Blackheath forest & River Wey
|Length||15.6 km (9.7 miles), 3 hours 50 minutes. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow 7 hours 30 minutes.|
|Toughness||3 out of 10.|
|OS Maps||Explorer 145 or Landrangers 186 & 187. Gomshall, map reference TQ 089 477, is in Surrey, 10km east of Guildford.|
There is much that is ancient, beautiful and surprising to be enjoyed on this walk.
It starts in Gomshall, passing some of the pleasant buildings on its outskirts, before crossing fields to the interesting church and village of Shere on the Tilling Bourne stream, a place packed full of fifteenth and sixteenth-century timber-framed buildings. Then the walk continues past massive gnarled trees in Albury Park and through the pine woods of Blackheath Common.
From there, the route follows the Downs Link path. There's an optional detour to visit Chinthurst Hill Tower, a folly with a view.
The final stretch is along the River Wey into Guildford for tea at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.
Short stretches of the Downs Link can be muddy.
The lunch pub on this walk has closed. The 'Various Options' page (link above) has 2 suggestions for a longer morning route, to have lunch at the remaining pub earlier in the walk.
At the double asterisk [**], map point 11, go along the A248, to catch a train back to London from Shalford.
The 'Various Options' page (link above) has 3 options.
Loop around Albery Park Option
The remaining pub in Albery Heath is only 3.5km into the walk. This loop of Albury Park extends the pre-lunch leg to a more reasonable 6km (3.75 miles).
Chilworth Start Option
This is an entirely different morning route, starting from Chilworth station, which make a morning leg of 5km to the remaining Albery Heath pub.
Chinthust Hill Tower - folly and viewpoint
This is a short afternoon detour to a viewpoint with fine views over the South Downs. Its included below, but only briefly.
Gomshall Station is where it is because, in the 1840s, the site for a railway station was decided on a given day by whichever shortlisted spot had the greatest number of people waiting. The publican at the Black Horse, Gomshall, provided free beer for those willing to wait at his site, as he wanted the station to be at Gomshall.
Gomshall is detailed in the Domesday Book (1086) as having 'land for 20 ploughs, 30 villagers, 8 smallholders with 18 ploughs, 6 slaves'. Of Shere, it reports: 'Queen Edith held it. Now it does not pay tax - 19 villagers and 6 smallholders with 12 ploughs. A church. 6 slaves.' By the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it had grown into a small township of perhaps 40 houses (most of which remain today) housing blacksmiths, wheelwrights, weavers and tailors.
St James' Church, Shere, was built in 1190 (but its lychgate was designed by the architect Edwin Lutyens). It is a rare example of a church in the Early English Transitional Style (with the round Norman arches giving way to pointed ones). The nave pews have numbers - at one time people paid rent to the church for them.
In 1329, anchoress Christine Carpenter was enclosed in a cell on the north wall of the church (receiving food through a grating on the outside wall) for three years. She then returned to the world before petitioning to be re-enclosed. The bishop consented: 'The said Christine shall be thrust back into the said enclosure that she may learn how nefarious was her committed sin.'
The Alms Chest in the church dates from about 1200 and was used to collect money for the crusades fought in the Holy Land.
Trains to Gomshall whether departing from London Bridge (changing at Redhill) or from Waterloo (changing at Guildford) are infrequent so you will have to decide whether to make an early start around 9.00 am or a late one nearer 11.00 am. Journey time by either route is a little over one hour. Returning, there are frequent trains from Guildford to London, 34-40 minutes if you catch a fast one (avoid the stopping trains which take twice as long). The rail ticket which usually works best is a day return to Gomshall-ALL ROUTES PERMITTED, which covers outward and return journeys via Redhill or Guildford.
If driving, there are direct but infrequent trains between Guildford and Gomshall. Guildford station is closer to London and has a large car park, but you can park near Gomshall station for free.
The book's suggested pub, the Villagers, closed in 2010. That just leaves the William IV pub (tel 01483 202 685) at Albury Heath (only 3.5km from the start) which serves food from midday to 2.00 pm daily, to 2.30 on Sundays. However, refreshments could also be taken even earlier in a pub or tea shop in Shere.
|Tea||The suggested tea place in Guildford is the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre (tel 01483 569 334), open Monday to Saturday from 10.00 am to 11.00 pm. For Sundays the suggested place is the White House pub (tel 01483 302 006), close to the river and St Nicholas Church, which is open all day, every day. Just by the station is a Wetherspoons in an old printworks.|
The lunch pub has closed, but no major changes to the route.
