Fold Villages of the Surrey Weald

The Ride

Stage 1: Dunsfold to Mill Farm

Dunsfold village green and pondDunsfold

Head south through the village and turn left onto the bridleway just after the village hall. It begins as a tarred drive running along the right-hand side of Dunsfold Free Church. Follow it down the slope by an old barn and past the picturesque Pound Farm. At the corner of the farm buildings, turn right onto a gravelled track between two fields, as indicated by another bridleway sign. It's in a reasonable, if bumpy, state, but could be slippery in wet weather, particularly on the slope down into the woods (about 1 mile). At the bottom of the slope cross the footbridge over the stream.

The track now runs beside the airfield fence until it comes to a deserted lane, one of the old roads blocked off when the airfield was built. Turn left along the road; about 100 yards past the turning to High Billinghurst Farm, go through the gate on the right, by the bridleway sign. This leads into a field from which there are views towards Hascombe Hill. The bridleway isn’t obvious on the ground, but it heads straight across the middle of the field in the direction indicated by the sign. By the time you get to the woods on the far side you want to be about 100 yards in from the right-hand edge of the field. You should be able to see the exit gate by the time you’re halfway across the field. Go through the gate and turn right onto the concrete track on the other side (2 miles).

After a very short distance, go through a broken-down old gate. The concrete track turns away to the left; don’t follow this, but continue straight ahead up the path through the pine trees, passing a fenced enclosure on the left. This area was once part of the airfield and old concrete manholes and other remains are scattered along the way, so take care.

At the end of the woods the path comes out into another field. Keep to the right-hand edge and then take the narrow path between the two old gateposts, which almost seem to be tucked away in the bushes. Pass a pond and go through the gate into a farmyard. From there the concrete farm road running straight ahead will take you past the cowshed and down to the road, the original Guildford-Horsham road which was bypassed when the airfield was built.

Cross the road, heading slightly to the right, and turn into the drive of Hall Place (another bridleway). Follow the drive to the gates of Hall Place Farm. The bridleway passes through a narrow gate on the left of the main entrance. Carry on down the track which runs along the side of the farm. After a while the track heads down a hill and passes a small group of cottages before coming out onto the A281 road (3 miles).

Stage 2: Mill Farm to Lakers Green

The dried-up bed of the Wey & Arun Canal near Mill Farm

Cross the road to the driveway of Mill Farm opposite. The farm keeps a large flock of geese, which you will probably see either in the fields or in one of the barns. As you approach the farm itself, pass the first buildings and enter the farmyard. Head for the far right-hand corner of the yard and go out through the gate (it may be open or closed). Immediately after that is another gate, which leads onto a somewhat overgrown track. On the right is a hedge bordering the farmhouse garden, at the far end of which the track crosses the dried-up course of the old Wey and Arun Canal. The bridge over the canal has long been filled in, but a similar bridge over a parallel stream survives.

Continue along the track and through a gate into a short field. Cross the field to another gate immediately ahead and go through it into a second, larger field. Keep to the right-hand edge of this field, following the hedge as it curves around to the right. Leave by the wooden five-bar gate in the far right- hand corner, beyond which is a large wooden shed.

Great Garson - the garden path on the right is a bridleway

This is one of those somewhat odd places where a bridleway goes through someone’s garden; in this case that belonging to a magnificent half-timbered house called Great Garson. Go past the wooden shed in the garden, down the drive, and turn right onto the lane outside the front gates. The lane descends a slight hill before curving to the right (about 4 miles), after which it bends left and runs beside a restored stretch of the old Wey & Arun Canal as it approaches Fast Bridge. The original bridge over the canal can still be seen on the right, just before the lane joins the A281.

Cross the main road to reach the bridleway almost opposite. This follows a derelict loop of road for the first few yards, before turning off to the right onto a narrow, grassy track. This is Farnhurst Lane, an old green lane which runs parallel to the canal. Keep your eyes peeled for the beautifully- restored Farnhurst canal bridge, among the trees on the right. Follow the track through a gateway and into a field. Its course across the field is faint, but aim for the left end of the distant buildings and you’ll come to the gate which lets you out. From there another grassy track passes beside a mobile home park. At the far end, continue along the tarred access road to reach the road by the pub at Lakers Green (5 miles).

