Guildford Circular via Albury Park walk
The North Downs ridge, a haunted pool, unusual churches and traces of an industrial era in the Tillingbourne valley.
Main Walk: 25 km†‡ (15.5 miles). Six hours 20 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 11½ hours.
Western Circular Walk, via Albury Mill: 16¾ km† (10.4 miles). Four hours 10 minutes walking time.
Eastern Circular Walk, from Chilworth: 16¼ km (10.1 miles). Four hours 5 minutes walking time.
Short Walk, via Chantry Wood: 10½ km† (6.5 miles). Two hours 30 minutes walking time.
† Subtract 1¾ km (1.1 miles; 25 minutes) with shorter ending to Guildford. See Walk Options below.
Explorer 145. Guildford, map reference SU991495, is the county town of Surrey, 45 km SW of London.
8 out of 10 (5 for the Western & Eastern Walks, 3 for the Short Walk).
This long circular walk explores the area to the south-east of Guildford. The landscape is exceptionally varied, with woods, heathland, parkland, valleys and water meadows. Along the way there are fine views from the contrasting chalk hills of the North Downs and the adjacent Greensand.
The walk starts with a long climb out of Guildford onto Pewley Down, then down past the edge of Chantry Wood to the valley of the River Tillingbourne. This was once an important industrial area and the route includes part of a heritage trail through the extensive ruins of the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills, the national importance of which is reflected in its status as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. An attractive stretch along the quiet valley of Law Brook (one of the river's tributaries) and across the small Albury Heath brings you to a lunchtime stop in the hamlet of Little London.
The route now heads north through Albury Park, designed by the English landscape pioneer John Evelyn. In 1819 the estate was acquired by the banker Henry Drummond, who built a new parish church in Albury and closed the old Saxon Church, now isolated in the private parkland but accessible to the public. At the same time he became one of the founder members of a new religious movement and built the neo-gothic Catholic Apostolic Church for it.
The route continues past the crystal-clear waters of Silent Pool on another steep climb up the North Downs, where a stretch along the North Downs Way leads to a mid-afternoon refreshment stop at the Newlands Corner viewpoint. A final climb to the summit of the Greensand ridge leads to St Martha-on-the-Hill, a church with a long history.
After a gradual descent through the full length of Chantry Wood the longer of two alternative endings goes past the 18thC Shalford Mill, now managed by the National Trust (normally open Wed & Sun, by guided tour only; last tour 4pm); admission (2020) is £3.10. The final leg is a peaceful stretch through Shalford Water Meadows alongside the River Wey and the Wey Navigation.
As noted above there is a shorter ending to Guildford, saving 1¾ km by omitting the loop via Shalford Mill. The walk directions also include link routes to Chilworth and Shalford, allowing you to break off and return from one of these stations (although both have an infrequent service: see Transport below).
As the outward route passes close to Chilworth station after around 5 km, various shorter start options are available. In effect this station and an extra link route from the Gunpowder Mills to St Martha's Hill via Albury Mill allows for two overlapping circular walks: a Western Walk from Guildford and an Eastern Walk from Chilworth. Other short walks are possible by taking advantage of this link route and the crossover point in Chantry Wood.
There are several other SWC walks in this area and you could combine sections of this walk with parts of the Gomshall to Guildford walk (1–14), the Guildford to Gomshall walk (2–13), the Guildford Circular via Chantries walk (#57) and the Guildford to Horsley walk (#131).
The walk route was significantly modified in 2015 but some of these changes were reversed in 2021 by redesigning the walk with a crossover point in Chantry Wood. The outward route via Pewley Down and an optional return route through Shalford Water Meadows were both restored, although with some variations to reduce overlap with other SWC walks in the area.
Guildford has frequent fast trains from Waterloo, four an hour during the week and two on Sundays. Avoid the slower services unless you are travelling from an intermediate station.
For the shorter start options Chilworth is on the Guildford–Redhill line, with a two-hourly off-peak service. If you finish there (or at Shalford, which has an hourly service) and realise that you would have a long wait for a train you could take a bus to Guildford: Compass 32 goes past both stations and there are other services from Shalford.
A return to Chilworth is only slightly more expensive than a Guildford ticket and would let you start or finish at any of these three stations. From London, a ticket to Chilworth (but not Guildford) is also valid via Redhill or Dorking, although it is usually quicker to travel via Guildford.
For the Main Walk, take the train nearest to 09:30 from Waterloo to Guildford. For the shorter walks, take a train about an hour later if stopping for a pub lunch (if starting from Chilworth, aim to connect with a train arriving there at around 11am, changing at Guildford, Dorking or Redhill as necessary).
The only conveniently-placed pub on the main walk options is the William Ⅳ (01483-202685) in Little London, after 9¾ km on the Main Walk (5½ km if starting from Chilworth). It was taken over by new owners in mid-2018 and has been fully renovated, with an up-market food menu. The pub is currently closed Monday & Tuesday lunchtimes but there are some pleasant spots nearby on Albury Heath for a picnic lunch. There are later refreshment options at Newlands Corner (see below), but no more pubs until you are quite close to the finish.
On the Western Circular Walk the most convenient lunch pub is the Percy Arms (01483-561765) near Chilworth station, after 5½ km. On all the walk options incorporating the longer ending to Guildford a much later stop is possible at the Seahorse Inn (01483-514351) on the A281 near Shalford, but by then it is not much further to the profusion of watering holes in Guildford itself.
On the more strenuous second half of the Main Walk a mid-afternoon break is possible at several places. At Sherbourne Pond the Norbury Park Farm Cheese shop (01306-710001; open Wed–Sun) advertises afternoon teas and ice cream. Further on, the Plucky Pheasant café (01483-225222; open daily) opposite the Newlands Corner car park has a nice garden if you can put up with the traffic noise from the main road; there is also a snack bar in the car park itself.
