Shere Parish Millennium Trail
Text © Copyright Colin Smith, January 2010
Shere Parish Millennium Trail
This circular walk is not circular on the map but it is an elongated NW-SE stretch across Shere Parish and takes walkers back where they started by a circular route of some 15 kilometres. The 1:25,000 or 1:50,000-scale OS map is a recommended vade mecum. This Trail is one of countless local initiatives across the UK to mark the year 2000 and the Millennium Trail has made its mark on the Surrey Hills countryside with its numerous unique way markers along the way.
Shere Parish Council not only serves Shere but also the neighbouring villages of Gomshall, Holmbury St Mary and Peaslake, all of which are on the looping Millennium Trail. The Council also provides online information about the trail.
The Trail crosses part of the Surrey Hills, as well as these four villages, covering some of Surrey’s most picturesque countryside. Car parks in each of the four villages provide good starting points for motorised walkers. Shere is as good as any, especially is it gives its name to this Millennium Trail. The better surfaced, and smaller, car park is on Gomshall Lane in Shere, beside the modern local surgery – and offers free courtesy weekend parking. The larger, pot-holed and more popular, car park is entered by a rough track almost opposite the north end of Middle Street. This car park is adjacent to the village hall, playground and sports field.
SHERE village alone is well worth a visit (an hour will not do it justice) before embarking on the trail. Shere is frequently said to be Surrey’s best looking village and recently not only photographers have come here but also filmmakers – e.g. the schmaltzy film The Holiday had scenes filmed here. A circular stroll around the village takes walkers down the often-congested Middle Street towards Tilling Bourne bridge, the old White Horse pub and The Square – a triangular patch of grass lined with local shops.
East of The Square is a lych gate through which is an architectural gem, the parish church of St James. The church has Norman roots, maybe even Saxon, and is noted for its squint on the north wall (former anchoress’ cell), ancient brasses, door and font.
Follow Church Hill south of the church, west along The Spinning Walk, and north along Sandy Lane takes you back to the village’s popular two pubs by The Square. Turn west by the bridge and Lower Street takes you past several attractive old cottages with names redolent of former uses – like The Old Bakery and The Old Prison. Right at the ford and footbridge over the Tilling Bourne, Rectory Lane goes uphill, and right again at Upper Street – once again with photogenic old cottages – returns the walker back to the top of Middle Street.
But back to the Millennium Trail, this carries straight on at the above-mentioned ford, through a gate, southwest and uphill across Shere Park for 1 kilometre. This crosses parkland studded with ancient oaks and sweet chestnuts before reaching Park Road. Turn left (east) at the road, following a bridleway for 200 metres (Shere Heath), then turn right (southwest), returning to the road. To the left and immediately across the road, take the bridleway southeast that will cross the Dorking-Guildford railway (the scenic North Downs Line). Take the track right (southwest) at cottages for 500 metres and turn left at a Trail marker, up the bank, and 500 metres on the footpath eastwards over fields leads to Hound House Road by Drydown Farm. Go right (south).
Along the road 250 metres and opposite Cottrells House take the bridleway on the left (east). The bridleway crosses fields and after 800 metres reaches Lawbrook Lane. Across the lane, continue southeast for 200 metres to reach Jesses Lane and follow this lane to the right (southeast) for another 200 metres. Take the path left (south) and the second gate for the footpath over the field to Pond Lane. Here, turn right onto a driveway, over a stile, and take the footpath southwest for 500 metres, then at the next stile go left (southeast) and another 500 metres past more fields leads to Peaslake village.
PEASLAKE is a small village centred where five roads meet in a deep, narrow valley set in the Hurt Wood – an area favoured by many cyclists, horse riders and ramblers. There is a car park just north of the large, local hostelry, The Hurtwood Inn, and the shop gets a fair amount of passing trade from cyclists, motorists and walkers. Hurt is an old Surrey word for a whort or whortleberry that grows well on the surrounding sandy (Greensand Ridge) hills. On these hills are old quarries too, owned by the local Lord of the Manor, the Brays of Shere – local Pitch Hill sandstone has been used in building many of Peaslake’s houses. St Mark’s Church is also built of the local stone.
The Shere Parish Millennium Trail runs eastwards from the village crossroads, from left of the telephone box. It heads east for 1 kilometre, uphill through Spurfolds Copse, downhill to Riding Bottom, and uphill again into Riding Copse. Then the bridleway veers to the right, going southeast up- and downhill for another kilometre. At the bottom of this steep wooded valley, go right (south) and uphill, following the wide track for one more kilometre, to reach a pinetum and cairn. Follow the track, bending to the left, and the top of Holmbury Hill (261 metres / 857 feet amsl) is soon reached. This hilltop is the site of a prehistoric fort and, in good weather, offers great views along the Surrey Hills (west and east) and southwards across The Weald to the South Downs some 25 miles away.
Follow the wide and sandy track northeast from the hilltop, across renewed heath land, and back into the woodland (mainly pine). At a track crossway, turn right and carry on down wooded Somerset Hill for about two kilometres. This passes a cricket ground on the left and soon reaches Holmbury St Mary village.
HOLMBURY ST MARY is mainly a Victorian village but there are a few 17th century cottages to the north along Horsham Road – in Sutton. The village is an attractive one, lying in another wooded valley, and lining the Abinger Common – Forest Green road. The church sits among pines on a hillside south of the village green. It is dedicated to St Mary the Virgin and was built in 1879 by G.E. Street of Holmdale at his own expense. He used local stone with Bath Stone dressings for this Early English architectural style. By the village green are The King’s Head pub, a small Congregational Chapel with burial ground and an old wellhead.
Leave the village green by the ‘phone box and follow the footpath uphill (north) for 200 metres. Turn left (west) and some 700 metres later, the path passes near to the Youth Hostel and the end of Radnor Lane (to right). Cross the wide, sandy track and continue following the path northwest for 1 kilometre. Thereafter the trail bends to the left and heads further westward for another kilometre, past woods, fields and school, to reach Peaslake Lane – you are back in Peaslake, at its north end, in Hoe.
Turn right (north) into the lane, Pursers Hollow, and follow it for 200 metres, then follow Broadfield Road on the left (north) for the next 500 metres. Take the footpath on the left (note post by field and house) and head northwest for 200 metres to reach Pursers Lane. Turn left (west) for some 200 metres and follow the next road, Hook Lane, to the right (north) for another 200 metres towards Burrows Cross. Take another right turn off the roadway, onto a footpath for 20 metres, and then take right again (east) to a wooded bridleway for 200 metres. Left at the track junction (north) is a 1 kilometre long bridleway (called Towerhill Lane) that leads to Towerhill Farm and Towerhill Road.
GOMSHALL. Those with a penchant for more villages can go right (north) before the railway arch and follow Goose Green for 500 metres into Gomshall. This is an attractive village, centred on the busy A25 Dorking Road where the weather boarded Gomshall Mill straddles the Tilling Bourne. An earlier mill was here in Domesday Book times before a medieval tanning industry developed. There are also two attractive pubs on the main road – the 17th century Black Horse (may now be re-opened for business) and the 1830 Compasses with its beer garden beside the shallow stream.
But back to the Shere Parish Millennium Trail and the tall railway arch (the Dorking-Guildford line again) leading westward along High View to the crossroads with the south end of Gomshall’s Queen Street. Cross the road and continue west into Gravelpits Lane with its Gravelpits Farm. Follow the bridleway west through fields for some 700 metres to a track junction with a super view of Shere church spire and of the North Downs beyond. A right turn at this junction leads into Shere Village and back to the beginning of this Shere Parish Millennium Trail.