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Stage 20 -  West Hanger to Ripley  (6.15 miles)

 

From West Hanger we continue along the North Downs Way for just over half a mile then turn right to go north and gradually downhill off the Downs. The views of West London and Heathrow Airport to the right and Woking in front are impressive. We cross over the busy A25 and pass through the picturesque village of East Clandon, then on through the Ryde Estate and along lanes past Ockham to finish on The Green in the historic village of Ripley.

 

West Hanger is part of Shere Woodlands, a designated nature reserve which comprises of Coombe Bottom, Netley Plantation and West Hanger. It is situated on top of the North Downs directly above the pretty village of Shere. The village is on the River Tillingbourne and is a mile away by following Coombe Lane or more directly by a steep footpath.

 

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. Silent Pool, Newlands Corner, St Martha's Hill are just some of the many places close by. 

 

During the 2012 London Olympic Ladies Road Race, Coombe Laneon the road from Shere village to here, and on a steep hair-pin bend just below here was the scene of the most ladies crashing during the race. Thankfully, no one was badly injured and you can watch this on Youtube.

 

Follow the North Downs Way west from the car park for 0.57 miles, ignoring any paths. Then at a crossroads of paths, turn right, signed Fox Way, and through a gate.

 

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 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 now 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 Info Britain 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.

 

At 0.8 miles go straight on along a footpath between trees - still going north and downhill. After another 100 yards the path goes past New Scotland Farm on 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.

 

At 1.06 miles follow the path as it veers slightly right and soon through Old Scotland Farm. Just after passing the farm buildings, and where the road turns right, turn left onto a path going directly north through woods (DO NOT follow a second 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 the brewery moved to larger premises at Denbies Vineyard. Since December 2011 the farm has been home to another brewery, The Tillingbourne Brewery.

 

After 175 yards the path emerges from the woods onto a field. Go straight on downhill across field - still going north.

 

At 1.6 miles follow the path out of field and turn left along a road (Staple Lane).

The views from Staple Lane are great. To the left you can see Guildford, right of this is Woking, just right again is Heathrow with the planes on their final approach to the runways. At points to the right are great views over Central London.

 

Yet again the 2012 London Olympics Road Cycle Race came along here. When the route of the race was finalised I often wondered if the person who designed it did find the London Green Belt Way website beforehand. I have spent almost 20 years putting together what I believe is the most beautiful walk you can have around the outside of London. My route starts at Hampton Court, goes through Molesey, Walton, Chertsey, comes back through Headley Heath, Box Hill, West Humble, Coombe, West Hanger, East Clandon, Ripley, Woking,  Byfleet, Weybridge, Bushy Park and a few others along the way. Our walk is mainly off-road, but the cycle route follows it as close as is possible. It’s a shame the TV didn’t do the history of the places passed through. There was so much and this would have made the coverage more interesting. Anyway, enough of that.

 

You can watch a great video on Youtube, entitled “Staple Lane after the Olympic Road Race”. It’s a shame he does not turn his head right to look over Heathrow and London, but it will give you an idea of the views.

 

At 2.13 miles cross straight over the busy A246 (Epsom Road), and go straight on along The Street into East Clandon. Follow “The Street” as it turn left and then right in front of the Queens Head Pub. After just over 120 yards and immediately past the church turn left into Ripley Road.

 

Clandon derives from the Anglo-Saxon “Clanedune” meaning clear down, or open downland. People settled here where the porous chalk of the North Downs releases water, forced up by the underlying impervious clay. It meant a constant supply of water and lush meadow to feed their livestock and grow crops. The Manor of East Clandon is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. However, the lands here were granted to Chertsey Abbey at its foundation in 675. After the Norman Invasion it was held by Norman lords for hundreds of years and during this time referred to as “Clandon Abbatis”. Shortly after the Reformation in 1544, Henry VIII granted East Clandon Manor to Sir Anthony Browne. According to the East Clandon website:

 

“The Manor itself, which is thought to have been placed close to where Hatchlands now is, was moated since violent times in the early 1300s.”

