London Green Belt Way  

[Home[Route GBW] [GBW 1] [GBW 2] [GBW 3] [GBW 4] [GBW 5] [GBW 6] [GBW 7] [GBW 8] [GBW 9] [GBW 10] [GBW 11] [GBW 12]

 [GBW 13] [GBW 14] [GBW 15] [GBW 16] [GBW 17] [GBW 18] [GBW 19] [GBW 20] [GBW 21] [GBW 22] [FullRoute] [Linking Paths]

Stage 18 - Tatsfield  to  Merstham  (11.05 miles)

Start: Grid Reference TQ4130856820  Post Code TN16 2AG  StreetMap

If you just want to print out the "Route" instructions of stage 18 of this walk, without all the blurb on the website, you can download this as a Word Docx by clicking on the link.


The route is undulating and hilly at times. In the main we follow the Pilgrims and North Downs Ways, but with a few diversions. Expect a few good climbs and one of the most impressive descents of the whole walk. Along the route you'll encounter: dark secrets; stately homes; Roman roads; ancient Celtic Temples; one of the UK's largest vineyards; the highest point on the North Downs Ridge; some great views to the north over London and south across Surrey and the Weald; the odd helicopter parked in front gardens; relics from world wars; our industrial past and great storms.

The start is from Westmore Green with its central pond and surrounded pleasant buildings including the Ye Old Ship pub, the village hall, the Old Bakery and many more.

Start on the small green next to Ship Hill, just in front of the Ye Old Ship Pub and next to the horse trough. Follow the footpath west to the road and cross over to Westmore Green. Stay along the southern edge of the green keeping Ship Hill to your LHS and the pond to your RHS. After 170 yards and at a T-junction, turn left to cross over Approach Road and then right along the LHS of the road (there is a footpath along the verge and now going south-west).

After 500 yards (at Furze Corner) and where the road turns left, turn right to cross over the road onto a lane (by a bus stop) and go onto a footpath (fingerpost) to the right of a set of wooden gates.

Tatsfield Cricket Club hides to the right where we join the footpath. Until recently the entrance to Beaver Water World & Reptile Zoo is on the right 200 yards further south along Approach Road. The Zoo started in 1980, after an Indian Python was rescued by a local pest control officer. Since then it has grown and is now a rescue centre for abandoned reptiles and other animals. Over time it has become a major breeding centre and doubles as a tourist attraction, with the profits used to care for the animals. The zoo had to move in late 2017. 

Follow the footpath for 200 yards, when it opens out into a large crop field. Veer slightly right to follow a footpath directly west across the field. After 400 yards the path comes out, by a fingerpost, onto a road (Beddlestead Lane). Turn left along the lane and now going south.

The 200 yards along the enclosed footpath before the field are in the southern tip of the London Borough of Bromley as it impinges into Surrey. The boundaries are marked by Approach Road going south from Furze Corner, and by the hedgerow as we enter the field. This hedgerow also marks the course of the old London to Lewes Roman Road. The route of old road continues south along the field boundary and behind Beaver Water World. After 300 yards its course turns eastwards to cross Approach Road and for about half a mile along the southern boundary of Park Wood Golf Club following the escarpment of the North Downs to Clarks Lane. It then turns south again and descends to cross the M25 at Clacket Lane Services. The course of the road can be picked up again on maps less than a mile south of the services. The Roman Road forms most of the parish boundary between Tatsfield and Titsey and further north a part of the boundary between London and Surrey.

On turning onto Beddlestead Lane the fields in front are planted with mobile phone masts and give the obvious statement that this area is one of the highest places along the Surrey Hills. There presence here record and relay calls and texts through the surrounding airways.

To the right after another 0.25 miles (and at 1 mile into the route) is a large metal gate blocking the access to a tall metal mast and the driveway to something more substantial hidden in the woods behind it. According to some conspiracy theorists, Pitchers Wood hides a sinister secret. Apparently, this is (or was) Tatsfield Receiving Station. It was established in 1929 by the BBC to monitor domestic radio broadcasts. During World War II it listened into German propaganda broadcasts from Mainland Europe and locating their positions. This work continued through the Cold War, this time monitoring communist Eastern Europe and in 1957 was the first site in the UK to pick up broadcasts from the Soviet satellites. In the mid-1950s the station was involved in the first trans-Atlantic TV broadcast by the BBC. From 1960 it was used to pick up unauthorised broadcasts from new pirate radio stations. Today, most of the buildings have been demolished, BT have a mask on it. You can read more at Wikipedia and at The Time Chamber. The latter has a link to many old photos of the site.

