A walk to St Martha’s Church with kids

by Jan

A circular walk in the beautiful Surrey Hills AONB, with lots of historical points of interest, including the old mills on the Chilworth Heritage Trail.

We’ve often visited the Surrey Hills, but never done a walk to St Martha’s Church.  This historic walk to St Martha’s Church is a great family walk as it has plenty to interest the kids and spectacular views for adults.  The church is lovely for its bucolic setting on St Martha’s Hill, between the villages of Chilworth and Albury, near Guildford in South-East England.

The varied Albury walk takes in open down and woodland and is quite steep and uneven in places.  However, there are plenty of historical landmarks and some stunning landscapes of the Surrey Hills.

  • Start Point:           Newlands Corner White Lane Car Park (GU5 9BQ)
  • Type of Walk:      Circular
  • Distance:               4 miles (6.5 km)
  • Time:                     2 hours
  • Refreshments:     No

The walk to St Martha's Church

The walk to St Martha's Church, Surrey, UK

We started at Newlands Corner White Lane Car Park; a small car park popular with local dog walkers.  However, we easily found a place and parking was free.

Firstly we started downhill and joined the path which runs parallel with Guildford Lane.  The path leads in the direction of White Lane Farm and links with the North Downs Way.  This is a long-distanced National Trail, which runs from Farnham in Surrey to Dover in Kent.

This stretch of the North Downs Way has a wide, sandy path, which was fairly flat and wide.  The path briefly joins the Pilgrim’s Way leading to the beautiful St Martha’s Church.  It was well sign-posted and easy to find the church.

There are several alternative starting points for a walk to St Martha’s Church.  You could start at the main Newlands Corner Visitors’ Centre or St Martha’ Hill Car Park.

St Martha's Church

View of St Martha's Church, Surrey with blue sky backdrop, UK

The original St Martha’s-on-the-Hill Church was built in the 12th Century but later fell into ruins and was rebuilt around 1848 for the people of Chilworth, Surrey.

This iconic Surrey church stands atop St Martha’s Hill and is only accessibly by foot.   Historically, pilgrims used this route on their way to Canterbury or Winchester and used the church as a stopping point.  Travellers preferred this safer, hillside walk on the North Downs to the perilous roads of the High Weald.

Today it’s a popular Surrey landmark and fantastic viewpoint.  Standing at 573 feet, it provides panoramic views right across the North Downs and Surrey Hills.  We stopped to enjoy the landscape, explore the graveyard, and have a little play on the swing rope next to the church.

Chilworth Manor & Vineyard

Chilworth Manor, Surrey, UK

With St Martha’s Church behind us, we headed down a steep hill towards Chilworth Manor & Vineyard.  This 17th Century house is a magnificent grade II listed building.  However, the kids were more interested in gorgeous alpacas who were lazing in the adjacent field.  We did try to chat, but they were not overly friendly, so we moved on.

The path running parallel to the vineyard led us downhill to the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills Heritage Trail.

Chilworth Gunpowder Mills Heritage Trail

Old derelict buildings at Chilworth Gunpowder Mills, Surrey, England

The Heritage Trail is a fantastic walk through the former Gunpowder Works at Chilworth.  Historically, this area was an important site for gunpowder manufacture from the 17th Century up until the end of the World War I.  Originally, Chilworth Mills were set up by the East India Company and at one point were the most prominent producer in the country, even providing gunpowder for the King.

The Chilworth Gunpowder trail follows the route of the old tramway between the Tillingbourne River and New Cut canal.  It is a pretty, woodland walk, and has a picnic area, if you want to stop.  There’s a stream where children can paddle and a wooden sculpture of Sam Snail, who has seen better times!

Two boys Climbing trees on North Downs Way, Surrey, UK

Today you can explore the ruins of more than 100 buildings, which played leading roles in the heritage of the area.  Interpretation boards will help explain the history of the mills and their contribution to gunpowder manufacture at the time.

As well as its historical importance, the heritage trail is also a significant area for wildlife.  With its combination of woodland and wetlands, it provides essential habitat for a variety of species.  The twins found an abundance of small toads by the river.  Keep your eyes out for dragonflies and damselflies too.

Click here for a copy of the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills Heritage Trail

The return journey

Views from St Martha's Church, Surrey, UK

Finally, we returned on an uphill path between the fields and woods on the Downs Link Path.  It was a tough, steep ascent and at times we had to climb on the verge to social distance from other walkers and riders.  However, we did get great views of the Surrey Hills.

Once at the top we returned to our original path on the North Downs Way.  Here, we discovered a WW2 pillbox, part of the North Downs defence line of invasion.  We also stopped at some superb trees for climbing and jumping from.

Conclusion

This is a wonderful Surrey walk, with lots of points of interest for children to look out for.  However, it is extremely steep and uneven in places so would not be accessible to all.

If you’re not good with steep hills, it would be better to do an out and return walk to St Martha’s Church.

Have you tried a walk to St Martha’s Church?  Which are your favourite walks in the Surrey Hills?

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