There’d been light rain for at least an hour, and it was slowly but surely getting worse. When the track divides, leave the bridleway and go on down a public footpath that will eventually bring you out at St Martha-on-the-Hill church. The canal bed lasted substantially longer, only being filled in in 1972. The Downs Link footpath and bridleway links the North Downs Way at St Martha’s Hill, Surrey with the South Downs Way near Steyning, West Sussex and on via the Coastal Link to Shoreham-by-Sea. There’s something about the moody dramatic lighting; the water dripping down the brick walls. I found only one place; a covered walkway outside of the Co-operative supermarket from which it was impossible to see if the bus was coming or not. But by the time I’d realised, my walking trousers were completely soaked; the wind choosing to whip the sodden material against my legs. This is the main walking route along the beautiful Downs Link trail. Bramley and Wonersh may have lost its service, but parts of the station still remained, lovingly restored by local groups. Recent rain had paid its toll on the footpaths as I slipped around on a path that had become a veritable quagmire at parts. Downs Link Stage 1: St Martha’s Hill to Rudgwick, Downs Link Stage 3: Henfield to Shoreham-by-Sea. The course is fully marked. That and the fact that St Martha’s Hill is a bit of a local landmark, thanks to its isolated church, parts of which date from the 12th century. And with that she bade me farewell, leaving me on the platform wondering about what once was. The residents, stuck in their traffic jams, are still waiting. Sacred Summit. Currently you have JavaScript disabled. The route crosses the Surrey Hills and the South Downs through predominantly wood areas with views across adjoining fields, but also includes small meadow areas and wetland features. The 37 mile (59km) shared route for walkers, horse riders and cyclists linking the North Downs Way with the South Downs Way. Now the church sits alone, accessible only by foot. This route option visits St Martha’s Hill, a fabulous viewpoint standing 175m above sea level and the official starting point of the Downs Link path. For most of its length it follows former railway lines and is popular with cyclists wanting to stay off-road on a well-surfaced track. The weather had, at least, got a little better, but water was streaming down the sides of the railway cutting. The Downs Link connects with other long-distance routes such as the North Downs Way, the South Downs Way, The Wey South Path, The Greensand Way and National Cycle Networks. The bridleway climbs to the church on the hill’s summit (175m). If I stopped, I’d end up having to spend two more days walking the trail. For some reason, footpaths down old railway trackbed don’t often go through the old tunnels. near Guildford is 175m above sea level. If the bus was early, the first I’d know would be when it went sailing straight past me. “It would have taken a lot of this traffic off the road, for a start,” she carried on, pointing to the car-filled road nearby, where the local traffic was barely moving. The reality is that Beeching closed some railway lines that he really shouldn’t. :). 5 With the church behind you, looking down over the Tillingbourne Valley, you will see a path ahead of you. Click here for instructions on how to enable JavaScript in your browser. In fact when I planned to walk the Downs Link, I didn’t even realise it went down old railway lines. “I remember standing on this platform to get home from school. The North Downs Way then climbs to the beautiful St Martha's Hill and St Martha's Church, from where there are excellent views to the South. Here was the first railway link as the path went over the distinctly open North Downs railway line which connects Reading and Redhill. Turn right here, just before another bridge, on a clear path. The small village of Rudgwick would be the last place where I knew I’d be able to get a bus; an hourly service connecting to either Guildford or Horsham. Find out more here. My original plan had been to walk on another six miles to Christ’s Hospital – a total of nineteen miles or so – but even by the time I’d got to Cranleigh it was obvious I’d never make it. Most of the 59 kilometre (37 mile) trail follows former railway lines. It’s hard sometimes to walk down a long closed railway line and not thing about the steam trains and carriages that once came this way. Whether it was the weather or not, I couldn’t tell, but the Downs Link was now deserted. In order to post comments, please make sure JavaScript and Cookies are enabled, and reload the page. The nearest railway station to St Martha's is Chilworth. A network of concrete culverts did, at least, keep the worst of the water off the footpath but such had been the downpour, that they were struggling to cope with the demand. Again, now a private house, Baynard’s is the only station on the route to have remained pretty much intact. This joins the downs link just a bit further east, and avoids the sandy ground around St. Martha's. Or