‘After quite a long search – walking on remote bits of line in the Home Counties and consulting Ordnance maps, we have found a country station and a line that winds through a tunnel between high wooded hills…’ Towards the end of a short feature in the Radio Times in March 1957, the producer Dorothea Brooking recounted the difficulties of filming Edith Nesbit’s classic story, The Railway Children, for BBC children’s television. The country station that she had found was Baynards, on the Guildford–Christ’s Hospital line, where this walk begins, just north of the tunnel that was used in the eight-part serial.
Finding a suitable location for a story set in 1906 meant 'finding a station and a bit of line that is not electrified' – not easy, even in 1957. Then there was the practical problem of the 'modern trains running their day to day schedule'. Nearly half a century later, Carlton Television had an easier job with their 2000 remake. Their film was shot on the preserved Bluebell Railway in Sussex, with a ready-made set and turn-of-the-century locomotives still in everyday use. Dorothea Brooking had no such luxury; in 1957, there wasn't a single standard gauge heritage railway operating anywhere in this country.
Finding a suitable location for a story set in 1906 meant ‘finding a station and a bit of line that is not electrified’ – not easy, even in 1957. Then there was the practical problem of the ‘modern trains running their day to day schedule’. Nearly half a century later, Carlton Television had an easier job with their 2000 remake. Their film was shot on the preserved Bluebell Railway in Sussex, with a ready-made set and turn-of-the-century locomotives still in everyday use. Dorothea Brooking had no such luxury; in 1957, there wasn’t a single standardgauge heritage railway operating anywhere in this country. These were the twilight years for Britain’s rural railways. Traffic had collapsed after a strike in 1955, and within a decade the ‘Beeching axe’ would fall on hundreds of little stations like Baynards.
Dorothea Brooking had to cope with a different sort of twilight – filming took place in mid-February, and the schedule allowed just one extra day for the ‘all too likely event of bad weather’. British Railways had arranged for a period engine and four carriages, and it was filmed pulling into the station from the Guildford direction, stopping, and going on into the tunnel. The children in the series – played by Anneke Wills, Sandra Michaels and Cavan Kendall – were also shown exploring the station and goods shed, sitting on a piece of fence (courtesy of the BBC) and flagging down the train in the cutting. You’ll see these film locations right at the start of your walk, though the tunnel is now blocked. There are good views of the station from the Downs Link – but as it’s now a private home, please respect the owner’s privacy.
From the lay-by, follow the Downs Link signposts down onto the old railway line and head north under the Cox Green Road bridge. Soon you’ll come to a wooden gate; pass through with the gates of Thurlow Lodge on the right. Follow the Downs Link as it zig-zags left and right, past the former Baynards station buildings (now privately owned) and back onto the old line. Continue for 350yds (320m), until a footpath crosses the line at a waymarker post.
Turn right here, up the steps of a public footpath, climb over the stile and cross the field straight ahead. Keep just to the left of a corner of woodland jutting out into the field, cross the broken stile in front of you, and bear gently left along the grassy track through Massers Wood. Leave the woods at a waymarked stile and continue, following the field boundary on your right between post-and-wire fences.
At the top corner of the field, turn right over a stile onto the grassy bridleway. Continue along the surfaced lane at the foot of the hill, towards the large complex of buildings at Home Farm. Follow the lane as it swings left through the middle of some industrial units, and continue for 80yds (73m) beyond the entrance to Brooklands Farm on your left.
Turn left onto a public bridleway, which passes the back of the farm and continues as a grassy lane. At the end of the lane, carry on through two fields, following the edge of the woods on your right as far as the buildings of Vachery Farm. Bear right here, and follow the signposted bridleway until it meets the farm drive at a fork.
Now bear left, signposted towards Vachery Farm; then, 20yds (18m) further on, fork right onto the signposted bridleway. Bear right through a small wood, cross over the high-sided wooden footbridge over Cobbler’s Brook and go through a gate. Follow the worn path across the field to a broken gate and gravel track.
Go through the gate and continue straight ahead along the waymarked bridleway. Follow it for 150yds (137m); then, as the bridleway bears to the left, dodge up to the right to the signpost and turn left onto the Downs Link. Follow the old railway back to Baynards Station and retrace your steps to the start.
Field and forest paths, section of old railway line, 4 stiles
Gently rolling farmland
Lead required near livestock and in Massers Wood
OS Explorer OL34 Crawley & Horsham
Lay-by on Cox Green Road, Baynards, by railway bridge
None on route
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Surrey may be better known for its suburbia than its scenery, but the image is unjust. Over a quarter of the county’s landscapes are official Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and along the downs and the greensand ridge you can gaze to distant horizons with hardly a building in sight. This is one of England’s most wooded counties, and has more village greens than any other shire. You’ll find sandy tracks and cottage gardens, folded hillsides and welcoming village inns. There’s variety, too, as the fields and meadows of the east give way to the wooded downs and valleys west of the River Mole.
Of course there are also large built-up areas, mainly within and around the M25; but even here you can still find appealing visits and days out. On the fringe of Greater London you can picnic in Chaldon’s hay meadows, explore the wide open downs at Epsom, or drift idly beside the broad reaches of the stately River Thames. Deep in the Surrey countryside you’ll discover the Romans at Farley Heath, and mingle with the monks at England’s first Cistercian monastery. You’ll see buildings by great architects like Edwin Lutyens and Sir George Gilbert Scott, and meet authors too, from John Donne to Agatha Christie.