Suffolk is one of my favourite counties - Surrey is another. They're different in character . Surrey is very near to London and it has two very distinct aspects for me.
Some bits of Surrey scream "Suburbia!!!!" - and not cosy suburbia, either. Large areas were covered with dreary spec-built suburban housing development in the 1920s and 1930s, and unimaginative commercial development in recent times has made certain Surrey towns look like the background to "The Office."
Then, thankfully, there's the other part, often referred to as the "stockbroker belt." Enlightened Green Belt legislation prohibiting unrestricted development, the efforts of the wonderful National Trust and the work of private landowners have helped preserve large tracts of what looks at first glance like beautiful unspoiled countryside.
I say "at first glance" because Surrey is so affluent that it could never really be traditional countryside. Sure, there are many farms (sheep and horses are popular) but - shall we say, it's not a place where you would generally go in search of the gritty realities of life.
Although it contains some of the loveliest countryside in Britain, Surrey doesn't promote itself as a tourist destination because, containing some of the most expensive corners of real-estate in Britain, it doesn't need tourists. But we've always loved visiting it, and so we took a cycle ride yesterday. It's a great place to go to hike and cycle (or canoe, or ride a horse). An extensive, well used network of footpaths and bridleways cross both public and private land, and because development is now effectively banned, many of the country lanes and rural corners have survived.
As always, I specially appreciated the slightly fairy tale quality of the hidden, secret, landscape. Sadly the bluebells had just finished; they've been very early this year. (Oh, all right, then - here are some from last year)
But the Surrey woods are interesting at any time of year.
It is just a dead log, really, but there's something primeval about it
The small narrow lanes can be very steep - you can't really see that in the photo, but you do feel it on the bike!
This house stood alone overlooking a valley. I found its hedge unnerving and puzzling. Was it intended to be anything, or just an abstract shape?
And this cottage has a miniature railway line running through it - you can see the level crossing barrier at the end, and the tracks in front of the house.
This character (below) gave me a shock at first because until I looked at her properly, I thought she was real, with her white robe and golden hair waving in the wind.
She was of course a scarecrow. It seems there had been a scarecrow festival in the village.
We got very sidetracked by an Open Gardens when we passed through the village of Peaslake. It was to raise money for the free school which the parents of the village created for their 3-7 year olds. The weather was slightly changeable so that one minute it looked like this
And the next it looked like this.
Since we were cycling, I'm glad to say that mostly the weather was good.
7 year old Georgina was proud of her school and showed us around. Their Wee Willie Winkie scarecrow had a hot water bottle, something she coveted for herself.
Children had made flower pictures of themselves.
This lawn was created for bees.
We only did about 15 miles altogether - and although some of that was on rough tracks, and some of the hills were very steep, this is not an impressive mileage. I blame Peaslake for having such a good Open Gardens.