Meadows and alleys (2.5 miles)
A special exercise walk for these trying times. This keeps close eough to the Government guidelines.
With the continuation of the lockdown from Coronavirus, I have decided to do a little by publishing a weekly guide to a walk that can be done for exercise sticking to the government's guidelines. I appreciate these walks are based on Farnham, and I apologise to folks in other towns, but I live in Farnham and can't break the guidelines myself just to bring you a walk (it doesn't count as essential travel). Just to remind you, these guidelines include: one form of exercise a day such as a run, walk, or cycle. This should be done alone or only with people you live with. They have suggested in various minister's statements that you should not drive to the start of your exercise, and that is should last around an hour.
So here goes! Here's our weekly walk. Enjoy.
From: A circular walk from Farnham, around the Bishop's Meadow and then through some hidden alleys. I started at the entrance to the Gostrey Meadow by the War Memorial, but you can start anywhere in the area.
Length: 2.5 miles.
Average Walk Time: Around 1 hour.
Terrain: Flat! The entire route is on paved footpaths, apart from the furthest section around the Bishop's Meadow which can be missed if you want.
Suitable for dogs: Yes.
Look out for: Cows in the Meadow. There are a couple of narrow alleys, so please bear in mind social distancing if you meet anyone there.
If you start as I suggested at the War Memorial, take a moment to look at it. Many of us pass it every day, but so few stop and take a second glance. The obelisk was designed by architect W.C Watson and constructed by local stonemasons Patrick's by the South Street entrance. £900 was raised by public subscription to pay for it. The memorial is 7 metres high, constructed from Portland stone in a hexagonal configuration. The Memorial was unveiled on 10th April 1921. The dedication of the panels and the unveiling of the names of those who died in the Second World War was undertaken by the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey and the Bishop of Guildford on 8th July 1951. The upper level of the Memorial has six panels with details of 278 people who died in World War 1. The lower level has the names of 102 people who died in World War 2.
Enough history and on with the tour. Cross the bridge over the Wey and walk diagonally over the meadow, passing the bandstand. At the exit, cross Long Bridge (slightly left) and walk down Downing Street. At the corner where Downing Street turns right, continue straight ahead down Lower Church Lane to St Andrew's Church. Immediately before the churchyard, I suggest a small detour left to the Pump House. Check out their display in their window and excuse the cobwebs! Now return to the church, stay to its left and almost immediately take the left-hand path. Exit the churchyard in the far corner down a small alley. (Social distancing please). The alley twists and turns, but will disgorge you into the Bishop's Meadow. Much has been written about the meadow elsewhere, so I won't repeat it. But enjoy. Stay close to the right-hand hedge until you cross a small ditch (the Tudor Ditch). If you want to shorten the walk and stay on paved paths, turn left here and cross the meadow itself. If you have more time and shoes that are OK on grass, continue straight. Now walk along enjoying the (relatively) fresh air and the views. At the first kissing gate go through. At the second, turn left BEFORE the gate and walk along the edge of the field. The path soon bends right through a third gate and then returns along the side of the meadow. When you get to a small footbridge on your right, turn right. This is where you would come out if you took the earlier option to shorten the route at the Tudor Ditch.
OK, you've crossed the bridge, now look straight ahead, and at the end of the footpath, you'll see a footbridge over the A31 looming above you up an embankment. Climb the side of the bank and the 231 steps up to the footbridge (OK, I'm exaggerating. There aren't 231 steps, but there are a few – maybe 31!) When I recced the walk, it was amazing. I didn't see a single vehicle going either way on the A31 – a view undreamt of before the lockdown. At the end of the bridge, turn right and follow the wiggles and woggles of the path. When it comes out there's a railway footbridge straight ahead of you (what more steps, I hear you say?) Look right and ponder the layout of the lines. Can you work out what goes where?
Ponder over, come down the far side of the rail bridge and exit onto Weydon Lane. A left and a right just before the road bridge itself takes you into the yard of Buildbase (currently closed). Don't panic – there's a footpath to the right of the gates which is quite narrow, so be careful social distancing, please. Follow around two corners (a right and a left), and there's a path on the right. Take this. After 150m, this path disgorges you onto Upper Way where you turn left. Shortly you get to Weydon Hill Road, where you go straight across, using another alley slightly to your right. 100m along this alley, it joins Searle Road, and there's a gravel track on your left by a telegraph pole. Take this gravel track. An almost hidden path takes you to Marden's Recreation Ground – alas currently closed, but it looks great fun. Make a mental note to bring the family back here when the restrictions are over.
Cross straight over the recreation ground and cross a small road taking you to a T-junction with Arthur Road. Turn right here and walk to Firgrove Hill, which you can cross at the pedestrian light and continue down Alfred Road (named after the estate's builder – Alfred Robins). Passing Farnham College, you come to Tilford Road where you turn left. It's easy now. Cross the railway line and walk down Station Hill. Take a moment to notice two buildings which are linked. The first is a small bungalow on the corner of The Fairfield opposite the Texaco Garage which used to be the "Station Hill Tea Rooms". The second, further down the hill is "Excellent Cut" the barbers and the burned-out minimart next to it. This second pair used to be a Temperance Hotel in the 1880s. In the early 20th century, the hotel became part of the Robins empire. If you look high on the adjoining brickwork, you can still see the Robins Hotel sign, overpainting the Temperance Hotel sign.
The link between these two is of interest. Chris Shepheard's (of Walking Festival, Rural Life Centre and Peeps into the Past fame) grandparents owned both of these, one after the other. They first owned the Tea Rooms while Robins owned the hotel. In a deal around the 1930s, they swapped and ran "Shepheard's Store" from the hotel, and Robins made the corner Tea Room into their offices. The Shepheards put a Post Office in the right half of the hotel and a confectionery and stationery store in the left. This was a very successful venture. You can still see the pillar box on the right side of the barbers. If you ever wondered why it is there, now you know.
And that's the tour. Return across the A31 to the War Memorial, and you're home. I hope you enjoyed your exercise and stay safe in these trying times. Above all, stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.