London’s Lost Route to the Sea – Cranleigh to Loxwood

1st May 2016

Cranleigh to Loxwood – 12.86km (7.99 miles)

The sun is shining, it’s bank holiday weekend and a great day to continue the walk along the lost route. Susan, PK, Cookie and Kiah have all joined me on todays trek from Cranleigh. The hike started with a brief walk along the road before heading back across the fields to the canal of which we followed a short way before it then cut through private land meaning that we had to follow the footpaths close by and leaving the edge of this disused waterway. We decided to play the ‘Penny Game’ which is something that we used to play in the car with the children (and occasionally still do), The game is very simple in that you have to name an object or animal or anything really and the first person to see the said object wins a penny. So i suggested a Kingfisher, PK a Rabbit and Susan a dragonfly and we then had to keep our eyes peeled for the rest of the day.

The first half of the walk did not continuously follow the canal as it went through a lot of private land and this meant that quite a bit of the walking was on minor roads. However the second half of the walk was to be completely different as we would rejoin the exact route of the canal. After walking across open farmland at the start of the day, we were now going into Sedghurst Wood where the canal winds it way through. As we walked in to the woods we were met with a beautiful sweet smell and a sea of blue, the blue bells were out in full bloom and we had never seen such a lovely display as here, the good thing too is that it was not awash with people wanting to catch a glimpse of the flowers.

A little way in to Sedghurst Wood and following the edge of Fir Tree Copse nature reserve we rejoined the canal, which some parts were totally dry. This section was so quiet, when you stopped you could hear just the birds calling in the trees, and only occasionally did we pass someone. The woods surrounded the canal and the sun filtered through the trees which added to it’s beauty, however a lot of trees were also growing out of the canal itself. I would definitely say that this has to be one of my favourite sections of the canal so far.

The section from Cranleigh to Loxwood would once have had thirteen locks, taking it down a gradual gradient when heading south, however as most of the canal is now disused these locks although marked on the map have disappeared since the closure of the canal in 1871. The first lock that we came across was Gannets Lock that was under reconstruction by the Wey & Arun volunteers, there were about half a dozen men milling about and relaying bricks to form the side walls of the lock. There was no water at this point and talking to one of the volunteers he suggested that although this lock should be finished in September 2017, it won’t be navigable for a while yet as they need to get some permissions to restore the canal going through some private land. The canal has been under restoration since 1970 and this section leading up to Loxwood has had many of the locks reconstructed and made navigable since 2010.

The last few kilometres of the walk took us alongside the restored navigable part of the canal and we started to see many more walkers out for a sunday afternoon stroll that had parked up and walked from the visitor centre. We also saw one of the three canal boats that they have full of people enjoying a coffee whilst taking a trip up the canal, seemed quite civilised to me. We finished our walk today at the visitor centre and Onslow Arms in Loxwood, at this point we were now getting peckish so we decided to sit outside and have some food, which when served up was was really good portions and certainly welcome after the days walk. Over our meal it did start to get a little nippy in the air, so soon after finishing the meal and reflecting on the day we decided to look at the visitor centre at which point we watched the canal boats come back in from their trips and pick up the next lot of visitors.

Loxwood is approximately half way through my challenge as i have covered 106 kms from the Bank of England to here and i estimate about the same again to get to Portsmouth. So far over this distance we have seen many things such as Alpaca’s and Parakeets, but today not one of us saw a Kingfisher, Rabbit or Dragonfly…………

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

17th April 2016

Guildford to Cranleigh – 15.94km (9.9 miles)

Just before i start telling you about todays trek last week i completed the missing link on the Weybridge to Guildford leg. If you can remember we had to divert away from the canal because of a police investigation and walk through residential streets instead, well i decided to take half an hour out of my busy working day to just walk the 1.4km that we missed. The weather was really warm and i ended walking just in shirt sleeves. This little walk took me along the canal under the A3 and into the outskirts of the city centre, a peaceful walk at the start with the birds singing, i heard a rustling in the grass, took a look and a snake slithered off, i didn’t see it enough to work out whether it was a grass snake or adder. As i passed under the A3 the traffic was stationary above, which made me thankful that i was walking rather than sitting in the traffic, a detour home will be in order to avoid that.

