Cycling from Guildford

Cycling routes throughout the South East, accessible from Guildford in a day

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Weather at Start:

Route 4: Guildford to the sea at Littlehampton

Weather at Finish:

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Summary Look on a map and you will find that the nearest point on the coast to Guildford is Littlehampton. This route will take you there, mainly on quiet roads and tracks. The South Downs can be crossed either on the East side of the Arun Gap by a high ride over the chalk downland above the Gap, or on the West side, on a track beside the Arun to the hamlet of South Stoke, then through the touristy but pleasant town of Arundel. I have tried to use the most direct route which nevertheless avoids traffic, though this still leaves some short stretches on busy roads.

Distance/time: 40 miles, about 5 hours riding
Start: Guildford Station
You could also use your car and start at, say, Bramley old railway station: park (free) and offload your bike there, although you would have to cycle back to there when you arrive back at Guildford station.
Finish: The sea at Littlehampton
Transport: Train back to Guildford from Littlehampton via Havant.

There is approximately 1 train per hour from Littlehampton. Total journey time about 1 hour 50 minutes.
Conditions under the tyre: The Downs Link between Shalford and Bramley is a good track. The short stretch of bridleway south of Wisborough Green could be rough and muddy after bad weather. The Easterly option through the Arun Gap from North Stoke to Burpham includes a rough stony track, but nothing too bad. The Western option from Houghton to South Stoke starts as a grassy track but subsequently there are quite a few protruding tree routes so take care.

The main hill encountered is the climb over the South Downs (both Eastern and Western Options).

For the Western option through the Arun Gap a mountain bike is recommended.

The main hazard is traffic on the busy A27 Arundel Bypass (Eastern option only).
Reverse route: It should be quite possible to reverse this route by taking the train to Littlehampton first. This might be preferable if there is a strong southerly wind.
Route variations: The track between Wisborough Green and Codmore Hill provides a useful and quiet shortcut: if this is muddy, it could only be avoided by a longish diversion on main roads (A272 towards Billingshurst, B2133, A29 towards Pulborough).

The approach to Littlehampton is achieved by going west of the Arun on the road through Ford (handy if you wish to visit someone at the open prison) and the dedicated bridge over the estuary: a more direct but less interesting route would be to stay east of the Arun on the A284.

Route description: Leave Guildford Station, walk under the subway to the far side of Bridge Street and follow the pedestrian way around the gyratory to emerge beside the River Wey. Cycle south under the bridge, through a car park and on down Millmead then walk over a footbridge and past the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. Cross the busy A281 and cycle down to the next set of traffic lights, where you cross back and now follow the cycle route across Shalford Park and on through woods. After crossing over the Guildford-Shalford railway line on a bridge, carry straight on past cottages and over a little green to reach the A248 at Broadford. Turn right and follow the A248 over a bridge over the Wey and on a few hundred yards till you pick up the Downs Link on your left. Take this – it crosses the Wey on a purpose built bridge. Cross the A281 (CARE) and carry on along the excellent Downs Link trail

Follow the Downslink past Bramley and on nearly to Cranleigh. Just before reaching Cranleigh, you pass under the B2130, and then immediately to the right is a ‘slip road’ which takes you on to the B2130 for a few yards before branching left onto Alfold Road.

On reaching the A281 turn left (south) and then shortly branch right onto the B2133 (take care at this turn). Carry on through Alfold and Loxwood, passing the Onslow Arms pub next to the (restored) Wey and Arun Canal, and then shortly branch right onto quiet Skiff Lane. Skiff Lane joins Kirdford Road heading south to join the A272 at the pleasant village of Wisborough Green.

Turn left on the A272 and after approx hundred yards turn right on a lane/bridleway to Harsfold Farm. There is a kilometre or so of track across fields, crossing the Arun, then a better surface past Lee Place Farm to emerge onto tarmac along Backgate Lane.

Cross the A29 (CARE) onto Broomers Hill Lane and onto the A283. Past the RSPB Pulborough Brooks reserve, bear Right onto lanes which take you nearly to the village of Rackham, then right to olde worlde Amberley. From Amberley, head down to the B2139. There are now two options for getting through the Arun Gap: the Eastern option is a fairly straightforward route using a track over the downs, but then the busy A27. The Western option uses a rougher track beside the Arun River, then passes through Arundel.

Eastern option: Continue on the B2139 till just past Amberley Station (just before the bridge over the Arun), turn left into Stoke Road, which, at the village of N Stoke, bears left to become a track rising over the Downs to Camp Hill, passing Canada Barn on the right, then bearing sharp right (south) and descending to Peppering High Barn and Peppering Lane (watch out for the excellent views south towards Arundel Castle, which looks like a traditional battlemented toy fort). Then follow roads down through Burpham and past Warning Camp to the A27. Now its right (west) along the A27 (CARE – BUSY ROAD) to the roundabout where you take the first exit down Ford Road (Western route joins here).

