29 June saw the launch of a new series of Rail to Ramble routes, designed to highlight how accessible the Surrey Hills is by train and to encourage people to visit this nationally protected landscape in a more sustainable way.
The four new routes have been created along Great Western Railway’s North Downs line, between the stations of Guildford and Reigate. Each route can be accessed directly from the railway station and takes in some wonderful Surrey Hills views as well as the North Downs Way National Trail and many points of interest along the way
The Rail to Ramble leaflets have been launched as a collaboration between the Surrey Hills Society, who created and tested the routes; the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), who worked on the design and content of the leaflet itself; and with funding from Great Western Railway via the Southeast Community Rail Partnership (SCRP), an organisation that works to connect local communities with the railway across Sussex, Kent and Surrey.
As well as detailing a fascinating and scenic walking route that is directly accessible from the station, each leaflet also highlights local points of interest along the way. The four leaflets cover routes of 5 to 6.5 miles long (8 to 10.5 km) between:
1) Shalford and Chilworth via St Martha’s (with the option of starting the route from Guildford)
2) Chilworth to Gomshall via Blackheath and Shere
3) Gomshall to Dorking Deepdene
4) Dorking Deepdene to Betchworth (via Pixham and Brockham)
The start and finish points near the stations have been designed so that routes can be connected to form longer explorations for those looking to embark upon a more substantial adventure. The new Rail to Ramble leaflets will be widely available to pick up locally in the areas around the routes, in local businesses and at stations along the railway line. They can also be downloaded from the Surrey Hills website.
The walks have been created to inspire people, via the breathtaking scenery on offer and the excellent rail links, to leave their cars at home and use public transport to access and enjoy the Surrey Hills AONB in a way that impacts less on the environment.
Gordon Jackson, Chairman of the Surrey Hills Society, comments: “The North Downs line runs through the Surrey Hills AONB and provides the perfect means of accessing the countryside in a sustainable way. Over the past year we have received a huge number of visitors to the area, particularly by car. As much as we welcome visitors we are also aware of the impact this can have on residents particularly in areas where parking is limited. Accessing the area by train helps to ease this pressure”.
The rail network not only offers a vital service for rural communities, it also connects urban populations with the countryside and the North Downs Way, making it one of the most accessible National Trails in the country. The railway route not only provides people with the chance to experience the ample health and wellbeing benefits of being within nature, but it also brings added footfall to rural businesses, in turn supporting the countryside economy.
David Daniels, Line Officer for the South East Community Rail Partnership, North Downs line comments: “The launch of the new walks is fantastic news for the North Downs line. It has been wonderful to see all the parties working together to make this dream a reality which will really make a tangible difference to both the surrounding communities and those accessing the line from further afield. Engaging local communities, whilst also providing a huge benefit to visitors to the area, the new routes will be a fantastic addition to the Surrey Hills offering.”
For further information on the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) visit www.surreyhills.org.