River Wey walks: Dapdune Wharf to St Catherine's
Have a peek at the geographical importance of the River Wey. You'll be able to see how the river has cut through the North Downs making Guildford an important 'gap town'. There are some spectacular views at the highest point of the walk before you descend to the valley bottom.
Dapdune Wharf, grid ref: SU993502
Go out of the back gate of Dapdune Wharf towards the railway embankment and cross the river. Ignore the towpath and bear right along the road between commercial buildings (Walnut Tree Close). The road bears left. Continue for 100m and turn right up an access road with a sign to the University. Continue over the railway bearing left along the path through trees. On reaching a road (Ridgemount), turn right following the road and look for steps up to the Cathedral.
Dapdune was one of the first wharves established on the Wey Navigation and one of the busiest. Just a few years after the Navigation opened, London was devastated by the Great Fire of 1666. This created a huge demand for timber to rebuild the city and so wood became one of the most important cargoes to be transported downstream to London. In the 1890s, the Stevens family moved to the wharf and established it as the main boat yard on the navigation. Three generations of the family worked on the barges, before giving it to the National Trust.
Return to Ridgemount, turn right and continue along Alresford Road, bearing left into Benbrick Road. Cross The Chase and into Elmside. This area is part of Onslow Village. At the junction with Curling Vale, take the footpath between the houses to eventually cross the A31 and up the steep footpath to the track that runs along the ridge of the North Downs. The views are superb in all directions.
Turn left along the trackway (the old Farnham Road turnpike) and follow the historical approach to Guildford down the hill, passing the cemetery where Lewis Carroll is buried. Cross the Portsmouth Road, pass St Nicholas' Church and the White House.
Cross Town Bridge. To the left is Town Wharf. Cross the road by the pedestrian crossing and go up the High Street as far as Quarry Street, the first road on your right. On Quarry Street, if you have time, you can visit the church, castle and museum. The far end of Quarry Street joins Millbrook. Cross the road here and pass The Boatman pub. Carry on to the rowing club and cross the stile behind the clubhouse. Ignore the tarmac path and follow the path along the river bank beside Shalford Meadows. When you come to the footbridge over the Navigation at Ferry Lane, cross over and turn right. After 20m, detour left up Ferry Lane to reach St Catherine's Hill.
It is worth having a quick look at Town Wharf - the main wharf for Guildford. You can see the extremely rare 17th-century crane and treadmill. It was powered by two men walking inside the treadwheel, rather like a hamster wheel. The crane was last in operation in the 1960s when raising stone for the building of Guildford cathedral. For its time, it was an innovative piece of machinery. This marked the end of the Navigation before the extension to Godalming was built in 1763.
Retrace your steps to the towpath. Turn left and follow the towpath to Millmead lock. At the lock, turn left to cross the footbridge and then turn right along the riverside to pass the Britannia Inn at Millbrook, with Town Mill and the Yvonne Arnaud theatre on the opposite bank. Pass over Town Bridge and follow the path through the car park opposite Town Wharf, under the road bridge and along the towpath to the railway embankment and back to Dapdune Wharf.
For centuries Town Mill was at the forefront of Guildford's cloth and corn industries, before being converted to a water pumping station. One of the old two-ton water turbines from the days of the pumping station has been preserved and now welcomes you at Dapdune Wharf. Debenhams was previously the site of Moon's Wharf - one of the biggest timber merchants in the county.
Dapdune Wharf, grid ref: SU993502
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