 

Today East Clandon is a sleepy Surrey countryside village within the Green Belt. It has about 250 inhabitants, in 110 dwellings clustered around the parish church. There are many old and interesting buildings in the village, of these many are listed and have stories to tell. Luckily, the A246 bypass, just south of the village, keeps the majority of the traffic away, thus helping the village to retain its character and charm.

 

The Queens Head pub dates from the 17th Century and was a former coaching inn. The road down the side of the pub is Back Lane and leads to Cherry Cottage which contains the Clandon Pottery and is open to the public. The footpath from the pottery leads across the fairways of Clandon Regis Golf Club towards West Clandon. The Church of St Thomas of Canterbury in the centre of the village is part 12th Century and a Grade 1 listed building. Next to the church is the "Tithe Barn" which has now been converted to private dwellings and is mentioned in the Doomsday Book. 

 

Hatchlands Park is on the east edge of the village. It 1749 it was bought by Admiral Edward Boscawen (1711 – 1761), nicknamed “Old Dreadnought” due to his aggressiveness in battle. He pulled down the old house which had stood in the park for many years and in the 1750s commissioned architect Stiff Leadbetter to build the one we see today. It has a naval theme running through its rooms, with much of the interiors designed by Scottish architect Robert Adam, his first commission in England. The current grounds cover 430 acres, were mainly laid out by Humphry Repton (1752 – 1818) and include a small garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll in 1914. Over the years it has been owned by several people who made minor changes. In 1945 it passed into the hands of the National Trust. Today there are many things to see in the house including the Cobbe Collection of keyboard instruments, which has instruments which once belonged to Mahler and Elgar and linked to Chopin, Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.

 

Because of its history and beauty the whole village has been designated a conservation area. The East Clandon Website has been set up by the local community. It provides a wonderful insight into village life, gives details of many of its buildings and run down of the village’s history.

 

On the right, 500 yards along Ripley Road, is Home Farm. This was the setting of the 1970s children’s TV series Catweazle. The farm was called “Hexwood” in the series and the current owners open the farm one day a year to the public so that fans of can take a walk around Catweazle’s old stomping grounds.

 

Follow Ripley Road for 0.85 miles to just under an old railway bridge (at 3.15 miles into the route) - this carries the Guildford to Effingham Junction line. Immediately after the bridge turn right onto a path parallel and below the railway. After 130 yards follow the path as it turns left, uphill and away from the railway. Within a short distance at a Y-junction of paths stay left to continue uphill and into the woods. For the next 1.8 miles the path is easy to follow as it goes almost in a straight line. However, I will give some notes below so as you don’t get confused.

 

Continue straight through the woods (Humphreys Copse) crossing straight over a lane after 400 yards (at 3.5 miles into the stage). In another 150 yards the path comes out onto a wide track / lane. Veer right to follow the track – this should be quite obvious as to the left the track is signed “Private”. The track continues between trees for 550 yards.

 

At intervals, on the left, you will see strange looking obstacles sticking up from the ground. I can only assume they are some type of ventilation shafts.

 

A short distance to the left through the trees is Send Prison. It was originally an Isolation Hospital and in 1962 became a Junior Detention Centre. In 1987 it was reclassified as a Category C Adult Male Training Prison, and in 1999 was rebuilt and became a closed Female Training Prison. Today it has space to accommodate up to 218 women.

 

On reaching a lane, cross straight over and go through the gate on the opposite side. A direction marker on a post shows we have joined “The Fox Way”. From here our route follows that of The Fox Way for a few miles to Walsham Lock on the River Wey and 0.65 miles into the next stage.

 

The Fox Way is a 39 mile circular walk round Guildford’s green belt. It was founded by a Richard Fox in 2005, and I assume it takes its name from its founder.

 

We have now entered the Ryde Farm Estate. It covers almost 2,000 acres, making it one of the largest in Surrey and is home to a well known hotelier who is also an accomplished triathlete.

