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Around Gilbert Scott's Godstone

A relaxing walk through pleasant countryside, with something to interest the whole family.

Distance 3.7 miles (6km)

Minimum time 1hr 45min

Ascent/gradient 278ft (85m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Footpaths and bridleways can be muddy in places, 4 stiles

Landscape Sheltered, domestic landscape dotted with little ponds

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 146 Dorking, Box Hill & Reigate

Start/finish TQ 350515

Dog friendliness Please keep dogs on lead on village roads, through churchyard, and at Godstone Farm

Parking Adjacent to village pond. Parking limited to 3 hours, should be plenty for this walk

Public toilets Outside Hare and Hounds pub

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1 Directly opposite the pond in Godstone, take the public footpath beside the White Hart pub, signposted towards the church. Cross Church Lane and follow the path through the churchyard. Keep the church on your left, and continue along the winding path as it passes Glebe Water to a yellow waymarker post at the edge of an open field. Turn right and drop down beside the field to a stile, then turn left here onto the bridleway that leads under the busy A22.

2 A few paces beyond the bridge, turn right at Hop Garden Cottage and follow the waymarked bridleway out onto Jackass Lane. Turn right here, opposite Little Court Farm, now converted into private houses. At the top of the hill, turn left for 100yds (91m) if you'd like to visit St Peter's Church. Otherwise turn right, and follow Tandridge Lane to the public footpath just 30yds (27m) short of the Barley Mow.

3 Turn right onto the waymarked Greensand Way, and follow the broad, sandy track between open fields to the wicket gate beside the busy A22. Cross the main road on the level, and take the footpath directly opposite. Beyond a small wood, a three-way wooden signpost guides you onto the bridleway straight ahead. Jump the tiny ford (or use the footbridge) and walk up the lane past Leigh Place pond as far as the B2236.

4 Leave the Greensand Way here, and turn right. Follow the pavement until just beyond Church Lane, then fork left at the bus stop, up Enterdent Road. After 100yds (91m) turn right onto the public footpath into the woods. The waymarked path climbs, steeply in places, to a stile near the adventure playground on the edge of Godstone Farm. Follow the waymarked route through the farm grounds, to the stile just north of the car park.

5 Turn right onto Tilburstow Hill for 100yds (91m); then, just beyond the Godstone Farm delivery entrance, turn off left at the wooden footpath signpost. The path runs briefly through farmland on the edge of Godstone village, then leads out into Ivy Mill Lane. Turn right for the short climb back to the village green, then right again, back to the car park at the start of your walk.

It's no surprise to find that the two churches on this route were restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott. After all, Scott was one of the leading architects of the Victorian era; he headed the largest architectural practice of the time, and was associated with work on almost 500 churches.

Students of the great man need hardly come to Godstone, when they can see many of his largest and most famous buildings in London and other great cities. But, as you'll see, Godstone has one or two tricks up its sleeve. Sir George lived at Rook's Nest - now Streete Court School - less than a mile (1.6km) from the centre of the village; and, besides his work on the local churches, he also designed one of Godstone's most charming buildings.

You'll pass the low, mock-Tudor buildings of St Mary's Homes, right next to St Nicholas' Church. The almshouses were founded in 1872 by a young widow, Mrs Augusta Nona Hunt, for eight 'aged or infirm persons of good character'. With their profusion of little gabled windows, Sir George's designs seem almost to have grown out of the colourful, well-tended gardens that separate the Homes from Church Lane. A tiny chapel, heated by a fireplace in the west wall, completes this delightful group - do look in and see it, it's open to visitors daily. The Homes became a housing association in 1982, and are now a registered charity.

At about the time that he was building St Mary's Homes, Sir George was also involved in restoring St Nicholas' Church, and the Church of St Peter's in Tandridge. By now, some of his most famous projects - the Albert Memorial, the Home Office, and St Pancras Station in London - were already behind him. He had worked on many of the great cathedrals, too, but some people thought that his unusually thorough restorations destroyed too much of the original medieval work.

A letter that Scott wrote from Rook's Nest in 1871 suggests a different story. In it, he told fellow architect George Edmund Street how he was under pressure from an Oxfordshire rector to tear out the old pews from his church. Scott believed that the seating should stay; 'I value it no less for being humble', he wrote. 'It is good old work and in its place, and I hold that it is wrong to renew it... I wish especially that it shall not be renewed against my will or after I am away'. So - was Sir George really the philistine that he's sometimes made out to be, or a conservationist at heart? Pop into the churches on this route, and judge for yourself.

While you're there

Godstone Farm is a popular children's farm with lots of friendly animals, huge sand pits and adventure play areas. There's also an all-weather play barn - which is always useful to have up your sleeve if you're running short on inducements to finish the walk. The farm is on Tilburstow Hill, just to the south of Godstone village, and also has a souvenir shop and tea room.

What to look for

Close to the start of your walk, the Bay Pond is a peaceful haven for wildlife. But appearances can be deceptive, and these placid waters betray a warlike past. In Elizabethan times, gunpowder production had grown to be such an important local industry that one of the biggest mills employed about a thousand workers. George Evelyn, father of the diarist John Evelyn, manufactured most of the gunpowder for the Crown's armed forces, and the pond was built in 1611 to provide his business with water power.

Where to eat and drink

This walk is well-served by pubs. The Barley Mow in Tandridge, a large village pub with a bar called the Rambler's Rest serves Hall & Woodhouse beers and offers a full range of food from bar snacks to á la carte. Dogs are welcome in the bar area and garden. In Godstone, the White Hart is on the High Street and serves hot and cold bar snacks through to a full Beefeater menu. The Hare and Hounds on the Green also serves real ales, bar snacks and a full restaurant menu.

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