A great trail for a first hiking experience. Some elevation along the way can be quite challenging and also flat terrains in between. Plenty of nature to explore along the way, water paths, animals and birds to look at. It can get quite muddy during rainy seasons so hiking boots are well worth the investment for this trail.
Calculated time is computed with the distance, the height difference, and an average speed of 2.2 mph. For an intermediate walker, this time includes small breaks.
(D/A) Leave the car park back to the road and turn right, joining the path which runs on the right-hand grass bank, with the road running on your left. This path leads you steadily downhill and then down some steps to reach a junction with a gulley. Turn left for a few paces and then turn right along the road, still heading downhill.
After just 100 metres, you will come to a junction, alongside the mill pond within Friday Street. The pond was created by damming a branch of the river, the Tillingbourne, to give a head of water from which to drive a mill. There was a corn mill here by the early 1600s, but it is thought this pond may have been constructed to power a hammer for working iron.
If you are looking for refreshments at this point, you can make a small detour by turning right into Friday Street where you will find the Stephan Langton Inn. The pub is named after the Archbishop of Canterbury who helped force King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. When you are ready to continue, return to the pond.
(1) At this junction by the pond, fork left onto the tarmac access lane (signed as Private Land of Wotton Estate, Public Footpath Only). Follow this as it leads you past a tiny post box set into the gatepost and then Pond Cottage, both on your right. Keep ahead and cross the ford, or use the footbridge if the water is too deep. Pass the next two properties, Pond Weed Place on your right and then Yew Tree Cottage on your left. You will come to a signed crossroads of footpaths with a wide gate ahead. Go straight on via the stile and continue along the fenced track with a branch of the Tillingbourne running across to the left. In 1736, Sir John Evelyn of Wotton House landscaped this valley by creating a chain of fishponds separated by low falls and canals. He also carried out extensive planting of trees, following the earlier clearance to meet the demands of the old iron and gunpowder industries. Further along, you will come to a signed fork in the track. Take the left-hand branch, staying closest to the Tillingbourne across to the left. Later, the track swings right, away from the river. Simply follow the line of the left-hand fence as it then swings left, right and left again, taking you down a set of shallow steps. At the end of this stretch of path, cross the stile ahead into the corner of a field. Go straight ahead, following the right-hand edge of the field. Across to the left you will have good views of the large red brick residence of Wotton House (more of that in a moment). At the top of the field, cross the stile ahead to reach the access lane for Wotton House.
(2) Wotton House is the former seat of the Evelyn family including George Evelyn, one of the most successful pioneers of gunpowder in England. Later, John Evelyn, a landscape designer, created a fine Italian garden here. Today, the gardens are listed and the house is run as a hotel and conference centre. Turn right along the access drive, climbing steadily and swinging left. Within an avenue of trees, and just before the drive begins to descend, look out for a stile on the right. Cross this to enter a pasture (which may be holding cattle) and walk left (between 9 and 10 o'clock), heading for the metal gate just to the right of the single storey village hall. Pass through this metal kissing gate and keep ahead through the car park, to reach the road by a T-junction (with the Wotton Hatch pub on your left). Cross over the side road and follow the tarmac footway which leads you to the official crossing point for the A25. NOTE: The traffic can be fast moving so take care while crossing. Cross via the central island, turn left along the pavement for a few paces and then turn right into the small lane, signed to the Church of St John the Evangelist. A little way along, ignore the footpath into the field on the right, just stay with the lane which leads you directly to St John's Church. The church appears to have been the focus for several scattered farms and cottages and is the burial place for the Evelyn family.
(3) Do NOT enter the churchyard, instead take the wooden kissing gate to the left and follow the fenced path around the left-hand edge of the churchyard. Take time to enjoy the beautiful views ahead, across to the hills of the North Downs. Beyond the church, keep straight ahead on the obvious path leading you downhill between wire fences (take care as this can get slippery).
The path leads you through a pretty section of woodland (which is awash with bluebells in the late spring) and on to a wooden kissing gate ahead. Pass through this and take the path which continues in the same direction across the centre of the crop field. The path leads you over the brow of the hill and then down to a junction within the access lane for the cream-coloured property, Park Farm.
(4) Turn left here, on the signed bridleway which follows the line of the farms garden fence on your right and then leads you between several beautiful old barn buildings. Beyond the barns, keep directly ahead on the narrow bridleway which follows the line of the woodland edge on your left. NOTE: You will be sharing this path with cyclists and horse riders, so take care with children and dogs. Simply stay with this bridleway for some distance, enjoying the tremendous views of the wooded hillside of the North Downs across to the right. You will emerge out to a junction with a country lane. Turn left for a few paces and then turn right onto a path which soon veers right to become a bridleway track (also Cycle Route 22). Follow this bridleway into the National Trust site of Abinger Roughs. Continue straight ahead on the main track and it will lead you to a stone cross monument, the Wilberforce Monument, on your left. The cross is a monument for Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Winchester, who fell from his horse and died on this spot in 1873. He was the son of William Wilberforce who fought for the abolition of slavery.