A restored length of the Wey & Arun Canal near Alfold

Lakers Green: The road through Lakers Green which passes the Three Compasses was once the old Guildford-Horsham road, but today it ends at the back gate of the airfield which was built across its route. Just inside the airfield perimeter you can see a section which is still in the condition of a pre-war A-road, complete with its original surface of flint chippings. The airfield was built in 1942 by Canadian forces. Eight years after the war ended it was sold to Hawker Aircraft Ltd, now part of British Aerospace, and production facilities were added to the wartime hangers. The Hawk and the Harrier were among the famous aircraft built at Dunsfold.

Immediately outside the gate is Compasses Bridge over the canal from which there is a good view of the restored section; there was a wharf just here where the inauguration of the canal took place on September 29th, 1816.

Stage 3: Lakers Green to Knightons

Turn left out of the bridleway by the pub and at the junction go straight ahead in the direction of Alfold Crossways, about half a mile further on. At the junction at Alfold Crossways, turn right onto the B2133 Alfold road to Alfold, about a mile further on.

Alfold village centre In the centre of Alfold village (6 miles), by the Crown pub, turn right into Rosemary Lane. The scene here is possibly one of the most delightful village cameos in the whole of Surrey, with the pub and row of tile-hung cottages next to it, and the church, with the village stocks by the churchyard entrance.

Continue from the church along Rosemary Lane. At Velhurst Croft, just after Rosemary Cottage (a little over 7 miles), the road turns sharp left. About 300 yards after this, the lane ends at an isolated house at High Bridge. The name derives from the bridge which once crossed the old canal, the bed of which can be seen in the garden of the house.

Turn right onto the bridleway which curves off past the front of the house through Forestry Commission land. The wood on the right is Glasshouse Copse, named for the industry which used to be based there. Shortly after the gate another bridleway diverges to the right, but the main track is obvious.

At the crossways of paths keep straight on into a thicker part of the wood, and go round yet another gate across the track. Soon after this pass an old wooden garage on the left, and then the driveway of Old Lock Cottage joins the track (about 8 miles). At this point keep an eye out for the fence and fir hedges of Sidney Court, a house which has almost the look of a small French chateau – but stop about four or five yards before you come to the corner of the fence. Look to the left and right and you will see the marshy hollow which is the bed of the old canal. You are on the site of a bridge which has been demolished and levelled.

From here you can make a detour off to the right along the old towpath. The canal bed is now overgrown but still damp in wet weather. It heads into Sidney Wood, named after the de Sydenie family of Alfold, who also gave their name to a settlement in Australia. After about 150 yards take a path down some steps into the woods on the left for a few yards to the display board which marks the site of Knightons Glassworks, which existed here more than 400 years ago. Foundations of the furnaces can be seen in the undergrowth beyond the fence and on some of the stones you can still see drips of molten glass.

The Knightons area

Before you return to the track, go a little farther along the towpath to a derelict lock, the site of which is marked by a sudden rise in the path. The lock chamber is overgrown, the gates have long rotted away, and even the brickwork has gone.

Back on the route, the track soon becomes a tarred road, Knightons Lane. At Old Knightons, a lovely cottage, the road bends to the right and then heads down a short hill. At the bottom you have to decide on the next stage of the ride.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind
permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

There are three possible routes between Knightons and Durfold. All have their attractions and it may not be a bad idea to try a different one on separate occasions. The recommended route is via Furnace Bridge. It uses a track which is mostly in excellent condition, although there is a short length which may be messy in very wet conditions. It is described in stage 4.

The route via Loxley Bridge stays on roads for the entire distance but it is a quite delightful ride, as described in stage 5. It includes the option of ending the ride early by taking a short cut back to the start at Dunsfold.

The route via Upper Ifold (see stage 6) is the challenging alternative. It involves a bridleway which is in very poor condition and nigh-impossible to ride. The clay tends to be rough and sticky in all but the driest of weather, which makes even walking quite hard work, and you will need suitable footwear. It is best kept for good weather.

