Abinger Roughs to Gomshall walking circuit
A fairly strenuous 6.2 mile walk through woodland, farmland, open countryside and grassland. Some of the mighty oaks at Abinger Roughs are over 300 years old. Gomshall village is a pretty Surrey hamlet served by various pubs and tea rooms (not NT), perfect to stop off at en-route.
National Trust Abinger Roughs car park, RH5 6QS
Leave Abinger Roughs car park (point 1 on the map) by the path to the left of the notice board. The path heads north and slightly uphill then drops down to the Wilberforce Memorial and Leasers Barn. Look straight ahead and towards the North Downs where you'll see a Second World War pillbox hidden in the hills. Turn left at Leasers Barn onto a track which is fairly wide and has fields to the right and woods to the left. Continue through these woods (mainly laurel trees) for about 500 metres. You'll reach an open space and the view to your left is over Peaslake and to the right are the North Downs. Carry on towards the woods and through them; the track falls slightly then swings hard right - here you leave the track and take the path that goes straight on across a field with a hedge to your left and a fence to your right.
Near Abinger Roughs car park is a large granite memorial to Samuel Wilberforce, the Bishop of Winchester. Wilberforce was thrown from his horse on 19 July 1873 and the memorial marks the spot where he fell.
To reach point 2 on the map, head to the far end of the field and walk straight across Hackhurst Lane. Continue along the narrow path which leads past a cottage on your left and into Piney Copse. The notice board here gives more information about the wood and EM Forster. Follow the path through the copse and at the far end turn left onto the track called Beggar's Lane. It's called Beggar's Lane because pilgrims in medieval times would leave the Pilgrim's Way (close to the current North Downs Way) and follow this lane down to the village where they were bound to be fed by kindly villagers.
The novelist EM Forster (1879-1970) lived close to Abinger Roughs. Writing many novels, short stories and essays, he used his earnings from book sales to fund his purchases. ‘A Passage to India’ funded the purchase of Piney Copse, to save it from building development. In his book, 'Abinger Harvest', written in 1926, he wrote an enlightening piece about owning Piney Copse and his feelings, entitled ‘My Wood’.Upon his death, Forster bequeathed the 4.4 acres of mixed secondary-woodland, oaks, sweet chestnuts and beech trees to the National Trust.
To reach point 3 on the map, follow the lane downhill to the main road (the A25) and turn right, then walk along the road past the trout farm and under the railway bridge and into the hamlet of Gomshall.
Walk through Gomshall - there are pubs and tea shops to stop off at along the way. Once refreshed, continue along the main road again. One hundred metres past the Compasses pub, turn right off the main road into Colekitchen Lane which gradually climbs uphill. There will be cottages on your left and fields on your right.
After a short distance the lane begins to climb steeply and you take the footpath on your right which goes up through a gully (point 5 on the map). As the view opens up there are some interesting cottages to the left and a large commercial farm below you on the right. Continue along the path on the edge of the first field then across a track, after which there is an open field to your right and a narrow band of trees to your left. At the end of this second field the path swings left, goes across the end of the field and then turns right then left up the hill. At this point you have a view across the field to your left to Colekitchen Farm. Continue up the hill until you reach the gate with a National Trust sign for Hackhurst Downs. From here you follow the path that stays close to the lower fence. At the far end of the field turn left uphill along the fence for about 30 metres where you'll find a gate - turn right through the gate then left along the path up the hill (ignore the next gate back into the field) until you drop onto a wide chalk track heading up the hill - this is Beggar's Lane.
To reach the North Downs Way (point 6 on the map), walk up the steep hill until it begins to flatten out and you reach the junction of Beggar's Lane and the North Downs Way. Turn right onto the North Downs Way and continue in an easterly direction for roughly the next 3km. The path here is generally level and passes through various types of woodland with some open spaces and views across the valley to your right. At the first gate you will see the National Trust sign for Blatchford Down - continue on the track through the gate. Here the North Downs Way passes into open countryside with views to your right. Keep your eyes open here for buzzards soaring high above the Downs and the distinctive roof line of Leasers Barn in the valley - close to where you started your walk.
Second World War pillboxes
Along this section you'll pass several pillboxes dating back to the Second World War. At the time of their construction, they commanded clear views across the valley; the trees growing in front of them now are very large.
Follow the North Downs Way signs until you reach a surfaced road (marked 7 on the map). Walk across this road where the path swings left and continue to follow the North Downs Way signs. The North Downs Way here is a path rather than a track; here you'll pass three Second World War pillboxes. At several view points along this stretch, you'll see a large beige-coloured farmhouse in the valley below. This is Park Farm and your route will take you very close to it after you have descended from the North Downs Way.
When the North Downs Way dips and swings left (marked 8 on the map) just before the fourth pillbox, leave the North Downs Way and swing hard right round the National Trust/North Downs sign, taking the track down the hill. About 100 metres down the hill there is a seat on the right which is known as 'God's seat'. There are two explanations for this unusual name - the first one is that this is where God sat to admire the views of the North Downs and the second (understandable if you have climbed up to the hill) is 'thank God I've made it!'. As you walk down the hill, which is fairly steep, you'll see Park Farm (mentioned previously), directly in front of you. Views from here are to the left, over Denbies Hillside, Box Hill and Colley Hill. To the right there are some old yew trees.
The final section of the walk is along the valley bottom - to reach it, continue straight on when you reach the bottom of the path. Do not swing hard left here, but follow the track as it swings left and then right after which it comes to a gate. Go through the gate and walk along the track at the left hand side of the field, over the railway line, along the left hand side of the next field, then follow the track until you reach Park Farm (point 9 on the map). At Park Farm, go across the entrance road and turn right, taking the track just to the left of the first barn and the right of the second barn. After these you take the narrow path at the left hand side of the field. This path has an open field to the right and to the left, a wood with some wonderful tall and straight pine trees which would have made marvellous masts and spars in the days of sailing ships. After about 700 metres, the path takes a sharp right then left, following the edge of the field and shortly after the left turn you come to the road - go across and slightly to your left, where the track swings right past the National Trust Abinger Roughs sign. The track here is quite wide and goes through woodland on both sides until you reach Leasers Barn and the Wilberforce Memorial. At this point, turn left up the hill and back to Abinger Roughs car park and the end of your walk.
National Trust Abinger Roughs car park, RH5 6QS
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