Farnham Park, Caesar’s Camp, Beacon Hill, Bourley Reservoirs, Gelvert Stream, Fleet Pond, Foxlease Meadows and Hawley Common
Explorer map 145. Farnham, map reference SU844466 is in Surrey, and Blackwater, map reference SU853599, is in Hampshire.
5 out of 10 (4 out of 10 if ending at Fleet).
The walk crosses Farnham Park to Upper Hale then enters remote MOD land (careful navigation needed) including a steep climb to Caesar’s Camp and equally demanding descent from Beacon Hill, overlooking a network of water channels and reservoirs. After lunch at The Foresters you follow Gelvert Stream to Fleet Pond, get your feet wet in Foxlease Meadows, dry out over a cuppa watching cricket at the Crown and Cushion and view the boats from the sandy shores of Hawley Lake, before crossing Hawley Common to Blackwater station.
After Upper Hale the walk is largely within or close to MOD land until the outskirts of Blackwater. The area is designated on the OS maps by clear rather than red triangles, signifying managed access subject to the displayed by-laws, as opposed to danger areas. In practice this means that you are free to roam and the paths are clear on the ground, but there are no footpath or bridleway signs. The section through Foxlease Meadows is also not marked and is usually ‘spongy’ underfoot, so a drier alternative is given in the text.
Special thanks are due to the excellent www.fancyfreewalks.org website for kind permission to draw on their route directions for the MOD section of the walk.
|Shortening the Walk
An alternative start from Aldershot station is described (via Rowhill Nature Reserve), joining the main walk at Point 1, just before Caesar’s Camp. The distance from Aldershot to Blackwater is 21.8 kms. It also gives the possibility of walking from Farnham to Aldershot via Farnham Park, Caeasar’s Camp and Rowhill, a distance of 10.2 kms. You could avoid the rather suburban section to/from Aldershot by catching Stagecoach bus number 18 or 19 or Fleet Buzz 70/72 from Aldershot bus station to the Duke of York pub on Weybourne Road, which would reduce the distance by 2.3 kms. There are four buses an hour except on Sunday when the number 18 leaves every 2 hours. Alternatively you could catch Stagecoach bus 4 or 5 from the bus station to the Cranmore Lane/Farnborough Road roundabout, which runs frequently but only every 2 hours on Sundays. This would reduce the distance by 3.7 kms.
An extension via Ewshot (between Points 2 and 3) is described which adds 0.9 kms to the distance but gives the possibility of an early lunch at The Windmill after 8.3 kms. It avoids a section of the main route which runs parallel with the busy Beacon Hill Road and the steep descent from Beacon Hill itself. This would be a good option if you intend to end the walk at Fleet (see below). Fleet Buzz 72 runs along Beacon Hill Road, stopping near the junctions with both Badger Way and Tadpole Lane (according to Traveline it is 15-17 minutes to Fleet and 18-19 minutes to Aldershot, the stops are between Heath End and Quetta Park on the published timetable).
From The Foresters you could walk along the Aldershot Road to the right (or through the woods on either side of the road) for about a kilometre to Crookham Crossroads, where you can catch Fleet Buzz bus 70/72 to Fleet/Reading or Aldershot (not on Sundays) or 71/79 to Fleet or Farnham (not at weekends or on Bank holidays). Timetables for all Fleet Buzz services are available at: http://fleetbuzz.co.uk/bus-information/
An extension within Fleet Pond Nature Reserve is suggested in the text, which would increase the distance between Point 4 and Point 5 by 1.7 kilometres.
You could leave the walk at Point 5, continuing to the North-West corner of Fleet Pond, where there are steps to Fleet station car park (15.6 kms in total or 16.6 kms via Ewshot). These directions are contained in the extension referred to above, in reverse, but it is simple enough to follow the shore of the lake. Alternatively you could begin at Fleet for a walk of 8.3 kms to Blackwater.
