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Explore Surrey: Walk the Chalk

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Explore Surrey: Walk the Chalk
Author: Explore Surrey, Published: 23 Mar 2015 Walk rating : Rating:star1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
Surrey, Dorking
Walk Type: Hills, valleys and dales
Explore Surrey: Walk the Chalk
Length: 8 miles,  Difficulty: boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
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A 7.5 mile (12km) linear walk from Dorking to Gomshall railway stations, via some of the finest chalk grassland in Surrey. The scenery is spectacular and the area is rich in wildlife. The return leg can be completed by a simple train or bus journey (although the services are quite infrequent, so plan your timings before you set out). This walk is part of the Explore Surrey collection, published through a collaboration between iFootpath and Surrey County Council.

The walk includes several long-steady and shorter-steep climbs and descents throughout. The paths through woodland and chalk grassland are generally firm but can get very muddy after rain and in the winter months, so good stout boots are required all year and wellingtons with grips are recommended in winter. You will need to negotiate some steps and kissing gates, but there are no stiles on route. At certain times of the year sheep and cattle are used to graze some sections of the chalk grassland as part of the conservation, so take particular care with dogs. The route is waymarked with a green/white arrow symbol with a pedestrian in the centre. Allow 3.5 hours.

Refreshments are only available at the start and end of the walk. The Lincoln Arms is situated alongside Dorking Station at the start of the walk. The last half mile of the walk leads you through Gomshall where you will find a number of pubs, restaurants and shops. Ordnance Survey Maps: Explorer 146 Dorking, Box Hill and Reigate and Explorer 145 Guildford and Farnham. This walk follows public rights of way that cross public, private and National Trust land. Information is included for your interest, but please respect National Trust bylaws, keep dogs under control and remember the Countryside Code.

The walk starts at Dorking railway station and finishes at Gomshall railway station. The return leg can be completed by a single 7 minute train journey, although this service is fairly infrequent (every 2 hours on the day we travelled) so check times before you set out. The return train will take you to Dorking Deepdene Station which is just next door to Dorking Station. Alternatively, there is a bus service from Gomshall to Dorking which takes approximately 20 minutes. For help with planning your journey by public transport please visit If you are coming by car, Dorking Station has a large pay and display car park with a daily fee of £6.10 Mon-Fri, £3.40 Sat and £2 Sun and Bank Holidays (correct March 2015). Approximate post code RH4 1TF.

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Walk Sections

Start to Denbies Hillside
Start to Denbies Hillside

Start point: 51.2404 lat, -0.3247 long
End point: 51.2381 lat, -0.3415 long

The walk starts from the edge of the pay and display car park at Dorking Station, opposite the Lincoln Arms pub. Walk down the subway and follow this to the far end, then take the steps which swing right back to the pavement alongside the dual carriageway. Turn left along the pavement, heading towards the traffic lights. At the traffic lights, turn left along Ashcombe Road (A2003) passing Ashcombe School on the left.

At the top of the road you will come to a mini roundabout. Go straight ahead, signed to Ranmore. Soon afterwards you will come to a T-junction. Cross over and turn right along the pavement (still signed to Ranmore). Shortly, where the pavement ends, fork left onto the public footpath which skirts the grounds of St Martin’s School on the left. The bank on the right has yew and box trees growing on it, a sure sign that there is chalk below your feet.

At the end of the school playing fields, you will see a footpath on the left and a National Trust sign for Denbies Hillside.

Denbies Hillside to Landbarn T Junction
Denbies Hillside to Landbarn T Junction

Start point: 51.2381 lat, -0.3415 long
End point: 51.236 lat, -0.3783 long

Turn left here, following the path past the National Trust sign. Follow the main path (ignoring any forks left and right) and you will emerge to a T-junction with a larger track. Turn left along this track. Ignore any paths off to the left and right and carry on along the track for the next two miles, climbing steadily for the first half and then descending steadily for the second half.

This is an old carriage road built in the 1800s by William Joseph Denison, who owned the Denbies House and Estate. The old carriage road is a haven for wildlife. Whitethroats sing from bramble patches and fence posts while buzzards soar above. Adders sunbathe on sheltered banks and chalkhill blue butterflies are commonly seen. Doormice also live here. Fossil sea urchins have been found along the carriage road. They remind us that that the North Downs was once covered by the sea.

After two miles, the path swings hard left to reach a T-junction with another track (with a fence line and open field ahead). This track is the access track to Landbarn Farm, where the National Trust Surrey Hills West Team is based.