Stage 4: Knightons to Durfold
via Furnace Bridge

Continue along Knightons Lane for about half a mile after the farm-track to Upper Ifold Farm, until you come to a turning on the left, where there is a brick-built pillar box on the grassy corner. The signpost is a bit worn but points to Hurlands and Howicks – it is more readable on the other side. After about 500 yards the lane ends at a farm gate but a bridleway continues straight ahead. At the farmyard keep going straight ahead. Pass the farm buildings and leave the farmyard by the gate at the far end of the yard, from where a gravelled track leads down the hill to Furnace Bridge. At the bottom the track curves to the right and crosses a raised bank.

Furnace Bridge: The embankment which the track crosses is an old pond bay – the dam of a hammer-pond of an old ironworks which once occupied the field on the right. You’ll notice the raised bank along the far edge of the field. The works itself was in the copse on the left of the track, where charcoal dust and glassy slag has been found. The pond fed waterwheels which powered bellows to produce the heat in the furnace and drove a hammer which beat the iron into the required shape and removed impurities.

The track crosses the bridge itself and goes through a gate on the far side, from where Burningfold Manor is visible on the hillside to the right. After another gate the track curves towards the Manor gates, but the bridleway carries straight on across the grass and into the wood ahead. At first the way is not very obvious, but later it becomes a more distinct clay path. After about 100 yards a blue arrow on a post confirms you are heading in the right direction. Follow the bridleway round to the right and over a small stream, heading towards a tarred drive. Just before it reaches the drive the bridleway turns left to run alongside it for a couple of hundred yards before merging into it. (Watch for the unmarked speed humps.)

At the end of the drive turn left into Plaistow Lane and continue for just under a mile to the phone box beyond Durfold Farm (about 10 miles), then turn right into Fisher Lane, signposted Chiddingfold. Continue from stage 7.

Stage 5: Knightons to Durfold
via Loxley Bridge (road route)

Chapel Hill, Dunsfold

From Old Knightons continue straight along the road past the junction with Rams Lane then, at the bottom of a dip about 700 yards further on, turn left into Chapel Hill. The lane eventually emerges onto an open green with the gates of a large house on the left. At the junction with the Chiddingfold road turn right if you want to go back to Dunsfold and end the ride.

To continue, turn left down Wrotham Hill to Loxley Bridge, but just after the bridge, turn left into Plaistow Lane. Follow this for about 1½ miles as far as the phone box beyond Durfold Farm, then turn right into Fisher Lane, signposted ‘Chiddingfold’. Continue the ride from stage 7.

Stage 6: Knightons to Durfold
via Upper Ifold

At the bottom of the hill from Old Knightons, turn left onto the track – a bridleway – to Upper Ifold Farm, which runs along the side of a shallow valley towards the farm and some woods.

After the farmhouse come some extensive out-buildings and a few more houses. They are separated by a short belt of woodland from Upper Ifold House and the Barn House (about 9 miles). From there, keep going past some stables, then when the track forks, take the branch on the right (it’s not quite straight ahead). Pass some more stables, this time on the right, and then the track heads into the woods. Just inside the trees it splits into three. Ignore the indistinct path which turns off quite sharply to the left and then take the left branch at the following fork. It’s the more obvious of the two paths.

The condition of the track soon begins to deteriorate and the next stretch may not be much fun. Attempts have been made to repair the surface in places, but the clay soon oozes up, making the going hard work, even on foot. After a while, the bridleway emerges onto a gravel forest track. Turn right, then immediately left, to stay on the bridleway, which runs along the edge of the wood. This section is in very bad condition, even in good weather. Note: the forest track runs parallel to the final length of the bridleway, but it is on private land and, strictly speaking, you should not use it.

Eventually the bridleway emerges through a gate at a T-junction of paths at Dungate Farm. Turn right onto the path which, as the faded sign indicates, marks the border with Sussex, and come out onto the road. Turn right and follow the road for about 400 yards to the junction by the phone box at Durfold. Turn left into Fishers Lane for Chiddingfold.

