Peeking just above the trees by the M25 on the edge of southwest London is a tall octagonal building built as part of the defence of Britain, and it will be open to the public for a weekend in June.

Chatley Heath semaphore tower (c) ianVisits

This is the Chatley Heath semaphore tower and is a rare survivor of a series of towers built to send signals to/from London and the coast at a time when an invasion by Napoleon was a very real fear.

It was short-lived though, as the modern telegraph was about to be invented, and the semaphore towers were closed down in 1847. It was lived in until the 1960s, and spent the next 50 years in various states of decay until it was restored by the Landmark Trust and opened as a holiday home in 2021.

And, once or twice a year, they open it to the public to visit and see the fantastic views from the top of the tower.

The tower will be open to the public Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd June 2024 and tickets are free, but need to be booked in advance from here.

Getting to the Semaphore Tower

The tower is in a wood, and there is parking a modest walk from it.

If coming by public transport, the easiest route is to catch the train to Effingham Junction, and then it’s about a 30-40 minute walk along roads without pavements. Leave the station and head to Martyr’s Green, and at the Black Swan pub (filming location for An American Werewolf in London), turn onto Ockham Lane and turn left at the first junction. At the end, past a couple of posh houses, is the wood and footpaths to the tower.

There is also the hourly 715 bus from Cobham and Kingston upon Thames, but that will involve a lengthy walk along the busy A3 road to get to the wood.

On my visit last year, I also detoured in the woods to the Samuelson Mausoleum, which is worth a visit, and when I left, I took the longer way home via Cobham, just because I wanted to.


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