A Country Picnic

By Rob Packer

Poppies in a meadow.

Pop quiz: is there any point where you can see both Guildford Cathedral and London’s Canary Wharf? The two are 38 miles or 61 km apart, so in low-rise England, the smart money would surely say no, right?

Well, no. As unlikely as it sounds, the slow and steady rise of Staple Lane, just south of Ripley and Clandon in the North Downs and recent star in the Olympic cycling road race, ends in one of those English vistas where, all of a sudden, a whole county unexpectedly unfurls before your eyes in a real-life version of those cartoon maps that end in a strip of Atlantic, Japan or North Pole at the top of the page.

This also happens in places like Garrowby Hill in the Yorkshire Wolds or the M40 in the Chilterns as it road opens up to a view over Oxfordshire and you feel you could, and probably can, see as far as the Adlestrop of Edward Thomas’ poem. For those of a British disposition these views have their own special exhilaration—although the power stations on the horizon from Garrowby Hill might mean that that exhilaration is actually fury. But for me, Staple Lane has the edge: you stand between wheat fields in a rural countryside straight out of an English eclogue and make out the high-rises of Canary Wharf and the Shard on the horizon. You’ll have to take my word for this, as it certainly doesn’t come out in the photos:

I promise London’s in there somewhere!

In an effort to conform to stereotype (there’d even been a light shower in the morning), we’d come to the North Downs for one of those quintessentially English Sunday picnics, that was followed by a walk through the woods to Newlands Corner on the opposite escarpment facing south towards Leith Hill:

And some other photos from the same stretch of the North Downs:

5 Responses to A Country Picnic

  1. Lovely photographs – a really idyllic type of English countryside. We used to live near Dorking and I had forgotten how beautiful the countryside round there could be.

    • Rob Packer says:

      I’m always amazed at the landscape there. I grew up about half an hour away, but hadn’t been until I was back in the UK this year. I think the first place I went was the view over Dorking (or Almost-Dorking) from up on Ranmore Common.

  2. Dear Rob! Thank you for your post-Olympics story. And it’s such a beauty. Where to start? As always, your shots are lovely. I especially the the top shot of the poppies. So delicate! I also loved how you played the light in the bottom pic. I’m now feeling very relaxed. . .T. (Say, what was served on the picnics?!)

    • Rob Packer says:

      Theodora, thanks for the comment: I’m glad you enjoyed the post! It was just what I needed after a week of post-Olympic lows. Unfortunately the picnic hamper wasn’t too adventurous with chicken sandwiches, potato crisps, fruit juice and ginger beer. And all rounded off with a vista-side ice-cream on the walk. R

  3. lovely photogrpahs and beautiful scenery.

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