Adventures on the Surrey Heathlands
Main walk 22.2km (13.8 miles),7 hours walking time: for the whole outing including meals and trains, allow 10 hours 30 minutes
Short walks: Guildford Round Walk: 13.6km (8.5 miles), four hours walking time. Farnham Round Walk: 16.2km (10.1 miles), 5 hours walking time. Guildford to Godalming: 12.1km (7.6 miles), three hours forty five minutes walking time
|Maps||OS Landranger Map No 186. OS Explorer Map No 145|
|Toughness||4 out of 10|
Think Surrey, and you probably think of pretty villages, gentle green pastures, and the country houses of retired stockbrokers. The first part of this walk conforms to that image, but the second, after lunch, takes you into the suprisingly wild and uninhabited Surrey Heathlands - a vast area of woods, sandy grassland and heather-covered moors which at times feels more like southern Spain or Portugal than England.
The lack of habitation in this area means that it was either taken over by the army for exercises or bypassed by the railways, and so to visit it requires a long walk: the afternoon of this walk is 13.9 km (8.7) miles, or four hours thirty minutes walking time, as long in itself as some of the walks in this book: this is thus a walk for a long spring or summer day. The good news, however, is that there is no rush to get to tea: the excellent Bush Hotel in Farnham serves cream teas in a lounge crammed with comfortable sofas well into the evening.
While the best of the heathlands - Puttenham Common in particular - can only be reached by doing the main walk, three shorter options are suggested here. For all these options, see the special sections end of the main text for detailed walk directions.
The Guildford Round Walk does not go near the heaths, but it makes a pleasant afternoon or short day outing from Guildford, with the interesting Watts Gallery and Chapel or Loseley Park as its focus. This route is 13.6km (8.5 miles) or four hours walking time. The section as far as Watts Gallery can also be used as an alternative start for the main walk.
· The New Options document in the menu above offers brief directions for a 5km/3 mile extension of this walk along the river Wey to Godalming.
· For those using the 2004 or 2006 editions of the book, the same document also describes how to get to lunch at the Withies Inn – directions which are included in the 2011 edition and the online version of this walk
The Hog’s Back start is an alternative start from Guildford over the Hog’s Back, with fine views both north and south.
A Farnham Round Walk is possible by combining the early stages of the Farnham to Godalming walk, walk 12 in the original Time Out Book of Country Walks, with the later stages of the main walk here. Though this does not take in the wildest bits of the heath, it offers you a good introduction. This walk is 16.2km (10.1 miles) miles long, 5 hours walking time.
It is also possible to combine either of the two routes described here from Guildford to Watts Gallery with the second half of walk 2, Warnborough to Godalming, in the original Time Out Book of Country Walks, to make a Guildford to Godalming walk of 12.1km (7.5 miles), or three hours forty five minutes walking time
Still a family residence, Loseley Park (tel 01483 304440) was built in 1562 by Sir William More and is considered a fine example of Elizabethan architecture. Its attractions include paintings, tapestries and panelling from Henry VIII's now lost Nonesuch Palace, and a beautifully restored walled garden. The famous Loseley Park ice cream brand also originated here, and is on sale in the house's shop, though the product is actually manufactured elsewhere.
The official way into the house is 600 metres south along the lane crossed at point  in the walk. However, the information staff at the house have advised the author that it is all right to either walk up to the house from the lake, or go through the gate marked PRIVATE at the point marked [*] in the text, provided that the gardens are open to the public that day, and provided that your intention is to visit the house, gardens or tea room. Once inside the grounds, to get to the tea room, follow the signs through a gateway in the wall to the left hand (eastern) end of the main façade of the house. The shop and ticket kiosk for the house and walled garden are also through this gateway.
Watts Gallery, Down Lane, Compton (tel 01483 810235) exhibits the paintings of 19th century painter and sculptor George Frederick Watts, who has - perhaps somewhat fancifully - been described as "England's Michelangelo". Contemporary with the pre-Raphaelites, the paintings have a similar character to them. Part of the pleasure of the gallery is the cosy and unpretentious atmosphere of the place. As Nicholas Albery, creator of the original Time Out Book of Country Walks commented: "This is how all galleries should be: wonderfully intimate, eccentric and on a human scale". The gallery is open 11am to 3pm Tuesday to Friday, 11am to 5pm Saturday, and 1pm to 5pm Sunday and bank holidays..
