The Valley End 150 blog was planned to run throughout 2017 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of St. Saviour’s church. As this is the end of the year, this is therefore the end of the blog.
I have been helped by so many past and present residents of Valley End, and by many local people and organisations. Thank you all very much. We have really appreciated all your information and advice.
I would also like to thank all those who have followed the blog, and supported this project. Thank you for your interest!
There is a wide variety within a small area at Valley End – from common land to golf courses, from footpaths to a motorway, mansions to cottages.
One of the best ways to see it is on foot. This walk leads through some of the places and scenery of Valley End.
It starts outside St Saviour’s Church in Valley End Road. One of the striking things about Valley End is that it has the structure of a village in Valley End Road and Highams Lane – the Church, the School, and the Institute are built close together, and the Cricket Club is few hundred yards down the road. But there is very little housing here; most residents live in Brick Hill or Sparrow Row.
The church and school were built by Julia Seymour Bathurst, who presumably chose a site based on what land she could enclose from the Common.
From the church, turn right down Valley End Road. The church will be on your right.
As the road starts to bear left, take the footpath on the left side of the road. As you walk down it you will see the Vicarage through the trees on your right. It was built by George F. Bodley, the architect who designed the church.
“When Julia Seymour Bathurst commissioned G. F. Bodley to build the church, she also asked him to build the vicarage.
When he designed it Bodley, a leading architect in the Gothic Revival, abandoned any Gothic details and drew his inspiration instead from the solid comfort of Georgian houses.
The result is a large, impressive building. The footprint of the vicarage is roughly equal to that of the church, and grounds exceed the area of the church and churchyard combined.”
This area used to be a stopping place for gypsies. “The Gypsies used to turn up and park at different places. They were never any trouble. They just used to come and pull up, perhaps with one single caravan. They’d maybe have dogs and a chicken. There were little places where they pulled up all the time, and they’d stay 2 or 3 days and then move on. I don’t think there was any trouble at all. They used to be down by the church, pulling off the road opposite Pembroke House. Or they used to park by the top of Round Pond. When they went you wouldn’t know they’d been. They left it all tidy.”
The path curves round to the right.
Where another path joins from the right, bear left, and head towards the motorway.
When you reach the M3, the path turns right. Walk on with the motorway to your left. You will be passing through silver birch trees.
The Common was clear of trees, but this has changed. “But the Common’s all overgrown now. It’s because of all the silver birch and the trees.”
Turn left over the footbridge. This crosses the M3. This was built in the early 1970s, and runs very close to Brick Hill.
You pass over the motorway. This has recently been upgraded; “The smart motorway upgrade has added an extra lane in both directions along a 13.4 mile section of the motorway, with emergency areas installed throughout the length of the scheme.”
After the footbridge, go straight ahead, past the black and white post.
You will see some houses through the trees. You will come out onto an unmade road. Turn right.
This is Brick Hill, a small community of houses on the Common. Turn right and follow the road around.
On your right, on a bend in the track, there is an gate across a footpath. This used to be the path to the brick works. Brick making was carried out at Brick Hill from at least the mid 18th century, until the late 19th century. The site of the brick yard now lies under the M3 motorway.
Keep on the unmade road. At the end of the road turn right.
As the track curves left, there is an entrance on the right.
Go through the entrance, and follow the track across the field. When Patrick Rolinson described his life as a squatter in the old Military Camp at Brick Hill, he said this field was a gravel football pitch. “Here we watched the PoWs and guards play football. The pitch was comprised of shingle, and today if you move a clump of grass you can still see the shingle…”
Ron Little remembered the football pitch as well. The Military Camp was used for troops and then Prisoners of War before the squatters moved in. “On the Brick Hill side of the road, the POW’s had quite a good football pitch. Although it was rather stony, it served its purpose adequately. The POW’s were keen footballers and produced an excellent team which played matches against other POW teams on Sundays. The football played was first class and these matches always attracted many of the local football enthusiasts. Whilst the matches were in progress the rest of the POWs would line the sides of the pitch and in unison would voice their opinions of the referee in the few words of English that they knew. At times this caused considerable embarrassment especially if there happened to be ladies present! They were a first class team and among their players was a pre-war Austrian International player. But the star of their team was the goalkeeper who after the war settled in this country.”
When you are near the hedge at the other side, look right. There is a footpath on the far right.
Turn right. Cross to the signposted path on the far side of the field.
It passes through a wood of silver birch trees. This area used to be the Camp. The 2nd hut in which Patrick Rolinson lived would be to the left. At one time there were cultivated flowers near the path, which had flourished in the squatters’ gardens.
Silver birch trees have grown on the site. Follow the path. You will come out on the Windsor Road.
Cross the road, and turn left towards the roundabout. Cross over the next road so that you are on the other side of the roundabout. You should be at the Roundabout car park.
