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A Trail Around Dorking Town

A look around ancient and modern Dorking and its countryside setting.

Distance 3 miles (4.8km)

Minimum time 1hr 30mins

Ascent/gradient 262ft (80m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Mainly paved streets, with easy section of woodland paths

Landscape Woodland scenery, parkland and busy town centre

Suggested map Dorking town plan, free from Dorking Halls

Start/finish TQ 171497

Dog friendliness Not what most dogs think of as a great day out

Parking Reigate Road pay-and-display car park, Dorking

Public toilets Dorking Halls

1 From the car park, turn left along Reigate Road, pass the Dorking Halls, and turn left into Moores Road. Follow the right hand pavement all the way round until you reach the almshouses of Cotmandene, a Victorian replacement for the original 17th-century buildings. From the almshouses, walk across the grass to Chart Lane and turn left. Follow the pavement as far as the A24, then cross Chart Lane and bear right into the Glory Wood. As the footpath climbs away from the road, steer as right as you can, ignoring turnings off to the left. Leave the woods at the wooden gates, and fork right. There's a bench here, and a fine view towards Ranmore church spire in the woods on the horizon.

2 Drop down past St Paul's School, cross St Paul's Road, and dive down the little footpath directly opposite. Keep straight on into Chequers Place; then, after 70yds (64m), turn off down a narrow alley on your left. This brings you to Rose Hill, almost as pretty as its name; walk around the green, and out into South Street through the mock-Tudor Rose Hill Arch at the foot of the hill.

3 On your right is the Bulls Head. Turn left and walk round to the war memorial opposite Waitrose. Just to the left of the memorial, you'll see the little blue door at the entrance to Dorking Caves. Cross the zebra crossing and turn left, then right into Junction Road. Cross over at the bottom and turn right into West Street.

4 Just off West Street on your left, Dorking Museum occupies the old foundry site dating from John Bartlett's blacksmithy and forge of the 1820s.

5 Continue into High Street, and wander down the little alley next to Barclays Bank to St Martins Church, designed by Henry Woodyer and completed in 1877. The flintwork alone is worth a look and, inside, the church positively oozes with high Victorian art. Further up the High Street, the new St Martins Walk shopping precinct is a refreshing antidote to the usual run of monolithic shopping malls that disfigure so many country towns.

6 A few paces further on, turn left down Mill Lane. Fork right at the bottom towards the Meadowbank recreation ground, then turn right again beside the brook. Keep the lake on your left and veer right, over a girder bridge and out onto London Road. Turn left; then, after 100yds (91m), turn right at the Court House, and follow the drive as it winds up past the library and Council Offices, back to the Reigate Road. Cross over, back to the car park at the start.

Dorking is a delightful little town surrounded by glorious scenery. Early on in the walk Cotmandene, a wide, open area, brings the countryside right into town. Cottagers once grazed their animals here, and local people still exercise their right to dry washing on a cluster of metal poles on the green.

In the 19th century, there was a daily stage coach service from the Bulls Head to London at a fare of five shillings (25p in today's money) for outside passengers, or seven shillings (35p) for softies travelling inside the coach. Charles Dickens is generally reckoned to have used the local coachman William Broad as the model for his character in The Pickwick Papers.

On West Street, look out for the plaque on William Mullins' house. A shoemaker by trade, Mullins sold up in 1619, and set sail with his family on the Mayflower in the following year. Tragically, Mullins, his wife and son all fell ill soon after reaching the New World, and died just two months later.

While you're there

It isn't every town that can boast a network of underground caves, so here's something that you really shouldn't miss. On one Sunday each month, you can descend up to 76ft (23m) into the gloom, on a candle-lit guided tour through the maze of artificial passages weaving its way under the town centre. Nowadays some of the caves are used as storage cellars but, in earlier times, these were the haunts of smugglers and outlawed religious sects. More information can be got from the Dorking Halls Box Office.

What to look for

Opposite the Dorking Halls take a look at the striking new statue of Thomas Cubitt. Though he began his working life as a ship's carpenter, Cubitt was a paternalistic employer who built up the leading construction business of the age with an eye on the welfare of his men. He was involved with several public health projects in London, and also supervised the building of Polesden Lacey. Late in life he completed his greatest work, designing and building Osborne House for Queen Victoria. He made his own home at Denbies, on the outskirts of Dorking, and died there in 1855.

Where to eat and drink

You'll have heaps of choice in the town centre, but here are two places that I enjoyed. For coffee, light lunches or afternoon tea, try the airy surroundings and chic, modern décor of the Dorking Halls coffee shop. The service is friendly, and their jacket potatoes are not to be missed! Along the High Street, the Kingfish Restaurant is a traditional, good quality chippie, that also boasts an attractive licensed restaurant. They're open all hours, but closed on Mondays.


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