Mightier than the Sword

Distance12.5K  OS Explorer145

This route takes in 'The Romancy Vale' Walk 13 from David McDowall's 'West Surrey - Walks into History' and I'll be quoting / stealing from it through out the following notes. However, the start is different, with a chance for brief visit to Guildford Castle and to expend some energy on climb up to Pewley Down.

Castle grounds are fairly small but free to enter, with a small charge for climbing the tower (check website for opening season & hours). If want to visit take the second road right, after pedestrian river bridge, then pass Church to find entrance on left. You can exit grounds once past tower and re-join walk.

Climb up is on pavement & I imagine wouldn't be nice in icy conditions. During steep bit can stop for views back over town. Once road levels out, cross to open patch of land & squint for London skyline. Continue until entering Pewley Down & on to grass land. Fantastic views#1. Make toward Stone marker.

Just past stone is a hedgerow heading down hill. The footpath we want is on the opposite side. Should see signpost as you pass hedgerow. Head down hill until at bottom you join up with a bridleway. Head across 'valley' with small hedgerows either side. Views up to The Cantries on right, & Downs on the left.

Just as you leave 'valley' section is lovely old info board on Pewley Down, looks hand painted? This is just before little footpath crossroads, continue across entering light woods and slight rise up until turning left, at signposts, onto the North Downs Way. At road go left then, after house, up slope on right.

Climb up can get busy (for me that's having anyone else around) and is in light woods which hides views until top. Fantastic views#2 - Pewley vs Martha? David McDowall hints that maybe St Martha (sister of Lazarus) is maybe a misread of 'Sancti Martyris' (a dedication to the martyred St Thomas Becket.)

After Church, views & maybe sit down continue on North Downs Way descending slowly, keeping to sandy trail next to ridge. Pass by the Downs Way (& leave NDW) and a WWII pillbox until meeting 4 pronged signpost, with carpark in sight. Take Footpath to right, descending steeply into denser woods.

You lose any company you may have had as you descend steeper into Alder dominated woods. Turn left when you reach view of open field - path right isn't marked on OS map. Then your onto a 'ridge' section, overlooking flooded pools and first signs of the Tilling Bourne's influence.

Here is start of a series of ponds & millraces which served Gun Powder Mills of Upper Chilworth in the late 17th Century. A mill was still in use (producing animal feed) up to 1990s, but now site is small housing estate. Active water channels provide atmosphere as you walk on road through estate.

Find exist off estate road at left turning around pond. Footpath becomes restrictive as you pass house to right and then heavy mud hinders progress, and the pigs in field to right wonder why your fretting. After mud, cross small stream & stile to enter onto an old 17th century 'floating' meadow.

After 2 fields, turn right at lane then after bridge, left for start of Nature walk following the Tilling Bourne & passing Gun Powder Mill ruins. Display board gives history & maps out the ruins. I think all we need know is the powder process was complicated, dangerous & dirty - in more ways than one.

Amble through the ruins following the route a tramline would have taken to service the mills. The site is family friendly, but best seen in summer - although the sun may bleach away its true bleak nature. At exit go right on road, past fisheries on right & find path in corner of sharp right turn.

Open section across working fields with views toward Guilford, right up to The Cantries, & left to Blackheath. A Spring is marked on OS map, with footpath looping to the left of it - so was always looking to the right to find it, but footpath must have been diverted - its on the left, in Willows!

Here we leave walk as outlined in David McDowall's book, his starts and ends at the Chantries car park - if you want to follow his route or ever wondered why its called the Chantries? buy his book! Exist field onto roads. At left turn look ahead and up for the Chapel ruins on St Catherine's Hill.

Take express route back to Guildford on walking / bike track alongside Shalford Park. Has toilet block. Then join up with The River Wey at Guildford Rowing Club HQ, over river on footbridge to nice picnic area & Millmead Lock system. Maybe feed ducks with packed lunch leftovers...

Sometimes you need a little incentive to get out & picking up some knowledge along the way has no downside - but the way walking is sometimes portrayed (on TV), like there has to be reason for the walk - something interesting to see or visit, somehow denigrates walking as a rightful pursuit in its self.

Millstones at Chilworth Gunpowder Mill Ruins.
Must be nice views from up there, but we're heading for better ones.
Stone marker has inscription of why we can walk here - forever?
Path is now a bridleway - so watch out for bikes passing.
Joining the North Downs Way for next section up 'martyrs' hill.
South Downs in the distance.
Take the most seemingly, unappealing route.
Flooded pools give the grasses a rich green colour.
Start of 'water world' section.
Stile leading to 'floating' field. Look right for Cordite factory remains.
The pen is mightier than the sword - but then so is gunpowder.
Rickety steps up.
Up and down - can get bit muddy in the downs.
Last view up to the Chantries.
The weight of the water keeps lock closed.
OK we'll just bin it. They want beer!