perhaps, more accurately, along the A281 road which ran closely by. It also passes the Surrey heathland of Blackheath, with its impressive War Memorial atop Rosemary Hill. In 10m, ignore the wide path on the right and continue for another 50m. The 23 mile canal which connected with the Wey and Arun rivers was never a commercial success and was officially abandoned in 1871 just 55 years after it opened. Post code for finish point: High Street, Shoreham-by-Sea BN43 5DE That the hamlet got anything can be credited to one Lord Thurlow. Chilworth hadn’t changed much in the hour since I’d last been there but almost as soon as I’d arrived, I’d left again. St Martha on the Hill and the Silent Pool A Pilgrimage ... fingerpost, avoid a left fork, marked as the Downs Link, and continue, always uphill. A twin arch bridge spanned the old tracked, with the first arch originally going over the Wey and Arun canal. The Downs Link is a waymarked route open to walkers, horseriders and cyclists, linking the North Downs Way at St Martha's Hill, Surrey with the South Downs Way near Steyning, West Sussex via … Which is a shame as it can be an enticing and dramatic experience as anyone who has ever walked through the Monsal tunnels in the Peak District can testify. The vast majority of the route follows a disused railway trail, and is suitable for almost all bikes & riders. The Cranleigh Line was one of those. Shortly after, the North Downs Way (NDW) joins you from ... St Martha’s was built in 1850 on the site of a much older Saxon church. There may even have been an element of smug self-satisfaction involved. With an eye on the clock, I sighed and prepared to leave the trail just before the remnants of Rudgwick station and went in hunt of the village bus stop, and somewhere to shelter until the bus came. I knew I’d made a mistake not putting my waterproof trousers on. Others had been living on borrowed time for years after passenger and freight trade had either failed to show up, or had simply disappeared. Once the church had been an important staging post on a busy route, but when the era of the motorcar arrived, the roads remained at the foot of the hill. Despite that, an active band of volunteers have been hard at work, attempting to re-open the canal so it can be navigated once more. Pass by the Downs Link path on your left. The southern end of the tunnel was more noticeable; a bricked up tunnel mouth with a solitary door set in the middle to keep people away from the colony of bats who had taken up residence after the railway tracks were lifted. The trail crosses the Low Weald and mostly follows two former railway lines. Beginning of cycle ride along the Downs Link to Shoreham: psburgess: 16/05/2020: NDW Westhumble to Guildford: jedthehumanoid: 24/01/2020: Day 1 walking the North Downs Way: fosal29: 29/04/2019: Boxing Day walk with John & Simon: ornithopod: 26/12/2018 Almost all the trail follows the former trackbed of a railway closed in the 1960s as part of the Beeching cuts so it’s pretty flat. At the end of the platforms, where the line one crossed the road, the level crossing gates lay across the former track bed; waiting to be opened once more for a train that would never come. As you walk along, you can take … Not that there was much to see from the Downs Link, which had been routed away from the station on a side path, but a gap in the fence providing a fleeting glimpse of what once was, perhaps in better condition than it ever was under British Rail; vintage enamal advertisements placed on the platforms under immaculate woodwork. You are here: Things to Do > Downs Link off road trail. As I approached the village of Rudgwick fellow walkers also began to appear again; usually togged up to the nines in waterproofs and wellies whilst a large dog ran around, enthusiastically jumping in puddles. Downs Link - Via St Martha's Hill. Bramley seemed to be a long, thin village. Whilst walking the Ridgeway a few years earlier I’d walked on a bridge over an old railway cutting which was now so densely overgrown that it was impossible to imagine it had ever been any different. 3. Why not just fill it with local waste? The route is a straightforward "double" that can be completed in a day, following the Down's Link route from St Martha's Hill, near Guildford, to Shoreham. Use this tool to build your own journey or choose from an exciting range of specially selected tours. The old station building had been converted to a house, but the station canopies and platforms remained, maintained lovingly by its owners. And in Baynards’ case, there would be rubbish to clear as well. Now I seemed to have the Downs Link to myself as the path headed straight along. Please consider supporting what I do by buying me a coffee (n.b. “There’s not a day I pass through here that I don’t wish the railway was still open,” said an elderly woman as she passed me by on the former platform of Bramley and Wonersh station. 