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The Heritage, Wildlife and Conservation of the Bourne Valley

Discover more about the history of the Bourne Valley.


Approximately 3 miles

How long to allow

2 to 2.5 hours 

Starting point

A circular walk beginning and ending at the Church of St Thomas-on-the-Bourne

Description of walk contributed by Richard Sandars

Please follow the Countryside Code to get the most out of your walk.

Route Points of interest Hazard
Gather at St Thomas-on-the-Bourne ChurchGeology: Lower Greensand (Bedford to N France) contains a variety of rock types. In this area it is a loosely consolidated sandstone varying from tightly packed sand to rocks of medium hardness. Building of the Church. Designed by architect Henry Sidebotham, son of the first Vicar – Thomas Sidebotham –  appointed as the first vicar of the separate parish of the Bourne established in 1875. Consecrated in 1911. Much of the stone, an oak altar and good quality stained glass windows  (Our blessed Lord in Glory)  were moved to the current church from the previous one.      
At exit to the Church turn left and Cross A287 at lights into Ridgeway Victoria Reservoir. Built in 1890, it was one of the first effective water installations to provide a clean hygienic water supply and one of the oldest in the current SE Water network. A Plaque at old entrance commemorates the opening by the Farnham Water Co. Water is drawn from a 134m bore-hole in Sturt Walk. Farnham gets its water supply from here.Beware traffic
Turn left into Langham’s Recreation GroundNature of the area in 1850s. While most Farnham residents are probably familiar with William Cobbett, fewer are likely to have heard of George Sturt (1863-1927). We will  come back to George Sturt later when we  pass Vine Cottage in Old Church Lane where he lived with his sisters Mary and Susan from 1900 until his death in  1927. Sturt is remembered for his unsentimental chronicling of the passing of a rural way of  life and the move towards a modern money led economy, coinciding  with the coming of the railway (1849), the establishment of Aldershot military garrison(1855) and the introduction of mains water, all of which radically changed the features of the Bourne. The first building boom. Sturt is mainly remembered for: Change in the Village 1912Memoir of a Surrey Labourer 1907, The Wheelwright’s Shop 1923,  A Small boy in the Sixties 1927. Also Journals 1890 to 1927.   Those who had been self sufficient and interdependent on their neighbours and who had largely worked on a seasonal basis were increasingly having to find employment  as builders, gardeners, working on the railway or, for girls, domestic service. Two quotations from Sturt’s books on the nature of the area: ‘Yet in truth, our valley, green enough in its disordered way has itself been reclaimed from the waste, chiefly during the last half century. Fifty years ago it was for the most part  a common traversed  by sand tracks where now are the hard roads. Then, little by little, the valley was settled: small gardens were enclosed and rough shanties  run up by squatters whom none found it worthwhile to molest. Today, the village, if that name may be applied to so anomalous a community, lies scattered, disorderly, rubbishy looking, with scarce six houses anywhere in a row, for a mile or more on either side of the deep but narrow valley. It is a village without a history, without any central life; and hence the people at one end of it are strangers to those at the other. In the absence of large farms their employment is unsettled, their poverty very great; but perhaps because of that , one after another they are painfully civilising a  very savage tract of English earth.’ And ‘The area was rapidly being discovered as a ‘residential  centre’… Where  but a few years ago the quiet depths of  darkness  were but emphasised by  a few glimmering  cottage lights, there is now a more brilliant sparkling of lit up  villa windows’.  Note(2) Langham’s Recreation Ground 1925  E.W.Langham, first owner/editor of the Farnham Herald  and his family purchased  land belonging to  the late William Cox in Ridgway Road and donated it to the Urban District Council to be kept as an open space forever to provide a play area for young children.  
From Langham’s Recreation Ground, turn right and take third or fourth footpath down to Middle Bourne Lane Network of paths and random location of houses Steep gradient , leaf deposits 
Turn right into Middle Bourne Lane On leaving MBL turn  left Stop at Middle Bourne Lane Garden: History of the site is not clear. Why was it not built on, and how did it come into the ownership of the Town Council – Local donation? Now in the ownership of Farnham Town Council and developed & managed as wildlife garden by Bourne Conservation Group. Uneven ground  & mind edges of pond
Proceed to  junction with Ford Lane Heron Court:  Started life as a timber-framed farmhouse in the mid C17 – One of the Bourne’s two oldest buildings, with the nearby Kiln Farm. Area originally part of the medieval Manor of Farnham, owned by the Bishops of Winchester. Mainly heathland and poor quality agricultural land used for arable and growing conifers. Now listed locally as a Building of Local Merit. Owned by William Pink Paine, one of the major hop growers in Farnham in early 19th century. 
At  ford turn left onto Stream Path Hunters Hollow:  Grade II listed building thought to have been built around 1778 as a small farmhouse. 1824, abstract of the title deeds refers to  a ‘close of arable and hop land’  going back to 1734. In early C20 this part of the valley was described as being a ‘horse field’.Uneven ground 
Cross the stream onto Valley Rd and join foot path to Black Pond LaneFootpath clearance & rebuilt steps as an example of Bourne Conservation Group’s work on local footpaths.Some traffic and surface water on Black Pond lane  
