Stage 21 - Ripley to Walton Bridge (8.45 miles)
The stage starts on the path just past the cottages facing onto Ripley Green. This is across the High Street from the T-junction with Rose Lane and a few yards to the right. Our route follows a path across the Green then turns left to join the River Wey Navigation at Walsham Lock. We follow the Wey, mainly surrounded by green open space and pasture, through West Byfleet, New Haw, Addlestone and Weybridge to Thames Lock. Our route then joins the Desborough Cut to finish on the River Thames at Walton Bridge.
Ripley as the centre of a community dates back to at least 1160 when St Mary Magdalen’s church was built here by the Augustine’s. Before this the area seems to have been a part of nearby Send which is recorded in the Domesday Book and back to the Saxon period. Newark Priory is just over half a mile north of the village and can be reached by Newark Lane. It was founded by Rauld de Clane and his wife Beatrice of Send in the 12th Century, for the Augustine Cannons and dedicated to the St Mary the Virgin and Thomas a Beckett. With the connection to the local church, this would have added to Ripley’s status. The priory remained an important centre through Norman Times. However, with the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, it was pensioned off and its treasures taken to the Tower of London. History records that a canon was employed a few hundred yards north on Church Hill, Pyrford to bombard and demolish the priory. This is portrayed in a painting by Tessa Kewen in 1963, which is displayed in the porch of St Nicholas' Church. In total she painted ten pictures on the history of the area, one for each century and all are on display in the porch - 11thC, 12thC, 13thC, 14thC, 15thC, 16thC, 17thC, 18thC, 19thC, 20thC.
Turner made a sketch of Newark Priory in the early 19th Century, this shows the priory as it still looks today. Newark Priory ruins are now listed as a “Scheduled Ancient Monument”. It sits next to the River Wey on private land and is completely surrounded by water, the far river being called the Abbey Stream. St Nicholas’s Church sits on the hill to the north above the priory. It was built around 1140 and is a fine example of a complete Norman church. Queen Mary Tudor tried to re-establish Newark Priory, but under Elizabeth I the area (Pyrford - ford by a pear tree) reverted to being Crown Property. Lady Elizabeth More, favourite lady in waiting to Elizabeth, married Sir John Wolly and lived with him at the close by Pyrford Place. Elizabeth visited them many times and whilst there worshiped at St Nicholas Church. In 1570 she reputedly donated a silver chalice to the church.
A short way north along Pyrford Road, past the Church, is Pyrford Court. In the early 1980's the old stables here were used as a location in the horror movie "The Omen". The imposing gateway (The Bothy) can be recognised as the entrance to home the American Ambassador in the film. Almost opposite the gateway is Upshott Lane, on the corner of which stands the Pyrford Stone, a pre-historic standing stone. It once stood in the middle of the road and is reputed to move around at midnight and sometimes tries to reap revenge on weary motorists for being removed from its original site.
In the 1220 Henry III granted Newark Priory the right to hold a fair on Ripley Green on the feast day of St Mary Magdalen (22nd June) each year. Although the priory was dissolved by Henry VIII in the 16th Century, the village fair ran interrupted until the outbreak of World War II. The fair was resurrected by the local Rotary Club and now takes place in the middle of July each year. There is also Ripley Farmers Market which is usually held on the second Saturday of each month from 9am until 1pm on Ripley Green. It is a local farm and produce market with goods sold directly by their growers and producers.
Ripley Green is one of the largest village greens in the country and has lots of interesting stories to tell.
Ripley Cricket Club on Ripley Green is one of the oldest cricket pitches in the world and for over 250 years the game has been played here. The first game recorded here was in 1749. Since then there have been many famous matches here, including 22 Surrey men "v" England in 1802.
Many famous cricketers played here, including a bowler called Edward “Lumpy” Stevens. Born just down the road at Send in 1735 and by trade was a gardener, he became the leading bowler in his day. Apparently his name came from his awkward looking build. At this time the lead bowler was allowed to choose where the wickets were pitched. Lumpy was noted for choosing a wicket which suited his type of bowling. A match played in 1775 at the Portsmouth Artillery Ground, between England and Hambledon, is of note..
During the match he beat the great Hambledon batsman John Small three times with the ball going clean through the two stump wicket twice. As a result of his protest a meeting of the patrons of the game was held where it was decided to add a third (middle) stump. He died in 1821 and is buried in St Mary’s Church at Walton-on-Thames which we pass through on stage 1 of our walk. At the time of his death it was not common place for a gardener to have a headstone placed on their grave. However, because of his sporting achievements he acquired one. It was broken in two, many years ago, but the top half with the inscription was re-laid and is still to be seen at the head of his grave at Walton.