In a further 300 yards at a T-junction with Clarks Lane, turn left for just a few yards, then turn right to cross over road onto way-marked path. Follow this downhill between trees. After 130 yards turn right at a fork in paths to join the North Downs Way (NDW). For the next 9.2 miles (apart from a small diversion at 6 miles) we follow the NDW to just before Merstham - it is waymarked by acorn signs and fingerposts.

Our route diverted from the North Downs Way late on the previous stage and has re-joined it early on this stage. It means we take a less direct route between these two points, but it also means we take a much more interesting and varied route. At 6 miles into the route, we do take another "minor" diversion from the North Downs Way, but it is for a good reason and you can read why later. 

Just to the left of where we rejoin the North Downs Way there is a gap in the trees with good views looking down over Titsey Park.

The path soon descends some steps, at the bottom turns right to follow the NDW as it climbs and runs parallel to a road (B269, Titsey Hill) on our LHS. After 800 yards, where the footpath comes down to the road, cross straight over and turn right for a short distance. Immediately past the roundabout turn left and bear left past a small parking area and past a metal gate. Follow the North Downs Way downhill along a lane (Pitchfont Lane) into Titsey Park.

Where we cross the B269, the area surrounding is named Botley Hill. Just off the course, 350 yards north along the B269 (Croydon Road), is Botley Hill Farmhouse. This is an old converted 15th Century farmhouse, originally owned by Henry VIII, with a reputation for good food and real ale from the on-site Titsey Brewing Co. There are also two shepherd's huts used for bed & breakfast and they provide guides for local walks.

The farmhouse became a pub in 1994 and claims to be the highest in South East England. Botley Hill (885 feet) is the highest area on the North Downs and the third highest in Surrey after Leith Hill (965 feet) and Gibbet Hill (892 feet). The exact position of the trig point is thought to be at the site of a water tower a few hundred yards north of The Ridge and just over half a mile west of the junction. Botley Hill is listed as one of the 15 Marilyns of South East England - a Marilyn is a mountain or hill with a relative height of at least 150 meters (492 feet). The name was ironically coined to fit in with the name for a Scottish Mountain with a height of 3,000 feet or more - a Munro.

According to British History Online, the first mention of Titsey was in 962AD during the time of King Edward the Confessor. However, there was a settlement here back to at least Roman Times. In the Domesday Book of 1086, Titsey appears as Ticesei when it was held by Hamio, Sheriff of Kent. Its assets were recorded as two hides of land, one church and nine ploughs. Today, Titsey Parish covers an area of just under 2,000 acres and has approximately the same number of inhaitants as almost 1,000 years ago. The old London to Lewes Roman Road still forms part of the parish boundary. 

The present Titsey Estate dates back to 1534 when huge amounts of land in the parish and surrounding areas was bought by John Gresham (1495 - 1556). He built the large Elizabethan manor house of Titsey Place, which was to be his main home for the rest of his life. He was born in Holt in Norfolk, into a family descended from a Norman Knight who came over with William the Conqueror. He moved to London at a young age and after time became a merchant and financier. He worked for Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey, and Thomas Cromwell and made his fortune by dealing in trade from abroad, especially Russia and Europe. From 1527 - 1550 he was member of the Royal Household. In 1537 - 1538, he was Sheriff of London & Middlesex and was knighted by the king. Sir John Gresham became Lord Mayor of London in 1547. He died on 23rd October 1556 and his remains were entombed in the Church of Michael Bassishaw in the City of London. The year before he died, he founded Gresham's School at his birthplace in Holt. He endowed the school with lands, plus a bursary held in trust by the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, who continue to be the trustees of the school to this day.

The Titsey Estate passed down through generations of the Gresham family. During the English Civil War, the family supported King Charles I and as a consequence, in 1643 the house and lands at Titsey were commandeered by the Parliamentarians, but were returned to the family by Charles II at the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.

In the early 18th Century the ownership of the estate passed to Marmaduke Gresham. He was an extravagant spendrift who acquired many debts and by his death in 1742 the house at Titsey fallen into disrepair. His oldest son and heir, Charles Gresham, drowned at sea in 1750 and the estate passed onto Charles' younger brother John, later to be the second Sir John Gresham. He restored the family's fortune, but because of the dilapidated state of the great house, he demolished most of it and built a smaller house on the site in 1775. This still stands and forms what is the nucleus of the current Titsey Place. At the same time, he also moved the Church of St James and its contents a couple of hundred yards east to beside the junction of Titsey Hill and Pilgrims Way, as it obscured his view of the park from the house.