6 From St Martha's Hill the sandy path descends and crosses the Downs Link, a path linking the North Downs Way with the South Downs Way. They certainly had their work cut out for them. I'd recommend missing out St. Martha's Hill, instead going from Guildford station south along the banks of the Wey, picking up the Wey south path just south of Shalford. To provide you with the best experience, cookies are used on this site. My boots squelched and sploshed in the puddles, whilst every now and then the path descended into a muddy morass. British Rail looked in to a few years later, and the Railway Development Society did the same. It may seem odd that the Downs Link starts on top of St Martha’s Hill. Sat a short distance from the trail, with a slight platform effect in front of it, it almost looked like the Thurlow Arms had been a station, but the former Baynard’s station stood opposite. One such item was outside the village of Bramley; a children’s playground featured a replica of a train, ideal for the younger generation to run around and clamber over excitedly. First Published: 12 February 2014. A new section of the Downs Link is now open around Christ’s Hospital and can be viewed in the attached map below. The resulting car growth over the decades was paying its toll on the area, and a report in 1994 for Surrey County Council concluded that partly re-opening the line down from Guildford, through Bramley and Wonersh and on to the town of Cranleigh, would take 500 car users off the road each day. Following old railway lines, the Downs Link connects the North Downs Way with its southern equivalent. It wasn’t hard to imagine that the Downs Link needed a fair amount of pruning on an annual basis to get the brambles away. The Downs Link is a 36.7 miles (59.1 km) footpath and bridleway linking the North Downs Way at St. Martha's Hill in Surrey with the South Downs Way near Steyning in West Sussex and on via the Coastal Link to Shoreham-by-Sea But in the 1960s the attitude was that the car would solve all our problems!” I replied with perhaps a hint of regret that can come from someone who has never owned a car, and who relies on public transport to get around. may actually be a beer...). By 2009 the Association of Train Operating Companies even got in the act, suggesting the line could be re-opened in five to ten years. But the first four miles instead meander around lanes and tracks, starting from St Martha’s Hill. I’d got to the top of St Martha’s Hill having set off from Chilworth station in the valley below,, and now I was heading back to it. About the only obvious reason is that it allows the Downs Link to connect with the North Downs Way which also traverses St Martha’s Hill. the “Downs Link” that runs all the way from St Martha’s to the South Downs Way and ultimately to the sea. The Downs Link connects with other long-distance routes, such as the North Downs Way, South Downs Way, Wey South Path, Greensand Way, Sussex Border Path and National Cycle Network routes 2 and 22. Quite why Downs Link starts at the top of St Martha’s Hill isn’t particularly clear. The distance shouldn’t have been a problem but the muddy paths had made going slower than I’d expected, and the damp weather had left me with stiff and aching legs. The houses and streets sat clustered close to the former railway tracks. The course is mainly flat after the first section. From there, the path led to sparse woodland on Rosemary Hill, before heading to the more dense trees of Wonersh Common. You will find a car park about 1.2 km along this road. But putting footpaths through them means maintaining the infrastructure to a higher standard, plus lighting to install, health and safety hazards to assess. It is named after the original Norman Parish Church built on this site. The main option (DLM) follows the North Downs Way over St Martha’s Hill, where the Downs Link Trail officially begins. I peered through my rain splattered glasses, trying to work out if the line had been single or double tracked, but there were so many bramble bushes overgrowing everywhere that it was almost impossible to tell. And then, a little further on, was something that left the walker in no doubt of the local history. For starters you can give the people walking it a fantastic view on which to start their journey. Rambling Man earns money from qualifying purchases from Amazon, YHA England and Wales, Waterstones, Booksetc, Foyles, and Google Play, if you follow links from this site. Together all four meandered south for a couple of miles, as if scared to leave each other. Oh and the fact that no sooner had I got up there, than I had to go right back down again. I’d like to say it was planned, but that would imply too much credit on my part. The railway went through his land and the opening of a station to serve the estate was made a condition of sale, despite the fact that no one actually lived there. Quite why Downs Link starts at the top of St Martha’s Hill isn’t particularly clear. 