Landbarn T Junction to North Downs Way
Landbarn T Junction to North Downs Way

Start point: 51.236 lat, -0.3783 long
End point: 51.2322 lat, -0.3954 long

Turn right along the track and pass through the gate. NOTE: this area – and several others from this point on – may be used for conservation grazing so take care with dogs. Follow the track ahead, following the fence line on the left. Continue ahead on this track for a mile, ignoring any paths signed off left and right.

After a mile, the track swings hard right to reach a T-junction with a waymarker post (signed with the white/green ‘Walk the Chalk’ waymark). Turn right here to join the chalk track which leads uphill (heading back on yourself) with a bank of yew trees on your left. Take your time with the climb, enjoying the expansive views on the right. Towards the top of the hill is a handy bench, known as God’s Seat, the perfect place to pause and catch your breath while you enjoy the views.

Continue to the top of the slope where you will come to junction with a gate ahead and a pillbox on the right. This marks the junction with the North Downs Way.

North Downs Way to Beggars Lane
North Downs Way to Beggars Lane

Start point: 51.2322 lat, -0.3954 long
End point: 51.2275 lat, -0.4307 long

Turn left along the North Downs Way (waymarked with the acorn symbol which denotes a National Trail). Follow this path passing several more pillboxes along the way. The views are outstanding and viewpoints along the North Downs were strategically important during the Second World War, which is why so many pillboxes were built here.

Eventually the path swings right to reach a T-junction with a road, White Down Lane. Turn right for a few paces and then turn left off the road to rejoin the North Downs Way. Follow the path winding ahead and go straight on at the crossroads, passing through a kissing gate to enter the National Trust area of White Down Lease. Keep ahead past several more pillboxes. At the end of this section of downs, pass an information board on the left then go through two kissing gates in quick succession to continue on the North Downs Way through Blatchford Down.

The first farmers in this area removed much of the original woodland cover to create fields for their crops and livestock. Their grazing animals prevented the regrowth of trees and coarse vegetation, which allowed the special wildlife habitat known as chalk grassland to develop and thrive. Chalk grassland has always depended on continued active management for its survival, which is why the National Trust and Surrey Wildlife Trust use cattle and sheep to control the growth of vegetation. As a result, the chalk slopes are rich in orchids and chalk-loving butterflies such as Adonis and chalkhill blues, silver-spotted skippers and marbled whites.

At this end of this section of downs, go through the kissing gate and ignore the bridleway on the left; simply keep ahead on the North Downs Way. Keep ahead along this next stretch of path with a fence on the left. When the fence ends, you will come to a crossroads with an ancient public byway known as Beggars Lane.

Beggars Lane to Churchfield Track
Beggars Lane to Churchfield Track

Start point: 51.2275 lat, -0.4307 long
End point: 51.2223 lat, -0.4451 long

Go straight ahead, continuing on the North Downs Way. Just a little way along, take the first kissing gate on the left, signed as a public footpath. You are now leaving the North Downs Way and entering Hackhurst Downs. Hackhurst Downs supports the largest remaining juniper population on the North Downs. Thirteen different invertebrate species rely on these ancient trees for their survival.

The path soon swings left, becoming a grass path which leads you steeply downhill across the hillside. You will pass a well-placed bench (a great spot for another rest should you wish). Continue steeply downhill (taking care as the chalk can be very slippery).

At the bottom of the slope, pass through two gates in quick succession, pass by the National Trust sign for Hackhurst Down and follow the path diagonally down the hill. In the bottom corner, pass through the weighted gate and then continue steeply downhill through a small belt of trees. Continue through the dip and then follow the waymarked footpath past fenced pastures. The path leads you to a crossroads with the access track for Churchfield Farm, part of the Wotton Estate.

Churchfield Track to End
Churchfield Track to End

Start point: 51.2223 lat, -0.4451 long
End point: 51.2193 lat, -0.4419 long

Go straight ahead at this crossroads, using the two kissing gates. Further along, the path leads you between steep banks down to a T-junction with a road, Colekitchen Lane. Turn left along the lane (an ancient sunken lane) taking care of any traffic. If the lane is quiet enough, take a moment to look at the banks which are home to large badger setts.

At the end of the lane you will come to a T-junction with the main road, the A25. Turn left along the pavement and follow this road through Gomshall, where you will find a number of pubs, shops and restaurants. Carry on until you reach Station Approach on the left, just before the railway bridge (there is a bus stop here where you can catch the bus back to Dorking if that is your planned return journey). Turn left along Station Approach and this will take you to Gomshall Station and the end of the walk.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2015 by the author exploresurrey and may not be reproduced without permission.

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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