There are of course many refreshment places in Guildford itself. The direct route to the station passes a couple of riverside pubs, but there are many more pubs, cafés and coffee shops on the suggested town route. There are too many to list here, but two worth a look can be found side by side just off the pedestrianised High Street in Angel Gate: Bill's (01483-455187) – a restaurant which also does good afternoon teas – located in the ground floor of the Angel Hotel; and Coffee Culture (01483-564200; open until 5pm Mon–Fri, 6pm Sat) which has less space inside but plenty of outdoor seating. There is also a Costa Coffee in the station building, usually open until 8pm (7pm Sun).
As noted above the longer ending to Guildford passes the Seahorse Inn. If you divert to Shalford there are two places near the station: The Snooty Fox café (01483-303038) only claims to provide breakfast and lunch, but there is also the Queen Victoria pub (01483-566959).
For the walk options finishing at Chilworth, the Percy Arms (see above) is across the road from the station.
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Out (not a train station)
Back (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (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.
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- Main Walk (25 km)
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If you are doing any of the walk options from Chilworth, start at §D.
- Head for the River Wey and follow the riverside path south to the Town Bridge. Cross the river here and go a short way up the High Street, then turn right into Quarry Street. Turn left into Castle Street and cut through the bottom of Guildford Castle Grounds and Castle Cliffe Gardens to Racks Close. Climb up this old quarry and turn right onto Warwicks Bench at the top. Turn left into Fort Road, which leads onto Pewley Down. From the viewpoint take a footpath sloping down the hillside, merging with a bridleway going between fields to the eastern end of Chantry Wood, near the entrance from Halfpenny Lane.
Leave the station and bear right onto its approach road. Go down an underpass and follow either of the “Town Centre via Riverside Walk” signs to the River Wey (the left-hand route is shorter but has lots of steps). Turn right onto the riverside path, passing the old Town Wharf on the other side of the river.
For variety the next part of this section is different from the Walk 2–13 route, which also goes via Pewley Down to Chantry Wood.
- Cross the river on the pedestrianised Town Bridge. Cross the main road at the traffic lights and keep ahead up the town's High Street. In 100m turn right into Quarry Street, soon passing St Mary's church. In 150m turn left into Castle Street, then in 50m veer right through an old gateway into Guildford Castle Grounds?.
- Bear right inside the grounds, passing Peak's Pond. Leave by a similar gateway in the bottom right-hand corner and turn right briefly onto a narrow street (Castle Hill). Before reaching Quarry Street veer left up a few steps into Castle Cliffe Gardens.
- Take either path around this small garden (or cut across the grass) to the opposite corner and continue on a short tarmac path. This looks like a dead end but it leads to the top of an external wooden staircase which you descend into another public open space, Racks Close.
Veer left to start climbing through this uneven area (an old chalk quarry). You need to go all the way to the top and the simplest route is to make your way across the grass to the right-hand side, where a clear path alongside the garden fences leads to the exit.
- A more obvious path up the left-hand side seems to lead nowhere, but there is in fact a narrow and slightly precarious continuation curving up alongside the steep boundary wall; this more adventurous route leads to the same exit.
- At the top of Racks Close go through a gap in the hedge with an old gate and turn right onto a residential street (Warwicks Bench). Follow this street uphill round a couple of bends, then turn left into Fort Road.
Go all the way along this very long cul-de-sac, steadily uphill for 200m but then levelling off. After a long straight stretch you eventually come out onto Pewley Down?. Go straight ahead on a grassy path for 200m to reach a memorial plinth with a toposcope at a viewpoint, looking across the valley to Chantry Wood and (further away to the left) St Martha's Hill.
The remainder of this section is the same as the Walk 2–13 route.
- From the viewpoint you can see the continuation of the route, a long straight chalky path sloping downhill across the valley towards the left-hand end of Chantry Wood. Make your way across the downland onto this path, which initially runs between a yew hedge and a fence and then through a copse. At the end of the trees the path merges with others to continue as a long straight bridleway between hedges.
- At the bottom of the valley keep ahead at an oblique bridleway crossing to enter the large wood. Follow the main path climbing gently near its northern edge, later curving up to the right. After 250m keep left at a path junction, merging with another bridleway from the right.
- In a further 50m you come to a major path junction. The bridleway leads out to a lane on the left and there is an information panel for Chantry Wood (“A Gateway to the North Downs”) on the right, behind a vehicle barrier on the main track into the wood.
If you are doing the Short Walk, turn right onto this track and go to §M.
- Take a path going downhill near the eastern side of Chantry Wood. Leave the wood and continue on the field edge parallel to Halfpenny Lane. Where the lane turns sharply left take the footpath heading south-east, rejoining the road (now Blacksmith Lane) at another bend. Bear right onto the road and follow it across several branches of the River Tillingbourne, then turn left into the site of the old Gunpowder Mills.
- At the path junction ignore all the main tracks and instead take a side path to the left of the information panel. Keep ahead at the next path crossing to go gently downhill near the edge of the wood for 300m, never far from the lane on the left and descending a short flight of earth steps along the way.
As it approaches the south-eastern corner of the wood the path merges with several others. Instead of following the path out to Halfpenny Lane the suggested route is to veer right through a gap into the corner of a vast field and walk along its broad margin, parallel to the lane.
- This is not shown as a right of way on the OS map, but is clearly well used by locals. If some kind of ‘Private’ notice appears you will have to brave the narrow lane instead (not an enticing prospect).
- In 200m veer left to leave the field where a public bridleway comes in from the right, emerging onto the lane at a sharp bend by a house “Longmead”. Go past its entrance and then immediately turn right onto a signposted footpath.
- Follow this enclosed path gently downhill, initially between high garden hedges and then with a field behind a wire fence on the left. At the end you have to go down an awkward little slope to a short driveway. This leads out to Halfpenny Lane at another sharp bend (where it becomes Blacksmith Lane).
