A 10 mile, undulating walk through farmlands and down tracks and lanes.
Sometimes the itch to go out and walk becomes so great you can't ignore it. Today was drizzly, blustery and downright unpleasant. It was a day to stay in bed, wake up late and slob around in pyjamas. However, I had that itch to walk. I needed to clear my head and get out into the open. Plus, I have five walks to reconnoitre in the next five weeks and I thought I better start somewhere. So, on went the coat, hat, gloves and jumper and I braved the elements. I have to say, I was very glad I did.
Farnham to Bentley is one of those walks that's not easy to do on two different routes. Here's one offering, heading out on the St Swithun's Way and heading back by the river. I started from the Upper Hart car park and walked away from town, through the University Sculpture Park towards the student accommodation. The public footpath leads up the steps, past the round building and continues straight out into open farmland. The path becomes enclosed by a fence and a hedge at the same time turning slightly right. After 150m or so, it meets a back road by some pretty cottages and turns left. Generally, the St Swithun's Way is well signed, but there are some gaps.
Follow this road for 700m or so until there is a four-way junction. Ignore straight on and diagonally left, and go down the track to the hard left. Currently you can't miss the junction with building site signs – see turning Ⓐ on the photos below. Follow the track for 500m, past Park Farm and the notorious Old Park Puddle, and when the main track turns right, continue straight down the footpath. This continues for 1.2 km, past Middle Old Park Farm and swings left round the corner at Lower Old Park Farm. Stay on the minor road as it twists and turns until the junction with Dora's Green Lane, which is busier than it ought to be. Turn left at this junction, taking care to walk in single file. After 400m, the road meets the larger Crondall Road, which is crossed by turning left and then immediately right. Follow the second half of Dora's Green Lane for another 400m and cross another small road. Now the path becomes a farm track and swings down past Dippenhall Farm.
Take care at junction Ⓑ on photo 6 below, and follow the path to the left, rather than the inviting track into the field. The path now bottoms out and climbs back up the hill again. This can be rather muddy in wet weather. Cross straight over Old Farnham Lane and pass the solar farm (on your left). Finally, the track reaches a main road, where it turns left, passing the entrance to the solar farm after another 100m.
Now turn right, across an open field. The track is well worn and aims at a noticeable break in the hedge and trees slightly to the left of you. Go through the hedge and follow a thicket line for 100m, before diving down the side of the hill towards the corner of the field straight ahead of you. A small ditch is crossed on a plank bridge, and the track turns right for 10m, before turning left and continuing in the same South-Easterly direction. 300m further, the track turns left and you continue to follow around the corner. Another 200m and you reach a minor road, where you turn left back on yourself. 100m more and there is a distinct footpath sign pointing right, past some cottages at East Green. Follow the road around a right-hand corner, and now you will have travelled three sides of the one field. Finally, you reach the intersection with a larger road.
Cross the larger road, and immediately look for a stile into a field on your right. This gradually pulls away from the farm track, and soon goes through a gate into the farmyard itself. The way on is frequently blocked by an electric fence, but I have never known it electrified. Continue past the farm, through a gate and across a stile before the farmer's horse fields are left for an arable field with a distinct track across it. 200m more and the track heads through another hedge. Now there is an important junction in tracks. The St Swithun's way turns off right, through a small plantation of young trees, whereas our track continues straight and uphill. It soon reaches a minor road, which is reached by climbing a stile, or going through the gap in the fence and ducking under a tree. Follow the minor road right for 50m and take a track on the left towards a hump-back bridge at Ⓒ on photo 10 below. This is where we cross the main road on a bridge. Immediately after the bridge, cross a stile into the field on the left. The track now cuts diagonally left, towards the corner of the field, where a stile takes you into a fenced lane. At the end of the lane, another stile lets you out and an indistinct track cuts diagonally left towards a corner in the field with a stile and White Bridge (photo 11 below).
100m more and you join the minor road, heading uphill, crossing the railway (glance left for the crossing you will soon make back) and continue to climb up the hill on the minor road. This kinks left and soon turns a sharper right. At the right turn, you turn left down a track, back towards the tracks. Make sure you head in a straight line on leaving the minor road, and ignore a larger turning right after about 50m. We want to head straight, until a stile, the railway tracks (check carefully for trains) and another stile takes you back to the North side of the railway. After a small wooded section, you break out into open field, and aim at Turk's Mill, as indicated by Ⓓ on photo 14 below. Turn right at the farm, and 50m further on, immediately before crossing the river, turn right over a stile and follow the river bank. Ⓔ
Stay with the river for about 1.2 km. Generally, try to stay on the uphill side of the fields, as that is where the stiles are – and there are many. I did not attempt to count them. However, eventually you meet a muddy lane (as indicated in photo 17) where you cross under the railway and immediately turn left, through a kissing gate Ⓕ. The route now follows the side of the railway line for about 600m, passing a quarry for some of its length on the right until it dives back down under the line again, heading out towards Wiley Mill. The Mill owner has allowed a footpath through his property (I don't think he had a choice), at point Ⓖ on photo 20, but this takes you to the main dual carriageway. Alas, there is no bridge here, so please take extreme care and cross the road, one lane at a time, into the entrance of the Farnham House Hotel.
After 500m, you pass the hotel (on the left) and there is a rather hidden footpath onwards, indicated by Ⓗ on photo 22. Then it's a simple matter of following the paths up the hill. A pair of kissing gates, one after the other, cross into another big field, which is crossed diagonally left aiming to the left of the brick building. ( Ⓘ In photo 23). Cross straight over Runwick Lane into Dippenhall Road, and bear right at the T-junction. 100m more and turn right up the hill through the farm, passing the fields of horses. After 1km, the fenced path ends, and a track leads down to the left, through a kissing gate at the bottom. Follow this path, cross a small track and down across a brook with a small bridge. One last pull up 24 steps takes you to Wayneflete, which you follow downhill back to the main Crondall Road (turn right). Cross this at the Pelican Crossing and enter Beaver's Close on your left. A small footpath at the end takes you back out onto Beaver's Road, past the University of the Creative Arts and into the car park.
And that, as they say, is that!
Enjoy it, and I hope the weather is better for you than it was for me.