Today was a day out of sequence. I missed the Farnham to Guildford section earlier because of my knee injury. So today, I drove down to Farnham, very early. It was raining, and I left the car all day in a car park and started walking from the beginning of the North Down’s Walk. I followed the path alongside the River Wey, and then went on a road that crossed the River Wey by a stone bridge at Compton.
From there, the path entered the Runfold woods, which had been severely affected by the winds in 1987 and 1990. It’s no longer a Beechwood but has become more varied and is managed for wildlife. I emerged onto a road near a school. This road was long and straight for some miles, following the path of the original Pilgrim’s Way, while the North Downs Way followed footpaths.
There were separate footpaths along the road that alternated from one side to the other through to the village of Seale. I took a break and sat on a bench at a crossroads called Sandy Cross, looking north and east and west. There was not much traffic as I sipped water and ate a banana. There weren’t many people around either. Then, I carried on to the centre of Seale where I found a church.
I went around to the south porch and found that the door was open, allowing me access to the dark interior. There was a pilgrim stamp, which I used to fill the missing space I had left in my passport. Inside, I noticed a window dedicated to Anna and Simeon, two elderly people waiting for Jesus, which struck me as different, their wrinkled faces like mine.
As I left the church, the weather was improving. It had been raining when I began my journey. I had a lovely view across a field with some cows and up the hills towards the Hog’s Back. The war memorial had wooden crosses made dark by weathering, but the poppy wreathes remained red. I continued along the road, which wound left and right and lacked a separate footpath, so I had to cross sides several times. Most of the traffic was in a hurry which made it a bit challenging.
The surroundings woodland had orange bracken. At one point, I noticed a sign for the North Down Walk, but my path passed another Pilgrim Cottage, unique in it’s village but not along the Pilgrim’s Way. I reached Puttenham, where there were hop fields with poles. The hops had been harvested, and a few stragglers clung to poles.
I continued down a narrow street in Puttenham, which was constricted by ongoing roadworks. Along the way, I saw several straw figures as part of a scarecrow display. The pub was called “Good Intentions,” and featured a figure in puritan dress kneeling with a sword.
After that, I reached the church, which had a sign for an Alpha Course. The church itself was old, as my guidebook suggested, with a nave and an entrance dating back to early pilgrim days. The church was bright and well-lit, and there was a bookstore at the back. Outside I sat on a bench and ate my two oranges and looked at an old well and over rooftops, some of which had the vented hop chimneys. The village appeared in Brave New World by Aldous Huxley: ‘Puttenham was a modest little village nine stories high, with silos, a poultry farm, and a small vitamin-D factory.’
I continued from there, and the path led through Puttenham Golf Course, where golfers were playing on either side. Signs for Tee Ten kept appearing until I passed Tee ten. The path went under a larger road, and then under a smaller road, with wood crosses on either side facing the Pilgrims Way.
Eventually, I came to another road at Compton, where I made a wrong turn, as I should have gone left towards Watts Art Gallery. Instead, I went straight across and found a narrow footpath that led to an area where young women were riding horses and practicing over horse jumps.
I realised I had made a mistake when I looked at Google Maps, so I retraced my steps and found the North Downs Way. I met a fellow walker who had come from London for the day and was doing a section of the North Downs Way. We walked together for about a mile, enjoying the sandy path, which was quite easy to walk on. He had an app that beeped if he strayed from the path.
At a junction, I had to continue straight on the road while my fellow walker followed the North Downs Way footpath to the left. My road went by a care home called Pilgrims Wood, and a Pilgrim’s Gardens, and another Pilgrims Cottage.
The path then led me past the Surrey Police Headquarters and descended towards a road in Guildford. I crossed that road and continued on the path, and climbed a hillside to the ruins of a chapel called Saint Catherine’s Chapel. It is fenced off and mended in places with sharp edged modern stones.
The path continued downhill to the River Wey, and I followed the riverway to central Guildford to catch my bus back to Farnham. There were beautiful reflections on the water of the far bank, with the sun behind me.
By mistake, I took the slow bus back to Farnham, with its 61 stops. It felt like another pilgrimage. The driver was one of the friendliest I had ever heard. He greeted everybody with ‘how are you today’, and then as people got off, he said, ‘Have a good rest of the day’ or later on, ‘have a good evening.’