The Greensand Way : Leith Hill and Tower, Holmbury Hill, Pitch Hill and the Hurt Wood
Main walk: 18.7km (11.6 miles)
Holmwood to Guildford: 28km (17.4 miles)
|Toughness||8 out of 10: several big climbs|
|OS Maps||Explorer 145 and 146, Landranger 186 and 187|
This walk mainly follows a wooded section of the Greensand Way, taking in several magnificent viewpoints. It starts with a climb from Holmwood station to Leigh Hill, the highest hill in Southern England, from where, on a clear day, you can see both London and the South Downs. It is here that you pick up the Greensand Way and follow it down into the valley, where the village of Holmbury St Mary offers two pub options for lunch.
There is then a stiff climb up onto the Hurtwood ("hurt" being an old name either for blueberries or for a gorse and broom-covered common: sources disagree) and to the fine viewpoint of Holmbury Hill. Another descent into a green valley and a climb up the other side brings you to Pitch Hill, another fine viewpoint, from, where one can see Leith Hill to the east and Black Down above Haslemere to the west.
There is then a gentle and rambling descent down to Shamley Green, passing an interesting curved shelter on the way. Finally one emerges into green fields and comes down to a pub with a pleasant garden and outside tables conveniently situated on the village green next to the bus stop, from where frequent buses go into Guildford.
Passing through fine beech and sweet chestnut woods, this walk provides particularly good leaf colour in late autumn. In summer it combines both plenty of shade and some fine views, and this would be the best time to see the heathland plants of Holmbury Hill. Like all woodland routes, it has the potential to be muddy in winter, though since the soils of the Greensand Ridge are sandy, this might be reduced.
This is a map-led walk - ie no written directions are provided, though there is a GPX file - see button menu above. For written directions for the climb up onto Leith Hill you could use the Holmwood to Gomshall walk on this site (book 1, walk 42) but note that it has a slightly different start to the one used in the GPX file for this walk. From Leith Hill onwards you are following the Greensand Way which is well waymarked with arrows on posts. This is also a popular route and other walkers would doubtless be able to advise you if you got lost.
Note that this section of the Greensand Way is quite popular with mountain bikers, who do not always cycle with the care and attention that pedestrians might like. Take care and remind any miscreants that this is a mixed use path, not a cycle superhighway.
There are no trains to Holmwood on Sundays and some bank holidays. On that day, you could use the start of Gomshall to Dorking walk (SWC walk 147) as far as Holmbury Hill. You could then descend to Holmbury St Mary for lunch and do the second half of this walk in the afternoon, retracing your steps up onto Holmbury Hill.
A supplementary GPX file is provided extending the walk to finish in Guildford, adding another 9.3km (5.8 miles) and giving a total walk length of 28km (17.4 miles).
Take the train nearest to 9.30am from Victoria Station to Holmwood. Journey time 55 minutes. Note that there is no service on this line on Sundays and some bank holidays.
Buy a day return to Gomshall, making sure it is "any permitted" and not via Redhill only. This ticket is valid for travel outward to Dorking and back from Guildford. Holmwood is one stop beyond Dorking so technically you need to add a single from Dorking to Holmwood, but since Gomshall is also a stop beyond Dorking, ticket inspectors may waive this requirement.
At the end of the walk you need to get Arriva Kent and Surrey bus number 53 or 63 from Shamley Green (the stop across the road from the Red Lion pub) to Guildford. These go three times an hour until around 7pm Monday to Saturday and hourly after that until 11pm. On Sundays the buses are hourly until 11pm. Trains from Guildford to Waterloo go every 15 minutes or so and take 40 minutes: be sure to take the fast trains stopping at Woking and Clapham Junction only, not the stopping train via Clandon.
There is a National Trust-run tea kiosk on the summit of Leith Hill, 4.9km (2.8 miles) into the walk, which is now open daily, year round.
In Holmbury St Mary, 7.9km (4.9 miles) into the walk, the King's Head (01306 730282) is the most conveniently sited pub but is fairly small and is probably not suitable for groups. It has a fairly small menu of pub favourites and a garden.
450 metres up the main road through Holmbury St Mary, the Royal Oak (01306 898010) looks to have a more extensive menu than the Kings Head.
|Tea||The Red Lion in Shamley Green (01483 892202) is well-situated on the village green on the opposite side of the road to the bus stop for Guildford. It has plenty of tables both outside and in. It is open all afternoon for drinks - including tea and coffee - and serves food from 6.30pm.|
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Out (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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