Sir John left an only daughter, Katherine, she was the last of the Greshams, and on marrying William Leveson Gower the family name changed. The estate passed through generations of the Leveson Gowers until the last two members of the family, Richard and Thomas Leveson Gower. Both being bachelors and with no immediate family, in 1979 they set up a charitable trust named the Titsey Foundation which after their death would preserve the estate for public benefit. Thomas died in 1992 and was the last of the family. Since then the trust has looked after the estate, with the house and grounds now open to the public. Although much smaller than its original size Titsey is still one of the largest surviving historical estates in Surrey. To watch a video tour of the gardens an aerial view of the house and grounds see link.

The surroundings at Titsey Place, as seen today, are largely the work of William and Granville Leveson Gower in the 19th Century. They planted the park and laid out the gardens. William was responsible for the hillside beech plantation, which covers 210 acres and overlooks the park from the slopes of the North Downs. In 1860, Granville Leveson commissioned architect J L Pearson to rebuild the church. This was completed the following year and sits on the same site today. Although small, the Church of St James the Greater contains many monuments to the Gresham and the Leveson Gower families.

If you make time to visit Titsey Park, there is much to see here. The house and its interior are magnificent with many portraits of the family and paintings by Reynolds and Canaletto. The grounds include a ha-ha, a rose garden, a walked kitchen garden, lakes, springs and a temple. Evidence of Neolithic and Roman settlements, plus an ancient Celtic Temple have been unearthed here. Titsey Roman Villa was at the south west of the park by a stream, near to the source of the River Eden, which rises from a spring in the park. As well as the London to Lewes Roman Road, which forms part of the parish boundary an even older track "The North Downs Ridgeway" passes through the estate as does the Pilgrims Way the North Downs Way and the Vanguard Way. 

The Titsey Plantation built on the chalky slopes of the North Downs, has many miles of footpaths running through the woods and is open to the public all year around.

An interesting personal story by a lady who lived at Glebelands in Titsey on the "Here and There with Pat and Bob website" gives some more information on the area, a video and what appears to be an unsolved mystery. (link disappears at times but the video is also at YouTube).

Follow Pitchfont Lane downhill for 0.44 miles, then at a junction of paths / ways turn right up some steps and through a wooden kissing-gate. Continue straight on (west) on a footpath along the top edge of a field and with a wood (Titsey Plantation) to the RHS (at 2.2 miles).

On Pitchfont Lane, to the right and shortly before the steps is a gate. If you take the short diversion through the gate, the path leads to a wonderful viewpoint, from where you can look down over the house and grounds of the estate. 

After 200 yards cross go through another kissing-gate and continue straight on along the top edge of a second field, keeping the woods to your RHS.

On walking along the edge of the field, you will pass a Meridian Marker. This indicates we have once again crossed the Prime Meridian on our long distance walk around London.

After another half a mile, and at the north-westerly corner of the field, exit the field, by a fingerpost, onto an enclosed path which turns right and uphill.

We have now left the Titsey Estate and for the next 50 yards we have also joined up with The Vanguard Way, a 66 mile route joining the London suburb of East Croydon to the south coast at Newhaven. It was put together by the London based Vanguards Club and formally launched on 3rd May 1981. The route takes in the North Downs, Greensand Hills, High Weald, Ashdown Forest, South Downs and finally a short but spectacular excerpt of the Sussex Heritage Coast. You can read more about The Vanguard Way by following the link to the wonderful website set up by the rambling club.

At this point we also join The Greensand Way for these 50 yards. It is another long-distance path following the Greensand Ridge, Surrey Hills and Chart Hills from Haslemere in Surrey to Hamstreet in Kent. It is partly waymarked and 108 miles long. 

After 25 yards go through a metal kissing gate and onto National Trust land at Oxted Downs. Follow the path left along the Down, now going almost due west, with a wire fence away to your LHS. 

After a short distance The Vanguard Way and The Greensand Way turn right and leave our route. Continue straight on for 450 yards to a wood.

There are some great views, to the south from the path, and although you can watch the traffic on the M25 speeding past below, it seems like a different world.

On approaching the wood veer left, signed North Downs Way, on a track and gradually downhill, keeping the wood to your RHS. 

