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Stage 20 - Box Hill & Westhumble Station  to  East Clandon  (10.4 miles)

Start: Grid Reference TQ1675851895  Post Code KT20 7LB  StreetMap

ROUTE DESCRIPTION

The stage starts at Box Hill & Westhumble Station. Turn left along the road and follow it for half a mile to Chapel Farm. We turn left, onto a lane past the chapel ruin, and climb up to join the North Downs Way (NDW) behind Denbies Vineyard. We follow NDW for 7.8 miles to past West Hanger, then turn right to go north and downhill to the finish at East Clandon. On the descent the views of West London and Heathrow Airport to the right, and the town of Woking in front are impressive. The first 2 miles are uphill, the next 7 are undulation along the top of the North Downs and the last 1.5 are downhill.

From Boxhill & Westhumble Station go out to the Westhumble Street and turn left, soon crossing over the railway.

On the right, just over the railway and at the entrance to Crabtree Lane, is the timber-framed Chapel of Ease. This started life as a barn, was used by railway workers during the 1860s and became a chapel of ease in 1904. It is grade 2 listed . According to Mickleham Church, "In the Surrey volume of The King's England (Hodder & Stoughton) Arthur Mee writes of the Chapel that "George Meredith used to love to send his visitors to see the yews of Druid's Grove in Norbury Park, and at Westhumble is the little weatherboarded chapel where his sister-in-law talked to the navvies on Sunday evenings. This building was once a barn." "There are ruins of a much older chapel up the lane; that older chapel was probably built in about 1200 for the tenant of Merton Priory.""

Immediately past the chapel is Leladene Arch at the entrance to Camilla Drive. It was built by Victor Freeman in memory of his wife Lela who died soon after he bought Camilla Lacey in 1922, which he then renamed Leladene. The arch has a blue plaque which remembers Camilla Cottage. The cottage was built for Fanny Burney (1752 - 1840) in 1797. She often visited William Locke at the nearby Norbury Park. The area had many French emigre at the time as it was just after the French Revolution. On one of these visits she met French General Alexandre D'Arblay, whom she later married on 28th July 1793 at Mickleham Church. Between them they did not have much money and the following year Fanny gave birth to their son. However, just over a year later Fanny's novel Camilla was published and was popular. Their wealthy friend William Locke gave them a plot at Westhumble to build a home, and with the profits from Camilla they built the cottage. They lived here for four years, by which time England and France had settled a few of their differences and the General returned to France to serve under Napoleon. Fanny and their son followed the General to Paris in 1802, expecting only to stay for a short time. However, war broke out between France and England and she was unable to return until 1812. On her return she found out that her good friend William Locke had died and his son had inherited Norbury Park. The new owner was not as generous as his father and on discovering he still owned the land on which Camilla Cottage was built forced Fanny to sell the property to him at a fraction of its value. Future owners enlarged the cottage and one even had part of the building converted to a museum dedicated to Fanny. Unfortunately, it burnt down in 1919 destroying most of the contents. A large house, named Camilla Lacey was built in its place and today a private estate sits on the land.

From here Westhumble Street becomes Chapel Lane. The lane climbs as it continues through the village.

I've always found Westhumble a strange, but pretty village. Apart from the main road through it, all the rest are private roads. Most are lined with very desirable houses and most are to the south of Chapel Lane and west of the railway. There's the pub, the chapel of ease, the station and the ruins of the ancient chapel 250 yards west of the village, but there are no shops. You can't get up in the morning and walk to the village store to get your newspaper, your fresh milk and bread. As you walk along Chapel Lane, just before you exit the village, to the left is Burney Road and just inside the entrance, going off diagonally southeast towards the rail is a narrow road, Alders Lane, another private road, was where the medieval village was built along. It originally went east to cross where the A24 is now and in the direction of the stepping stones. Archaeology research suggests this may have been the original route of the Pilgrims' Way or an even more ancient trackway. However, it now stops before the railway and there is no trace of it left on the other side of the railway.

