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Guildford Through the Looking Glass

A literary walk that takes in some delightfully varied sections of Guildford's local countryside.

Distance 4.2 miles (6.8km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 344ft (105m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Paved streets, downland tracks and riverside tow path

Landscape Big views from Pewley Down and gentle riparian scenery

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 145 Guildford & Farnham

Start/finish SU 991494

Dog friendliness Town streets and tow path, so don't forget to scoop poop!

Parking Farnham Road car park, next to Guildford railway station

Public toilets At car park

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1 Leave the car park via the footbridge at Level 5, cross Farnham Road, and turn right. Just beyond the railway bridge drop into the subway on your left, and follow the signposts to the 'Town Centre via Riverside Walk'. Follow the riverside walk to the White House pub. Turn left over the bridge, continue into High Street, and turn first right into Quarry Street. Pass Guildford Museum and turn immediately left through Castle Arch. Your route forks right here, into Castle Hill, but a quick diversion up the pedestrian path straight ahead brings you to the Looking Glass statue in the small garden through an iron gateway on your right. Retrace your steps, and follow Castle Hill past The Chestnuts. Turn left at the top, walk down South Hill, and turn right into Pewley Hill. Climb steadily past the Semaphore House on the corner of Semaphore Road; this was the next station down the line from Chatley Heath. At the end of the road, continue along the bridleway and follow it to the striking viewpoint pillar on the summit of Pewley Down.

2 Fork right at the viewpoint and follow the path off the ridge, keeping the hedge on your left. Soon you'll enter a tunnel of trees, and emerge between hedges. Keep straight on at the crossroads by the Pewley Down information board, and continue for 300yds (274m) until the path bears right and meets the North Downs Way National Trail at an acorn waymark post.

3 Turn right here and follow the waymarked North Downs Way past South Warren Farm to the residential street called Pilgrims Way. Turn left and follow the road past the junction with Clifford Manor Road.

4 Continue along Pilgrims Way to the A281. Cross over and walk across Shalford Park, signposted towards Godalming and Shalford. Beyond the trees you'll reach the River Wey; cross the footbridge, and follow the tow path towards Guildford, with the river on your right. Cross the lattice girder footbridge at Millmead Lock, and continue past the Alice statue on the little green near the White House pub. Now, just follow the riverbank until you reach the prominent 1913 Electricity Works on the opposite bank. Turn left, climb the steps, and retrace your outward route through the subway to the car park.

As a small boy, I well remember my parents reading to me from a large, dark blue edition of Alice in Wonderland. Although the book's flyleaf was autographed by Lewis Carroll, it wasn't much of a collector's item. The signature was genuine enough, but the writing belonged to a friend of my father's - a man whose name really was Lewis Carroll.

By contrast, the famous children's author entered this life in 1832 with the name of Charles Dodgson. The eldest son of a Cheshire rector, Charles studied mathematics at Oxford, where he later became a university lecturer. Meanwhile the family had moved to Yorkshire and, after his father's death in 1868, his sisters set their hearts on moving to Guildford.

Charles bought them 'The Chestnuts', a large house in Castle Hill that you'll see on your way out of town; he spent a good deal of his own time there, too, and came to regard the place as home. He stayed at The Chestnuts every Christmas, and it was in Guildford that he began work on The Hunting of the Snark.

But Dodgson's job was in Oxford, where he was often surrounded by his colleague's young children. He wrote them countless letters, frequently including fantastic tales illustrated with his own sketches. He was a great story teller, too, gifted at weaving everyday events into elaborate fables whilst the children listened at his knee.

One of those children was Alice Liddell, daughter of the Dean of Christ Church. She was just four years old when her family moved to Oxford and, with her brother and two sisters, she delighted in Dodgson's company. They would go on walks and picnics together and, of course, he would tell them stories. But Alice was different; not content with just hearing her stories, she begged the mathematics lecturer to write them down for her.

And so, after a day out picnicking with the children on the Thames in 1862, Charles Dodgson sat down to write the manuscript of Alice in Wonderland. His friends eventually persuaded him to get the story published; but, when the book finally appeared with its well-known Tenniel illustrations, Dodgson's name was nowhere to be seen. Even the author, Lewis Carroll, was a creature of his own imagination.

When I was in my late teens, my father introduced me to his friend who was also called Lewis Carroll. We spent many happy Sunday mornings visiting his Surrey home. Like his literary namesake, this Lewis lived in a strange fantasy world, and our time there was regulated by a wall clock which struck the hour once every 30 minutes. But that, I'm afraid, is another story altogether?

While you're there

Don't leave Guildford without making a trip to Dapdune Wharf, formerly the barge building site for the River Wey Navigation and now the National Trust's visitor centre. Here you'll find the restored Wey barge Reliance, together with interactive displays telling the story of one of the oldest river navigations in the country.

Where to eat and drink

Guildford's lively centre will spoil you for choice. Relax in the King's Head's flower filled courtyard or try Scruffy Murphy's, the White House or the George Abbot all overlooking the river.

What to look for

In Castle Gardens look out for the statue of Alice Through the Looking Glass by Jean Argent. On the other side of the river, Edwin Russell's Alice listens as her sister reads her a story; while the White Rabbit darts down a nearby rabbit hole.

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