At the junction of paths there is a three-way fingerpost to help you on your way, plus a bench for a rest and to sit and enjoy the view.

After just over 100 yards turn right, through a metal kissing-gate, and soon on to a set of steps which lead down to a road (Chalkpit Lane, at 3.15 miles).

Turn right and uphill along the road for 50 yards, then shortly before reaching some houses, turn left onto a path (signed North Downs Way).

Soon the path passes through a metal kissing-gate and opens out with a field to your LHS. Continue straight on along the RHS of the field for 600 yards.

To your right along this section of the route and for the next few hundred yards is a large open cast "lime-works" (you might not be able to see it because of the hedgerow). Later in this write up you will read how significant quarries like this have been to the surround areas for many centuries. Also, hence the name Chalkpit Lane.

As the field opens out in front of you, turn right, by finger-post, signed North Downs Way, keeping the edge of the field and Oxted Quarry, to your RHS, and continue uphill for 200 yards to exit the field through a wooden kissing gate. Now on National Trust land at a second part of Oxted Downs.

Go straight on for another 80 yards and on approaching the trees go through a metal kissing-gate and turn left keeping the woods to your RHS and with a fence to your LHS. Follow the path west for a further 530 yards.

Then turn right and up a long steep set of steps (at 4 miles).

If you look behind you here, in the direction you came from, you can see the large chalk-pit in the distance.

Oxted Steps were built by conservation volunteers on National Trust land so as to make the climb up to the escarpment of the North Down more accessible. There are 102 steps. They look straight down onto the railway as it exits the Oxted Tunnel and passes under the M25. All three were great engineering achievements of their day. To the right of the steps, and just as you enter the trees, is a small viewing platform where you can take a short break to enjoy the scenery below.

At the top follow the path (NDW) as it turns left along a surfaced track running parallel to a road (Gangers Hill), above and to the RHS. Avoid paths going off to the right and follow the acorn signs of the North Downs Way.

After 230 yards, and by a wooden gate there is a viewing area with a bench and an information board. 

The surfaced track runs practically parallel to the road for 0.4 miles, but with a few turns and many paths going off on both sides.

Where the path comes out to the road, by a 4-way fingerpost, turn left along the road (Gangers Hill) and soon after turn left into Tandridge Hill Lane and downhill. 

After just 40 yards veer right (signed NDW) onto a path just in the trees and running parallel to the lane and above it. After 0.3 miles go through metal kissing gate down some steps and veer right staying on NDW. In another 370 yards cross straight over a road (Gangers Hill), then up some steps and through a stile into a wood named Horse Shaw (at 5 miles).

Follow the North Downs Way path, almost straight, through the Horse Shaw for half a mile. The path is waymarked, but do not turn off the main path.

Near the end of the walk through the woods, at Horse Shaw, opens out in a small clearing with a bench and a great view to the south over Godstone and beyond.

Exit the woods through a wooden stile onto a lane. Turn right to a T-junction, then left, past a lodge house to your LHS, onto a wide track signed NDW (at 5.5 miles).

On the right of the path, just before exiting the woods is a Woodland Trust information board entitled Welcome to Marden Park and Great Church Woods. 

South Lodge was a gatehouse to Marden Park a former country estate. It was home to Sir Robert Clayton (1629 - 1707), a merchant banker, and Lord Mayor of London. He was also involved with the Slave Trade through his position in Royal African Company. He turned what was an old farmhouse into a great country seat. It passed down through many of his descendents. The house burnt down in 1879 and was replaced by the present one, built on the same site in a rather mixed French style. In 1945 the house and 700 acres of and were bought by the Society of the Sacred Heart, who founded a girl's school named "the Convent of the Sacred Heart" - now known as Woldingham School. If you visit the link, you will see many famous "girls" attended the school.

In June 2020, during the Black Lives Matter protests, after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, St Thomas' Hospital in London, announced it would remove a statue of Sir Robert Clayton from the hospital.

After 70 yards, when the track splits, stay straight on and past the larger track veering left. The track narrows to a bridleway and soon veers right, gradually downhill and soon with a vineyard below to the left. After another 440 yards go straight on past a metal barrier.

Godstone Vineyard is set in 50 acres of farmland on the edge of the Weald. Here there is a Vineyard Trail to walk around, a cafe and gift shop, plus a Wine Shop and Tasting Bar where you can try out the wines before buying. The shop also sells a selection of ciders, apple juices, jams, and greeting cards.