Western Option: The B2139 bears left, then take the South Downs Way on your right to cross the Arun Valley and thence south on the road to Houghton village (thus avoiding the busy B2139); cross over into South Lane and join a track which follows the west bank of the Arun, grassy at first, but becoming dirt track along the tree lined river bank: watch out for tree roots (CARE - walk if you're not happy riding over tree roots). The track eventually climbs through the trees to emerge in fields, then descends to the hamlet of South Stoke. From here a lane leads up, then down, to the road into Arundel, passing the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT) reserve. In Arundel, head up the High Street into town then go left along Tarrant Street and cross the A284 roundabout into Ford Road.

Proceed on past the open prison and on to the A259. Here cross over on the roundabout (CARE) onto Crookthorn Lane, and follow this (signed NCN2) to join Ferry Road and carry on to cross the foot and cycle bridge over the Arun into Littlehampton. (Before crossing the bridge, you could turn right here down Rope Walk and head down to the West Beach, but you would have to return to the bridge.)

Then head down to the sea front to dip your wheel in the waves, before retracing your steps to Littlehampton Station.
Refreshments: Onslow Arms pub next to the Wey and Arun Canal in Loxwood.

Wisborough Green has at least one pub on the green.

The RSPB Pulborough Brooks Bird Reserve has a nice tea room, accessible without paying the reserve entry fee.

There is a tea room in Amberley. On the Eastern option, at Houghton Bridge, next to Amberley Station, there is a pub and, just over the road, there is a tea room with pleasant gardens beside the River Arun.

On the Western option, there are eateries aplenty in Arundel.

At Littlehampton East Beach, there is the trendy East Beach Cafe, in an eyecatching contemporary building designed by Thomas Heatherwick. The same team operate the more modest West Beach Café on the other side of the Arun, which specialises in fish and chips, though this means something of a there-and-back diversion. These places are cool, but check the web sites for opening times.
Points of Interest The Downs Link is an attractive ride through quiet countryside. The Downs Link bridleway was established in 1984 to link the North Downs Way and South Downs Way National Trails. Download a useful leaflet here. The trail crosses the Low Weald and mostly follows two former railway lines. The northern line, built in 1865 by the Horsham and Guildford Direct Railway Company, went from Guildford to Christ’s Hospital. The earlier line built in 1861 by the London Brighton South Coast Railway ran between Itchingfield Junction, near Christ’s Hospital, and Shoreham-by-Sea on the Sussex Coast. Both connected at Christ’s Hospital with the Mid Sussex Line to Pulborough, which is still in service. The lines were never profitable, and closed in 1966.

At Loxwood, you will cross the impressively restored section of the Wey and Arun Canal. What is known today as the 'Wey & Arun Canal' actually consists of two canals. The first was the Arun Navigation, which gave trading vessels from the south coast access to Newbridge Wharf near Billingshurst and was opened in 1787. Then in 1813 an Act of Parliament, backed by the 3rd Earl of Egremont of Petworth House, authorised the building of a further canal, the Wey and Arun Junction Canal which extended the navigation from Newbridge up to Stonebridge Wharf south of Guildford on the Godalming portion of the river Wey, thus allowing barge traffic from London to reach the South Coast at Littlehampton. The opening of the railway destroyed the canal's business, and by the 1870's it was largely derelict. It is in the process of being restored.

South of the attractive village of Wisborough Green, the route follows a track over the River Arun through attractive meadows.

Off the A283 south of Pulborough is the RSPB Pulborough Brooks Bird Reserve (charge to enter reserve for non-members). Flooded water meadows in the Arun Valley attract a variety of waders, scrub is home to nightingales in spring, and there is an adjacent area of restored heathland. There’s also a tearoom!

Amberley is a pleasant village with several thatched cottages, a pub and a castle (not open to the public – it’s a hotel). Adjacent to Amberley Station (which is actually some way beyond the village) is the Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre is home to various craftspeople (blacksmith etc), and various heritage collections (eg buses).

On the Western route, the town of Arundel has attractive streets, tearooms, the WWT Wildfowl Reserve and the Castle.

The suitably forbidding HM Prison Ford is a category D Open establishment with an emphasis on resettlement. A former Fleet Air Arm Station, it converted to an open prison in 1960. A riot there in January 2011 caused extensive damage.

Like most resorts along the Sussex Coast, Littlehampton has the air of having seen better days, with a somewhat faded beach front and amusement park, but has probably improved over recent years, with the development of the (inevitable) trendy apartments along the River frontage, and the establishment of the funky East Beach Café. The East Beach is pleasant enough, and the West Beach, backed by dunes, is relatively unspoilt.
Finding your way Good maps are essential, especially for the off road sections. You need either Ordnance Survey Landranger 1:50,000 Sheets 186 (Aldershot and Guildford) and 197 (Chichester and the Downs); or Ordnance Survey Explorer 1:25,000 Sheets 145 (Guildford and Farnham) 134 (Crawley and Horsham) and 121 (Arundel and Pulborough).