Back to today’s trek with PK, Cookie and Kiah.

We started by the canal in Guildford where we left off last time, it was a saturday and the streets were busy with shoppers, yet the canal that runs right through the centre seemed to be a level of calm and with just a few walkers, cyclists and joggers but no mad rush of the hubbub of the city. The Wey Navigation cut through the city and before long we were leaving the centre and into the leafy suburbs, the path was now to become very muddy and wet due to the recent rain, this was going to make the walking a little more testing.  The canal started meandering through the Surrey countryside and locks were to become less frequent, after about 3 km into the walk we had an unplanned initiative test and that was that PK’s hike boot of 20 years was to become a flip flop as the heel came away, after a little thought he re-tied the laces such that they wrapped around the sole holding it on, all was good again for the next few hundred yards when unbelievably the other boot decided to do the same, I got to admit I did find it exceptionally funny and couldn’t stop laughing.

We followed the Wey Navigation south for a few more kilometres to Shalford, past the old Gunpowder store, a wooden hut that stood on cement mushrooms, which was used to store the explosives being transported up the canal. At this point, on the Wey Navigation is  the junction with the Wey & Arun Canal of which we are to follow, the main Wey Navigation continues to Goldalming. This is another major milestone in the walk which means we have now completed the Thames section and Wey Navigation section.

We veer off down the Wey & Arun canal branch which at this point is only about 1km long before it goes through private land and comes to an abrupt end. We will still be following the Wey South Path but as the majority of this particular section is either disused or on privately owned land we will therefore be following the route of the canal as closely as possible. After crossing the A281 we joined the ‘Downs Link’ path. This is an old disused railway line that linked Shoreham with Guildford, it ran from 1865 and would carry both freight and passengers, this new line would speed up the transport in the south and ultimately saw the demise of the Wey & Arun Canal, as this was competition on a different level. However just four months before it’s centenary in 1965 the line closed.

After a short straight walk along the disused railway we came across the disused ‘Bramley & Wonersh’, all the platforms remain in place and you could visualise the splendour of the steam trains pulling up here, in the waiting room on the platform was a replica of an old timetable and a local drinking special brew too. At this point we are to take a short detour into Bramley to stop for lunch at the the Jolly Farmer. A quick scan through the menu and the choices were made however, unfortunately the venison pie had sold out the night before so i ended up settling for the ham, egg and chips and as i was in Bramley it would have been rude not to have the homemade Bramley apple crumble for dessert. Kiah and Cookie for most of the lunch sat there quietly under the table until Kiah spotted something on the fireplace that she took a dislike to, we are not quite sure if it was the stuffed foxes head that was in a snarling  pose or the ventriloquist puppet with it’s fixed stare into the bar, whichever it was set her off barking, which in turn then set Cookie off…..great!

After lunch we rejoined the ‘Downs Link’ and continued to follow the Wey South path, every now and then you would get glimpses of the old canal with it’s green weed growing in as there is no longer any flow and the water is static. The next challenge we faced was that PK’s sole of his boot was to completely come off, flapping around by the shoe lace that was used to hold the heel on. After some quick thought i rummaged in the first aid kit and found some medical tape with we would use to strap the boot up. Bizarrely enough the very same thing happened to the second boot in such a short distance too.

After following the Downs Link for a few kilometres we then left it to track a small section of canal, before walking through fields in which the River Wey flowed through. This part of the walk was probably the muddiest and certainly the most trying on the patched up hike boots. Another section of the path was completely blocked off by the river flooding, however we were determined that we were not going to turn back on ourselves so chose to hop over the barb wire fence and around the flood.

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The muddy path then turned into a more substantial road as we entered the outskirts of Cranleigh and we were still following small sections of the canal that hold water. At this point the path gave us a little test as it seemed to disappear through a tall garden gate, we were a little wary of entering as it was some ones garden, but true enough the path went right through the middle of their garden. The last kilometre of the day took us past some greenhouses growing lettuce and we finished the trek just south west of cranleigh. On walking back to the car, we stopped at the shop to get some refreshment and at this point PK dumped the well worn boots in a bin, sad times…….lol.