Patrick Rolinson remembers this being used as an airstrip. “It became busy with light aircraft landing and taking off. Some passengers looked very important. The runway in those days was very short but that type of aircraft was capable of landing on it. To us young ones, this was great fun.” Walk straight across it. There is a path opposite the entrance.
The path passes a plaque commemorating the Common being made a National Nature Reserve in 1994. “The largest National Nature Reserve in the south-east of England, Chobham Common is an internationally important example of lowland heath habitat.”
Follow the path down the hill. At the bottom of the hill there is a gravel path leading to the left. Turn left, and take this path across the Common.
This leads across the common land. There is a memorial to Queen Victoria on the Common. In 1853 the British Army ran a training exercise on Chobham Common. 16,000 troops camped on the Common for a month. Victoria visited and inspected the Camp. Lord Seaton, the Commander in Chief of the Army, was based at Hyams (Highams) during the exercise; which means that for a month the British Army HQ was in Valley End.
Where the route bears right, take the path to the left.
Most of Valley End is common land. The path leads straight across, up towards Sunningdale.
“Chobham Common is the largest National Nature Reserve in the south-east of England and one of the finest remaining examples of lowland heath in the world.
Heathlands are one of the most ancient and characteristic British landscapes, originally created by prehistoric farmers. For over 200 generations rural communities have carefully managed this stunning open countryside resulting in a wonderful, wildlife rich, patchwork of mini-habitats. The few surviving heathlands are very special places providing a living link to our stone-age past.
Chobham Common is recognised across Europe for its variety of bird life with over 100 different species having been recorded here. These include the very rare dartford warbler, the hobby and the nightjar. Over 300 species of wild flower grow here. Sweeps of purple flowering heather and sweet scented gorse dominate the heathland whilst the wetlands harbour insect-eating sundews and rare marsh gentians.”
The path turns left where it meets the railway line. The parish of Valley End continued on the other side of the railway. Common land lies on the far side of the railway line, as do the Surrey Wildlife Trust reserves of Broomhall Heath and Valley Wood. This part of the common can be accessed from footpaths leading from Onslow Road, Sunningdale.
Follow the path to the road.
You will come out on the Chobham Road. Turn right.
Just before you cross the railway bridge, look at the house on your left. This used to be the London Mothers’ Convalescent Home.
“The Home was founded by the Hon. Mrs Charles Hay, (Arabella Augusta Hay,) in 1889. The Home was intended for married women. They could visit with babies aged between 3 weeks and 3 months, and could stay for a fortnight. Many were from poor areas, with large families, living in 1 or 2 rooms.”
It was a popular local charity. Hilda Pearce, who worked as a kitchen maid in Titlarks Hill, remembered that “During my time at Middleton, Madam was very interested in a place along Chobham Road which was then called The London Mother’s Convalescent Home, where 10 mothers and babies came from town in turn, usually for a couple of weeks each. Basket prams were provided for the babies, and one would often see the Mums proudly pushing their young around – it was such a change from the East End of London. A lot of ladies in the vicinity, Madam included, used to have the Mums up for tea, and one I remember was a wizard on the piano. She loved getting on the grand piano in the drawing room, (when Madam was away.) “
Go over the railway bridge. Follow the road on the left hand side. Shortly after you pass Onslow Road on the opposite side of the road, there is a footpath on your left.
Turn left, and go down the footpath.
Follow it to the end. It crosses a couple of roads, but stays a footpath. This hamlet was known as Broomhall. and the path is going through what used to be known as North End.
P. J. Elkins grew up there. “I was born in Broomhall, Sunningdale, that little hamlet of cottages up the Chobham Road, just south of the London Road (A30). At that time, it was part of Chobham Parish known as North End. Broomhall was all alleys and lanes, no more than cart tracks for the tradesmen to deliver their goods by horse and cart: dust and ashes in the summer, and very muddy puddles in the winter.”
At the top of the path, turn left. (If you turn right, there is a cafe – which may be welcome after a trek across the Common.)
Follow this path. It will turn right.
You will come out at the junction of Halfpenny Lane and the A30.
Opposite is Broomhall Lane. This marks the northern point of the old parish of Valley End. According to Chobham, the northern point of the parish was marked by the Egham Stone, which was about 20 yards up the road. Windlesham said it only reached the junction, and Windlesham won!
Turn left. Cross over the railway line, passing the station. The original Sunningdale and Bagshot Station opened in 1856.
“The introduction of rail transport changed the area. Frederick Waterer of Bagshot testified to this in 1864, when he gave evidence to a Parliamentary Commission. He claimed that the nurseries around Bagshot had thrived with the help of the trains to move their stock.”
At the corner of Ridgemount Road turn left. A milestone, announcing 23 miles to London, is at the corner, facing Waitrose. The milestones were added during the 18th century, when this was a toll road.
