Hindhead Commons and The Devil’s Punch Bowl is designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty. You barely need to leave the car park to appreciate the impressive views across The Bowl.
POD and I explored The Devil’s Punch Bowl for the first time just last month but we were back so Daddy could discover it too. It was a windy day but we were lucky the rain stopped just as we arrived.
We decided to take the historic Sailor’s Stroll as it’s an easy walk and we had POD’s bedroom to decorate once we were home!
The Bowl is a natural amphitheatre and a breathtaking one at that. The slopes are covered with heath, small streams and woodland. Even on a grey day the panoramic views extend for miles. The smell of the woodland is divine.
The Sailor’s Stone marks the spot where an unknown sailor met his death. He was murdered by three men he had befriended in a local pub in Thursley whilst walking from London to Portsmouth.
On the stone is carved: Erected in detestation of a barbarous murder committed here on an unknown sailor on Sept 24th 1786 by Edward Lonegon, Michael Casey and James Marshall who were all taken on the same day and hung in chains near this place. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood by man shall his blood be shed (Gen chap 9, v6).
Just up from the Sailor’s Stone is Gibbet Hill which lies above the Devil’s Punch Bowl. It’s the second highest point in Surrey – on a clear day you can see London and other Surrey Hills such as Leith Hill and Box Hill.
The nearby Celtic Cross, listed by the English Heritage as a Grade II listed monument, marks the spot where the three villains were tried and hung as a warning to other criminals. Their bodies remained there for three years until they were blown down in a storm. The Celtic Cross was erected to help dispel local fears that the hill was haunted by ghosts of the highwaymen.
The intention after that was to head back to the car which completed the Sailor’s Stroll. Daddy didn’t want to walk back on himself though and was convinced if we carried on walking we’d end up back where we started.
POD was tired so having had a little wander, returned to her buggy where she promptly fell asleep. We took in the wonderful scenery, including fabulous ancient trees, and headed downwards into The Bowl.
We thought we were lost but when we came across Gnome Cottage we found ourselves on the map again. Just up from there we saw the most fabulous wild horses. Several checked us out as we passed but they kept a safe distance. POD was delighted to see them having woken from her slumber a few minutes earlier.
The scenery was beautifully lush in this lower part of the Devil’s Punch Bowl with colourful heather and yellow gorse strewn across the landscape.
Heading upwards, the sight behind us just highlighted how fabulous this area really is.
We then headed down wide bridal paths lined with striking trees including one that looked like it had a rabbit in it. A stark reminder of the recent storms was this huge tree that had uprooted and fallen in our path.
We realised we might be lost when we crossed a stream and ended up in a residential area albeit a very nice one!
We then took a bridal path that almost disappeared – we came from the other side of this gate below. We kept going even though the last part meant carrying the buggy and POD independently.
We’d clearly walked off the National Trust map, and without one of our own, we were delighted when we saw people again. And one of those National Trust signs!
After walking some more, and attempting to make sense of Google Maps, we came across familiar landscape. We realised at that point we were heading back towards the Devil’s Punch Bowl even if we’d picked up the more demanding Highcombe Hike trail.
When we reached The Robertson Memorial we knew we were on the right track. William Alexander Robertson was the eldest of four children. His two younger brothers died during the First World War and he left a bequest with the National Trust in memory of them. His elder brother and parents were remembered in bequests elsewhere.
It took three hours to arrive back where we started – we rewarded ourselves with a well earned slice of cake. We didn’t get much decorating done but at least we can say we explored the Devil’s Punch Bowl and beyond!