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Jumbos at Charlwood

An easy-to-follow route with something to interest everyone - especially plane spotters!

Distance 4.2 miles (6.8km)

Minimum time 1hr 45min

Ascent/gradient 197ft (60m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Byways and woodland paths, short sections on village roads and farmland, 7 stiles

Landscape Well wooded, agricultural scenery

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

Start/finish TQ 243410

Dog friendliness Keep on lead along roads and through Greenings Farm

Parking On The Street, close to Rising Sun and post office

Public toilets None on route

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1 With the recreation ground on your right, walk past the Pine Café, and turn left up Chapel Road. Continue onto the byway and pass the extraordinary Providence Chapel. Behind the low picket fence, a few tombstones lean drunkenly in front of this small, weatherboarded chapel with its wooden verandah. The building, which dates from 1816, is straight out of an advert for Jack Daniels, and seems to have dropped in from Kentucky.
Turn left at the byway crossroads towards Stan Hill, and continue straight across Norwoodhill Road. At the brow of the hill, take the signposted footpath on the left, just at the entrance to Barfield Farm.

2 The path leads to the corner of Beggarshouse Lane, where you turn left, and follow the lane onto the tree-lined byway. At the woods beyond Greenings Farm, turn left over a plank bridge and waymarked stile. Follow the left-hand edge of an open field, then cross the farm lane at a pair of waymarked stiles. Continue over another pair of stiles until the fence bears left at a stile. Steer gently right here, towards the stile in the far corner of the field, then head across the next field to the stile into Cidermill Road.

3 Turn left, and follow the wide grass verge for 75yds (69m) before turning left again onto the signposted bridleway. Soon the path dodges into Glover's Wood and, 200yds (183m) further on, you'll come to a pair of waymarker posts. Turn hard left at the first one, follow the waymarked footpath across Welland Gill, and carry on to the far side of the woods.

4 Leave the woods at a wicket gate, and continue straight down Glovers Road. Cross Rectory Lane/Russ Hill Road, and keep straight on down the footpath opposite. The path passes St Nicholas Church - but you must not.
Inside this welcoming church are some of the finest medieval wall paintings in the country. Most poignant is a hunting scene, fairly common in artwork from around the time of the Black Death, in which three youths encounter three skeletons. 'As you are, we were' say the skeletons, before adding 'as we are, you will be...'
Beyond the churchyard, turn right past the Half Moon, then right again for the last 100yds (91m) back to the recreation ground.

I'm most certainly not a plane spotter. But I will confess to a certain frisson of excitement every time I see a big jet dropping smoothly onto the tarmac, or climbing off the runway like a rocket. It's an awesome business - and that's before you consider the logistics of handling the passengers.

Well, Gatwick airport may be in Sussex, but there's no escaping its impact on this corner of Surrey. So, rather than put sacks over our heads and ignore the area completely, I thought it might be fun to get a decent look at the place. You'll see plenty of aircraft on this walk, which passes within ½ mile (800m) of the end of the runway.

The airport may be a child of the 20th century, but the name goes back to 1241, when Richard de Warwick assigned the rights over 22 acres (8.9ha) of land in the Manor of Charlwood to one John de Gatwick. The land subsequently became part of the Manor of Gatwick, and remained in the same family until the 14th century. More recently, the Gatwick Race Course Company opened for business in 1891. The Aintree Grand National was abandoned during the latter years of the First World War, and a substitute race was run over the Gatwick course. Lester Piggott's grandfather, Ernie Piggott, was the 1918 winner, riding a horse called Poethlyn.

The Surrey Aero Club started flying at Gatwick in 1930, and the Air Ministry issued Gatwick's first commercial licence in 1934. Scheduled services began in May 1936; at that time a single fare to Paris cost just four pounds and five shillings (£4.25), and the price included the rail fare from London! The airport was requisitioned during the Second World War, and post-war operations resumed when the Queen opened London's new £7.8m airport in June 1958. Today, Gatwick is the busiest single runway airport in the world. The statistics are mind-numbing. Over 100 airlines carry more than 30 million passengers a year to some 280 destinations worldwide. On average, an aircraft lands or takes off every 2 minutes of every day in the year, and the airport generates employment for around 27,000 people. Even if you're not flying, you'll find the airport a total contrast to your walk in the woods. You can browse around a wide range of famous name stores, with prices the same as you'd pay in the high street. And there's plenty of choice when it comes to food and drink too; everything from an all-day breakfast in Garfunkel's, to a pint of real ale in a Wetherspoons pub.

Who knows? You might even indulge in a little plane spotting.

What to look for

Look out for the sails of Lowfield Heath windmill. It was built about 1740, and used to grind flour until about 1880. It was moved here in 1987 when its site at Lowfield Heath was needed for expansion at Gatwick airport. Fully restored in 1999, visitors can walk around the outside of the mill, free of charge, at any reasonable time. The mill is normally fully open on the last Sunday of the month during the summer, but please ring to check before travelling.

Where to eat and drink

Try the Pine Café in Charlwood. It's a combination of pinewood showroom, post office and café and they serve reasonably-priced sandwiches and hot snacks. Also on The Street in Charlwood you'll find the Half Moon, an intimate, low-beamed village local tracing it's origins back to the 15th century. They serve real ales and large filled baguettes as well as bar meals. Dogs are welcome. Nearby, the Rising Sun looks a little forbidding from the front, but is comfortable and welcoming inside. They serve the usual pub favourites and hand pulled ales. Well behaved dogs on leads are tolerated.

While you're there

Zoos are not everyone's cup of tea, but Gatwick Zoo has made a niche for itself in its child-oriented, hands-on approach. They positively encourage close contact between the animals and visitors. There are over 10 acres (4ha) of landscaped grounds, enclosures and tropical houses, containing more than1,000 small mammals, birds and seasonal butterflies from around the world.

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