The busy road through Ripley from Guildford to Kingston was notorious with highwaymen in the 18th Century. In 1742, two of them, named Piggott and Roof were convicted of robbery and murder on the green and then hanged here.
Start on the footpath on the edge Ripley Green (just behind UK Guitars). Follow the path north and soon with a line of trees on the left and past a children’s playground to your right. Within 400 yards the path comes out onto a narrow road with Dunsborough Park to the left. Stay left along this road, soon past Dunsborough Farm. After 270 yards turn left, and after another 200 yards (as main lane turns right) stay straight on along a footpath signed “The Fox Way”.
Dunsborough Park is a country manor dating back to Tudor Times. According to the Dunsborough Park website, the current house was built in 1630 and there have been many modifications since. Through the years there were many notable owners and visitors. Previous owners included Lord King and then the Onslow family in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Rev. George Walton Onslow, Vicar of Send & Ripley inherited the property in 1792 from his father Colonel George Onslow. He had to be given a special dispensation to live here instead of the local vicarage. The park is famous for its gardens laid out in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th Centuries. In 1948 the estate was bought by Charles Hughesdon who was married to the actress, Florence Desmond (1905 – 1993). Desmond’s first husband Tom Campbell Black (1899 – 1936) is mentioned earlier on our route on stage 7. He was the pilot of the G-ACSS, Grosvenor House Comet who won the 1934 London to Melbourne "MacRobertson Air Race". Hughesdon’s marriage to Desmond in 1937 would open the door to meeting lots of celebrities and other well known people. They enjoyed entertaining at Dunsborough Park and even held an annual helicopter party, where many guests would arrive by such means and land in the gardens. According to “A Potted History” (link broken) on the Dunsborough website, guests included the Duke of Edinburgh. Elizabeth Taylor (born 1932) & Richard Burton (1925 – 1984) spent the first night of their honeymoon here – which one I’m not sure as they were married twice. Florence died in Guildford on 16th January 1993 aged 87, but is fondly remembered for her charity work, including successfully masterminding the “Betatron Appeal” for St Luke’s Hospital at Guildford in the 1960s. The Florence Desmond Day Unit at the Royal Surrey Hospital is named after her.
Baron & Baroness Sweerts de Landas Wyborgh moved to Dunsborough Park in 1994. The couple embarked on a major restoration of the house and gardens. In June 2013 at Christie’s of South Kensington the auctioned off many statues and ornaments, raising a total of £2.93 million. Dunsborough has regular garden openings, concerts and provides settings for private parties. To watch a video taken before the auction visit YouTube for more information visit the Dunsborough Park website.
At 0.71 miles go straight on across a long footbridge over Walsham Weir, then turn right along the River Wey Navigation and past Walsham Lock.
The River Wey was one of the first in the country to be canalised and some of the locks, including Pyrford Lock retains its original mechanism. The section between Stoke Mill and Sutton Green was first made navigable by Sir Richard Weston, of Sutton Place, between 1618 and 1620. Then through an Act of Parliament, in 1651, the Wey was made navigable all the way from Guildford down to the Thames at Weybridge. The Wey Navigation now belongs to the National Trust.
The Wey rises in Sussex and cuts through the North Downs. Pope refers to it as "the chalky Wey, that rolls a milky wave". The canal was built to connect Guildford to the Thames and then was extended to Godalming and the Arun and hence the south coast thus forming an important commercial and strategic link before the railway age. The River Wey Path follows the canal for 20 miles from the Thames to Godalming.
At Walsham Lock the river splits into two, the first channel is the old river, the second is the navigation. We cross the weir to follow the navigation east past the lock and the lock-keeper's house. The watercolour "Walsham Gates" by local artist David Drury captures the beauty and tranquility of the Wey. The gates at the lock are usually left open and only used in times of flood to lower the water level in the canal by forcing it to go over the weir.
Here we leave the Fox Way as it turns left and west along the canal on its journey around Guildford. Newark Priory, as mentioned earlier, can be seen by taking a detour to follow the Fox Way for half a mile along the Wey path. Just a short distance west of the priory is Newark Lock and across the canal are some old, well kept buildings. It was on the river next to these that an old mill once stood, but burned down in recent years.
