Bentley to Farnham walk
Alice Holt Ancient Forest, Surrey Hills, Scotch Pine Forest, and remote heather filled heathland, Frensham Great and Little Ponds (swimming)
26.0 km (16.2 mi). Cumulative ascent/descent: 416/429m.
For options to shorten the walk or for circular walks of various length, see below Walk Options.
OS Explorer: 144 (Basingstoke, Alton & Whitchurch) and 145 (Guildford & Farnham)
This is a varied walk on the Hampshire/Surrey border, incorporating ancient forests (Alice Holt Forest, Farnham Heath and Bourne Wood), some large and popular heathlands on Frensham Common (with several large ponds, one of which has dedicated swimming areas, and the Devil's Jumps) and the more remote Hankley Common, a large Scots Pine and heather-covered area including the heathland ridges of Kettlebury Hill and Yagden Hill, which make for some very scenic views.
A Shortcut from Frensham Little Pond to Tilford cuts out the Flashes area of Frensham Common with the fascinating Devil’s Jumps and all of Hankley Common. An Alternative Ending from Tilford cuts some steep ascents. A bus stop and a car park at Frensham Great Pond enable Circular or Lasso-style routes.
Before embarking on this walk, please read below section on Managed Access on Hankley Common.
Bentley station is on the Alton Line from Woking via Aldershot, a branch of the South Western Main Line that used to continue to Winchester. Bentley has an hourly service (journey time from Waterloo 62 mins Monday to Saturday, if changing at Woking, and from 73 mins Sunday). Farnham is one stop closer to Woking, with a half-hourly service (journey time from 56 minutes, if changing at Woking). Buy a Bentley return.
Saturday Walkers’ Club: Take the train closest to 9.00 hours.
The roads around Frensham Great and Little Ponds are "no parking/no stopping". The car park is free for NT-members and on weekdays.
The current status of access rights on the MOD land of Hankley Common can be checked at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/public-access-to-military-areas#contents [under ‘Locations in South East England – Hankley and Elstead Commons’]. The current rules are:
“The training area is used for logistics and minor infantry manoeuvre exercises.” … “Public access is permitted along public rights of way across both Commons at all times. […] In addition, open access on foot is available in those areas delineated by the managed access symbol on [OS] Explorer maps. When walking in the training area you are requested not to interrupt military training and to observe the Byelaws.”
Bus 19 (Haslemere to Aldershot via Farnham, hourly Mon-Sat) to/from Great Pond Car Park (after 9.1 km of walking) enables a very short walk or a late start or a circular or a ‘Lasso’-style route (see below).
|Lunch and Tea||
Several cafés and pubs en route and at the end of the various walk options (see the pdf for details) plus these two principal lunch pubs:
Bel and the Dragon Jumps Road, Churt Farnham, Surrey, GU10 2LD (01428 605 799). The Bel and the Dragon is one of six Country Inns in the south of England under the same name and is located 13.7 km (8.5 mi) into the walk.
Alice Holt Forest
The River Wey
Frensham Ponds/Frensham Common
The Atlantic Wall
This walk was designed to be a train-friendly walk to Frensham Swimming Pond, as well as - and especially - to Hankley Common, which is uniquely remote for the south east. Unfortunately, the Common is a long way from the nearest train stations (Bentley, Farnham, Milford, Witley and Haslemere), the buses are poor, and the A3 (motorway) has few crossing points, which lengthens possible routes from Milford and Liphook. The length of the 'approach walks' caused the walk to be longer and tougher than I would have liked.
That aside, this walk - and its sister walk SWC 144 Haslemere to Farnham - gives access to these beautiful and remote areas as well as to the splendid Thursley Common, on a variety of routes, all based on public transport.
The shorter option of this walk, while still a great walk (Ancient Forests, Frensham Swimming Pond, heather and gorse filled commons and heathland), misses out though on the Devil's Jumps, and the very best bit - Hankley Common.
For drivers, there is now a shorter circular walk that covers the highlights without the approach walks to/from the stations.
Another place I wanted to pass by, but was unable to, was the fabled abandoned billiard room under Thursley Lake. If there is ever a safe pedestrian crossing on the A3, a Witley route option that passes it would be a possibility.
Thanks for the kind feedback. Thanks also to John L and Thomas G, for writing detailed directions (in the pdf) and the shorter and circular walk options.
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
Out (not a train station)
Back (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk