Navigating Guildford’s Downs

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Lowland and Hill Walks
Apr 13

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Distance is 16.7 km (10.4 miles); total ascent is 305 metres (1001ft); terrain involves a climb of 108m (354 ft) near the beginning then undulating, surfaces are mostly gravel, roads and dirt paths

On this leisure walk, we will go up onto the North Downs out of Guildford to the Watts Gallery Artists’ village, pass Loseley Park and navigate back to the Wey Navigation.

This will be a mix of downland walking, undulating countryside and towpath, plus the inevitable roads up, out of and back in to Guildford.

Please note that the route does not include time for entry to the paid indoor spaces at the Watts Gallery (gallery and Limnerslease).  We will stop for about an hour for you to have an early lunch in the picnic areas, visit the grounds, shop with contemporary exhibition, cafe/facilities and visit together the Watts Chapel (free admission).

To help you explore, please download to your phone the site map for the Watts Artists’ village…

The sights

North Downs and the Mount:  After our climb out of Guildford, we’ll be rewarded with views northward to the Cathedral, distant Woking and over Guildford from the grassy Mount. We will visit the graves of Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll of “Alice in Wonderland” fame) and Edward Carpenter (gay activitist and poet). There is also a commerative stone marking the march of the 1497 Cornish rebels against Henry VII’s taxes to raise money in his campaign against the Scots. The rebellion was crushed at the Battle of Deptford Bridge.

Watts Gallery Artists’ Village and Chapel: George Frederic Watts and Mary Watts founded the gallery in 1904. We won’t visit the gallery but will have time (admission free) for you to explore the gardens, the outside of their home Limnerslease (“limner”: artist, “leasen”: glean), the posh shop, contemporary gallery and cafe. We should be able to visit the beautiful terracotta cemetery chapel with its stunning wall paintings, and the grave of Aldous Huxley (who died on the same day as CS Lewis and JFK) who wrote “Brave New World” – I haven’t read it, so will be happy to be enlightened!

Loseley Park: 1400 acres of countryside surround the Elizabethan house and walled gardens; we will glimpse the house from the lake. For those who remember (like me), sadly the famous Loseley ice cream has not been made here since the maker was bought out in 2011.

Wey Navigation: Opened in 1653 and now owned by the National Trust, 20 miles of navigation wind their way from Godalming to Weybridge. We will pass the railways which likely aided its demise, St Catherine’s Lock (its shallowest lock), a 1940s pill box and enjoy the towpath back to Guildford. The eagle eyed amongst you may spot the same stretch as on my assessment walk.

St Catherine’s Chapel: A short climb will take us to the “chapel of ease” built in the 14th century to save parishioners the longer journey to Guildford. The chapel and its fair were painted by JMW Turner and it is now a ruin with extensive views over the Downs.

The route

Click the link to see it on the Ordnance Survey website: 

From Guildford Station, we’ll climb up the steep road westwards reaching the highest point of the walk (144m after 2.5km). We will stop to admire the view from the Downs at the Mount and visit he cemetery, then continue along the bridleway past Henley Fort and avoid the A3 turning south and descending to the Watts Gallery. After lunch, we return eastwards via the farmland of Loseley Park estate and its lake. Be on your best behaviour passing the Surrey Police HQ and then the delights of railways, car parks and industrial estates before we reach the leafy Wey Navigation towpath for a picturesque stride northwards into Guildford. We’ll detour to St Catherine’s Chapel and a short climb a mile south of the town. There’s an optional pub stop at the end of the walk before returning to the station.


I love having dogs on my walks and this walk is ideal for them, and there will be stretches on quiet roads out of and back into Guildford. Dogs are allowed in all outdoor spaces and the shop of the Watts Gallery Artists’ village. They are not allowed in the optional visits to the tea room (indoors), contemporary gallery and Chapel at Watts Artists’ village.

IMPORTANT! – Participation Statement:

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Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, even if they are extremely mild, or who has recently tested positive for Covid-19, is asked not to attend.

(All images were taken by Alex Young in 2022 and 2023.)