From the A3013 (Ancells Farm/Bramshott Bridge) you could catch Fleet Buzz 73 (except on Sundays) to Farnborough (or Frimley) or Fleet Buzz 82 either to Fleet or to Farnborough/Reading (Monday to Friday only). The A3013 is 15.2 kms in to the walk.
Between Point 6 and Point 7 the route passes through a nature reserve known as Foxlease Meadows. There are no clear paths and the ground is very uneven in places and ‘spongy’ underfoot after average rainfall on this section – definitely not suitable if wearing trainers in winter. The alternative is to follow the Brenda Parker Way, which is an easier route but adds 1.2 kms to the distance.
An alternative ending at Farnborough station is also described, which would enable you to catch a direct train to London Waterloo. The route diverges from the main walk at Point 8, by Hawley Lake, and the distance from Farnham to Farnborough is 23 kms. You could cut out 3.2 kms or 2.5 kms respectively of largely suburban walking by catching Stagecoach bus 2 from Sandy Lane or from Fernhill Road to Farnborough (or to Frimley/Camberley). This service runs every hour on Sundays and every half hour on other days.
Take the train nearest to 9.15 from Waterloo to Alton. South West Trains run direct from Waterloo to Alton via Aldershot and Farnham, every half hour on Monday to Saturday and every hour on Sunday (journey time 56 minutes to Aldershot and 61 minutes to Farnham), and also every half hour on Monday to Saturday and every hour on Sunday between Guildford and Ascot via Aldershot.
South West Trains serve Fleet and Farnborough Main stations by fast trains to Waterloo from Basingstoke, Poole or Portsmouth (journey time 40 minutes from Fleet and 34 minutes from Farnborough). There are generally four trains an hour from Farnborough and three from Fleet (two on Sundays).
First Great Western serve Blackwater (two trains an hour Monday to Saturday, one an hour on Sunday, minimum journey time to Guildford 18 minutes) and Farnborough North by trains from Reading via Guildford to Gatwick Airport. South West Trains from Guildford to Waterloo via Woking take a minimum of 34 minutes (trains via Effingham Junction take much longer).
Buy a return to Blackwater and a single from Woking to Farnham.
|Points of interest
Farnham Park is a 320 acre (130 hectare) medieval deer park near to Farnham town centre. It has an impressive tree avenue over 1km long (crossed on this walk) and is managed both for its wildlife and for its amenity value. The northern end consists of the more typical open landscape associated with deer parks, whilst much of the southern end is more formal with a café and the usual facilities for play and recreation.
Caesar’s Camp, Aldershot
This is an Iron Age hill fort thought to date from c500 BC. King Alfred allegedly camped here when driving the Danes towards the Thames.
Aldershot and Minley Training Area
The two Training Areas cover an area of approximately 2000 hectares of lowland heathland habitat which supports a wide range of associated fauna and flora. They comprise heathland, conifer woodland, broadleaved woodland, mire, scrub, acid grassland and grass meadows. The majority of the areas are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and form part of the European designated Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area. Open access on foot is allowed in areas within the managed access symbol on the OS Explorer maps, subject to the byelaws which are displayed at the principal access points. The training areas are used for dry training exercises only, which may include the use of pyrotechnics, blank ammunition and other battle simulators such as smoke grenades and thunder flashes. Be prepared for sudden noises!
Brenda Parker Way
This waymarked path runs for 49 kilometres from Aldershot to Andover and was set up in memory of Brenda Parker, a member of Hampshire Ramblers. The Eastern section passes stations at Fleet, Winchfield and Bramley. www.brendaparkerway.hampshire.org.uk
Fleet Pond Nature Reserve
Fleet Pond was probably created by the deliberate damming of natural watercourses in the 12th century, draining a wide area of heath and woodland. It is known to have been a thriving fishery by 1324. The Reserve’s reedbeds, marshes, heathland and woodland provide sanctuary for a rich community of animal and plant life. Over 2,000 species of plants and animals live in or visit the Reserve, including most of the common mammals, amphibians and reptiles and many species of birds, fish, flowering plant and fungi. The total area of the Reserve is 57 hectares (141 acres) most of which is designated as an SSSI. However due to the silt carried by the Gelvert and Brookly streams, the depth of water is less than a metre, so the management of the Pond is a major conservation challenge.
