Day 1. Exploring the Surrey Hills

Along with 10 National Parks, England is home to 34 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).  The Surrey Hills is one of them with its hills stretching across a quarter of the county from the chalk North Downs running from Farnham in the west to Oxted in the East.  The region is approximately 35 miles from London yet is a part of the country that’s unfamiliar to me so I looked forward to spending a few days exploring the area.  Our journey took us across the Hog’s Back, a narrow, hilly ridge forming part of the North Downs.  We’d arranged accommodation in Chilworth, a village three miles south of Guildford and on the way there we took the opportunity to explore several other attractive villages.

Shalford Common, Surrey
Shalford Common and the village’s unusual name sign

The first of these was Shalford where we parked on the edge of the common near to it’s unusual village sign.  We later discovered that the sign was designed in 1922 as part of a competition run by the Daily Mail newspaper.  The winning entry shows St. Christopher carrying the Christ Child over a shallow ford.

The Snooty Fox, Shalford, Surrey
The Snooty Fox, Shalford

The picturesque village contains a a number of high class local shops and the Snooty Fox Cafe.  The village is also home to Shalford Mill, a working water mill until 1914 that fell into disrepair and is now owned by the National Trust.  Had it been open we would have enjoyed looking around as we’d read it contains some well preserved machinery.

Tudor homes in Wonersh, Surrey
Tudor houses in Wonersh

Back in the car, it was then just two miles onto the quaint village of Wonersh with its delightful array of black and white Tudor houses along its narrow, winding main street.  Many of these homes have special architectural and historic interest making it a picture-perfect quintessential English village to visit.

Shelter/ signpost in the centre of Wonersh, Surrey
The distinctive shelter/ signpost in the centre of Wonersh,

There’s a distinctive shelter incorporating a signpost in the middle of the main junction to the village.  It is thought to have been constructed from beams and tiles from Wonersh Park Mansion that had fallen into disrepair in the 1920’s.

The Grantley Arms, Wonersh
The Grantley Arms in the village centre

Across the road from the shelter stands The Grantley Arms where we called in for a spot of lunch.  The interior is just as delightful as its Tudor façade and it felt cosy sitting by the roaring open fire sipping our drinks and enjoying a tasty snack.

The Grantley Arms, Wonersh, Surrey
Enjoying a glass of beer by the fireside

Feeling relaxed, it was then just another short drive to a local beauty spot called the Silent Pool on the edge of the village of Albury midway between Guildford and Dorking.  There’s a free car park located just off the A25 that has a very narrow entrance we needed to negotiate before finding a parking space.

Silent Pool and Sherbourne Pond Information Board
The information board at the start of the trail

The footpath is signposted and it only took us five minutes to walk along a track which firstly leads to the Sherborne Pond and then continues on slightly further to the spring fed Silent Pool which is surrounded by trees.  Legend has it that the pool is haunted as it has a long history of mysterious happenings.

Sherbourne Pond, Surrey
Sherbourne Pond

Thankfully, nothing strange was occurring at the time of our visit apart from the water appearing quite murky.  There’s a small wooden viewing platform to take in the tranquil scene and after pausing to take a photo we decided to visit the Silent Pool Distillery located close by in a converted cowshed.

Silent Pool, Surrey
Silent Pool, Surrey

The distillery has been established seven years and specialises in handcrafted gins giving notes of the surrounding Surrey Hills.  Tours were not taking place on the afternoon of our visit but we were taken to inspect the large hand built copper still where it all started.

The original Copper Still at Silent Pool Distillers
The old copper still in the distillery

It’s fired by a vintage wood steam boiler and still used to produce small batch gins.  As regular readers will know gin is my favourite tipple so I was in my element tasting some of their range, my favourite being the Greengage Gin which was zesty with its contrasting flavours of plum and lemon.

