A long but pretty walk with gentle hills via a nice mixture of river valley, forest tracks, and many beautiful country houses.
||20.6km (12.8 miles), 6 hours. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 9 hours.
||6 out of 10.
||Explorer 145 or Landranger 186. Farnham, map reference SU 846 455, is in Surrey, 15km west of Guildford.
This walk starts and ends along the River Wey. It follows the start of the North Downs Way through a narrow forested valley. It passes close to the ruins of Waverley Abbey (English Heritage), and goes through woods to The Donkey, the suggested walker friendly lunchtime pub in Charleshill (booking advised).After lunch, there are further sandy bridleways through woods before entering the open parklands of the Peper Harrow estate which has its own church and cricket pitch.
Then along a narrow wooded valley beside the River Wey to tea in Godalming's ancient centre.
The majority of this walk is within shaded woods, hence it can be undertaken on a hot summer's day without feeling uncomfortable. Conversely, because many of the paths (particularly after lunch) are sandy bridleways, the walk tends not to be as muddy as other walks can be in winter, so provided you leave enough time to complete the walk in daylight, you can try it on a winter's day.
|| You can book a taxi from either of the lunch pubs. The No 46 bus, from Farnham to Godalming, with a once every two hours service, Monday to Saturday (no Sunday service), stops in Tilford. Check at the village store or pub for the location of the bus stop if it is not obvious.
The town of Farnham (the name derives from the Saxon for 'ferny water meadows') prospered through trade in corn, wheat and hops. Its Norman castle was built by Henri de Blois, a grandson of William the Conqueror.
Moor Park House is the site of the 1897 Moor Park Riot where a crowd successfully forced open the gates to maintain the right of way against the intention of the owner, Sir William Rose. During World War II Moor Park was part of the General Headquarters Line of defence built against an expected German invasion; remains such as pillboxes and gun emplacements can still be seen in the Park and surrounding area.
The twelfth-century Waverley Abbey (english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/waverley-abbey/) – now in ruins – was the first Cistercian monastery to be built in England. The Abbey was founded by William Gifford, Bishop of Winchester, in 1128. The Abbey was built on a floodplain, surrounded by current and previous channels of the River Wey, hence during its lifetime the Abbey was freqently flooded. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century the Abbey was part dismantled before it fell into ruin. But the structures left in situ are worth a visit, and if you access the Abbey's website you can download an audio tour of the Abbey onto your iPad or mobile, which tour starts in the car park, some 350 metres away from the main buildings. Access to the site is free, and the site is open all year round during daylight hours.
The Peper Harrow Church of St Nicholas is a Norman building restored by Pugin, the Victorian architect. It contains a memorial to Vice Admiral Thomas Brodrick; he helped to court-martial Admiral Byng, who in 1757 was shot on the quarterdeck of his own ship as a scapegoat for the navy's failure to save a besieged garrison on Minorca or, as Voltaire put it, 'pour encourager les autres'. The church can only be visited by arrangement a week in advance (phone the warden on 01483 810 526) .
Godalming is thought to mean 'field (-ing) of Godhelm' (the putative first Saxon to claim the land). It was a coaching town between London and Portsmouth, and a centre of trade in wool, stone-quarrying, timber, leather, paper, corn and brewing. The High Street has many half-timbered buildings.
Take the train nearest to 9.30am from Waterloo Station to Farnham (perhaps changing at Woking). Journey time about one hour. There are trains back from Godalming every half hour (hourly on Sundays). Journey time 50 minutes.
Buy a day return to Farnham. For the return journey you will also need to buy a single from Godalming to Woking.
By Car : Train is easier for this one. Change at Guildford or Woking to return to your car. You can park for free near Farnham railway station at weekends.
The first pub you pass, some 4 miles into the walk, is the homely, attractive and walker-friendly Barley Mow pub (tel 01252 792 205) in Tilford. The pub, described as a "quintessential English Country pub" dates from 1705 and enjoys a riverside garden and overlooks Tilford Green, where cricket is played during summer months. The pub won the Best Surrey Pub for Food and Drink award from Surrey Life Magazine in 2018. Locally sourced, high quality food is served from 12 noon to 3 pm, Tuesday to Sunday (no lunch service in winter on Mondays). The pub also has an extensive wine list and has a good range of beers. Groups of more than 6 people are advised to book.
The traditional lunch stop for SWC walkers comes some 2.75km (45 minutes) after the Barley Mow: The Donkey (tel 01252 702 124), a walker-friendly pub in Charles Hill, just under half way into the walk. The pub serves good quality food, midday to 2.30pm, Monday to Saturday, and midday to 3.30pm on Sunday; booking is recommended for indoor seating, which is limited.
For a very late lunch, or an earlier tea stop for a stronger drink or light refreshments, try the Stag on the River pub in Eashing (tel 01483 421568) which as its name implies enjoys a pleasant mill-stream, riverside setting.
The suggested tea stop in Godalming is the Cafe Mila (tel 01483 808569) in Angel Court, just off the High Street, which is open until 5pm Monday to Saturday and 4pm on Sunday. The ground floor is the family area and upstairs reserved for adults. Other tea options include the usual suspects such as Caffè Nero and Costa Coffee.
Another good tea stop is Changing Perceptions Community Cafe and Workshop (tel 01483 420436) at 133A High Street. Open until 5pm Monday to Friday, to 4.30pm Saturday, closed Sundays. This community project offers training and employment opportunities for those with disabilities. Its cakes in the cafe section are reported to be delicious.
||No major changes. New tea stop added May 2018. Additional details on Waverley Abbey added - and details of lunch pubs updated March and October March 2019. This edition and book check July 2020.