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Let’s go back to 2006


When raising awareness for our campaign to save the Spike we came up with a number of events, many of which continue today including the Guildford Pancake Races and our very popular Burns Night now held at the Spike.

There was one particular fund raiser which many of us found tough.  “On the Toby” was an organised walk from Dorking Workhouse to the Guildford Spike a regular route up until about 90 years ago for tramps, casual workers and journeymen.  The route we took detoured over the North Downs as, to take the original route would have been too dangerous due to the large amount of traffic on the roads today.

The toughness of this walk to someone who is well fed, watered and reasonably fit makes one think of how tough the less well-off had to be, travelling 12 miles or more on foot each day and then spending a night of cold comfort in the workhouse casual ward.

Now we hope that you will be interested in taking up what has become The Spike Challenge!  That 12 mile walk, a workhouse dinner and then for the brave a night in the Spike!

The Walk

The Victorian era saw many itinerant people on the roads and highways travelling to where they believed there would be work or just travelling earning a meagre living when they could. Many of the paths we have today would have been carved by this constant movement of human traffic across the counties.  The people were On the Toby, taking the low toby in the summer months when it was too hot up high and switching to the high toby in the winter when the lower path was muddy or even flooded.

The route we have plotted for you is very much the high toby and you will see some spectacular views as you climb 200 metres up from Dorking to the crest of the North Downs. The first few miles are tough and then the monotony sets in.  Keep your spirits up by chatting with your fellow travellers you’ll be amazed at what you didn’t know about them.  Finally after 10 miles and a quick pit stop at Newlands Corner the descent down to the outskirts of Guildford and the pleasure of queuing outside the Casual Ward gate.  No point in rushing on this walk, that gate never opens before 6 PM.


Finding your way

You can pre-book one of our guides’ to escort you on this 12 mile trek but if you are up for some adventure why not use OS Explorer Maps 145 & 146 and our very detailed written instructions. You can also download free of charge the Viewranger App (http://www.viewranger.com/en-gb) onto your smartphone which will give you free access to google maps or for a small charge digitised OS Explorer versions.  If you would like to use the App then please let us know and we can send you the electronic version of the route.  Not very 19th century though, is it?


At the Spike

If you arrive early, line up along the wall in Warren Road and wait to be let in at 18:00.  You will be offered some (mild) refreshment and a tour of the building if you wish.  Otherwise just chill out and wait for dinner to be served.

Sleeping at the Spike

Everything you have had so far would have been a luxury.  It’s highly unlikely that anyone staying at the Spike when it was open would have got a meal as fine as the one you have just had.  It’s quite likely you wouldn’t have been fed at all; the original building didn’t have a kitchen or dining room.  The main purpose of the building was to offer somewhere to doss down for the night after a bath and medical inspection.

Casual wards similar to the Spike were built to keep the inmates under control by having them locked in a cell for their night’s sleep.  You won’t be so lucky it’ll be dormitories for you, one for men and one for women with a night watchman making sure things stay that way. No messing or you’ll be out on your ear.

In the 1830s you would have slept in a coffin like box on a straw mattress with a single blanket to keep you warm.  Hopefully you remembered to drop your sleeping bag off in the morning? The Spike can be very cold in the winter months and our blankets a re threadbare.

Supper

Supper is something that the regular visitors to the Spike during the early part of the last century were unlikely to have had.  They would have begged from door to door for some scoff often offering to do a little work in payment, if absolutely necessary.

You’re lucky, your food will be from a typical workhouse menu used after 1901 and a great improvement on what had preceded it.  Ale will be provided with the meal and if you behave you may also get some pudding.


What’s the difference between Supper, Dinner and Lunch.  Make sure you ask when you come on your visit.


After supper a little relaxation (not too much) maybe a tale or two, a game of cards, drafts or backgammon then, as night draws in it’ll either be time to leave for the comfort of your home or, for those staying the night, it’ll be time for bed.

In the Morning

We will expect everyone up by 06:00 for their breakfast, some skilly and maybe some dry bread with a mug of tea.  If you missed the tour the night before, there will be a second opportunity to have a quick look around the heritage side of the building before you leave.

When you leave, maybe getting into a nice warm comfortable car, think of those who tramped in the past and those who still do.