Fourteen London group walkers managed to catch early train connections to meet the 09.32 (direct but slow) train from Waterloo to Effingham Junction.
Chris Woolls who was leading his first London Group walk led us off confidently and we soon entered a very muddy section along the west side of Effingham Common. The first challenge was to navigate successfully across Effingham Golf Club, which the pre-walk team had made a bit of a hash of a month before, annoying a number of golfers in consequence. However this proved much easier than expected – we had the courage of our convictions and followed the route on the OS map though largely not demarcated on the ground using a compass bearing.
On approaching our planned lunch stop at Polesden Lacey suddenly the hitherto quiet countryside became very busy with the National Trust car park both large and well-used. Most of us ate our sandwiches on benches thoughtfully provided next to the car park while a few availed themselves of the café. Although mainly built in the 1824, the heyday of Polesden Lacey was in the 1920s when Edwardian hostess Mrs Greville, who had inherited wealth from McEwan's beer empire, entertained royalty among other celebrities.
After lunch we descended along a track which passed beneath a rustic bridge, which carried one of the paths in Polesden Lacey gardens. We read that this arrangement prevented too much interaction between guests of the house and tradesmen and other 'hoi polloi'.
We then climbed out of a shallow valley, with excellent views back towards Polesden Lacey house. Emerging from dense woodland (Surrey is the most wooded county in England) we arrived at the North Downs escarpment with fine views to the Greensand ridge and Leith Hill, the highest point in South East England.
On the final section of the walk we passed the impressive 19th century St Barnabas Church on Ranmore Common, then England's largest vineyard, Denbies, to arrive at Boxhill and Westhumble station nice and early around 3 pm. Most of the party had time for the 3 C's (coffee, cake and chat) at the Pilgrim Cycles café in the station building before catching the train back to London.
Many thanks to Chris who confidently led the walk at a brisk pace, and to Matthew who expertly performed the backstop role.