This walk from Westhumble to Merstham covers stage 3 of the North Downs Way. It’s just over 10 miles in length and features some big hill climbs, lots of woodland, lots of views and…the M25.
What was the walk from Westhumble to Merstham like?
It was…ok. Now, just like stage 2 of the North Downs Way, Guildford to Westhumble, it was not my favourite walk. There were a few bits I loved, other bits were average, and some bits I didn’t like at all.
What didn’t I like?
The roads. For this walk from Westhumble to Merstham along the North Downs Way, you are never far from a road and car noise. You also walk a stretch of it right next to the M25.
What was average?
The woods. It might sound like I hate woodland, especially after writing about Guildford to Westhumble. I promise you I don’t. It’s more that I am a bit bored of it. Most walks I have done lately are through some sort of woodland. Not on purpose, well, kind of. With the shorter winter days, I have been choosing to walk in areas that are quickest and easiest for me to get to. It happens to be wooded areas. I am really a view gal at heart.
Plus, now that I have made it my goal to walk the North Downs Way, I have no choice. I go where the trail tells me to go.
Saying that, I did enjoy some of the woods today on the walk between Westhumble and Merstham. They were of the straggly kind, and in some instances felt very fairytale-esc.
What I liked?
If I compare the walk today between Westhumble and Merstham, to the previous section, Guildford to Westhumble, I feel like there was a bit more variety. There are a lot of woods, but equally a lot of views. There was one particular bit I really liked. I don’t know why. I just did.
Anything else to note about the walk from Westhumble to Merstham along stage 3 of the North Downs Way?
There are some surprise hills. The first hill isn’t a surprise. That’s Box Hill. It’s right at the start of the walk out of Westhumble, no time to warm up, it just wacks you straight in the face. Then there are a couple more later one. One of them not quite as aggressive as Box Hill, but it’s close.
It’s also supremely muddy (if you do it in winter that is).
I got myself a nasty little injury and limped my way to the end. More on that later.
Is the North Downs Way stage 3 easy to follow?
In a word. Yes. The whole route is pretty well signposted. There was one spot that it wasn’t, and another where the sign was missing. Otherwise it was all good. It is similar signage to Stage 3. The wooden cross, the black disc with a white or yellow arrow or white acorn. There was also some fresh stuff. A few turquoise laminated cards with an arrow (this looks like a temporary thing so don’t count on them). Some white paint markings on some trees. And a posh one.
Logistics for the Westhumble to Merstham walk – North Downs Way stage 3
- Start: Box Hill and Westhumble station (overground)
- Finish: Merstham station (overground)
- How to get there: You will need to get a single ticket for each journey. Although you go to/from the same stations in London, they are on different train lines. To get to Box Hill and Westhumble, there are direct trains from London Waterloo, Clapham Junction, London Victoria and London Bridge. Journey time ranges from 40min to 1 hour depending on which route you take. BUT, check your day of travel. At the time of writing, the London Bridge and London Victoria trains are only on the weekends. To get back from Merstham, there are direct trains to Clapham Junction, London Victoria and London Bridge and London St Pancras. At the time of writing the direct trains from St Pancras are only on weekdays, and the direct trains from Clapham and Victoria are only on weekends. Journey time ranges from 30min to 50 min depending on which train you get. There is also a lot of rail replacement cr*p going these days, on weekends. This may affect your journey if coming from Victoria/Clapham Junction. Did I confuse you? I confused myself.
- Coming by car: There is a car park in Westhumble at the start of the woods. There is a car park up at Box Hill, and one at Reigate Hill (This one is near Merstham).
- Distance: 10.8 miles
- Time: 4 hours (although I was limping for some of it)
- Elevation gain: With the ups and downs, you will walk up a total of about 624m
- Difficulty: Medium (with a couple of challenging hills)
- Terrain: Muddy AF, road, dirt trail, steps.
- Amenities/tips: There is a small cafe outside Westhumble Station, then the Stepping Stones pub a bit further along. At Reigate Hill there is a cafe. I can’t recall if there are toilets. At Merstham there is a petrol station for pick me up snacks, a village shop and The Feathers pub. Hiking boots/shoes are recommended.
- Time of year: I did this during winter
Map for the Westhumble to Merstham walk – North Downs Way stage 3
Click on the trail name to open in the AllTrails app.
– More routes from the North Downs Way at the end –
A Guide To The Westhumble To Merstham Walk – North Downs Way Stage 3
Out of Box Hill and Westhumble Station, you need to take a right, and walk to the main road to reach the North Downs Way. To cross the main road, there is an underpass to the left, then on the other side, go right.
After a bit more than is desirable walk along the main (busy) road, you will reach a North Downs Way sign to take you into the car park and woodland to the left.