800 yards after passing over the railway Chapel Farm is to the right, known so because of the remains of the old chapel just opposite it. The National Trust sign next to chapel ruin states:

"West Humble Chapel ... Founded at the end of the twelfth century for the use of the villagers of West Humble and desecrated some three centuries later, the remains of this ancient chapel were handed over to the care of the National Trust A.D. 1937."

The chapel is now a scheduled "Ancient Monument", and as you can see from this short video, you are allowed to go into the grounds and get up close to it.

Chapel Farm used to be open to the public offering an animal trail and tractor rides. The owners have retired and the farmland is now property of the National Trust with many accessible paths. The farm buildings are still privately owned. The old barn next to the road is late C16 to early C17 and is grade 2 listed and the pillar on the farm wall with its red post box seems to be a somewhat later addition.

Immediately after the chapel and opposite the old post box at Chapel Farm turn left to follow a tarmac drive (it does say private, but itís also a public bridleway) uphill. After 470 yards follow the drive left, ignoring the path straight on. When the drive turns right, stay straight on. 150 yards later turn right onto a wide path (North Downs Way). From here the route follows the North Downs Way (NDW) for the next 7.8 miles. 

These 7.8 miles make up a really beautiful stretch of our route around London and have many relics of the past and present. There are reminders of the iron-age; of ancient drovers moving their livestock cross-country; of wealthy landowners, merchants and statesmen moving from the urban sprawl of London to the country; of success in business and how to look after your workforce and their families; of abandoned defenses left over from two wars; of quarries from the industrial past and of a local businessman who brought Champagne grapes to Surrey. Some of the scenery, the wildlife, the woodlands, the chalk grasslands and the views are unique. There are many reminders of the great storms which battered the countryside, especially of the Great Storm of 1987 - scars which will remain for years to come, but others are now a plus or have been turned to our advantage.

To the left for the next mile there are great views over Denbies' Vineyard and to Box Hill, although at intervals obscured where the path goes through woods. The vines cover an area of 265 acres, making it the largest in Britain. Nestled in the middle of the vineyard appears to be a large house, but is in fact the impressive Denbies' Visitors Centre. In the background Box Hill towers over the valley below. This section of the Mole Valley is known as the Dorking Gap and provides a natural thoroughfare to connect Dorking, by rail and road (A24), to Leatherhead and beyond to the great sprawl of London.

After 40 yards stay right along a metalled lane (at 1 mile). Follow this lane (NDW) for 0.9 miles to the western most point of the vineyard, where it is crossed by a wide gravel track. Turn right, onto this track, finger-posted North Downs Way.

After 200 yards, out onto a concrete land (at 2 miles). Turn left, soon past a metal barrier and out onto a road. Go straight on past the entrance to Denbies House to your LHS. Then after another 350 yards past the tall Church of St Barnabas.

The area around us is called Ranmore Common and the next section along the road (or grass) the route is flat, even and usually very peaceful. 

The Denbies' Estate in total covers and area of 627 acres, 200 acres are woodland and there are 10 estate houses. The name derives from John Denby an early owner of the farm on Ranmore Hill. Denbies Farm is just a short distance to the right as we join the concrete lane.

The farmhouse was purchased by William Wakeford who sold the property in 1754 to Jonathan Tyers. Tyers had made his name by purchasing the lease on Vauxhall Gardens in 1728, which he held for 50 years. He reformed the gardens; added amusements and making them popular with London society. He transformed the farm building at Denbies into a modest Georgian House, which could be regarded as the first 'Denbies' House. After Tyers death in July 1767 the Estate was purchased by the Hon. Peter King. On his death in 1781 his son, Lord King, 6th Baron of Ockham, sold Denbies' to James White of Dorking who, in 1787, sold to Joseph Denison, a London merchant and banker. Denison died in 1806 leaving the property to his son, William Joseph Denison, who later became a Member of Parliament for West Surrey and Speaker to the House of Commons. He enlarged the estate by the purchase of land from the Earl of Verulam and the Duke of Norfolk and created extensive gardens. The estate then passed to Elizabeth, his daughter and heiress. Her son Lord Albert Conyngham (latter Lord Londesborough) inherited Denbies, but in autumn 1850 sold to Thomas Cubitt the great 19th century building entrepreneur.

