Up Stately St Martha's Hill to Shapely Shamley Green
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If the low winter sun is shining the grey landscape will be briefly bronzed by the bare branches and bejewelled by the emerald, malachite and jade of the pines, gorse and holly bushes. If clouds are lowering or even raining, the walk will be rather less appealing, but we'll have a respite from the cold and wet for a pub lunch in Shamley Green, a village of tile-hanging and half-timbering arrayed around a gracious green. The Pilgrims' Trail, the Downs Link and the Wey-South Path will ease our progress around an area where contrasts between town and country, antiquity and modernity, upland and lowland, hill and vale, greensand and chalk, hillside and riverside make for a compelling day walk.
St Martha's Hill and church: Part of the Greensand Ridge and at 175 m for its summit, the 18th highest hill in Surrey. The church on the top is on the Pilgrims' Way, a long-distance route that follows the North Downs to Canterbury. The church contains 12th century fragments, but is mostly Victorian.
Blackheath: Blackheath Village is a wholly Victorian Arts and Crafts, but we'll skirt it to see the extensive forested heath in the middle of which it stands.
Shamley Green: A pretty but loosely organised place formed from two triangles of open space on either side of a main road. Scattered half-timbered and tile-hung cottages all around, with the gaps infilled by over-dressed Victorian houses.
River Wey Navigation: The Wey was one of the first British rivers to be made navigable, opening to barge traffic in 1653. This 15-mile waterway linked Guildford to Weybridge on the Thames, and then to London. The Godalming Navigation, which links to Guildford, opened in 1764 to enable barges to work a further four miles upriver.
Setting off through Guildford we'll head south along the River Wey, then climb on to the North Downs through salubrious suburbs. Before long we'll be on the North Downs Way and Pilgrims' Trail, heading east along the ridge towards St Martha's Hill. Just after the church, we'll descend, following the Downs Link towards Chilworth, go over the A248 and railway line and then across the heath to Blackheath. After emerging from the forest, Littleford Lane and bridleways heading south will take us to Shamley Green for lunch at the pub.
After lunch Hulbrook Lane heading west will take us to a bridleway to link with the Wey-South Path. This path will return us to Guildford, but not before we've passed through Bramley and Broadford, crossed the river itself and its navigation three times and passed multiple locks. We'll be back in the park beside the river at dusk for abundant trains home or a drink in Guildford.
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What to bring
Footwear: Walking boots are essential, along with thick socks to prevent blisters, as the terrain is quite hilly.
Clothing: Wear cold and wet weather gear if these conditions are forecast and consider gaiters to reduce the spread of mud up the legs (the terrain will be muddy in parts although much of the walk will be on tarmac and gravel). Waterproof trousers are useful in the wettest weather but avoid jeans as when they are wet they become cold, heavy and chafing.
Food & drink
Please bring drinks and snacks. We are booked in to have lunch at The Red Lion at Shamley Green halfway round. I will email you two weeks before the walk to ask what you'd like to have for lunch. Alternatively, you are welcome to have a packed lunch. There are plenty of places to drink and eat in Guildford at the end of the walk.