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The Six Wives of Crowhurst

A lovely circular route on the trail of Henry VIII - and another man's wives!

Distance 5 miles (8km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 131ft (40m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Farm tracks and well-maintained field paths, some road walking, 10 stiles

Landscape Gentle, well-farmed landscape

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

Start/finish TQ 365453

Dog friendliness Will need to be on lead along roads, through farmyards, and near livestock. Large dogs may have difficulty with stiles

Parking Adjoining cricket field or in Tandridge Lane, Crowhurst

Public toilets None on route

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

1 Turn right out of the car park, and follow Ray Lane as far as Tandridge Lane. Turn left, pass the Red Barn pub, then turn right up the tree lined drive towards Ardenrun.

2 Walk up the long straight drive until it swings to the left. Follow it for a further 80yds (73m) then, just before the private drive to Ardenrun Farm, swing hard right at the yellow waymark onto the 'Age to Age' walk. Continue for another 300yds (274m).

3 Nip over the stile on the left and walk through two gently rising fields. Turn right at the yellow 'Age to Age' waymark - where there are good views behind you - and follow the well-maintained path straight across the drive to Crowhurst Place. Continue beside the hedge on your right, cross a small footbridge, then head diagonally across the next field to the junction of two farm tracks. There are more good views from this spot and, if you want to visit Crowhurst church, you should turn right for 700yds (640m), then left onto Crowhurst Road.

4 Turn half left here, and follow the track towards Stocks and Kingswood Farms. Leave the 'Age to Age' route, and carry straight along the yellow waymarked track that winds through Kingswood farmyard, through a small wooden gate, and along the gravelled drive to the picture-postcard Stocks Farm house.

5 The gravelled drive joins a surfaced lane at the farm gate; turn left here and, after 20yds (18m), turn left again, over two stiles in quick succession. Head diagonally across the next field, and turn left over the stile. Cross a bridge and a second stile, then keep left until you cross another stile and a small footbridge. Now turn right, walk through two fields, and rejoin Tandridge Lane.

6 Turn left and, after 55yds (50m), branch off to the right at the entrance to Comforts Place Farmhouse. As the drive swings round to the left, nip over the stile and continue along the grassy lane to the rural crossroads at Oak Tree Farm. Turn left here, and follow the unmade track past Highfield House and out onto a muddy lane. Beyond Sunhill Farm the road surface improves, and the lane leads you back to the busy A22.

7 Turn left, and follow the main road for the last 800yds (732m) into Blindley Heath and back to the car park.

What a gloriously remote part of Surrey this is! That assertion may strike you as somewhat improbable when you leave your car near the traffic lights, just a stone's throw from the busy A22. But trust me; a few hundred yards (metres) of road walking is a small price to pay for your admission ticket to this little-known corner of the county.

Nowadays, Crowhurst is on the way to nowhere at all, but apparently things were different in the 16th century. According to tradition, Henry VIII would stop over at Crowhurst Place on his way to court Anne Boleyn, who was living just over the Kentish border at Hever Castle. Even then, Crowhurst Place was not new. The lovely timbered and moated manor may be a spectacular example of what most of us loosely call 'Tudor', but it was already half a century old when that dynasty was ushered in on Bosworth Field in 1485.

Enough of the foreplay - you'll want to know about all those wives! The Gaynesford family first pop up during Edward III's reign, when John and Margery Gaynesford received the Manor of Crowhurst from the de Stangrave family. But it was another John Gaynesford - the Sheriff of Surrey, no less - whose dogged pursuit of an heir was to bring him an unbroken run of 15 daughters from his first five wives. His persistence was eventually rewarded when, at long last, he managed to father a son by his sixth wife.

The Gaynesford (later Gainsford) family lasted some 300 years at Crowhurst Place, and it's worth the short diversion to see their tombs, flanking the chancel of Crowhurst's little medieval church. There's also a 15th-century brass likeness of the John Gaynesford who was Surrey's Parliamentary representative in 1431.

Two hundred years later, one of John's descendants left an altogether different memorial of his own. We know from the 17th-century parish register that, in those days, it was 'a loathsom durtie way every steppe' from Crowhurst Place to the church. Tiring of these muddy pilgrimages, yet another John Gainsford paid £50 to have a stone-flagged causeway laid along the entire route. He got his money's worth, for the causeway still exists in places.

By the dawn of the 20th century Crowhurst Place was bearded with brambles, lonely and unloved. Its saviour was George Crawley, whose comprehensive restoration in 1920 even extended to the brand new mock-Tudor gatehouse on Crowhurst Road. Crowhurst Place isn't open to the public, but you'll see Crawley's handiwork clearly enough from the path, which runs within 100yds (91m) of the house.

Where to eat and drink

You won't go hungry in Blindley Heath, which boasts two pubs offering extensive all-day menus. Despite its situation next to a filling station on the busy A22, the low, weatherboarded Blue Anchor is set well back from the road in its own gardens. With quarry tiled floors and winter log fires, it still retains some of the charm of a genuine country pub. By contrast, the busy family atmosphere of the Red Barn in Tandridge Lane rather offsets its quieter situation. But it's horses for courses, and this popular Brewer's Fayre outlet offers a large garden with a nice children's play area.

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