The stepping stones
There are two trails you can take here. The left one will go via the memorial bridge, the right one to the stepping stones. I chose stepping stones route, because they are fun. The thing is, once I arrived at the river, the stepping stones weren’t there.
I was highly confused. It looked like people on the other side were confused too. Where did they go? Was the river too high today? It had never even occurred to me that this is a thing. I have since looked it up online and can’t find any mention of them not being visible with high water levels. I have been here a bunch and never seen this. Were they removed?
I guess the decision was made for me. I would be taking the memorial bridge route. If you come here, I would still try the stepping stones route first. See off the stones are there. I would actually be interested to know.
If they are indeed gone, then from here, just walk to the left of the river and you will reach the bridge. It is a lovely bridge anyway.
The steep climb up Box Hill
I knew what was coming next, so I took off my jacket in preparation. Over the bridge, it’s straight along the trail to reach the first lot of steps. If you have never been to Box Hill, let me prepare you. Once you reach the steps, it’s uphill for longer than you think it will be. You just got to stick with it and keep going up. It’s also a popular route, so you may run into people traffic.
It was a muddy day today, so the people traffic was slower. Any opportunity I had, I did a quick overtake. I didn’t want to prologue the uphill for longer than it needed to be.
Walk past Box Hill viewpoint
At the top, it’s through the gate, and along the side of the hill to reach the Box Hill viewpoint. I didn’t stay long, actually, I didn’t stay at all. It was very crowded and I had a lot of walking ahead of me.
The route then heads into woodland where it stays for a while….whilst hugging the road. There is the occasional opening with views, but it’s mostly woods.
The cool tree, the steps and more woodland
Some way in, there is a short bit up some steps next to a big ass tree with roots poking out. I took a photo from the bottom, to then realise I had taken a photo of a couple making out by the tree….that photo is now deleted.
I have to say, I did actually enjoy this bit of woods. I mentioned early that the woods on the walk between Westhumble and Merstham are of the straggly kind. All leaning and hanging, like they are trying to take over and claim the path.
Later, a junction comes up where you need to walk down some steps. As I made my way down I thought about how hard I had worked so far to walk up steps. These steps were taking away my hard work.
Lots more woodland later comes a lovely viewpoint bench and a gravestone.
The bench and the gravestone
I reached a bench with a view which was my cue to take a break. I put my backpack down on the bench and turned around to be greeted by what looked like a gravestone. Wait what?
I went over and had a look, and it turns out it is a doggy gravestone.
‘1936-1944. A true thoroughbred’
After a short little break, I went on my way.
My favourite bit of the walk from Westhumble to Merstham along stage 3 of the North Downs Way
The route then goes along an interesting ridge of sorts, with a dip and hill to the left and a view to the right. I’m not sure why this was my favourite bit. I just really enjoyed the vibe of it. It was different from what I had walked so far.
It was short lived though, before heading back into the woods.
Betchworth Quarry and more woods
After the woods there is an opening towards Betchworth Quarry and Lime works. The information board told me that it was abandoned in the 1930’s and has since become a haven for wildlife and is a site of special scientific interest.
It’s fenced off to protect the area. Apparently there are goats and snakes in there.
And then it’s back into woodland.
The missing sign
Somewhere through the woods is where I came across the first missing sign of the walk. It points back to the North Downs Way, and right for a public footpath. I knew something was wrong because right said ‘public footpath’ and not North Downs Way.
Inspecting the signpost, I could see a hole where a sign should probably be. I figured that must be the missing North Downs Way sign. It was angled such that I should could continue straight. So I did.
Further along through the woods, there is an opening to the right for a cool view to what looks like abandoned building. I wonder if these are part of the Quarry?
If you look closely, you can also see a windmill in the distance.
Some more woodland later, the North Downs Way takes you along a residential bit and down to the main road.
At the main road, it’s a left, and further along at the bend in the road, the trail is almost hidden to the left and up. A short way along, it’s back on the road again, straight a little more, then across the road to the right to pick up the trail through the woods.
Mud mud mud
After the woods, it’s left through the gate and there is a long stretch on narrow, potentially very muddy, path.
Back in the woods, there are some more turns, lots more mud, and then some more uphill steps. Steps were becoming a common feature of this walk.
More woods and a confusing junction later (see photo below), I reached an area that would be my lunch spot.
Lunch – Just over halfway on the walk from Westhumble to Merstham
It was really the perfect spot for lunch. A grass hillside, with a view to the Surrey Hills and beyond. I did notice a hill ahead in the walk, and wondered if I was about to walk up that. Probably best I had my lunch now, for the energy.
It was when I got up to resume the walk towards Merstham that I became acutely aware of the pain in my leg.
This wasn’t a new pain. It started two days prior on the walk from Guildford to Westhumble. At the time, every bit of my legs were hurting, but there was this one suspicious spot. A specific spot on my tibia (lower leg bone). At the time, the thought that it was a stress fracture ran through my head, but I quickly dismissed that idea. I couldn’t possibly have a stress fracture. I had been walking in mud and soft ground for most of the route.
