2013 - August - 04

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Gomshall to Guildford

Dear Visitor, I hope you enjoy browsing through this description of one of our CLOG walks in the Home Counties. I have arranged the narrative largely to follow the chronological order of events. A walk, of course, is not only a matter of meeting like-minded colleagues as you get your vital physical exercise traversing a nice tract of countryside. There is also the aspect of seeing how history has shaped that countryside and with it the English nation. In this web page I have tried, in a modest way, to combine all these ingredients, and I hope you enjoy the result. Once again, happy browsing!

Our Walk

John's (John-E, that is!) nice Sunday walk of about 10 miles took us through the varied scenery at the foot of the North Downs, where the Tillingbourne has its final fling before flowing into the River Wey through Guildford. We started in Gomshall, where we saw part of the "Prudential Cycle Run", commemorating the 2012 Olymics. We then headed to the picture postcard village of Shere with its interesting old church dating from 1190. From thence we walked through Albury Park, with its intriguingly huge trees, and had a pleasant hour at the "King William IV" pub, where the King proudly looks down on the Sunday visitors from his nicely painted sign. Suitably refreshed, we set off via Brook to Blackheath with its typical Surrey mix of sand, ferns and pines. We passed "The Villagers Pub", which is awaiting new owners, and then made our way on to the tow-path of the Wey Navigation, via the trackbed of the long closed railway line to Cranleigh and Horsham. This was a picturesque approach to the heart of Guildford, and to tea at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. We benefitted from John's skills - not only navigational but in bringing the good walking weather. Thanks John for a nice day.

Ferns, sand and pine characterise the walker's view of the Surrey landscape.

Length and Heights

Here you will find what I think have turned out to be some quite interesting facts and figures about our walk. However, if you are not so much for the quantitative aspects of existence, you may wish to jump straight to the main narrative and pictures.

The length of our walk, as measured on www.bikehike.co.uk was 10.2 miles (16.4 Km) as against the 9.2 miles quoted by (foot01) for the equivalent walk. The difference may be due to mis-measurement on my part, but a further interesting differerence is that I have quoted my approach to measurement, whereas Time Out® (foot01) has not. This is not the place to delve into technicalities, only to say that if you can shed light on this, please do email me via this contact address.

Outline Map of Our Walk

Our walk, whilst beneficial to, was not too taxing on, our physical well being. Total ascent and descent were 151 metres (495 feet) and 209 metres (686 feet) respectively, with maximum and minimum elevations weighing in at 118 metres (387 feet) and 32 metres (105 feet) above mean sea level respectively. The highest points were in the Blackheath area, and, as might be expected, the lowest points were on the towpath of the Wey Navigation.

Heights versus Distance


Alighting at Gomshall Station, with its shortish staggered platforms and no footbridge, we felt we were in the depths of the countryside, the impression heightened by the rural aspect to the north of the station. However, the A25, just to the south-west of the station, was a hive of activity, for it was the day of the "Prudential Cycle Run". Cyclists, and more cyclists, just kept coming from the west and disappearing under the railway bridge, under the watchful eye of stewards. We managed to find a rare gap in the hurrying swarm of two-wheelers to continue our walk towards Shere.

The railway line from Reading via Guildford to Redhill and beyond, has become an important link to Gatwick Airport as well as a commuter connection. Sorry, Dr Beeching, I know you dearly wanted to close this line. The small staggered platforms at Gomshall, ...

... together with the peaceful landscape on the north side of the station,
seem to emphasise the rural aspect.

However, life is all go today in Gomshall, for it is the Prudential Cycle Run to celebrate the first anniversary of the 2012 Olympics. Here they come, more and more and more, ...

... and under the railway arch they zoom.

As we leave Gomshall, a time-honoured house with interesting timbers bids us goodbye.


Shere is a picture-postcard village with an interesting church to match. The church - built in 1190, 153 years before the birth of Chaucer - looked a bit plain at first sight, but entering it and looking at the architecture and monuments, brought history to light. Of course, it was not just the monuments per se, picturesque as some undoubtely were. It was what we could read into them. Country walks are like that - not just good exercise and nice company, but also a pleasant way of learning something about our history. After a short while soaking up the atmosphere engendered by this venerable place of worship, we made our way to the open expanse of Albury Park, and thence on to the "King William IV" and lunch.

Churches were often built on high ground to show that their function was not only religious, but also in some way to serve a defensive purpose. Shere church, however, nestles in a wooded hollow, as if to indicate the site of an early mediaeval space station.

Shere church shows the first signs of a break with the well known rounded Norman arch. Arches had become pointed as of 1190, when, according to records, this church was built.

