We spent the night before beginning the North Downs Way in the attractive and ancient town of Farnham at a comfortable B&B, 1 Park Row B&B, which had been a milking shed in the 15th century. Although a small building, the B&B had quaint charm, was clean and our host was friendly and helpful.
My friend and hiking companion, Nancy, had arrived the previous day on the train from London and this morning we eagerly anticipated the first steps of our NDW trek. Our host at the B&B, Maxine, prepared a tasty breakfast and volunteered to give my mother a lift to Guildford. After a quick farewell, we were off! The trail commenced just a short walk from our lodging.
The path followed a small, reed-filled stream which would become the much more substantial River Wey in several miles. The woodsy trail soon opened out onto the Farnham Golf Club. It is amazing to me how many trails in England frequently cross or touch golf courses which, of course, make for a pleasing landscape. Such courses are also a lure for my golfer husband, who has been known to meet up with us as we hiked near a golf course.
The “Downs” are chalk hills which contribute substantially to the geography of the region although we did not see any this first day. Walking along long stretches of farmland, however, made it easy to get lost in one’s thoughts.
Entering the village of Puttenham, we had a good chuckle as we observed the name of the local pub, “The Good Intent.” At the top of the village was the Church of John the Baptist (the earliest part of this church was built by the Saxons). We noticed a park bench in the churchyard and
We continued on, encountering another golf course and woods. A sign, perfectly timed for a lunch break, directed us to a tea room at the Watts Art Gallery which did indeed have a bountiful tea room with delicious cakes and pastries. Not able to resist these offerings, we indulged in some of their yummy cakes.
Leaving this gallery, we found that the trail plunged into the forest again as it headed up the hill.
As we neared Guilford, we could just make out buildings peeking above the trees.
By the time the River Wey completed its course through Guildford, it had expanded to become a navigable river adjoining a peaceful park.
Picturesque canal boats passed by as we entered town.
To find our B&B, we had to climb steeply up city streets, during which we came upon the impressive ruins of Guildford Castle.
The castle is believed to have been built by William the Conqueror sometime after 1066. During the 13th-century, Henry III sumptuously redecorated it. The castle’s current remains are thought to be the King’s private chamber within the castle, which was abandoned after Henry’s death.
Continuing our walk up the hill, we located our B&B for this evening, the Highfield House B&B. Our hosts, Jo and Mike, enjoyed extended walks or hikes themselves and catered to walkers – which made this stay particularly interesting. For a delicious, reasonably priced dinner, we highly recommend the Shardana Italian Restaurant just a short walk down the hill.
We were treated to a lovely sunset over Guildford as we walked home from dinner.