When I started the walk today, there was still something there, but again, it couldn’t be a stress fracture. It was mild enough that I could ignore it, so I did.
Well, now after getting up after my rest, the pain was hard to ignore. It was enough that I was now walking a bit funny.
I played it out in my head. Could this really be a stress fracture?
Up until this point in the walk, although it wasn’t my favourite walk, I was still enjoying it. It was nice to be out of the city, out in nature. Now, I was very aware that I had 5 more miles to go, and I had had enough.
The woods and the last big uphill and the M25
The section after the lunch spot was more woods, more mud then a very big uphill. Not as big as Box Hill, but big enough.
At the top, it’s potentially confusing. You need to walk along the main bit of road path, then very shortly along, it’s a right turn. There is a North Downs Way sign here, but it’s semi-hidden. I initially missed it and continued straight. Straight towards the M25. I got close enough that I wondered if I was about to walk onto it. That’s when I checked my tracker and realised I had gone wrong.
So here we are. The M25. For the next while, the route is alongside the M25 and the noise that comes along with it.
Walk to Colley Hill
Through more woods, and more mud, things open up as the trail goes onto Colley Hill. I was so impressed by this bit. The views from here are incredible. It’s a shame about the M25 noise.
I thought some more about my leg. What was a ‘funny’ walk had now turned into a limp. Despite it getting worse, I decided that it wasn’t a stress fracture. I don’t have time for a stress fracture in my life. So it’s not. I thought ahead to the walks I had planned in the near future, which I still fully intend to do. I am also planning to move to Cornwall for a bit, right after finishing the North Downs Way. If I have a stress fracture, I can’t go. Well, of course I can, but the whole point was to walk along to coast path. That I would not be able to do.
Walk to Reigate Hill
Some more path, a fort, and a bridge later comes Reigate Hill. There is a cafe of sorts here for refreshments. It was pretty busy in this spot, what with there being a car park, a cafe and a gorgeous view. So I moved on.
From Reigate Hill car park, the trail route is not obvious. You need to go to the other side of the car park, and left into Gatton park
In Gatton park, there are some different North Downs Way signs. I have never seen ones like this before. Quite posh.
The end of the walk from Westhumble to Merstham along stage 3 of the North Downs Way
Out of Gatton park, and along more road, the route goes into a sort of residential area. Once in here, it’s a little confusing, but you need to keep to the road as it then takes you past a school, along more road, then a left behind some houses.
I don’t have many photos going forwards as it was getting too dark.
This little bit off trail behind the houses was very very muddy, as it continued into Reigate Hill golf course.
I had been wondering when a golf course would show up. A classic feature of country walks in England, it had been a while since I found myself in one.
At this point it was now full on dark. I knew I was close to Merstham station, so I checked the times and saw a train would be leaving in 10 minutes. I wanted to make that train, and was near enough that I could…if it wasn’t for my leg. I was in no position to run so I tried to power walk. Only, my decrepit leg insisted on slowing me down.
The pain was now so bad that with every step, it would go right through the bone. I was starting to get a dead foot.
Across the golf course and into Merstham, I missed my train. Well, at least I tried.
What happened next….
Sitting on the train on the way home, I inspected my leg. It seemed a bit swollen, but I wondered if I was imagining it. Sitting there, with my leg throbbing, I was still set on continuing with my walks and move to Cornwall. But as a compromise, I would do something short next. Take a break from the North Downs Way.
It was when I got off the train at the other end that it finally set it. The severity of the situation. I tell you, it was a real struggle to get home. Severely limping and in excruciating pain. Not able to feel my foot anymore.
Ok, ok, I will use crutches for my future walks. I have seen people hike up mountains on crutches. If they can do it, why can’t I?
In the meanwhile, I will get this damn leg investigated…..(3 weeks later, I am still waiting for a bone scan).
More walks from the North Downs Way
Guildford to Westhumble – The section before this one. Mostly woodland.
Farnham to Guildford – The first stage of the North Downs Way. Also lots of woodland, more golf courses. Small hills.
Box Hill circular walk – Not part of the North Downs Way, but it does walk a small bit of it. If you want to see Box Hill, this is the one I would do.
St Martha’s Hill and Newlands Corner walk – Also not the North Downs Way, but again, does do a small section of it. I love this walk. There are a few great viewpoints, a nice amount of woods, and the old Chilworth Gunpowder mills.
Folkestone to Dover walk – One of my early, first walks for this website. It’s right at the other end of the North Downs Way.
For other walks in Surrey that aren’t the North Downs, you can check out my Surrey Hills Walks Guide.
Check out the Surrey Hills website for more to do in the area.