If you were to find yourself in Reigate visiting some caves, what else is there to do in the area?
As I noted, the caves are underneath the castle, so why not visit the castle — except that most of it no longer exists. A very castle like stone gatehouse does exist, but is actually a Victorian folly. On the upside it was built from the last lingering remains of the old castle wall, the rest having long since torn down and scattered to provide stone walls for private houses.
You can also go around to the top of the folly, through a gate and there, in the centre of what was the castle is a posh green lawn, and a stone pyramid in the centre, which contains the locked passage down to the Barons’ tunnel underneath.
All told, it’s a rather fine municipal garden, and if you wander around you’ll notice the sunken space where the cricket ground allegedly dropped suddenly into the caves below.
Also look out for the exceptionally narrow, but delightful staircase back down to the main street.
The town centre itself is stock-broker land full of posh shops in old buildings and a small scattering of general high-street stuff. It’s all very nice, albeit totally unsuitable for anyone on less than a city salary.
I missed the priory garden, which is supposed to be quite nice, in a garden left over sort of way.
Getting to Reigate is easier if you think of it as a short walk/bus/train from Redhill, which is far less picuresque, but blessed with far more trains. On my trip, the trains between Redhill and Reigate were hourly, and cancelled — so I walked.
Talking of walking, if you are minded, Reigate sits right next to the North Downs, and a modest walk from the town centre can leave you walking alone in the woods and parks of Gatton Park.
I took a walk along the main road up to a suitable point to leave via a Bridleway, although my journey up hill was also accompanied by a bunch of girls intermittently screaming when horses got close, and playing loud pop music on their phones.
A longer, faster gait left them behind, but every so often they could be seen further down the hill and the sound of there presence a constant reminder of the dark terror that trailed me into the woods.
A number of park benches have been placed at suitable spots for rest and to admire the views.
However, if you head further up and away from Reigate, there are two items of interest. One is a car park — don’t scoff, it has toilets, a cafe and more splendid views over the local countryside.
Oh, and a sharp drop right by the edge if you get too close.
Head off in one direction and cross over a narrow bridge — which incidentally is one of the earliest concrete bridges in the UK, even if the railings look more like ornamental ironwork.
I managed to turn up on the day of a race, so crossing the concrete bridge was accompanied by applause, not for my efforts, but the sweaty person behind.
But do follow the path, and maybe dart off into the field next to the litter bin, for a very distant view of London on the far horizon. The roar of the M25 is very noticable, even if the dip in the hills keeps the motorists firmly out of sight, if not mind.
However, also up here, past a gate warning to keep it shut due to sheep grazing is Reigate Fort — part of a 72-mile line of military defences built to protect London should France invade.
Ancient history this is not — the fort was built not much more than a hundred years ago, in 1898, although decommissioned in 1906. And just a few years later, the UK went to aid France instead of being threatened by it.
The rooms are locked and sealed, save for occasional open-days, but you can still get more amazing views of the countryside, and with uninterrupted views for miles, its easy to see why this location was chosen for a military fort.
While designed to protect London, today it is itself protected by an electric fence, to stop the grazing sheep going onto the building.
Personally, I back-tracked to the car park and through part of Gatton Park, as it headed towards Merstham for the train back to London.
This route includes a stop at the Millennium Stones — ten tall standing stones, each marking 200 years since the birth of Christianity.
Each stone is inscribed with a suitably religious message, although getting into the field meant fiddling with a gate of an unusually complex locking device, compared to most farm gates.
The route passes through a local school grounds, where a road sign flashed up a warning that I was travelling at 4mph. OK, I’m a fast walker, but to be flashed by a road traffic sign is a novel experience.
From here, a modest walk along country roads — with an interruption to advice a North Downs runner that they missed their turning back up the hill, and on to Merstham for the train back to town.