Surrey walk around St Martha’s Hill
- Credit: Archant
In the first of a new walking series in collaboration with the Surrey Hills Society, we join the group to discover the county’s industrial history at the old gunpowder factory at Chilworth, and to enjoy the expansive views from the North Downs Way
Start: Chilworth train station, which is just outside Guildford.
Length of walk: Three miles but very steep in places and muddy in the valley at times. Will take about two hours.
Food/drink: The Percy Arms on the A248, opposite Chilworth train station. This is a relaxed, modern pub with great food that has a South African twist.
Whilst you are there: Just a 10-minute drive from Chilworth is another famous view from Newlands Corner. Why not call in, stop in the large car park and enjoy an ice cream at the café.
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1 Easily accessible by train from Chilworth station, start by following the narrow path to the left of Chilworth C of E Infant School, signposted as a footpath. Originally, this path was a tramway where gunpowder produced at the nearby mill was hauled up to the train station to be sent around the world. Cross the wooden bridge and turn right past the picnic tables. Ignore the trail to the left, but continue on until you reach the impressive remains of some of the mill buildings, then on to the interpretation board.
2 Turn left here and go over the ancient bridge, crossing the stile ahead of you to enter a field. Continue through this field and two others, with more recent evidence of gunpowder works through the trees on your left. The path then narrows as you pass by the rear of some gardens, before you meet a road. Turn left over the bridge and continue along a tarmac road with houses on your left and a lake on your right. This was the site of a Victorian paper mill, but now converted into attractive houses. Continue along the road. When it bends sharply left, ignore the footpath ahead of you but continue until you reach Millstream Cottage.
3 At this cottage, turn left beside the garden and then continue along the ascending path away from the valley and up into broadleaf woodland. When you come to an open field, keep right on the main path and, when nearly at the top of the hill, ignore a path off to your right and look for a directional signpost by a clearing.
4 Turn left onto the bridleway. Keep to the bridleway and you will pass a World War Two pillbox. Pass by the Downs Link path on your left. When the track divides, leave the bridleway and go on down a public footpath that will eventually bring you out at St Martha-on-the-Hill church.
5 With the church behind you, looking down over the Tillingbourne Valley, you will see a path ahead of you. Take this path down the steep hill until you reach a T-junction, with a field beyond. Turn right to join the drive of Chilworth Manor and follow it to reach a road – Halfpenny Lane.
6 Follow this road for a short distance, which turns left and then over another bridge and some houses, before you come upon the disused lodge gate that was once the entrance to the gunpowder mills site.
7 Turn left at the lodge and continue with the river on your left. Pass more ruins, buildings associated with the gunpowder works, hidden now by trees and undergrowth. Eventually, you will come upon the original bridge you crossed at the start of the walk, where you can retrace your steps back to Chilworth station.
• Enjoy looking up at the iconic view of St Martha-on-the-Hill church, on the North Downs Way, reported to be a stopping-off point for pilgrims during the Middle Ages, on their way to Canterbury Cathedral.
• While on the valley floor, take time to discover the ruins of the once-famous Chilworth Gunpowder Mills. This factory site was in use from Tudor times until just after World War One.
• Once you have reached St Martha-on-the-Hill church, you will enjoy magnificent views over towards Guildford and down the Tillingbourne Valley over the villages of Chilworth and Albury.
• Quite close to the church is the family plot of the Freyburg family. This includes Major-General Bernard Freyburg VC, who commanded the ANZAC troops in World War Two and is remembered each year in a ceremony attended by both local and passing Antipodeans.
• If you are lucky enough to find the church open (most Wednesday afternoons and Saturdays), you will be able to see the World War Two memorial designed by the illustrator of Winnie the Pooh, created in memory of his son whom he sadly lost during the war.