This circular walk from Guildford to St Martha’s hill and Newlands Corner in the Surry Hills, has a bit of everything. A river, some woodland, open fields, hills, views, a bit of war history and a hilltop church.
What I’m going to do in this guide, is give you a bit of an overview of what to expect on the walk, followed by the logistics and a map. Then I will go on to describe the full route with photos.
The woodland – Chantry Woods
About 200 acres of woodland and meadows. During spring you will find some bluebells here.
The hilltop church – St Martha’s Church
St Martha’s Church is a 12th century Grade II listed building. It actually fell into ruin by the 18th century and was rebuilt in the 19th century, ensuring that the original architectural features were included. The hill is 175m high.
The other hill – Newlands Corner
Newlands Corner is spread across 250 acres with areas of chalk grassland, woodland, a a hill grass slope (what you will walk up) where you will find one of the best views across the Surrey hills.
It’s also a popular spot for astronomers. Being close to London, and with a south facing slope to the dark sky where numerous constellations can be visible.
Newlands Corner is just a few meters lower than St Martha’s Hill, although, you will have to walk up both of them separately.
Fun fact: In 1926, Agatha Christie (the crime writer) staged her disappearance from Newlands Corner. She was found later in Harrogate.
The History – the Chilworth Gunpowder mills
Located in an area of woodland in the Tillingbourne Valley. It is over 300 years old, and during the first half of the 17th century, was the sole producer of legal gunpowder in England to the King. It ceased production at the end of World War 1.
In the early 1900’s, there were 300 males workers and 6 female.
Fun fact: Each morning they would be checked for items that could cause a spark, and would hang their smoking pipes in a nearby tree, to then collect at the end of the day.
Another fun fact: They would wear brimless hats, designed to keep gunpowder out of their hair. This avoided accidents at home when they sat by the fire.
Fun fact to turn into a walk: Once in barrels, the gunpowder would be sent to London along the Wey Navigation.
When you enter the Chilworth Gunpowder mills, you can pick up a free information leaflet. That’s where I found these facts 🙂 It also has a little map showing you what everything is.
What was the circular walk to St Martha’s hill and Newlands Corner like?
It was brilliant. I loved the variety of this walk, and although I have never been a history buff, I really enjoyed walking through and seeing the gunpowder mills….with my German boyfriend.
The initial plan for the walk was to walk through Chantry Woods to St Martha’s hill first, then on to Newlands Corner. After which, we would make our way downhill to the gunpowder mills, before walking back to Guildford a different way.
Why we changed the walk route to St Martha’s Hill and Newlands Corner
After walking up through Chantry Woods and sitting at a viewpoint bench, Ollie commented how it would be nice to be at St Martha’s church for sunset. I agreed with him.
So we changed plans, and made our way back downhill to go to the gunpowder mills first, then walked back uphill, to walk along the top of Newlands Corner, and then on to St Martha’s Hill.
After doing the walk this way, I 100% think it was the right decision. If we did my original plan, we would have walked though all the great viewpoints in the first 1/2 of the walk….It’s better to save the best for last.
Walking up that hill first, to then come back down worked quite nicely as well. We didn’t have to go back on ourselves, so the walk still flowed in a nice loop. Plus it meant we could get a nice view early on. A taste of what was to come.
- Start/Finish: Guildford
- Type of walk: Circular
- How to get there: There are direct trains from London Waterloo and Clapham Junction. There are regular trains each hour and each does slightly different routes, so journey time varies. Both have trains that will get you there in 30 min. However, other trains can take up to an hour.
- Alternate start: If you are coming by car, there is a free car park just outside Chantry Wood. I will show you where it is when I describe the wall below.
- Distance: 11 miles
- Time: 4 hours
- Elevation: Highest point is 175m. With the ups and downs, you will have walked up a total of roughly 590m
- Difficulty: Medium (You do have a few hills, but I wouldn’t say they are super tough).
- Terrain: Dirt path, grass, bridleway, road.
- Amenities/tips: Guildford is a big town, so there is plenty there, then nothing for the rest of the walk. Hiking boots for the hills are recommended.
- Time of year: We did this doing winter
Map for the circular walk to St Martha’s hill and Newlands Corner from Guilford
You can find my more detailed route map for the St Martha’s Hill and Newlands Corner walk on AllTrails here.