As we follow the towpath north you will see many small communities housed in longboats along its banks. Within a short distance, to the left, across the canal is Pyrford Place. It was built in 1550 by the Earl of Lincoln after he was given the Manor of Pyrford by Elizabeth I. The Earl was the Lord High Admiral of her Fleet. He was succeeded at Pyrford by Sir John Wolly and in turn by his son Sir Francis Wolly in 1595. The poet John Donne (1572 – 1631) was a friend of Sir Francis and was employed as a secretary at Pyrford Place from 1600 - 1604. However, the poet ran away to marry Ann More, a cousin of Sir Francis and heiress to the Loseley Estate, near Guildford. Her father did not approve. Both the disgraced poet and the unlucky priest, who conducted the ceremony, were imprisoned. Fortunately, Sir Francis achieved reconciliation and the Donne family lived at Pyrford Place until 1610. It was during Donne’s time here that he wrote many of his poems. A blue plaque, facing the canal, has been erected on the old summerhouse in memory to the poet.
To the right of the towpath and just through the trees for the next 500 yards is one of the UK’s most expensive golf courses, The Wisley. There are public footpaths leading onto the course if you wish to take a peek.
At 1.73 miles follow the towpath past Pyrford Lock, then cross over road and go straight on along towpath with River Wey Navigation to your LHS and The Anchor pub to your RHS.
The Anchor pub sits in a beautiful setting and has a large public car park hidden in the trees. It overlooks Pyrford Lock, the canal, the little road bridge over it and the large Pyrford Marina basin with its scores of longboats. The entrance to the marina is a short distance to the left, along the road. Half a mile along the road to the right is the village of Wisley and the entrance to the world famous Royal Horticultural Gardens. As well as The Wisley, two other golf clubs, Pyrford and Traditions, also border on the lock.
At 2.38 miles go straight on past Dodds Bridge to your LHS.
At 2.69 miles stay on the towpath under Murray’s Bridge and avoiding the lane going off to the RHS.
The lane to the right leads to a bridge over the M25 and onto Byfleet village. The path over Murray’s Bridge, to the left, leads to West Hall, The hall was once home to the Murray family who give their name to the bridge and the lane which were built to connect the hall to Byfleet Church. It was also home to Frederick Cornelius Stoop, Dutch born businessman and local benefactor. Stoop made his money in oil and was influential in the area building many properties, including local sports facilities and Byfleet Village Hall. Both his sons played rugby for England, The older one, Adrian Dura Stoop (1883 – 1957) was a lifelong member of Harlequins and captained England many times. Harlequins Rugby Club home ground was named “The Stoop Memorial Ground” in his honour, and in 2005 renamed the Twickenham Stoop, although everyone just calls it “The Stoop”.
It’s just after Murray’s Bridge where you will start to hear the constant hum of the M25, which runs parallel to us on our right for just over the next mile.
Almost half a mile after Murray’s Bridge the towpath passes under a busy road bridge, carrying the Parvis Road section of the A245 from West Byfleet to Byfleet and on past Brooklands.
At 3.19 miles follow path as it turns right behind buildings and comes out to road / parking area. Turn left to cross parking area and then left again along the pavement on the RHS of the road. On approaching bridge over canal turn right, through a metal kissing gate, and down onto canal towpath going north with canal now to your LHS.
This small dead-end peaceful road with its old bridge over the Wey Navigation, its boathouse (Byfleet Boat Club) and small basin is now called the Old Parvis Road. It has been cut off from its other half, to the east, by the building of the M25. However, even with two main roads encroaching, it is a beautiful and somewhat hidden place. The boathouse was one of two built on either side of the canal, both financed by Cornelius Stoop. The one we see today was the smaller one and was for the working class people of Byfleet. The larger one has been converted to a private dwelling.
For the next half mile the M25 is no more than a stone’s throw to our right. You can just hear but can’t see the traffic as trees buffer the sound and hide the motorway. Across the canal to our left, gardens of houses of a large private estate, Dartnell Park, back onto the water.
At 3.74 miles follow the towpath passes under railway and then straight on under a footbridge over the canal.
The canal arm coming in from the left is the Basingstoke Canal; a footbridge crosses over to join its towpath on its way to Woking. The canal was built between 1788 and 1794. It stretches for 32 miles from the village of Grewywell in Hampshire to join the Wey Navigation here. For many years it was not looked after and silted up. Recently however much work has been done to bring it back to its former glory and now is navigable once again.
