From: An almost circular walk from Riverside 3 Car Park (off Mike Hawthorn Drive) to the Park Café in Farnham Park.
Length: 4.5 miles.
Average Walk Time: Around 3 hours.
Terrain: Fairly flat as these things go with a gentle incline up to the café at the end.
Suitable for dogs: Yes.
Look out for: Hidden stones in the verges – the sort of things you walk past every day and don't notice.
You must have seen them – or more likely not seen them. The odd stone plonked by the side of a road, which when pointed out you think 'what on earth is that?' Well, this is a walk to look at a few of them and a number of other of Farnham's ancient curiosities. Now, for the sake of clarity, ancient does not include the author, so no cheeky comments, please. It should also be pointed out, that in Chris Shepheard's mind, ancient runs from Neolithic to Victorian, so a pretty wide range there.
Yes, this walk is a new one put together by Chris for the Farnham Walking Festival, so more details of that elsewhere on this page. Chris took 20 of us out to 'trial' it and this is the result.
Leave Riverside Car Park taking a look across the bridge to Hatch Mill, but don't cross the bridge. Instead, turn left out the car park towards the Shepherd and Flock. On the walk, we pass four of Farnham's Mills, but they are the subject of another walk. Follow the river until the path bears away and enters a more-formal lane. As you round the (left hand) corner, look at the Victorian Building on your right. This is the former sewage works. This was the lowest point in Farnham and everything flowed downhill to here. Now, it's pumped back up to near Sainsbury's, Water Lane, a site we will pass later in the walk. Now disused, the future of this interesting building is in question. Note the two large 'garage' doors on the end nearest the lane, which gave access to the pumping engines. As you pass the building, take a small, fenced footpath on the right and follow this as it wiggles out into the Guildford Road Trading Estate. Walk through the estate and to the Guildford road, turning right as you reach the road.
Just before the giant roundabout, look at the building across from you. This is the Bourne Mill, another old mill. Great to see it's now back open again. The water for this mill came from above (up the hill), but it's not exactly clear where the mill pond was.
On reaching the roundabout cross under the main road using the subway, and as you emerge, look at the sarsen stone on your left between the path and the main road. This is one of those 'walked past a million times and not noticed' things. It is probably the oldest thing you will see today (yes, and that does include me – pained laughter). No one is exactly sure where it came from – it's not local – or exactly what it was for, but it's an ancient curiosity. I know of at least three of these stones, do you know of any more?
Ok, pass the Shepherd and Flock pub by a lane down its right-hand side and continue to Moor Park Lodge. Site of the 'Battle of Moor Park' in 1897, this, too, has been written about in these columns before. Pass under the road, then the railway, and check out the Rock Mill waterfall on the left. Don't know this? It's the ravine on the left just before the track to High Mill. Rock and High mills have also been written about before.
Continue straight past the track to High Mill and take the next left, through the farm and its associated buildings. The last building on the right in this row was one of Farnham's Maltings. Built in the 1880s, it was made from concrete. Now converted to luxury flats, there are supposed to be a number of original features left inside. One of the more unusual was their old horse-hair moving floors, which moved the hops while they dried. I'm not sure whether horse hair fits with modern décor, but there is one in the Rural Life Museum should you wish to see what they looked like.
Continue up the track towards the main road, and turn right at the top. Soon, you will pass the Princess Royal pub where you take a small footpath down its right-hand side. Originally, this path crossed the main road, until the Highways Department made it a major dual carriageway. Despite requests to build a bridge for the footpath and to take horses across, the HD refused and diverted the footpath along the side of the dual carriageway, up to St George's Road at the first road bridge, and then back down the far side of the A road. This is the way we must go. Strangely, the path is not an official bridleway, officially it's a 'horse margin'. So enjoy your walk on this unusual route, and try to blot out the sound of the traffic and the bog underfoot. Yes, in wet weather this (especially the side before you cross) can get 'squampy'. When you reach the St George's Road bridge, cross the dual carriageway but look for the place where the slip road (off the A31) meets St George's Road. There is a footpath sandwiched between the two, which will parallel the slip road for a bit.
Now you're on the far side of the road and travelling West, back towards Farnham. After 200m on this footpath, it turns right, and after another 100m, turn left again. This area passes old gravel pits, but they were of interest before, as this is the site of the only Long Barrow in Surrey. The footpath turns right, goes down a steep bank (care) and crosses the railway line on a strange footbridge. Walk between the houses, turning left at the road at the end, and then immediately right into Monkton Park. At the end of the industrial estate, you pass Sainsbury's on your right. Go in, walk past the giant super-shop (using the toilets and Starbucks if you must) and leave the store car park at the corner where the building ends and meets the main road – B3208). CAREFULLY cross this, it's fast, but there is a central reserve, and take the gravelled track opposite and slightly to the left, signed to the 'Farnham Depot'.
Woo hoo! We're now going to the modern sewage works! Now, look out! 150m from the B3208 on the right-hand side of the track, and just where the sewage works starts, is a stone. This looks like a gravestone. In fact, it is a marker for the site of the Mesolithic dwellings. The wording is extremely worn, and I only managed to make it out with the help of a photo in a helpful leaflet. Feel free to get a copy of 'Hidden Heritage', 'Stone Age Farnham', from the Council Offices or the Museum of Farnham. This village is one of the earliest dwelling sites in Farnham.
At the end of the track, you arrive at the Six Bells Roundabout. Again carefully, cross the main road and follow the roundabout round. Before you get to the B3007 (Hale Road) there's a footpath on your left. This is quite steep and might be a little challenge. At the bottom of the slope, cross the footbridge and follow down to the side of the petrol station. If the slope is too steep for you, you can walk down the side of the road. After the petrol station turn left into Roman Way. At the bottom of this, a plaque announces the site of a Roman villa and bath. Just to the left of this plaque is a grassed area in front of a bungalow. Buried here is a rather fine Roman 'dog' mosaic. In fact, this area contained a large Roman settlement with an aqueduct (carrying the Bourne Stream), pottery, bath and villa.
Home straight now! Walk back up Roman Way to the Hale Road, cross and go down the right-hand side of the Six Bells Pub. Follow this for 150m, until a footpath on the right takes you into Farnham Park. Walk along this path for 50m and turn left between an avenue of trees. If you continue straight on, you get to the Nadder Stream, where there is a medieval pottery kiln, but its exact location is hidden and it's a difficult route-finding exercise from there to the café. So, you take the Avenue and turn slightly right after 300m following the fence boundary to the Park Café at the top of the hill.
I'd like to thank Chris Shepheard for devising this walk, and hope we can see you on it when we re-walk it for the Farnham Walking Festival.