Bentley to Farnham walk

Alice Holt Ancient Forest, Surrey Hills, Scotch Pine Forest, and remote heather filled heathland, Frensham Great and Little Ponds (swimming)

Frensham Great Pond SWC Walk 184 - Bentley to Farnham

Frensham Great Pond

SWC Walk 184 - Bentley to Farnham

14-Jun-20 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Alice Holt Forest SWC Walk 184 - Bentley to Farnham

Alice Holt Forest

SWC Walk 184 - Bentley to Farnham

14-Jun-20 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

swcwalks swcwalk184 walkicon 50015748036

Beach at Frensham Great Pond, during Covid Lockdown SWC Walk 184 - Bentley to Farnham

Beach at Frensham Great Pond, during Covid Lockdown

SWC Walk 184 - Bentley to Farnham

14-Jun-20 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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View across The Flashes from Stony Jump SWC Walk 184 - Bentley to Farnham

View across The Flashes from Stony Jump

SWC Walk 184 - Bentley to Farnham

14-Jun-20 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

swcwalks swcwalk184 walkicon 50015636126

Stockbridge Pond (Private Fishing) SWC Walk 184 - Bentley to Farnham

Stockbridge Pond (Private Fishing)

SWC Walk 184 - Bentley to Farnham

14-Jun-20 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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IMG-20140623-00384 1.7 path


1.7 path

23-Jun-14 • helen_tristam on Flickr

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IMG-20140623-00385 1.7 oak on path


1.7 oak on path

23-Jun-14 • helen_tristam on Flickr

walk free 184 swcwalks 14469120256


26.0 km (16.2 mi). Cumulative ascent/descent: 416/429m.
6 hours walking time. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 9 hours.

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)
OS Landranger: 186 (Aldershot & Guildford)

Toughness 7/10

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.
On Hankley Common you have an opportunity to explore a D-Day training site with a replica section of The Atlantic Wall and assorted other defensive structures. From the picturesque village of Tilford, north of Hankley Common, with its pub and cricket pitch on the green you follow quiet woodland paths and lanes (with the occasional steep ascent) to Farnham.

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.
Dog Owners: On the Commons, dogs must be kept on a lead during ground nesting season (01 March to 31 July) and under close control at all other times.


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.

Hankley Common

The current status of access rights on the MOD land of Hankley Common can be checked at [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.”
Walk Options

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).
A Shortcut from Frensham Common to Tilford cuts 6.8 km/4.2 mi and 136m ascent, rated 4/10.
An Alternative Ending from Tilford leads along the Greensand Way and the River Wey. This adds 600m but cuts some steep ascents (although the total ascent saved is only 23m). Waverley Abbey can be reached via an optional 1.5 km out-and-back. Bus 46 (Guildford to Farnham, roughly hourly Mon-Sat) from Waverley Abbey cuts the last 4 km of this Alternative Ending.
Circular Walks or ‘Lasso’-style routes are possible by following the main walk route either from Bentley or from Alice Holt Forest or from Frensham Great Pond Car Park/Bus Stop to Tilford and reverse-walking a slight variation of the shortcut route back to Frensham Great Pond (16.5 km/10.2 mi for the Frensham Great Pond Circular, fully written up) or on to Alice Holt Forest (add 5.3 km each way, map-led to Alice Holt) or Bentley (add 8.3 km each way, map-led to Bentley).

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.
The Barley Mow Tilford Green Tilford, Farnham, Surrey GU10 2BU (01252 792 205). The Barley Mow is located 19.4 km (12.0 mi) into the full walk and 12.6 km (7.8 mi) into the short walk.


Shipwrights Way
The Shipwrights Way is an 80 km (50 mi) waymarked Long-Distance Footpath through East Hampshire, leading from Bentley Station to Portsmouth. The route and name reflect the use of oak grown at Alice Holt Forest (east of Bentley Station) for shipbuilding in Tudor times. It passes through Bordon, Liphook, Liss, Petersfield, Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Staunton Country Park, Havant, Hayling Island and (via ferry) to Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard.