Above our heads, the rail bridge carries the Waterloo to Portsmouth line and to the right above this, the huge concrete construction carries the eight lane M25. If you look in the skies above the both, you can also see airplanes shortly after taking off from the nearby Heathrow Airport. It is wonderful to compare the transport systems of old with that of the modern day. The building of all four transport systems were recognised as great achievements of their day. However, have we advanced or just gone backward? The road above is congested with automobiles, speedily vying for position as they search for their next traffic jam, the railways have become anything but consistent, whilst the boats below float peacefully and unimpeded along the canal. During peak periods, canal traffic can sometimes flow faster than that on the neighboring motorway. As for the planes, today 19th April 2010, all are grounded and have been for several days, because of a large ash cloud above Northern Europe as the result of a volcanic eruption in Iceland.
Within just a short distance a huge viaduct looms above our heads and carries the M25 over the towpath and the canal, and thankfully away from us for the last time. Soon it passes Heathrow, but encircles London and eventually finds it way back to here.
Less than a quarter of a mile east, as the crow flies, is Byfleet & New Haw Railway Station and just past it is Brooklands, home of British motor racing. Brooklands was the idea of Hugh Locke-King (1848 – 1926), a British entrepreneur and motor enthusiast. He built it on his own land and also completely financed it. When opened in 1907 it was the world's first purpose-built motor-racing circuit. It later became a home of aviation and is steeped in history of flight and motor sport. Today there are many businesses based at Brooklands and until recently a Sunday Market was held on the old runway. However many stretches of the famous banked track still remains and Brooklands Museum, which covers 30 acres, has much to see and is open daily. The natural course of the River Wey cuts through Brooklands and past the museum. It was at Brooklands on 10th July 1961 (the day I was born) that the UK and France signed an agreement to build an airplane called Concord. Now no longer in service, this amazing plane can only be seen in museums, and rightly so, one of them has been put on permanent show at Brooklands Museum. At YouTube you can watch a video from 2004 of Concorde G-BBDG's Journey Home to Brooklands, plus alater one entitled “Onboard the british airways concorde at the brooklands mususem”.
There are many stories about people associated with Brooklands and some of the you can read in the links. One however I feel is worth a mention here. John Granville Grenfell was born in Sydney, Australia in 1891. As teenager his father took him to see the first car race meeting at Brooklands in 1907. This event was to have an influence on the rest of his life. He lived nearby and was brought up and privately educated by his relative William Henry Grenfell (Lord Desborough). He became a champion motorcyclist, an acclaimed violin player, spoke many languages and attained a Black Belt in Judo. He built his first car in 1913. Between the wars he worked for Lancia, Rolls-Royce, Michelin, Firestone and Hispano-Suiza. He set up a workshop at Brooklands and specialised in tuning, servicing and supercharging engines. He was later considered to be one of the most respected and innovative engineers of his generation and was elected a Fellow of the Motor Industry in the 1960s. In the 1950 he built his second car, the Grenfell Special 500 in his workshop at Brooklands, “it was constructed to a standard not excelled by any half-litre machine of to-day, and the design is based on a number of ingenious features”. He continued to work for many years, but on 26th November 1975, at 84 years old, feeling unwell rode his bike to Weybridge Hospital, where he was admitted and died shortly afterwards from a heart attack. You can read a full biography of John Granville Grenfell at the Grenfell Family Website, from which I have taken this information.
In October 2006, Mercedes-Benz World was opened next to Brooklands Museum, near the north side of the old track. It has a visitor’s centre, five car race courses built on the area of the old runway and a hotel.
Brooklands was only used to race car up to the outbreak of World War II in 1939. It was then used by the military as an airfield when some of the embanked race circuit had to be removed.
In August 2009, seventy years after the last race around Brooklands, Top Gear presenter James May, in the 4th episode of his BBC2 “James May’s Toy Stories” recreated the 2.75 mile Brooklands’ Circuit using a Scalextric track. Once again two cars, an Aston Martin DBS and a Mercedes-Benz McLaren (although miniatures and not full size) competed against each other. It took over 20,000 pieces of track, used 350 volunteers to complete, had many obstacles to overcome and set a Guinness World Record. You can read more about it on the BBC website and even watch clips from the programme by following the link to BBC2. The link to YouTube has the whole programme in six parts and is well worth watching.
