Surrey walk along the River Wey Navigation
PUBLISHED: 10:59 22 February 2016 | UPDATED: 16:17 27 June 2018
Explore the tow path from Guildford to Shalford and onto the pretty village of Wonersh, with this crisp wintery walk. You’ll discover some interesting industrial and military history along the way
• Starting point: The bridge at the back of Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre at Millbrook (GU1 3UX).
• Grid reference: SU995 492
• Length of walk: 8 miles
• Food /drink: At Shalford, you’ll find The Parrot Inn and The Seahorse pub, as well as the Snooty Fox café and groceries. At Wonersh, there’s The Grantley Arms and Wonersh Village Stores.
• Whilst you are there: Visit Shalford Mill, an 18th century watermill run by the National Trust (opening times at nationaltrust.org.uk/shalford-mill).
1 This walk starts from the centre of Guildford, behind the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. Cross the footbridge over the canal at the back of the theatre and turn left along the canal path. Follow the Wey Navigation for a mile and you’ll pass a bridge signposted to Shalford Park and a hillside of brightly- coloured golden sand, which many suggest is how the town of Guildford got its name (as in “Golden crossing”).
2 Staying on the Wey Navigation path, look out on your right for a disused pillbox, or gunnery point, for the Home Guard. It is a remnant from the dark days of World War Two, built as part of the last defences against Nazi Germany invading London. Keep going until you meet Broadford Bridge, which crosses over the river at Shalford.
3 Turn left, cross over the bridge and follow the road around the corner past some cottages. Keep bearing left, following the footpath by the A248 until you reach the common after about 200 yards. Take the path across the common. Cross the A281 and walk past a parade of interesting independent shops, including the very special David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation art studio and shop.
4 Follow the footpath along the A281. It is mostly common land and woodlands on both sides of the road. Follow the A281 for a mile-and-a-half. Here, you will come into the historic village of Wonersh (Saxon for “crooked field”). This village was a hive of industry in the 1400s, when the area developed a highly successful cloth-making industry. Many of these weavers’ cottages are now highly desirable Surrey abodes.
5 Wonersh makes a nice place to stop, with a village shop and the newly-refurbished The Grantley Arms pub (you can read more about that on page 77). Lord Grantley was, historically, the local landowner and a major investor in the Wey Navigation. There is a curious structure in the middle of the road here called the Pepperpot. It was originally the ice house from Wonersh House, the Lord’s former home.
6 From here, take the B2128 signposted to Bramley. Follow this road down to Wonersh Hollow and keep following the signs to Bramley, over the bridge. Look out for the old railway station at Bramley, which now forms part of the Downs Link long-distance walking path. Dr Beeching removed the railway line in 1965. At the railway station, turn right and follow the railway line until you meet the Wey Navigation. Here, you’ll find Broadford Bridge again and so you can retrace your steps back to Guildford.
• The River Wey Navigation opened in 1653. There are 12 locks on the stretch between Weybridge and Guildford.
• The Godalming Navigation, which links it to Godalming, has a further four locks and was completed in 1764.
• Commercial barges ceased in 1983. The Wey Navigation and the Godalming Navigations were donated to the National Trust in 1964 and 1968, respectively.
• Shalford was an important intersection in the river, bringing gunpowder and other milled products from the River Tillingbourne. Back in the 16th century, the Tillingbourne was one of the country’s most industrial rivers.
• Wonersh was a centre of weaving for the medieval, famously dark-blue wool cloth that was exported from Surrey all over the world. The blue colour was created using the locally-grown woad.