First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
It’s rather amazing that Frensham Common has not sunk under the weight of its conservation titles. This thousand-acre sandy heath in south-west Surrey is a Special Protection Area, a Special Area for Conservation, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It’s full to the brim with butterflies, birds, insects and lizards. And it’s a beautiful place for a walk on a hot summer’s day.
Unbroken blue sky lay over the common. Our boots kicked up little puffs of sand as we followed a track over humps and through hollows. The sun brought rich resinous smells from the pine trees and scented the purple heather that ran in waves to the wooded horizon in all directions. There was the strange sensation of being enfolded by wild country in a Home Counties landscape.
The sandstone that underlies Frensham Common is a dark rock shot through with iron, rusted to burnt orange, warm to the touch today. We passed a pond tufted with tussocks of moor grass like pale green fright wigs. Dragonflies dodged across water as dark and still as oil. The aptly named Sandy Lane led west past a trickle of stream in the ford at Gray Walls, then out into open heath in a glassy shimmer of heat haze. No birds sang in the mid-afternoon sun. A solitary lizard ran across the path in a little flurry of sand, too quick for the eye to register.
At Frensham Great Pond the scene changed. This big pool, created in early medieval times to provide carp for the Bishop of Winchester’s table, is a great place to splash around on sandy beaches. Fishermen stalked the reeds. Kids sailed tiny boats. There was a cheerful atmosphere of holiday and outdoors fun.
The homeward path lay south of The Flashes ponds and heathland. A steep stony path led up to the summit of the Devil’s Jumps. These three ironstone hummocks were kicked up by Old Nick as he ran off with Mother Ludlam’s cauldron under his arm.
On the top we found the giant boulder that the great god Thor pitched at the Devil. Two young lovers were sitting on it, admiring the sunlit view and each other. We left them to it.
Start: Bel & The Dragon Inn, Jumps Road, Churt, Farnham, Surrey GU10 2 LD (OS ref SU 871393).
Getting there: Inn is at junction of Jumps Road and Hale House Lane, 2 miles east of Churt (A287 Hindhead-Farnham)
Walk (6½ miles, sandy tracks and paths, OS Explorer 133, 145): From Inn, left up Jumps Road. In 100m, right up fenced path. In 150m, ahead through woods. In another 150m, fork right uphill between trees to fork right at waymark post (870395, yellow arrow/YA) into valley. In 500m, fork left past gate (871400, YA) on wide permissive track. In 500m, through wire fence to cross ride (867402) with gate opposite. Left; immediately right across footbridge, follow fence on right (YAs).
In 400m, right through fence (864404, YA) up track to Sandy Lane (865405). Left; in 300m, over ford (862406); in another 100m fork right on tarmac. In 200m, ignore Byway on right (859407). At turning area by Lowicks houses, keep ahead (858407, blue arrow/BA) on sandy path west across Frensham Common for ½ mile to cross A287 (849410).
Pass barrier opposite and on. In 250m, fork left at post (847410, BA, ‘Surrey Hills Cycle’/SHC). Keep straight on for 500m to Frensham Common car park. Bear right to cross entrance road beside notice-board (844406). On among trees (SHC). In 450m descend steps; right (843402) along side of Frensham Great Pond. At road, left (841401, SHC); at Frensham Pond Hotel, fork left (841400) on Pond Lane (soon following path on left among trees, parallel with lane) for ½ mile to cross A287, 100m north of its junction with Pond Lane (849399).
Ahead (SHC, fingerpost) on track. In 300m, right at fork (852400, BA, SHC). In 150m, at 2-finger post, SHC continues ahead, but fork left downhill here on path, then road for 600m. Left (855394) up ‘Permissive Track’ on west edge of Churt Common, then along south edge of The Flashes. In ½ mile, wooden fence joins on right (865397); in another 300m, where fence turns sharp right, ahead over cross path and footbridge (868397). Ahead, then half right, steeply up to summit of easternmost Devil’s Jump (869395). Left down to junction (waymark post); right to return to inn.
Lunch/Accommodation: Bel & The Dragon Inn (01428-605799, belandthedragon-churt.co.uk) – stylish, comfortable stopover.