Turn right to go along Blacksmith Lane for 100m, crossing the River Tillingbourne? and its associated mill-streams, with a fishing lake off to the left. Shortly after passing the entrance to Powder Mills Fishery turn left onto a signposted path into Chilworth Gunpowder Mills?.
You might be able to pick up a Heritage Trail leaflet at the information panel welcoming visitors to the “Middle Works” section of these extensive industrial ruins.
If you are doing the Western Circular Walk, go to §J.
- Follow the main path through the site, passing a clearing after 600m. In a further 150m keep right to go past the far side of the Incorporating Mills. At the end turn right onto Lockner Farm Lane.
- Unless you want to explore the site further, stay on the main path. Beyond the fishing lake it curves right and then left, passing a row of worn millstones (for blast protection) and several ruined structures. Later there are traces of a waterway on the right, the New Cut?. Eventually (600m from the road) you can see a clearing ahead with some picnic tables.
- Go past the clearing and continue along the main path for a further 150m, then keep right where the main path forks left. Follow this side path round to the left, passing the massive ruins of the Incorporating Mills? on your left. At the far end go out past wooden barriers and turn right onto a farm lane, joining the Downs Link?.
Continue the directions at §E.
- From the station head west along the A248 for 150m and turn right onto a footpath leading to the site of the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills. Turn left onto the main path through the site, then almost immediately fork right onto a side path. Cross the River Tillingbourne and follow a permissive path to a bridleway crossing in front of Chilworth Manor. Turn right to head east alongside Chilworth Manor Vineyard and continue on a farm lane past the eastern edge of the Gunpowder Mills site.
If arriving by train from Guildford, leave the platform from an exit near the back of the train and bear right towards the A248, with the Percy Arms opposite. Turn left and go along the main road for 150m, crossing over at some point. After passing an infant school turn right onto the signposted “Vera's Path”, leading to the site of the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills?.
- After going alongside the school grounds this public footpath becomes an enclosed tree-lined path between meadows and enters the site via a footbridge over a waterway, the New Cut?. Fork left twice to briefly join the main path heading W through the site (away from a clearing with some picnic tables), then in 40m fork right onto a side path.
- Follow this potentially muddy path through an overgrown area for 150m. Where it splits in front of the River Tillingbourne? fork right to cross a branch of the river on a wide plank bridge. Follow the path between two water channels and then round to the right, crossing the other channel on Pack Horse Bridge.
- Go through a wooden gate and veer right up a wooded bank to leave the site. Continue on a fenced permissive path heading N alongside a field (sometimes containing a few alpacas). This leads to a path crossing with a comprehensive wooden signpost, with a partial view of Chilworth Manor ahead on your left.
- Turn right at the crossing onto a public bridleway, heading E alongside Chilworth Manor Vineyard?. In 50m a signposted permissive path on the right gives you the option of a parallel route along the edge of the vineyard, returning to the bridleway at the far end.
- At the end of the vineyard keep right at a bridleway junction, joining the Downs Link? (a bridleway coming down St Martha's Hill). The track goes gently downhill, merges with a farm drive from the left and crosses the River Tillingbourne. Go past two openings on the right leading back into the Gunpowder Mills site, the second of which is the outward route from Guildford.
For variety this option starts with a short loop around the vineyard behind the Gunpowder Mills site.
If you are doing the Western Walk, go to §K.
- Follow the farm lane out to the A248 and continue on the lane opposite. After crossing the railway bear left onto a footpath going past Postford Farm Cottages to Blackheath Lane. Continue on a footpath along Law Brook valley to Ford Farm.
- Go across the New Cut on a bridge. Ignore a footpath off to the left and follow the farm lane all the way out to the A248. Cross the main road carefully and continue on the lane opposite, soon crossing over the railway. After passing a cottage on the left the path splits, with a private drive ahead and footpaths to both sides.
- Leave the Downs Link by taking the left-hand footpath, a broad grassy path with a wooden fence on the right. After crossing a dip in the ground go through a gap in a wire fence and continue in the same direction on a faint grassy path across a field (with Albury's parish church tower coming into view, 1¼ km ahead on your left).
- On the far side of the field go through a metal kissing gate and a belt of trees to continue on a broad sandy path between fences. Later the path turns slightly left and goes alongside a row of trees to Postford Farm Cottages.
- Follow the farm track down between the house and its stables, then round to the left. After crossing Law Brook? and going past a large reed-filled pond it climbs uphill and goes round to the right past more stables.
- At the end of the farm track turn right briefly onto a minor road (Blackheath Lane), then in 25m go over a stile on the left. Follow a broad grassy path along an open valley, with Law Brook (and its old watercress beds, now a fishery) off to your right. In 500m you come to Ford Farm, passing its attractive farmhouse on the left.
- Follow the farm drive out to Sandy Lane. Turn left and go up this lane to Albury Heath. Fork right onto a path through the wooded heath, later going past a sports pitch and across New Road. Head east across another part of the heath and continue along Warners Lane. At the far end go over a stile on the right and diagonally across a small field to the car park of the William Ⅳ pub.
- Go through a wooden kissing gate at the left-hand end of the fence ahead and turn left onto the farm drive. Follow it round to the right, past outbuildings. In 250m you come to a T-junction where you turn left onto a track (Sandy Lane), ignoring a bridleway signpost pointing right. In 150m the lane curves left and goes under the railway line.
- In a further 150m there are paths leading into the wooded Albury Heath on both sides. The suggested route is to fork right off the sunken lane onto a path which climbs into the wooded heath, a less gloomy route than staying on the lane. Stay fairly close to the lane on the main path, avoiding side paths branching off to the right.
- In around 250m the path merges with a broad track coming in from the right. Follow this gently downhill and round to the right, merging with a narrow path coming from the sunken lane (which you would have had to take if you had continued along it).
- The track heads E between a sports field on the left and a more open area of heathland on the right containing a wooden sculpture?, a possible picnic spot. At the end cross a lane (New Road), taking care as the traffic can be quite fast.
