Surrey Life|July 2020
While there have been ancient signs of life found in the Reigate area, this market town really came to the fore around the 12th century when a settlement developed out from the base of its Norman castle.
The area had been gifted to the de Warenne family by William the Conqueror years earlier, and with excellent links into the capital and coast it has never looked back.
If you walk up to the castle grounds these days, you will find a mock medieval gateway that dates back to 1777, as well as picturesque flower displays and a stone pyramid that once provided entrance to a cave network underneath.
At this point, you will also be standing above the Baron’s Cave, which dates to Norman days. Local folklore has it that the barons met there to draw up the Magna Carta in 1215, but history holds that unlikely. Either way, the caves are an intriguing addition to ‘Secret Surrey’ and occasionally host open days organised by the Wealden Cave and Mine Society.
Away from the town’s bustling Priory Park centrepiece and coffee culture streets, Reigate is full of little pockets of calm and intrigue like this.
Just a short walk out of town, for instance, past the White Brasserie Co-owned Black Horse restaurant, you will discover Reigate Heath, an important example of lowland heath habitat.
Here you’ll find the everpopular Skimmington Castle pub, which has been doing a roaring takeaway trade this past couple of months, and Grow at the Skim, an independent plant nursery and garden boutique.
There’s also Reigate Heath windmill, a Grade II listed post mill which is thought to be the only windmill in the country which is also a consecrated church, and Reigate Heath Golf Club, which is home to a beautiful nine-hole course (with 18 separate tees) and chef Tony Tobin’s Ranmore restaurant.
Reigate Heath is its own idyllic little world, with the many stables in the area meaning it can sometimes resemble a historical drama on weekends.
Look to the heights for a moment and you’ll see the North Downs stretching out, shadowing the town, and offering the opportunity for many further adventures.
Footpaths leading up to the hills can be found across the town but, if you do have to drive, the National Trust car park has a fantastic little café and seating readily available.
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