Thomas Cubitt was born in 1788 in Buxton, Norfolk into a poor family. His father was a farmer and carpenter. Thomas got a job as a ship's carpenter. He worked hard for a few years and saved enough money to set up his own carpentry business in London. As the business grew, he got into other aspects of building and hired his own men to do the work under his supervision. He respected his workers and during a time where many craftsmen were cheated out of wages, he always paid properly. He looked after their families, providing them with a library and built schools for their children. His employees did not work excessive hours and he provided breaks and refreshments through the day. The respect he gave to his employees was reciprocated and was to work in his favour. Eventually he became one of the great builders of the late 18th and early 19th centuries - most of his work still stands today. He is responsible for developing many parts of London including major parts of Belgravia, Bloomsbury, Pimlico and properties around Clapham Common. With input from Prince Albert he designed Osborne House on the Isle of Wight for Queen Victoria and built the old east front of Buckingham Palace. His work was done on time and to budget. Queen Victoria was a big fan and after taking ownership of Osborne House, wrote:

"Mr Cubitt has done it admirably. He is such an honest, kind, good man. It seems to me to be like a dream to be here now in our house." 

Cubitt's first introduction to the Surrey Hills was in 1820 when he was commissioned to build the nearby house at Polesden Lacey (now National Trust). He fell in love with the area and 25 years later came back to buy the neighbouring Denbies Estate. He demolished the house built by Tyers and on higher ground, to the south, built a grand Italianate mansion, partly in the design of Osborne and Belgravia. Unfortunately, soon after the completion of his dream home he died here in 1855. Denbies was inherited by his oldest son George Cubitt (later 1st Baron Ashcombe). In 1985 the local council erected a statue of Thomas Cubitt on Reigate Road in Dorking.

George Cubitt had the same mentality as his father in looking after his employees. In 1858 he built a school and a school house on the top of Ranmore Common. The following year he commissioned Sir George Gilbert Scott to build a church. In 1874 an infant's department was added. He even built a dispensary and once a week brought in doctors from the surrounding area to attend to the estate's employees and their families. By this time the estate had expanded greatly and employed almost 400 workers. George Cubitt died in February 1917 and is buried in the graveyard at Ranmore Common. 

His son, Henry Cubitt, 2nd Baron Ashcombe inherited the estate. He was unfortunate to lose his three eldest sons in World War I. There are remembered in a beautiful chapel within the church decorated with murals by Edward Reginald Frampton. Also, according to the church website:

"A bronze plaque of the wall of the nave commemorates the fourteen men who "went forth from this parish at the call of duty and fell in the Great War". This included the three sons of Lord Ashcombe and footmen and a gardener and a game keeper from the Denbies Estate. Please down-load the leaflet for more details, The Names are read every year on Remembrance Sunday".

You can download the leaflet at the LINK.

Denbies remained in the ownership of the Cubitt family until World Way II, when it was taken over by the military and used as the headquarters of the Home Guard. In 1953 the mansion was demolished by Roland, 3rd Baron Ashcombe as it had deteriorated and was proving too expensive restore and maintain. Roland's granddaughter, Camilla, married Prince Charles at Windsor in 2005.

In 1984 the estate was bought by local businessman and engineer, Adrian White. He set about restoring all the properties on the estate and looked for ways to put the land to good use. It was another Dorking resident, Richard Selley, Professor of Geology at Imperial College, who suggested planting vines as the geology and climate of the area is similar to that of the Champagne region of France. The vines were planted in 1986 and the first wine produced in 1989. Since then Denbies has won many prizes for its wines and has become one of the top attractions in the south east with almost a third of a million visitors yearly. As well as Denbies' wines on sale, there is a gift shop, two restaurants, tours of the winery and vineyard, a 360 degrees cinema, conference, party and wedding facilities, a guesthouse, a kitchen garden centre with a range of fresh local produce, and much more. The Denbies Wine Estate website is well laid out and contains a huge amount of information, plus a short video on the history of Denbies. Also see aerial video of vineyard and the entry on Wikipedia.

In 2004 Professor Richard Selley published a book entitled "The Winelands of Britain", obviously using his knowledge of geology to write about one of his favourite pastimes.

Just past the entrance to Denbies, is the church commissioned by George Cubitt. St. Barnabas' is substantial; it is known as "The Church on the North Downs Way" and sits perched high up on the Downs, with its tall spire visible from many miles away, but with no congregation in sight. In the churchyard is the grave of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster (1905 - 1965). He was born in Surrey, educated at Eton and Oxford, and was MP for York and the Cities of London and Westminster. From 1959 until his death he was Speaker of the House of Commons. His wife Baroness Hylton-Foster is buried next to him. There is also a tastefully carved slate memorial to Brenda Olive Swaine (1933 - 1988) a previous bell-ringer.

At its peak, during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the Denbies Estate employed around 400 people. Many lived in the village of Ranmore Common which was scattered around the long green in front of St Barnabas'. There was a village shop, pub, post office and school, but all of these are now private houses. The house on the right near the T-junction was the post office and is aptly named The Old Post Office.

Many centuries before the Romans came to Britain an old track called the Harrow Way ran along the top of Ranmore Common. It formed part of an ancient trackway from Avebury (nr. Stonehenge) to Rochester on the Kent coast.

Today Ranmore Common is a pleasant and peaceful place. It no longer has the feeling of being a vibrant village inhabited by hundreds of residents. Yet perched high on the North Downs it remains popular with ramblers, cyclists, horse riders, scouts and day-trippers in their cars just wanting to get out and enjoy the countryside.

On reaching a T-junction cross straight over road and veer diagonally right across the grass on a worn path. Follow NDW sign through a wooden kissing gates onto a wide grassy path with a fence and a tall hedge to your RHS. After 80 yards turn right behind houses. Follow NDW for 280 yards, past a bench and across a field to go through a wooden kissing-gate and into a wood.

The field, crossed by the North Downs Way, mentioned above is named Steers Field, after Chris Steer, one of the three founding members of the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA). Steer, Alan and Barbara Blatchford formed the association in 1972 and since then it has grown dramatically with many local groups through the country.

Steers Field has a picnic area with great views over Dorking, and north of this and a short distance along the road to the right from the T-junction is a parking area which in spring and summer months also has an ice-cream van. The National Trust has created a Denbies Hillside Nature Walk which is two miles long and starts and finishes at the car park.

Just a half of a mile to the north of the car park, and reached by a footpath, is the Tanner's Hatch Youth Hostel which I will refer back to later in the route. 

After Steers Field the route continues along the top of the southern escarpment of the North Downs following the North Downs Way (NDW). Much of it is through woodland, at times with great views to the south where the route opens out. The NDW is marked with "acorn" signs, but to help you at a few points where you could go wrong, I've added extra instructions below.

The path is easy to follow through the trees for the next 1.4 miles. Just stay straight on avoiding other paths going off to the left and right. If in doubt it is signed North Downs Way, by fingerposts and acorns, at all junctions.

Although I say follow through the trees, at times the trees do open up to the left giving great views to the south. Also, over the next few miles watch out for old pillboxes, and other structures left over from World War II. A short video at YouTube cover the walk across Steers Field and the next 1.4 miles through the woods to the wooden gate mentioned below.

At 4.2 miles go through a wooden gate (next to a metal gate). Bear right past White Down Nation Trust sign to your LHS. After another 470 yards go through a wooden kissing gate and straight on. 

The reason for the last two kissing gates is that the fields below the North Downs Way have cattle grazing in them at various times of the year, signs on the gates say this. I don't think the National Trust would enjoy searching for them in the woods. However, as there not much grass on the path, they tend to stay in the fields.

The path continues through woods for another 600 yards, then veers right and down to a road (White Down Lane). Turn right along road and after just a few yards go left onto path.

The path climbs and veers left along follows an old sunken track. After 50 yards straight on past a path going off to the right. Then follow the path as it turns left, then right and on through the woods.

After 175 yards go through wooden kissing gate, on right of a metal gate and straight on through White Down Lease (National Trust) (at 5 miles).

After 0.53 miles go through a kissing-gate across a bridleway (Hackhurst Lane) then through another kissing gate and onto Blatchford Down (named after Alan & Barbara Blatchford the other founder of the Long Distance Walkers Association). After another 50 yards stay straight on past a left fork.

The path passes a strange looking object to your LHS. This is a rainwater collector. It is used to feed a cattle trough just a short distance below.

Before we pass through the first kissing gate, to our LHS is a National Trust sign stating Blatchford Down. There is also an information board about Blatchford Down and the World War II pillboxes. Thus, it appears the open areas, both sides are Blatchford Down.

Alan Blatchford and Chris Steer met by chance in the early 1970s. They both loved walking in the Surrey Hills. Alan was involved in the Tanners Marathon from its inception in 1960, a long walk from the Tanners Hatch Youth Hostel on Ranmore Common. The walk was popular and by 1972 they decided to form the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA). Their idea was to collate information on all long distance walks in the UK. Since the formation of LDWA membership has now grown to almost 10,000, with 40 affiliated groups throughout the country. Alan also formed a running club at the British Aircraft Corporation at Weybridge (later British Aerospace). He was the main force behind forming the MABAC Running League in 1977, and is recognized as one of the people who made running in the UK popular.

Unfortunately, Alan Blatchford died suddenly in 1980 at his home in Guildford at the young age of 44. After his death some of his friends got together and collected donations for a suitable memorial. The money raised was given to the National Trust to clear and fence an area of downland, for sheep grazing, and to be called Blatchford Down.

After 320 yards, enter woods and through kissing gate to exit Blatchford Down. Then follow main path for 450 yards to cross a wide track / public byway (Beggars Lane, at 6 miles) and straight on finger-posted North Downs Way.

The area around here is Hackhurst Down, though on OS Maps Blackford Down seems to be part of the Hackhurst Downs. There are no National Trust or Woodland Trust signs, by the path, to say you have entered Hackhurst Down as far as I could see, but maybe I missed them. 

In the past two miles we have passed three or four pillboxes next to the path. There are a few others in the fields below and the woods above. These were to be a line of defense to stop German Panzer Divisions in case of invasion. However, I don't believe a few red bricks and rifles would have made any difference. Maybe, building them did give locals and troops on the ground a sense of security. Anyway, Thank God they weren't needed. 

After 300 yards stay straight on past kissing gate to LHS. 90 yards later go left at T-junction of paths, then after another 70 yards stay left, along a wide track / bridleway.

The wide track we have just joined is named Drove Road and on maps it is marked as "trackway" indicating an ancient road, possibly The Pilgrim's Way. It gets its name from drovers who used to walk their sheep along it and feeling safer on high ground than in the valley below. As like many tracks here, it was widened during World War by the Canadian Soldiers, who were based here, for military purposes. You can read a leaflet about the area, its history and its wildlife at Surrey Wildlife Trust.

Be careful for the next 1.25 miles as many wide tracks cross our route and we don't always follow the most obvious track. However, it is marked.

After 500 yards stay straight on past crossing track. There is a North Downs Way sign on the LHS.

This junction is named Gravelhill Gate on maps and there are more tracks going off our route. The main crossing track is bridleway named Colekitchen Lane and this leads downs to the village of Gomshall.

To the right of the track, is a circular concrete structure. It's an old reservoir built by Canadian soldiers during World War II to provide them with water.

The A25 road runs almost parallel to our route at the bottom on the North Downs for most of the way from Otford to West Hanger. At this point it is less than a mile away and some of the picturesque villages along it can be reached by following tracks such as Hackhurst Lane, Beggars Lane and Colekitchen Lane to the left. Hackhurst Lane leads to Abinger Hammer., Beggars Lane to between Abinger Hammer and Gomshall and Colekitchen Lane to Gomshall.

Abinger Hammer was once a centre of the Surrey iron industry, deriving its name from the ancient hammer pots. The River Tillingbourne flows through the village and forms a number of "hammer ponds" which were once used to power the forges and are now watercress beds. A striking clock overlooking the A25, with a smith at his anvil striking a bell, remembers the iron industry and has the caption "By me you know how fast to go". A mile south east of here at Abinger Common is where a "Mesolithic Pit Dwelling", dating back about 7,000 years was discovered in the 1950s. It is classified as a Scheduled Monument and is believed to be one of the oldest settlement in the England.

Colekitchen Lane leads downhill past Colekitchen Farm to Gomshall, a sleepy village stretched out along both sides of the A25 with its own railway station on the Dorking to Guildford stretch of the North Downs Line. The water mill on the River Tillingbourne dates back to at least the 17th Century and was originally used for making flour - the Domesday Book (1086AD) does mention a mill here. When the mill closed it still kept its water wheel and some of its other working machinery. In the 1990s it was converted to tea rooms and a gift shop. In 2001 it was taken over by Bluebeckers Restaurants and in 2010 became a Home Counties Pub. The original water wheel (there maybe two?) can still be seen turning from inside. Gomshall was also world famous for its tannery industry. This started here in either the 14th or 15th Century. It continued for hundreds of years before finally closing in June 1988. It is remembered by Tanyard Hall which is now the offices of Shere Parish Council. There are historical exhibitions about the Tanning Industry in the Local Museum at Shere and the Guildford Museum.

Follow the main track straight on for 0.85 miles to a metal barrier. Go past and straight over a crossing wide track and straight on (at 7 miles).

Be careful crossing as the crossing track is London Lane, a public byway. It goes steep downhill to the village of Shere and is popular with mountain bikers and off-road vehicles.

A few yards later, on our route, an obstacle does stop motorised vehicles from following us. Be grateful as when I once ran the Ridgway overnight, at one point, at 2 am, I did have to jump into a hedge to stop being run over by a tank. 

Stay on for 400 yards, then past a metal gate and straight on past a farm (Hollister Farm). After 110 yards follow the lane as it turns right (now going north).

After 70 yards go straight on past track to LHS. Then in another 160 yards at fork, stay right signed North Downs Way (still going north).

Out onto road, after 225 yards, turn right. Then after just 25 yards turn sharp left onto bridleway through the trees, signed North Downs Way.

On the right next to the bridleway looks like a huge concrete bowl in the ground. This of one of many relics in the area left over from the latter stages of World War II, when thousands of troops from the Canadian Army were camped along the Surrey section of the North Downs, in the run up to the Normandy landings of June 1944. The officers and their staff didn't camp, the commandeered most of the largest house in the area.

After 190 yards cross straight over a road (Staple Lane) and into the car park at West Hanger.

Below West Hanger car park are the pretty villages of Shere and Albury on the River Tillingbourne.

The village of Shere can be reached by following Coombe Lane south for a mile to the A25 and then crossing over and following Chantry Lane and Upper Street to the village centre. A much quicker route is just after Hollister Farm to turn left onto a track and downhill. The track goes through a tunnel under the A25 and past the local cricket pitch to come out in the centre of the village in just over half a mile from the farm.

