Circular walk 4 – family stroll through North Camp and Ash Vale

One for all the family - a walk that passes alongside river and canal on surfaced paths, suitable for wheeled transport

About the walk

Start point: Lakeside Park car park, Lakeside Road, Ash, GU12 5AA. SU 888517

Distance: 7 km/ 4.5 miles

Walk time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Terrain: Flat, easy walking on hard standing, with no obstacles

Getting there

Rail to Trail: from North Camp station exit on the ticket office side and join the signed Blackwater Valley Path. Start the walk at point 8.

Lakeside Park Nature reserve

  • 1. From Lakeside Park car park, facing away from the entrance, take the path leading into the woodland from the centre of the car park.
Lakeside Park Nature Reserve was dug for mineral extraction during the 1940s and 50s. At the time the aggregate company had no legal obligation to restore the site, so it was left, allowing vegetation to grow up and the holes to fill with water, creating the lakes. The car park was the site of the plant, so there is a huge amount of rubble under the surface and rumour has it that there is a concrete mixer lorry buried here. Today, with the help of volunteers, the 16-hectare site supports a wide variety of wildlife and is particularly good for bats, dragonflies and damselflies.
  • 2. Bear right with the path, then pass ponds on both sides to join the Blackwater Valley Path and turn left.

Along the Basingstoke Canal

  • 3. Follow the Path up onto the aqueduct and turn left along the Basingstoke Canal towpath. Continue following the towpath, which overlooks lakes on both sides, then passes underneath Vale Road at Ash Vale. Carry on past The Swan pub on the opposite bank.
The Basingstoke Canal was one of the last canals to be constructed in the 1780s with 32 miles long with 29 locks. The Basingstoke Towpath Trail stretches the full length of the canal, and there are many sights along the way, including Odiham Castle, the Deepcut flight of locks, aqueducts, scenic villages and historic buildings.
  • 4. Shortly after the pub the canal widens to form the 'Great Bottom Flash' before passing a barge yard and then passing under the railway line.
Great Bottom Flash is believed to have been a natural hollow lying along the Basingstoke Canal's chosen route, which was enlarged to form a reservoir. It is rumoured that a flap drain was used during construction to keep it dry and that if the plug was removed now it would drain the flash!! During the Second World War, a local resident strung barges across the Flash to prevent the Germans from landing flying boats; the remains of the barges are still just visible. Today the area is a haven for aquatic plants, dragonflies and birds such as the Dabchick and Great Crested Grebe.

To the River Blackwater

  • 5. The path then goes under a small private bridge across the canal. Soon after this take the track on the left which joins Frimley Road.
  • 6. Cross over the road with care and turn right. Take the next right, Stratford Road and pass Snaky Lane Nature Reserve on the right, a convenient place to rest. Cross the road with care. Follow Stratford Road, pass Holly Lodge School and out onto a roundabout.
Snaky Lane Nature Reserve is a community managed 7-acre haven of grassland, scrub, trees and pond for wildlife and visitors to enjoy. It is an important asset to local people as an area of open space in what is otherwise a semi-urban area. From school children to dog walkers, everyone is welcome to enjoy Snaky Lane. The nature trail and supporting guide is designed to plant the seed of conservation with young visitors. Hard surfaced paths and benches allow those less mobile to access the site. A picnic table offers a place to enjoy lunch.
  • 7. Cross the road to the left of the roundabout and take the pedestrian path down to North Camp Station. Cross the railway line and then carry straight on past the station.
Station link: to North Camp

Along the River Blackwater to the start

  • 8. Follow the road and take the second left then past a series of lakes formed from gravel extraction, known as Hollybush Pits. The Path then continues Follow the path to the River and turn right and continue on the path.
Hollybush Park is a disused landfill site, which has been reclaimed and transformed predominantly into a wild flower meadow, host to a variety of wild flowers including the Bee Orchid. The river edge provides a diverse habitat for a huge range of plants and animals including Kingfisher, Water Bats and dragonflies.
  • 9. At the exit from Hollybush Park, carefully cross the road and continue along the Blackwater Valley Path which runs left, parallel with the A331 under the railway and into Lakeside Park.
  • 10. Cross the river and keep right, once again following the Blackwater Valley Path. When you reach a T-junction the circuit is complete. To return to the car park, turn left and then right at the next path.