This knight would probably like to speak about his deeds of daring and chivalry. No doubt well known by his contemporaries, his identity is lost to us new-age Cloggies.

This monument is more clearly worded, and being inside the church and nicely executed with painted crest, it most probably refers to people of substance. Indeed, the wife was the daughter of a rector. An heir is mentioned; despite religious fervour, property was important in the 18th century - as it can be today. This husband and wife had life spans of 52 and 79 years respectively - not bad innings in those days and perhaps a sign of reasonably comfortable life-styles!

Shere church basks quietly in the middday sun, as it has for centuries.

Moss-covered gravestones of those deemed not so important as to have their monument inside the church, gradually accumulated over the centuries outside the church. (Wordsworth's well-weathered outside grave stone in Grasmere comes to mind.)

The memorial outside the church provided a "market-cross" appearance
as we head for down-town Shere.

This is the centre of Shere, but this is not a Cloggie, but rather, a local who seems to have done some Sunday morning shopping. The pub in the left background used to do a well-kept Addlestone's cider.

As we leave Shere for the open expanse of Albury Park, we are greeted by this half-timbered cottage, complete with a bit of an "English Country Garden".

King William IV & Blackheath

The 16th Century listed King William IV pub in Albury was a nice lunch stop of an hour or so. Suitably refreshed we rose to the slightly higher ground of Blackheath, all the while savouring the countryside - sand, ferns and pines - that is an iconic hallmark of the Surrey landscape. At the western end of Blackheath we came across "The Villagers" pub, a watering hole "free of tie", temporarily closed while awaiting its new owners. It could merit a future visit in its reincarnated form.

The King William IV pub gives us a chance for a bit of a natter about life, politics (!!) and everything, to the accompaniment of a pint or two. The more seasoned diners amongst us, head for within, for a more copious sunday lunch.

All the time, we are under the watchful eye of the monarch himself, in his military pose.

Here is another view of the pub, nestling in the greenery of the Surrey countryside in summer. (Incidentally, William IV was born in 1765, acceded to the British throne in 1830 at the age of 64, and died in 1837. Having said all that, his connection with this part of the world is unclear!).

We head towards Blackheath ...

... through a typical Surrey blend of sand, ferns and pine.

Here's some more open Surrey landscape as we get close to "The Villagers" pub.

These three villagers will have something to talk about, once "The Villagers" (a public house "free of tie") reopens - if and when it can attract new owners.

This nice old house - at least it looks old - greets us as we head towards the "Great Tangley Manor House", itself an interesting place, a view of which may perhaps feature on a future walk.

The Wey to Guildford

There is no spelling mistake in the heading, for it was the towpath of the Wey Navigation that brought us, in a picturesque fashion, into the heart of Guildford, where tea at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre beckoned for some of us. Before that, it was two erstwhile traffic arteries, the trackbed of an old cross-country railway line and a small section of the even older Wey & Arun Navigation, that guided us from the Downs Link to the still very much in business Wey Navigation.

At the T-Junction, which the Downs Link makes with the footpath to Shalford and Chilworth, we finally leave the higher ground we have "occupied" since Gomshall. Here is the north-easterly view we enjoyed at this spot. Summer is in full swing!

The railway from Guildford to Cranleigh and Horsham provided a quick link for commuters and many others into Guildford. 15 minutes from Cranleigh to Guildford by train. But then, in Beeching's time it was thought that buses would be a viable alternative. Not so. Cars, with their challenges of urban traffic jams and heavy reliance on imported fuel, became the "practical" and often enforced (by circumstances) choice for rural folk.

Just as some closed railway lines have reopened as part of the heritage and tourist scene, so navigations, such as the Wey Navigation we saw here, have for many become an essential ingredient of a leisured Sunday afternoon.

Messing around in boats. What could be more relaxing?

Here we are almost in Guildford. It's busy on the navigation today.


John, Many Thanks again for suggesting and leading this walk in such a scenically attractive area so close to London. Your skills at arranging good walking weather - not too hot, yet also some sunshine - were also much appreciated!

This area, south and south-east of Guildford, has a lot to offer, with the Pilgrims' Way, the North Downs Way and Leith Hill as interesting ingredients for possible future walks, and Loseley House and Great Tangley Manor House perhaps providing some historical flavour.


Here you will find one or more footnotes containing - hopefully relevant - references and/or comments that might otherwise billow out of control in the main text. Items raised here relate (1) to distance measurement and (2) to the contents and details of a relevant Time Out® Guide.

  1. Time Out® Guide. The version to which I refer is: Time Out Country Walks, Volume 1, 52 Walks within Easy Reach of London, Published by Ebury, London 2005. ISBN 978-1-904978-88-6.