Surrey’s best walks: Two-mile circular in and around Compton
- Credit: Archant
Enjoy this easy, short family spring walk, discovering a rare Grade I Listed Arts & Crafts chapel | Words and pictures: Chris Howard
This article was written prior to lockdown so please check all local information before heading out
1) With The Withies Inn pub behind you, turn right away from the B3000 along the road until you reach a junction.
2) Bear right at the junction. Once you reach Polsted Manor the path divides. Take the path straight ahead up the sandy path, which becomes quite a steep gully as you progress up the hill to the top of the North Downs. Eventually the path meets the North Downs Way (NDW) path.
3) Turn left onto the North Downs Way, which goes immediately downhill and comes out at Watts Gallery, where you can stop at the café, toilets, gift shop, gallery and ‘Limnerslease’ – the Arts & Crafts home of the Watts’. Alternatively, sit by the pond close to the NDW and enjoy a picnic.
4) Where the NDW crosses Down Lane, turn left and follow the narrow path painted on the edge of the road. Beware of cars on this narrow lane. After a short distance you reach Watts Chapel and cemetery, on your left. The chapel is open most days and is free to enter.
5) Continue along Downs Lane to the T junction with the B3000. Turn left along the B3000 towards the village of Compton. Do stop to view the historic St Nicholas Church. Continue on through the village, past the Village Hall on your right.
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6) Eventually you come to the Village Green and the locally famous telephone box that is dressed up each month with different themes. Cross the Green diagonally away from the B3000 to the opposite corner, which takes you to a narrow path through the housing estate. Keep to the left path
7) When you meet a T junction with a side road, turn right onto the footpath and continue straight ahead until you meet Polsted Lane. Turn left and follow this road to a junction.
8) Turn right and retrace your route back to The Withies Inn.
- Compton appears in the Domesday Book as Conton. Relics suggest that the area was settled in Roman times. Today it is most famous for being the village where artist and social reformer, Mary Watts established her Potters’ Arts Guild around 1900.
- Her husband, George Fredrick Watts was widely considered to be the greatest painter of the Victorian era and is often called England’s Michelangelo.
- Mary Watts was a renowned designer and created the, now Grade I Listed, Watts Chapel. The Chapel is designed in an Art Nouveau version of Celtic Revival. It is lavishly decorated in terracotta relief. Even the seats are terracotta. The chapel is currently being renovated.
- The cemetery is more than 120 years old. It was conceived and laid out by Mary Watts. It has been added to the Register of Parks and Gardens at a Grade II* Listing. The Arts and Crafts cloister and gravestones are very unusual. The ashes of Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, are in the Huxley grave near the back of the chapel. His mother, Julia Huxley, founded Priorsfield School nearby and is also buried here.
- St Nicholas Church in Compton is about 500 years older than the surrounding village. It is thought that the site of the church pre-dates Saxon times. The church has a stained glass window dating from the 13th century and a piece of similar-aged graffiti depicting a soldier on one of the pillars – possibly left by a knight on his way to the crusades.
Start: Withies Inn car park, Compton - free parking
Public transport: Stagecoach 46 bus service from Guildford to Aldershot
Postcode for Sat Nav: GU3 1JA
Grid ref: SU964 468
Length of walk: 2 miles (3.2 kms) / Allow 1 hour
Food and drink: Watts Gallery Café or traditional 16th century pub The Withies Inn.
While you are there: Pop in to the ancient St Nicholas Church to view medieval graffiti – check website for opening times.