Historic Shere, then a walk through a broad wooded valley, then along a canal to historic Guildford
||15.6 km (9.7 miles), 3 hours 50 minutes. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow 7 hours 30 minutes.
||3 out of 10.
||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.
If you like horses this is a walk for you, as the route passes through several stud farms and a riding school.
The original lunch pub on this walk has closed. Alternatives are now included in these Directions.
With the closure of the Villagers pub the only alternative after Shere is the William IV in Little London, which comes after just 3½ km on the standard walk. This is particularly awkward on a Sunday, because on the current timetable you will reach the pub before noon (or about 2pm if you take the next train on this two-hourly service). In an attempt to remedy this situation, a slightly longer morning section is described below.
A longer morning route through Albury Park to the early lunch pub
The first option takes a loop through Albury Park instead of going along its edge. This takes you past an unusual Catholic Apostolic Church, built for a new religious movement which originated in England in 1832. This is not open to the public, but in the middle of the parkland you can visit an unusual and interesting old Saxon Church. Much of this is very old but it also contains a 19thC 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. After a climb through woodland you rejoin the standard walk route just before lunch. This option adds 2.44 km (1.5 miles) to the walk, so you reach the lunch pub after 6 km.
To shorten the walk
At the double asterisk [**], map point 11, go along the A248, to catch a train back to London from Shalford.
Chinthurst Hill Tower - folly and viewpoint
This is a short afternoon detour to a viewpoint with fine views over the South Downs. It adds 0.6km
A Very Long Walk
For those who like to walk "long", precede this walk with Book 1, Walk 42 - Holmwood to Gomshall, giving an overall walk of some 30.4 km (19 miles).
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 Victoria or 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-ANY ROUTE 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, in Blackheath, closed in 2010. It's future, either as a community pub, a tied pub or a housing development, remains in doubt (2018). That 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. But you should always 'phone ahead as quite often the pub does not serve food on any particular day.
Lunch could also be taken very early into the walk, in Shere, at one of the two excellent pubs in the centre of this village. The White Horse , a Chef and Brewer pub (tel 01483 2021 518), serves food all day from 12 noon. The William Bray (tel 01483 202 275) serves food from 12 noon until 3 pm weekdays, and all day on Sunday.
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. On Sundays you have the choice of several pubs. Two suggested are the White House pub (tel 01483 302 006), close to the river and St Nicholas Church, and The Britannia (tel 01483 572 160) also close to the river.
|| This edition January 2018. Minor changes and route detours added since the 2011 edition of the TO Book: use these on-line Directions.