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On the Wey to Godalming

A delightful riverside walk brings you to the charming little town of Godalming.

Distance 5 miles (8km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient Negligible

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Riverside tow path, muddy and uneven in a few places

Landscape Wooded river valley

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 145 Guildford & Farnham

Start/finish SU 991496

Dog friendliness SU 966439

Parking Car park at Godalming Station at end of walk

Public toilets At both railway stations, start and finish

Notes Park at Godalming and catch train to Guildford

1 Leave your car at the end of the walk in Godalming, and catch the train to Guildford. Leave Guildford Station by the main entrance and follow the pedestrian signs towards the 'Town Centre via Riverside Walk'. Turn right when you reach the river, and follow it to the White House pub. Continue along Millmead, and rejoin the riverside walk near the Alice in Wonderland sculptures just beyond the pub. Pass the Yvonne Arnaud theatre on the opposite bank, turn left over the lattice girder bridge opposite Scruffy Murphy's, then turn right at Millmead Lock. Pass Guildford Boat House with its colourful cluster of narrow boats, then cut across the park and rejoin the tow path at the weir on the far side.

2 From here the river pushes out into the country. Just before you reach the Old Ferry footbridge, look out for a charming little spring on your right; then, beyond the bridge, you'll cross a sandy beach and pass a short wooded section before the approach to St Catherine's Lock.
Pass the lock, and continue under the massive girders of the railway as it curves away towards Dorking. There was a railway junction here once; 100yds (91m) further on, look to your right, where a short flight of steps leads up to the old embankment. Here you'll find a Second World War pill box, part of the inland GHQ defence line that extended from the Bristol Channel to the Kent coast.

3 Next comes Broadford Bridge and, a little further on, moorings branch off on the far side of the river along the truncated Wey and Arun Canal. Continue through a little gate with open fields to your right until, just after a second gate, you pass the remains of the old railway to Cranleigh. Most of this line has now been converted to the Downs Link bridleway.

4 Beyond Unsted Lock and the little road from Tiltham's Farm comes a lovely meandering section, with views to the woods beyond meadows on your left. Near Broadwater Park, the Manor Inn restaurant pub backs onto the tow path, with its nice riverside garden and children's play area. Cross the lane to Unsted Park, and continue past Farncombe Boat House with its tea room on the far bank. Beyond the colourful moorings at Catteshall Lock, industrial buildings intrude briefly into the riverside scene. Now the river bends hard right at Godalming Wharf, and in no time you arrive at the Town Bridge next to Godalming United Church.

5 Turn left over the bridge, continue straight up Bridge Street past Waitrose, and bear right into High Street at the top of the hill. Carry on to the Pepperpot - the unlikely name of the 1814 Market Hall - and fork right down Church Street. Pass the Church of St Peter and St Paul on your right, bear left into Station Road, then turn right into Station Approach and the car park where your walk began.

On this walk you'll be leaving Guildford on the Riverside Walk and making your way along the Godalming Navigation, which opened the River Wey to barge traffic between Guildford and Godalming in 1763. 'Navigations' were hybrid waterways - existing rivers tamed by locks and lengths of artificial canal. Barges from London had first reached Guildford over a century earlier, and business was boosted still further when the Basingstoke Canal opened in 1796, followed by the Wey & Arun Canal twenty years later. But commercial traffic on the Wey and Godalming navigations outlasted both of them, and the last barge was unloaded at Coxes Mill, Weybridge, as recently as 1968.

What to look for

Go quietly along the more isolated stretches of tow path, and you're more than likely to spot a grey heron standing statuesque at the water's edge or rising at your approach and flapping lazily down the river on its huge, powerful wings. Herons are the largest common land birds in the British Isles, and they're impressive by any standards. An adult bird will eat well over a pound of fish every day, making them unpopular with both anglers and fish farmers alike. These wonderful birds have been persecuted since the Middle Ages, and there are still a disturbing number of applications for licences to shoot them.

While you're here

The recently refurbished Godalming Museum stands bang opposite the Pepperpot at the top of the High Street. You'll find local people like John Phillips, the Titanic's wireless operator, featured in the museum's innovative local history displays, whilst the architect Edwin Lutyens and gardener Gertrude Jekyll have a gallery to themselves. There's a Jekyll-style garden, as well as a gift shop - and you can get tea and coffee here, too. The museum is open all year, Tuesday to Saturday.

Where to eat and drink

Dodge up off the tow path at Broadford Bridge, turn left, and just around the corner you'll find the Parrot Inn on your right hand side. With its large, comfortable bar and pleasant garden overlooking the green, this makes an excellent half way stop. There's a full bar menu, with everything from a sandwich through to appetising hot meals.

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