 

On continuing through the estate the sides of the path opens out into fields and you get a good view of the surrounding countryside. We pass a large scaffold structure used for clay pigeon shooting, Ryde Farm with its sprawl of buildings and sports pitches is off to our left and just before going back onto road we pass an old quaint cottage with an impressive wicker summer house in its garden.

 

Having previously left Ripley Road at East Clandon to go cross-country we rejoin a road with the same name, but this time it’s Ripley Road, Ockham.

 

At 5.05 miles the path comes out through a kissing gate onto a road. Turn left along the road towards Ripley (along Ripley Lane). After 200 yards, at a staggered crossroads, go straight on (now Rose Lane).

 

At the crossroads, Hungry Hill Lane to the left leads past Send Prison to East Clandon; to the right Guileshill Lane leads to the village of Ockham.

 

If you look carefully to the right, at the crossroads, and just left of Guileshill Lane, on the hill above, you can see what remains of Ockham Park House. It was home of William King, 1st Earl of Lovelace (1805 – 1893). He married Ada Byron (1815 – 1852) in 1835, the only legitimate daughter of Lord Byron (1788 – 1824) the romantic English poet. They couple had three children and lived at the house.

 

Ada’s mother, Anne Isabella Byron, split with Lord Byron shortly after Ada’s birth, due to his unpredictable behaviour. She deliberately focused her daughter’s education on her own upbringing of mathematics and science and not on English like her father’s. By her late teens Ada was recognised as having a good grasp of mathematics and science. She would go on to meet and discussed the subjects with many great people, including Michael Faraday, Mary Somerville, David Brewster and Charles Babbage. She worked alongside Babbage on the “Difference Engine”. Ada died of uterine cancer and bloodletting by physicians at the young age of 36, but by then was an accomplished mathematician and due to her work with Babbage is credited as being the founder of scientific computing. In 1979 a software language developed by the United States Department of Defence was named “Ada” in her honour. One of her last requests was to be buried next to the father she never knew and who also died at the same age as her. They are both buried at the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire.

 

Ockham is also famous for William of Ockham who was born here around 1280. He was a Franciscan friar, a philosopher, theologian, and political writer. He is renowned for his “Occam’s Razor” and remembered locally by a stained glass window in the medieval All Saints Church next to Ockham Park House.      

 

Follow Rose Lane for half a mile when it then crosses over the A3 (London to Portsmouth road). Continue straight on along Rose Lane and into Ripley village.

 

On approaching the village centre, stay on the RHS of Rose Lane and onto Ripley High Street at a T-junction.

 

Turn right along the High Street for about 35 yards to a pelican crossing. Here turn left over the pelican crossing. At the other side turn left along the High Street for just a few yards, then turn right and right again towards Ripley Green.

 

Finish on the LHS of the road and just onto the path on Ripley Green.

 

On the right, just before entering the village of Ripley, is Ripley Court School. It was founded in 1893 in the buildings of Ripley Court, a Queen Anne “gentleman’s” Farm House and one time coaching inn built in 1730.

 

A pro-celebrity cricket match, organised by David English of RSO Records and rock star Eric Clapton, was held here in 1987. Many professional cricketers and celebrities took part and the proceeds were given to charity. From this David English founded the Bunburys Cricket Club which continues to organise matches all over the country and abroad. To date they have raised over £12 million for worthy causes and also sponsor the Bunbury’s School Cricket Festival. In August 2003 they returned to Ripley Court School to hold the Bunbury’s XI “v” Eric Clapton XI match.

 

Eric Clapton is no stranger to Ripley. He was born secretly in the back bedroom of his grandparents’ house at 1 Ripley Green on 30th March 1945. He was the illegitimate son of Patricia Molly Clapton and Edward Walter Fryer, a 25 year old Canadian soldier stationed nearby. His mother was only 16 at the time and his father moved back to Canada after the war, unaware of the birth of his son. Eric was brought up believing his grandparents were his parents and his mother was his sister. He was told the truth when he was nine years old. In later life Clapton did try to search out his father, but discovered he had died in 1985.

