11 February 2010

Down the Hatch: a hostel you have to cycle to

Tanner’s Hatch hostel (right), in the countryside near Dorking, almost qualifies for my 50 Quirky Bike Rides book: it is only accessible on foot or by bike.

It’s a mile or so off the nearest road, which is a single-track back lane running past Boxhill and Westhumble Station. Though it’s only half a day’s ride from the centre of London, it's right away from everything, such as mobile phone access.

I don’t know if I like Dorking, because I’ve never Dorked, but Tanner’s Hatch is a delightful little retreat. The track from the road (right) is your usual bridleway – a bit bumpy but OK on a hybrid or MTB.

The building itself is a Green Bacon, or possibly Beacon, hostel – it does lots of eco things such as harvesting rainwater to flush the loos, using PV panels to generate free electricity from sunlight which often even work, and offering a cycle shed built of logs (below right) whose low roof is specially designed to test out helmets.

The hostel also has an acoustic guitar, sturdy and weighty enough to be useful in hand-to-hand combat, but less useful for music making, as it lacks a D string.

Tanner’s Hatch is great: atmospheric, friendly, secluded, and something that bit special just a short hop from the city. A pleasant way to cycle there is to do the largely parklands Wandle Trail down to Carshalton, follow roads to Epsom Racecourse (from where you have a sweeping view of the London scraperscape) and head around Box Hill.

Not far – only 20-odd miles maybe, but allow five hours, a pint and two coffee stops. And bring a bottle of wine and set of guitar strings.


  1. Ah, an old haunt from the 1970's when the legendary Graham Peddie was the warden. I don't remember anything as modern as electricity - I think we were given a candle lamp to find our bunks. Once did a tough days trek from here to the equally idiosyncratic hostel at the Devil's Punchbowl.

  2. @Dave - The warden on our trip on Wednesday evening was a friendly lass who doubles up seeing to Holmbury St Mary hostel a few miles away.

    And yes, the PV cells are a recent addition, though apparently they're only delivering a trickle of juice at the moment. The local pigeons clearly have a lot to answer for.

  3. still pretty Primitivo! though not what it was.

  4. I hear they've kept the gas lights though...

  5. It's had another refurb, IMHO they've put right some of the F ups they did with the first refurb... (and it's a pretty good place for badger sightings).