A Historical Evening's Stroll (3 miles)
From: A circular (almost) saunter of 3 miles, starting from in front of the Council Offices in South Street (or anywhere in Farnham), ending at St Andrew's Church.
Length: 2.7 miles.
Average Walk Time: 2 hours at a slow pace, depending on how much time you spend at the Castle.
Terrain: Up hill for the first third, take your time, it's not a race. Downhill for the second third and level for the last.
Suitable for dogs: Yes.
Look out for: Some great views back into Farnham as you return to the town.
This is a wonderful short stroll North and West of Farnham, which offers some great views. Before you start, you need to make a trade-off with the timing. My preference is to set out about 2 hours before sunset (don't cut it too fine or you'll end in darkness). However, starting then means you miss the Castle being open. The alternative of starting during the day means you get the Castle but lose the potentially glorious golden views when the sun is setting. For this article, I took both routes, once going in the afternoon to recce and then walking with a group in the evening.
You can start anywhere in Farnham – we started outside the Council Offices in South Street. If this is your start point, walk up South Street away from the dual carriageway and head to the junction with The Borough and East Street. When you get to the traffic lights, cross diagonally and continue up Bear Lane, initially on the other side of the road. This is to avoid playing car-chicken with traffic going around the former Woolmead development.
At the top of Bear Lane (you will have to change road sides again on the way up), cross over and enter the park by a small alley. As you enter the park, note the steps that go nowhere. These are called the deer steps. Once, the Bishop of Winchester kept a herd of deer in his 'New Park'. The high steps here were the only way of getting into the park at this point in order to prevent the deer from escaping into the town.
Take the paved route diagonally right up the hill. As you start the ascent note the spigot mortar in the grass on the left. The circular concrete 'dome' with the metal spigot on the top was where mortars could be launched. This is all part of the WW2 defence line – which is the subject of its own walk and would take too much space to write about here. Needless to say, the defences were never used in anger. Continue up the hill noting the Castle to your left. We'll say more about that on the way back. Pass the golf club café and continue more. The route goes down hill a little until it crosses a brook and rises again. After 250m of uphill, you get to a crossing in the path, where you turn left. Before turning, check the house on the right. This is the former Ranger's House where the Bishops' deer rangers used to live. In the Second World War it was a Home Guard HQ. Since that, it has been totally renovated and is now a private dwelling owned by Waverley Council, making it one of the poshest Council houses in the area!
So you turned left and now walk past a very pretty pond on your right. Keep your eyes out for a kissing gate on the left into the golf course. If you get to Folly Hill, you've gone too far. The footpath back down through the golf course is well-marked with orange flashes on stout wooden posts. Look out for small flying white objects and keep a courteous approach to golfers playing across you. At the bottom, enter into the car park and skirt the cricket pitch ahead of you to the left. The path winds to the right, round past the castle walls. When you get to the main road, you have the option of visiting the Castle and admiring the view from the top of the keep. Built in 1138 by Henri de Blois, Bishop of Winchester, grandson of William the Conqueror, Farnham castle became the home of the Bishops of Winchester for over 800 years. The original building was demolished by Henry II in 1155 after the Anarchy and then rebuilt in the late 12th and early 13th centuries.
When you've finished filling your boots with history, return to Castle Street and CAREFULLY cross the road to a house called Fox Hollow. This is a very dangerous crossing on the blind side of a double bend, so please take super care. Walk down the footpath to the left side of Fox Hollow. This will shortly come to a turning on the right, which you take behind the student accommodation. At a T-junction, turn left through the middle of the student accommodation of the University of Creative Arts. Don't fret, it is a public footpath. Walk through their Sculpture Park and turn right at Falkner Road. Shortly you get to Potters Gate on the left, which you turn down. Just before the end, there's a tiny footpath on the right. Take this, and note how long and straight it is. In the 19th century, Farnham was a hub for brewing and hops. This long footpath was part of an even longer line where twine for supporting the hops was wound.
Emerge from out the end, and cross West Street. Turn right to the roundabout and turn left down past the newly-renovated Memorial Hall. The road turns left at the end, wiggles a bit and finally disgorges you into the Water Meadows via Whitlet Close, where you turn left. All that remains now is a slow amble along the Water Meadows to town. The meadows were used as defences in both the Second World War and the Civil War, and Sir Ray Tyndall's fight against over-development of Farnham.
Finally, at the end of the Meadows, follow a twisting footpath into St Andrew's Churchyard and you're home. Enjoy!