At 4.41 miles go straight on past New Haw Lock to your LHS and soon up to the road. Cross straight over (with care) and back down onto towpath – the canal is still to your LHS.
New Haw Lock is very picturesque, with the old look-keepers cottage of 1780 and a community of boats lining the bank of the canal on the approach. Two of the original barges, built for the Wey by the Stevens family of Guildford, are amongst them and both have been converted to houseboats. There is a small parking are to the right, and half a mile past this along Byfleet Road is the train station. Just over the small road bridge is the White Heart Inn with its garden backing onto a stream of the canal. The pub website has an informative write up about the history of the area and of a ghost of a former lock-keeper who is said to haunt the cottage. She drowned in the stream behind the cottage.
The towpath continues along the right bank of the canal and after another 0.8 miles past Coxes Lock and Mill to the LHS. Cox’s Mill dominates the area and retains many of its original features. It used for the iron industry till 1829, then later as a flour mill, and now converted to flats. This is one of the best examples of industrial architecture in Surrey. Commercial barges worked between here and London Docks up to 1969 and again from 1981 to 1983. Below the mill is the lock with its iron ladder on its far wall plus the wide pool where barges, after being loaded, could turn around and head back towards the Thames. Just south west of the mill, and on the opposite side of the canal to the towpath, is the wide expanse of the millpond with its banks of alder dividing it from the canal. It a natural haven for many species of birds and if you take time to cross over the footbridge on the lock, you can follow the footpath around its west and north shores. The path goes on west to lead to Crockford Bridge Farm after just a few hundred yards. This whole are is a popular with locals because of its paths, tranquility and scenery.
This area sits on the eastern edge of the town of Addlestone. The centre of the town and the railway station can be reached by a short just a short walk (about 500 yards) from the Mill Pond along Burnside Road and Corrie Road. There is not a lot to see in the town apart from a few pubs, restaurants, and takeaways, but it does have some history. The old Crouch Oak on Crouch Oak Lane is said to be one of the UK’s oldest trees and once mark the boundary of the Great Forest of Windsor. It is written that Queen Elizabeth once sought shade under the tree whilst picnicking. One source says it was a tree where preachers such as John Wycliffe (1320 -1384) would stand under to recite the Gospel and call it “The Gospel Oak of Addlestone”.
In the centre of the town next to a large council estate is the local police station. It was where the Guildford Four were originally taken after their arrest and interrogated by the police over the Guildford Bombings of 1974 which killed five people and injured a further 65. They were all found guilty and imprisoned. Many people believed the convictions to be unsafe and after much campaigning, in 1989 and fifteen years later, their convictions we reversed and all four were set free.
If you take time to divert from the route to Addlestone you can find more information about the town on Wikipedia and on the Addlestone Community website.
A short walk past the Cox’s Mill and on the opposite bank is The Pelican pub, built c1892 when it was only licensed to sell beer. It looks inviting with its beer garden overlooking the canal, unfortunately there is no footbridge.
At 5.68 miles follow towpath through a gate and left over Black Boy Bridge, then turn right staying on the narrow towpath – now with Wey Navigation to your RHS.
Black Boy Bridge is named after an imposing statue that once stood nearby, and is known technically as a "turnover bridge" as the towpath crosses to the opposite bank. The old bridge which stood here had much of its original structure replaced by concrete, to take the heavy load of lorries carrying gravel from the nearby pit. However, the pit has now been filled and the land returned to the use of agriculture. To our left, as we cross the bridge is Weybridge Business Park with its modern office blocks and factories. Some of those in our view include Toshiba Information Systems and the offices of The Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. In contrast The Old Round House to the left just after the bridge is a more pleasant site.
From Black Boy Bridge to Weybridge Town Lock the towpath follows a very narrow path and you will notice the canal is higher than the adjacent Addlestone Road.
At 5.91 miles, on approaching Weybridge Lock, the path veers left to the road. On reaching the road turn right staying on the RHS for 30 yards. Then just before the bridge, turn left to cross the road, go through a metal kissing gate and back down onto the River Wey Path. Follow the towpath north, with the river still to your RHS and new town houses to your left, and soon under a large red brick bridge (at 6 miles into the route).
The three arched iron bridge, just past the lock, dates from 1865 and it is here that the canal rejoins the natural course of the Wey. This is on the western edge of Weybridge town. There are records of a ford in this area from as early as 675 when its lands were owned by Chertsey Abbey and it was referred to as 'Waigebrugge'. The current metal bridge replaced older ones dating back to at least 1235 and these give the town its name.
