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Surprises of Prince’s Coverts

Oxshott has long been a destination of choice for those seeking the higher things in life and our July Moleside Walk gave 20 of us a chance to venture into what was once a haunt of monarchs.

 Carefully shephered over its busy 21st C. highway by the month’s leader Philip Schofield and our Walks coordinator Steve Mustoe, some of us were very surprised by the ease with which we are , these days, allowed to investigate Prince’s Coverts.  

The Prince in question was Leopold of Saxe-Coburg who on his marriage to the British Princess Charlotte, daughter of our King George IV and cousin to Victoria, was given the nearby estate of Claremount as a wedding gift by the people of Britain. 

We were now sharing the woods that he turned into his shooting grounds when he acquired over 800 acres here in 1821.  Keeping a watchful eye out for wildlife of any kind Philip skillfully navigated us through the warren of tracks as we admired the nuturing of these historic woodlands now managed as part of The Crown Estate.

And noting the ferocity with which nature can bring down even the strongest amongst us.

An earlier Clarermont resident Lord Robert Clive – he ‘of India’ fame – had discovered extra value in these hunting grounds. 

A short detour by the more inquisitve of us led us to Jessops Well, a relic of the 18th C. built to draw the water here which is naturally laced with Chalybeate. Investigation by Spencer Needs revealed that this was a mineral spring, ferruginous with salts of iron.

This is what was tapped here by his Lordship: its product bottled and sold at 6d a time. Reports to his customers claimed Chalybeate offered ‘extreme purgative qualities’.  

These are the sort of lands where the horizon isn’t always visible and it is very easy to get lost.

But with prudent refreshment – it was good to have John and Wendy Garland’s dog Jess along wih us – coupled with regular checks on where our leader was, we all managed to emerge safely from the forest in excellent time for our lunch at Oxshott’s The Bear. 

Thanks Philip and Steve for another instructive and throughghly enjoyable Moleside Walk. 

For reports on earlier outings in our monthly walking programme click the tag below.