-More ideas for walks nearby or similar walks will be at the end-
A Guide To The Circular Walk To St Martha’s Hill And Newlands Corner From Guildford
When you arrive in Guildford, you need to make your way to the River Wey. It’s a little confusing out of the station. If you cross the road at the main crossing, there is an underpass you need to go down to. I can’t remember exactly how it works as there are a few turns and directions to confuse you. Basically, you need to somehow make your way to the highstreet bridge *cough* penis bridge (if you go on a sunny afternoon, you will see what I mean). It’s next to the White House pub.
Walk along the river on the pub side. Keep going to cross over another bridge, then another straight after. This will lead you back to the main road, at which you turn right. From here, keep going, past the car park, to reach the green field.
nb. There is a trail that will keep you on the river, instead of having to make a detour to the main road. At the time of writing, it was closed.
Walk out of Guildford, along the river Wey
Ok, now you are here, there are 3 trails in the field. Take the nearest one, which runs along the river.
The next bit is easy. Simply walk along the River Wey, under some trees, past some houses on the other side, through a no fence gate (this one is funny), and under some more trees, until you reach the bridge.
This is a jumping bridge (no, not that kind). In the warm (when they happen) summer months, kids like to jump off it into the river. This whole area is actually a popular wild swim dipping spot.
nb. There is a ‘warning, no jumping’ sign.
Ollie and I came here last year during a heat wave and there was literally no space. The banks were lined with people.…so we left.
Walk from the River Wey to Chantry Wood
Just before the bridge, there is a trail to the left. Walk along it, past more trees and into an open field. Walk to the other side of the field, and you should see a wooden sign post for Chantry Wood. Follow it.
You will next walk along a residential street, and a bit further along, a road forking to the right with another Chantry Wood sign.
You will start to walk uphill, past a car park (one I mentioned earlier where you can start the walk if coming by car), to a quaint white house.
Walk to the right of the house, through the long metal gate, and continue straight and up into Chantry Wood.
The walk up into Chantry Wood is semi-steep, with a mix of dirt trail and steps.
Top tip: Up here, you will walk past an opening to the left with a Chantry Wood information board. Ollie and I didn’t spot it until the walk back. Make sure you spot it! If you stand at the board and look straight ahead, you will get a fantastic tree framed view of the Guildford Cathedral.
I don’t have a photo as it was too dark by the time we walked back past there.
Somewhere past the viewpoint we turned right. Our intention, when I planned out the walk, was to continue the walk straight to reach St Martha’s Hill and Church. However, this right trail called out to us. With the sun on the other side, it created a sort of orange glow. I can’t recall there being a signpost here, but looking on the map, it is the second trail past the viewpoint. Here is a photo if that helps.
This trail takes you around and along the inside outer edge of the Chantry Wood, with a view beyond the trees to the right.
The hill top fields and High Ball viewpoint
Along here, you will reach an offshoot trail which will take you out of the woods. There is another information board here incase you aren’t sure.
Once through the gate, turn left to walk along the trail. You will have some great views along here back and to the right.
A bit further along, you will see a wide grassy trail leading to the right.
Walk along it and you will reach High Ball viewpoint, with some benches to sit to enjoy the fantastic view.
This is also the point where Ollie and I discussed and change plans.
Walk down off the hill
From the viewpoint, you will see the trail continues along the edge of the hill. Follow it.
Where it splits, keep to the right trail.
You will walk through a metal gate, and a bit further along, you will see a gate to the left. Don’t take that gate. This is where you start the walk down.
The trail you want is narrow, grassy and less obvious. It’s opposite the gate.
Keep going down and follow it to the left.
You will momentarily walk under tree cover, then at the bottom, walk to the right through the hedge.
You are now in a field.
Keep to the left of the field, then on the other side, where it splits, take the left one onto the road.
You will be on a road corner here. Look for the trail just ahead to the right.
Walk to the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills (and your first view of St Martha’s Church and hill)
The next bit of the trail will take you between hedge and fence, then hedge and field. The walk along here is where you will get rooftop glimpse view to the left of St Martha’s Church up on the hill.
At the end of this track, you will reach another road corner. Walk to the right and over a bridge. Not too much further along, to the left, you will see the path and wooden sign pointing to the Gunpowder Mills
The Chilworth Gunpowder Mills
I wasn’t sure what to expect walking through here. The leaflets are a little further along the trail at an information board. I didn’t read it at the time, but instead just wandered around, wondering what all these things were that I was seeing. After reading it when I got home, I kind of wish I had. It was super interesting to walk around, but would have been even better if I knew what I was looking at.
