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  • Rebekah Day

The Devil's Punchbowl and Hindhead Common


The Devil's Punchbowl in Hindhead is a great swathe of land in Surrey and one of the "first acquisitions" of the National Trust, with many famous people having been associated with the area over the years. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes, lived at nearby Undershaw and was said to have regularly walked the Hindhead Common, where he drew inspiration from the landscape for his story "The Hound of the Baskerville's."


Along the winding paths are stark reminders of how dangerous the countryside could be in old times. Early on the pink trail, walkers come across "The Sailor's Stone," a gravestone on in the approximate spot that an unknown sailor was robbed and murdered by three assailants. The murderers were shortly captured and hung only weeks later on Gibbet Hill, a mere 0.2 miles from where the Sailor's gravestone stands.


A Gibbet was a human shaped metal cage that held the bodies of recently hanged criminals for all passers by to see, and one such device stood on this very hill as a warning to any would be criminals or highwaymen. All that remains on this spot now is a celtic cross, erected to ease local fears of angry spirits remaining on the spot, and providing a much friendlier monument for tourists to admire on their countryside walks.

The trail across Hindhead and The Devil's Punchbowl was once a portion of the main road from London to Portsmouth, a whopping 72 mile journey as the crow flies. To assure travellers of their direction and indicate where nearby towns and villages lay along the way, "milestones" were erected along routes like the London to Portsmouth Road across the UK. The milestone overlooking the Devil's Punchbowl was discovered as work was being carried out building the Hindhead tunnel, using an Ordance Survey from 1811 it was identified as "Milestone 41" and placed back in its original location.

Having only explored one of the many trails on offer at the Devil's Punchbowl, I'm eager to head back to Hindhead as soon as another sunny afternoon presents itself to discover what other hidden treasures there are to discover.



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