More Awesome Autumn Commons and Bottoms

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Lowland and Hill Walks
Sep 14

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Distance is 22 km (13 miles); total ascent is 153 m; terrain is gently undulating with a few modest ascents and descents; surfaces are dirt, sand, grass and tarmac.

A sort-of sequel to a walk from 2017: same season, same county, same landscapes, but different commons (Horsell and Chobham), different bottoms (Albury and Childown) and very different points of interest. The range of landscapes (wetland, riverbank, oak wood, pasture, heathland) and land uses (Islamic peace garden, light airfield, high-tech facility, equestrian centre) will add dazzling diversity. 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. 

The sights:

Shah Jahan Mosque: Britain's first purpose-built mosque, Grade I listed. Built 1889 by Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner and William Isaac Chambers in a Mughal rather than Arabian style and correctly oriented towards Mecca 4790 km away. The centre for Islam in the UK until the construction of the Regents Park Mosque. Used by Queen Victoria's Indian employees such as Abdul Karim while the queen was at Windsor. Claimed as the location at which the name 'Pakistan' was coined.

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. We will visit  Heather Farm Wetland Centre cafe for tea and cake and/or a look around.

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. We will have a drink in the The Hangar cafe at about 11:30 and watch the planes taking off. 

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'. 


I welcome dogs on all my walks and this walk is very suitable for them. It has few fields with livestock (just some horses), and is of moderate length. However, there are a few stiles and roads to negotiate. A dog must be obedient if it is off the lead. 

The route:

The walk starts along Oriental Road and ventures into the somewhat run-down area of Maybury in order to see the Mosque. At Monument Road we'll leave the canal and 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, where we will then pick up footpaths around Chobham via Chobham Park Farm. We will then return to Horsell Common where we can either have tea and cake at Heather Farm Cafe. From there, it's a short heathland, suburban and urban walk mostly along alleyways back to Woking Station.

(Picture credits: Fishpond on Chobham Common by Cloudmessenger*; The Shah Jahan Mosque by Alan Hunt; Forge Common by Glyn Baker; 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, Bosky Path at Chobham Common by Cloudmessenger*; Chobham Place Wood by Robin Webster; Stanners Hill by Alan Hunt; Trees by the Mill Bourne by Alan Hunt; Chobham Park Farm by James Emmans; Paddocks near Chobham by Alan Hunt; Heather Farm Wetland Centre by Alan Hunt (all images are licensed for reuse under Creative Commons except *images by the leader).)


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