Banstead Wood & Mayfield

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In France in early August we’d been too late to see the famous Luberon lavender, but back in England it’s not harvested until September. We went down to Banstead in Surrey to visit Mayfield’s lavender farm. The flowers bloomed in the late August sunshine and the fragrant fields buzzed with intoxicated bees and butterflies and other lavender enthusiasts.

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Lavender’s abundant nectar is good for honey, it’s essential oil is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, it is used in perfumes, lavender-sugar is used in cakes, lavender infusions can soothe insect bites, burns, headaches, aid sleep and relaxation, and it can be found at www.mayfieldlavender.com.

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Further on down the road we found The Ramblers Rest, sadly lacking lavender beer but luckily dispensing Adnam’s Broadside tonic panacea elixir, my favourite lavender antidote.

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Then into the half-timbered, scribbled and dancing woods, or was it the half-scribbled, entrancing woods? Maybe both. The way-signs failed to coincide with the map and the paths all looked inviting.

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Banstead Wood is ancient woodland, thought once to have been owned by Anne Boleyn. It was protected against developers in the 19th century by the Banstead Commons Conservators. Nowadays, once a week, every Saturday at 9:00am it’s overrun by parkrun.

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At the edge of the wood, by Perrotts Farm, we encountered this mighty beast. Many of the nearby fields had recently been harvested and the barn was stacked high with hay bales.

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I stepped off the path at one point to let others pass by, and was surprised by a spray of water around my legs. The cut hollow stalks were full of dew or rainwater, they were straws but not for drinking.

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Then all of a sudden a loud gunshot, an enormous thundercrack, and then its echo followed by a dog’s excited barking. They’d been lying in wait, hidden in an island of cover in the middle of the newly mown field, until the unfortunate, unsuspecting pheasant came a little too close.

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Across Holly Lane and the harvest was still waiting to be reaped. We skirted this golden field then through a gap in the hedge into Park Downs where a strange flinty beast lay in wait beside its burrow.

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Then there was this puffball, which on closer examination was partially eaten away, more resembling a skull. And what is that lovely tower of bells on the right? There are more riches here than I realised.

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But then the path joins the public highway. The last leg, down along Park Road is best avoided. A narrow lane with too much traffic for walking, though it didn’t deter this fox. Better to take the longer route around Park Downs and Banstead Common.

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Walk the walk – Banstead Commons

Frames of reference

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