 

On 20th March 1991 at 11am Eric’s 4 year old son Conor tragically fell to his death from a high rise apartment building in New York. Eric was elsewhere and Conor was with his mother at the time. The maid had just washed the windows of the flat and left them open to dry. Conor was always glad to see his father and would run to an open door to jump up in his arms. The window went to the floor and it is thought that Conor on seeing an open window ran at it expecting to see his father. Conor is buried in the St Mary Magdalen’s churchyard at Ripley, The boy’s death inspired Eric to write the Grammy winning song “Tears in Heaven”. You can listen to the song on YouTube. On 1st January 2002, Clapton and Melia McEnery’s daughter Julie Rose was Christened at the church. However, the guests were also in for a surprise as immediately after the Christening, Melia and Clapton were married.

 

Back along Rose Lane on our left and just before the finish of the leg is Chapel Farm. This was once home to Scouts founder Baden-Powell. The current 1st Ripley Scout Group is based in buildings on the land of the farm previously owned by the Baden-Powell family.

 

Ripley has much history attached to it and many old buildings to see along its wide High Street and narrow side streets. St Mary Magdalen’s dates from around 1160 AD and is believed to have been originally built by Augustinians on the site of an intended priory. However, a better site was found just over half a mile northeast of here next to the River Wey.

 

The Manor House opposite The Anchor is a Dutch–gabled building dating from 1650. Drake’s is a “Michelin Star” restaurant and is in the old Georgian Clock House on the High Street.

 

Two sisters Annie and Harriet Dibble ran a tea shop at The Anchor Inn, a 25 mile cycle ride from London. Through their kind hospitality they became very popular with cyclists. Many thousands would visit each year and all would sign the visitor’s book. When they died, Annie in July 1895 and Harriet 15 months later, cyclists clubbed together and paid for a stained glass window to be erected in their memory in St Mary Magdalen’s Church. The route from London to The Anchor at Ripley was so popular in 1896 a board game named Wheeling was devised based on it.

 

It was very appropriate that on 28th and 29th July 2012, the men’s and ladies’ cycling road races, the first events of the London Olympic Games passed along Ripley High Street and past the Anchor Inn. If the sisters were still alive to see this, they may have been surprised as these later cyclists passed through at over the present 30 mile per hour speed limit, yet they had been used to see old penny farthings doodling along not much faster than walking pace.

 

I watched both the road races and the time trials at a friend’s house on Hampton Court Way at Thames Ditton. The crowds lining the route were huge. I was amazed by the speed of the cyclists, the amount of support vehicles and the number of police on motorbikes and cars in front of and behind the competitors. To me it looked dangerous, but was very well rehearsed and organised.  Thank God there were no casualties. Anyway, I loved it, watched most on TV and then by the side of the road as cyclists went past. There are many videos of the race through Ripley on Youtube, but this one does show the full race coming through.

 

For centuries up to when the A3 bypass was built, the busy London to Portsmouth road ran through the village – the Old Portsmouth Road. Ripley was a stopping off point for sailors on their way to and from their ships. Although many of the pubs in the village have closed, some of those still open get their names from these days – The Anchor Inn (16th Century), The Ship (1540), and The Jovial Sailor (pub website).

 

The Talbot Inn on the High Street dates from 1453. It claims to be haunted, has a cosy bar and until recently had its own helicopter pad at the rear. A plaque on its front states that Lord Nelson has stayed here.

 

Ripley appears in HG Wells novel “The Wars of the Worlds”, in which the Martians invade the earth.

 

Ripley Farmers Market is usually held on the second Saturday of each month from 9am until 1pm on Ripley Village Green. It is a local farm and produce market with goods sold directly by their growers and producers.

 

There are many other buildings of note in this pretty Surrey village and I’ll leave it to you to see them if you visit. To read more you can download a detailed history of Ripley from the Send & Ripley Historical Society.

 

You can also read more about the village and the surrounding area in the write up on the start of the next stage of our route.

 

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