Stage 18 - Tatsfield to Merstham (11.05 miles)
Start: Grid Reference TQ4130856820 Post Code TN16 2AG StreetMap
If you just want to print out the "Route" instructions of stage 18 of this walk,
without all the blurb on the website, you can download this as a
Word Docx by clicking on the link.
If you just want to print out the "Route" instructions of stage 18 of this walk, without all the blurb on the website, you can download this as a Word Docx by clicking on the link.
The route is undulating and hilly at times. In the main we follow the Pilgrims and North Downs Ways, but with a few diversions. Expect a few good climbs and one of the most impressive descents of the whole walk. Along the route you'll encounter: dark secrets; stately homes; Roman roads; ancient Celtic Temples; one of the UK's largest vineyards; the highest point on the North Downs Ridge; some great views to the north over London and south across Surrey and the Weald; the odd helicopter parked in front gardens; relics from world wars; our industrial past and great storms.
The start is from Westmore Green with its central pond and surrounded pleasant buildings including the Ye Old Ship pub, the village hall, the Old Bakery and many more.
Start on the small green next to Ship Hill, just in front of the Ye Old Ship Pub and next to the horse trough. Follow the footpath west to the road and cross over to Westmore Green. Stay along the southern edge of the green keeping Ship Hill to your LHS and the pond to your RHS. After 170 yards and at a T-junction, turn left to cross over Approach Road and then right along the LHS of the road (there is a footpath along the verge and now going south-west).
After 500 yards (at Furze Corner) and where the road turns left, turn right to cross over the road onto a lane (by a bus stop) and go onto a footpath (fingerpost) to the right of a set of wooden gates.
Tatsfield Cricket Club
hides to the right where we join the footpath. Until recently the entrance to
Beaver Water World & Reptile
is on the
right 200 yards further south along Approach Road. The Zoo started in 1980,
after an Indian Python was rescued by a local pest control officer. Since then
it has grown and is now a rescue centre for abandoned reptiles and other
animals. Over time it has become a major breeding centre and doubles as a
tourist attraction, with the profits used to care for the animals. The zoo had
to move in late 2017.
Follow the footpath for 200 yards, when it opens out into a large crop field. Veer slightly right to follow a footpath directly west across the field. After 400 yards the path comes out, by a fingerpost, onto a road (Beddlestead Lane). Turn left along the lane and now going south.
The 200 yards
along the enclosed footpath before the field are in the southern tip of the
London Borough of Bromley as it impinges into
On turning onto
To the right after another 0.25 miles (and at 1 mile into the route) is a large metal gate blocking the access to a tall metal mast and the driveway to something more substantial hidden in the woods behind it. According to some conspiracy theorists, Pitchers Wood hides a sinister secret. Apparently, this is (or was) Tatsfield Receiving Station. It was established in 1929 by the BBC to monitor domestic radio broadcasts. During World War II it listened into German propaganda broadcasts from Mainland Europe and locating their positions. This work continued through the Cold War, this time monitoring communist Eastern Europe and in 1957 was the first site in the UK to pick up broadcasts from the Soviet satellites. In the mid-1950s the station was involved in the first trans-Atlantic TV broadcast by the BBC. From 1960 it was used to pick up unauthorised broadcasts from new pirate radio stations. Today, most of the buildings have been demolished, BT have a mask on it. You can read more at Wikipedia and at The Time Chamber. The latter has a link to many old photos of the site.
further 300 yards at a T-junction with
diverted from the
Just to the
left of where we rejoin the
North Downs Way
there is a gap in the trees with good views looking down over
The path soon descends some steps, at the bottom turns right to follow the NDW as it climbs and runs parallel to a road (B269, Titsey Hill) on our LHS. After 800 yards, where the footpath comes down to the road, cross straight over and turn right for a short distance. Immediately past the roundabout turn left and bear left past a small parking area and past a metal gate. Follow the North Downs Way downhill along a lane (Pitchfont Lane) into Titsey Park.