Continue on the broad path opposite, through a wooded part of the heath. Where this emerges onto an open area of heathland (another possible picnic spot), ignore a path ahead and follow the main path as it curves round to the left and then back to the right.
- If you are not visiting the lunch pub then before reaching the far side of the heath you could fork left onto a path through the trees. At the end turn left briefly onto Heath Lane, then turn right at its T-junction with Park Road. Go along this road for 225m to reach the footpath on the left at South Lodge. If you take this short cut, resume the directions at [?] in §G.
- For the main route, stay on the broad sandy path to the far side of the heath. Go straight across Heath Lane onto an unsurfaced track (Warners Lane), passing the entrance to “Warners” halfway along.
- Near the end of this track go over a stile on the right into a small field and follow a faint grassy path across it to the bottom corner. Go through a gap there into the car park of the William Ⅳ pub, the suggested lunch stop.
- Turn left out of the pub and immediately fork left onto a track leading to Park Road. Cross over and take the left-most footpath opposite through Albury Park to the old Saxon Church. Leave the estate on a driveway heading west and turn right onto New Road. Keep right at a junction to continue along the A248, passing the Catholic Apostolic Church and coming to a T-junction with the A25. Turn left briefly to go alongside the dual carriageway, then cross over and take a track up to Sherbourne Pond.
- Turn left out of the pub onto the road, then immediately fork left up an unsurfaced track, alongside a row of houses. In 250m this comes out onto a road (Park Road) with several footpaths opposite.
Do not take either of the more obvious footpaths (heading east and north-east) but instead go along the short driveway to South Lodge, ignoring a “Private” notice on the gate.
Despite appearances this is also a right of way, as will soon become clear (a footpath signpost at the roadside had disappeared when last checked).
After passing the lodge enter Albury Park through a metal gate (with a yellow footpath waymarker), along an avenue of magnificent old sweet chestnuts. At a prominent “Albury Estate” notice turn half-left as directed to head NW on the well-waymarked public footpath. This climbs gently for about 500m, then curves right and descends through clumps of rhododendrons.
Throughout this stretch there are plenty of “Private” signs to prevent you straying off course.
- The path eventually drops down to a wooden kissing gate where you leave the wood. Head N across the parkland towards a footpath signpost on a driveway. You will be leaving the estate off to the left, but first bear right across the grass to find the interesting old church of Ss Peter and Paul?.
- After visiting the church, head W across the parkland from the churchyard gate to come to another driveway at a bend. Continue in the same direction along this drive, which merges with the one you crossed after leaving the wood.
- At the end of the estate go through a side gate and turn right onto New Road, passing another lodge. Keep right at the road junction with the A248 and continue along its pavement, soon crossing the River Tillingbourne?.
- In 250m you pass a tree-lined driveway on the right leading to the neo-gothic Catholic Apostolic Church? (not open to the public). Continue alongside the road to its T-junction with the A25.
At the road junction turn left to cross the A248 at the traffic islands and continue along a tarmac path beside the A25. In 100m cross this dual carriageway with great care and go up a track to the right of the car park for Silent Pool, soon coming to Sherbourne Pond.
- At the pond a track off to the right leads to some rural outlets including Silent Pool Gin and Norbury Park Farm Cheese. If you visit the distillery you might be able to use a side exit from its shop to go down to Silent Pool; otherwise you will have to return to this junction to resume the walk.
- Continue on the track past Sherbourne Pond to Silent Pool, then take the footpath going steeply up the North Downs escarpment. At the top of the hill turn left onto the North Downs Way (NDW). Follow it along the ridge and back to the A25 at Newlands Corner.
Follow the main track past the left-hand side of Sherbourne Pond. Before it curves left into Albury Organic Vineyard? bear right onto a broad path running alongside the pond. At the far end you come to a dam separating it from its upper neighbour, Silent Pool?.
A perimeter path around this attractive pond was judged to be dangerous and closed in 2015. It seems unlikely to be restored as there are no funds for its repair and maintenance.
- Unless the perimeter path has been restored veer left up a short flight of earth steps and turn right onto a footpath going uphill alongside the vineyard, the start of an arduous climb of 500m to the top of the North Downs. Eventually the path levels out and comes to a signposted path crossing, where you turn left onto the North Downs Way? (NDW).
- You will be following this bridleway along the ridge for 1¾ km to the A25, but after 150m look over the new wire fence on your left for the curious sight of two large old beech trees joined together by a very long branch just above the ground, an example of inosculation?.
- When you eventually reach the A25 you could cross the main road and continue on the NDW (which runs below the large car park), but the suggested route is to turn right to come to the Plucky Pheasant café on this side of the road.
- To continue the walk cross the A25 with great care. On the right-hand side of the Newlands Corner? car park there is a snack bar and Visitor Centre (run by Surrey Wildlife Trust).
Go down the slope from the car park to rejoin the NDW and follow it as it heads west across Albury Downs, then downhill on a path alongside White Lane and up St Martha's Hill to a major path junction.
- If you want to break off and finish at Chilworth station, take the Downs Link path opposite down the other side of the hill, where it turns left. After crossing the River Tillingbourne turn right to go through part of the Gunpowder Mills site, leaving on a footpath heading south-west to the A248. Turn left and go along the main road to the Percy Arms and the station.
- Go down the grassy slope from the car park towards the fine view across the village of Albury? in the Tillingbourne valley, with Blackheath Forest beyond it. Bear right to pick up a clear chalky path, which merges with the NDW coming in from the left and curves around the wood on the right to head W along the side of Albury Downs.
- Where the path emerges onto a large open area the simplest route is to keep ahead on a broad grassy path to the far side, but you could also take a higher route by the trees. The routes rejoin at a potentially muddy patch where you fork left as indicated to stay on the NDW (the path ahead leads to a car park).
- In 200m the NDW drops down to cross a minor road (White Lane). Go up steps on the other side and follow the path downhill alongside the lane for 400m. At the bottom veer left onto the lane at a sharp bend and then immediately turn right up a broad track alongside a house, Keeper's Cottage. This bridleway goes past the side of the house, then bears right to head SW.
