Muddy walks: Shabden Park, Chipstead
The worst of winter is behind us, dry January is but a hazy memory and spring is flirting with us, brazenly flaunting the yellow frills of her daffodils. Now seems a good time to get your butt off the sofa and out into some fresh air.
I read something recently that said millions of Brits are living a “mushroom” existence during the winter, with loads of people admitting they don’t leave the house at all some weekends. Ahem, *averts eyes* of course, I’d never be guilty of that. So I’ve peeled off my bed socks, crawled out from under the duvet and found a fab walk, with a great pub at the end of it. No one ever get back from a walk and thought “Pah, I wish I hadn’t bothered”, did they!
I found the route on the internet here. It’s a three-mile circular walk that starts and ends at The White Hart pub in Chipstead, a pretty village that lies at the top of the North Downs. The walk follows a loop around Shabden Park, home to two flocks of sustainably farmed sheep. You’ll need to take care with dogs, but there’s a fenced section called Long Plantation where dogs can be let off their leads for a run.
The walk takes an hour or two, depending on how much you dawdle. It took us a little over an hour. There are a few hills involved, and the paths can get pretty muddy if it’s been wet, so I’d recommend you wear your wellies. There a several kissing gates to get through, so it’s probably not a great one for push chairs. And your auntie with the dodgy hip might struggle with some of the hills.
But the views across the fields and over the North Downs are stunning, and the woodland path passes beneath a pretty arch of trees. Nearing the end of the walk you pass by the village well, which sits inside what looks like an enclosed church lychgate, and shortly after that, you pass the village pond and return to the White Hart.
This 18th-Century pub is a compelling enough reason in itself for venturing out for this walk. The temptation of hot chocolate at the end is all the encouragement my kids need on a family walk. It’s a classic pub, with panelled walls, open fires and cask ales. We finished our ramble with a local ale and hot chocolates. I’m told the food is pretty good, so lunch might be an option, although I can’t vouch for it. The pub was really busy the day we went – we couldn’t get inside – so if you do want to eat, I’d book ahead.