Hidden link-paths and mysteries (2.6 miles)
From: A circular walk from South Street on picturesque routes to the Shepherd and Flock and back.
Length: 2.6 miles.
Average Walk Time: An hour.
Terrain: Reasonably level. There's a small pull up by the side of the Bourne Buildings, but it's OK.
Suitable for dogs: Yes.
Look out for: One less-walked footpath.
This walk is a lovely new one for me, linking two well-used footpaths by an unusual one. For more than a year, the footpath across the River Wey at the end of Snayles Lynch was closed, but it's now open again and welcoming visitors. The crossing of the A31 is normally a bit of a challenge. However, with the lower volume of traffic during the lockdown, it's no problems at all.
The walk can start anywhere in Farnham, but I've chosen to start from anywhere in South Street. Head south (away from Sainsbury's) to Hinkley's corner. I always wondered why it was called that, until a post on Facebook gave me the answer. Until the building of the bypass, there used to be an ironmonger at the junction called Hinkley's. I've put an old photo here on the page to show you. If any readers have more information on the shop (what dates was it there, what happened to it, did the business continue somewhere else), I'd love to know.
Anyway, back to the walk. Cross the dual carriageway – busier now than when the picture was taken – and immediately turn left along the side of the A31. After 50m turn right on an unpaved track into the woods. Soon the track kinks right and left before passing the back of the BP service station on the side of the main road. The next thing to look out for (on the left of the track) is where the river swings in and joins the path. At this point, there's a stone edging to the bank. These stones are large – very large – forming what appears to be a dock. So, here's another puzzle for readers. What is their purpose? They were patently put there deliberately, but why? Are they an old dock (for canoes? The river was never deep enough here for anything else). Do they bound a swimming hole? The official swimming hole in Victorian times was much closer to the town. Are they merely bank edging to prevent erosion? You tell me, please.
Back on the track, you pass Snayles Lynch Farm. If you've been following earlier walks, you've been down this track recently. The change comes as the track turns right under the railway bridge. At 'The Kilns', carry straight on rather than turning right under the bridge. You pass the old buildings, now converted into luxury flats. This was formerly an Oast House, a building used to dry fresh hops before they were sent to the brewers.
The oast was a kiln (the nearer rectangular end of the building), with a plenum chamber fired by charcoal at ground floor and the drying floor directly above. The pitched roof channelled the hot air through the hops to the top. A cowl on the top of the roof allowed the hot air ('reek') to be drawn up through the kiln in a vacuum effect. The cowl pivoted to control the air extraction and stop rain getting in. In this modern renovation, the cowls have been removed. The stowage was the barn section which had a cooling floor and a press at first floor and storage area at ground floor. The dried hops were taken from the drying floor to cool and be packed using a hop press. The press packed hops in a large sack called a 'pocket' suspended to the ground floor where the pockets were stored to await collection.
Out of courtesy, stay close to the left edge of the property. There is a public footpath, but this is not an excuse to stray and walk through examining the property. Pass through a nice pergola and out the gate at the end.
This is my new footpath. It quickly crosses the River Wey by a footbridge, which had been closed for a long time for rebuilding. Now the Council has renovated the bridge; it feels rude not to cross here. On the far side, the path wanders through the woods, passing a large open space before climbing up a small embankment to the A31 above. This can cause problems if the traffic's heavy, but in lockdown, it's a breeze. Cross straight ahead and walk up the side of the roundabout to the Guildford road. Cross again and turn left down in front of the Bourne Mill. Immediately past the new antique centre (is that an oxymoron?), turn right up a (steep) footpath. This quickly reaches Roman Way and the A325, Hale Road. Cross Hale Road to the Six Bells pub, where you continue down a footpath to the right of the pub.
The path takes you past Bell's Piece, which in normal times has a nice, tucked-away shop selling garden plants, produce and crafty artwork. Bell's Piece is a Leonard Cheshire home for 13 people with learning disabilities. Carry straight on though as the shop is currently closed to the public until you reach the Farnham Park map-board. Turn right here. The path looks steep, but don't fret; you're only walking about 50m up the hill. Look for 'The Avenue' turning off left. This lovely track gently climbs up the hill in a beautiful wide path, lined on both sides with mature trees. Enjoy your meander to the top, when a paved path cuts across you. Turn left here, steeply downhill, past the adventure playground and back to the deer steps. I talked about these a couple of walks ago.
Exit the park down Bear Lane and cross by the Gorge back into South Street and home. I hope you enjoyed finding my new footpath through 'The Kilns' and this link makes a good walk, shorter than the alternative via High Mill. That's a walk for another day.