Alice Holt Forest
Alice Holt Forest is a royal forest in the western Weald in Hampshire, situated some 6 km south of Farnham. ‘Alice’ is believed to be a corruption of ‘Ælfsige’, the Bishop of Winchester in AD 984, whose diocese had rights over the forest. Old English ‘holt’ = a wood or thicket, usually a managed wood of a single species. Once predominantly an ancient oak forest, it was particularly noted in the 18th and 19th centuries for the timber it supplied for the Royal Navy. It is now though planted mainly with conifers and the Forestry Commission (FC) took over the management of the forest in 1924 and established one of only two British forestry research institutes here in 1946. Since 2010 it is part of the South Downs National Park and forms the most northerly gateway to the park. Alice Holt is one of the FC's most popular destinations, attracting over 290,000 visitors a year, with facilities including a café, play structures and outdoor spaces for children, a cycle hire, and over 15 km of waymarked trails for walking and cycling.

The River Wey
The River Wey is very unusual in that it has several sources feeding two separate rivers that share the same name. The northern branch rises near Alton in Hampshire, while the south branch has two sources: one rises just over the West Sussex border on the western flank of Blackdown near Haslemere, the other at Inval, below Gibbet Hill, Hindhead. Both arms of the river join south of Farnham at Tilford in Surrey. From there the Wey as a single river flows east to Godalming and then northwards towards the Thames. The name ‘Wey’ may be derived from the Old English word Éa meaning "river".
The main sub-tributary is the Tilling Bourne flowing from the slopes of Leith Hill.

Frensham Ponds/Frensham Common
Frensham Common is an SSSI heathland of 3.7 km2, owned by the National Trust which includes two large lakes and is managed by Waverley Borough Council. The terrain is elevated and undulating with some high points in ridges to the south-east but it has few streams due to the permeability of the soil.
Four prehistoric bowl barrows are situated in a line along a ridge in the centre-east of the common. They are passed on the walk route. Frensham Great Pond and Frensham Little Pond were built during the Middle Ages to provide fish for the Bishop of Winchester's estate, and the former was the largest lake in Surrey until the early 20th century when larger reservoirs and lakes from ex-quarries were constructed.

Devil’s Jumps
The Devil’s Jumps are a series of three conical shaped hilly outcrops of an ironstone variety of sandstone set among acidic heathland on Frensham Common. They are linked to a variety of local landmarks by folklore, including Mother Ludlam's Cave near the ruins of Waverley Abbey, the Devil's Punch Bowl at Hindhead, the village of Thursley and the parish church at Frensham. There are no public access rights to the two jumps not covered in this walk.

Greensand Way
The Greensand Way is a 174 km (108 mi) waymarked Long-Distance Path through Surrey and Kent, from Haslemere to Ham Street, running broadly parallel to and south of the North Downs ridge. It follows the ridge of greensand rock, to the edges of Romney Marsh and almost to the Kent coast. The Greensand Way takes its name from layers of sandstone, in each of which is found the green coloured mineral glauconite.

The Atlantic Wall
During World War II, D-Day training sites were created in Britain in order to practise for Operation Overlord, the invasion of northern France by the Allies in 1944.
In 1943, in an area of Hankley Common known as the Lion’s Mouth, Canadian troops constructed a replica of a section of the Atlantic Wall from reinforced concrete. It is around 100m long, 3m high, and 3.5m wide. It is divided into two sections, between which there were originally huge steel gates.
Nearby are other obstacles (mostly types of tank traps) such as dragon’s teeth, huge reinforced concrete blocks and lengths of railway track set in concrete, and wire entanglements. The main wall has two large breaches caused by a variety of demolition devices. Over the years, the wall has become colonised by alkaline-loving lichens, mosses, ferns and other plants which are found nowhere else locally.

Author's Note

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.

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Start GU10 5JZ Map Directions Return to the start:

Finish GU9 8AD Map Directions Travel to the start:


National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234


Jun-20 Andrew John Lane Thomas G

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Walk Directions  

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