More Awesome Autumn Commons and Bottoms
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A sort-of sequel to a walk from 2017: same season, same county, same landscapes, different commons (Horsell and Chobham) and different bottoms (Albury and Childown). If all this sounds a bit samey, then the range of landscapes (wetland, riverbank, oak wood, pasture, heath) and land uses (Islamic garden, mosque, village, airfield, high-tech facility) should dispel any monotony. The walk will abound in interest natural, historical, technological and fantastical, from a Muslim burial ground to McLaren's Technology Centre to a Martian landing site, and all unexpectedly unfolding from Woking, which as a start and end point at least has the advantage of convenience.
Shah Jahan Mosque, Woking: The first purpose-built mosque in the UK, built 1889 and Grade I listed. Funded by Sultan Shah Jahan Begum of Bhopal and designed by William Isaac Chambers in an authentically Mughal rather than Arabian style, and correctly oriented towards Mecca.
Muslim Peace Garden and Burial Ground, Horsell Common: The resting place of two dozen Muslim soldiers and now a peace garden dedicated to all the Muslim soldiers of the British Indian Army who died during both world wars. The chhatri (domed pavilions) and walls form a Grade II listed structure. The garden unites the Islamic Garden with elements of the Common. Following a restoration of the walls and chhatri in 2015, a reflecting pond was added.
Horsell Common: A 355-hectare open space. Half is a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest. As well as the peace garden, there are Bronze Age barrows, protected heathland and thousands of trees. The Sandpit area was the location of the first Martian landing in HG Wells's 1898 novel The War of the Worlds.
McLaren Technology Centre: The headquarters of the McLaren Group; a large, roughly semi-circular, glass-walled building, designed by Norman Foster and short-listed for the 2005 Stirling Prize. 1,000 people work on Formula One vehicles. Artificial lakes surround the building, one formal and four 'ecology' lakes that dissipate the heat produced in the immense wind tunnel.
Fairoaks Airport: Begun in 1931, then requisitioned to become RAF Fairoaks in World War 2, now a private airstrip for light aircraft.
Chobham Common: A 656-hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest and a National Nature Reserve. It contains three Scheduled Monuments: a Bronze Age barrow, and two earthworks of unknown date and origin known as 'The Beegardens'.
Chobham: The northern end is MOD-acquired heath, the southern end is Woking suburbia. In the middle is a real village centre, a rarity in West Surrey. Old cottages and farms all over, and an attractive high street with St Laurence's Church, 1170, but over-restored, set back.
Heading east along Oriental Road from Woking Station, we'll take a quick look at the mosque, then by turning north along Monument Road, we'll take in the Peace Garden and some of Horsell Common including the Sandpit. Leaving the Common we'll head out to the McLaren Technology Centre, then Fairoaks Airport, and then using bridleways we'll cross Stanners Hill and go on to Chobham Common. A large loop around the Common, and having had lunch, to Burrowhill, will then pick up footpaths to Chobham over Clappers Ford. We will then return to Horsell Common where we can either have tea and cake at Heather Farm Cafe or a pint at The Cricketers at Horsell Birch. From there, it's a short suburban and urban walk back to Woking Station.
(Picture credits: Horsell Common by Will Houston; This is Surrey by Paul E Smith; Muslim Burial Ground Peace Garden by Ibn Musa; The Shah Jahan Mosque by Alan Hunt; Sunlit woodland path by Don Cload; Horsell Common by Alan Hunt; Horsell Common Photo Montage by Lucy Reynolds; McLaren Technology Centre by Alan Hunt; McClaren Park Lake by Alan Hunt; Fairoaks Airport Runway by Jo Kibble; Sandy path, Chobham Common by Alan Hunt; Path, Chobham Place Wood by Robin Webster; The Fishpond, Chobham Common by Stefan Czapski; Stanners Hill by Alan Hunt; Clappers Ford at Chobham by John Walton; Trees by the Mill Bourne by Alan Hunt; Paddocks near Chobham by Alan Hunt; Village scene, Chobham by Andrew Hill; The Cricketers, Horsell by Alan Hunt (all images are licensed for reuse under Creative Commons).)
What to bring
Walking boots would be good, but if the September weather has been dry, walking shoes will be fine. Otherwise bring and wear clothing appropriate to the forecast.