Where we cross the B269, the area surrounding is named Botley Hill. Just off the course, 350 yards north along the B269 (Croydon Road), is Botley Hill Farmhouse. This is an old converted 15th Century farmhouse, originally owned by Henry VIII, with a reputation for good food and real ale from the on-site Titsey Brewing Co. There are also two shepherd's huts used for bed & breakfast and they provide guides for local walks.
The farmhouse became a pub in 1994 and claims to be the highest in South East England. Botley Hill (885 feet) is the highest area on the North Downs and the third highest in Surrey after Leith Hill (965 feet) and Gibbet Hill (892 feet). The exact position of the trig point is thought to be at the site of a water tower a few hundred yards north of The Ridge and just over half a mile west of the junction. Botley Hill is listed as one of the 15 Marilyns of South East England - a Marilyn is a mountain or hill with a relative height of at least 150 meters (492 feet). The name was ironically coined to fit in with the name for a Scottish Mountain with a height of 3,000 feet or more - a Munro.
British History Online,
the first mention of Titsey was in
962AD during the time of King Edward the Confessor. However, there was a
settlement here back to at least Roman Times. In the
of 1086, Titsey appears as Ticesei when it was held by Hamio, Sheriff of Kent.
Its assets were recorded as two hides of land, one church and nine ploughs.
Today, Titsey Parish covers an area of just under 2,000 acres and has
approximately the same number of inhaitants as almost 1,000 years ago. The old
London to Lewes Roman Road
still forms part of the parish boundary.
Titsey Estate dates back to 1534 when huge amounts of land in the parish and
surrounding areas was bought by
1556). He built the large Elizabethan manor house of
Estate passed down through generations of the
In the early 18th
Century the ownership of the estate passed to Marmaduke Gresham. He was an
extravagant spendrift who acquired many debts and by his death in 1742 the house
at Titsey fallen into disrepair. His oldest son and heir, Charles Gresham,
drowned at sea in 1750 and the estate passed onto Charles'
younger brother John, later to be the second Sir John Gresham. He restored the
fortune, but because of the dilapidated state of the great house, he demolished
most of it and built a smaller house on the site in 1775. This still stands and
forms what is the nucleus of the current
Sir John left
an only daughter, Katherine, she was the last of the
If you make
time to visit
Plantation built on the chalky slopes of the
An interesting personal story by a lady who lived at Glebelands in Titsey on the "Here and There with Pat and Bob website" gives some more information on the area, a video and what appears to be an unsolved mystery. (link disappears at times but the video is also at YouTube).
Follow Pitchfont Lane downhill for 0.44 miles, then at a junction of paths / ways turn right up some steps and through a wooden kissing-gate. Continue straight on (west) on a footpath along the top edge of a field and with a wood (Titsey Plantation) to the RHS (at 2.2 miles).
After 200 yards cross go through another kissing-gate and continue straight on along the top edge of a second field, keeping the woods to your RHS.
along the edge of the field, you will pass a
This indicates we have once again crossed the
on our long distance walk around
After another half a mile, and at the north-westerly corner of the field, exit the field, by a fingerpost, onto an enclosed path which turns right and uphill.
We have now
left the Titsey Estate and for the next 50 yards we have also joined up with
The Vanguard Way, a 66 mile route joining the London suburb of East
Croydon to the south coast at Newhaven. It was put together by the London based
Vanguards Club and formally launched on 3rd May 1981. The route takes
in the North Downs, Greensand Hills, High Weald,
At this point we also join The Greensand Way for these 50 yards. It is another long-distance path following the Greensand Ridge, Surrey Hills and Chart Hills from Haslemere in Surrey to Hamstreet in Kent. It is partly waymarked and 108 miles long.
25 yards go through a
metal kissing gate
and onto National Trust land at Oxted Downs. Follow the path left along the
Down, now going almost due west, with a wire fence away to your LHS.
After a short distance The Vanguard Way and The Greensand Way turn right and leave our route. Continue straight on for 450 yards to a wood.
