This was a cold but very clear day, and with the days starting to get a little longer five of us took the train and a “rail replacement bus” down to Haslemere, almost into Hampshire. This was familiar territory, but the area has changed recently for the better with the A3 diverted into a tunnel rather than running noisily around the rim of the spectacular Devil’s Punchbowl.
Some years back it changed for the worse with the closure of about the only pub in the area at Thursley, but that meant there was time for a more round about approach to the Punchbowl itself. We headed on a new route north out of Haslemere, almost parallel to the railway line, then through woods to the east of Gibbet Hill to emerge in more open country at the Roundles, where we had a picnic lunch.
We turned west before reaching Bowlhead Green, instead passing Blackhanger Farm and Hole Farm — the area has some great names — then under the A3 by a new underpass. Fording a river to reach Ridgeway Farm, we then turned south and rose slowly onto the west rim of the Punchbowl before reaching the National Trust tearoom at Hindhead for cake or scones.
The final stretch of the walk was a couple of miles, down Polecat Valley and along Stoatley Hollow, back to Haslemere.