22.St Martha’s Church. Only whilst doing my research on the trip did I find out the “happy” coincidence. To build your own Itinerary, click to add an item to your Itinerary basket. The only commemoration seemed to come a short way on at a sports ground. And less rain. Things began to change again as housing re-appeared and the Downs Link made its way into the heart of Cranleigh. The 37-mile (59-kilometer) route begins on St Martha’s Hill, near Guildford, and travels south to finish in the historic seaside town of Shoreham-by-Sea. Turn right on this path and follow the path down the hillside into the Tillingbourne Valley. Revised route. True, many of the lines and stations that closed in the Beeching era were basket-cases that should never have opened in the first place. Not that I was particularly surprised. Suggested joining points:  Guildford, Bramley or Cranleigh. There was an abundance of primroses lining the banks of the path in abundance and a short way out of the village I settled on a log and enjoyed my lunch. Next time: we return to Rudgwick for the start of a two day extravaganza. Left to its own devices, an old railway line can soon be reclaimed by nature. With little choice, I heaved my tired legs across the road and stood at the bus stop in the rain. Alternatively, the more accessible option (DLA) bypasses this in favour of a more relaxed walk, free from obstacles and sharp climbs. Paths along old railway lines tend to share similar features. Surrounded mostly by trees, the old railway line felt rather gloom in the rain, with only the odd bridge breaking it all up. The former station had been demolished, replaced by a shopping and housing development, with a large car park next to it. Whilst the station buildings had long gone, a former waiting shelter sat on one of the platforms next to a mock-up of a signal, permanently locked in the stop position. The Milk Churn specialises in Cheese on Toast made from the Cheese they produce at the same location. St Martha's Hill is a landmark in St Martha in Surrey, England between the town of Guildford and village of Chilworth.It is the 18th highest hill in the county and on the Greensand Ridge, in this case at the closest point to the North Downs, commencing to the immediate north at the Guildown-Merrow Down in the parishes of Guildford and Merrow. The northern entrance at Baynards has been mostly buried under soil and undergrowth, meaning the Downs Link heads off instead along a selection of increasingly muddy paths in a wood above the tunnel, crossing the border into West Sussex in the process. (3) The Downs Link climbs St Martha's Hill (4) Albury Downs Before heading back towards St Martha's Hill where I would rejoin the North Downs Way, I spent some time exploring the little village of Blackheath, with its Villagers Inn (picture 1), where I'd spent the night, some picture postcard houses and a street sign that I'd love to have outside my house (picture 2). Unlike its neighbour, Cranleigh had little to commemorate the railway. Relatively straight, relatively flat. Whilst the tree lined path of the old train line kept sight of the road to a minimum, the noise of cars rushing on their way meant you always knew it was there. At the end, turn left on a broad track. On the original railway plans, Baynards wasn’t even going to get a station. Far more peaceful were the remnants of the old canal along with Cranleigh Waters, a narrow, shallow looking river. The walk starts from the St Martha's Hill, Guildford Lane Car Park, just east of the hill. Practical Information for visiting with a group, Surrey's Heritage and Houses with a group, Places to eat and stay in Surrey with a group, Get Active sports and countryside in Surrey, Surrey's Arts/Culture/ Museums with a group. From here, I descended the other side of St Martha's Hill, leaving the North Downs Way where it intersects with the Downs Link (a 50km path joining the North and South Downs). 4 The track soon crosses a bridge over the Tillingbourne stream. Many paths cross here so look closely for the Downs Link signs. Enjoy this site? I had fond memories, especially of the South Downs, and I was intrigued to see how the landscape would change as I travelled between the two. Naturally, I found one within minutes of finishing off my sandwich and setting off one more. This proved to be the former Thurlow Arms pub in Baynards, now converted into a private residence; the pub’s Les Routiers sign still affixed to the front door. The path then descends to the road and runs next to the road for a while, passing White Lane Farm. The route was opened in 1984 to link the North Downs Way and the South Downs Way. After passing Childworth Railway Station turn left into Guildford Lane. At the top, I was rewarded with the sight of St Martha's Church (picture 25), and the magnificent views of the Surrey countryside to the south (picture 26). These days the tunnel is left in peace, and the entrances all blocked off. The Downs Link follows two historic railway lines through the beautiful and ancient wooded countryside of Surrey to the golden coastline of West Sussex. Naturally Downs Link followed the same theme, but every now and then there’s a a clue to the former life. However, the route was designed to link the North Downs Way with the