This trail is through a part of Hampshire that is often overlooked by visitors to the region. We visit three villages and their ancient churches on both sides of the Wey Valley. Pretty thatched cottages, traditional country inns and stunning views are the features of this walk.
This walk is suitable for reasonably fit and able walkers. Meals and refreshments are available in The Star Inn at Bentley, the Anchor Inn at Lower Froyle and The Cedars public house in Binsted.
The trail starts at Bentley train station. However as the walk is circular you can join at any point along the route. Parking is available at Bentley train station. The Anchor Inn and The Cedars have car parks but please ask for permission before starting your walk. There are regular train services to Bentley from Alton and all stations to London Waterloo including Farnham, Aldershot and Woking. A bus service between Guildford and Alton stops in Bentley Village.
With the main entrance to Bentley train station behind you turn right. At the end of the cul-de-sac turn left and join the footpath. Cross the footbridge over the River Wey and follow the path as it winds its way between the fences of two fields. Where the path divides take the left fork through the trees. Continue past the treatment works, over the A31 via the metal bridge and forward to join the main road through Bentley Village.
Turn left for The Star Inn. To continue the trail turn right and after 50 metres turn left onto a footpath beside the industrial units. The path emerges into Broadlands Close. At the end of the close turn right and then after 25 metres join the footpath on your left. Follow this between the houses and continue until your reach the lane. Turn right and then after 50 metres turn left, signed to the church. At this point you are joining the St. Swithun's Way footpath, which we follow until Upper Froyle.
After visiting St. Mary's Church continue along the lane to the end. Turn right then immediately left to join the footpath that passes along the side of Jenkyn Place and Bentley vineyard. At the T-junction of paths turn left and then, after 20 metres, turn right. Pass through a kissing gate and then some trees to join a lane. Turn left and then after 50 metres take the footpath on your right. Cross the open field and pass between two ponds via the raised causeway. When you reach the lane turn right and follow the road up the slope and alongside Coldrey Farm. At the road turn right and continue to The Anchor Inn.
Follow the St. Swithun's Way footpath that passes to the left side of the pub. Continue until you reach the lane. Turn right then bear left through the kissing gate and up the avenue of trees that leads to Froyle Place. Two thirds of the way up the drive the footpath turns right to join the lane through Upper Froyle. Turn left and St Mary of the Assumption Church can be found after 150 metres.
After visiting the church retrace your steps to the tree lined avenue. Continue across the drive and descend the open field to the A31. Cross this busy road with care. Follow the footpath sign keeping the stream and cutting on your left. Avoid any temptation to descend to the stream keeping to the high ground as you pass around the field. In the far corner where the red brick wall ends climb over a stile, drop down to the River Wey and cross via the footbridge. From the river continue forward, pass under the train line and then up the hill heading for the base of the electricity pylon. Turn left onto the lane and then right at the first junction. Follow the road into Binsted village. At the crossroads continue forward, Binsted church can be found 150 metres up the lane.
After visiting the church return to the crossroads and turn right. The Cedars pub is a little further up the road. As you leave the village, on the bend of the road turn left to join a footpath. Descend towards the woods but before reaching the tree line turn right to traverse the ridge. Turn left when you meet the footpath that leads from the road and then after 100 metres turn right to again traverse the top of the hill. Telegraph House can be seen on your right. When you reach the crossroads of paths at the corner of the woods, turn left keeping the fence on your right.
At Catham Copse turn right and climb over the stile. Avoid the footpath to your left that descends steps but continue to the corner of the field. Follow the path through Catham Copse descending to the road at Bentley Hall. Cross the road and continue forward heading for the gap in the trees. Follow the tree-line down to Bentley station, cross the tracks and return to the car park.
Bentley and St Mary's Church
Bentley lies on the extreme western edge of the Southern Weald. Its name means grass clearing in a forest. Bounded by the River Wey and on an ancient road from Southampton to London it has long been a stopping point for travellers. The village is mentioned in various Anglo-Saxon Charters, the earliest of AD 688.
The oldest part of the village church is dated 1170 although there is some evidence to suggest that the site was first used as a Norman Chapel around 1129. The church has a ring of six bells, the Tenor weighing just under 13 hundredweight (about 660 Kilos). The earliest bells date from 1703 but some were recast in 1912.
Froyle and St Mary of The Assumption
Proof of Froyle's long history as a settlement has been found in Stone Age and Bronze Age implements excavated nearby and in the remains of a substantial Roman villa or farmstead at Coldrey. The village is divided into two, Lower and Upper Froyle, by Saintbury Hill, formerly named Frija's Hill. Frija was the Norse goddess of Love and is the name from which Froyle is believed to be derived from.
St Mary of The Assumption, was built in the early 14th century. However there was a building of worship at the site previously, as the village is known to have had a Vicar in 1274. The only part of the building that remains from the 14th century is the chancel, built from local hard chalk. The steeple was pulled down in 1722 and replaced with the present brick tower.
Binsted and Holy Cross
Binsted was once the centre of a prosperous hop growing industry as is evident from the number of Oasthouses in the area, many of which have been converted to attractive houses. Binsted's commanding position on the ridge gives it wonderful panoramic views. Telegraph House, now a private house, which we pass near to on the trail was built by the Admiralty in 1825 as a semaphore relay station linking London with Plymouth.
It is thought that the first stone church was built in Binsted circa AD1140. The larger church seen today was constructed (1180 to 1195) around the older building. Field Marshal The Viscount Montgomery of Alamein (Monty) was buried in the Churchyard in 1976. His banner hangs in the nave.