Looking at the leaflet against some of the things I took photos of, I will tell you what I think they are.
Points of interest in the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills
So, through here, you will basically be following one main trail straight for most of the way. I will tell you where to turn when we get there.
Anyway, the first thing you will see as you enter the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills, is a white building on the right. I wasn’t sure what it was at the time. It looked abandoned. Turns out it is.
It is a gate house, and is where workers were checked for any items that might cause a spark (I don’t have a photo)
This next building is either a dusting house or expense magazine. A dusting house is where explosive dust was removed from the granulated powder. The dirt was then collected and returned to the system. An expense magazine is where materials are stored between each stage of manufacturing.
You will see a bunch of these on the ground at various points. Not sure what they are:
These are edge runner mill stones. There used to be an incorporating mill here, which collapsed. Each of these stones weighs about 3 tonnes:
I’m not sure what this is. Maybe the remains of a boiler house?:
These are millstones which were part of a steam incorporating mill. These were placed here on their sides to provide protection from accidental blasts (I think. I am trying to decipher what the leaflet is telling me):
The trail will then take you past a green with some picnic benches, and then a tree lined trail.
At the end of the tree lined trail, take a left:
You will then walk past this:
I think it is where some 1880’s steam incorporating mills were kept. These are blast proof walls, you know, to protect from blasts.
Keep following the trail, and it will lead you back to the road, out of the Chilworth gunpowder mills.
Begin the walk back uphill towards Newlands Corner
Once you reach the road go left, past the Longfrey Farm sign, then at the next junction go right. This will lead you onto a narrow dirt track which guides you slowly uphill.
Where the trail splits, with steps to the left, you keep right.
Up past here, you will get some nice views down the hill, before plunging into tree tunnel.
Past the most dense bit of tree tunnel, look out for a log up the bank to the right, with a gorgeous view down.
We decided this was a sitting log, and took a little break.
Walk back into the woods
After taking a sitting log break, keep going up, then when the ground levels off, you should see a war pillbox.
These are structures used in the war, with little holes to fire weapons out of.
Walk to the right of it, to reach the multidirectional, potentially confusing junction.
See the photo below of the direction we went.
If you get confused, don’t worry, if you walk in the general direction continuing straight(ish) from the way you came, you will reach the road.
The trail you want to get onto, is on the other side of the road.
For reference, if you find yourself in the car park, the trail is a bit to the right on the other side.
Walk along the Pilgrims way with a view up to the top of Newlands Corner
I must say, I was very excited at this point. Ollie and I had driven along that road before, and we had parked in that car park. I remember looking out this way and thinking how it looked like such a lovely place to walk, and one day I would be back. Well, I forgot about it. It literally wasn’t until this moment, when we got here, that I had deja vu and remembered.
Anyway, continuing on, here you will walk along what is known as the Pilgrims Way. A long distance walking trail, with a view up the hill to the left. That is the hill you will walk up soon for Newlands Corner viewpoint.
Towards the end of this bit of trail, there will be a bit of downhill to reach a junction. Go left here, to walk past the farm building and house.
The final uphill to the top of Newlands Corner (but not the last uphill of the walk)
At the end, there is a nice looking trail to take you up the hill to walk towards the Newlands Corner viewpoint. Through the gate at the top, you need to walk a little more uphill and to the left.
Once we reached the open green, we were walking on the trail alongside the bushes. Ollie, a little ahead of me, looked back. We were both thinking the same thing. We needed to go up some more.
That is where the magic happens.
For the view, you need to go up.
Walk from Newlands Corner towards St Martha’s Hill and Church
After some view admiring, walk to the end of Newlands corner, and you should see a North Downs Way Signpost. For the next while, you will follow it.
At the next junction, take the left, to walk under some more tree cover, then a short steeper bit down to the road. Directly across the road are some steps.
Go up them.
Now, the official trail runs left here, right next to the road. However, you can also walk the same direction in the field next to it. I would recommend that, as it’s not as aggressive as being right next to the road.
Towards the end of this field, you will need to exit it, to get back onto the official trail, then at the cute house at the end, follow the North Downs Way signposts (there are two of them) which guide you to the left of it.
Walk the final uphill to St Martha’s hill and Church
Now it’s the last uphill of the walk, I promise. Walk uphill through the woods, in the general direction of straight, then at the main (and sandy) path, turn right.
