If you are in the Guildford area of Surrey in the UK and are wondering how to spend a day or two, then you might consider going to Hindhead Commons and the Devil’s Punch Bowl. It is one of those areas in England which has spectacular scenery and a long history. In fact it has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
A hind is an old name for a female deer so clearly in the past this was an area where you could find herds of deer. You might still be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of deer, and perhaps badgers, although you can bet on seeing butterflies and perhaps pheasants, foxes and a variety of bugs. You can always warm up at the café, which serves home-made food, as well as hot drinks, when you have done enough walking and animals or bird spotting!
If you enjoy ghost stories, and ghost walks, then you could venture up to Gibbet Hill one dark night. This is the second highest point in Surrey and in daylight hours you can have amazing views across the Weald from the top.
Let me tell you a story. In 1768 a sailor was walking from London to Portsmouth to get back to the boat he sailed on. He met three men in a pub in Thursley and probably bought them a drink or two. Clearly the men were aware that the sailor had money in his pockets. After the night in the pub, the sailor continued walking along what is now called the Old Portsmouth Road, and was attacked and murdered by the three men from the pub.There is the “sailor’s stone” on the road now, which commemorates the sailor.
The three murderers were brought to trial and hanged on Gibbet Hill as a
warning to other would-be attackers and thieves.
After the hanging several local superstitions arose and people were afraid to venture into the area especially at night. Finally, Sir William Erie, a politician and English lawyer paid to have a Celtic Cross erected to banish evil, in an attempt to free the locals of their superstitions. The cross is still standing and is listed as a grade II monument by English Heritage.
Another local legend is about the Devil’s Punch Bowl and how it got its rather strange and imaginative name. According to local
legend the devil used to live at the “Devil’s Jumps” which are three small hills near the village of Churt. Thor, the Norse god of Thunder lived at Thor’s lie (now the village called Thursley) and the devil would annoy Thor by jumping from hill to hill. Thor would try to strike the devil with his lightning and thunderbolts, and one night, the devil picked up a handful of soil and hurled it at Thor. This made the hollow that is now called the Devil’s Punch Bowl. It collects mist and sometimes it looks as though there is a steaming liquid flowing from the rim of the “Bowl.”
The area is also believed to have been the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous story, “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”
Hindhead is a good place to be based if you want to venture out in this spooky part of Britain!