A family walk on the Lovelace Bridges Trail, Surrey

by Jan

The Lovelace Bridges Trail is a heritage walk in East Horsley that leads through the pretty woodlands of the Surrey Hills.  It’s one that I’ve wanted to do for some time, as I always enjoy a walk with points of interest to find en route.  It’s a popular walk with locals, especially dog-walkers.

There are several start points for the Lovelace Bridges Walk, but we began at the Sheepleas car park on Green Dene Road.  From here we crossed the main road and took an upward path on the main Lovelace Bridges Trail.

  • Start Point:        KT24 5TA (Sheepleas Car Park, Dene Road, East Horsley)
  • Type of walk:     Circular
  • Distance:            5.25 miles (8.5 km)
  • Time:                   2-3 hours
  • Refreshments:   The Duke of Wellington, East Horsley, KT24 6AA

What are the Lovelace Bridges?

Lovelace bridge views, Surrey, UK

William King, the 1st Earl of Lovelace, built the network of tracks across his East Horsley estate in the 1860s.  He was a prominent 19th century landowner who wanted to facilitate his ride and the transportation of timber by horse-drawn carts through his woods.

As part of the development, Lord Lovelace constructed a series of 15 bridges over the valleys to enable access across existing roads and bridleways.

Lord Lovelace used local resources to build his bridges and made use of his own brickworks.  The fact that they have stood the test of time so well shows the extent of his engineering skills.

What is the Lovelace Bridges Trail?

Muddy Boots, Surrey, UK

Today 10 of the bridges are still intact and form the Lovelace Bridges Trail.  It is a pretty, natural trail with way markers along the route.  These are reasonably easy to follow, though we did have to check with google maps on a couple of occasions.  Generally, the discovery of the next bridge will confirm if you’re on the right track!

Click here for a copy of the Lovelace Bridges Trail map.

The Lovelace Trail is undulating in places, but mostly fairly moderate.  However, you do need sturdy walking shoes or boots, as it can get extremely muddy on some paths.   We did the trail in February and the ground was oozing!  Of course, the kids didn’t mind at all, though I was embarrassed when we arrived mud-splattered at my sister’s, who lives locally.

The Lovelace Bridges

Raven Arch Bridge, Surrey, UK

The first bridge on our walk was the Raven Arch.  With its flint walls and brick facings, this horseshoe-shaped bridge is typical of the Lovelace Bridges.

Then, just like buses, the next two bridges, Briary Hill Bridge West and East came together at once.

Oak Hangar Bridge is no longer intact, but fragments of the flint and brick remain.  However, we did find the plaque where the bridge once stood.

All the bridges have a silver plaque nearby, with information about the origin of the bridges and additional details about that particular bridge. Originally all the bridges had a tile name plate, but now only two survive.

Dorking Arch

Dorking Arch view, Surrey, UK

The last bridge we crossed was the biggest of all, Dorking Arch.  It is 18 feet wide and spans the Crocknorth Road, East Horsley, giving us a good viewpoint of the unsuspecting cyclist below.

Built in the 1860s, the Dorking Arch is now a Grade-II listed building.  As well as being the grandest, it is also one of the most ornate.  The design includes distinctive features like the arrow slits in the parapets and decorative brick facing.

In conclusion

Woodland Tree Fungus, Surrey, UK

In recent years, the Horsley Countryside Preservation Society has undertaken the restoration and preservation of the existing bridges.  This has created a circular trail for walkers and naturalists to enjoy.

Despite the mud, we enjoyed the walk, the bridges, and the scenery.  At points the map was unclear, but we managed to follow it and loved the remoteness and the solitude.

The walk is perfect for dogs (if we had one), but not suitable for buggies or wheelchairs.

Don’t expect to find any facilities or benches, as it is very natural.  However, you’ll find plenty of logs where you can stop for a picnic.  Alternatively, you could head to the pub afterwards.  The Duke of Wellington in East Horsley is a good gastro pub and has ornate brickwork that matches the bridges!

Have you tried the Lovelace Bridges Walk?  We’d love to hear your comments below.

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