Then came the night of the first falling star

Few people I’m sure have romantic notions of Woking, even less will have a visit there on their bucket list. But I don’t think many people will appreciated it as one of the locations featured in the one of the earliest science fiction novels ever written – The War of the Worlds by H.G.Wells, first published in 1898.

I’m a big War of the Worlds fan – in any version; book, radio play, film, television, concept album – whatever the format I’m all over it. H.G.Wells gave us the best and simplest alien invasion story, and probably the most realistic. They invade, we run in terror – there is no hero to save the day, just a narrator trying to survive and observing the ‘massacre of mankind’ as he tries desperately to reunite with a loved one. Book ends with the planet being saved by germs, mankind basically got lucky, genius!

A few summers ago, I had been visiting friends down south and had timed it so that I would have a free day to finally do something I’d wanted to do for ages. Ever since I’d seen a picture of a shiny Martian tripod on the internet which was apparently a rather striking sculpture in Woking town centre I had wanted to do a War of the Worlds pilgrimage.
I jumped on the train from London clutching a battered vintage Penguin copy of the classic and went to explore unlikely ground zero of the Martian invasion of Earth….
Woking has fully embraced its links to the novel – H.GWells actually wrote it while he lived there and there are several public art works around the town. There is a beautiful tiled mural in an underground walkway and ‘Red weed’ twists its way round the ornamental gate to the main square.

 

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I found the Martian!

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Gleaming in the sunshine exactly as I’d seen it in pictures. It looked amazing and seemed odd that people were just walking past and carrying on their business without giving a glance to the GIANT MARTIAN WAR MACHINE in the road!!
What I hadn’t realised was the tripod was one piece of a much larger street long art work. There’s a crashed cylinder made from brick at one end then little inserts into the pavement showing bacteria dividing and multiplying. I would happily live Woking just to walk by it every day.

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I then ventured to Horsell Common itself, landing site of the first Martian Cylinder, just a short walk from the town. I have wandered many places on my own, but during the walk to find the sand pits I genuinely feared I’d get lost and my body would be found weeks later clutching a useless map and my battered copy of The War of the Worlds. But I did find them and survived to tell the tale! The sandpits are an interesting feature, lovely and quiet and peaceful and it’s strange to find what looks like a ‘beach’ without being by the sea.

 

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I returned to the town passing by the tripod again, it is beautiful!

 

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How better to finish my pilgrimage than to head to Primrose Hill once I was back in London – where the books narrator finds the Martians have been defeated and mankind has survived.
Primrose Hill is beautiful area of London I’d never been to before – there’s a stunning view of the city’s skyline. With just a bit of imagination it was easy to turn the large cranes on a building site nearby in to the three-legged war machines which I eyed nervously as I walked to the top of the hill…

 

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N.B. I’ve also realised there is another geeky location to add to my bucket list location – Grover’s Mill, New Jersey, USA. Which is the site of the Martian invasion in the famous 1938 Orson Wells radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds. Be a shame not to do the double!

 

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