- Follow the main path as it climbs steadily up the wooded St Martha's Hill. In 300m you come to a major path junction with another bridleway. Unless you want to break off the Main Walk and finish at Chilworth station, turn half-right onto a broad sandy track, staying on the NDW and also joining the Pilgrims’ Way? (PW).
Finishing at Chilworth Station (+1¾ km)
- To divert to Chilworth station go straight across the broad sandy path onto a short link path and turn right onto the Downs Link? (a bridleway which was signposted 40m to the left of the major path junction). Follow this track steadily downhill for 750m.
- After a long straight stretch turn left at a T-junction to stay on the Downs Link. The track goes gently downhill and merges with a farm drive from the left. After crossing the River Tillingbourne turn right into the Gunpowder Mills site, taking the main (left-hand) path after going through a metal kissing gate.
- After passing the Incorporating Mills you reverse your outward route for 150m. At the clearing with picnic tables fork left …
Continue the directions at §L unless you want to divert to Chilworth station via the directions below.
- Follow the main path through the site to a clearing and fork right to leave on “Vera's Path”. Turn left onto the A248 to reach the Percy Arms, returning the same way. Fork right to go past the clearing, rejoining the main path. …
If you are not visiting the lunch pub you can skip the out-and-back route below and resume the directions at [?].
- For the pub, fork right …
- Afterwards, return the same way: back past the school and along the signposted “Vera's Path” to the Gunpowder Mills site. After crossing the footbridge fork right to rejoin the main path in front of the clearing.
- Follow the main path through the eastern part of the site for 150m, ….
- After crossing the New Cut take a footpath on the left across fields. Go between Albury Mill and Postford Pond, then turn left in front of Waterloo Pond. Turn left again onto a footpath which goes along the side of Colyers Hanger for 500m, then climbs up the hillside. At the top turn left onto the Pilgrims' Way. Keep ahead at the path junction with the North Downs Way.
- Immediately after crossing the New Cut on a bridge go over a stile on the left. Follow the signposted footpath across two fields, with a stile in the hedge between them and going alongside a drainage ditch in the second. On the far side go over a third stile and a plank bridge over a ditch to continue on an enclosed path, with a fishing lake off to the left.
- The footpath comes out in front of Postford Pond, where a driveway from the left meets Mill Lane. Bear left onto this lane (which is also a right of way), curving round to the right past a new development on the site of Albury Mill?. At the end of a tree-lined straight stretch follow the lane round to the left, past the short western edge of Waterloo Pond.
- The lane ends in front of a wood, with Mill Stream Cottage on the left. Take the left-hand of two footpaths into the trees, with a boardwalk taking you over a muddy patch beside the house. After going past a vehicle barrier the footpath continues as a pleasant path along the side of Colyers Hanger, heading W with the River Tillingbourne meandering through the trees below.
- After 500m the path bends right and starts to climb the wooded hillside. In a further 150m, shortly after a large sloping field has appeared on the left, turn right at an unsignposted path junction to head directly away from the field. The path climbs steadily through the trees and swings left near the top, later passing a yellow waymarker post.
- As the path levels off it comes to a signposted T-junction with a bridleway. Turn left onto a broad sandy path, joining the Pilgrims’ Way? (PW). The bridleway heads W along the wooded ridge of St Martha's Hill, merging with other paths coming up from the car park behind you on Guildford Lane.
- In 200m keep ahead at a three-way bridleway junction near a WW Ⅱ pillbox, where the signpost and a cairn signify that the left fork is the start of the Downs Link?. In a further 40m keep ahead at another major path junction, where the Main Walk joins from the North Downs Way? (NDW) on the right.
- Follow the broad sandy track westwards to St Martha's church at the top of the hill, then gently downhill to Halfpenny Lane. Turn left briefly onto the lane, then turn right into Chantry Wood.
- Follow the broad sandy track as it climbs steadily along the ridge of St Martha's Hill, heading W. Ignore a bridleway branching off to the left (unless you want to take an easier route passing below the church) and follow the main track uphill for 350m to come to the church of St Martha-on-the-Hill?, with fine views to the south.
- Leave the churchyard through a gate in its north-western corner and bear left onto a broad sandy track heading W, gently downhill and still on the NDW & PW. In 200m a bridleway merges from the left (the easier route mentioned above). In front of a narrow open area keep left and follow the track past a few houses and down to a minor road (Halfpenny Lane).
Turn left briefly onto this lane, then where it bends left veer right up a broad track. In 25m the track forks, with an information panel ahead on the left at the entrance to Chantry Wood (the onward route to Guildford).
You might recognise this point from the outward route of the Main Walk, which came up the bridleway on the right and crossed over to a side path on the left.
If you are doing the Eastern Circular Walk (back to Chilworth), complete the directions at §R.
For the suggested route (there are many alternatives) bear left to the southern edge of the wood and continue along field edges just outside it for 700m. Veer right into the wood to skirt around a valley ahead, continuing along the left-hand side of a clearing. At the end turn left and take a path near the southern edge of the wood to its south-western corner.
For the suggested route, go past the vehicle barrier onto the main track into the wood, leaving the NDW & PW. In 40m fork left and follow this broad track through the trees for 150m to emerge into the corner of a field with some picnic tables, also used as a camp site.
Continue on a well-trodden sandy path along its right-hand side, passing some huts on the edge of the wood.
- Alternatively, you could stay on the Walk #57 route: cutting across the field to a metal kissing gate and continuing on a path closer to the edge of the escarpment.
- For the main route continue alongside the wood for 700m, going through gates at three field boundaries. In the fourth field, after the Walk #57 route has rejoined and before the path drops down into a wooded valley, veer right through a metal kissing gate to go back into the wood.
- Inside the wood keep left, passing a “Towering Plantation” information panel. The path gradually curves round to the right in front of the wooded valley. At a T-junction turn left onto a broad track, with a partly-cleared area on your right; towards the end of this clearing a gap in the trees gives you a view of Guildford Cathedral, 3 km away.
- At the end of the clearing fork left, leaving the Walk #57 route again. The path swings round to the right and begins a long steady descent, parallel to the southern edge of the wood down to the left. In 500m, shortly before the path curves round to the right at the western edge of the wood, there is a side path on the left leading to an exit in its south-western corner.
There are many ways through Chantry Wood. Like the Walk #57 route (in the other direction) part of the suggested route is outside the wood, with fine views to the south. In the bluebell season you might prefer to devise a route through the middle of the wood.
If you are doing the shorter ending, go to §P.
Leave Chantry Wood and take a footpath heading south. Go across East Shalford Lane and continue on a footpath heading south-west past Shalford Mill to the A281. Turn right briefly onto the A281 and take a short bridleway up to a track, Dagley Lane. Either head south on the track for 325m, or take a parallel route through Shalford Water Meadows.
- If you want to break off and finish at Shalford station, carry on along Dagley Lane. After crossing the railway veer left and cross the A281 to reach the station.
- For the longer route to Guildford turn left onto the side path. A short flight of steps cut into the bank takes you down to a footpath where you turn left to head S. In 150m keep ahead on a residential street (Clifford Manor Road). In a further 25m there are two footpaths signposted on the left: ignore the one across a field but take the enclosed path ahead, parallel to the road.
- In 200m the path leads into Shepherds Way, which comes to a T-junction with East Shalford Lane. Go straight across this (slightly to the right) and up a few steps into a field. Follow a grassy path heading SW across the field.
- On the far side go through a metal gate and down a few steps onto an enclosed path. In 75m you cross a footbridge over the River Tillingbourne, with the attractive tile-hung Shalford Mill? on your right. Go out along its driveway to the A281, with the Seahorse Inn opposite as a possible refreshment stop.
- The onward route is a bridleway from the other side of this busy main road, by some pedestrian lights 60m to the right (which you might need to use even if you are visiting the pub). Make your way to this bridleway and follow it up a short slope into a wooded area. At the top you come to a track (Dagley Lane) with a fieldgate opposite leading into some water meadows.
The suggested route is to turn left in front of the fieldgate and take the narrow path running through the belt of trees alongside Dagley Lane (or simply go along the track itself). In 300m the path and track rejoin in front of another gate leading into the meadows.
- In relatively dry conditions you could go through a side gate beside the first gate and down a slope towards a loop of the River Wey, then turn left onto a broad grassy strip through the meadows. This parallel route ends at the path from the second gate, with one or two link paths along the way where you could switch between the two routes.
Finishing at Shalford Station (+½ km)
- To divert to Shalford station carry on along Dagley Lane, going past allotments and then over the railway line (where the station can be seen off to the left, beyond a road bridge). Follow the track round to the left and bear left across a patch of grass (passing a scout hut) to reach the A281.
Cross this busy road at the pedestrian lights and go down to Station Approach. Trains to Guildford leave from Platform 2, on this side.
- If you want some refreshment you could try The Snooty Fox café in the parade of shops off to the right, or cross the footbridge over the tracks to the Queen Victoria pub.
If you want to break off and finish at Shalford station, follow the directions below.
- Follow a footpath through Shalford Water Meadows alongside the River Wey and the Wey Navigation. Cross the Navigation at St Catherine's Lock, then go back across the river on the NDW footbridge. For the final stretch to the Boathouse by the A281 you can either cut through the northern part of the water meadows or stay on the riverbank.
- To continue the walk go through the metal kissing gate on Dagley Lane into Shalford Water Meadows?. Go down steps cut into the grassy slope towards a boardwalk, with the alternative route mentioned above joining from the right.
- The boardwalk takes you across a boggy patch to the River Wey and you continue alongside it, with the river on your right. In 200m follow the path across the river at a weir, then round to the right between the Wey Navigation? and a lock-keeper's cottage. Go through a wooden gate and follow the riverside path for 300m to St Catherine's Lock.
- At the lock cross the Navigation to continue with it (and later the main river) on your right, joining the Wey-South Path? for 600m. Go back across the river on the substantial footbridge? carrying the NDW. Continue on the opposite bank of the river, staying on the riverbank where the NDW turns off to the right.
In 150m go through a wooden side gate into the corner of an open part of the water meadows. The suggested route is to
cut across the meadows on a broad grassy path, leaving through a metal kissing gate in the far corner and coming out onto the A281.
- Alternatively you could continue along the riverbank path, lined with weeping willows. Shortly before returning to the A281 follow the path as directed around the back of Guildford Rowing Club's boathouse and out to the main road.
Complete the directions at §Q.
- Stay on the main path as it swings right and then drops down to leave the wood in its north-western corner. Rejoin the NDW & PW, going past a small green and then down a street (Pilgrims Way) to the A281. Cross the main road and keep ahead across a playing field and then water meadows to the River Wey. Turn right and go along the riverbank to the Boathouse by the A281.
- Stay on the main path as it curves round to the right. The path soon drops down into an open area where you keep left, passing a memorial redwood planted in 1991. Veer left to leave the wood and turn right towards a small car park in the corner of a triangular green. In front of the car park fork left onto a track, rejoining the NDW & PW.
At the far end of the green cross over a residential street (Pilgrims Way) onto the walkway running alongside it. Follow this street downhill to its T-junction with the A281, where there is a distant view of the ruins of St Catherine's Chapel? on a low hill ahead, 500m away. Cross the A281 carefully and go onto a playing field (Shalford Park).
- For a more direct route to complete this section (saving about 600m) you could turn right onto Cycle Route 22, parallel to the main road.
- For the main route, go straight ahead across the playing field and through a gap in the trees onto a clear path across Shalford Water Meadows?, eventually reaching the River Wey. Turn right onto the riverside path, leaving the NDW & PW.