South Downs Way, and this is where it meets its northern brother. The path continues past the famous beauty sport of Newlands Corner and then continues through Woodland to Hackhurst Downs where there is a path into the pretty village of Gomshall. St Martha’s Priory (another ecclesiastical clue) was derelict for many years but has now been converted into a prestigious house. Almost all the trail follows the former trackbed of a railway closed in the 1960s as part of the Beeching cuts so it’s pretty flat. Instead it starts a short distance away at a junction of sandy paths; a small stone cairn marking the official start, before heading straight back down hill again. There is now a cafe a few yards from the walk at Rudgwick. I’d just been attracted by the fact that it linked the North Downs Way and South Downs Ways, two trails I’d walked already. “Indeed. As far as Cranleigh was concerned, the railway was gone and would never be back. The Downs Link follows a disused railway line forming part of the long-distance route linking St Martha's Hill, near Guildford, to near Shoreham on the south coast. But if anyone was expecting some greater commemoration, they would be out of luck. Perched on the top of the hill on the North Downs Way National Trail, the building is accessible only by foot.It is the only church in Surrey to be on the Pilgrims’ Way and featured briefly in the 1944 film A Canterbury Tale. Click here for instructions on how to enable JavaScript in your browser. Grid Ref: TQ 032 484 to TQ 031 420 St Martha’s Hill – Bramley – Run Common – 10.5km (6.5 miles) St Martha’s Hill. Not that Downs Link actually starts at the church. Last Updated: 4 January 2019. The Downslink footpath and bridleway links the North Downs Way at St Martha's Hill, Surrey with the South Downs Way near Steyning, West Sussex. “Aye,” she nodded, looking at the platform a little wistfully. The signals and railway paraphernalia may have gone, and the undergrowth may be creeping in from the sides now that no railway workers were there to crop it back, but the clues were always there. The Milk Churn cafe is still there and also Firebird Brewery for a beverage. Linking the North Downs Way at St. Martha's Hill in Surrey with the South Down's Way near Steyning, the Downs Link route itself follows the course of two dismantled railway lines - the Cranleigh Line & the Steyning Line - both of which were closed in the 1960's as a result of the Beeching Axe. From Guildford follow the A281 to shalford, then along the A248. Downs Link - Stage 1. Post code for start point: St Marthas, Guildford  GU4 8PZ. Thankfully the path led to a distinctly easier section of tarmac, through the village of Stonebridge before finally the Downs Link arrived at the main event – the trackbed of the Cranleigh railway line. I walked on, passed a mysterious building with a “CLOSED” sign above the front door. The Downs Link, which is managed by West Sussex County Council, Surrey County Council and Waverley Borough Council. From St Martha's Hill the sandy path descends and crosses the Downs Link, a path linking the North Downs Way with the South Downs Way. I peered over the sides of the railway bridge – built up high to stop people from dropping things on the tracks – but there were no trains. It was underground. But the first four miles instead meander around lanes and tracks, starting from St Martha’s Hill. The notion of starting a walking trail at the top of a hill is – on paper – an appealing one view. St Martha’s is now supposedly the only church still remaining on the entire Pilgrim’s Way, and it is only accessible on foot. The hill summit stands at 574 feet (175 m) and commands wonderful views of the surrounding area. Routes on this trail. The line only gets two passenger trains an hour in each direction. For 37 miles it steams down the south of England, from St Martha's Hill near Guildford, to Shoreham-by-Sea on the south coast. If I passed on through, I’d be committing myself for the whole thing. It’s a shame.”. Well it was as good a reason as any to head to St Matha’s Hill, the start of the trail, on a rather soggy Saturday in April. You then follow the North Downs Way to the high point and the 19th century church of St Martha's. The Downslink Ultra is a 38-mile point to point race from St Martha’s Hill, Surrey to Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex using the Downslink footpath and bridleway. The beautiful St Martha’s Church (also known as St Martha-on-the-Hill) is a listed grade II Historic building. Which is why I started walking Downs Link, panting for breath, cursing the fact that I was rather out of shape on the hill climbing front. Not surprisingly the bus appeared right on time. Ever after seeking innovative solutions, part of the closed tunnel had been used by the local council as a rubbish tip. Prestigious house 37 mile ) trail follows former railway tracks please make sure JavaScript and cookies are enabled and... Cafe a few years later, and avoids the sandy ground around Martha! 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