This site is jointly owned by the Ministry of Defence and the RSPB and leased to the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to manage the conservation of its important habitats and species. The field system dates back to c1600. Today it is a mosaic of meadows with a range of wet grassland, fen, acid grassland, heathland mire and woodland habitats, grazed by Highland cattle. Designated as an SSSI for its flowers and insects, the oak trees dating back up to 500 years are also an ideal home for bats.
The Alma, 21 Alma Lane, Farnham, GU9 0LJ. Tel: (01252) 344148. This is only 3.7 kms in to the walk so too early for lunch unless you are doing the Farnham to Aldershot short walk. Opens at 12. www.thealmafarnham.com
The Windmill Inn, Church Lane, Ewshot, GU10 5BJ. Tel: (01252) 850439. This is a possible early lunch option, reached by a detour after 8.3 kms, which adds 0.9 kms to the total distance. Restaurant open from 12 every day except Monday, to 4pm on Sundays and 2.30 Tuesday to Saturday. Massive beer garden which doubles as a putting green! http://www.thewindmillewshot.co.uk/
The Foresters, Aldershot Road, Church Crookham, Fleet, Hampshire, GU52 9EP. Tel: (01252) 616503. The recommended lunch option, reached after 11.3 kms. Open 12 till late seven days a week. ‘A delightful country pub tucked away in the woods.’ All meals are created and cooked on the premises, using regional suppliers whenever possible to obtain the best raw materials. www.forestersatchurchcrookham.co.uk
The Station Pizza Kitchen and Bar, 1-3 Fleet Road, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 3QL. This is one of several possible refreshment places in Fleet if you decide to end your walk there after 15.6 kms as explained above. Cross the station car park and the main road; the pub car park is to your right. Serves food up to 10pm every day. Tel: 01252 614839. http://www.pizzakitchenbars.co.uk/
Café Destino at Fleet station is open until 3.30pm on Saturdays and 2.30pm on Sundays.
The Tree House, Cove Road, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 2SH. Tel: (01252) 816655. Harvester Restaurant, opens 11.30am - 10pm, except Sundays when it opens at 11. Reached after 15.4 kms and 400 metres off route. www.harvester.co.uk/thetreehousefleet
The Crown and Cushion, Minley Road, Blackwater, Camberley, Surrey, GU17 9UA. Tel: (01252) 545253. This pub dates back to 1594 and is full of character and rustic charm. It has a tenuous connection with Captain Blood’s attempt to steal the Crown Jewels during the reign of Charles I. Today it boasts award-winning food, all freshly prepared by Thai chefs. The restaurant is open from 12-9 on Saturday and 12-8 on Sunday, but closes in the week from 3 to 6. A possible early tea option after 17.3 kms. www.crownandcushionminley.co.uk
Refreshment options near Blackwater station are limited. Neither Mr Bumble nor the Royal Swan serve beverages in the afternoon at weekends. Wholemeal Café opens until 2pm on Sundays and 3pm on other days. There are takeaways in White Hart House Parade and you can get a takeaway coffee from either Tesco Express or Shell.
On the alternative route to Farnborough:
The Snow Goose, 135 Fernhill Road, Cove, Farnborough, Hampshire, GU14 9DX. Tel: (01252) 888300. 20.7 kms in to the walk.
Thatched Cottage, 122 Prospect Road, Farnborough, Hampshire, GU14 8NU. Tel: (01252) 543118. 21.9 kms in to the walk. Restaurant opens 12-11, seven days a week. The pub is a two storey, restored timber framed 18th Century structure with a thatched roof and a gable at the side. www.reallocalpubs.com/pub-food/thatched-cottage-farnborough/pid-C2398