Small batch gins on offer at the Silent Pool Distillery
Small batch gins on display in the gift shop

On leaving the distillery we made another short car journey to The Percy Arms in Chilworth where we would be spending the next two nights.  This elegant country pub and grill-house has South African owners who have tastefully furnished the interior with a range artefacts collected from all over South Africa, creating the style of a colonial hunting lodge.  There are just five rooms with each named after one of the Big 5 game animals, our room being Ndlov (meaning elephant).

The Percy Arms, Chilworth, Surrey
The Percy Arms in Chilworth

Our beautifully appointed room featured a king size bed complimented with antique furniture, wool throws and large cushions.  At the foot of the bed there was a decadent slipper bath plus a huge walk-in shower room near the door.  The two windows looked out onto the village centre and we knew we would be in for a relaxing stay.

Room Four, Ndlov, The Percy Arms, Chilworth
Our room – Ndlov at The Percy Arms

it was approaching 4.00 p.m. so we thought we would just have enough time to take a stroll along the Gunpowder Heritage Trail whilst it was still light.  Our walk started very close to the pub at Vera’s Path located to the side of the village infant school.  A fingerpost indicates the footpath from Dorking Road which took us across a bridge to the old gunpowder works running alongside the New Cut stream.

The start of the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills Trail
The start of the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills Trail

We’d made the mistake of leaving our walking boots in the car boot and by the time we realised we needed them it was too late.  The start of the trail was on firm ground but it became increasingly muddy as we made our way along and we needed  to pick our route carefully to avoid slipping and getting splattered in mud.

The remains of the old Gunpowder Mills in Chilworth, Surrey
The remains of the old Gunpowder Mills in Chilworth, Surrey

Several information boards are dotted along the route explaining that the works were built in the first half of the 17th century by the East India Company when it was the only legal producer of gunpowder.  Despite many of the buildings being demolished, there are more than 100 ruins remaining along the trail and these have been designated an ancient monument.  On returning to the Percy Arms we removed our shoes at the door and carried them upstairs so as not to leave a trail of mud in our wake.

Ndlov room, The Percy Arms, Chilworth, Surrey
The decadent slipper bath in our room

It was then time for a relaxing bath before going down to dinner in the restaurant.  The pub is attractively laid out with a stone flagged bar at one end and numerous cosy dining rooms each with a slightly different colonial style.  In keeping with the South African theme there are antler chandeliers and upholstery featuring wild animals.  Over glasses of Shiraz we studied the menu which was very tempting with a combination of classic English dishes along with several South African specialities.

The Percy Arms, Chilworth, Surrey
One of the dining areas in the pub

Up to now my travels have not taken me to South Africa but it is somewhere I would love to explore.  I avidly follow the blog Wet and Dusty Roads written by Corna, a South African who documents her travels and love of cooking.  My eyes lit up when I spotted bobotie on the menu as she has mentioned this dish numerous times.  At last I was getting an opportunity to try it, and my husband opted for another South African dish with the unusual name Lamb Bunny Chow.

Bobotie served at the Percy Arms, Chilworth
My delicious bobotie served with pickle, poppadum and rice

After enjoying starters of avocado prawn salad and pulled pork boa buns our South African dishes arrived and I savoured every last forkful of my bobotie with its subtle Malay spices and creamy egg based topping.  The recipe dates back to the 17th century when Dutch traders used what we now call Cape Town as a base en route to Indonesia, bringing with them their fruits and spices.

Lamb bunny chow at the Percy Arms, Chilworth
My husband’s Lamb Bunny Chow

Across the table, my husband was also in raptures about his Lamb Bunny Chow served inside a loaf.  Our waiter told us that this dish originated from Durban and was created by Indian migrant workers using their distinctive hot chillies and spices.  Portions were large so we couldn’t manage a dessert but we did linger at our table awhile longer with cups of coffee before climbing the stairs and falling asleep in seconds, nestled on our plump pillows beneath our goose down duvet.

