Farnham's Authors (7.5 miles)
From: An almost circular walk starting at Farnham Station and finishing at the Jolly Farmer at the junction of Abbey Road and Firgrove Hill.
Length: 7.5 miles.
Average Walk Time: Around 4 hours.
Terrain: Surprisingly hilly, especially around The Bourne and walking up to Sheephatch.
Suitable for dogs: Yes.
Look out for: the beautiful countryside as well as the significant buildings.
Start the walk at Farnham Station and head South, away from the town, up along the Tilford Road. Keep right at the immediate fork and head up hill as far as the traffic lights, where you turn right along Great Austins. Follow Great Austins for 100m and turn left onto Little Austins. 200m farther, at the T-junction, turn right into Greenhill Road. Follow this for 250m to the T-junction and turn left onto Swingate Road. In 20m turn left onto Vicarage Hill. 50m on the opposite side of the road, you will see Old Church Lane, diagonally opposite you on the right. Ⓐ on the pictures below. Follow this quaint lane downhill.
Vine Cottage, 5 Old Church Lane, near the bottom of the road (marked number 1 on the walk map), was the latter home of George Sturt (1863 – 1927). He moved there in 1891. He was never happy in his family business – the wheelwright shop (more about this later), and yearned to write instead. In The Bourne, he wrote about the village and the lamentable changes that were happening to it. His book, 'A change in the Village' (1912), written under the pseudonym Charles Bourne details some of these changes.
When he died, a short obituary in the Surrey Mirror reads: "The death has occurred at Farnham, of Mr. George Sturt (better known by his pseudonym of "George Bourne") at the age of 63. He was the author of several well-known books on country life, including "Memoirs of a Surrey Labourer", "The Bettesworth Book", "A Farmer's Life", "Change in the Village", "The Ascending Effort" and "The Wheelwright's Shop", all of them published since 1900. They combined a gift for narrative and restrained emotion with a determined effort to view modern rural problems in a new and individual aspect, as free as possible from the ordinary lines of political or economic partisanship."
Sturt was buried in the Green Lane cemetery, but his grave is too far away to include on this walk. More will be said about Sturt when we return to Farnham towards the end of the walk.
Follow the footpath at the bottom of the lane, and look for a downhill path by a bollard. Ⓑ Ignore the two paths branching off left and right. Shortly, the path crosses The Bourne river and now follow this right, and then up the hill on an unmade road. Ignore school Lane to the right and continue to Deepdene, which you cross. Carry on 50m down Lodge Hill Close and take a clearly marked footpath on the right. This leads to The Bourne Green by St Martin's Church. As you approach the Green, 5m before it, a footpath leads off to the left, cutting back hard in the direction of the path you've just come down. Pass through a parking area by some houses by going to the far-right corner and continue Ⓒ. The path becomes wooded and kinks right before reaching Dene Lane. Turn left here, and follow Dene Lane all the way to the Tilford Road where you turn right. CAUTION. The Tilford Road is extremely busy. The route cannot avoid walking along this for a short distance. Please stay on the right-hand side and walk in single file. Be prepared to climb onto the verge and get out of the way of oncoming traffic.
After 100m, pull off the road at Lobswood Manor. (2 on the walk map). This was the home of Sir James Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM (1860 – 1937). Lobswood Manor, known then as Black Lake Cottage, was bought by Mary Ansell, Barrie's wife, in 1901. Initially they used it as a Summer home while their main residence was in Kensington. It was here Barrie brought the Llewelyn Davies boys for holidays, and here he wrote Peter Pan.
Instead of delving into the sad stories of these children, their relationship with Barrie and Peter Pan, I would prefer to mention that Barrie was an avid cricketer. He founded a team called the Allahakbarries. He confused the Arabic greeting 'allahu akbar' as a term meaning 'God help us', which he felt appropriate for his very-amateur cricket team. Members of this squad read like a who's who of Victorian authors: Rudyard Kipling, H. G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, P. G. Wodehouse, G. K. Chesterton, Jerome K. Jerome and A. A. Milne to name but a few. Also on the team sheet, were Captain Robert Scott of the Antarctic, one of the Llewelyn Davies boys and a son of Alfred Lord Tennyson. All these men stayed at Black Lake Cottage during various summers, where they relaxed, enjoyed Barrie's hospitality and prepared for the annual matches. On the wall of Lobswood Manor is a plaque commemorating Barrie, but it is on private ground, so please respect the owners' privacy.
