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What Goes Into Making Walkfest Wonderful

Published on: 28 Aug, 2022
Updated on: 29 Aug, 2022

This year’s Guildford Walkfest, running throughout September, offers some fantastic opportunities for a hike or a stroll – all for free.

Here is an insight into what makes this festival wonderful with a focus on the Surrey Hills Society, the Guildford Ramblers, local historian and writer David Rose, and not forgetting Guildford Borough Council, one of its sponsors.

Guildford Walkfest and the Surrey Hills Society (SHS) were established around the same time (2007-2008), and several of the same people have been involved with both for many years. 

Currently, the former chairman (now president) of SHS is the chairman of Walkfest and is supported by the former SHS vice-chairman, Ken Bare, in the role of Walkfest co-ordinator. 

Meanwhile, other SHS members – and indeed the current chairman, Gordon Jackson – have, and do, lead walks, act as back-markers, do admin and in various ways support Walkfest.

Both organisations aim to get members of the public out into the countryside to learn more about the area while enjoying fresh air and green spaces. 

Members of the Surrey Hills Society lead walks, act as back-markers, do admin and in various ways support Guildford Walkfest.

The SHS has always recognised the health and wellbeing aspects of rural walks and hosts one every month. This is a free walk, generally on the first Sunday of the month and is typically about four miles in length. Starting at 11am the intention is to have a social walk for a couple of hours and, wherever possible, the option of booking a nearby eatery for a meal afterwards. 

Anyone looking at the Walkfest programme ( will see that the same ethos is very evident – social walking followed by food and drink – a winning formula!

The SHS has always aimed to work alongside other groups rather than duplicate things which others can do just as well. With this in mind, it tends not to do long walks – the Ramblers, Long Distance Walkers Association and Guildford Ramblers all do these and are far better set up to do so on a regular basis.

Similarly, ‘health walks’ form a distinct category supporting people getting into walking for the first time to improve their fitness and wellbeing  

The Town Guides obviously know more about Guildford than most of the SHS event organisers do, so again, it is better to work alongside them in Walkfest and on other occasions.

While Walkfest is predominantly about the walking, SHS has a far broader remit and is emphatically not a walking group. It runs all sorts of events throughout the year – such as ‘behind the scenes’ visits – but also takes on various projects. 

Getting out into the countryside with some social walking and perhaps followed by some food and drink can’t be beaten!

SHS is hosting Walkfest’s 2022 launch event on Thursday, September 1 with a walk around Sheepleas, West Horsley; a walk in Westborough on Friday, September 2; a Wisley Common walk on Tuesday, September 6; a walk to explore Shalford on Friday, September 9; a Guildford walk titled Hills, Rivers & History on Friday, September 16; exploring Gomshall on Friday, September 23; a walk in conjunction with David Rose on Friday, September 30 to look at some of Guildford’s lesser known history; and its Street Angels sponsored walk on Saturday, October 1

More details about the Surrey Hills Society can be found on its website (

Among walks during Walkfest being led by Guildford Ramblers are several celebrating the 200th anniversary of the construction of the chain of semaphore towers that ran from the Admiralty in London to Portsmouth Dockyard. 

Started in 1822, there were originally 15 towers in the chain which could send a message from London to Portsmouth in about 15 minutes. The only remaining and complete four-storey tower, now owned and restored by the Landmark Trust, is at Chatley Heath, just beside Junction 10 of the M25.

The Chatley Heath semaphore tower. Picture by Keith Chesterton.

In Guildford it is still possible to see the remains of a tower incorporated in a house on Pewley Hill, while there were other sites near Witley and Haslemere.

The chain of semaphore towers operated until about 1847 when they were succeeded by the electric telegraph. 

On Saturday, September 10, there’s a nine-mile walk from Horsley railway station to Guildford Semaphore Tower via Newlands Corner.

On Monday, September 12 there’s a three-mile walk from Bolder Mere car park by the Ockham Bites café to Chatley Heath Semaphore Tower, passing the Samuelson Mausoleum, part of disused Wisley Airfield and back to Bolder Mere. 

On Saturday, September 24 there will be a 9.4 mile walk from Guildford railway station to the site of the Witley tower on Bannicle Hill, via the Wey towpath to Godalming and then via Milford to Witley and back by train. All walks will be led by Keith Chesterton.

Full details of all September’s walks led by Guildford Ramblers, including walk length, start time and place and contact details for the walk leader can be found can be found by going to and clicking on the ‘Walks’ tab.

Local historian and writer David Rose has been leading walks for Walkfest for several years and is pleased to say they attract a good number of walkers.

On his walk for the 2022 Guildford Walkfest, David Rose (pictured left) pointed out some details on an information board in Shalford Park. Thinking it was familiar, he then remembers he wrote some of the text several years ago!

Always mindful of offering something different, of his walk this year on Friday morning, September 30, David said: “There is an old cast-iron footpath sign just up from Woodbridge Hill at the junction of Aldershot Road and Southway, that states ‘To Farnham Road’.

“Despite the building of the A3 and its adjacent slip roads, the majority of this footpath actually exists, but I often wonder how many people walk the whole route?

“This will be a walk with a dual history purpose. Although it starts by the footpath sign we will veer off making our way along another path and then across the sports pitches at the Surrey Sports Park to have a look at the site of what was a hunting lodge within Guildford medieval enclosed royal deer park. On the site is the sadly dilapidated Weaver’s farmhouse.

“We will then head towards the footbridge over the A3 and up over the Farnham Road to the North Downs with spectacular views. Then head east to pick up the ‘Farnham Road’ footpath that runs through Onslow Village and then back to where we started.

“There will be plenty of stops and time to chat and to share our thoughts and views.”

Guildford Borough Council’s deputy leader and lead councillor for community, Julia McShane, said: “Walkfest brings many benefits to our community. Walking is one of the best ways to reduce stress and improve fitness levels.

“The festival encourages residents to get out and meet others. You will enjoy exploring and getting to know your local area. Thank you to everyone leading on walks this year.”

Other sponsors include:

Bevan Wilson.

Experience Guildford.

C&H Marketing

Click here for details of all the 2022 Guildford Walkfest walks.

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