Ancient Villages Beside The Wey - on Bike

St Mary of the Assumption, Upper Froyle © Michael Ford
The River Wey, Bentley © Andrew Smith
Bentley Vineyard © Hugh Chevallier

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 cycle ride.

This cycle ride is suitable for reasonably fit and able cyclists. The trail starts at Alice Holt Forest Visitor Centre. However as the cycle ride is circular you can join at any point along the route. Cycle hire is available at the Visitor Centre.

Alice Holt is south west of Farnham on the A325 Wrecclesham to Bordon road. Bentley is the nearest railway station. There are regular train services to Bentley from Alton and all stations to London Waterloo including Farnham, Aldershot and Woking. Footpaths through the forest connect Bentley railway station with Alice Holt Visitor Centre.

The Cycle Ride

Leave Alice Holt Forest via the main entrance. At the T-junction turn right. At the Halfway House pub and crossroads cross over the busy A325 to join Binstead Road. At the Jolly Farmer crossroads in Blacknest turn right.

Continue along this road past Bentley Hall. The road descends to pass underneath the railway line. Continue past the turnings to Bentley train station on the right and Isington and Binsted on the left and climb up the hill to cross the A31. At the crossroads in Bentley Village turn right. Pass the The Star Inn and shops before turning left into School Lane at the village pond. At the top of School Lane turn left into Hole Lane and then right, signed to the church.

After visiting St. Mary's Church continue along the lane to the end. Turn left, pass underneath the pretty footbridge and return to the crossroads in Bentley village. Turn right. Initially the road runs parallel to the A31. Continue past the entrance to Coldrey Farm on your right and the turning to Alton and Isington on your left. The road narrows before bending right to head up to The Anchor Inn.

From the pub continue into Lower Froyle. Turn left and climb steadily over the foot of Saintbury Hill before descending past the war memorial to Ryebridge Stream. Climb the hill to reach St Mary of the Assumption Church in Upper Froyle.

After visiting the church continue up the hill. At the top the road bends to the left and descends to the Hen and Chicken public house. Turn right in front of the pub and follow the service road that runs parallel to the A31. When you are opposite the turning to Mill Court and Binsted leave the service road and cross the A31. Please be very careful crossing this busy road and use the central island to pause midway.

Cross over the train line via the humpback bridge and descend to the River Wey at Mill Court. Turn left and climb the hill, which is steep at first but soon levels out. Continue across the top of the hill between open fields and then right at the first junction. Turn right to join the road from Isington and continue 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. Follow the road out of the village and descend to the Jolly Farmer crossroads in Blacknest. Continue forward over the junction to join Binstead Road. Climb the hill to the Halfway House pub and crossroads. Cross the busy A325 and return to Alice Holt Forest.

Alice Holt Forest

There is something for the whole family at Alice Holt. There are cycling and walking trails through the forest with attractions along the way like the enormous Owl and Woodpecker, which children climb through, the Go Ape swings and walkways, a 3D maze house, adventure playgrounds and a rock climbing wall.

There are also a variety of holiday activities to keep kids amused, including den building, pond dipping, crafts and wildlife walks. Throughout the year there are regular outdoor programmes for mums and toddlers and courses for adults like archery, shooting, Nordic Walking and Bodyfit Bootcamp.

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.