There are some great views, to the south from the path, and although you can watch the traffic on the M25 speeding past below, it seems like a different world.
approaching the wood veer left, signed North Downs Way, on a track and gradually
downhill, keeping the wood to your RHS.
At the junction of paths there is a three-way fingerpost to help you on your way, plus a bench for a rest and to sit and enjoy the view.
After just over 100 yards turn right, through a metal kissing-gate, and soon on to a set of steps which lead down to a road (Chalkpit Lane, at 3.15 miles).
Turn right and uphill along the road for 50 yards, then shortly before reaching some houses, turn left onto a path (signed North Downs Way).
Soon the path passes through a metal kissing-gate and opens out with a field to your LHS. Continue straight on along the RHS of the field for 600 yards.
To your right along this section of the route and for the next few hundred yards is a large open cast "lime-works" (you might not be able to see it because of the hedgerow). Later in this write up you will read how significant quarries like this have been to the surround areas for many centuries. Also, hence the name Chalkpit Lane.
As the field opens out in front of you, turn right, by finger-post, signed North Downs Way, keeping the edge of the field and Oxted Quarry, to your RHS, and continue uphill for 200 yards to exit the field through a wooden kissing gate. Now on National Trust land at a second part of Oxted Downs.
Go straight on for another 80 yards and on approaching the trees go through a metal kissing-gate and turn left keeping the woods to your RHS and with a fence to your LHS. Follow the path west for a further 530 yards.
Then turn right and up a long steep set of steps (at 4 miles).
If you look behind you here, in the direction you came from, you can see the large chalk-pit in the distance.
Oxted Steps were built by conservation volunteers on National Trust land so as to make the climb up to the escarpment of the North Down more accessible. There are 102 steps. They look straight down onto the railway as it exits the Oxted Tunnel and passes under the M25. All three were great engineering achievements of their day. To the right of the steps, and just as you enter the trees, is a small viewing platform where you can take a short break to enjoy the scenery below.
At the top follow the path (NDW) as it turns left along a surfaced track running parallel to a road (Gangers Hill), above and to the RHS. Avoid paths going off to the right and follow the acorn signs of the North Downs Way.
yards, and by a wooden gate there is a viewing area with a bench and an
The surfaced track runs practically parallel to the road for 0.4 miles, but with a few turns and many paths going off on both sides.
the path comes out to the road, by a 4-way fingerpost, turn left along the road
(Gangers Hill) and
soon after turn left into Tandridge Hill Lane and downhill.
After just 40 yards veer right (signed NDW) onto a path just in the trees and running parallel to the lane and above it. After 0.3 miles go through metal kissing gate down some steps and veer right staying on NDW. In another 370 yards cross straight over a road (Gangers Hill), then up some steps and through a stile into a wood named Horse Shaw (at 5 miles).
Follow the North Downs Way path, almost straight, through the Horse Shaw for half a mile. The path is waymarked, but do not turn off the main path.
Near the end of the walk through the woods, at Horse Shaw, opens out in a small clearing with a bench and a great view to the south over Godstone and beyond.
Exit the woods through a wooden stile onto a lane. Turn right to a T-junction, then left, past a lodge house to your LHS, onto a wide track signed NDW (at 5.5 miles).
On the right of
the path, just before exiting the woods is a Woodland Trust
entitled Welcome to Marden Park and Great Church Woods.
South Lodge was a gatehouse to Marden Park a former country estate. It was home to Sir Robert Clayton (1629 - 1707), a merchant banker, and Lord Mayor of London. He was also involved with the Slave Trade through his position in Royal African Company. He turned what was an old farmhouse into a great country seat. It passed down through many of his descendents. The house burnt down in 1879 and was replaced by the present one, built on the same site in a rather mixed French style. In 1945 the house and 700 acres of and were bought by the Society of the Sacred Heart, who founded a girl's school named "the Convent of the Sacred Heart" - now known as Woldingham School. If you visit the link, you will see many famous "girls" attended the school.
In June 2020, during the Black Lives Matter protests, after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, St Thomas' Hospital in London, announced it would remove a statue of Sir Robert Clayton from the hospital.
