East Horsley's Lovelace Bridges Trail
Beginning at the Green Dene car park by Sheepleas, the following description follows an arbitrary circular tour of the ten remaining Lovelace Bridges. This route is about 7-8 kilometres long, follows public footpaths, bridleways and a few short stretches of minor roads, and will take maybe 3-4 hours to stroll. Boots are recommended as it may be muddy beneath the arches. There were fifteen Lovelace Bridges in all, five bridges no longer exist. To find all the extant bridges more easily, the OS 25K scale map is recommended for following the paths marked on a Surrey County Council plaque in the car park.
This plaque, and others by the bridges, appear to have been kindly funded by the Horsley Countryside Preservation Society (HCPS), Lovelace Bridges Project. Other bodies have attached themselves to this trail - Forestry Commission England, Guildford Borough Council, Surrey Hills and Surrey County Council.
Following the Lovelace Bridges Trail has been made easier by the placing of waymarkers(colourful, plastic roundels) at frequent locations around the paths. These are usually easy to spot, but beware - in areas like Oldlands Wood with numerous path junctions, it is fairly easy to wander off track.
Some historical background - these Victorian bridges were funded by Lord Lovelace to make the journeys easier for the horse-drawn carts with their timber loads for the Epsom Road sawmill. William King, the first Earl of Lovelace, was a Victorian entrepreneur who bought Horsley Towers in 1840 then had it eye-catchingly remodelled. In the late 19th century, Lord Lovelace also had the look of East Horsley village dramatically changed as many buildings were built or covered in very decorative brick and flintwork.
From Green Dene car park, head 0.5 km north-east along Green Dene to the Honeysuckle Bottom road fork. Turn right, following the footpath past houses and uphill into Coles Copse. This stretch of the trail runs along a sunken lane for ca 0.75 km to Crocknorth Road and passes underneath three of the Lovelace Bridges. The going under the arches does become very muddy, particularly in winter due to horse traffic. The first bridge is Raven Arch with its single parapet , soon followed by two very close together bridges - Briary Hill West and Briary Hill East . These are typical Lovelace Bridges with horseshoe-shaped arches, flint walls, brick facings and rounded tiled tops.
Turning left down Crocknorth Road for 0.25 km, you soon come to the Dorking Arch.
With an 18 foot span and a 13 foot headroom, this is Lovelace's largest and most decorative bridge. Arrowslits have been built into its parapets.
Go under the arch, and after about 100 metres, take the bridleway on the left through Round Wood. This track leads downhill and, after ca 0.25 km, reaches the Robin Hood Arch. It is unknown why it was named after the famous English "outlaw". The bridge probably carried a segment of the Old London Lane but now connects two private properties. Like the others, has a nearby brass informative plaque.
Continue downhill till you rejoin the road, Green Dene, turn right to the road fork with Crocknorth Road, turn right onto a path into the woods, then turn sharp left at the barn. This path following the foot of the hill is Old London Lane. After ca 0.5 km, turn right and go uphill, following a wide bridleway between the fields. This leads after another 0.5 km to Oldlands Wood and to the parapetted Stoney Dene Bridge. This was the first of the extant 10 bridges to be refurbished and there are large wooden notice boards beside it. This bridge was refurbished in 2012, in time for a Royal visit to coincide with work on the Horsley Heritage trail. A Surrey Industrial Heritage Group plaque has been added to the wall beneath the arch and on the parapet can be found graffiti from World War Two
Turn left after the bridge and head north along the track for ca 0.5 km and you come to the remains of Pine Grove, site of one the five former bridges. Here are earthwork and some scant brickwork remains. Other remaining sites around Oldlands Wood are named Horse Close, Outdowns, Oldlands and Oak Hangar. Oldlands Bridge is on a private road. The photograph here is of Pine Grove.
Turn round and retrace your steps from Pine Grove, head south, past Stony Dene Bridge again and past the Horse Close site. This 1.25 km stretch through Oldlands and Pump Pond Woods takes you next to Meadow Plat Bridge, the narrowest Lovelace Bridge.
A footpath from near this arch runs further south for 1 km, regaining Crocknorth Lane. Turn right, westwards along the road for 0.25 km, turn left onto the Sheepwalk Lane bridleway, then after another 0.25 kms turn right onto next bridleway leading to The Hermitage. A private way crosses Hermitage Arch which is very overgrown and difficult to see and photograph.
Carry on westwards down Sheepwalk Lane for 0.75 km and you reach the tenth and final Lovelace Bridge, the Troy Bridge. This bridge is of large proportions and still has refurbishment to be done to it. Tree roots, for example, are burrowing into the brickwork.
Continue downhill from the arch to the major track crossroads. Either turn right down Honeysuckle Bottom, past the site of Falcon Arch and back to Green Dene; or carry on uphill westwards and through Mountain Wood back to Green Dene car park. This final leg is ca 1 km.