The river widens to form a large pool between the older iron and the newer red brick bridges and is called Town Wharf Pool. Many years ago, when horses still pulled barges along the Wey, this was one of the most difficult locks to negotiate. The horse would have to be detached and escorted over the road, then down the slanted, turreted metal steps and back to the canal. The barges would come out of the lock and hazardously negotiate the old metal bridge. The flow of the river was taken down the strangely shaped L-bend (“the tumbling bay”), still present here, to give a slower flow, not cause currents and help the boats back to their horses. On the corner, just past the metal bridge, is an old vertical pole, the old “towing roller” which was used to stop the ropes snagging. The wide pool between the bridges was a very busy place for barges unloading and loading on their way up and down the canal. It was a place where they could turn and go back in the direction the came from. The products the carried were flour, cement, timber, and after World War I, the metal of many planes which were decommissioned from the nearby Brooklands Airfield. After 1920 the traffic on the river decreased greatly and in the 1990 Weybridge Wharf was replaced by residences.
The pool has such a peaceful atmosphere and yet seems so busy, with the lock, the two channels merging, the “old” and "new" bridges and the different age housing developments. However, they all blending in with each other to make a beautiful setting. The larger and newer bridge is built of red brick and was completed after World War II. It carries the busy A317 to Addlestone and Chertsey. This red brick bridge is very impressive when we look at it and walk under it, and difficult to understand how it is 80 years younger than its neighbour.
The town of Weybridge, which we are now passing through, with its centre about 100 yards to our right, but very accessible, retains a lot of its old character. Weybridge became more fashionable after Henry VIII built Oatlands Palace in 1539 for his bridge to be, Anne of Cleeves. However, Henry didn’t find his new bride at all attractive and the marriage only lasted for a very short time. Many of the stones used in building the palace came from Chertsey Abbey which fell into ruins after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Just over six months later Henry married his 5th wife, Catherine Howard at Oatlands. After his death the palace continued to be used some of his successors including Queen Mary, Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I. Charles was imprisoned here in 1647 and was later executed in 1649. After his execution the palace was demolished and all that remained was a single house. However, this was later extended and became Oatlands House. Today the Oatlands Park Hotel sits on the site. The hotel’s website does have a well-researched history section.
The York Column on Monument Green commemorates Frederica, Duchess of York (1767 – 1820). It was originally erected in 1694 at Seven Dials, the convergence of seven streets in London. At the top was a “Dial Stone” with six facets, each engraved with a sundial. In 1773 the column was dismantled, sold and moved to the Addlestone home of John Paine the architect. Frederica was the only daughter of King Frederick William II of Prussia. She married Prince Fredrick, Duke of York in 1791. It was an unhappy and short marriage. After their separation she retired to Oatlands House which she had bought earlier in 1790. She remained resident here until her death in 1820. Her remains are entombed on the left of the path in the graveyard of St James Church on Church Street. The residents of the town were very fond of her and shortly after her death a collection was organized by the landlord of the Ship Inn to erect a memorial to her. In 1822 the column was purchased and placed on Monument Green. When it was re-erected it was decided the “Dial Stone” was too heavy to be replaced at its original position, the top of the column, so instead a dual cornet was used. One side of the base of the column is inscribed with a poem:
suppress the mournful sigh,
Her spirit is with Christ on High,
In those bright realms of heavenly peace,
Where charity shall never cease,
Her deeds of mercy and of love,
Are registered in courts above.”
Another side has a dedication to the Duchess on it:
“This column was erected by the inhabitants of Weybridge and its vicinity on the 6th day of August 1822, by voluntary contribution in token of their sincere esteem and regard for Her Late Royal Highness The Most Excellent and Illustrious Frederica Charlotte Ulrica Catherina, Duchess of York. Who resided for upwards of thirty years at Oatlands, in this parish, exercising every Christian virtue, and died, universally regretted, on the 6th day of August 1820.”
As for her husband Prince Frederick, Duke of York, he is not so fondly remembered as we all know him through the nursery rhyme:
“The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men.
He marched them up to the top of the hill
And he marched them down again.
And when they were up, they were up.
And when they were down, they were down.
And when they were only halfway up,
They were neither up nor down.”
The “Dial Stone” became neglected and for a while was used at one time as a mounting block for horse riders. It was then moved to the old Weybridge Council Offices and finally placed next to Weybridge Library, where it still can be seen.