Watts Chapel was the project of Watt's second wife, Mary, who designed this Celtic, Byzantine art nouveau masterpiece without architectural or building experience. Much of the work was done by local villagers. Every interior surface is covered with what Mrs Watts called "glorified wallpaper" - angels and seraphs made out of gesso, a material which her husband used when rheumatism meant he could no longer handle wet clay. The painter himself is buried in the cloister behind the chapel
The Surrey Heaths are not as natural as they look, nor as extensive as they used to be. Based on the sandy Greensand soils, they are in fact an ancient man-made habitat created by rural communities over many generations of grazing and wood cutting. With the decline in the grazing of animals on the heaths in the last century, the woodland has gradually started to re-occupy the heaths. Puttenham Common is now actively managed to preserve its unique habitat for plants and animals.
Four trains an hour run between London Waterloo and Guildford (the fastest take 38 minutes). Buy a day return to Farnham, which is also valid for the outward journey via Guildford. Take the train nearest to 9.40am from Waterloo to get to lunch at the right time. If you are doing the Guildford Circular walk, take the train nearest to 10.40am. From Farnham two trains an hour run back to Waterloo (one an hour on Sundays: journey time 51-59 minutes).
By car: there is a large car park next to Guildford station and other parking options in the town centre. You can return to Guildford from Farnham by changing trains at Woking, from where there are several trains an hour to Guildford.
On the main walk, an early lunch can be had at the tea shop at Watts Gallery, 5.5km (3.4 miles) into the walk, which is open daily 10.30am to 5.30pm Tuesday to Sunday and bank holidays. This serves soups, sandwiches, salads, a hot food special and toasties until 3pm, and tea and cakes all day.
The recommended lunch stop, however, is the Good Intent pub in Puttenham (tel 01483 810387) 8.3km (5.2 miles) into the walk, which serves food from 12pm to 2pm Monday to Saturday and 3pm on Sundays. Its short but wholesome menu combines British favourites like bangers and mash with more exotic fare such as curries. It has a small garden.
If the Good Intent is full, or you think you may arrive at it too late, an alternative about 10 minutes earlier on the walk is the Harvester pub on the B3000 about 300 metres before you get to the Good Intent..
If you are planning to have a picnic, the best place is on Puttenham Common at the place indicated between points  and  in the walk directions. Loseley Park, early in the main walk also has a picnic area by its lake
On the Guildford Round Walk, the tea shop at Watts Gallery is a possible lunch stop, or the 2011 edition of the book also describes how to get to the Withies Inn in Compton (01483 421158), an excellent country pub, which serves food till 2.30pm daily. For those with the 2004 or 2006 editions, the New Options document in the menu at the top of this page gives directions to this pub. For a picnic, the benches by the lake at Loseley Park is probably the best option.
On the Farnham Round Walk, if you choose the longer option, you can have lunch in either of the two pubs mentioned for walk 12 in the the original Time Out Book of Country Walks. Picnic spots include by the river just beyond Moor Park House, or the green of the village of Tilsbury. Another option is the rough heath of Crooksbury Common
The most obvious tea option for the main walk and Farnham Round Walk is at The Mulberry, a pleasant modernised pub just before Farnham station, which is open all afternoon, but on Friday and Saturday nights it is a bit of a party pub. The position of quieter pub options on the other side of the A31 are indicated in the walk directions.
If you are prepared to do a short diversion into central Farnham, the Bush Hotel about 300 metres down the main road is a good option, or by turning left at the major road intersection just after the hotel you come to Farnham's picturesque town centre, which has other tea and pub options and is worth a visit in its own right.
On the Guildford Round Walk, the courtyard tea room at Loseley Park makes an excellent tea stop, but is only open from May to September (see History for opening times and directions on how to reach the house from the walk routes). Otherwise Guildford has various options, of which the nicest is the self-service restaurant at Debenhams, which has an excellent selection of cakes and an outside terrace overlooking the River Wey.
An earlier version of this walk was published in Time Out Country Walks near London volume 2. We now recommend using this online version as the book is now dated.
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Out (not a train station)
Back (not a train station)
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Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk