Stage 20 - Box Hill & Westhumble Station to East Clandon (10.4 miles)
Start: Grid Reference TQ1675851895 Post Code KT20 7LB StreetMap
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.""
past the chapel is
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
The arch has a
which remembers Camilla Cottage. The cottage was built for
1840) in 1797. She often visited William Locke at the nearby
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
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.
was purchased by William Wakeford who sold the property in 1754 to Jonathan
Tyers. Tyers had made his name by purchasing the lease on
was born in 1788 in Buxton,
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."
first introduction to the Surrey Hills was in 1820 when he was commissioned to
build the nearby house at
(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
had the same mentality as his father in looking after his employees. In 1858 he
and a school house on the top of Ranmore Common. The following year he
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.
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:
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.
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
as it had deteriorated and was proving too expensive restore and maintain.
married Prince Charles at
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
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.
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
1965). He was born in Surrey, educated at Eton and
At its peak,
during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the Denbies
Estate employed around 400 people. Many lived in the
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.
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.
Field the route continues along the top of the southern escarpment of the
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.
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.
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
(LDWA). Their idea was to collate information on all long distance walks in the
Alan Blatchford died suddenly in 1980 at his home in
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
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
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
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.
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.
is probably the most beautiful in Surrey and one of the best in the
On Time Travel Britain you can read more on the history of Shere and Gomshall as written by Jean E. Bellamy.
west of Shere is
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
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
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
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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