London’s Lost Route to the Sea – Weybridge to Guildford

31st March 2016

Weybridge to Guildford – 23.22 km (14.43 miles)

It was good to have Paul King’s company today as he joined Cookie and i on our trek down the Wey Navigation to Guildford (i think he may regret that decision when he gets up on Friday though). On the way from the station to the canal Paul showed me 23, Waverley Road a brick end of terrace cottage that was the house his mum grew up in.

The walk today started at the Weybridge Town Lock and will track the Wey Navigation South to Guildford, we set off along the edge of the canal and Addlestone Road, the canal being higher than the road and held back by it’s robust sides. As we leave the road side we turn into the countryside and see the first of many narrow boats and barges,the best named narrow boat i saw was one that was painted entirely green and called ‘The Marrow Boat’, i kind of found it funny at the time. Not long after setting out we came across the next lock which was Coxes Lock, the deepest lock on the Wey Navigation at 2.59m and next to it a building of three mills that provided Surrey with grain, paper, metal and accommodation for 207 years, the mills finally closed in 1983 and have since been converted into apartments.

The Wey then took us past the village of Addlestone and the many varying houses that backed on to the canal, most with jetties and private boats. We could hear in the distance the steady drone of traffic noise that gradually got louder as we walked further along the canal, the source of the noise was the M25, London’s orbital motorway, we passed under the motorway which was towering above on massive graffiti clad pillars, at this point the M25 also passes over the railway and the junction of the Wey Navigation with the Basingstoke Canal. Three very different generations of transport infrastructure all in one place above each other, showing how much history has changed in the way that goods are transported, it really makes you think.

The canal run alongside the M25 for just over a kilometre and it was really noticable when we turned away and the drone of the traffic gradually faded, its incredible how far away you can hear the hum of the traffic. At least the only stress we had was when to have lunch and not amidst the hastiness of the traffic whizzing past.

After several more locks and quite a few more kilometres we were beginning to get hungry and needed to refuel, so our conversations turned to ‘pies’ and how great it would be if the planned pub stop had one on the menu, will still however had a couple of kilometres to go. We passed by John Donne’s residence who was a poet & cleric and the ruins of Newark Priory which has been on an island of the Wey since 1312 and has fallen ruin since Henry VIII rein. It is now a grade 1 listed ancient monument and is on private land so cannot be accessed.

The towpath from here was very peaceful and the call of the birds was certainly beautiful and interspersed with the tapping of a woodpecker in the distance. However one particular bird gave us a bit of an issue as there were two swans, one sitting on a nest slightly down the bank and on the path was her partner guarding her welfare and making sure she was safe, this posed a problem for us because it would hiss whenever we approached. After a bit of thought i decided to pick up Cookie (PK can fight his own way past) and hastily walked past, fortunately he could see that we meant no harm and just raised it’s wings a little and gave a slight hiss as a warning.

Just after 2pm we arrived at The New Inn on the banks of the Wey near Send. We sat at a table outside as the sun was shining and it was quite warm, we both looked at the menu for two seconds and although there was quite a choice we only saw the ‘Steak and Ale Pie’ as we had talked ourselves into it for the last hour and a half, the pie lived up to expectations and it was delicious, the meat was so tender and flavoursome. We had a brownie desert and washed it down with soft drinks. Cookie absolutely loves chips and PK gave her one but accidentally dropped it just out of her reach, she could just about reach it and lick it with her tongue, but couldn’t quite hook it back to eat, on realising this he thought it would be funny to tease her, how cruel was he! We spent about an hour at the pub watching life on the canal go by and as we left the garden had filled up with people.

There was a great deal of flotsam on the canal and this was down to Storm Katie as it had taken it’s toll on the trees during the previous weekend as many had toppled into the canal and were causing obstructions, this meant parts of the navigation was closed to boat traffic and gave the canal workers a bit of a headache in working out how to safely get them out. After a further hours walking through the cow meadows next to the Wey we could once again hear the rushing noise of people in their cars heading to or from their varied journeys as they travelled  on the A3. We walked parallel to this road for a short while and then came to the last lock of the day before Guildford and we were met by a terrible stench of sewage works and shortly after a dustcart depot.

We were now sensing that we were nearing Guildford as the area was becoming more built up and our realisation that we were in the suburbs was when we came up from the towpath and had to cross a really busy road, on the other side of the road our walk by the side of the canal on the towpath would now need to take a detour as the police had cordoned off the path and were carry out a search for a missing person. The detour took us through a housing estate and then across the A3 of which we managed to keep sight of the canal through the gaps in the houses. We rejoined the towpath and walked the last couple of kilometres into the city centre passing under the railway viaduct that was originally a wooden structure built opened in 1845 and then rebuilt in brick in 1912. PK certainly was beginning to flag on that last leg as he mentioned that he had never walked so far in a day and it’s a good job that he said, “At what point do we leave the canal to get to the station” and with that i looked at the map and said “Just here” and found the path to the station, who knows how far passed we would have gone if he hadn’t brought that small fact up, lol.