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  • When I was small, I walked the woods.
  • These woods.

    The Chantries. Part of the North Downs to the east of Guildford.
  • A fairly steep rise took me from the entrance on Chantry View Road up to a clearing at the apex of the hill.

    Many paths led away from this clearing.

    North, to Pewley Downs.

    Further east, to St. Martha's Hill

    South, towards Chilworth.
  • The eastern and northern paths took you further into the forest.
  • The southern path led away from the trees.

    Towards the wheat fields that made up the southern slope of the Chantries.
  • The overlook was always beautiful. The same rolling hills of Surrey that entranced the William Cobbett of "Rural Rides".

    To come to Chilworth, which lies on the south side of St.
    Martha's Hill, most people would have gone along the level
    road to Guildford, and come round through Shawford under the
    hills; but we, having seen enough of streets and turnpikes,
    took across over Merrow Down, where the Guildford race-
    course is, and then mounted the " Surrey Hills," so famous for
    the prospects they afford. Here we looked back over Middlesex,
    and into Buckinghamshire and Berkshire, away towards the
    north-west, into Essex and Kent towards the east, over part of
    Sussex to the south, and over part of Hampshire to the west
    and south-west. We are here upon a bed of chalk, where the
    downs always afford good sheep food. We steered for St.
    Martha's Chapel, and went round at the foot of the lofty hill.

    What I saw was not that different from what Cobbett saw in the 1820s. Such is the rarely changing, slowly evolving English countryside in so many places.

    Places you can feel sure, or close to sure, that you are seeing what was seen centuries ago.

    There are such places in the United States. But few made by man, the man at least of the past few centuries. The lack of regard for the past was the first and most significant difference between English and American sensibilities that I noted when I first moved here. It has pleased me to see a growing awareness of local history and a movement towards preservation over the past couple of decades.
  • Depending on my mood, I would either loop back through the woods to go home.

    Or follow the public footpaths through the fields. Again, so typically English and so foreign to America.
  • When I small, these were the paths I walked.
  • Home they led.
  • When I was small.
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