To the right of the bridleway, high above, in the trees is the ruins of Marden Castle (see photo1 & photo2). This was part of the Marden Park Estate and was a hunting lodge with a tower. It seems to have been destroyed during the Second World War, either by a German bomb, or by the Allies to stop the German pilots from using it as a direction marker. You can read more at Exploring Surrey's Past.

After 170 yards, immediately after a tall wooden fence and before a small carpark, turn left onto a narrow path. It is signed North Downs Way by a fingerpost on the RHS of the lane.

The path goes down some wooden steps and turns right, downhill through the wood. Follow the path for 90 yards where it comes out to a road (Quarry Road). Turn left along the Quarry Road. (Note: the NDW crosses straight over the road to climb some steps and then follow a path through a wood. We take a short diversion from the NDW here).

The reason for the name Quarry Road is because of the underground quarrying that went on here. This was part of the Clayton Estate and mining, firstly for "firestone" started in the 17th century, and later for "hearthstone", and continued to the start of the 20th century. It left a labyrinth of underground caverns, often referred to as the Godstone Caves or Mines. Later, the mines here were used for growing mushrooms for many years. Today, these caverns still exist and are looked after by "Wealden Cave & Mine Society". You can read more about this and see lots of photos at the link.

Follow the road for 220 yards, then turn very sharp right to go north and uphill along a wooded, sunken track. Follow this track for 420 yards to where the trees open out with fields on both sides. (Note: the North Downs Way re-joined us, from the right, a few yards back in the trees).

The sunken lane is an old Roman Road, the London to Brighton Way (or sometimes called the London to Portslade Way). It linked Stane Street at Kennington Park in London to Brighton. From here it continued south and crossed what is now the A25 / M25 interchange and through Godstone. On a visit in 2011, I got told off by a local for driving the route as in his words "People use it for fly-tipping, and how do I know you won't do the same?". It was obvious I had nothing to fly-tip, but 200 yards later, along this wonderful ancient track, it took me 30 minutes to remove rubbish that had been recently dumped so I could make space for my car to pass.

Turn left (be careful not to miss this) into and across a field to a footbridge over a dual carriageway (A22). After crossing the footbridge turn left and follow a path, signed North Downs Way.

The footbridge over the A22 was built for the sole purpose of making the North Downs Way continuous and not having to cross a major road. When I see public authorities spending money on useful things like this, then there must be some hope.

The path climbs, then after 200 yards climbs some steps. At the top turn left, signed North Downs Way.

In another 30 yards the path climbs some more steps. At the top, at T-junction of paths, turn left, signed North Downs Way.

To the right of the path, near the top of the climb, and hidden in the trees above us is Foster Down Fort (aka Pilgrim Fort). In the 1890s, it formed part of the London Defense Scheme as one of the 13 Mobilisation Centres. They stretched in a line from Epping to Guildford thus protecting London from the possibility of invasion from the Continent (especially France) on its eastern and southern sides. The main purpose of the forts was for the storage of ammunitions to be used by local service personnel in the event of an invasion.

It has now been converted to residential use but is still categorised as a Scheduled Monument. Why it is also named "Pilgrim Fort" on most maps, I'm not sure. But it must be something to do with being next to the "Old Road" or "Pilgrims Way".

550 yards later the path comes out to a small clearing and turns right.

After another 250 yards the path comes out onto an open area named the North Downs Viewpoint, or Caterham Viewpoint (at 7 miles). Go straight on across the grass keeping the road (Gravelly Hill) to your RHS.

Caterham Viewpoint is popular with day-trippers and is a favourite picnic spot. The views from here to the south are spectacular. It's a very tranquil place, even though you can watch the M25 motorway speed past below.

At the opposite end of the open area, and near to the road, veer left onto a path through the trees and gradually downhill, signed North Downs Way.

After 300 yards, at a fork, stay right and after another 160 yards, past public bridleway to LHS, still following the North Downs Way.

After 600 yards the path comes out to the junction of Hextalls Lane and a road (War Coppice Road). Go straight on along the road, signed North Downs Way.

Follow War Coppice Road for 990 yards (0.56 miles) to a T-junction. Turn right and then left, between brick pillars, and onto a lane to Willey Park Farm (still NDW).

I find it strange the North Downs Way has to follow this road for over half a mile. It's a narrow road, but it does have traffic and at present there is no alternative. Surely, Surrey County Council could do something to make it a bit safer and more interesting. I would say be very careful along here and if you have it wear hi-vis clothing.

