From: A circular walk from the Borelli Walk junction with South Street, Farnham.
Length: 3 miles.
Average Walk Time: Just over an hour, depending on the wildlife.
Terrain: Level route following the river. Paved paths and well-made footpaths.
Suitable for dogs: Yes.
Look out for: Unusual birds along the river bank, including egrets and a very occasional kingfisher.
This walk provides a wonderful level stroll along the river Wey. It passes four former mills, alas all now defunct. The start is along a little-known town footpath, but then it dives into the countryside for the last two thirds. It's a wonderful stroll for when a friend drops by and says, "It's such a nice day I fancy a walk." But you know your friend, and they're not really a walker. 3 miles is enough for them (and they will probably take hours doing that!)
Start at the South Street end of the Borelli walk – not a patch on what it was when it was opened in 1964. The long line of poplar trees has gone when they widened the river after the floods of '68, and the path has been vasectomised by the access road into Brightwells Yard. However, you can still get down it. When you cross the wooden bridge over the Wey, turn sharp right, to follow the river bank.
After the houses, at the start of the car park, there's a wooden footbridge, followed almost immediately by a small road bridge crossing the river right. Peer across the bridge (but do not actually cross the river) at Hatch Mill, the first of our mills today. The original house (much altered) was built in the late 18th century, although there has been a mill on this site since the Cistercian monks occupied a fulling mill here in 1231. The Bishop's records talk of a corn mill in 1691. Today, it's a residential care home, having been a civil defence centre in the 1960s, a depot for a motor oil firm and an arts centre and rehearsal studios for the local and now defunct Redgrave Theatre.
Continue along the left-hand side of the river, until the path bends away. Stay on the path as you pass the Victorian Sewage Pumping building on your right, and take a not-so-obvious path on the right (Ⓐ in the photos below).
This footpath now goes through an industrial estate. Pass the tiles companies and continue through the bollards into the Homebase car park. Turn left here and carefully join the Guildford Road. This section of footpath leaves something to be desired, and take care not to get mown down as you walk around the end of the chain-link fence, stepping into the highway for a second. Please remember you walk at your own risk, and do not sue me if the speeding cars play chicken with you.
Having negotiated the one awkward point, look to the large building on the left (no need to cross the road – just look!) This is Bourne Mill. Although not on the River Wey, the mill sits across a tributary coming out of Farnham Park and is a fine example of a 17th century mill building, with a mill pond up the hill from it. This mill stopped grinding corn in 1906 and, having been a drinking club in the 1960s, became an antiques and crafts centre until destroyed by a fire. The slow process of restoration is now in hand.
Just past the mill, the route goes down a pedestrian subway and crosses under the A31. The Shepherd and Flock pub is in the middle of what is said to be the largest inhabited roundabout in England. The 10-acre site used to be by the side of a major junction, until the main road came through. Now virtually marooned, it forms an oasis in the middle of the road. Take the footpath to the right-hand side of the pub and follow it until the other side of the dual carriageway passes overhead on a high bridge. Immediately before the bridge is Moor Park Lodge, the site of the little known "Battle of Moor Park" in 1897, Farnham's claim to 'People Power'. A re-enactment of this will take place as part of the Heritage Open Days in September, and much more will be reported here. We have written this up before (click here).
After the road bridge, comes the railway passing again overhead. Shortly after this, look to the left, when a (now dry) waterfall used to cascade over the edge. This came from Rock Mill, which one cannot see from the path. Originally erected in 1770, it was demolished some time after its closure in 1877. The mill was arguably the most powerful in Farnham, driving 5 pairs of stones.
100 metres after the waterfall, take a footpath on the right. This passes the front of High Mill, the last one for today. The owners are not fans of walkers, so make sure you close the large wooden gates behind you and respect their privacy. The mill remained in use until 1950 and still has its 'workings' inside. The undershot waterwheel discharges into a pretty pond downstream of the building. Records for mills on this site go back to one in 1288 that records the trouble of a corn miller who was evicted and fined for what was then the considerable sum of 20 shillings. For centuries the mill was owned by the Bishop of Winchester. In 1692 it was a fulling mill. In 1900 it was in decline and the miller had resorted to milling food for horses.
Pass out the second wooden pair of gates and follow the track, which crosses a footbridge over the Wey. Ignore the tempting path through the gate on the left (signed North Downs Way). This take you 152 miles to Dover (stopping at Guildford if you prefer). But that walk's for another day. Instead, follow the track round right, following the North Downs Way sign back towards Farnham. From here, look for the old Kilns on the right immediately after you pass under the rail bridge again. One of the highlights now approaches on the left. The very pretty farm is Snayleslynch. No one is sure how it came by its name, but the core building is 16th century. At one time, it was a dairy, owned by the Robbins family. Now it is a private dwelling for a family with a penchant for exotic cars.
And so pass on. The petrol station on the A31 will come and go, (you can pop in the back steps for a quick ice cream), and eventually the track disgorges you on the side of the dual carriageway. After 100m, you arrive at Hinkley's Corner. Take the obligatory photo by the North Downs Way sign (you can pretend you have just finished the entire route), cross the A31 with the help of the pedestrian lights, and head North back to the start and into Farnham.
I love this walk, and I hope you, and your visitors might do the same.