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Page last updated at 16:51 GMT, Friday, 27 November 2009
Self guided walks in Surrey's "hidden gems"
By Heather Driscoll-Woodford
BBC Surrey

Wellington boots
These boots were made for walking - so take them out for a bracing Winter stroll

I'm ashamed to say it but when we first moved to our cottage in Camberley five years ago, we had no idea there was so much countryside surrounding us.

It took getting a dog for us to fully realise what amazing open spaces were available on our doorstep.

Now, we pull on the wellies almost daily, to take advantage of the miles of footpaths and woodland tracks.

I bet we're not alone however, in being unaware of what's on offer locally, so here are a few of these hidden gems.

You never know, you may be pleasantly surprised, so best foot forward!

WINDLESHAM ARBORETUM

Windlesham Arboretum
The brainchild of the remarkable Major William Spowers

Windlesham Arboretum (not to be confused with the better known Winkworth Arboretum) is truly a secret jewel in Surrey's crown.

In fact, it is so well hidden that some residents of the village don't realise it is there!

Tucked away behind a screen of trees, alongside the M3, the privately owned arboretum is a magical world of trees, lakes, follies and monuments.

And all the result of one man's foresight and inspiration.

Major William Spowers , who sadly passed away in June this year, bought 17 acres of marsh land in 1957 and transformed it, into the veiled wonder it is today.

There are two public footpaths through the arboretum, and as it is privately owned you are asked to respect the regulations posted at the entrance.

Windlesham Arboretum: The Walk

RAPLEY LAKE AND BAGSHOT PARK

Bagshot Park
Rub shoulders with royalty with a glimpse of Sophie and Edward's home

This little ramble takes you through land owned by the Crown Estate which means that as a UK tax payer you can pretend it is yours, as you sashay through it.

Or at least, that's what I like to do!

It starts in Vicarage Road, a turning just past the neo-gothic red brick St Anne's Church, which was built in 1874.

From there you will wander through the woods, catching a glimpse of the stately Bagshot Park, on and off royal residence since the 17th Century.

At present it's officially "on" as the Earl and Countess of Wessex live there.

There's no guarantee of seeing Sophie and Edward though, but you will get some stunning views over Rapley Lake, which is my second hidden gem.

Rapley Lake and Bagshot Park: The Walk

THE MOUNT AND HENLEY FORT

London skyline
Yes, you really can see the London skyline from up here!

To be fair it is stretching it, to describe The Mount as a "hidden" gem, as the scenic hill towers above Guildford.

But surprisingly, it it not particularly well known to anyone other than the good townsfolk.

Which is a shame as it offers some of the most spectacular views to be had in the county, together with some excellent, albeit short, walking along the ancient trackway.

The other good thing about this walk, is that you can access it easily by train or car, and the road and stony track are pretty wheelchair friendly.

On a clear day you can watch planes coming down at Heathrow, see the Millennium Arch at Wembley and the Swiss Re Tower (Gherkin) and Canary Wharf!

But even if it's a little cloudy, you still get to see a different view of Guildford laid out below you.

Bring binoculars or a telescope if you have one, you'll kick yourself if you don't!

The Mount and Henley Fort: The Walk

THE THAMES PATH

Houseboat
The floating recording studios - perfect for water music

Whenever you hear mention of the River Thames you probably think of London.

But the ancient river has a lot to offer upstream too.

Particularly on the 12 mile stretch that runs through Surrey from Hampton Court to Staines.

Whether you like to cycle or amble along taking in the sights as you go, this a particularly enjoyable and mostly flat route.

Even better, there are plenty of riverside pubs on the way to "refresh those parts other rivers can't reach!"

Keep an eye out for the Astoria , an ornate 1911 wooden houseboat turned recording studio, now owned by Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour.

Also, D'Oyly Carte Island, which is named after the Savoy Theatre owner and Gilbert and Sullivan impressario, Richard D'Oyly Carte who lived there from the 1880's onwards.

Or if you have always fancied life on the ocean waves, then indulge the Jolly Tar in you, with a mooch around the boatyard at Walton.

But unless you have millions in the bank, best leave your cheque book at home.

The Thames Path: The Walk

FRIDAY STREET AND LEITH HILL

Friday Street cottage
Picturesque Friday Street is tucked away beneath the hill

At 965 ft / 294m Leith Hill is the highest point in the South East.

And as a well-known beauty spot for locals and tourists alike, it hardly counts as a secret haven.

While well worth a visit, especially the view from the top of Richard Hull's folly built in 1766, it's not the hidden gem I had in mind.

The pearl in the oyster is Friday Street, a tiny hamlet tucked away beneath the hill.

And the round walk from the tower, to get there and back, is one of the best I know.

The hamlet is set around a hammer pond, the waters of which were once used to power hammers in the ironworks, which were part of the Wealden iron industry in the 1700's.

Stop off for refreshments at the pub which is named after a local man who became the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the days of King John.

Friday Street was also the location of the fictional village of "Wherton" in the BBC's 1984 adaptation of John Christopher's story "The Tripods".

Have a wander round, to admire the lovely cottages before wending your way back through Severell's Copse, and onwards past Coldharbour and its cricket pitch which is rumoured to be the highest in England!

Friday Street and Leith Hill: The Walk


If you find a "hidden gem" walk of your own in Surrey, email me and let me know at surrey@bbc.co.uk




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