On the Pilgrims Way through the North Downs
Main walk: 17.1km (10.7 miles)
a) Short walk to Gomshall 10.9km (6.8 miles)
b) Short walk to Chilworth 6.4km (4.0 miles)
c) Longer route to Gomshall 19.0km (11.8 miles)
d) Ending at Boxhill station 22.4km (13.9 miles)
f) Gomshall Circular 8.5km (5.3 miles)
Gomshall to Boxhill station 12.4km (7.7 miles)
|Maps||OS Landranger Maps No 186 & 187. OS Explorer Map 145|
|Toughness||5 out of 10|
This walk explores the lovely ridges and valleys leading eastwards from Guildford - the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It starts with a short steep climb out of Guildford which leads straight to the dramatic viewpoint of Pewley Down. Then it joins the North Downs Way to climb to the hilltop church of St Martha-on-the-Hill. From there the route passes through follows the Pilgrims Way along the foot of the Downs to lunch in the pretty village of Shere. Climbing up onto the downland again and following first a wooded section and then a more open one, it finally descends to the valley again where you have a choice of two village tea rooms and a riverside pub to refresh you at the end of your walk.
This is a good walk at any time of year, with the sandy soils around St Martha's Hill providing a relief from mud in winter, and some fine bluebell woods in early spring. In summer the mixture of open country and woodland provides relief from the heat and the walk is also a good one for autumn colours.
Directions for these options are all included at the relevant place in the revised walk directions on this website (see DOWNLOAD WALK button above)
Starting in Gomshall
Only a romantic ruined keep remains of Guildford Castle today, but under Henry III it was a key royal residence. After Henry's death in 1272, the castle fell into disuse, and were eventually bought in 1611 by Francis Carter, a local worthy, who used it as a private house. The ruins were bought in 1885 by Guildford Borough Council. It is now a park, open during daylight hours. From the top of the keep there is a fine view of the Wey river valley.
What looks like a trigonometry point on Pewley Down just outside Guildford in fact commerates its gift to posterity. It was bought it in 1920 by the Friary Brewery Company in memory of those who died in the First World War. Many of those unfortunates doubtless dreamed of views such as this during their ordeal in the trenches.
Positioned atop a wooded hill, St Martha on the Hill is perhaps one of the most romantically situated churches in the country. Of Norman origin, though rebuilt in 1850, it was originally a stop on the Pilgrims Way. This route ran from London and Winchester to Canterbury, and carried visitors to the shrine of Thomas à Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury murdered by four knights of Henry II, and later canonised. Though in places the route followed what is now the North Downs Way, in others it ran just below the Downs, as it does in the section of this walk between St Martha on the Hill and Shere. The church apparently had a female hermit, who lived on alms from pilgrims. There is evidence of Bronze Age settlement on the hill, so as a place of worship it may well be pre-Christian. The ashes of the actress Yvonne Arnaud are scattered nearby, as a memorial to the right of the exit gate attests.
Shere is often cited as Surrey's prettiest village, Its Church of St James, built in 1190 is a rare example of a church completely in the Early English Transitional Style. In 1329 the anchoress Christine Carpenter (an anchoress was a kind of halfway house between a lay woman and a nun) was enclosed in a cell in the north wall of the church, receiving food through a grating on the outside wall. After three years she returned to the world, but then petitioned to be re-enclosed. The bishop consented. You can still see where her cell was situated to the left of the altar.
Shere also has a Museum (tel 01483 203245) in Shere Lane, which is open Sunday to Friday, 1.00 to 5.00 pm. It is rather pleasant to wander the village, with its pretty old houses and quaint shops.
Four trains an hour run between London Waterloo and Guildford (the fastest take 38 minutes). Take the train nearest to 9.30am from Waterloo to get to lunch at the right time. Trains back from Gomshall to Guildford run every two hours (journey time 15 minutes). Buy a day return to Gomshall, making sure your ticket is valid for ‘any permitted’ route, as a cheaper ticket is sold for return in the opposite direction from Gomshall, changing at Redhill, which is an alternative way to get back to London. If you miss the train, buses go fairly regularly (Mon-Sat only; for information, call 0871 200 2233) to Guildford from outside the Compasses Inn.
By car: park at Guildford station and make your way back by train or bus.
The White Horse pub in Shere (tel 01483 202518), 9.2km (5.7 miles) into the walk is arambling ancient inn has a small but charming garden out the back, and though busy at weekends is well run and efficient at serving meals from a wide menu.
Forty metres further up the road is the William Bray (01483 202044, http://www.thewilliambray.co.uk/) , which has been refurbished as a gastro pub. It serves food noon-3pm, 6-9.30pm Mon-Sat; noon-8pm Sun.
An alternative to both pubs is The Dabbling Duck tea room and restaurant in Shere (tel 01483 205791), which is open from 9.30am to 5pm for sandwiches and cakes, though hot lunch items are only available from noon to 3.00pm. In season, it has both inside and outside tables.
Shere Post Office also sells a full range of picnic items and is open till 10 pm daily.
In Gomshall, 1.8km (1.1 miles) beyond Shere, the Compasses Inn (see Tea section below for details) is another possible lunch option,
If you are ending the walk in Chilworth, the Percy Arms (tel 01483 561765) on the main road not far from the station is a possible lunch option
The Abinger Hammer Tearooms are the recommended tea stop, just by the post office - for details see the walk directions
Otherwise, the Compasses Inn in Gomshall (tel 01483 203060) serves hot drinks, snacks and meals every day until 9pm, and which has a riverside garden.
Tillings Tea Room, 55 Station Road, Gomshall, GU5 9NP (01483 202 214) is a large and popular café on the main road between the station and the Compasses Inn in Gomshall. It is open until 5.30pm daily.
If you are doing the shorter walk, option a) as an afternoon excursion, you can also have tea in Shere at The Dabbling Duck tea room in Shere (see Lunch section above for details)
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.
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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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