The Devil’s Punch Bowl

Wednesday 30 December 2015 by

Post-Christmas, there is always time for a long walk. It’s now a tradition to grab walking boots, scarves and a bottle of water and head off to a new spot of countryside to walk off all the Christmas lethargy.

Devil's Punch Bowl, Surrey, Walking

This year, it was the turn of the Devil’s Punch Bowl. It’s only about 40 minutes away from the family home; a big bowl of land in Hindhead, Surrey, owned by the National Trust, with several landmarks and interesting walking routes, and a popular spot for walkers and (it seems) off-road biking. It even has a little café with slabs of homemade brownie and lots of hot coffee.

Devil's Punch Bowl, Surrey, Walking

The Devil’s Punch Bowl itself is a unique creation; it’s a huge bowl-shaped area, covered in evergreen and oak, but with no apparent reason why it’s there. There a three local legends that suggest why this big scoop of land came to be:

One legend suggests that Devil lived at the ‘Devil’s Jumps’ (near Churt). He liked to torment the god Thor (who lived at Thursley, or ‘Thor’s Lie’) by jumping from hill to hill and one day threw a handful of earth at him – thus leaving behind the Punch Bowl.

Devil's Punch Bowl, Surrey, Walking, Pond

Another story features the Devil again… apparently, he became so irritated by all the churches being built in Sussex during the Middle Ages, he decided to flood the area by digging from the English Channel to the South Downs. He got as far as Poynings (known as Devil’s Dyke), when he was disturbed by a cock crowing. Assuming dawn was about to break, he leapt in to Surrey, creating a huge depression where he landed – the Devil’s Punch Bowl.

Devil's Punch Bowl, Surrey, Walking

But the final legend is my favourite; two giants were fighting and one scooped up a load of earth (thus creating the Punch Bowl) to throw. But he missed his shot, and the earth fell wide, instead creating the Isle of Wight.

In fact, it’s believed to have come about because the spring waters wore away the lower layer of clay, and the upper layer of sandstone simply collapsed. But I prefer the story about the giants.

Devil's Punch Bowl, Surrey, Walking, Celtic Cross, Gibbet Hill

Whatever its origins, the Devil’s Punch Bowl is really beautiful – thick layers of heathland and woodland, cut through with streams. There are several walks, depending on your preference – whether it be a short or long walk, whether you want to take in the breathtaking views of Gibbet Hill, or simply walk the now grass-carpeted A3.

It’s not necessarily an easy walk – the sides are steep and the paths are muddy and it gets a bit boggy at points – but it’s well worth the effort. The views from the top are incredible, and if you can make it to the bottom, take a moment to stop, because it’s so quiet and peaceful, with only the sound of birds. It’s as if the whole world has disappeared.

Devil's Punch Bowl, Surrey, Walking, Ponies

We had the perfect day for a walk – bright skies and fresh air – and I do recommend checking the weather before going because walking along the top in pouring rain can’t be fun. In the summer months, take along a picnic and find a nice spot!

The Devil’s Punch Bowl is owned by the National Trust, but it’s free to explore.

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