Guildford to Chilworth




6.4 miles (10.3kms)

965ft (294m)
2hrs 45min

About the walk

The eldest son of a Cheshire rector, Charles Dodgson was born in 1832. He studied mathematics at Oxford, where he later became a university lecturer. Meanwhile, the family had moved to Yorkshire, and after his father’s death in 1868, his sisters set their hearts on moving to Guildford. Charles bought them The Chestnuts, a large house in Castle Hill (No. 3) that you’ll see on your way out of town. He spent a good deal of his own time there, too, and came to regard the place as home. He stayed at The Chestnuts every Christmas, and it was in Guildford that he began work on The Hunting of the Snark.

Gifted storyteller

However, Dodgson’s job was in Oxford, where he was often surrounded by his colleagues’ young children. He wrote them countless letters, frequently including fantastic tales illustrated with his own sketches. He was a great storyteller, too, gifted at weaving everyday events into elaborate fables while the children listened. One of those children was Alice Liddell, daughter of the Dean of Christ Church. She was just four years old when her family moved to Oxford and, with her brother and two sisters, she delighted in Dodgson’s company. They would go on walks and picnics together, and of course he would tell them stories.

Begin at the beginning

But Alice was different – not content with just hearing Dodgson’s stories, she begged the mathematics lecturer to write them down for her. And so, after a day out picnicking with the children on the Thames in 1862, Charles Dodgson sat down to write the manuscript of Alice in Wonderland. His friends eventually persuaded him to get the story published, but, when the book finally appeared with its well-known Tenniel illustrations, Dodgson’s name was nowhere to be seen. Even the author, ‘Lewis Carroll’, was a creature of his own imagination.

Walk directions

Leave the car park via the footbridge at Level 5, cross Farnham Road and turn right. Just beyond the railway bridge, drop into the subway on your left, and follow the signposts to the ‘Town Centre via Riverside Walk’. Follow the riverside walk to The White House pub. Turn left over the bridge, continue into the High Street and turn first right into Quarry Street. Pass Guildford Museum and turn immediately left through Castle Arch. After 25yds (22m), continue ahead on the footpath running through the castle grounds, bear left around the castle and emerge onto Sydenham Road, cross over South Hill and turn right into Pewley Hill. Climb steadily past the Semaphore House on the corner of Semaphore Road. At the end of the road, continue along the bridleway, and follow it to the viewpoint pillar on the summit of Pewley Down.

From the viewpoint, head towards a green metal seat on your left and follow the path off the ridge, keeping the hedge on your left. Soon enter a tunnel of trees, and emerge between hedges. Keep straight on at the crossroads by the Pewley Down information board, and continue uphill for 300yds (274m) until the path meets the North Downs Way (NDW) at the blue bridleway marker.

Turn left onto the NDW and follow the waymarked route across Halfpenny Lane. Jink left and then right, passing Southernways Cottage on a narrow footpath, but still on the NDW. Meet the wide sandy track by St Martha’s Priory and climb the sandy track signed to St Martha’s Church on the summit of St Martha’s Hill.

Turn right at the church and take the footpath leading out of the churchyard opposite the south transept. Drop steeply down to Chilworth Manor, turn right at the bottom of the hill and, a short way further on, turn left onto the manor house drive. Follow this out to a bend in Halfpenny Lane, and keep straight on to the sharp left-hand bend at Halfpenny Corner.

Continue straight ahead for a few paces, then fork right up the signposted path between the hedges bordering two large houses. You’ll come out briefly onto Halfpenny Lane; turn left, then left again at the post box a few paces further on. Go through the gate, and follow the field edge path on your left.

Continue past a range of red-roofed barns, slowly being swallowed by ivy, and then to Manor Farm itself. At the farm, bear right through a signposted gap, and follow the field around to the left, with a hedge on your left and an open field on your right. Where the hedge comes to an end, veer right and follow the path across the open field. Look just to the right as you go, for a glimpse of Guildford’s distinctively modern cathedral in the distance.

On the far side of the field, go through a gap, then turn right onto Clifford Manor Road. Follow it around to the left and, on meeting Pilgrims’ Way, turn left.

Continue to the A281. Cross over and walk across Shalford Park, signed to ‘St Catherines Chapel’, heading for a gap in the trees. Beyond the trees you’ll reach the River Wey; cross the footbridge, and follow the towpath towards Guildford, with the river on your right. After passing over a small bridge and sluice, bear left across the green and cross another bridge and sluice before reaching the lattice girder footbridge at Millmead Lock. Cross the bridge and continue past the Alice statue on the little green near The White House pub. Follow the riverbank until you reach the Electric Theatre on the opposite bank. Turn left, climb the steps, and retrace your route through the subway to the car park.

Additional information

Paved streets, riverside towpath, and downland and field tracks

Big views from Pewley Down and gentle riparian scenery

Lead required in town

OS Explorer 145 Guildford & Farnham

Farnham Road car park, next to Guildford Railway Station; or Halfpenny Lane car park (start from Point 3)

At Farnham Road car park

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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. 

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