Surrey's rivers, lakes and waterways
PUBLISHED: 19:05 02 December 2010 | UPDATED: 16:23 02 May 2018
We can't be alone at Surrey Life in occasionally casting an envious eye at the country's coastlined counties. But, as Matthew Williams discovers, renowned watersports, innovative waterways and inland beaches are available in Surrey
The Thames; Wey (Waverley, Guildford, Woking, Elmbridge); Mole (Mole Valley to the Thames); Tillingbourne (Shere); Wandle (Croydon, Sutton et al); Abbey (Chertsey); Ash (Spelthorne); Ember (Molesey); Bourne (Chertsey and Chobham); Ock (Hambledon); and Hogsmill (Ewell and Kingston).
Located on the Tillingbourne, a tributary of the River Wey, Shalford Mill is a beautiful 18th Century watermill. Interestingly, it was also one of the properties presented to the National Trust in 1932 by the Ferguson Gang – the mysterious masked band of philanthropists who took to appearing at the headquarters of the National Trust with sacks of money and clear instructions to direct the funds to particular causes.
More: At one point there were more mills per mile along the River Wey than anywhere else in Britain, with the mill at Coxes Lock near Addlestone being the largest. The last commercial mill in Surrey was Albury Mill on the Tillingbourne, which closed in 1990. The 19th century Cobham Mill, which is situated on the banks of the River Mole, is Surrey’s only surviving working watermill.
Get the feel of the coast right in the heart of Surrey with the lovely sandy beach (yes, really!) and excellent sailing provided at Frensham Ponds. The secluded Little Pond is owned and managed by the National Trust, while the Great Pond attracts bathers and watersports enthusiasts, and is also home to a hotel. Both lakes are man-made, and were created when the Whitmore Stream was dammed to provide the Bishops of Winchester, who were regular visitors to nearby Farnham Castle, with fish stock.
At the heart of the River Wey Navigations, which was one of the first British rivers to be made navigable and opened to barge traffic in 1653, Dapdune Wharf is a former barge-building site and is now an award-winning National Trust visitor centre. The Wey, unlike many other less efficient waterways, survived the railway era and continued to trade under private ownership until well after World War Two. The last owners, Stevens & Sons, donated the waterway to the National Trust in 1964.
Narrowboat holidays in Surrey
Godalming Packetboat Company
Running horse-drawn boat trips from Godalming Wharf during the summer, Godalming Packetboat Company offers travel along the River Wey in the Victorian style. Their boat Iona, which was used for the film The Barge with Harry H Corbett, Ronnie Barker and Eric Sykes, is led by horses Ben, Buddy and Denzil. The cost is £7.50 for adults, and £6.50 for seniors and children. Cruises normally run at 2pm, but always ring for bookings and dates in advance.
Opened in June 1933, Guildford Lido, unlike many outdoor pools around the country that have either been permanently shut down or had periods when they have been closed, has remained continuously in use ever since. Welcoming over 60,000 visitors a year, many of whom become members of the Friends of Guildford Lido, it is perfect for anyone who wants to swim outdoors in a landlocked county.
Watersports in Surrey
Mercers Country Park
Interested in learning dinghy sailing, windsurfing or canoeing? Then Aqua Sports, which can be found at Mercers Country Park, near Merstham, could be the place for you. Looking like the south of France at times, walkers in the area are no stranger to watching a fleet of excitable students gliding around the lake. For those who decide to take an unexpected dip, buoyancy aids are provided.
Perhaps even more surprising than sandy beaches and open-air swimming pools, Surrey is also a hub for waterskiing and wakeboarding, with the national body for the sports even based in Chertsey. You’ll also find John Battleday Water Ski there, too, which has been established for over 20 years.
More: Albany Park Canoe and Sailing Centre, Kingston; Frensham Pond Sailing Club; Hawley Lake Sailing Club, Camberley; Island Barn Resevoir Sailing Club, West Molesey; Papercourt Sailing Club, Ripley
Surrey Rowing Clubs
Kingston Rowing Club
For over 150 years, Kingston Rowing Club’s distinctive red and white stripes have been a familiar sight on the River Thames between Teddington Lock and Hampton Court Palace. The club caters for all levels, with a thriving junior squad and adult membership ranging from novice through to Olympic medallists, and the age range goes right up to 80. In 1976, Kingston’s own Tim Crooks won a silver in the rowing at the Montreal Olympics (and, perhaps even more famously, also won the 1977 BBC Superstars competition). Meanwhile, Olympian Kieran West, who won gold in Sydney in 2000, first plied his rowing skills as a young boy at Kingston Regatta in the early 1990s and still finds time to support the Kingston Rowing Club junior squad. Rebecca Romero also began her career at the club before rowing her way to a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics, four years prior to bringing home a gold from Beijing.
Molesey Boat Club
Currently captained by British Olympic gold medallist Andrew Triggs-Hodge, Molesey Boat Club in East Molesey is another rowing club with a long history on the Thames. The clubhouse stands on its own grounds and is a beautiful and traditional example of a Thames boat-house. For almost 150 years, Molesey, ideally situated between Hampton Court Palace and Sunbury, has been the cradle for thousands of rowers from novices right up to top level international athletes.
More: Burway Rowing Club; Guildford Rowing Club; Walton Rowing Club; Weybridge Rowing Club
One of the main providers of boating on the Thames for the past 300 years, the Kingston-based Turk Launches is a family-run company that can be traced back to 1710. As well as their popular leisure boat rides, over the years they have also found fame as builders of record breaking masts (one, reaching 120ft high, was built for the aviation pioneer Thomas Sopworth) and as creators of kayaks that could travel the Channel (a feat unheard of at the time). During World War Two, when we had an American base in Bushy Park, the Canadians in Richmond Park and British troops scattered all over Surrey with nowhere to go and not a lot to do, the river became the hub of social activity and the Turks’ punting business thrived. The main business these days is the passenger boats, based in Kingston, which offer scheduled trips in the summer between Richmond, Twickenham, Kingston and Hampton Court Palace.