At points there are some great views, to your RHS, looking north. To the left of War Coppice Road, but inaccessible, is the remains of a large multivallate hillfort at War Coppice Camp. It covers a large area, possibly up to 85 hectares, and is believed to date back to the 6th century BC (the Iron Age) and used up to the mid-1st century AD. Much of has been built on or quarried, but a lot still remains and it is listed as a Scheduled Monument.

Whitehill Tower is to the right of the road, just 70 yards before reaching the T-junction in the grounds of Tower Farm. This is a four-story folly built by Jeremiah Long in 1862 and dedicated to his son killed at sea. It was probably used as a viewpoint.

100 yards to the right of the T-junction, along Stanstead Road, is The Harrow Inn. It dates from the 16th Century, was headquarters of the local Home Guard during World War II and is the second highest pub in Surrey. The inn is popular with walkers, due to its proximity to the North Downs Way, and provides a welcomed stop-off point before taking on the last three miles of the stage to Merstham.

Going along the lane towards Willey Park Farm we are following a ridge along the top of the Downs. Soon to the right the trees disappear and there are great views north over London, with many of its famous landmarks visible.

After 650 yards along the lane, at a T-junction, turn left along Pilgrims Lane and soon past Willey Park Farm to your LHS. 

Continue along Pilgrims Lane for 0.75 miles to just past Hilltop Farm. Cross straight over a minor road (Hilltop Lane) and continue along a wide tree-lined track (still Pilgrims Lane).

Beyond Willey Park Farm, Pilgrims Lane is enclosed between hedgerows and follows the route of an ancient trackway. There is the odd public footpath leading north and south from the lane, but please avoid these. This bridleway along the top ridge of the North Downs is isolated but very pleasant. To the left the ridge descends steeply southwards, with some great views. and to the right goes gently downhill in the direction of London. En-route you will pass a couple of mobile phone masks and an old water tower.

Where we cross over Hilltop Lane onto the wide track (Pilgrims Lane) there is a Chaldon Village sign. This shows that the Pilgrims Way marks the southern boundary of Chaldon Parish. The village is to the north along Hilltop Lane. The sign also has 1086 on it, which I assume refers to the Domesday Book as both the village and the church get a mention. The parish council refer to the Church of St Peter and St Paul was built before 1086. The church contains a large wall painting dating from around 1170. It depicts images of the ways of salvation and damnation and their result. For more information see Exploring Surrey's Past and Wikipedia.

In 440 yards, just after a large tree to your LHS and shortly just before the Pilgrims Lane starts to veer right, turn left onto a well-defined footpath / bridleway steep downhill and diagonally across a large crop field, finger-posted North Downs Way.

Through a gap in the hedgerow, to the left of the track and 230 yards after Hilltop Lane is the Ockley Hill Trig Point. It's marked by a concrete pillar and is 202 metres above sea-level.

At the point where we turn left and descend diagonally across the field, the main track goes straight on and soon around to the right and leads to Tollsworth Manor Farm. On the left of this track, by the corner, is a large old earthwork. Although difficult to make out on the ground, it is marked on OS Maps. I have been unable to find a definitive answer out much about this, but according to Chaldon History: 

"Directly south of the Tollsworth farmyard is an earthwork, marked on OS maps and designated by Tandridge District Council as a site of High Architectural Potential. This is probably the site of an earlier (10th century) version of Tollsworth Manor which may have been fortified or with a moat. The site has not been investigated by either a resistivity study or a dig."

Another source claims " ... the earthworks represent the site of medieval building of some importance, probably a fortified Manor House. (SHHER)". Maybe this could be a project for the Channel 4 Time Team.

Where we turn left, to descend the crop field, the Tandridge Border Path joins us from our right. It means we are now accompanied by three long-distance paths. The other two being Pilgrims' Way and North Downs Way.

The views south from the crop field over the motorways, the town of Redhill and beyond to Gatwick Airport, where you can see the planes taking off and landing, are wonderful.

After 440 yards, at the bottom of the field, follow the path through a narrow wood and out into a second field. Veer right and continue downhill diagonally across the field.

At the bottom follow the well-defined path as it turns left through a subway under the M23 (at 10.1 miles). 

Exit the subway and turn left to follow a gravel path up to Rockshaw Road. Cross straight over the road and turn right along the pavement.