The Blackheath Village Society (BVS) has had the building listed as an Asset of Community Value, which offers short term protection from the owners selling the property for a use other than a public house. As of summer 2016, the owners have the property on the market for sale with specialist pub agents, Fleurets. In the meantime, the BPS are promoting a planning application on the site for a new smaller pub and two cottages (the sale of which would fund the cost of the new pub). As any resolution of the situation - resulting in a re-opened pub - is likely to be measured in years rather than months, the Villagers remains a non-lunch option for walkers.
Use the online version of the walk, if you have an old (pre 2011) edition of the book.
Help us! After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
Out: (not a train station)
Back: (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
The [numbers] refer to a sketch map which is only in the book.
-  Leave Gomshall Railway Station from platform 1 (the side with the caravans on display) and turn left downhill on the station approach road, your direction 240°.
- In 110 metres at the T-junction with the A25, cross over and turn left under the bridge using the pedestrian tunnel on the right, your direction 155°.
- 10 metres past the bridge, go right on the signposted public footpath, a lane called Wonham Way, your direction 225°.
- In 80 metres go across a bridge over the Tilling Bourne stream. In a further 80 metres you pass a house called Badgers Oak on your left.
-  In a further 50 metres, at a three-way footpath sign, turn right onto a bridleway (just before the gateway of Twiga Lodge and with the bridleway parallel to an earth farm road on its left), your direction 265°.
- In 200 metres you pass a manor house on your right and a farm on your left.
- In 40 metres at a road T-junction, with a two-armed footpath sign on your left, turn right and in 20 metres go under the railway bridge.
- In 10 metres from the end of the bridge at a car road T-junction by a house (number 4), turn left, your direction 290°.
- Ignore ways off and in a further 190 metres, at the T-junction, with a bus shelter on your right, go to the right of the grass triangle, cross over the road and continue more or less straight on along Gravelpits Lane, your direction 295°, on a signposted public bridleway. In 35 metres the lane swings left, your direction 220°.
-  In a further 65 metres at a junction of paths, take the bridleway to your right, with Gravel Pits Farmhouse on your left, your direction 290°.
- Keep to the path, ignoring all ways off. You can see Netley Manor House (as marked on the OS map) to your right, northwards.
- In 500 metres at the corner of a field, with a footpath post on your right [!] turn right, downwards on a minor path towards the church, your direction 310° (the swing gate has been removed at the start of this path).
- In 120 metres you come out through a wooden swing gate and bear left along the car road, your direction 290°, past the Church of St James Shere, on your right-hand side (well worth a visit).
-  In 100 metres your onward route is to cross over the main road (slightly to the right) in the centre of Shere, with the White Horse pub opposite, to continue on Lower Street, with the stream on your right, your direction 305°. (But you might like to explore the village a bit first by turning right over the stream into Middle Street, with a tea shop and a forge on your left-hand side, or by turning left, which takes you to the museaum in 140 metres.)
- Continuing on, in 80 metres ignore the Orchard Road turning on the left. Go straight on, past the sign saying "No entry except for access". In 20 metres you pass The Old Prison House on the left.
- In a further 65 metres with Rectory and Summerdown Cottages on your left and a ford and footbridge over the river on your right, carry straight on , through a wooden swing gate, onto a signposted public footpath, your direction 250°, the river still on the right.
- In 90 metres ignore a turning on the right across the river. In 20 metres you come to a wooden swing gate on the right. Go through it to continue ahead, the river still on your right and your direction 250°.
-  In 110 metres go through another wooden swing gate (Vicky's Gate) (it has another ford and wooden footbridge on its right) and turn half left to cross a trail and go through a kissing gate ahead, to enter Albury Park unless you plan to do a loop of Albury Park before heading to the lunch pub, in which case you turn right to cross the footbridge and go up Chantry Lane. But continuing on the main walk, keep ahead through the park on a wide grassy path with fences on both sides, your direction 205°.
- In 600 metres exit the park through a wooden swing gate with South Lodge on your right and go across the car road (slightly to your left) to continue on an earth car road, your direction 170° .
