Guildford to Godalming
eander along the towpath of the tranquil River Wey and your spirits will soon be soothed. As dusk falls, bats skim the deep, green water and deer melt in and out of the undergrowth.
But this stretch of water, known officially as the Godalming Navigation, hasn’t always been so peaceful. Since its locks first opened it up to barge traffic back in 1763, it has borne everything from gunpowder to surplus WW1 fighter planes.
A CURIOUS START
Turn right out of Guildford station and head for the town centre via the underpass. Turn right at the river and follow it to the White House pub.
Just beyond, statues of Alice and the White Rabbit commemorate Lewis Carroll’s regular visits to his sisters’ home in Guildford. Turn left over the latticework bridge, pass the boathouse, then cut across the park to rejoin the towpath at the weir.
SPRINGS AND SHORES
The wooden Old Ferry footbridge carries the North Downs Way across the river. There’s a pretty little spring to your right, and the sandy beach beyond is a treat for toes. Put your shoes back on, keep walking and you’ll arrive at St Catherine’s Lock, the deepest lock on the river.
An imposing railway bridge follows and, a little further on, a WWII pillbox. At Broadford Bridge, take a moment to stop for some refreshment: head up on to the road, follow it around to the left and you’ll find the Parrot Inn with its busy beer garden overlooking the green.
Return to the towpath, pass Unstead Lock and continue beside the river through beautiful water meadows. Near Broadwater Park, the beer garden of the Manor Inn backs on to the towpath – another chance to enjoy a drink and watch the sun go down. Then cross the lane to Unstead Park and continue past the narrowboats of Farncombe Boat House.
BACK TO THE STATION
Continue along the towpath until the river bends right sharply at Godalming Wharf. Head up to United Church, left on to the bridge and along Bridge Street.
Bear right onto the High Street and up to the pink ‘Pepperpot’: Godalming’s 1814 Market Hall. Turn right down Church Street, then left into Station Road.
Stroll along the River Wey, a tributary of the Thames, which joins the Godalming Navigation – originally a 17th-century trade canal
is a Norfolk-born
and raised author and