Rockshaw Road has many characteristic buildings along it, including Noddyshall and Nodyshall Cottage dating from the late 16th Century. A windmill was built on Rockshaw Road in 1756. It was a local landmark and popular with artists. However, with plans for a second railway tunnel through the North Downs, the mill was demolished in the late 19th Century. Children from the local school were let out early to watch it come down. The route of the M23 (constructed in the early 1970s) cuts directly through the middle of Rockshaw Road and, consequently, twelve houses had to be demolished. This was shortly followed by the building of the local section of the M25, which runs just a couple of hundred yards south of the road. The resulting huge intersection of the two motorways is immediately south of the eastern side of Rockshaw Road and covers an area of 125 acres. If you watch Top Gear (first shown 24/07/2011) Sir Bob Geldof's first job, as a nineteen year old was building this junction - he did try to feed the world a few years later and was responsible for Band Aid & Live Aid.

Both sides of the road were reconnected with the building of a road bridge over the northern edge of the intersection. Today the area around the western half of Rockshaw Road forms what is really an island community surrounded by two motorways and the railway. The Rockshaw Road website contains a detailed history and much more information on the area.

After 260 yards, turn left through a wooden kissing-gate, onto an enclosed fenced path between houses.

It's at this point where we part company with the Pilgrims' Way and North Downs Way, but we will rejoin them, at Quality Street in Merstham, just after the start of the next stage. The Tandridge Border Path does continue to stay with us until after we cross the footbridge over the M25.

Follow the path downhill for 300 yards, where it opens out onto open grassland and veers right and eventually to a footbridge over the M25 motorway. 

Cross the footbridge and go straight on (the Tandridge Border Path turns left at this point) downhill across open land to come out onto a residential road (Malmstone Avenue). Turn right along the pavement.

After 80 yards, and where the road turns left, cross straight over the entrance to a service road. Immediately after crossing over, turn right along the pavement adjacent to the service road, signed “Merstham Station 100 yards”.

Follow this under a railway bridge, as it becomes enclosed, and eventually to Merstham Station (at 11 miles). Climb the steps to cross the footbridge over the railway line. After descending from the footbridge to finish at the main entrance to Merstham Station.

Merstham has been an important industrial area since medieval times, when the Upper Green Sand on the lower slopes of the North Downs were quarried for its famous "Reigate Stone" or "Firestone" - the name being derived from the fact it was popular in the beds of furnaces. This stone was used in the construction of Windsor Castle and many famous London buildings, including London Bridge, Westminster Palace, old St. Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. The chalk at Merstham has also been long famous for its lime. This was widely used in manure and in making cement.

In 1805 Merstham had the first ever public railway. It was built by the Surrey Iron Railway, pulled by horses and mainly used for carrying goods from the quarries to Croydon and London. Some was even loaded onto boats on the Thames for shipping abroad. However, due to competition from steam locomotives, the old railway was closed in 1838. Near to Quality Street, you can still some of the original sleepers.

Started in 1839 and opened on 12th July 1841, a tunnel was cut through the chalk of the North Downs at Merstham. This was just over a mile long and allowed a railway link between London and the popular south coast resort of Brighton. The tunnel originally had the walls whitewashed and was lit by gas lamps, so the passengers would not be frightened whilst travelling through it. However, wind from the passing trains extinguished the lamps and the soot blackened the whitewash. Two companies, the London & Brighton Railway and the South Eastern Railway, shared the tunnel. However, this caused much friction between both. Thus in 1896 the London & Brighton South Coast Railway (originally the London & Brighton Railway) gained Parliamentary approval to build a second tunnel through the North Downs at Merstham. It was opened on 8th November 1899 and is 1.2 miles long. Its line bypasses the stations at Coulsdon, Merstham and Redhill and is the reason we walk under a railway line just before reaching Merstham Station. Both routes still form part of the mainline from London to Brighton, but to differentiate between them, the original line between Coulsdon North and Earlswood, with stopping off points at the three stations, is called the Redhill Line and the newer more direct one is called the Quarry Line. You can read more about the tunnels at Wikipedia. 

The story below reveals an even darker side to the original Merstham Tunnel and the Feathers Hotel.

