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Power and Flour at Haxted

A lowland walk that tracks the remarkable story of an east Surrey water mill.

Distance 5.6 miles (9km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 66ft (20m)

Level of difficulty Hard

Paths Field edge paths can be overgrown or muddy, farm tracks and country lanes, 15 stiles

Landscape Flattish farmland in headwaters of the River Eden

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorers 146 Dorking, Box Hill & Reigate, 147 Sevenoaks & Tonbridge

Start/finish TQ 385435

Dog friendliness Poor; farmyards, livestock and traffic will all keep Fido on the lead, and many stiles may prove troublesome

Parking Free council car park in Gun Pit Road, Lingfield

Public toilets None on route

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© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1 Walk down High Street, turn left into Old School Place, and take the footpath through the churchyard. Turn right into Vicarage Road, cross over into Bakers Lane, and continue beyond Station Road onto the footpath across the railway. Swing left as you approach Park Farm, then fork left onto a gravelled farm track.

2 Continue over the stile into an open field. A few paces further on, dodge through the gate on your left, and continue with the hedge on your right. At the top corner of the field, turn right through the small gate, heading past the prominent oak tree towards the gates on the far side of the field.

3 Cross the lane, climb over the stile opposite, and take the waymarked route beside the Eden Brook. Cross the brook on a wooden bridge, then head across the field to a stile by the metal gates. Turn right along the road to Haxted Mill.

4 Turn right over the stile onto the Vanguard Way, re-cross the river, and bear left towards the stile on the far side of the next field. Turn left onto the road, then fork left just beyond the bridge.

5 Turn right, along the drive towards Starborough Farm. At the farm, take the stile by the metal gates, cross the drive to Badger House, and follow the waymarked path across the field towards the corner of a small wood. Cross the footbridge and stile, and follow the path along the left hand edge of the next four fields.

6 Turn right in the corner of the fourth field, keeping the hedge on your left, and continue over a bridge and stile into Lingfield Hospital School sports ground. Keep straight on to a gap in the far hedge, then cross the lane, where the footpath continues at a stile.

7 Cross two small fields, enter the woods by the stile, and pass the children's adventure playground. Beyond the woods, bear right through the gates near the school buildings, and follow the winding path through the fields to the railway crossing near Lingfield Station. Turn right up Station Road; then, just opposite the station itself, turn left up a path to the Star Inn. Cross over Church Road, and turn right through the charming 16th-century Old Town into the churchyard. Finally, retrace your steps to the car park.

Out on the Surrey border, the charming little Starborough Castle was home to one of the grandest families in the land. The Cobham family had lived at Starborough since at least the 14th century, and Reginald, the first Lord Cobham, also owned nearby Hever Castle. Lord Cobham held office as Admiral of the Fleet and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, fought at Crecy with the Black Prince, and was amongst the first of the Knights of the Garter.

Ironically, Lord Cobham survived his distinguished military career - and then died of the plague in 1361. In his will, the great man left Haxted Mill to his wife, Joan. It was a more enduring legacy than the family home because, in a further twist of fate, Parliament ordered the demolition of Starborough Castle at the end of the English Civil War.

After more than the century, the site was remodelled by Sir James Burrow, who used medieval materials to build the present gothic-style pavilion. His building was restored during the 1980s, and bought by its present owner in 1995.

By contrast the mill that you'll see in this walk still stands on the original foundations at Haxted. According to local tradition, Haxted Mill was founded by Richard III in the 15th century, though the earlier half of the present building was constructed on 14th-century foundations around 1580. The builders used local hand-axed oak to build the mill and a sawn pictch pine extension was added in 1794.

Haxted Mill continued grinding flour until just after the First World War, when it switched to producing meal for the local farmers. Milling ended in 1945, and the building was opened as a museum in 1969. The present owners refurbished the building for the 2001 season.

After seeing the mill, you might want to drop in on Lord Cobham and his relations. His tomb is amongst several family memorials in Lingfield church, and his effigy lies in full plate armour, his head resting on a Moorish helmet. Look out for Cobham's own shield decorating the side of his tomb. together with those of his wife and several of his fellow Knights of the Garter.

Where to eat and drink

Haxted Mill itself has a rather upmarket bar and brasserie with a riverside terrace overlooking the Eden. It's not cheap but it would supply a very nice excuse for doing a good walk. In Lingfield the Star Inn is a large town centre pub with an olde worlde atmosphere, good real ales and a selection of basket meals served all day. Children are welcome up to 9pm and dogs are welcome in the bar.

While you're there

Call into Haxted Water Mill which has been lovingly restored and has displays of milling equipment and the mill's history. If you've got a bit more time to spare, Hever Castle is not far away. Famed as a stunning, moated Tudor mansion, the site can trace its origins back to 1270 and was comprehensively restored and extended by William Waldorf Astor in 1903. It's quite expensive to get in but there is an adventure playground for children, two restaurants, gift, book and garden shops.

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