Stage 7: Durfold to Chiddingfold

Fishers Lane provides a gentle amble along the southern edge of Surrey through Durfold and Fisherlane Woods. Watch out for the unexpected industrial premises on the left (11 miles via Upper Ifold); they were built as a walking stick factory, an industry established here over 100 years ago. Keep straight on at the junction to Shillinglee and again at the next junction (High Street), which is just after Tugley Farm (about 12 miles). At Hazel Bridge (13 miles) there is a steep descent into the valley and an equally steep climb back up. That apart, this stretch offers easy cycling to Chiddingfold.

Stage 8: Chiddingfold to Hambledon

From the green, turn right onto the main A283 road. This is quite busy, but there is no better alternative and you will be on it for only a mile. Pass the unusual Catholic Church of St Teresa of Avila (14 miles), and continue along the main road to North Bridge and up the hill on the far side of the bridge.

Pass the gates of Northbridge House and turn right onto the bridleway opposite the sign for North End Farm. This gravelled track is now the drive to Hurst Cottage, but it was once part of the Godalming-Chichester turnpike road. The ride through the woods is splendid. At the entrance to Hurst Cottage, veer slightly to the left; don’t go across the raised ridge which was the old road.

Oakwood Cottage, Hambldon, owned by the National Trust

After crossing a bridge (about 15 miles) the track runs beside a stream. About 400 yards further on, as you approach a house on the right-hand side, the track divides. Strictly speaking, the bridleway continues roughly straight ahead. However, it is extremely swampy beyond this point and is not recommended. Most people seem to use the drive. Pass the small pond and a group of cottages, and follow the drive round to the right and up to the road (Vann Lane) by Hambledon cricket green. There is a shop with post office and phone box just to the left.

Stage 9: Hambledon to Wetwood

Cottages and barn by Hambledon church

From the cricket green head east along Vann Lane. Pass the end of Woodlands Road (turn left to reach the church and pub), and then, shortly after Hambledon House, there is a sharp left bend by the entrance to a brickworks. Just beyond the Piggeries a steep hill into a dip (17 miles) is followed by a more gentle climb up the other side. Over the hedge on the right you can see the characteristic shape of Black Down, just over the Sussex border.

Follow Vann Lane around to the right at its junction with Upper Vann Lane. Shortly after Pockford Farm (18 miles), almost at the top of the hill, branch left into White Beech Lane, signposted ‘Dunsfold’. Beyond White Beech Farm the road dips sharply to cross a branch of the River Arun, with a steep but short climb up the other side to a junction with the Chiddingfold road (19 miles). Once again, turn left in the direction of Dunsfold, pass Redwood Place, and follow the road for just under half a mile as far as Woodside Cottage. (A sign on the right of the road indicates ‘Duns Copse’ and another on the left says ‘Wetwood Rough - Private’.)

Stage 10: Wetwood to Dunsfold

Note: The bridleway route described below should be in good condition since part of it is tarred and much of the rest had major repairs a few years ago. However, if you prefer it, an alternative route is shown on the map.

At Woodside Cottage turn left into the entrance which is signed as a bridleway. Almost immediately it veers to the right onto a rough farm track. After about 400 yards, just before the track heads through a gate towards a modern barn, the bridleway branches to the right onto a much narrower pathway. There is a lot of hard core in the surface of the path on this section which makes for rough riding, so you may find you need to walk. The scenery, though, is splendidly pastoral, with views over open fields giving way to hedges and trees.

A junction with a footpath leading to Duns Copse follows after a few hundred yards. Beyond this point, the bridleway was brought up to a very high standard a few years ago. Roadstone was laid on a special matting which is designed to allow water to drain away while preventing wet clay forcing its way up – hopefully this treatment will provide a successful long-term solution to the poor ground conditions previously found here. Take care at the bottom of the slope as you approach the Mill House because the track there is covered with deep gravel.

Dunsfold church

At the Mill House (about 20 miles) turn left, cross the small bridge, and follow the tarred drive across the fields at the bottom of the valley. Dunsfold Church is hidden away among the trees on the hill to the left and from here it is clear just how isolated the church is from the rest of the village. To reach it turn left when you come to the road at the end of the drive, then turn left again after just a few yards.

From the church continue along the road past the farm and its neighbouring cottages. At the T-junction turn right down the hill and follow the road through until you come to Dunsfold Green, opposite the school, and the end of the ride.

Updated: 18 January 2003