Adjacent to the green is the Ship Hotel a former coaching inn, which maintains its 17th Century facade. On the other side of the green, on the front of one of the houses, is a blue plaque stating E. M. Forster (1879 – 1970) lived and worked there. This was his mother’s home, with whom he lived between 1904 and 1925. The books he wrote here include "A Room with a View" (1908), "Howard's End" (1910) and “A Passage to India" (1924).
Portmore Park backs onto the Wey and was once a stately home with extensive gardens. It was built in the late 1670s for Henry Howard, 6th Duke of Norfolk by architect William Talman. After the Duke’s death his widow sold it to King James II in 1688 who gave it to his mistress Catherine Sedley, Countess of Dorchester. It is said that James spent his last night in England at the house after he was forced to abdicate to William and Mary and before his exile to France. Catherine went on to marry David Colyear, a soldier under William. The king honoured him for his service by making him the 1st Earl of Portmore on 1703. It is from the Earl that this area gets its name. He went onto buy a large number of shares in the Wey Navigation and for many years the navigation was controlled by himself and his descendants. However, the 3rd Earl let the house fall into ruin and it was demolished in 1822. All that remains of the grand house and gardens are the large gate piers on the west entrance to Portmore Park Road.
With all its royal connections, Weybridge continues to be a fashionable place to live. There are many private and gated estates here including the very exclusive St Georges Hill. Through the years local residents have included John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Tom Jones, Cliff Richard, and many others such as Premiership footballers and TV personalities.
The final stretch along the Wey is peaceful and wooded. To our left through the trees is the exclusive Hamm Court Estate built on what was the old Manor of Hamm Court and across the river to our right is the Portmore Park Estate, a housing development built in the 1890s. Some of its many dwellings have secluded gardens backing onto the river with small boats and old boathouses along the riverbank.
To find out more information on Weybridge, visit The All about Weybridge Website. You can also read about this short stretch of the Wey from Weybridge Town Lock to Thames Lock at “The Wey Valley” website.
At 6.44 miles go straight on across a footbridge over a weir.
After a half a mile a main river channel goes off to our right and within a short distance we cross a footbridge over a weir which allows another relief channel to go off to our left. In theory we are now following the towpath along a very narrow island and across the river to our right is another island called The Bull Dogs (or Bull Dog’s Island). As we approach Thames Lock our island does widen out and is called Weybridge Ait.
At 6.64 miles, at Thames Lock we turn right over a steep metal footbridge and go straight on along a fenced path.
It is at Thames Lock where we leave the Wey Navigation and just before it joins the River Thames. On one side of the lock, housed in what used to be old stables for barge horses, is a small visitor’s centre which provides lots of history and other information on the navigation. Just past this and off to our left is Weybridge Rowing Club. On the other side is the lock-keepers cottage. It was built in 1765 and rebuilt retaining its original form in 1975 by the National Trust. To the right of the cottage is what was formally Weybridge Wharf and Mill which have now been demolished and replaced with flats, designed to resemble the older buildings. A mill has stood on this place since at least 1693. Beside the flats another relief channel separates Bull Dogs Island from Whittet’s Ait. The latter has been recently developed as a residential and business area.
At 6.68 miles at fork in path stay right, now with a small park through fence to your LHS.
At 6.77 miles cross straight over the road onto a path and soon over footbridge, then turn left along a road and soon along path between houses. After another 100 yards, cross straight over a road onto footpath / alley between houses. This leads to the car park of the Old Crown pub. Go straight on through the car park then turn left along the pavement staying on LHS of Thames Street.
We follow a path across Whittet’s Ait, staying right at the junction of paths and across a road to another footbridge over the main River Wey stream. A footpath to our left leads across Jessamy Road and onto another path which leads us to the car park of the 17th Century Old Crown public house with its pleasant riverside garden overlooking the Wey as it enters the Thames.
At 7 miles, to our RHS on Thames Street, is the Minnow Pub (previously called The Lincoln Arms).
The Minnow public house is inviting and has a large patio garden at its front overlooking a stream of the river and the new development of residences and workshops on Whittet’s Ait.
After just 70 yards, and as the road turns right, veer left into a small riverside car park and go straight through onto a footpath with the River Thames on your LHS.
