Thursday, 19 February 2009

North Downs Way Day 1 Farnham - Guildford

Beginning of the Journey
It's time to delve into the archive now to try and motivate myself to finally finish this walk. Back in 2004 when I started the walking season I had high hopes of completing the Greensand Way and the North Downs Way in the same year. The first was no problem and I completed by November, but even though I completed three sections of the NDW back then and have had a few nibbles since I've never got round to completing it and have only walked six sections in total.

Leaving Farnham
However, it's time I rectified that and so I shall give it another good go in 2009 with hopefully fewer distractions this year. This was one of the first times I had tried the model of parking the car at one end of the days walking and linking back using public transport. This was quite a good route to try it out on as Farnham and Guildford are connected by train and there is a good Park and Ride facility at the Guildford end quite close to the NDW.

Unusual Seat
The NDW proper starts on the south side of the A31 close to Farnham station. This is very convenient although it precludes a good look at Farnham if you arrive to go walking as I did. That's a pity because Farnham is quite an interesting town and warrants a look if you have time. The start of the NDW is what I call a proper start to a walk, coming complete with a large information signboard showing the highlights of the route, and most importantly a pointy sign proclaiming that it is a mere 153 miles to Dover.

Back to the Path After the Flood
Other than that it's a fairly inauspicious start, following a track alongside the river Wey and giving no clue to some of the dramatic ridge walking that will follow on later sections. It was quite a pleasant day, although one of those stubbornly overcast ones that give this country a bad name from Aussies and people used to more sunshine. The snowdrops were in full swing, and there was generally a vague hint of spring in the air.

Seale House
I came armed today with a new toy, my first digital camera and I was eager to use it! I began to realise that I could take a lot more pictures than I had been used to with my old film camera and so began snapping away. I soon passed a very curious seat that also proclaimed that it was 153 miles to Dover although it gave no other hint of how it came to be put there. After a fairly short distance of off road walking I was unpleasantly surprised to find myself back on a road as I crossed the Wey for the last time and headed for the embryonic ridge of the North Downs. The next section was a bit contrived weaving its way around a golf course and through a wood before I came across a major obstacle. The path ahead was completely flooded, with about a foot of water. It wasn't what I expected on a supposedly chalk route and after several dry days!

Seale Tree House
Luckily not being long out of civilisation there was an alternative route around the flood and within ten minutes I had managed to correct myself once again. Now the way forward, although not yet on a recognisable ridge, did head ever eastwards as I expected. It was not what I thought of as the main ridge however as this was occupied by the A31 dual carriageway just to the north on the Hogs Back. At first the path ran past an active landfill site with lots of activity going on using heavy equipment. Yet this was not as distracting from the countryside as might have been expected.

Lodge House
The way to Puttenham from here involved diving in and out of woods, which was very pleasant although not good for views. There were a couple of points where there was a good view across the Hogs Back, but perhaps the most interesting feature I came across was a rather curious 'tree house'. Someone had put in a pretend door into a tree and dressed it up to look like a place that a dwarf or similar lived in.

I soon reached Puttenham, the first substantial village en route and which was strangely quiet. Then I realised that as it was a weekday most of the residents were probably at work in Guildford or further afield. I didn't linger long in the village, although the church was as ever the focal point and deserved a bit of a look.

A3 Bridges
Just outside the village I crossed the very busy road that links the A31 and A3, which took some time. I headed out past the golf course (it's a popular game in these parts) and across Puttenham Heath and Monkgrove Copse. The woods were starting to show life with catkins already out and particularly attractive in the afternoon sun, which had finally put in an appearance. Shortly I reached the A3 and was struck by the contrast of old and new bridges across the road I was walking along.

Cheeky Sheep
When I reached the A3 I assumed that I was practically in Guildford, so the next couple of miles were a bit of a shock since it seemed as if Guildford wasn't getting any closer. Underfoot though it was very nice going as this section of walk was across very sandy terrain, which was firm and devoid of mud. Eventually I got the view of town I wanted and also found some amusement in watching some sheep climb over each other trying to get the best hay from a feeding station. Upon reaching the A3100 it was a short detour back to reunite with the car and the end of the first day of 11 miles walking.

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