Shere is probably the most beautiful in Surrey and one of the best in the UK. It is a real gem, set in the Surrey hills which surround it. The River Tillingbourne is at its best as it flows through the centre of the village. There are two inviting pubs, old houses and a small museum which tell stories of the past. A "well" at the junction of Rectory Lane and Upper Street dates back to 1886 and is 286 feet deep. For many hundreds of years, the village was a stopping off point on the Pilgrim's Way. The Norman Church of St James dates from the 12th Century, but there are records of a Saxon church here from at least 750 AD. In 1329 on the north wall of the chancel an Anchoress's Cell was built. On the permission of the Bishop of Winchester a local girl named Christine, the daughter of William the Carpenter, was incarcerated in the cell. Her only contact with the outside world was through a small hole (or squint) through which she could see services and receive food and drink. She remained there for three years, before taking a break, but later returned to live the rest of her life in the cell. The outline of the Anchoress Cell is still visible and is remembered by a plaque. The church lychgate was designed in 1902 by the great British architect Edwin Lutyens (1869 - 1944). He is also responsible for other buildings in the village. In more recent times Shere and St James have been in the news for other reasons. The village is a popular location for film and TV. These include, "A Matter of Life and Death" (1965), "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" (2004) and "The Holiday" (2006). A British science-fiction film "The Earth Dies Screaming" (1965) has more than one connection with Shere. It was filmed at Shepperton Studios and on location at Shere. Mill House Lodge, one of the buildings in the village designed by Edwin Lutyens, appears many times in the film. The musical score for the film was written by his daughter Elizabeth Lutyens (1906 - 1983). In 2008 the village church was in the national news again when St James' rector Father Charles Lawrence divided his flock, by only letting those who live in the parish marry in the church. You can read how the story was reported at the time in the Telegraph and the Mail Online.

On Time Travel Britain you can read more on the history of Shere and Gomshall as written by Jean E. Bellamy.

Immediately west of Shere is Albury Park which is mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086). There is a Tudor mansion, some houses which once made up an old village and the small Saxon Church of St Peter and Paul. The mansion dates from Tudor times and has a long line of notable owners. In 1784 Captain William Finch, then owner of the park, wanted to enclose it. He obtained court orders to close and re-route roads. He intimidated villagers by enclosing the village green and part of the churchyard. As a result, many moved from their houses to a nearby hamlet Weston Street (now the village of Albury). The Duke of Northumberland obtained the park in 1890 and most of the grounds are still owned by this title today. By 1970 the mansion had fallen into a state of disrepair and together with some of the land, was sold to the Country House Association (CHA). They converted much of the mansion to flats, but retained and restored the main reception rooms. The CHA went into liquidation in 2003 and in May 2004 Albury Park Mansion was bought by Nigel & Jennifer Whalley. In buying the mansion they also inherited sitting tenants, many of them living in retirement apartments. With restoration and running costs, by 2008 the Whalleys were in danger of having their home repossessed, until Channel 4's "Country House Rescue" came to their aid. You can read the story of their fight to keep hold of the property by converting 33 small flats into 20 larger ones, and using the main rooms for weddings and corporate functions, by visiting the vimeo, or Surrey Life Magazine.

West Hanger is part of Shere Woodlands, a designated nature reserve which comprises of Coombe Bottom, Netley Plantation and West Hanger. The area around the car park at West Hanger is popular for picnics, and with wildlife enthusiasts. Close by there is a nature trail, some Neolithic flint quarries, and many remnants left over from the Canadian Army who had a large presence here before the Normandy Invasion in the Second World War. It's also a good place to start a walk from. Silent Pool, Newlands Corner, St Martha's Hill are just some of the many places close by.

Go straight on through the car park and continue to follow the North Downs Way west 0.55 miles, ignoring any other paths. Then at a crossroads of paths, turn right, signed Public Footpath.