After 70 yards, when the track splits, stay straight on and past the larger track veering left. The track narrows to a bridleway and soon veers right, gradually downhill and soon with a vineyard below to the left. After another 440 yards go straight on past a metal barrier.
Godstone Vineyard is set in 50 acres of farmland on the edge of the Weald. Here there is a Vineyard Trail to walk around, a cafe and gift shop, plus a Wine Shop and Tasting Bar where you can try out the wines before buying. The shop also sells a selection of ciders, apple juices, jams, and greeting cards.
To the right of the bridleway, high above, in the trees is the ruins of Marden Castle (see photo1 & photo2). This was part of the Marden Park Estate and was a hunting lodge with a tower. It seems to have been destroyed during the Second World War, either by a German bomb, or by the Allies to stop the German pilots from using it as a direction marker. You can read more at Exploring Surrey's Past.
After 170 yards, immediately after a tall wooden fence and before a small carpark, turn left onto a narrow path. It is signed North Downs Way by a fingerpost on the RHS of the lane.
The path goes down some wooden steps and turns right, downhill through the wood. Follow the path for 90 yards where it comes out to a road (Quarry Road). Turn left along the Quarry Road. (Note: the NDW crosses straight over the road to climb some steps and then follow a path through a wood. We take a short diversion from the NDW here).
The reason for the name Quarry Road is because of the underground quarrying that went on here. This was part of the Clayton Estate and mining, firstly for "firestone" started in the 17th century, and later for "hearthstone", and continued to the start of the 20th century. It left a labyrinth of underground caverns, often referred to as the Godstone Caves or Mines. Later, the mines here were used for growing mushrooms for many years. Today, these caverns still exist and are looked after by "Wealden Cave & Mine Society". You can read more about this and see lots of photos at the link.
Follow the road for 220 yards, then turn very sharp right to go north and uphill along a wooded, sunken track. Follow this track for 420 yards to where the trees open out with fields on both sides. (Note: the North Downs Way re-joined us, from the right, a few yards back in the trees).
The sunken lane
is an old Roman Road, the
London to Brighton Way
(or sometimes called the London to Portslade Way). It linked
Turn left (be careful not to miss this) into and across a field to a footbridge over a dual carriageway (A22). After crossing the footbridge turn left and follow a path, signed North Downs Way.
The footbridge over the A22 was built for the sole purpose of making the North Downs Way continuous and not having to cross a major road. When I see public authorities spending money on useful things like this, then there must be some hope.
The path climbs, then after 200 yards climbs some steps. At the top turn left, signed North Downs Way.
In another 30 yards the path climbs some more steps. At the top, at T-junction of paths, turn left, signed North Downs Way.
To the right of
the path, near the top of the climb, and hidden in the trees above us is
Foster Down Fort (aka Pilgrim
Fort). In the 1890s, it formed part of the London Defense Scheme as one of
They stretched in a line from Epping to Guildford thus protecting
It has now been converted to residential use but is still categorised as a Scheduled Monument. Why it is also named "Pilgrim Fort" on most maps, I'm not sure. But it must be something to do with being next to the "Old Road" or "Pilgrims Way".
550 yards later the path comes out to a small clearing and turns right.
After another 250 yards the path comes out onto an open area named the North Downs Viewpoint, or Caterham Viewpoint (at 7 miles). Go straight on across the grass keeping the road (Gravelly Hill) to your RHS.
Caterham Viewpoint is popular with day-trippers and is a favourite picnic spot. The views from here to the south are spectacular. It's a very tranquil place, even though you can watch the M25 motorway speed past below.
opposite end of the open area, and near to the road, veer left onto a path
through the trees and gradually downhill, signed
300 yards, at a fork, stay right and after another 160 yards,
past public bridleway to LHS, still following the
After 600 yards the path comes out to the junction of Hextalls Lane and a road (War Coppice Road). Go straight on along the road, signed North Downs Way.
