On the Hursts and Heights from Haslemere to Henley
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'Hurst' is a Saxon word for a wooded hill, as in, for example, the pretty stone and tile-hung village of Fernhurst. 'Height' is obvious, as in Marley Heights (212m), or indeed the old favourite of Blackdown itself (280m), the views from its summit the best in the Weald. Haslemere is well-known, yet Henley (a hidden hamlet with its inn perched on a wooded hillside) deserves to be well-known, but fortunately isn't.
These delights should only be accessible to the mildly adventurous, which is what we'll need to be to climb a total of 700 metres over just 23 kilometres (14 miles). However, the ascents will be gradual, the timing generous, the ground dry, the woods shady and the 'Lads who come proud of their achievement. (For a yardstick, if you did my Devil's Jumps and Devil's Punch Bowl walk in May 2017, that required only 50m less climbing on similar terrain but was 3 km longer.)
Points of interest along the route:
Blackdown: A rugged greensand plateau, 280m high, cared for by the National Trust and named after the dark pine trees on its summit. Its human history is interesting: Middle-Stone Age (6000BC) people lived there; smugglers hid their contraband in caves there; London was alerted to the coming of the Spanish Armada by a beacon there; and in 1967 Iberian Airlines Flight 062, its altimeter faulty, crashed there.
Henley: A straggle of picturesque cottages and farms on the edge of Verdley Hill. There are superb views back to Blackdown from the terraced garden of the 16th century Duke of Cumberland Arms pub which we'll visit.
Marley Common: Heaths, woodlands (broadleaf and conifer), ponds and meadows in the care of the National Trust. It was used as an army training ground during the Second World War but when cattle grazing ceased in the 1960s, the common became overgrown with scrub. The scrub is being cleared by hand and by belted Galloway cattle. Particularly impressive is a clump of giant Sequoia (redwood trees) on the heath.
What to bring
Sturdy, well-fitting walking boots and thick walking socks to prevent blisters will be essential. Bring blister plasters too if you're likely to need them. Although much of the route will be in shade, take precautions against the sun with a high-factor sun cream and perhaps a sunhat. If rain is forecast, wet-weather gear should be brought.
Food & drink
Bring a substantial packed lunch, snacks and copious quantities to drink. There is a pub near the lunch spot at Henley and there are pubs in Haslemere at the end.