Saturday 21 May. Eleven walkers ventured out to explore the beautiful countryside just outside Guildford. We were blessed with good weather as we made our way towards the Chantries Woods. Some years ago, I took over this walk from one of our longstanding members, Barbara, and I am still keeping to the lovely morning route which affords fabulous views in good weather across to Chilworth, Shalford and beyond.
Although we were too late to enjoy the usual carpets of blue bells within the woods, the open meadows offered plenty of wild flora and the shrubs and trees were looking lush, with birds chirping along the way. We joined a lengthy uphill path leading us to the Church of St. Martha’s-on-the-Hill, located high in the Surrey Hills along a section of the Pilgrims route of the North Downs Way. On arrival I was surprised to find that since doing my recce for this walk recently several new grave stones had been placed in the ancient church yard. They stood out brightly as all the older grave stones are grey and weather worn and have become more like a backdrop, albeit of no less significance.
Another surprise was that the church was open for viewing (which is not always the case) and outside a table was manned by volunteers offering hot and cold beverages.
After a short rest to enjoy the splendid views, we left the church yard through the gate situated next to the grave of Yvonne Arnaud, a French-born musician and actress, after whom the theatre in Guildford is named. We then negotiated our way through deep sand. At the point just before reaching one of the several remaining Pillboxes in Surrey we turned right to join a steeper, more ragged path where we came across a splendid fungus growing on a tree trunk, commonly known as ‘Chicken in Woods’ (one of our members knows about fungi).
We stopped for lunch in Chilworth, where picnickers had a suitable area with tables and benches not far from the Percy Arms pub. As always, the pub was very welcoming to us walkers both for those eating in and those just joining us for a drink.
The afternoon route took us around the ruins of the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills, an interesting historic site. By the stream nearby we came across a family whose little boy had just caught a small crayfish in his net pouch. He was very excited and we joined in with admiring his catch. After we left the site through a gate, we turned left up a path (from this part the route is now different from Barbara’s original longer version). We retraced our steps for a short while before joining a narrow path leading us passed a vine yard and a small enclosure where two lamas came to the fence to greet us. Soon we came to the gate and driveway leading to Chilworth Manor and another Pillbox across the lane.
After a short walk through the beautiful grounds with rhododendrons out in full bloom and a pond to our left we joined a gentle uphill path which took us onto the open fields stretching below the Chantries with the ridge of the woods high up to our right contrasting with the pale greens below. When we reached a residential road, we made our way down to the meadows leading across to the river Wey. Up and over the bridge, then turning right along the towpath with rows of beautiful weeping willows on the other side of the river we headed to Guildford station via a minor diversion as the area around the lock near Guildford is still closed off.
I leave you with the image of an intriguing sign which one of our intrepid photographers came across somewhere along the way – it made me smile!
Sigrid (photos: Sigrid and also, with thanks, from Christine M and Mary-Jane)
History of the Church of St. Martha’s on the Hill: https://www.parishofchilworth.org.uk/history/st-marthas/full-history/
Chilworth Gunpowder Mill history: https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/story/chilworth-gunpowder-mills-in-the-great-war/
Chilworth Manor history: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilworth_Manor,_Surrey#History