War Coppice Road for 990 yards (0.56 miles) to a T-junction. Turn right and then
left, between brick pillars, and onto a lane to
I find it strange the North Downs Way has to follow this road for over half a mile. It's a narrow road, but it does have traffic and at present there is no alternative. Surely, Surrey County Council could do something to make it a bit safer and more interesting. I would say be very careful along here and if you have it wear hi-vis clothing.
At points there are some great views, to your RHS, looking north. To the left of War Coppice Road, but inaccessible, is the remains of a large multivallate hillfort at War Coppice Camp. It covers a large area, possibly up to 85 hectares, and is believed to date back to the 6th century BC (the Iron Age) and used up to the mid-1st century AD. Much of has been built on or quarried, but a lot still remains and it is listed as a Scheduled Monument.
Whitehill Tower is to the right of the road, just 70 yards before reaching the T-junction in the grounds of Tower Farm. This is a four-story folly built by Jeremiah Long in 1862 and dedicated to his son killed at sea. It was probably used as a viewpoint.
100 yards to
the right of the T-junction, along
Going along the lane towards Willey Park Farm we are following a ridge along the top of the Downs. Soon to the right the trees disappear and there are great views north over London, with many of its famous landmarks visible.
650 yards along the lane, at a T-junction, turn left along .
Park Farm, Pilgrims Lane is
enclosed between hedgerows and follows the route of an ancient
There is the odd public footpath leading north and south from the lane, but
please avoid these. This bridleway along the top ridge of the
Where we cross over Hilltop Lane onto the wide track (Pilgrims Lane) there is a Chaldon Village sign. This shows that the Pilgrims Way marks the southern boundary of Chaldon Parish. The village is to the north along Hilltop Lane. The sign also has 1086 on it, which I assume refers to the Domesday Book as both the village and the church get a mention. The parish council refer to the Church of St Peter and St Paul was built before 1086. The church contains a large wall painting dating from around 1170. It depicts images of the ways of salvation and damnation and their result. For more information see Exploring Surrey's Past and Wikipedia.
In 440 yards, just after a large tree to your LHS and shortly just before the Pilgrims Lane starts to veer right, turn left onto a well-defined footpath / bridleway steep downhill and diagonally across a large crop field, finger-posted North Downs Way.
Through a gap in the hedgerow, to the left of the track and 230 yards after Hilltop Lane is the Ockley Hill Trig Point. It's marked by a concrete pillar and is 202 metres above sea-level.
At the point
where we turn left and descend diagonally across the field, the main track goes
straight on and soon around to the right and leads to
Tollsworth Manor Farm.
On the left of this track, by the corner, is a large old earthwork. Although
difficult to make out on the ground, it is marked on OS Maps. I have been unable
to find a definitive answer out much about this, but according to
"Directly south of the Tollsworth farmyard is an earthwork, marked on OS maps and designated by Tandridge District Council as a site of High Architectural Potential. This is probably the site of an earlier (10th century) version of Tollsworth Manor which may have been fortified or with a moat. The site has not been investigated by either a resistivity study or a dig."
Another source claims " ... the earthworks represent the site of medieval building of some importance, probably a fortified Manor House. (SHHER)". Maybe this could be a project for the Channel 4 Time Team.
Where we turn left, to descend the crop field, the Tandridge Border Path joins us from our right. It means we are now accompanied by three long-distance paths. The other two being Pilgrims' Way and North Downs Way.
The views south from the crop field over the motorways, the town of Redhill and beyond to Gatwick Airport, where you can see the planes taking off and landing, are wonderful.
After 440 yards, at the bottom of the field, follow the path through a narrow wood and out into a second field. Veer right and continue downhill diagonally across the field.
bottom follow the well-defined path as it
turns left through a
subway under the M23 (at
Exit the subway and turn left to follow a gravel path up to Rockshaw Road. Cross straight over the road and turn right along the pavement.
Both sides of
the road were reconnected with the building of a road bridge over the northern
edge of the intersection. Today the area around the western half of
After 260 yards, turn left through a wooden kissing-gate, onto an enclosed fenced path between houses.
