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Bentley to Farnham Walk

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

Length

11.7 miles (18.7 km) with 800 ft (250 metres) of ascent

Longer option via Hankley Common : 16.2 miles (25.9 km) with 1600 ft (500 metres) of ascent

Maps OS Explorer 145 (Guildford), apart from a few hundred metres at the start, and another few hundred by the Jumps
Toughness 3/10 ( 7/10 for the longer option ) hills and sandy soils
Features

This is a varied walk taking in the Surrey hills' ancient forests, heather-filled heathlands and a swimming pond, and on the longer option going via the Devil's Jumps to reach the remote Scots Pine and heather-covered Kettlebury Hill and Hankley Common.

The start : Alice Holt Forest and Frensham Ponds

The walk starts from Bentley, a rural station on the Alton line, and enters the ancient Alice Holt forest. In the middle of the 4km walk through the forest is a Visitor Centre (with pay car park), suitable for a morning coffee break.

Next is some farmland (2 km), and a walk beside a stream (1km) leading to the next highlight.

Frensham Great Pond is nearly 1 km wide - it's big enough for its own sailing club. It is surrounded by forest and heathland, and it is usually possible to swim in it from the sandy beach on the north shore. Algae blooms sometimes prevent swimming in late summer (see the Country Park link below for current water status). Do not ignore the warning signs if they are up as algae blooms have been linked to dementia.

After walking around the pond and its beach (1km), you cross Frensham Common via a low hill with views (1km) to the equally picturesque Frensham Little Pond (NT). The Frensham ponds were artificially created by a 13th Century Bishop of Winchester to provide fish for his supper when visiting nearby Farnham Castle.

The middle : Devil's Jumps and Hankley Common (or a shortcut to Tilford)

If you have been swimming, a short cut follows a broad track through woods to the lunch stop at Tilford, this misses out.

The main route from Frensham Little Pond takes you south across the heather-filled common (2 km) to climb one of the three Devil's Jumps (small hills with some local mythology - apparently, the Devil used to amuse himself by leaping from one to another).

From the summit is a short but highly recommended "out and back" option to visit a woodland Sculpture Park. If you visit it however, you wont have time to complete the walk, so will need to take one of the 'return by bus' options. Next to it is the Bel and Dragon gastro pub (was the Pride of the Valley Hotel)

Next you enter the highlight of the longer walk - Hankley Common - which is MOD Managed Access Land. It's always open, but do avoid training soldiers. The public footpaths are always fine. This is a pretty mixture of Scots Pine, heather, and fine views, with a very remote feel - you could imagine you are in Scotland (the common was used as the setting of the house at the end of the James Bond film 'Skyfall'). There are fine trails, wide enough for the odd passing tank.

The end : hilly surburbia (or a longer gentler router along the North Downs Way)

After a lateish lunch in Tilford the direct route to Farnham heads north-east via Bourne Wood and some attractive suburban footpaths to Farnham station. Be warned that this is a trick in the tail. Its quite hilly, especially at the end of a long walk.

You can also take the slightly longer, but much gentler route from Tilford to Farnham using the reverse of the Book 1 Walk 12 Farnham to Godalming route

Walk Options

Shortcut from Frensham Little Pond to Tilford for lunch reducing the walk from 16.2 miles ( 25.9 km) to 11.7 miles (18.7 km)

Alternative ending of 1.5km longer from Tilford to Farnham but via the Greensand Way (part of Book 1 Walk 12 Farnham to Godalming in reverse

The A287 past Frensham Pond, has hourly buses to Farnham on Saturdays (no buses on Sundays).

Waverly Mill Bridge also has an hourly bus service to Farnham on Saturdays (no buses on Sundays).

Lunch and Tea

This is more of a packed lunch walk, but you pass:

Cafe on the Green, by Alice Holt Forest visitor centre. Suitable for groups. Early in the walk.

Best Western Frensham Pond Hotel. Nice outside tables overlooking the pond. Restaurant and Bar Menu. Hotel prices. May be booked by Weddings

Frensham Pond Cafe, cheap, but very poor online reviews

Barley Mow, Tilford, GU10 2BU, 01252 792205. By the bridge. Country pub. Pretty beer garden. Real Ales. This is the suggested late lunch pub.

Bel and the Dragon gastropub (on the Sculpture option, marked on OS maps as Pride of the Valley hotel)

Farnham - Mulberry, right by Farnham Station. A "bar". Or, carry on for 100m, cross the dual carriage way, veer left on Albery Street (by the river) for The Lamb, or The William Corbett pubs.

Travel

Bentley and Farnham are on the same rail line from London Waterloo. Buy a return to Bentley, the further station. Return trains from Farnham are 2/hour.

Stagecoach #19 bus goes along the A287 (past Frensham pond) to Farnham every 2 hours Mon-Sat

Stagecoach #46 bus goes along the B3001 (past Tilford lunch pub, Elstead, Pot Common) from Godalming to Farnham every hour Mon-Sat (every 2 hours to Pot Common)

Stagecoach Buses have family, but not group tickets

The roads around Frensham Great and Little Ponds are "no parking / no stopping". The car park is £3 on summer weekends (NT free), otherwise free

Links
  • Alice Holt is a former royal forest that used to provide oak for the Royal Navy. Part of the walk follows the Shipwright's Way. The name is thought to derive from Alfsige (Bishop of Winchester in AD 984), who had responsibility for the forest, and Holt, meaning wood. It has had the current name since the 1300s. Nowadays, it is mainly Scots Pine, and run by the Forestry Commission (who seem to have gotten funky) with several child-friendly visitor attractions. [Wikipedia], [Forestry Commission - has PDF leaflet/map]
  • Frensham Great Pond - County Park, has water status for swimming
  • Frensham Little Pond (NT)
  • Devil's Jumps (wikipedia)
  • The Sculpture Park - Private tourist attraction. Open every day till 5pm, £6
  • Hankley Common : Wikipedia and Facebook Group
Author's Note

This walk was designed to be a train-friendly walk to Frensham Swimming Pond, and especially, to Hankley Common, which is uniquely remote for the south east. Unfortunately, the Common is a long way from any train station. Bentley and Farnham are on 1 rail line, and Haslemere, Witley and Milford are on another, and they are all just a bit too far from the Common. The A3 (a motorway, too dangerous to cross) is also a factor as there are few pedestrian crossing points. I also checked for possible bus routes, but there are none that are really useful, and none at all on Sunday. Possible routes all seemed to be from 1 branch line to the other branch line, so an expensive train ticket (say a retun to Bentley, and a single from Milford to Woking where the 2 lines join up), or, an expensive train ticket plus a bus ticket! As such, for public transport users, this walk is a little too long. The shorter walk, while still a great walk (Ancient Forest, Frensham Swimming Pond, heather and gorse filled commons and heathland), misses out the Jumps, and the very best bit - Hankley Common. Another place I wanted to pass by, but was unable to, was the fabled abandoned billiard room under Thursley Lake.

Thanks for the kind feedback. Thanks, also, to John L, for writing detailed directions (in the pdf) and the shorter walk.

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Trains

Out: (not a train station)

Back: (not a train station)

By Car

Start: GU10 5JZ | Directions at 4pm

Finish: GU9 8AD | [Directions] at 10am

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Help

Start walking Large print Using GPS data

National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234

Version

Jul-14

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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 wwww.walkingclub.org.uk