- Alternatively you could …
For a wide choice of refreshment places go along the A281 and fork right onto Quarry Street. Turn right into Castle Hill and climb through the Castle Grounds. At the top cross Castle Street, go along Tunsgate and turn left down the pedestrianised High Street. At the bottom cross the river on Town Bridge and take the signposted Riverside Walk to the station.
- If the footbridge across Millmead Weir has been replaced you could take the riverside path across the Wey Navigation to Millmead Lock and reach Town Bridge via the other bank of the river.
Town route (1½ km)
- Bear left onto the main road to head towards the town centre, soon passing the Weyside pub on the left and coming to traffic lights at the junction with Quarry Street. Cross the main road at the pedestrian lights just beyond the junction, go up some steps opposite and turn left onto this side street.
The street climbs gently above the level of the main road. Ignore a cul-de-sac on the right (leading to Racks Close) but in a further 100m turn right into a narrow side street, Castle Hill.
- You could simply follow Quarry Street all the way to the town's High Street, but the suggested route is more interesting and not much longer.
Keep left where the road splits. There is an old gateway on the left into Guildford Castle Grounds? but the simplest route is to keep ahead past a vehicle barrier onto a tarmac pathway. This curves around the outside of the grounds, climbing gently above them; after 50m there is a small public garden on the right containing one of the town's Alice sculptures?.
- Alternatively, you could go through the gateway and follow a parallel path uphill inside the Castle Grounds, rejoining the tarmac pathway at the top; on this route you could detour up to the base of the Great Tower for a view over the town.
- The pathway comes out onto Castle Street by the March Hare pub. Cross the road carefully and take the pedestrianised Tunsgate opposite. This leads through the Tunsgate Arch? onto the town's High Street, coming out opposite the Guildhall? (with its projecting clock).
- Turn left to go down this broad pedestrianised street. There are several pubs, coffee shops and other refreshment places on the High Street, plus others in the passageways leading off it (for example, Bill's and Coffee Culture in Angel Gate, on the right after 100m).
- To complete the walk, make your way down to the bottom of the High Street. Cross over the main road (Millbrook) and keep ahead across Town Bridge. On the far side turn right onto the riverside path.
- After going under a road turn left up steps. Continue alongside the road as it swings round to the right, then go through an underpass on the left. The station is up ahead, with a Costa Coffee and other shops inside the concourse. Fast trains to London normally leave from Platform 5.
River route (1 km)
Go across the parking area onto a short path beside the main road and cross the footbridge over the Wey Navigation?. Keep right and follow the path past picnic tables to reach the footbridge at Millmead Weir.
If you find your way blocked by fencing you will have to retrace your steps and switch to the town route in [?].
- If possible, cross the footbridge and carry on to Millmead Lock. Unless you want to change course and head towards the town centre, ignore the bridge over the Navigation and turn left to cross the main river on another bridge.
- Turn right onto a street (Millmead), passing the Britannia pub on your left. Later you can either bear right onto a riverside path or stay on Millmead; in the patch of grass between them is one of the town's Alice sculptures?. The riverside path bends around the White House pub to rejoin Millmead by the pedestrianised Town Bridge. Carry on alongside the river.
The most pleasant way to the station is the riverside path in [?], but in 2019 the footbridge across Millmead Weir was washed away by floods and there seems to be no hurry to replace it. As an alternative to simply walking along the main road to the next river crossing (Town Bridge), the suggested town route cuts through the attractive Castle Grounds and comes back down the High Street for a wide choice of refreshment places.
- Head south-west through Chantry Wood to a field on the edge of the escarpment, then go down the hillside to the south-eastern corner of the wood. … … with the station opposite.
- … Turn half-left onto a grassy path going past a couple of trees in the field.
- On the far side go through a metal kissing gate. Ignore the continuation of the path along the hillside but instead veer left across the grass, heading back towards the south-eastern corner of the wood.
- There is a faint grassy path zig-zagging down the hillside, but if you fail to spot this you will soon pick up a clear path heading towards a metal kissing gate at the bottom left-hand corner of the downland. Go back into the woodland through this gate to continue on a path near its bottom edge.
The final stretch is the reverse of the outward route from Chilworth station.
- For the station, fork right off the main path. Go over the New Cut on a footbridge to leave the site on an enclosed path between meadows, later passing an infant school. At the end turn left onto the A248, passing the school entrance and then the car park for the Percy Arms.
The station is just beyond the pub, on the other side of the main road. Trains to Guildford leave from Platform 2, on the far side of the level crossing.
The barrier may come down for a train in either direction and there is no footbridge between the two platforms, so be sure to leave enough time before the train is due.
The suggested route consists of a short stretch through Chantry Wood before dropping down the hillside to leave the wood in its south-eastern corner. In the bluebell season you might like to use the map on the information panel to devise a longer excursion into the middle of the wood.
- Guildford Castle was built soon after the 1066 invasion and used as a royal residence until the mid-14thC, after which it became neglected. The ruins were bought by Guildford Corporation in 1885 and the pleasure gardens opened to the public a few years later. There is a small charge to visit the keep and tower (open Apr–Sep), where there are fine views from the roof.
- Pewley Down was purchased by the philanthropic chairman of the Friary Brewery and donated to the town in 1920 “in thankfulness for the successful conclusion of the war”. It is now a Local Nature Reserve.
- The River Tillingbourne (shown as Tilling Bourne on the OS map) only runs for 18 km from its source at Leith Hill to the River Wey, but its strong and steady flow enabled it to power a good number of gunpowder, paper and flour mills.
- The Chilworth Gunpowder Mills were established in 1626 and manufactured this “damnable invention” (according to William Cobbett in 1822) for nearly 300 years. This extensive site was one of the most important production centres in Britain during this time, employing 600 people at its peak.
- The New Cut was constructed in 1656 to enable punts to transport powder around the site. The small swing bridge next to “Vera's Path” is a relic of the site's tramway.