The road goes up the hill and bears right.
On your right you will pass Dormy House. This is the house that caused a dispute when Chobham undertook the beating of the bounds in 1900. Chobham claimed the entire house was in Chobham; Windlesham said a sixth belonged to them Harsh words were exchanged, mainly from Windlesham.
Sunngdale Golf Course is on the left. When the course was being developed in 1901, Bronze Age burials were found in a barrow 6 feet high and 75 feet in diameter. The barrow was excavated, but unfortunately no one thought to make a note of where the burials were found. The site is now lost. There was a tumulus in the garden of Round Barrow House, now a garden feature. Ridgemount Road ends at Sunningdale Golf Course. Go through the gates and follow the track – it is a public footpath
The path curves right to go behind some houses at waypoint 10, where it goes through the greenkeeping facility. The track then goes through a gate, and leads through pine woods.
The footpath goes across the golf course. Histories of golf courses tend to concentrate on who designed the course, and who played there; but they have a great impact on the local area. Children from Valley End used to play on the golf course, and local people worked there.
“We used to go up to the golf course and play in the summer. We would go with our bathing costumes on, and play where the sprinklers came on. Nobody took any notice in those days. That was just after the War.
When the War finished, we had a big party there. All down the fairway there were tables.”
The track then curves left. You will come to a wooden chalet, and a long curved bench.
Inscribed on the bench is a verse from Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s poem “So many ways.”
“It’s regal autumn trailing into sight
As summer wafts her last kiss on the air
Earth has so many ways of being fair
It’s sweet young spring It’s summer clothed in light.”
In Wilcox’s version the couplets are in reverse order. (Maybe the seats were assembled without a poetry book to hand.)
The path continues. It begins to get rougher, leaving the tarmac behind.
At waypoint 25 there is a signpost. Turn left. This is where you leave the golf course, and make your way across the common land.
Follow it through the woods. A couple of paths join from the left, but the route goes to the top of the hill. Roy Smithers took photographs of this area, and the bench in his memory stands on the edge of the golf course.
At the top, there is a waymark sign pointing right. Turn right here and follow it downhill.
When Agatha Christie wrote her short story set in Sunningdale Golf Course, “The Sunningdale Mystery” she was describing a place she knew well. This path downhill was “ another of those narrow slips leading to the Windlesham Road…”
Keep the fence to your right, and follow the path. (At one point it becomes a tarmac drive.) You will find yourself passing houses named Upper Ribsden, Little Ribsden, and Ribsden Cottage. What was the Ribsden estate will be on your right.
The path comes out by the Brickmakers on the B386, the Chertsey Road leading into Windlesham.
Turn right here. Pass the Brickmakers. Just beyond the pub are Weyside Cottages, which were used as Princess Louise’s Holiday Home for Poor Children.
“In 1918 the charity Princess Louise’s Holiday Home for Poor Children was founded. It was primarily – but not exclusively – for children from the parish of St Mary Abbotts, Kensington, and gave them a holiday in the countryside.”
Walk along the road past Weyside. You will come to the entrance to Ribsden Holt on the right side of the road, which seems to have been rebuilt on the site of Ribsden.
Just past Ribsden Holt there is a stone beside the road. This is one of the boundary stones of the original parish of Valley End. Opposite the stone is a bridle path, described as a bridle-road in the 1868 schedule of the parish boundaries.
This is on the left side of the road, and is bridlepath no. 74. It is immediately in front of Oakwood, a lavish house that used to known as Updown Court. Boasting features such as a heated marble driveway, the house was priced at 70 million pounds before being reputedly sold for 40 million.
The bridleway runs beside Oakwood. For the first section of the walk the fence for Oakwood is to your right.
It then bears left, away from the house.
The path is now following an old parish boundary. The wide path is marked by a ditch on one side..
… and a bank on the other.
This is in the area of Highams Farm. There is a story about John Teal, a child who worked at the farm. His first job was to collect stones after the fields were ploughed, and use them to surface this path.
It would have been a busy place in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was part of a direct route from Brick Hill and Sparrow Row to Ribsden, where many local people would have been employed.
“A lot of girls went into service. Well, they had to, because you didn’t get a bigger house, if you got more children, and girls grew up, and they kept the boys at home to work and it’s what happened. And you got a lot from Wales. But then it was a home, you had to get somewhere.”
The path would have originally gone behind the Highams Farm buildings, but the M3 has cut across the fields. It now approaches the motorway, and turns left.
The path runs straight down to Highams Lane. When you get to the road, turn right.
This leads under the M3.
Follow the road for a hundred yards or so. Valley End Road is on the left, and Valley End School is at the junction.
Turn left down Valley End Road, to get back to the church.
St. Saviour’s Church – the start and finish of the walk.
Sketch map of the walk.
THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR INTEREST IN VALLEY END.
MANY THANKS FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT!