Redhill is a good place to leave. I had arrived by train from Victoria, where I saw a family of recently arrived tourists (Iranian, I think) trying to collect the necessary change to use the public loos (£1.50 for the five of them). It felt deeply shaming that this chiselling approach to basic human needs was to be one of their first experiences of the UK.
Back to Redhill, where a bit of fancy footwork along the A25 took me away from the shopping mall that appeared to have replaced the town centre, and to the south. Redhill\’s former \’asylum for idiots\’, the Royal Earlswood Hospital has – like so many of London\’s green belt asylums – been redeveloped as housing. The main building is imposing and impressive (you can see it from the railway line), as befits an establishment that was the residence of the Queen Mother\’s nieces for many secret years. It is now mocked by the cheap pastiche that surrounds it, buildings crammed together like Monopoly houses. There is still a gate, presumably to keep people out rather than in nowadays, though it\’s a pretty moot point.
From alongside the hospital (and leading past the newer East Surrey Hospital and the isolated housing estate (perhaps a \’New Village\’?) of Whitebushes), a slightly monotonous bridleway and cycle track takes you south to Horley, staying a fairly consistent field\’s width away from the railway line. In several places, what was marked on the OS map as fields has been taken over by new housing estates. Many of these can be seen from the train. They do not look much more impressive close to.
The Farmhouse, just on the northern edge of Horley, lies alongside one of these estates, but has a good garden for a pint (and a magnificent \’smoking pavilion\’, in which the landlord has drolly made space for a bar \”should the Government…ban alcohol in pubs in future\”). Continuing clockwise round the town, I made for Thunderfield Castle, which looked more impressive on the map than it did with reality: a caravan site surrounded by a redundant moat of oily, stagnant water.
Clear of Horley, the roar of the motorway grows again as you approach the M23 spur to Gatwick, this time mixed with the intermittent rattling of trains and the keening whine of aircraft. Cows in the fields alongside seem curiously nonchalant, as I creep through the din and the brambles to the airport.
Stats: 2.5 hours, 12.75km, 8 miles