The Bourne 39 Steps

The 39 Steps, in the splendid novel of that name by John Buchan, are located at the fictional town of Bradgate which is generally thought to be modelled on Broadstairs on the Kent coast which the author knew well.  What is not so well known is that The Bourne has its own 39 Steps leading down to the stream near the Bat and Ball hostelry. Although these steps do have an air of mystery caused by the deep shade in which they lie, they have not so far featured in any novel but they did become a centrepiece for the work of our Group on Sunday 20th November 2022. 

The valley of The Bourne Stream is very steep sided which has resulted in several flights of steps being built over the years to accommodate the network of footpaths that is such an attractive feature of the area. Our Group has helped to maintain most of them but had never before until Sunday worked on this particular flight. The reason that work was needed can be seen in the first photograph which shows that the steps were largely hidden under a layer of compost formed by generations of fallen leaves. This was not a safe condition for pedestrians especially in view of the poor light conditions. 

  Before                                      After

The team on Sunday was well equipped with spades and, under the leadership of Bryan Snashall and Clinton Bradshaw (who thoughtfully came armed with a wheelbarrow) set about the task with gusto. They soon found that this was not a trivial undertaking. Each step had to be dug out and the spoil loaded into large plastic bags which then had to be transported down the hill, across the stream and onto the pub car park to await disposal. For this the wheelbarrow was most useful.

This proved to be very good, healthy exercise for the team members who included three Duke of Edinburgh Candidates Felix, Max and Al who kept up a running commentary throughout which enlivened the proceedings. They and the rest of the team did an excellent job as can be seen by the difference in the steps shown in the second photograph. Pedestrians using the steps complimented the team on their work. The bad news is that the job was not fully completed in the available time so we need to return soon to finish it.

Remarkably we had a second team at work on Sunday at the Underdown Nature Reserve which is close to the 39 Steps. Under the leadership of Wendy Scoble they also did a fine job trimming the hedge, removing an unwanted bramble patch and dealing with a very untidy, fallen fence. That team included Duke of Edinburgh Candidates Alex, Annabel and Ellie. The latter did well to spot very interesting Earth Star and Lion’s mane fungi. Things to add to our species list.

Well done everyone for a good morning’s work keeping The Bourne’s landscape in good order.

Thanks also to the Bat and Ball staff who allowed use of their Car Park, and to Surrey County Council Footpaths staff who removed all the bags of soil.