Where once the busy, congested A3 once ran is now a haven for nature and for peace and tranquility and a walker’s and naturalist’s paradise. These days the A3 is a major dual carriageway route between London and Portsmouth and the beautiful landscapes of the Devils’ Punchbowl and Hindhead Common have been preserved and enhanced since the A3 is now diverted into a tunnel below this section of the Surrey countryside.
Last week I was in Surrey and on hearing Saturday morning’s broadcast of ‘Ramblings’ on Radio 4 decided to make the short journey (along the A3) from Godalming to Hindhead to see The Devil’s Punchbowl for myself.
On arrival, I picked up the map from the National Trust kiosk and set out on the purple route: The Hidden Hindhead Trail. “A more demanding walk including some steep gradients and uneven surfaces. 3.1 miles)
“Follow the signs along the new path towards the old A3 road. It’s hard to imagine that a busy road really used to be here.
The area in front of you was where the A3 ran for nearly 200 years. Standing here today it is hard to envisage 3 lanes of traffic (1 north-bound and 2 south-bound) carrying thousands of cars and lorries each day.
View across the Punch Bowl
Follow the route and head north down the Byway Open to all Traffic (surfaced road). Discover the Sailor’s Stone and admire the views across the Punch Bowl. Can you see where the old A3 used to wind its way around the Punch Bowl? Soon this will merge into the rest of the landscape. Don’t miss the recently recovered old milestone just after the Sailor’s Stone.
The Sailor’s Stone “Erected in detestation of a barbarous Murder Committed here on an unknown sailor on Sep. 24th 1786 by Edwd Lonegon, Michl Casey and Jas Marshall. Who were all taken 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 Ver. 6”
Original Milestone from the old Turnpike : Godalming 7 miles
The story of the Milestone
Continue down the old London Road until you reach some steps on your right. These lead to Gibbet Hill and far-reaching views across the Weald.
Cross on Gibbet Hill
Trig Point and …
… view towards Godalming
Head down the marked path on your right – this is a fairly steep descent – and wander down through the shady trees that lead you to the plinth of the Temple of the Four Winds. Maybe it’s time for a picnic as this is a great spot to rest, with lovely views.
The Temple of the Four Winds
This unusual lodge was built in 1910 in the Hurt Hill Deer Park and afforded views over the estate of Witley. By the 1950s it had deteriorated so much that it had to be destroyed. The footprint is all that remains.
Continue along the path around the chestnut coppice wood and past the pond on your right. Head through the gate and then on up the hill. At the unmade road, head up the road until you reach a large red brick house on your left. Turn right through the gate and follow the signs.