The Devil’s Punch Bowl at Hindhead used to be a notorious traffic bottle-neck, now it’s blessed with a tunnel, one of the few UK tunnels which specifically protect areas of natural beauty. Now the traffic noise has been banished underground, the valley echoes with just the noise of the wind in the trees atop the rim, the rustle of small mammals and the songs of the birds. And us visitors.
The beech, ash, oak and chestnut trees growing in this valley and the holly bushes and stream in the bottom of the bowl, readily support the tales of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight or Siegfried and Fafner; the garden gates around the periphery of the woodland have notices reminiscent of Pooh Corner (“Trespassers will”).
There are paths now deprecated by the National Trust which lead to vast meeting places under the tree canopy (not unlike stone age meeting places in Polynesia) and secret valleys accessible only by the adventurous.
The legend is that the Devil, who lived at the Devil’s Jumps (three small hills nearby at Churt), often tormented Thor, the god of Thunder, who lived nearby at Thor’s Lie (Thorsley), by jumping from hill to hill. Thor would retaliate by trying to strike the Devil with thunder and lightning but on one occasion the Devil scooped up a handful of earth and hurled it at the Devil leaving the Punch Bowl at Hindhead.
Gibbet Hill is now marked by a cross in the Celtic style: the main road once passed this spot; the gibbet was used to hang highwaymen, their rope-strained remains becoming an exhibit to deter the rest.