It's at this point where we part company with the Pilgrims' Way and North Downs Way, but we will rejoin them, at Quality Street in Merstham, just after the start of the next stage. The Tandridge Border Path does continue to stay with us until after we cross the footbridge over the M25.
the path downhill for 300 yards, where it opens out onto
open grassland and veers
right and eventually to a
footbridge over the M25 motorway.
Cross the footbridge and go straight on (the Tandridge Border Path turns left at this point) downhill across open land to come out onto a residential road (Malmstone Avenue). Turn right along the pavement.
After 80 yards, and where the road turns left, cross straight over the entrance to a service road. Immediately after crossing over, turn right along the pavement adjacent to the service road, signed “Merstham Station 100 yards”.
Follow this under a railway bridge, as it becomes enclosed, and eventually to Merstham Station (at 11 miles). Climb the steps to cross the footbridge over the railway line. After descending from the footbridge to finish at the main entrance to Merstham Station.
has been an important industrial area since medieval times, when the Upper Green
Sand on the lower slopes of the North Downs were quarried for its famous
the name being derived from the fact it was popular in the beds of furnaces.
This stone was used in the construction of
Merstham had the first ever public railway. It was built by the
Surrey Iron Railway,
pulled by horses and mainly used for carrying goods from the quarries to Croydon
Started in 1839
and opened on 12th July 1841, a tunnel was cut through the chalk of
The story below reveals an even darker side to the original Merstham Tunnel and the Feathers Hotel.
The Merstham Tunnel Mystery
At 10.55pm on
Sunday, 24th September 1905 in the railway tunnel just north of
Merstham Station the mutilated body of a young woman was discovery by William
Peacock, a railway inspector. Peacock hurried back to the station to report his
discovery to the stationmaster. The police called to the scene, first thought
the death was a suicide. They figured the young woman had wandered into the
tunnel and been hit by a passing train. The body was still warm and was moved to
The Feathers Hotel for examination by a local doctor. Her skull was fractured
and one of her legs was severed. There were several bruises and scratches to her
body, arms and face which suggested she had been involved in a struggle. Also, a
scarf had been forced into her mouth and she was covered in soot. On examining
the tunnel wall, next to where the body lay, a number of marks were found where
the soot had been rubbed off. The highest of these was at the level of a person
standing up in a railway carriage. Because of the body being warm when found, it
is only possible she fell from one of two trains, both of which were going north
and had all their doors closed on arriving at their next station. Putting all
these factors together, the investigators were sure a murder had been committed.
There was nothing to identify the body. However, the following day she was
identified as Mary Sophia Money by her brother Robert Henry Money. This is
thought to be the first recorded murder on a train in
remains unsolved but there is a postscript. Seven years later, in August 1912,
at a house in Eastbourne, Mary Money's brother, Robert, shot two sisters and
their three children, of whom he was the father. Neither sister knew he was
married to each other and he had children by both
maybe he had been found out. He poured petrol on the bodies, set light to them
then turned the gun on himself. One of the women managed, however, to escape
despite being wounded. Was this the result of a twisted mind turned by the
memories the earlier killing of his sister, Mary?
In 1912 Superintendent James Brice of the Surrey Constabulary made public what had not been released early for fear of upsetting the family. "She (Mary) gambled extensively. Her stock at the dairy shop in which she was an assistant was short, and she feared being found out". This police believed drove her to suicide, (to read more on this, visit the link).
Was this the
Surrey Police just trying to close a case they were unable to solve? We may
To read a full List of unsolved murders in the United Kingdom visit the link at Wikipedia.
I'll revisit the history of Merstham at the start of the next stage, as it would take many more pages to write. Since 1339, the village held a Merstham Fair with consent from Edward III. This never seemed to be held on the allocated date and there are wonderful stories of the gypsy stalls. There are more stories to read on both World Wars, how the building of the motorways affected the village, the building of a large modern residential estate, on local people who were important to the community and more on the influence of the quarries and the transport links. If you prefer to read this now, you can by visiting the History Section of the Merstham website and on Wikipedia.
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