Sunday, 15 March 2015

Frensham Common and Kettlebury Hill

Little Frensham Pond
A couple of days after our Kingley Vale walk I had the opportunity for another outing although this time I was a lot less fortunate with the weather.  I cast around the south east for the best conditions and although it promised to be a dry and reasonably mild day most places looked like they would shrouded in cloud.  However I found what I thought to be a significant break in the Guildford area and so I headed there to reprise a walk done many moons ago with my wife in the area around Frensham Ponds.  This is walk 27 in Pathfinder Guide volume 24 Surrey and Sussex Walks (the one I followed) and walk number 2 in Pathfinder Guide Volume 68 Surrey Walks (this version is slightly truncated)

Little Frensham Pond
My walk started at Little Frensham Pond, a delightful little oasis that seems to have more of the character of the Scottish Highlands or New Forest about it than being in the Surrey countryside.  There was little peace and quiet initially though as there was a lot of chain saw noise from forestry operations nearby.  I did have the luxury of sunshine though and even a little warmth in the air, which was a bonus for a January Monday.

Signs of Spring
The walk around Little Frensham Pond was very pretty and I remembered this most from the last time I visited.  Perhaps it would have been better to have this section as the finale to the walk rather than the beginning?  While the rest of the walk does have its charms none can match the beauty of the pond and shoreline walk.  All too soon I reached the far end of the pond and my walk took me into a forested area alongside fields that were clearly meant for horses.  In fact I very much doubt whether there is very much in the way of other farming in this area as the acid soils aren’t much good for growing crops or grass needed for grazing livestock.  There were a couple of grazing horses and a collection of Nissan huts that I imagine had their heritage in the military that are based all around this area.

Nissan Hut
The adjacent forest area had clearly had some work done on it recently for the tyre tracks through the mud were enormous and there were bits of wood and brush everywhere.  Luckily for me this was about the worst of the mud for the day and easily avoided.  I wandered down through the forest before meeting a pretty wet looking road.  The reason for its wetness became clear quite quickly as there was a ford a little further on just out of my immediate sight.  I was glad though for the pedestrian footbridge next to the ford, for the stream was quite swollen by the winter rains.

I soon left the road to head out across heathland again and past a large house called Grey Walls.  This had a magnificent setting with a huge pond stretching out from the front of the house.  I could only get glimpses through the trees though as the owners had planted a thick looking hedge to protect their privacy.  Nosy parkers weren’t the only thing being protected against – wires across the pond suggested that protection of fish in the pond against heron attacks was also an important consideration.

Frensham Country Park
Eventually I reached a place called Harold’s Hill and my walk through countryside resembling the New Forest ceased for a short while and I headed along an access road and past a garden centre.  Alongside the road was an old watermill, yet another desirable house out here in the Surrey countryside. 

Harold's Hill
After a few hundred metres along this road I once again descended into forest, thick pine at first but this then relented to another stretch of seemingly endless heathland in a surprisingly wild and rather lonely area called The Flashes.  I am not sure that it is possible to follow the exact path suggested in the guidebook and so I stuck to the most obvious one as the last thing I wanted to do was get lost!  In actual fact route finding on this particular walk can be quite challenging in places as I was later to find out!
For the whole distance across The Flashes I didn’t meet a soul and by now the clouds had rolled in once again giving the whole place rather a forbidding feel.  At the far end I climbed up and away from this rather boggy heathery basin and I actually felt rather pleased when I did.  I crossed a road and past a fishing pond that was deserted.  Ahead of me was a rather disturbing sign warning of unexploded ordinance and advising walkers to be vigilant to army exercises.  I have seen these sorts of signs plenty of times before without giving them much consideration.

Crosswater House
I continued walking through sandy heathland, which wasn’t very easy going until I got to Kettlebury Hill.  I was now at the highest point of the walk and the going got easier for a while as the path continued along a flat ridge with harder ground underfoot.  Some of the sand had been really hard going as it was like walking across loose sand dunes and is quite strength sapping.  As I walked along the ridge views opened up across a vast area of heathland stretching far away towards Guildford in the distance.  Allegedly you can see Guildford Cathedral from up here but the conditions weren’t really clear enough for that today.

The Flashes
I soon became aware that I was not alone walking along this ridge although could not put my finger on the reasons why.  I soon caught sight of some running soldiers some distance away and wondered whether I should even be here.  Looking around behind me I noticed a family walking a dog and an off road cyclist which reassured me and I continued on my way.  It wasn’t much further forward though that I managed to find myself in the middle of a military ambush all set up for the army carrying out their exercises.  Initially a little scary and after a while a bit tiresome I did get a good insight into the ‘army games’ that recruits have to do in order to pass through into the army proper.  Some of the ‘fighting’ became quite intense and the recruits and their training officers clearly treated it very seriously.  A helicopter kept buzzing overhead and with a little imagination I could easily have been part of a real life war zone.  I felt like an unwelcome gatecrasher into a party that I was clearly never intended to be a part of.

Kattleberry Hill View

Inevitably perhaps as soon as I was released to walk on past the soldiers I went wrong, taking the wrong turning at the junction of paths where the soldiers were.  It wasn’t a great problem as I merely headed off across the heathland on a slightly different route to the one intended for me.  It wasn’t easy walking and actually I soon got a little fed up with the underfoot conditions of more loose sand.  After an undulating walk across what felt like inland sand dunes I was pleased to finally leave them behind me as I reached the road to the north of Rushmoor village.  More importantly perhaps was the nice feeling to have peace and quiet again and no more marauding soldiers!

Stockbridge Pond
From across the road I still had a mile and a half or so to walk.  I would like to say this was delightful woodland walking but in truth it was a bit dull.  No singing birds, no flowers, bare trees and stubbornly grey skies overhead made for a pretty uninteresting last half hour or so.  The only bright spot was the crossing of a largish ford across the River Wey.  My guess is that the size of the ford precludes most vehicles from trying their luck down this otherwise usable track.  Lucky for me there was a footbridge so I didn’t have to worry.  Not much further past hear and I could hear the chainsaw once again that was disturbing the peace at Frensham Pond and my return back to the beginning.

Chuter's Ford

This is a pleasant walk but sad to say most of the highlights are at the beginning.  It might be better to walk the loop in the opposite direction for a better finish as the section around the pond is by far the best part and ought be savoured last.  As it was on this day I was glad that I had done the pond section first as the weather definitely deteriorated during the day.  After my walk was over I headed over to Frensham Great Pond a short distance away where I found the small café was open.  I had a welcome cuppa although in truth the café was a bit rough and ready and seemed a little out of keeping for its surroundings.


  1. When I was a youngster my parents used to take my sisters and I to Frensham ponds for picnics... That was over 55 years ago!! Thanks for reminding me of some happy times.

    1. Thanks Trevor - I'll bet it was rather quieter back then!

  2. My parents used to take me to Frensham Great Pond as a child too. We used to pretend it was a day out at the sea, paddling in the water as the ground is very sandy and forms a beach at one side, as you found. Meeting the army must have livened things up. I've walked in the ranges in that part of Surrey but never come across any soldiers.

    1. Thanks Jon - I would have loved such a place as a kid. Even now I am a sucker for these ponds - they are so picturesque :) Meeting the army added a little spice and also a real insight into how things are done