Castles and Camps, Commanders and Clerics
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Walking from the heaths near Aldershot to the pastures near Farnham will provide contrast. Walking through millennia of history, especially military history, will provide continuity. While the colossal Wellington Monument, the Royal Garrison Church (the 'Army's Cathedral'), an inn where Cromwell stayed before a siege and the hillfort of Caesar's Camp will evoke the clash of arms, the fields of fleecy flocks will instil peace of mind. Literal high-points will be Caesar's Camp and Farnham Castle, both offering stirring views. If the winter has been long, the landscape will be locked in lifelessness, but if spring has arrived, then daffodils and lambs will signal its rebirth. If weather-wise March is not being a lamb but rather a lion, then the pub lunch in the lovely village of Crondall will be welcome.
Equestrian Statue of the Duke of Wellington, Aldershot: By Matthew Cotes Wyatt. In 1846 the largest equestrian statue in Britain. Wellington is shown as Field Marshal astride Copenhagen. 9.1 m tall and 40 tons. Considered disproportionate to the Wellington Arch which it topped off (Queen Victoria thought it an eyesore), it was removed when the arch was relocated in 1882, and set up in Aldershot in 1885 at the suggestion of the Prince of Wales 'where it might be admired by the army'.
Royal Garrison Church of All Saints, Aldershot: 1863, by PC Hardwick. The home church for the military personnel in Aldershot, known as the 'Army's Cathedral'. There are many memorials to regiments and personnel, and The Somme Cross, made of charred timbers from an obliterated village in the Somme.
Royal Pavilion, Aldershot: The UK's most unpretentious royal palace, built in wood in 1855 for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to attend military reviews. Today part of the Royal Pavilion Office Park, so may be inaccessible.
Caesar's Camp: A late Bronze Age-Iron Age hill fort and Scheduled Ancient Monument of national importance for its size and completeness inside the defensive rings (it is multivallate). The rings themselves have been much disturbed by military activity and quarrying. The top is 177 m up and gives superb views across the heaths. The name reflects possible Roman re-use.
Crondall: A large and attractive village originally grouped around a green. Tudor architecture abounds (such as The Plume of Feathers pub in which Cromwell stayed before the siege of Basing House in 1645), as does Georgian architecture. Powderham Castle nearby is a mere mound.
All Saint's Church, Crondall: For Betjeman, among the finest in the county and for Simon Jenkins two stars in England's Thousand Best Churches. The high brick tower is a rarity, built in the last days of the Commonwealth in 1659. The body of the church is Norman, 12th and 13th centuries. Clerestoried (high-windowed) nave and vaulted chancel. Fine monuments and brasses inside. Parliamentarian forces camped in the churchyard.
Harold Falkner's Houses at Dippenhall: Nine houses built by Arts & Crafts revival architect Harold Falkner between 1921 and 1963. Several incorporate genuine timber-framed buildings salvaged from elsewhere.
Farnham Castle: Built in 1138 by Henri of Blois and the home of the Bishops of Winchester for over 800 years. Demolished then rebuilt in the late 12th and early 13th centuries as a massive shell keep on the foundations of a Norman tower. In the early 15th century it was the residence of Cardinal Henry Beaufort. Since then more buildings were constructed in the grounds, the most impressive being those built by Bishop George Morley in the 17th century. The castle is free to enter and set in five acres of parkland and gardens. Positioned on a bluff, it gives fine views over Farnham and the Wey Valley.
Walking through the town centre of Farnham we'll soon be at the castle for a 20-minute look around. We'll then walk across northeast the park adjacent to the castle and through the suburbs of Hale to enter the heathlands near Caesar's Camp at Hungry Hill. After crossing these heaths a walk along the pavement beside the busy A325 will go to the Royal Garrison Church and the Wellington Monument. We'll then cross back through the heaths, heading southwest and ascend Caesar's Camp to admire the view. After crossing Bricksbury Hill we'll be back at the A325 where a short walk along its pavement which will take us to Redlands Lane and Crondall for the pub lunch. After lunch, a walk through Crondall heading south, then northeast, then east along bridleways will lead to the St Swithun's Way which will head back to Farnham to conclude the walk.
(Picture credits: Fields near Farnham; Don Cload; Oaks and ivy on St Swithun's Way: Don Cload; Wellington Monument: Lewis Hulbert; Royal Garrison Church: Colin Smith; Viewpoint on Caesar's Camp: Colin Smith; All Saints, Crondall: Andrew Smith; Crondall: Andrew Smith; Crondall: Colin Smith; House in Dippenhall Street: Nick MacNeill; Harold Falkner's Dippenhall: Malcolm Delahaye; Farnham Castle Keep: Babelstone; Facade of Bishop's Palace: Jposullivan; Castle Street, Farnham: Colin Smith. All pictures designated 'Free to share and use' under the Creative Commons License.)
What to bring
Walking boots and thick socks are essential on this tough February hike to support the ankles, give traction and keep the feet dry. If mud is severe then gaiters are useful, and if the weather is wet, a waterproof coat and trousers. Consider layering for cold conditions: base layer, fleece, insulated coat. Gloves and hats are also advised.
Food & drink
We are booked in to have a late lunch (14:00) at The Hampshire Arms at Crondall. The food is great there, and good value too. They're also very welcoming and glad to have us!
I'll email you two weeks before the walk to ask what you'd like to eat to get a pre-order together. Or you can bring a packed lunch.
As lunch is late, please bring snacks to consume en route.
There are plenty of pubs in which to drink in Farnham at the end.
Pub sample menu:
Cauliflower & truffle soup served with a warm bread roll: £4.95 (V)
Tempura king prawns with sweet chilli jam, mixed sesame seeds & chilli sauce: £7.25
Chicken liver pate with a port & onion chutney, crispy onions & buttery toast: £5.95
Smoked salmon with horseradish crème fraiche, dressed leaves & granary bread: £6.95
The Hampshire Arms burger with bacon & cheese in a brioche bun served with triple cooked chips and dressed leaves: £12.95
The Hampshire Arms chicken katsu burger in a brioche bun served with triple cooked chips and dressed leaves: £12.95
Our famous breaded Whitby Scampi served with homemade tartar sauce, triple cooked chips & dressed leaves: £12.95
Breaded halloumi on a bed of crispy sautéed potatoes, garlic aioli, Sriracha chilli dressing & dressed leaves £12.95
Steak and ale pie served with peppery watercress, tripled cooked chips & red wine gravy £12.95
Triple cooked chips French fries Sweet potato fries Sautéed potatoes
Seasonal vegetables Beer battered onion rings House salad Truffle peppercorn sauce
Warm chocolate fudge cake
Vanilla biscoff cheesecake
Warm chocolate brownie
Sticky toffee pudding
Ice cream trio: vanilla, chocolate & strawberry
All desserts served with a choice of ice cream, cream or custard