Section 4: Ended up being 15 miles (24 kilometres), August, sunny and pleasantly warm. Walking with lovely child and silly dog
TL;DR too much road, saved by the refreshments
It didn’t start well. Lovely child was suffering from the pollen of our neighbour’s ghastly ligustrum tree and spent the train journey puffed up and coughing. We needed fresh air to breathe.
Things were slow to improve. I mentioned previously that we use the Pilgrims Way book (link below) in combination with a GPX downloaded to OS maps, occasionally they differ, and here I urge you to follow the book. Trust the written word. After a short appealing riverside stretch (on the Christmas Pie route!), the GPX took us on a painful route around and down underpasses by the A31, and pretty much stayed on roads for 4 boring miles. How I wish I had followed the book, and I have no one else to blame.
I promised always to be truthful, and even though the road becomes rural and more benign after a while, it’s not really much fun on tarmac and paving. The time drags. To make things worse just outside Seale we realised the passport had gone, so we had to walk back to retrieve it. Shovell was confused. This isn’t how walking goes. No Shovell, you’re right, it isn’t.
Having added over two miles, we trudged into Seale, and graciously Seale rewarded our tenacity with a very splendid brunch at Manor Farm Craft Centre (drop in the shop for some locally made mustard) and a stamp at Seale church. I’ve no idea what the Seale stamp represents, at first I thought it might be seals trying to get through a wooden gate, but now I look again perhaps it is flames in a fire. Please feel free to take a guess.
Things were looking up, and we were now in hop country. I kept an eye out for possible atchin tans, or travellers’ stopping places, but the hops aren’t picked by gypsies or cockneys any more, there’s a machine to do it called a bruff. Besides it is still a little early.
Reaching Puttenham we stopped for a break in the churchyard next to the ancient village well. This and the lie of Bury Hill knoll behind it, and the existence of nearby bronze age barrows made me realise we were probably sitting somewhere that has been significant since well before the church existed. A well will always get me thinking deeply.
There was also an unexpected stamp, not listed anywhere. I’ve started my own list on the blog which i’ll add to as I go along.
After Puttenham the path turns to a very pleasing holloway, trodden for centuries, maybe millennia if neolithic people used the same route.
Not too long after, we reach the Watt Gallery, which the book is very keen to steer you into as the best cafe on the trail. It’s just possible it usually does better but we were decidedly underwhelmed, the drinks were warm and full of sweeteners, the icecream was just ok and the prices were high. I’ve had so much better, even today.
The path turns to sand and we are walking along an uphill inland beach. It’s a lovely change and I want to take my boots off.
The way into Guildford is good, trees and more holloways and a sign telling us to watch out for frogs. I guess we’re in frog country now, but really we’re on Sandy Lane. I couldn’t have named it better myself.
More walks on the Pilgrims’ Way
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I use The Pilgrims Way by Leigh Hatts as a guidebook, it’s pretty much essential for this walk. You can buy it here or from good independent bookshops.
I also use a GPX file imported from British Pilgrimage Trust into the Ordnance Survey app. Whilst it is usually very accurate, the route differs from the book in places.
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