Leave Lobswood along the Tilford Road, noting the cottages called Peter Pan Lodge, Barrie House and Wendy's Wood. On the other side of the road is Black Lake itself, but it is on private land, and visitors are not welcome. This small lake was where Barrie played with the Llewelyn Davies boys, forming his ideas for Peter Pan, the pirate lagoon and the Lost Boys. After about 100 m, there is a car park on the right, and you can escape the nightmare of the Tilford Road. Turn right here, and follow the track for 50m, before another track leads off left. Ⓓ After 100m, you arrive at a confusing jumble of tracks. Do not worry too much, because as long as you turn left here, 'All roads lead to Rome'. I've mapped out one route, following Ⓔ, Ⓕ and Ⓖ In the photos. When you come back to the main road, walk along the path to the side of it, avoiding the road itself. 200m farther, you will see Sheephatch leading off left, and now is the time to cross and leave the shadow of the main Road and head up this quiet lane. Wave farewell to Tilford itself (arrowed as 3 on the walk map.) This was used as a setting by Arthur Conan Doyle for two of his books, 'The White Company' and 'Sir Nigel'. However, it is too far away, and the connection is too tenuous to include on this walk.
At the very top of the hill (and yes, this is quite a stiff hill – sorry), look for a path on the left. Follow this, noting it turns a sharp right before heading downhill again. At the T-junction at the bottom of the hill, turn left. Through the trees on the left in the distance, you can see the ruins of Waverley Abbey. Keep going, and at the T-junction of the main road, turn left. Once again, this is a busy road, but not quite as bad as the Tilford Road. However, speeding cars can still hurt! After 100m, turn right up Camp Hill. As you turn, look at Stella Cottage (4 on the walk map), ahead of you on the corner. Mention of that will be made soon. Now look for Stella Lodge (number 2, Camp Hill) and turn left in front of it. This footpath takes you through the Moor Park estate. Check out Mother Ludlam's Cave and the WW2 pillboxes on the way before arriving at the grand Moor Park House. (Number 5 on the walk map).
This was the home of Jonathan Swift of Gulliver's Travels fame (1667 – 1745) in the late 168-s and 1690s. He lived here for several periods during his early life. At the age of 20, he arrived into the care of Sir William Temple (himself an author of political papers), as Temple's secretary. He quickly made friends with Esther Johnson, at the time the 8-year-old daughter of a companion to Temple. Many rumours have circulated about a possible relationship, including a possible marriage, but Swift did buy Stella Cottage where he installed her. When he returned to Ireland, she went with him, and although sharing his house, it was always with female companions. While at Moor Park, Swift wrote 'The Tale of a Tub' and other books, but his most famous, 'Gulliver's Travels' was penned elsewhere.
Continue down the path towards the grand gates, and exit via a kissing gate to the side. Cross straight over the junction here to Moor Park Lane, and walk all the way to the Shepherd and Flock Roundabout (which is said to be the largest inhabited roundabout in the UK! At the roundabout, cross under the subway, back onto the Guildford Road. Follow this all the way back into town, pausing just before the former Woolmead Estate (currently a building site). Here you will see St Cross Road. On the right-hand corner, (again, currently a building site and number 6 on the walk map) is the former Wheelwright's shop from George Sturt. Alas, nothing now remains of this.
Continue into The Borough, and pause at the Oxfam bookshop (18 The Borough, number 7 on the walk map insert) on the right. Above the shop, which at the time was a newsagents and stationers, was born George Sturt. He lived there, working at the Wheelwright's shop, until his father died in 1884 when George was 21. It was then that George was forced to take on the family business, until he went into business with William Goatcher, and could leave William to run the shop, while he wrote.
Having sampled Mr Sturt, pass along the Borough and into West Street. Above Elphick's (10 West Street) is a plaque commemorating the birth of Augustus Toplady (1740 – 1778). (8 on the walk map insert). Augustus was merely born on this site, the current building is later. By the age of ten, he had moved with his mother to Ireland, where he became a Calvinist preacher, and is most famous for having penned the lyrics to the hymn 'Rock of Ages'.
Continue a short way until the former Post Office is on your right, and take the small alley opposite down to St Andrew's Church. (9 on the walk map insert). Here you will find memorials and the grave of several interesting people. Just outside the church door, is the tomb of William Cobbett (1763 – 1835). Cobbett is probably one of Farnham's most famous sons, and is best known for the foundation of the political journal known as Hansard's, which details the daily details of the two houses of parliament. In addition, he wrote 'Rural Rides', and many other books. What is less well known, is that he hated Farnham, and worked hard not to return! He died in Normandy (Surrey), and is buried in the churchyard. Inside the church, are plaques to Cobbett, Sturt and a beautiful, if unphotographable one to Toplady.
Come out the lower exit of the churchyard (the one furthest away from where you entered), and pass along Lower Church Lane. At the junction with Downing Street, look on the right for the Lost Boy Pub. (10 on the walk map insert). No prizes for where it got its name.
Take the first road on the right, (Long Bridge) and look at the statue of William Cobbett in the grounds of Hawthorn Lodge. (11 on the walk map insert).
Finally, continue along Long Bridge to the pub at the end. The 'William Cobbett' was formerly known as the 'Jolly Farmer', and this pub was Cobbett's birthplace. (12 on the walk map insert).
Here is the end of the walk. Time to pop into the pub and relax, or otherwise enjoy the fleshpots of Farnham. I hope you enjoyed our literary tour.