George Gilbert Scott's Godstone

NEAREST LOCATION

Godstone

RECOMMENDED BY
DISTANCE

4.3 miles (6.9kms)

ASCENT
104ft (125m)
TIME
1hr 45min
GRADIENT
DIFFICULTY
Easy
STARTING POINT
TQ350515

About the walk

Both churches on this route were restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott, one of the leading architects of the Victorian era – he headed the largest architectural practice of the time, and was associated with work on almost 500 churches.

Almhouses

Students of the great man need hardly come to Godstone, when they can see many of his largest and most famous buildings in London and other great cities. But, as you'll see, Godstone has one or two tricks up its sleeve. Sir George lived at Rook's Nest – now derelict and awaiting planning permission – less than a mile (1.6km) from the centre of the village (now on the site of a golf course). Apart from his work on the local churches, he also designed one of Godstone's most charming buildings. You'll pass the low, mock-Tudor St Mary's Homes right next to St Nicholas' Church.

The almshouses were founded in 1872 by a young widow, Mrs Augusta Nona Hunt, for eight 'aged or infirm persons of good character'. With their profusion of little gabled windows, Sir George's designs seem almost to have grown out of the colourful, well-tended gardens that separate the Homes from Church Lane. A tiny chapel, heated by a fireplace in the west wall, completes this delightful group – do look in and see it, it's open to visitors daily. The Homes became a housing association in 1982, and are now a registered charity.

Philistine or protector?

At about the time that he was building St Mary's Homes, Sir George was also involved in restoring St Nicholas' Church, and the Church of St Peter's in Tandridge. By now, some of his most famous projects – the Albert Memorial, the Home Office, and St Pancras Station in London – were already behind him. He had worked on many of the great cathedrals, too, but some people thought that his unusually thorough restorations destroyed too much of the original medieval work.

A letter that Scott wrote from Rook's Nest in 1871 suggests a different story. In it, he told fellow architect George Edmund Street how he was under pressure from an Oxfordshire rector to tear out the old pews from his church. Scott believed that the seating should stay: 'I value it no less for being humble,' he wrote. 'It is good old work and in its place, and I hold that it is wrong to renew it... I wish especially that it shall not be renewed against my will or after I am away.' So – was Sir George really the philistine that he's sometimes made out to be, or a conservationist at heart?

Visit the churches on this route and judge for yourself.

Walk directions

Take the public footpath beside the White Hart pub, signposted towards the church. Pass by Bay Pond and cross Church Lane and follow the path through the churchyard. Keep the church on your left, and continue along the winding path across two bridges as it passes Glebe Water. On reaching a field, turn right and soon turn through a gap in the hedge onto gravel track. Turn left passing a long low building and then walk beside a large metal gate and continue ahead under the busy A22.

A few paces beyond the bridge, turn right at Hop Garden Cottage and follow the waymarked bridleway out onto Jackass Lane. Turn right here, opposite Little Court Farm, now converted into private houses. At the top of the hill turn left for 100yds (91m) if you'd like to visit St Peter's Church. Otherwise turn right, and follow Tandridge Lane to the public footpath on the right just 30yds (27m) short of The Barley Mow pub.

Turn right and follow the broad, sandy track between open fields and then a grassy track straight ahead to the kissing gate beside the A22. Cross the main road, and take the footpath, waymarked Greensand Way, directly opposite. A few paces, go through another kissing gate, signed 'GSW', to continue along the bridleway straight ahead, with a steep drop to a pond on your left. Jump the tiny ford (or use the footbridge) and walk up the lane past Leigh Place Pond as far as the B2236.

Leave the Greensand Way here and turn right. Follow the pavement until just beyond Church Lane, then turn left at the bus stop, up The Enterdent. After 100yds (91m) turn right onto the public footpath into the woods. The waymarked path climbs, steeply in places, to a kissing gate near the adventure playground on the edge of Godstone Farm. Follow the waymarked route through the farm grounds, to the stile on the north side of the car park, through a kissing gate and follow as path bends to meet the road.

Turn right onto Tilburstow Hill Road for 100yds (91m); then, just beyond the Godstone Farm delivery entrance, cross over and turn off left at the wooden footpath signpost. The path runs along the bottom of fields on the edge of Godstone village, then leads out into Ivy Mill Lane. Turn right for the short climb back to the village green, then right again into Ivy Mill Close, and follow the footpath back to the B road and the start of your walk.

Additional information

Footpaths and bridleways can be muddy in places, 1 stile

Sheltered, domestic landscape dotted with little ponds

Lead required on village roads, through churchyard, at Godstone Farm and requested at other points along route

OS Explorer 146 Dorking, Box Hill & Reigate

Adjacent to village pond, limited to 3 hours

Outside The Hare and Hounds pub, Godstone

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About the area

Discover Surrey

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.