This path continues taking you further uphill, then just at the end, there will be an unexpectedly aggressive bit to walk up, before reaching the top of St Martha’s Hill, with the church ahead of you.
Top tip: After the aggressive bit, make sure to look back for a lovely view between the trees.
Walk around St Martha’s Hill and Church
At this point, we were still too early for sunset, so had some food and snacks then a bit of a walk around the top of St Martha’s Hill.
It’s a nice little place to wander up here, with different viewpoints. If you go into the wooded area just before you reach the Church, you will see a lovely view to a Manor House between the tree trunks.
Leave St Martha’s Hill and church to walk back to Guildford
As we had hung around for sunset, it meant that for the rest of the walk back to Guildford, it was a bit dark. As such, I don’t have many useable photos from now on. I would argue that none of them are usable, but some I have included for some direction guidance.
To leave St Martha’s Hill, on the other side of the Church (from the direction you arrived), you will see North Downs Way Signage. Continue to follow it.
Nb. You will not be following it all of the way. I will tell you when to stop following it.
Walk along the wide dusty dirt trail through the woodland. When you reach an opening where the trail spilt, take the left one.
At the road, cross over it to continue the trail on the other side. It will lead you back down to road. Turn left here. Be careful here as it’s a car road and there isn’t much in the way of pavements.
Just ahead, at the road bend, walk into the woods on the right. From my recollection, there is a North Downs Way signpost here. You follow it for a brief moment only.
Back through Chantry Wood
When you walk into the woods on the right, you will reach another mutlitrail junction. The right one is the North Downs Way. Don’t take it. Instead, take the trail that leads past the information board.
For this next bit, the walk will be in a general straight direction, with some small curves.
At this point in our walk, it was now fully dark, and as we made our way deeper into the woods, I felt a definite eeriness.
A detour in the trail
Now, I said the trail continues in a straight(ish) direction. It does, except, we made a small detour which I will explain to you.
So, there is a point where the trail, plunges down into a dip in the hill, then back up. Like a sort of valley. Maybe in daylight it isn’t so aggressive. But now in the darkness it was like a black hole.
We weren’t interested in that, so walked around it to the left.
By going left, we reached a trail that took us around the side, then there was a right trail to take us back to pick up the trail after it came out of the black hole dip.
Make your choice.
This trail (after the black hole) will take you straight and then curve to the right. Then at the end, when you reach a main trail, go left.
You will now be back where you were at the start of the walk through Chantry Woods. You know, where that Cathedral viewpoint is.
Walk back to Guildford
From here, you can make your way back to Guildford the way you came. If you are using my map, you will notice here that there are two red lines for the rest of the walk out of Chantry Wood. We didn’t walk back the exact same way. We sort of free styled and chose some different paths. I can’t tell you the exacts of what we did as it was pitch black and I’m not sure.
Another thing we did different, is once we got back to the River Wey, we walked over the Bridge to walk back to Guildford on the other side of the river. Again, choose what you wish.
Other walks near St Martha’s Hill and Newlands Corner
As you may have noticed, the North Downs Way is around here. In this area you have the trail from Farnham to Guildford, and the one from Guildford to Westhumble. These are stages one and two of the North Downs Way,
If you want to spend some more time on the River Wey, you could try the river walk to Godalming. It’s much shorter and easier than the walk to St Martha’s Hill and Newlands Corner. So more of a chill day walk. It is the river that gunpowder was transported on from the gunpowder mills.
I have written a much more detailed round up of all walks starting from Guildford, so you can compare logistics side by side.
Another one I recommend, not here, but not too far from here, is the Box Hill circular. It’s much more similar to this walk with the hills and views. If you like your hills, you will like this one. That hill is a killer.
One of my favourites in the Surrey Hills is Devil’s Punch Bowl. It’s an absolutely stunning area, with fairytale vibes.
And of course, I can’t finish off without mentioning Leith Hill. Now, I don’t have a blog post for you yet. I went out the week before so I could write it up for the website. The thing is, we hadn’t got used to the early nights yet, and left far too late. We did half the walk in complete darkness, using our phone torches for light. As I couldn’t see anything, I can’t describe it. I have to go and do it again at some point.
If you would like to venture further into the Surrey Hills, you can read my guide on the best walks in the Surrey Hills here.
Pin it for later: Circular walk to St Martha’s hill and Newlands Corner from Guildford
For more walking ideas in England, you could check out the National Trails website.