(5) Beyond the monument, simply keep straight ahead on the main bridleway track for some distance (signed with a blue arrow) and ignoring any side paths (marked with yellow arrows). Further along, the track leads you into a clearing, where you will find a couple of benches should you wish to pause and enjoy the surroundings.
Ignore the side bridleway turning away sharp right. Instead, immediately beyond the clearing, fork left down the side bridleway (marked with another blue arrow) which leads you to a wooden gate. Pass through this and keep ahead on the obvious path through the hillside field.
At the far side, pass through the gate (NOTE: keep children and dogs close from this point) and follow the sunken path which leads you downhill under a tunnel of trees. This path leads you directly out to the edge of the main A25, by a bus stop at the edge of Abinger Hammer. Again, take good care crossing this road as, whilst limited to 40mph, the traffic can be busy. Cross over and take the tarmac access drive directly ahead.
On the left you will see another large pond, hammer pond, and on the right you will see Paddington Mill. A hammer mill was built here in Elizabethan times and was in use for more than 200 years, working iron sows from furnaces as far away as Sussex. Wrought iron was produced ready for the blacksmith. The hammer mill gave Abinger Hammer its name. Today, on the right, you will see the watercress beds, a more peaceful industry taking advantage of the flowing clear waters of the Tillingbourne.
(6) Continue along the access drive, which leads you between the outbuildings of Paddington Farm (one of which was holding a beautiful herd of curly belted galloway cattle when we walked through). At the T-junction (with the old farmhouse ahead), turn left and then immediately right to continue on the public bridleway. Follow this bridleway lined with hedgerows, heading uphill to reach the first junction. Keep straight ahead, staying with the main bridleway which gradually descends to reach a second junction (at the edge of a large crop field). Leave the bridleway at this point, forking left through the tree line and taking the obvious path which leads you across the crop field (at about 1 o'clock). At the far corner of the field, keep to the right of the double gates and this short section of path leads you out to the road, opposite Raikes Farm. Turn right (taking care of traffic) for about 10 paces and then turn left through the kissing gate to enter the farmyard. Within the farm buildings turn right to join the track which leads you past Raikes Farmhouse on your right. At the crossroads, keep left, following the line of the tall holly hedge on your left. Keep straight ahead at the next crossroads, taking a moment to glance to the left for another magnificent view of the North Downs. Further along, pass through a kissing gate and follow the path which leads you past a property on your right and then later swings left to enter the churchyard of St James' Church.
(7) Keep straight ahead on the gravel path through the churchyard, passing the church on your left. Go ahead through the lych gate and keep ahead, passing the stocks on your left, to reach the road with the Abinger Hatch freehouse directly ahead. Turn right along the village road and then take the first road on the left (immediately before the entrance gates for Mark Ash). Take care of any occasional traffic as you follow this small lane, called Donkey Lane, perhaps once a packhorse route, steeply downhill to reach the entrance gates for Glebe House at the bottom. Stay with the lane, now climbing and leading you over the brow of the hill to reach a T-junction with Hollow Lane. IMPORTANT NOTE: Take particular care of traffic on this next stretch. Turn right along the edge of Hollow Lane for about 130 metres and then fork left onto the signed woodland bridleway. Simply follow this path all the way out to the junction with a quiet lane. Turn left along the lane, taking care of occasional traffic and soon you will be able to join the path along the right-hand embankment. The moss-covered banks and gnarled trees here, give this lane a distinct Middle Earth atmosphere. Soon the lane will lead you to the car park on the right where the walk began.(D/A)
D/A : km 0 - alt. 176m - Car park
1 : km 0.26 - alt. 161m - Mill pond
2 : km 1.71 - alt. 126m - Wotton Drive
3 : km 2.71 - alt. 131m - St John's Church
4 : km 3.37 - alt. 106m - Park Farm
5 : km 4.96 - alt. 114m - Monument
6 : km 6.07 - alt. 96m - A25
7 : km 8.34 - alt. 166m - St James' Church
D/A : km 9.69 - alt. 176m - Car park
Whilst most of the paths are enclosed, you will need to cross a couple of pastures that may be holding livestock at some times of year (including cattle) so take particular care with dogs. There are several kissing gates plus four stiles (which have surrounded with gaps for medium dogs to fit through, but larger dogs would need a lift over).
Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.
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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.