Ndlov room at The Percy Arms, Chilworth
Bed time at the inn

 

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Villages of the Surrey Hills

 

50 thoughts on “Day 1. Exploring the Surrey Hills

  1. Your room looks absolutely delightful Marion, I’m sure you had a wonderful night’s sleep. Your food looks delicious, seems like you choose a great place to stay. Loving all the visits to these unknown villages

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Yet another fun adventure, Marion. Reading your wonderful posts about variolous places around England makes me want to visit one day. What I like the most about the greatest pleasures of a UK vacation, is just how easy it is to explore this fascinating and diverse country. You can easily base yourself in cities such as London or Liverpool and simply take a train, bus, or ferry to explore other areas. Thanks for sharing and inspiring, my friend and have a lovely day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thank you for your kind words Aiva. The Surrey Hills are easily accessible from a London base for exploring the area and enjoying a walk. I’m sure you will manage to get over at some point to explore the area for yourselves as I know you will like it. Take care, Marion xx

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved this post, Marion! I have visited every single place (many times) you have photographed because this post is about my home turf. It is very interesting to see my neck of the woods through the eyes of another traveller. We lived in Wonersh at one time but our current village is, reportedly, the largest village in England! You may have worked out where we live, by now, but I prefer not to give the exact location on my blog. I have been fortunate enough to eat Bobotie in Cape Town but it’s some time since we visited the Percy Arms, so perhaps we need to return to try their Bobotie.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m so pleased you enjoyed reading g this post June. You certainly live in a beautiful unspoilt part of the country. Two more posts coming up from your neck of the woods which were also both lovely days out too! Thanks so much for commenting and we’ll try and arrange a meet up next time! M.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A quaint string of delightfully cosy villages Marion. Totally unfamiliar with this neck of the woods, so read it all with much interest. There are so many favourite details throughout, from the quirky Shalford sign and that gorgeous bathtub to silent pool, antler chandeliers and the storage crate bedside tables.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our first visit to Surrey and we couldn’t have wished for better weather on our arrival. It’s small villages are a delight and the Percy Arms a cosy bolthole to spend a couple of nights. Thank you for taking an interest Leighton and hope you get to visit here at some point.

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  5. Another pleasant time exploring your own background, this time in Surrey Hills! The scenic walks were a delight, but returning to your stay at the South African-inspired accommodation was really a stand-out! Especially that delicious dinner: I haven’t had South African food before, so to hear about bobotie and lamb bunny chow was a first for me– all looked delicious!

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  6. ThingsHelenLoves

    It’s a beautiful part of the world, isn’t it? I’d not heard of Bobotie but it looks like real comfort food. Perfect for this time of year, especially after a long walk.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We were so lucky with the weather and had a lovely first day exploring the area. I’m going to make Bobotie one of these days when I have time, definitely tasty winter confirm food! Thanks for commenting, it’s much appreciated as always.

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  7. So many interesting places to explore. Too bad about the muddy track. Nothing worse than starting off in the wrong footwear. That Inn looks interesting and so nice it gave you a taste of South Africa so close to home. Thanks for sharing Marion. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sounds like a fabulous day of wandering around Surrey Hill. The Silent Pool looks like a great spot for reflection and to just enjoy nature. That’s too bad that you forgot your walking shoes in the car and that the trail was a bit muddy. At least you have that fabulous tub to take a nice soak in afterwards!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I find these English villages so attractive – from the houses to the green surroundings. Great to find that small distillery on the road (such a beautiful gift shop). Ah, and glad that you had the opportunity to stay in such a lovely place owned by South Africans 😊. And you tried bobotie … I was so surprised about that (and happy)! Berto was in Durban in the military and had many bunny chows while being stationed there.
    Thank you for yet another great post – I can’t wait to read more about the Surrey Hills.

    Liked by 3 people

        1. Oh I haven’t been to any of those villages. Definitely need to check out the gin place as it’s local and the NT mill is on my list as well. Lots of the NT places are sadly closed over the winter.

          Liked by 3 people

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