The Moor Park SANG (3.4 miles)
From: A circular walk from Farnham station out to the S.A.N.G. Length: 3 1/2 miles. Average Walk Time: A little over an hour. Terrain: By and large, flat. One tiny bit pulls uphill but it's not steep and not long. Suitable for dogs: Yes. Look out for: Views of Rock Mill House and the gardens at Moor Park.
Hands up if you know what a SANG is? Keep your hands up if you know what SANG stands for … is anyone left? For the 99 of you out of a hundred with hands down, a SANG is a Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace. Put in a nutshell, they are areas Councils make developers 'improve' when they build on or too close to green, publicly visited areas such as heathland which are 'Specially Protected Areas'. They insist the developer 'tames' a wild area and make it suitable for the public to roam on. In this case, the SANG I'm talking about is near Moor Park. Farnham Park is a SANG, but that's all been allocated to developments. There's another at Tongham and one more at Runfold South. But we're going to visit Moor Park SANG. Starting at Farnham station, leave down Station Road and immediately turn right into The Fairfield by the Texaco garage. Follow the road round left and right and continue along Broomfield. At the time of writing, the spring blossoms are all out and the front gardens are a riot of blooms and colours. Follow Broomfield for 400m until it goes slightly downhill and then back up the other side. At the top, look for a footpath on the left, clearly signed with a metal sign on a lamppost immediately after house number 39a. As you walk down the steps, note the tank stop block in the middle of the path. These were part of the WW2 defences, aimed at stopping tanks coming up the side of the embankment on their way around Surrey. Although where the tanks would be coming from and going to is questionable! If you look in the hedge on the left, you can see there are a lot more of these reinforced, brick-covered blocks spread in a line. At the bottom of the footpath, turn right. The main track (Snayles Lynch) leads along by the side of the ridge. At one point, it opens up to give a glorious view of the River Wey and the 16th century Snayles Lynch Farm. Just before this, look up on the ridge, where a WW2 pillbox has been converted into a barbecue terrace by the owner. This is our second element of the Defence Line so far and is probably the most constructive use of an old pill box I've seen. Pass the farm and soon the track turns right, under the railway bridge. Shortly after, note a footpath signed off right uphill. You will need to take this path on the way back, so put it in your memory, but at this point continue straight. For the next kilometre the return path will be the same as the outward – sorry about that. About at the point where the path leads off right, look left across the meadow. You can clearly see Rock House on the far side. This is one of Farnham's old mill sites and is regularly reported on as one passes the former waterfall on the track past Moor Park Lodge. You can't see the house from that track, and this is a rare opportunity to see the building itself. Continue along until the track turns left. 50 m round the corner, pass through a gate where it's signed "North Downs Way". You pass the 'bee orchid bench', a well-known landmark. The footpath continues for 250m, past the llamas, until it reaches Moor Park Way, where you turn left. Another 100m and you turn left down Moor Park Lane. 50m more and you reach the bridge over the River Wey. Immediately before that on the right side is a sign saying 'SANG' leading through a kissing gate. You've arrived.
However, before you enter the SANG, walk over the bridge and 10m further. On the left is a giant cylinder with a domed concrete top and a metal look cast in it. During WW2, this would have had a 'brother' on the right-hand side of the road. The two loops would have been connected with a steel hawser, which would again have deterred tanks. To add to the carnage, the bridge you have just crossed would have been mined – a huge shame as it is a pretty bridge, which you can admire from the SANG where you are heading now. So reverse for the few yards and head back into the grassy field. Enjoy your wander around here. There are a few notable sites. First is the pillbox in the garden of the first building on your left – the "Walled Garden" – a smart new development. As you pass the block, you can see the gun slit in the brick wall above the less-well-camouflaged red lifebuoy. Other things to note are great views of the garden and rear side of Moor Park. We know all about this house, don't we? It was the former home of Jonathan Swift and his mistress Stella, a hydrotherapy spa where Charles Dickens once stayed, a rest and recuperation place for Canadian troops in WW2 and more recently a finishing school for girls (and a branch of the Constance Spry empire) before becoming residential flats today. There's plenty of room to wander and roam as you explore. When you're ready to return, retrace your steps, up Moor Park Lane and Way, down the footpath to the Bee Orchid bench and then left along the North Downs Way. Take the first right and look for the footpath on the left now just before the railway bridge. I did ask you to make a note of it on the way out. Note that quickly the path gets very boggy as it goes up the hill, but there's a dry alternative that parallels it a couple of yards on the right. At the top of the hill, the path joins Broomleaf Road where you turn right. Now it's easy. Follow Broomleaf to the end (Waverley Lane) where you turn right and you're back at the station. I hope you've enjoyed your walk to the SANG and you'll forgive me for straying a few minutes over the hour. It's so nice out there that I thought you wouldn't object. My only problem is it was a secret, private walk of mine which I've now shared. I guess I'll have to find another secret, private walk! Until next time, stay fit and stay well and remember - stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.