Cross A287 A287: previously known as Gravel Road because of the prevalence of gravel excavation in the area. About Rev. Thomas Sidebotham arranged with the water company to have a stand pipe installed, half way up the hill, permitting locals to draw water in exchange for tokens bought for a shilling. Sturt writes of the hard labour and long hours of carters transporting gravel to the railways. Of a particular haulier known to him, he  comments wryly  ‘his experience of life cannot have done great things for him’. Until about the 1950s there were two pubs in close proximity- the Fox and the Happy Home. In C19  and early C20 the pub offered a comfortable, heated retreat from the basic cottages – a family place. At the same time there was a strong temperance movement which was  evidenced in this area by Wilbraham Taylor’s Hall – Now the scout centre. The point is made by Sturt in Change in the Village, although it seems  unlikely that he is referring specifically to Taylor’s Hall as this was for the education and betterment of both young men and women: ‘And it may well be conceived that in an existence so empty of other pleasures, the pleasures to be  derived from company are held precious. The scheme of living would be very desolate without that consolation, would grow very illiberal and sombre. But the public houses  at least do something to prevent this and in clinging to them, the villagers have clung to something which they need and cannot get elsewhere. It is idle to pretend that the ‘Institute’ which was started a few years ago provides a  satisfactory alternative. Controlled by people of another class, whose ‘respectability’ is irksome, and open only to members and never women the Institute does not lend itself to  the easy intercourse which tired men enjoy at the public house. Its billiard table is not for their heavy hands, used to the pick axe and shovel its card games interrupt their talk; its newspapers remind them that they cannot read very well.‘ Beware traffic
Walk  uphill to crossroads and turn into  Lodge Hill Rd Beautification of the Bourne and Bourne Conservation Group management of the area around the crossroads including tubs and raised bed  School drop off / pick up 
Shortly fork right into Dene Lane  to  St Martin’s St Martin’s on the Green – one of three churches in the Bourne Parish. Built in 1904 as a mission church to All Saints Church Tilford. Renamed St  Martin by the Green on 9 June 1957. Still in regular use. St Martin’s Hall Built in the 1950s. Land donated, and funds raised by public subscription. Much of the work was done by local volunteers. Purchased as a kit, based on a series of prefabricated angle iron frames, set up at 8 foot spacing, This system allowed for varying sized buildings. Previously owned by the church but now managed by local Trust  
Cross Lodge Hill Road into Deep Dene and  on to Old Church Lane.Little Willows. Example of a pre-enclosure iron stone cottage built around 1740. Another example as we go up Old Church Lane. Occupied in 1899 by Fred Grover and wife Lucy. Fred worked in Sturt’s Garden at Vine Cottage and was the subject of Memoirs of a Surrey Labourer.  A little hovel of three rooms and a lean to shed, standing with its back walls close in against the sandy cliff repairs. Vine Cottage. Built 1805 apparently as 3 small cottages.  George Sturt joined his two sisters Mary and Susan there in 1900 after appointing William Goacher his foreman / manager at the wheelwrights shop as a Partner. Sturt was born in 1863. Father (Francis) ran the wheelwright’s shop in what was the Swain & Jones site while his mother (Ellen) managed the newsagents and stationery shop below the family accommodation at 18 The Borough. A Small Boy in the Sixties records his early recollections of growing up in Farnham with his parents, brother and two sisters. Attended Farnham Grammar school as a pupil and later as a teacher – 1878 until 1884 – at which point he and elder brother Frank took over the business following their father’s death. Sturt was a proficient craftsman but never really enjoyed the role (or status) of ‘businessman’. He had close friendships with Arnold Bennet, who persuaded him to keep a journal, and W.H. Allen, the Head of the Farnham Art School, with whom he occasionally painted. Sturt had a deep interest in education and was a Governor of the Bourne School. In 1916 he suffered a first stroke, followed by  others and died  in 1927. Havelock Cottage – Probably built around 1810 and possibly named after General Henry Havelock (the recapture of  Cawnpore during the Indian Mutiny). Owned by Thomas and Mehetabel (Hetty) Jones in 1843. Jones, one of 3 brothers, owned 13 acres, which he mostly leased out, making him the third largest farmer in the Bourne (Sandrock Hill to Tilford Rd). It passed to Thomas and Hetty’s daughter Charlotte and her husband John Hack, Lucy’s parents. John an alcoholic committed suicide. OCL moderately steep. Slippery surface  by Little Willows  if wet. 
At top of Old Church Lane turn left into Vicarage Hill. On leaving turn left, and then left onto  A287Stop at Old Church Yard: Site of the original church built in 1861. Row of limes, commemorating wedding of Edward VII and Princess Alexandra, lead from the lych-gate (1888) to where North Door was. Note also 2 commemorative yew trees. Stone marks the position of the altar. Churchyard developed and managed by Bourne Conservation Group on behalf of St Thomas’ Church  to balance special nature of a burial place with increased opportunities for wildlife. For more history of the site & information on graves see Bourne Conservation Group’s website.  Exposed roots  loose masonry. 
 St Thomas ChurchStop  If office is staffed look round the church 


There are many variables including, but not limited to, weather, fitness level, terrain features and outdoor experience that must be considered prior to walking any of these routes. Be prepared for your journey and be sure to check the current weather and conditions before heading outdoors. Always exercise common sense and caution. Farnham Town Council  are not responsible for the safety or well-being of any one who chooses to follow these routes.

These walks have been provided by keen local walkers and walking groups. While every effort is taken to ensure that the routes shared are correct, we can in no way guarantee the routes to be 100% free of errors.

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