Defence Line 3 (9 miles)
From: A circular walk from the Stockbridge Car Park at Tilford (coming from Farnham it is 300m South of the Village Green on the left-hand side). For those of you with satnavs, the approximate postcode is GU10 2DD.
Length: 9 miles.
Average Walk Time: Around 5 hours.
Terrain: By and large flat. There is a gentle climb up to the Lion's Mouth, but nothing steep.
Suitable for dogs: Yes.
Look out for: For those of you interested in history and the World War Two Defence line this is a dream walk.
Leave the car park at the back, but before you go, you are actually standing in the first memorable site. This car park and the estate opposite were tank parking spaces in the war. Across the road were concrete hard standings, so the tanks did not sink into the mud! But we need to start the walk, so set off down the track towards the Stockbridge Pond. After 350m you reach the pond itself and swing around it hard right heading back on the footpath down the side of the golf course. Pass the clubhouse and quite shortly turn left down the Greensand Way. The path is well signed, so there are no excuses for getting lost (as we did!) The trick is the first 'fork' in the path. Seventy-five metres from turning left, the path splits. It's innocuous, and the two paths are very close to each other, but you need the left hand one. If one uses a clockface to call directions, the correct path sets off at 11.30 and the wrong one at 12.00.
Assuming you found the split, there's a very pleasant ramble through the course, with various warning signs that people are firing golf balls across your route. At least it's better than the bullets (hopefully blanks) that the army fires at you later on. Stay on the same track and soon you leave the manicured fairways of the golf course, exchanging them for the rough heathland. 300m farther and you are in 'Atlantic Wall' territory. The exercises and tests to smash the Atlantic Wall were watched from the small hill to your left. The wall itself is on your right. It is easy to see, and a small detour through the ferns brings you to it. If you miss it, when you reach a 6-way crossroads, turn back down the track hard on your right (4 o'clock on our system), and it's on your left after 100m.
The Atlantic Wall was a mammoth structure built on the French coast by the Germans. Many tests were undertaken on replicas built in the English Countryside. If you are interested, Google 'Hobart's Funnies' and the 'Churchill Double Onion'. Most of them failed to penetrate the wall, but eventually it was found that a massive wastebin-sized shell would eventually cause a breach, but you had to fire around 30 of them. These were 'spigot' fired mortars. This meant the gunner in the tank had to open his hatch in front of the gun, manoeuvre the incredibly heavy shell into the gun's mouth and drop it onto the spigot. Then he had to duck quickly, so the exploding shell did not blow his own head off. Let us just say that when the invasion took place, the allies went around the end of the wall, rather than over it! However, this is a walking route and not a report on WW2. Note there are two walls at this site, one behind the other, and take a good look in the surrounding area (particularly right of the first wall) where there are many dragon's teeth and other tank obstacles.
Having had your fill of the wall, set off up the hill again until you get to the 6-way crossroads at the Lion's Mouth. Fix the path UP the hill firmly at your 9 o'clock and the track you want is at 11.00. It's not one of the widest or most distinct tracks to start, but it is there. It is just to the left of the very distinct track setting off down the hill.
After 200m, the track turns left and heads under some power lines. 250m more and there's another distinct left. It is easy to find as it is when the forest finishes and immediately as you enter obvious open heath on your left.
Having taken this left, you are now on a long section over the flank of Yagden Hill. When we walked the route, there were soldiers here, with one lying on the ground defending a junction. I doubt he will still be there when you visit, but if he is, say 'Hello'. He didn't answer me when I called to him. This is a case of 'all roads lead to Rome'. The odd forks all join back up farther along the tracks. Eventually, the track makes a definite right turn until it finally becomes a metalled road at Westbrook Farm. Keep walking past the Church at Elstead. Shortly after this an enticing café, the Little Barn is set off to the left. It makes a lovely break, and their cakes are good. (No, I'm not on commission).
Having supped (well it was lunchtime), set off back on the road to the junction with the Milford Road. Take the right-hand fork and immediately cross to the house opposite. The garden wall here has several loopholes built into it offering snipers views across the junction. The far right-hand end has three, looking like a face smiling at you as the snipers shoot. Having smiled back, slightly retrace your steps and set off with the wall on your left. Cross the double bridge over the River Wey, which was mined during the war so it could be detonated in the event of invasion.
Immediately after the bridge, take the footpath on the right. Ignore the diversion signs at first, until after 120m and a small footbridge across a creek, you turn left. 80m more and the path turns right. Just before Polshot Manor, a pillbox sits guarding the track on your left. The box is one of the artillery types but is heavily overgrown, and the massive gun opening is closed with paling fence and farmer's junk.
Pass the manor, and follow the path to a small road, where you turn right. After 300m on the road, turn left on a well-marked path past Fullbrook Farm. Half a kilometre down this track, there's an obvious box on the left with an unusual loophole over the entrance door. I can't get my head around this, as the soldier firing through this loophole would get shot standing in the doorway. Dunno!
Keep going; this is a long track. The road turns into a footpath (ignore the road turning left) and eventually you meet a minor road at a definite T-junction where you turn left. 100m more and you are at the main B3301 again, now called the Farnham Road. This you cross carefully and go down the track opposite to the Donkey Pub. Ignore temptation to sup and continue past the pub and along the byway. After a kilometre you reach the metalled road of Whitmead Lane. Take the right-hand fork uphill and follow this for 100m. This is the nearest thing to a hill on this walk. A slightly hidden footpath sets off left, but confusingly it is signed from the right side of the road. 400m along this path, it reaches Tilford where you turn left to the village.
At the time of writing, the East Bridge at Tilford is closed. However, there is pedestrian access across the Wey. Before you cross, however, check out the two pillboxes along the track to Sheephatch (one artillery and one sniper), and the major command post that most people miss on the left of the road behind the red phone box. Tilford was a main nodal point in the defence line. There are many features here; the two pillboxes and the command post are joined by a plethora of dragon's teeth, a spigot mortar and many other defences.
Almost there! Cross the bridge and keep to the left of the green. Thee hundred metres and you're back at Stockbridge.
I hope you enjoyed this tour around history and I would like to thank Chris Shepheard for guiding me around it and providing a great deal of information for me on the subject. He's a fascinating man, and I'm honoured to know him. Thanks, Chris.