- In the Incorporating Mills saltpetre, charcoal and sulphur were mixed together, a highly dangerous procedure. There were several fatal explosions over the years, with a huge one in 1760 killing several workers and severely weakening the old St Martha's church on the hill above.
- The Downs Link runs for 59 km, connecting the North Downs Way at St Martha's Hill with the South Downs Way near Steyning. Much of the route is along a disused railway line.
- Chilworth Manor Vineyard was planted in 2014 and produces rosé and sparkling wines from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes. The manor house was built on the site of a former monastery, with the current house dating from the late 17thC.
- Law Brook is a tributary of the River Tillingbourne. Some of its old watercress beds around Ford Farm are now used for fish farming.
- The oak wood sculpture An Image of Albury by Friedel Buecking celebrates “sixty consecutive years of the Albury Show”.
- The ‘old’ Ss Peter and Paul, Albury dates from Saxon times but has been considerably altered; the tower was extended in the 12thC and the chancel, transept and south aisle added later. There is a 15thC wall painting of St Christopher. After Henry Drummond acquired the estate its spire was replaced by a cupola and the south transept converted into a mortuary chapel, designed by Pugin. The church was closed for 80 years but reopened in 1921 for occasional services; it is now maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust.
- The Catholic Apostolic Church was the name given to a new religious movement, inspired by the 19thC teachings of a charismatic Scottish preacher, Edward Irving. Henry Drummond had been one of its founder members and in 1839 built a neo-gothic church for it on his Albury Park estate. He wrote numerous publications in support of its doctrines which were rather uncharitably described as “clear and vigorous, if seldom convincing”.
- Albury Organic Vineyard was planted in 2009 and produces rosé and sparkling wines from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes.
- Silent Pool is fed by underground springs nearby, making its still waters exceptionally clear. The place is said to be haunted by the ghost of a woodcutter's daughter, the legend being that she drowned while trying to escape the ungallant attentions of the future King John.
- The North Downs Way runs for 246 km along the length of the North Downs (with two sections at its eastern end), from Farnham in Surrey to Dover in Kent.
- Inosculation is a natural phenomenon similar to grafting. Where branches or trunks with a thin layer of bark touch, the outer layer may be gradually abraded away and the trees end up growing together. This occurrence – two mature trees more than 10 metres apart – is highly unusual and may have been aided by landscape gardeners many years ago.
- Newlands Corner was the scene of a famous mystery in 1926 when Agatha Christie's car was found abandoned in a pit near the viewpoint. After a nationwide search the crime novelist was discovered eleven days later, staying incognito in a Harrogate hotel. She never explained her action but may have been trying to sabotage her husband's affair with a mistress.
- The village of Albury was originally a mile further east, but from the late 18thC the owners of Albury Park began harassing the villagers into moving to the neighbouring hamlet of Weston Street. The old church was closed and a ‘new’ Ss Peter and Paul built for the parishioners.
- The Pilgrims’ Way is a 192 km route between Winchester and Canterbury, although there is no real evidence that it was used by medieval pilgrims to the shrine of Thomas Becket. The name was added to OS maps by a 19thC surveyor after the legend was embellished by Hilaire Belloc and other writers. Much of the route actually follows an ancient trackway on the southern slopes of the North Downs, linking the narrowest part of the English Channel to the sacred sites of Stonehenge and Avebury.
- Albury Mill has been the site of corn and paper mills and was also the “Upper Works” section of the Gunpowder Mills in the early 20thC. The relocation of Albury village has led to the same name being used at other times for different mills further upstream.
- St Martha-on-the-Hill dates from 1850, an earlier church having collapsed as a result of explosions in the Gunpowder Mills below. Its prominent position on the Pilgrims’ Way suggests that it may have been sited as a beacon for travellers, although it is not an authentic pilgrimage route.
- The 18thC Shalford Mill was one of several flour mills on the Tillingbourne. It closed in 1914 but was saved from demolition and is now managed by the National Trust. Much of its machinery survives but is not in working order.
- Shalford Water Meadows (and Shalford Park) were part of a large estate which became neglected after the owner went bankrupt in 1898. Shalford House was later demolished to make way for a water treatment works. The water meadows began to revert to woodland after farming ceased, but are now being sensitively managed to restore a rich environment of reedbeds and wildflower meadows.
- The Wey-South Path runs for 58 km between Guildford and Houghton Bridge. It follows the route of the River Wey, the River Arun and the canal linking them.
- The footbridge (on the route of the North Downs Way and Pilgrims’ Way) was built in 1983 to replace a ferry crossing, near the site of an ancient ford. The colour of the sand spilling down St Catherine's Hill at this ‘golden ford’ is one of the candidates for the origin of the name ‘Guildford’.
- St Catherine's Chapel was built in the early 14thC as a ‘chapel of ease’ for parishioners living some distance away from Guildford's main parish church. It was abandoned at the end of the Middle Ages.
- The Alice sculptures commemorate Lewis Carroll's link with the town. The author (real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) leased a house in Guildford for his six unmarried sisters after their father's death in 1868, and wrote the second of his Alice stories while staying there a few years later.
- Edwin Russell's sculpture at Millmead shows Alice (with her sister) being distracted by the White Rabbit rushing past at the start of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
- Jeanne Argent's sculpture near the Castle Grounds shows Alice climbing through the mirror at the start of Through the Looking-Glass, and what Alice Found There.
- Tunsgate Arch was built in 1818 to replace a wooden canopy over the cornmarket (Guildford never had a market square). After this trade moved to another part of the town it was used by the Corporation and subsequently rebuilt as a decorative arch. There is an information panel about Guildford's twin town, Freiburg.
- The Guildhall is a Grade Ⅰ listed building, dating from around 1550. It was originally used as a courtroom, then substantially remodelled in 1683 when the projecting clock was erected. It housed the council chamber until the 1974 local government reorganisation.
» Last updated: October 17, 2021