The path, to the left, at the crossroads leads south and steeply downhill through trees. After 500 yards it passes Silent Pool. This is the higher of two ponds in the area and is formed by a nearby natural spring. Silent Pool is a very tranquil place, surrounded by trees and with crystal clear blue-green water which has been filtered by the chalk. It became a popular place to visit during Victorian times and there are many stories. Some believe the pond to be haunted and some believe it is a holy place. The ghost mentioned in most stories is that of a young and beautiful peasant girl named Emma. She was the daughter of a woodcutter. Apparently, Emma was bathing here when approached by some riders on horseback. The girl took fright and, unable to get to her clothes, moved deeper into the water to cover up her naked body. But when one of the horsemen came too close for comfort she started screaming and retreated even further into the pond. Her brother was close by and could hear her screams. He rushed to his sister's aid, but by now she had got out of her depth. Whilst trying to rescue her they both slipped under the water and drowned. Their bodies were found a few days later by their father. The story goes on to say the horseman who frightened the young Emma was none other than Prince John, Regent of England and who later was crowned King John.

There is a longer version of the story at Visit Surrey and a third version on Wikipedia.

The lower pool is Sherbourne Pond, named after the adjacent farm, and was dug in 1662 to provide water for the nearby village of Albury.

Because of the popularity of this place with visitors, there is a public car park, a viewing platform overlooking Silent Pool and a walk encircles it. There is even a local distillery and vineyard.

We have now left the North Downs Way and joined The Fox Way. The Fox Way is marked by yellow disc with fox head, crown and route name. We follow The Fox Way for 0.6 miles to The Tillingbourne Brewery at Old Scotland Farm.

It's at this point our route leaves the North Downs Way for the last time as we turn north and gradually downhill and off the North Downs ridge. However, we have joined up with the route of another long distance path and follow it for half a mile to Old Scotland Farm. This time it is The Fox Way, a 39 mile circular walk through the countryside around Guildford. The Fox Way Guide can be downloaded at walk website.

At 9 miles go straight on past New Scotland Farm to your RHS, and then with fields to your RHS and woods to LHS.

This area of the North Downs is called Clandon Downs and the large woodland to our LHS is The Netherlands. Where the name comes from, I am not sure, but this ancient woodland supports a number of rare plants and wildlife. There are many footpaths and tracks through it, some of which are very wide and act as firebreaks. There's even a large water tower which is possibly there in case of fires.

Follow the wide track as it veers slightly right and soon through Old Scotland Farm. Just after passing the farm buildings, and where the road veers right, turn left onto a path going directly north through woods (DO NOT follow the path going west, signed the Fox Way).

Old Scotland Farm was home to the Surrey Hills Brewery which started production in May 2005. Their beers have won many awards and most have local names such as, "Ranmore Ale", "Shere Drop" and "Albury Ruby". In 2011 it was sold and started production of beers again as the Tillingbourne Brewery. The brewery has a gift shop.

After 160 yards the path emerges from the woods onto a field. Go straight on downhill across field - still going north.

As you cross the field there are great views over Surrey, Woking, West London and you should be able to see the planes taking off and landing at Heathrow Airport in the distance.

After another 560 yards follow the path out of field and turn left along a road (Staple Lane).

Just away to our right, at this point is High Clandon Estate Vineyard. It was founded in 2004 and is accessed from the A246 just east of East Clandon. This is just one of so many vineyards that has opened in the British Isles in recent years. Probably, thanks to the effects of global warming enabling the growing of good quality grapes further north. So far on this stage we've had a distillery, a brewery and three vineyards. That's all within just a few of miles.

Staple Lane descends to meet the busy A246 (Epsom Road). Turn left on a narrow path along the grass verge for 100 yards to just after a bus stop. You will see a crossing place where you can cross the dual carriageway in two parts. Cross with extreme care and go straight on through the hedgerow and out onto a quiet road (Old Epsom Road).

The busy dual-carriageway we have just crossed has only been closed once, as far as I know, in recent years. That was for 2 days in late July 2012, during the London Olympics. The cycle road races came along here and turned right to climb up Staple Lane to West Hanger and then descend to Shere, before going on to do the circuits of Box Hill and Headley Heath. As you can see from these two short videos, on Staple Lane, the men got great weather and the girls didn't.

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