Circular walk 5 – waterways through Farnborough

Discover the countryside tucked away amidst the more urban part of the Valley, as the route takes you along the canal, the riverside and passes lakes and through woodland

About the walk

Start point: Basingstoke Canal Centre, Mytchett car park, Mytchett Place Road, Mytchett. SU 893550

Distance: 8 km/ 5 miles

Walk time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Terrain: flat, easy walking on hard surfacing

Getting there

Rail to Trail: the nearest stations are North Camp and Farnborough North. From North Camp Station exit the station on the opposite side to the ticket office and take the track to the left Sign-posted for Ash Vale Station. Start the walk at point 7.

Along the Basingstoke Canal

  • 1. From the car park follow the path to the swing bridge and cross over the canal. Turn right and continue along the towpath past Frimley Lodge Park to the junction with Guildford Road, the first bridge you come to. Turn left, to follow Guildford Road past The Kings Head pub on the right, then cross over the railway bridge and continue down into Frimley Green.
The Basingstoke Canal was restored to a working waterway in the 1970s and 80s largely by volunteers, after being purchased by Surrey and Hampshire County Councils. The canal was reopened in 1991 and today provides a range of leisure activities as well as an important wildlife corridor. Twenty-six different species of dragonfly and 102 species of aquatic plants have been recorded in the area. The Basingstoke Canal Visitor Centre at Mytchett is the perfect place to start exploring the canal or simply relax and watch the boats pass by. The facilities include an information point and gift shop, tearoom, picnic area, children's 'trailblazer' play area, function room and a campsite.

To the River Blackwater

  • 2. Turn left to cross through the centre of the Green, then continue into The Hatches. Proceed past Bedford Crescent, bearing left at a dead-end road sign and triangle of grass, onto a signed bridleway to Farnborough North Station.
Station link: to Farnborough North
  • 3. Cross the railway line and carry straight on with Frimley Hatches lake on the left. Don't cross the bridge over the A331, bear right then straight on over a smaller bridge across the River Blackwater. This joins the Blackwater Valley Path going south, alongside the river.
A field beside the River Blackwater behind The Ship Inn was the scene in 1860 of the first international heavyweight prize fight. A crowd of 12,000 assembled to watch champion Tom Sayers defend his belt against John Heenan 'The Benica Boy' who had sailed from California for the bout. Prize fighting at this time was bareknuckle and illegal, the location was chosen to enable a quick escape into Surrey should Hampshire Constabulary make an appearance. Sayers broke an arm in the fourth round but the fight continued to round 37 when the crowd broke into the ring and the referee tried to abandon the fight. Amongst increasing chaos, a further five rounds were fought before the police eventually arrived and a draw was declared.

Walk alongside the river

  • 4. Pass under a railway bridge and then at the next bridge, Coleford Bridge, go under the A331 sliproad. Continue along the path which follows the road round to the left, then go up a set of steps onto the bridge. Keep left on the bridge across the A331 before taking the Blackwater Valley Path south again, on the left past two roundabouts, immediately before the railway.
  • 5. Now the path runs south, sometimes beside the river, sometimes through fields, in and out of wet woodland areas. Take the Path off to the right, across a wooden bridge into Gerry's Copse. Then rejoin the Path, which goes under the A331 and immediately over the River Blackwater, it then continues adjacent to A331, past builders' yards, until reaching Lynchford Road roundabout close to North Camp Station.
Gerry's Copse was named in memory of Gerry Stanley, who for a long time was the Chairman of the Blackwater Valley Countryside Volunteers and was heavily involved in planning the restoration of the site. The Copse was once an old filter settling pond for a sewage works, but since the works closed it has been planted with Hazel, Alder and Willow. A pond has been dug and a hibernation site for grass snakes and shelters for reptiles installed. Stinging Nettles are very dominant on the site, as a result of the enriched soil left by the sewage plant.
From prehistoric days mankind has needed, used and hated the stinging nettle. In mediaeval times nettles were an instrument of torture with which monks flagellated their bare backs. The Roman belief that nettle stings cured rheumatism persists in Britain and during the Second World War nettles were harvested to supply chlorophyll for medicines. Young nettle leaves are steamed in some country districts and used as a vegetable, while the dried leaves are made into nettle tea. The sting comes from touching hairs on the nettles, which break off and release an acid, causing the painful rash.

Back to the start

  • 6. At the end of the path turn left and follow the road, go straight across at the crossroads and follow the pedestrian route which goes under the road and comes out opposite North Camp Station and The Old Ford pub. Turn left, across the level crossing and take the track to the left sign-posted for Ash Vale Station.
Station link: to North Camp
  • 7. At the roundabout go straight across into Carrington Recreation Ground, signed as a recycling facility. Follow the road, which becomes a path, around the edge of the recreation ground, leaving along a track adjacent to the playground which brings you out onto Frimley Road.
  • 8. Cross over the road and turn left. Continue along the pavement until you reach a corner shop. Turn immediately right up a track which leads to the canal towpath. On reaching the path turn left and proceed along the towpath, which passes under three bridges, before reaching the canal centre. Cross back over the canal via the swing bridge and return to the car park.