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Weekend Walk – Sheepleas, Lovelace Bridges, East Horsley

South of East Horsley there is a large hilly forested area criss-crossed by paths many of which are known only to locals. Hidden in the woods are many surprises, especially the stone bridges built in the 1800s by the Earl of Lovelace to transport his timber wagons. This walk visits three of these bridges and the sites of two “lost” bridges, using several rare paths. This is dog friendly with no stiles. Taken with permission from www.fancyfreewalks.org.

1. From the Sheepleas Shere Road car park, take the path between stumps beside a noticeboard. In 150m, where you see a T-junction with two fingerposts ahead, fork right and veer right on a bridleway. In just 20m you come to a junction with a 2-way signpost pointing forward and back to two car parks. Ignore both directions and instead turn left on a side path. Another path quickly joins from the left. Almost immediately, you come to a fork. Take the left fork, thus staying on the main path. In 30m you go past a post saying self-guided trail on the other side. In 100m you reach a 3-way fingerpost: veer right here on a public bridleway.

2. In 30m you come to a Y-junction: fork right here uphill on a flinty path. In 150m or so, you come to a major crossing track with a 4-way fingerpost: go right and immediately left, thereby keeping your direction. Your path crosses an open area. Ignore minor paths left and right to reach another fingerpost. Keep straight ahead over an oblique crossing path, in the direction of the bridleway, passing the fingerpost on your left. Your path goes for some distance downhill under a tall canopy of various trees. Finally it comes down to the Green Dene road, opposite its junction with Honeysuckle Bottom.

3. Cross straight over, a fraction right, to a small signpost and footpath left, just after High Hazels. Follow the path between gardens and straight on into woodland. Your path goes under one of the Earl of Lovelace’s famous stone bridges. This one is Raven Arch, a single-parapet bridge. Your path shortly comes up to a major junction of tracks. Take the wide forestry track very sharp left, almost doubling back. The track gently rises and curves right, ever tighter, until it has come almost half-circle. As it begins to flatten out, where you see it curving left about 50m ahead, look for a marker post on your left with a white badge indicating Lovelace Bridges Trail. Turn left here on a much narrower path and follow it through rhododendrons. It soon leads you over the largest of the Lovelace bridges, the Dorking Arch, with the Crocknorth Road below.

4. On the other side, continue ahead on a path into woods. In 50m, your path goes over two crossing paths and enters beechwoods with a green meadow visible on the right through cypresses. Finally, your path comes to a bank, just after the site of one of the lost bridges, Oak Hangers, as indicated by a plaque on your left. Go down the bank and turn left on a sunken path. In 30m, you reach a large sign for Oldlands and a junction of paths. Go straight ahead, ignoring a forestry track left, and in 20m, at a marker post, take the right fork, a fraction uphill, marked with a yellow badge on a tree on your left marked Horsley Jubilee Trail. In 150m, your path forks: take the left-hand fork the narrower option, marked by a blue arrow. Your path runs gently downhill under beeches and soon becomes a splendid avenue of yew trees. You arrive at a junction with some oblique crossing paths: keep dead straight on along a good path, soon going over another Lovelace bridge, Stony Dene.

5. Continue over the bridge for another 100m where you meet an oblique, very obvious, crossing path. Fork left onto the crossing path. In 500m, in a slight dip in the path, you pass the site of another lost Lovelace bridge, Pine Grove. Some of the brickwork can still be seen. Your path continues by a wire fence, eventually meets another footpath from the left and runs beside a house to reach the main A246 Guildford Road. Cross this road carefully, turn right for 20m and quickly left on Dirtham Lane/Calvert Road.

6. Follow the lane beside the old flint wall of Effingham Lodge on your left and bungalows on your right. By Lusty Glaze, take the left fork, staying next to the wall, on the aptly-named Dirtham Lane. You pass the entrance to Dell Farm, after which the surface is rougher. Ignore a yellow badge soon on your right for the Horsley Jubilee Trail, although on another day this is well worth exploring. The crumbling flint wall is now a ruin in parts. You come to a 3-way junction at a fingerpost. Keep straight on, as for East Horsley, avoiding the path right for Effingham, still beside the flint wall. On your right is Great Ridings Wood. At the corner of the wall, at another fingerpost, turn left for East Horsley. At a marker post, keep straight on by a fence, ignoring a footpath on the right. Finally your path goes by a small metal gate and under a stone bridge (not a Lovelace bridge, though built in the same spirit by the owners of Innisfree).

7. Ignore a footpath on your right and continue past tennis courts. The lake on your left is Pennymead as you go over a small bridge to join a tarmac lane. You reach a crossroads with a private road, Pine Walk, on your left. There is an interesting alternative route here through Horsley Park and past Horsley Towers. This is a private park, hotel and venue but this route is regularly used by dog walkers, young people and local families as the site is comfortable towards casual visitors. To use this route, turn left on this private residential road, leading you to a large wooden gate which is the rear entrance to the park; follow this path, zigzagging past Horsley Towers, with its pond and garden and leave by the main entrance, zigzagging again, to the road near the church.

8. Turn left, past the Church of St Martin, which is worth visiting and where you can sometimes have a guide and even tea. At the junction with the main road, on the left is Guildford Lodge and, on the right, the local pub, the ‘Duke of Wellington’. Turn right on the main A246 road using the footway. In 300m, just by a welcome sign for West Horsley, turn left onto a signposted bridleway with a noticeboard about Sheepleas. Follow this wide path for about 700m inside a wide band of trees with houses or fields on each side. You pass a small untidy timber yard on your left and your path enters thicker woodland. Avoid all side branches, ignoring a signposted horse path, until, 200m from the timber yard, you meet two fingerposts. At the second fingerpost, fork right for Shere Road Car Park.

9. This path takes you through a wooden barrier and along a path into a long green valley. Shortly, opposite a marker post, ignore a path that forks right up the side of the valley (although it also leads to the car park) and continue along the bottom of the valley. The path gradually rises and curves right, getting steeper. It leads into a band of trees where you find a large 3-way fingerpost. Keep straight ahead in the direction of the Shere Road Car Park, immediately reaching a grassy space with two sets of picnic tables. Fork right here between the picnic tables, across the middle of the grassy space. At the far side, join a wide path (the path you ignored above) that runs along the right-hand side of the grassy area. Shortly you reach two fingerposts close together. Keep straight ahead in the direction of Shere Road Car Park. Quickly take the right fork, then the left fork, to reach the car park where the walk began.

DISTANCE: 5½ miles
OS MAPS: Explorer 146 (Dorking) and 145 (Guildford)
STARTING POINT: Sheepleas Shere Road Car Park, nearest postcode KT24 6EP, grid ref TQ 085 515.
HOW TO GET THERE: Shere Road is off the A246 Leatherhead/Guildford road at the small roundabout in West Horsley. The Shere Road Sheepleas car park is 1 km on the left.

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