- Go straight on for 220 metres, passing several houses on your right-hand side. You will reach a road where you turn right. In 20 metres you come to the William IV pub, Albury Heath, on your right, the suggested place for lunch. Coming out of the pub after lunch, turn right along the road.
- Continue along the road. In 275 metres go under the railway bridge, ignoring footpaths to the right and left, to continue on the car road.
- In 370 metres you come to a car road T-junction and turn left,signposted to Farley Green, your direction due south.
- In 45 metres turn right onto a broad track, signposted as a public footpath and also “Surrey Hacking Park and Ride”, your direction 215°.
- In 40 metres you pass the horse-riding centre on your right. Continue on uphill and slightly to the right. In a further 50 metres keep straight on across a track (a horse gallops).
-  In a further 70 metres where the track bends left go right, following a footpath sign, along an enclosed path with a fence on your left and hedge on the right, your direction 265°.
- In 250 metres the hedge and tree-line on your right ends. Keep ahead, gently uphill, and in 40 metres go through a gap between fences, now on a grassy way between fences, heading towards woodland.
-  In 90 metres cross a stile to enter the wood, marked Blackheath on the OS map. In 20 metres take the right-hand fork and now keep ahead, ignoring all ways off.
- In 210 metres go past a redundant stile. In 20 metres at a junction of paths, keep straight on (the footpath post is numbered 235), your direction 285°.
- [!] In a further 160 metres you come to a multiple path junction in a large open area. Imagine this space as a road roundabout and take the second left path (this is not very distinct at first, whilst the third left, within a metre of it, is broader), your direction 245°.
- In 40 metres your way merges with one on your right. Continue on, now on a distinct path, your direction now 205°.
- In 40 metres you come to a T-junction with a wide bridleway, with a blue arrow on a post pointing right. Here you turn right, your direction 280°. Your way goes straight off into the distance, almost as straight as a Roman road.
- Ignore all ways off through Blackheath Common. The track eventually narrows to a sandy path, which heads uphill, before later broadening and levelling out again. After 1.2 km exit the Common through posts to the left of a metal fieldgate and keep straight on through a car park.
- On the other side of the car park, with some houses on your left, continue ahead on the tarmac road (Blackheath Lane), your direction 255°. In 145 metres you come to the closed Villagers pub on your right.
- Turn into the pub's car park and veer half left by a one-armed bridleway sign to enter a path into woodland, also marked with a low level blue-painted post, your direction 285°.
- In 100 metres take the left fork marked by another blue-painted post, your direction 295°. In a further 80 metres you pass a house on your left.
-  In 70 metres cross over a car road, slightly to your right, to continue ahead, following a bridleway sign, your direction still 295°. In 70 metres cross over a path to continue on, still in woodland.
- In 25 metres you come to a T-junction with an unasphalted car lane marked Downs Link and you turn left , your direction 280°. In a further 80 metres you pass Tangley Way, wooden buildings around a courtyard, on your left. You are now on a fenced-in, car-wide sandy track.
- In 120 metres keep straight on at a junction, passing a pair of wooden gates on your left, gently downhill on a path in woodland, your direction 295°.
- In 200 metres your path starts to go downhill more steeply, initially in a cutting. In a further 160 metres the village of Chilworth is visible away to your right. In another 280 metres you pass two open-sided hay barns on your right.
- In 45 metres you come to a T-junction where you continue to the left (virtually straight on), your direction 280°. You can glimpse Great Tangley Manor House through the hedging on your right. In 80 metres you pass the entrance drive of this house.
- 240 metres further along the lane, with a car road T-junction 40 metres ahead, [!] turn right at a three-armed wooden sign saying "Downs Link", your direction 305°. This stretch through light woodland can be muddy.
- Until the asterisk [*] below, your route is to follow the Downs Link.
- In more detail: Ignoring ways off, in 160 metres cross over a car road to continue on a bridleway marked "Downs Link", your direction 245° initially .
- In 20 metres ignore a path to the right to continue on past a house on your left through another potentially muddy zone. In 280 metres you pass a post informing you that the South Downs Way is 305 metres ahead. Continue 20 metres to the path junction.
