St Swithins Way: Four Marks to Farnham
I got the 7:24 AM train to Alton where I changed for the bus to Four Marks, which was waiting outside the train station. Due to these good connections, by 9:15 AM I was back at the garden centre where I’d finished my previous days walk on the St Swithin’s Way getting a cup of coffee from the cafe. It was another overcast day but I was hoping to complete the walk today so I set off along the road walking past a number of large houses, crossing another road and keeping on along a bridleway that traced the edge of wood for about a kilometre. The bridleway was very muddy in places, looking like a few horses had churned it about a bit, but there were a number of people out walking their dogs along it.
After leaving the woods the bridleway turns into a small track known as Woodside Lane, where there are good views across to the East, heading past Upper and Lower Woodside Farms. After a few 100 metres the routes turns North and then East before heading North again for about a kilometre, at one point crossing the A32 just outside the village of Chawton. The path continues through the village, which was one of those classic English villages, full of old houses, many thatched. The village has an association with Jane Austen, she lived her for a number of years, until ill health forced her to move to Winchester, shortly before her death. The cottage she and her mother and sister lived in is now a museum, with the garden and house being open to the public.
Chawton is on the outskirts of Alton and the route continues via an underpass under the A31, through the centre of the town, which was getting quite busy. It had been empty when the bus had gone through it earlier. It started drizzling a bit and I’d forgotten my waterproofs again, so I just carried on through the village. Once past the train station the path heads about 100 metres north and then continues parallel to the main road. There were many people out walking their dogs, I met one fellow who seemed surprised that I knew his dog was a Belgian Shepherd. Crossing a couple of rugby pitches were a lot of dogs were running about enjoying themselves, though one I met leaving the area with the rugby pitches took a instanst dislike to me and started to barking. About a kilometre further on I reached the village of Holybourne where I sat in the ancient Church of the Holy Rood for 10 minutes having a break and eating a sandwich.
Continuing on, the route heads Westwards across a number of fields, the first of which has a roman settlement somewhere underneath it, but I saw no evidence of it. A few people were following the same path, a couple of joggers were also out, but after a kilometre or so I left them behind and after taking a small track through a wood, emerged into field which gradually descended to pass between two small lakes or ponds before heading off uphill to the village of Upper Froyle. Walking on the road through the village, I missed the turn off where the way cuts through a field and rather than backtrack I made it back to the correct route by taking a right turn out of the village. Upper Froyle was a small place with some really old cottages and houses, some of them looking truly medieval with their exposed beams and stone work and of course the obligatory ancient church.
Leaving the road I headed through a couple of fields until it came to another road, it was around 12:20pm, so I headed to the Anchor Inn which was located just off the St Swithin’s Way. This was another very old pub, I was okay but anyone taller would need to be careful about bumping their head on the exposed beams. I got a pint and sat down to drink it, chatting with the bar staff, it was quite pleasant with a nice log fire, though the pub was empty. One of the bar staff told me it was usually really busy but today it was hardly booked at all, she put it down to the fact that an international rugby match was being played. In the other bar, there were another couple of walkers who were also doing the St Swithin’s Way, I think they were probably the only other people I saw doing the route.
Finishing my drink I set off again along the road for a few 100 metres before heading on a track through Coldrey Farm, continuing on past a lake and through a field, gradually heading uphill, to reach Pax Hill on the outskirts of the village of Bentley, not far from Farnham, the end of the walk. After Pax Hill, the route continues through fields and occasional woodlands, until it reaches another road, skirting the outskirts of Bentley before heading off through a number of fields and crossing number of road, eventually heading uphill to reach Old Farnham Road. Just before entering one of these woodlands, I was walking up a small road passing a man and his dog a black Labrador, passing him I saw he had a game bag with a couple of pheasants in it, not something I had a seen before
A little way on from Old Farnham Road, the route crosses into Surrey and crossing a road a some way on, I saw an unusual St Swithin’s Way signpost giving the distance to Farnham as 4m - 54km. I found this quite welcome, if it was indeed 4 miles to Farnham, though if it was 54km it was still a long way to go. I assumed that whoever created the sign mean’t 5.4 km but if the 4 miles figure is correct, then it is over 6 km to Farnham. All in all a confusing sign but I was certainly nearing the end of the route.
I’d run out of map now and was relying on the OS map app on my phone, I have a subscription and had downloaded a gpx of the route, which was easy to follow. The rest of the route to Farnham was on bridleways, mainly on tracks. A lot of these were lined by hedgerows and there were a few people around walking their dogs and the occasional car. I found this bit quite hard work, I was a little tired and had had enough of road walking. Even where there were alternative footpaths through fields the route stuck to the tracks, I was tempted to go off route but stuck at it until I reached Farnham. The route passes near to the castle at Farnham and heads through the University for the Creative Arts, with many sculptures on display. Heading through the town I reached the end of the walk around 3:20 PM, heading up the road to the station I passed a pub with a large group shout and cheering at the rugby match on the television, seems like the barmaid at the Anchor Inn pub was correct.