SURREY LANDSCAPES

ORIGINAL ETCHINGS

BY

PERCY ROBERTSON
A.R.E.

Works by Percy Robertson
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Click here to view a larger image. Hindhead

In the good old days there was no more lonely spot on all the road from London to Portsmouth than the miles of heath which culminate in the lofty crest of Hindhead. The shallow soil upon the rocky mass of sandstone, some 900 feet above the sea, was barren of promise to the cultivator. Besides the innkeepers at the Seven Thorns and the Huts Inn by the wayside, only a few cottars and "broom-squires" had made their home in the deep "bottoms" or combes which cut deep and sudden into the hillside, each with its new-born stream; for the little villages of Grayshott and Bramshott, of Thursley and Haslemere, nestled on the lower slopes, far from the summit. The streams on which they stand, all save the Wareham stream on the south-east, ultimately go to swell the river Wey, though some must needs sweep almost full circle round the base of the hill to do so. These are the streams that feed in passing the many ponds of Wolmer Forest and Frensham, of Haslemere and Cosford - the carefully preserved shelter for many rare wild birds - the Hammer Ponds on the Godalming road and the beautiful Forked Pond in a remote corner of Lord Midleton's estate (to name no more), which, so far as this piece of country is concerned, repel the common assertion that Surrey is a waterless county.

Twenty years ago Hindhead was still quite lonely ; but first the late Professor Tyndall built himself a cottage in this, the nearest place to London where he could get perfect quiet and a very fair imitation of mountain air ; and his example was followed by one person after another until now there is quite a little colony on the top of the hill.

The only wonder is that so lonely a place as Hindhead was not as notorious as Bagshot Heath for highway robbery ; still one violent crime is there commemorated by a lofty cross on the hilltop, hard by where the murders were afterwards gibbeted, and by a stone on the roadside, marking the spot where a nameless sailor, on his way to Portsmouth, was murdered and robbed by three ruffians whom he had befriended at the last inn.

From the cross a most glorious view is to be obtained. Eastwards are all the bluffs of the Leith Hill range ; southwards, beyond the richly coloured breadth of the Weald, is the line of the Downs, broken here by the Chanctonbury Ring, here by the Petersfield gap and its guardian ridges. Eastwards our eyes turn naturally to Selborne Hanger and Wolmer Forest, with their memories of Gilbert White ; northwards we look beyond the Hog's Back to where the view melts in the blue distance, and a clear eye sometimes may pick out the towers of the Crystal Palace.

Hindhead is almost more like a mountain than any other south country hill. Turner's wild peaks and precipices as imagined from the Devil's Punch-bowl apart, a very mountainous effect is to be obtained from one point in the Sandalls Lane close to Witley station ; but the present etching is one of the most characteristic views. It gives the sense of height in the slowly winding road with its three miles of unbroken hill, dear to many a sturdy cyclist ; it gives the depth of the Cosford combe, shut in by the steep screen of Boundless Wood ; it gives the massiveness of the central ridge itself, and the calm dignity of its lines which make so deep an impression on those who know and delight in Hindhead.


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