- At this point you could detour to the Tower - a nineteenth century folly - and Chinthurst Hill for a good view. Go straight ahead at the path junction, climbing gently. The route ahead is sign-posted. In 150 metres the path forks at the bottom of a steeper slope. Take the right fork up some steps. In a further 150 metres at a T-junction turn right onto a broad grassy path, still climbing. In 50 metres turn left to continue the climb toward the summit. In a further 50 metres go straight across another broad grassy path to reach the Tower . Having enjoyed the view, either retrace your steps to the path junction in the main Directions, or take the alternative descent as follows: Take a clear path through bracken to the west of the Tower. After recrossing the broad grassy path you go steeply downhill, your direction 290°. In 150 metres the path merges with another path from the left and comes to a wooden gate, which you go through to head downhill to an open area, meeting a tarmac driveway at a hairpin bend. Head down the driveway and in 300 metres you come to a lane where you turn sharp right, almost back on yourself. Head along this lane, your direction 310°. In 400 metres you turn left into Tannery Lane to resume the Main walk Directions.
- Continuing the main route, with a two-armed footpath post on your left, turn right on the Downs Link bridleway, your direction 255° (or if coming back from Chinthurst Hill, turn left).
- In 345 metres ignore a stile and footpath off to the right and continue downhill on a left bend with the main path, your direction 200°. Visible ahead of you are the outskirts of Shalford village.
- In 345 metres, amid more potential mud, you pass Southlands with its horses on your left and come down to a car road. Cross it to continue ahead along a tarmac road, Tannery Lane, signposted Downs Link, your direction 225°.
- In 20 metres by a Downs Link post, go up left on a tarmac path towards a pair of houses where you turn right. In 40 metres cross Drodges Close to continue on the tarmac path to the left of the phonebox, parallel to the road below you on the right.
- In 80 metres go down to the left of the bridge and in 20 metres fork right to go over a mini-bridge which is below and to the left of the main bridge.
- [*] You come to a path T-junction. Go right, under the main bridge on a clear path, your direction 330°, with industrial buildings on your right and the River Wey on your left.
- Here you can choose to pick up the meandering path closer to the river on the left although it may be overgrown with nettles in summer. [!] If staying on the main path, be alert to cyclists coming from behind you at speed - many don't have warning bells these days. After 265 metres the path crosses a side stream on some concrete bars - at this point it is best to return to the main path if not already on it.
- 345 metres on from the concrete bars, continue on the main path on a bridge crossing the river and keep straight on towards the A281, reaching it in 65 metres.
- Turn right on the pavement of this A road and in 35 metres cross the bridge over the river. After 80 metres, with Somerswey Cul-de-Sac on your right, cross the road. 10 metres beyond a red brick wall on the left, turn left on a signed path, through a strip of woodland, with the river down below on your left, your direction 310°.
- In 180 metres you emerge from the path with Wharf Cottages at your left. Continue ahead along a tarmac path, your direction 300°.
- In 80 metres continue on a gravel path with an extensive office and industrial estate on your right. In a further 145 metres you come to the A248 and a bridge . [**] If you want to end the walk at this point, go right on the A248 to the station at Shalford.
- For the main route, cross the road go left over the bridge walkway and immediately turn right to pick up the riverbank path on the other side by the National Trust sign, your direction 335°. The River Wey is now on your right.
- Keep straight on along the riverbank, ignoring all ways off, in due course going under a pipe-run bridge next to a railway bridge,then passing St Catherine’s Lock and eventually going under another bridge.
- After 2.5 km of this riverbank walk, the path crosses a mini-weir by a bridge. Immediately turn left with this branch of the river now on your left, your direction 350° .
- In 150 metres go over a bridge with metal railings and another mini-weir. Now the canal is on your right and the river on your left.
- In 80 metres you reach Millmead Lock. For tea at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, go right over a bridge. In 70 metres you come out to the entrance of the building. After tea, turn right out of the theatre to return to Millmead Lock and go straight on. In 25 metres cross another bridge.
- If not going to tea at the theatre, turn left at Millmead Lock and cross the bridge.
- Turn right with the river now on your right-hand side, your direction 335°.
- In 130 metres fork right off the car road to follow the riverside terrace path. In 75 metres, by the bridge, bear left with the path up beside the White House pub on your left; this is an alternative tea stop.
- With St Nicholas Church ahead, turn right , following the pedestrian sign to the station. Continue along the path to go under the bridge, then ahead up a short flight of steps. Turn left at the top, soon reaching the main road where you turn right.
- In 50 metres you come to an underpass which takes you to Guildford Railway Station on the other side of the road for trains back to London.