Historical journey through the Surrey Hills
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A vigorous circular walk with huge variety amongst Surrey’s woodlands, heath, hills and waterways.
The Surrey Hills isn’t the first place you might associate with heavy industry but hidden in the woods near the village of Chilworth (near Guildford) are the fascinating ruins of the gunpowder mill built over 300 years ago by the East India Company. The mill once thrived, employed 400 people, and was the sole legal producer of gunpowder in England to the monarchy. From there, we pass another piece of the industrial history of the area – the site of a former paper mill which among other things, made counterfeit French bank notes to undermine Napolean’s empire!
A fairly steep climb brings us to St Martha’s on the Hill – a picturesque church accessible only by foot, built in 1850 on the site of a Saxon church, and the only church in Surrey to be on the Pilgrim’s Way. On a clear day it is said you can see eight counties. The site apparently contains several Megalithic and Neolithic artefacts, dating from as far back as 3500 BCE.
We pass through the Chantries – a lovely expanse of woodland with a mix of scots pines, larch, and various cedars. At one point we shall catch a glimpse of Guildford Cathedral in the distance before arriving at Shalford Mill. The mill sits on the Tillingbourne stream and was donated to the National Trust by the Ferguson Gang who reputably used it as their headquarters from 1932. The Gang were a group of well-educated, eccentric young women dedicated to preserving England’s heritage.
From Shalford we follow the Wey Canal and Downs Link Path to Blackheath. Blackheath is an ancient area of heathland, home to rare species of nesting birds, butterflies, beetles, adders and some lizards. Parts are designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest. From there we make our way back to the starting point and option of a drink at a nearby pub.
What to bring
Water: bring at least a litre
Medicines: if you have hay fever, diabetes, minor ailments etc.
Rucksack: or any other bag
Footwear: hiking boots, sturdy trainers or wellies
Layered clothing: lets you quickly adapt to changes in the weather and body temperature. Go for a base layer (vest or t-shirt) and a mid layer (a micro fleece or shirt) and in cooler weather add an outer layer (a windproof jacket or thick fleece)
Trousers: ideally not jeans which become heavy and cold in the rain, breathable fabrics are more comfortable and dry and on warm days shorts are OK
Waterproof jacket: breathable fabrics are more comfortable and dry
Hat or cap: stay warm in winter and shaded in summer
Sunglasses: for any sunny day, even in winter
Sun cream: can be useful even on cloudy and winter days
Snacks: bring biscuits, energy bars, gels, bananas, chocolate or dried fruit for example and put them somewhere easy to get hold of
Lunch: bring a packed lunch unless otherwise stated
Food & drink
Bring a picnic lunch and drink.