quite close to our Broad Chalke walk but we start from an adjacent village 2 miles to the east and head south instead of north. Ackling Dyke is a name bestowed locally on the Roman road between Sarum (now Salisbury) and Poole harbour, which we follow for several miles. Much of the scenery is spectacular with lunch in a secluded Alpine meadow.

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Wednesday 18 June - Dean's Bottom, Goring-on-Thames

This is the fourth time this walk has appeared in our programme, and it is the sixth walk in our collection to make use - briefly this time - of The Ridgeway long distance path. We meet in the village of Aldworth in Berkshire and walk through superb downland scenery in a large figure of eight. There are ups and downs but nothing too strenuous.

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 Thursday 26 June - Maidensgrove, Henley-on-Thames

This was a new walk in 2010. Not far from our Chiltern Scarp walk, but with fewer steep climbs, it combines long open stretches across chalk downs with attractive woodland glades where the poetic name still conjures visions of naked nymphs flitting shyly between the trees.

Friday 4 July - Grovely Woods, Salisbury

This is the first of two new walks in 2014. For many years we have looked north across the wide valley when walking along the top of escarpment that is a major feature of our Broad Chalke walk, and admired a wooded parallel ridge with woods on top but open sides. When we investigated we were far from disappointed.

Saturday 12 July - Hoo Peninsula, Gravesend

This walk is in a most unusual setting where we start in hills and woodland before exploring a huge and virtually deserted area of marshland alongside the Thames Estuary, which is why we can do it on a Saturday. This area is full of historical interest, and has a chequered history of smuggling exploited by Charles Dickens for Great Expectations.

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Monday 28 July - Friston Forest, Eastbourne

This beautiful walk featured in our first 1993 programme and is still a favourite, with forest, open downs, precipitous chalk cliffs and a naturist beach. As the walk is not a closed circuit we board a bus in East Dean to start our walk at the Golden Gallion pub where the A259 crosses the Cuckmere River. To avoid walking through Westdean, we take a new route heading north along the east bank of the river before leaving it to climb up through a winding valley and emerge on top of the downs. We finish up by striding across closely cropped turf along the top of the famous Seven Sisters chalk cliffs to Birling Gap before walking back to The Tiger Inn for dinner.

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Wednesday 6 August - Leith Hill, Dorking

At 9 miles this is now the shortest of our walks. Nonetheless, it is much enjoyed and provides an excellent route through pleasant sheltered woodland and very attractive valleys sloping gently up to Leith Hill Tower, 1000ft (317m) above sea level on the crest of the Greensand Ridge. From here it is possible to see high buildings in London.

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Tuesday 12 August - Patching, Worthing

Wooded slopes where the South Downs that run gently down to the sea offer shelter in attractive country as we circumnavigate Angmering Park, but around lunch time we also break out on to the downs before following the full length of a Gallop down a delightful winding valley.

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Wednesday 20 August - Sugar Hill, Swindon

Once again we make use of the Ridgeway Path on its way from Ivinghoe Beacon to Avebury during this walk, though not for long. If the weather is benign, we might stop for lunch on the ramparts of Liddington Castle, an impressive ancient earthwork. We then follow a fine route along a west facing escarpment partly parallel to, and then on, the Ridgeway before heading east back to the village.

See photos of the walk

Tuesday 2 September - Charlton Forest, Chichester

Downland walks are always popular, and this perfect triangle devised in 2013 by John Rodgers starts at the southernmost point. Beware! It starts from one of several East Dean villages from Sussex to Hampshire, and we have already visited one East Dean at the start of the Friston Forest walk in July. The Charlton Forest one is 6 miles north-east of Chichester.

Friday 12 September - The Missendens, Amersham

This is quite a strenuous walk through beautiful wooded Chiltern Hills, starting from Great Missenden and crossing the Wendover Gap at the halfway point close enough to Wendover Station for anyone who has had enough to catch a half-hourly train back to Great Missenden.

Tuesday 24 September - Box Hill Maze, Dorking

What was our new walk for 2013 starts where the River Mole cuts through the North Downs and follows an amazing tangle of footpaths through beautiful wooded and also open territory with splendid views. But you have to be able to cope with several steep climbs.

Monday 6 October - Turville Valley, High Wycombe

This was our new walk for 2012, but in 2013 rain caused us to cut it short. It lies broadly between our Maidensgrove walk to the west and the M40 to the north, and includes all the best features for which the Chilterns are rightly famed. Bill Haynes who organised these walks for 12 years, and devised this walk as well as many others, joined us briefly but only for the first mile on 12 July 2012. Sadly, he died on 16 December 2012.


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