Within a few yards we go through the small public car park with the River Thames in front of us and many channels going off in different directions. To our immediate left is the Wey, just right of this a sign points to the start of the Wey Navigation, next is the Thames meandering off around Hamhaugh Island. To the right of the island is Shepperton Weir with a footbridge over it, connecting Hamhaugh Island and Lock Island. The latter hides Shepperton Lock which we passed on stage 1 of our walk. Also through the trees to the right of the towpath is Weybridge Lawn Tennis Club.
As we continue along the towpath we soon pass Weybridge Ladies Amateur Rowing Club on our right followed by some steps down to the riverside on our left. Next to the steps you can see a metal bell; its purpose is to call the ferry from the opposite bank. A ferry has crossed the Thames here since the reign of Henry VI in the 15th Century. Services stopped around 1960, but have been introduced again since 1986.
The Shepperton Ferry runs every fifteen minutes from 8am to 6pm during the week, between 9am and 5pm on a Saturday, and between 10am and 5pm on a Sunday. Services continue an extra hour later during the summer. The fare at the time of writing is £1.50 single or £2 return. Further information can be obtained on 01932 254844.
In front of us D’Oyly Carte Island is joined to the riverbank by a footbridge. A large gate on the bridge makes it plain that visitors are not welcome. It is named after Richard D’Oyly Carte founder London’s Savoy Theatre and producer of Gilbert and Sullivan Operas. He bought the island 1887 and built a large house on it with a footbridge across to the mainland. He used it as a country residence and bought some extra land on the riverbank next to it. In 1896 he planned to convert the house to a hotel but was refused a license to sell alcohol. Within three years he built and opened another hotel on The Strand in London called The Savoy Hotel. He died in April 1901, but his family kept ownership of the island up to at least 1911 when his grandson Michael was born there. Today the grand house has been converted to flats and moorings for small boats are rented out around the island.
A short distance past the island as the main river channel disappears to our left, we continue straight on along the Desborough Channel, cut in 1930 it shortens the journey down the river by over a mile and formed Desborough Island, The island is one of the largest on the Thames and covers an area of 44 hectares. Access is provided from Walton Lane (above and parallel to our right) by two identical road bridges, formally opened in 1935 by William Henry Grenfell (Lord Desborough) and named after him. He was Chairman of the Thames Conservancy from 1904 to 1937. Both bridges are one way – the first one we pass under leads off the island and the second one leads on to it. The island has many owners including Surrey County Council, Elmbridge Borough Council, Weybridge (formally University) Vandals Rugby Club, the Environment Agency and Veolia Water. It contains water works, reservoirs and sports grounds. It is an important wildlife sanctuary is very popular with anglers and has a path (Brownacres Towpath) following the main Thames around its edge.
Read more about the Desborough Cut and the Thames in this area at “Where Thames Smooth Waters Glide”
Walton Lane runs parallel and above the towpath along this stretch of the river. South of the lane is a large open area of meadows which seems to form a large flood plain. There are also two old farms, one of which has been recently converted to the Weybridge Health Club. Behind the club is the large Broad Water and above this is Oatlands Park.
At 7.4 miles the towpath posses under road bridge – the “off bridge” to the island.
At 8.0 miles the towpath passes under a second road bridge – the “off bridge” to the island
At the end of the Desborough Cut and shortly before reaching Walton Bridge, the main stream of the river joins from the left. The open area between here and just after Walton Bridge is known as Cowey Sale and has connections with Julius Caesar.
8.37 Stay straight on along road keeping River to your LHS, the under Walton Bridge and after 10 yards turn right onto path across grass.
8.45 Finish on reaching grass path.
The finish area next to the bridge and the river is very pleasant. There are public toilets, a small café with an outdoor seating area, a large car park and places to picnic. The centre of Walton-on-Thames, with it shops and inviting pubs, is just a short walk away.
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Footnote: At the time of writing the latter part of this stage (January 2007), the Thames is in flood and the volume of water flowing swiftly along it is probably more than enough to supply all of London and the South East of England. However, the front page of Three Valleys Water (like most other Water Companies) states in large letters that “HOSEPIPE BAN REMAINS IN PLACE”, “You can help us beat the drought”.
From reading, in section one of this book, about the building of the Hampton Waterworks, as consequence of the Metropolis Water Act of 1852, it’s a wonder why over 150 years later our water companies still have a hosepipe ban and can’t do what their predecessors did and use this excess to fill the huge shortages that now appear in our reservoirs. As a consequence they may also spare places such as Chertsey from suffering huge floods as those of just a few years ago.