The Merstham Tunnel Mystery

At 10.55pm on Sunday, 24th September 1905 in the railway tunnel just north of Merstham Station the mutilated body of a young woman was discovery by William Peacock, a railway inspector. Peacock hurried back to the station to report his discovery to the stationmaster. The police called to the scene, first thought the death was a suicide. They figured the young woman had wandered into the tunnel and been hit by a passing train. The body was still warm and was moved to The Feathers Hotel for examination by a local doctor. Her skull was fractured and one of her legs was severed. There were several bruises and scratches to her body, arms and face which suggested she had been involved in a struggle. Also, a scarf had been forced into her mouth and she was covered in soot. On examining the tunnel wall, next to where the body lay, a number of marks were found where the soot had been rubbed off. The highest of these was at the level of a person standing up in a railway carriage. Because of the body being warm when found, it is only possible she fell from one of two trains, both of which were going north and had all their doors closed on arriving at their next station. Putting all these factors together, the investigators were sure a murder had been committed. There was nothing to identify the body. However, the following day she was identified as Mary Sophia Money by her brother Robert Henry Money. This is thought to be the first recorded murder on a train in England. She was a bookkeeper at Bridger's Dairy, Clapham Junction. Mary Money had gone out at about seven o'clock that evening saying she would take a little walk and would not be long. Emma Hone, another employee at Bridger's Dairy, had no knowledge of any male friends Mary might have been going to meet. She said Mary had taken her black knitted cotton purse, which Emma thought was well filled with money, for Mary had just been paid. The purse was never recovered. A few minutes after leaving home, Mary called at Frances Golding's sweet shop at Station Approach, Clapham Junction where she bought some chocolates. She told Frances Golding she was going to Victoria and left the shop laughing and appeared happy. Suspicion fell on a number of possible admirers named by Mary's brother Robert. He claimed to have last seen his sister on that date but there seemed no question he was involved in the crime. What really did happen to Mary Money on the evening of Sunday 24th September 1905 is left only to supposition. She seems to had every intention of keeping a rendezvous with someone at Victoria that evening. A signalman who was in charge of the Purley Oaks Signal Box north of Merstham Tunnel recalled that as the London Bridge train passed, he remembered seeing a couple standing up in a first-class compartment. They appeared to be struggling. It seems possible that during this struggle, Mary Money began to scream, her attacker then pushed her scarf into her mouth to silence her and, when the train was in the tunnel, he opened the door and threw her out into the darkness and to her grisly death. The guard of the train reported he had seen a couple in a first-class compartment when his train stopped at East Croydon. His description of the women fitted that of Mary Money. At Redhill the couple had gone and the guard thought he saw the man but not the woman leaving the station. Many people were interviewed by police and many railway carriages examined but no arrest was ever made.

The mystery remains unsolved but there is a postscript. Seven years later, in August 1912, at a house in Eastbourne, Mary Money's brother, Robert, shot two sisters and their three children, of whom he was the father. Neither sister knew he was married to each other and he had children by both - maybe he had been found out. He poured petrol on the bodies, set light to them then turned the gun on himself. One of the women managed, however, to escape despite being wounded. Was this the result of a twisted mind turned by the memories the earlier killing of his sister, Mary? 

In 1912 Superintendent James Brice of the Surrey Constabulary made public what had not been released early for fear of upsetting the family. "She (Mary) gambled extensively. Her stock at the dairy shop in which she was an assistant was short, and she feared being found out". This police believed drove her to suicide, (to read more on this, visit the link).

Was this the Surrey Police just trying to close a case they were unable to solve? We may never know. 

To read a full List of unsolved murders in the United Kingdom visit the link at Wikipedia.

I'll revisit the history of Merstham at the start of the next stage, as it would take many more pages to write. Since 1339, the village held a Merstham Fair with consent from Edward III. This never seemed to be held on the allocated date and there are wonderful stories of the gypsy stalls. There are more stories to read on both World Wars, how the building of the motorways affected the village, the building of a large modern residential estate, on local people who were important to the community and more on the influence of the quarries and the transport links. If you prefer to read this now, you can by visiting the History Section of the Merstham website and on Wikipedia.

[Home[Route GBW] [GBW 1] [GBW 2] [GBW 3] [GBW 4] [GBW 5] [GBW 6] [GBW 7] [GBW 8] [GBW 9] [GBW 10] [GBW 11] [GBW 12]

 [GBW 13] [GBW 14] [GBW 15] [GBW 16] [GBW 17] [GBW 18] [GBW 19] [GBW 20] [GBW 21] [GBW 22] [FullRoute] [Linking Paths]

Copywrite @ Sean.Davis 1995 - 2021. All rights reserved.