Outwood to Bletchingley




8.5 miles (13.6kms)

686ft (209m)

About the walk

England was in the grip of the plague when Thomas Budgen of Nutfield built his mill on Outwood Common in 1665. And, according to tradition, the top of the newly completed mill was just the spot to watch the Great Fire sweeping through London the following year.

Like any other mill, Outwood's sails will only turn when they are facing into the wind. So the 'post' mill is built around a huge vertical axle – or post – that allows the whole colossal structure to pivot as required. You'll see the oak post, reputedly brought from Crabbet Park, near Crawley, supported by a wooden framework resting on the four brick piers in the roundhouse. The body of the mill is almost 40ft (12m) high, and weighs around 25 tons, yet it's so well balanced that one person can turn it into the wind by pushing on the 'tailpole' at the back. The miller raises sacks of grain to the top with a hoist, powered by the sails, and feeds the grain down to the millstones on the floor below. The milled flour is then channelled to the spout floor at the bottom of the mill. Outside, the great wooden sails are built from slats resembling a Venetian blind. This system was first patented many years after Outwood Mill was built, and must have replaced the original canvas sails.

For all its grandeur, Thomas Budgen's masterpiece wasn't the only mill on this site. A new smock mill was built just yards away in 1790, following a family quarrel. With its four pairs of millstones and other modern equipment, it was designed to drive the old-fashioned post mill out of business. But the new miller was rather too fond of the nearby Bell Inn and, when ill-fortune eventually led to the failure of his enterprise, the old post mill still soldiered on. The smock mill suffered the final indignity when it blew down during a storm in 1960.

To the castle at Bletchingly

As you head across the fields towards Bletchingley, with its castle and bustling High Street, even the sometimes intrusive presence of the nearby motorway can't disguise the medieval appearance of this landscape. Traditional sheep-grazed pasture gives way to a wooded route that curves around the foot of the castle earthworks and then climbs up to Bletchingley on the Greensand Way. The castle was built for the de Clares but destroyed some time after the Battle of Lewes in 1264.

The castle's moat still remains, and while it is on private land, the many wonderful views of the moat along this waymarked route are accessible and free.

Walk directions

From the car park, follow the yellow waymark through the woods onto Millers Lane and then right into Brickfield Road. Turn right again down the woodland bridleway 180yds (165m) beyond the church, and follow it onto Outwood Common, through the trees and past a pond. Ignore footpath on the right and continue ahead alongside the fields towards Burstow Park Farm.

Zig-zag right, then left, around the farmhouse to a gate. Walk along wide grassy track in front of the farmhouse through a second gate and then straight ahead through kissing gate, cross the field to another kissing gate and follow the field edge on your right to a stile next to a gate. Go through a kissing gate and across a concrete slab bridge. Bear half left to another kissing gate and plank bridge, go over the bridge and then bear left to gap in the hedge, turn right up field edge and cross three stiles to pass between the farm buildings.

Cross the farm drive, and continue over two stiles and through a couple of fields before crossing a stile and up steps to the railway line, cross with care and descend to follow the fences on your left through three fields, to a metal gate alongside a wooden field gate. Go through the gate onto the Greensand Way and follow the route across the large pasture. Shortly after going through a gate and passing a couple of barns, the path divides.

Turn left and then right over a stile to rise up the slope on a fenced path and dive into a tunnel of low trees, and climb towards Castle Hill with fine views to the south before emerging into Castle Square. Keep ahead to Bletchingley High Street and turn right and then turn right into Outwood Lane. Just beyond houses, turn left and left again following fingerpost around Hevers Pond onto a bridleway that winds uphill through a sunken way. Turn right at the brow, and follow the Greensand Way across a disused concrete road, to the Telecoms manhole 100yds (91m) further on.

Branch right here, leaving the Greensand Way, to follow the footpath diagonally across a field into Gravelhill Wood. Beyond the wood, cross another field and through a squeeze gate to follow the left-hand side of the next field. Just before the corner of this field, swing left through a gap in the hedge and walk diagonally across another field, heading towards the woods via a squeeze gate. Continue just inside the woodland edge, until you cross a small plank bridge.

At the bridleway turn left and continue along this gravelled bridleway to Cuckseys Farm and Cinderhill Cottage. Now follow the route just inside Poundhill Wood, passing a pill box on the left and carry on for another 0.75 miles (1.2km) to emerge at the corner of a field that rises gently to cut off the view.

Turn right here along the woodland edge and onto the track leading out to Brown's Hill. Turn left, then shortly right through a kissing gate opposite North Brownshill Cottage, to head diagonally across three fields and stile between each. Bear gently right through a gap in the hedge, and continue through one field and into the next. After 40yds (37m) turn left through another gap and follow the field boundary on your left, and into the woods on Outwood Common via a kissing gate. Join the drive at Treetops Cottage, and follow it back to Outwood Windmill and the start of your walk.

Additional information

Easy field-edge paths and farm tracks, 9 stiles

Rolling, sheep-grazed farmland dotted with small patches of woodland

Can run free but keep on lead near livestock

OS Explorer 146 Dorking, Box Hill & Reigate

National Trust car park opposite Outwood Mill

None on route

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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.