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The Puttenham Tales

A varied walk in the shadow of the Hog's Back, taking in a section of the North Downs Way.

Distance 4 miles (6.4km)

Minimum time 1hr 45min

Ascent/gradient 295ft (90m)

Level of difficulty Hard

Paths Woodland tracks and field edge paths

Landscape Wooded heath and farmland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 145 Guildford & Farnham

Start/finish SU 920461

Dog friendliness Can run free on Puttenham Common, on lead in village

Parking Puttenham Common top car park

Public toilets None on route

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1 Head into the view from the car park, dropping down into the trees with a wooden handrail on your right. Fork left through the woods, and bear right when the path forks again 100yd (91m) further on. After 150yds (137m) you'll cross another track at a tiny clearing.

2 Turn right here and pass a green and mauve banded waymark post. Keep straight on until you reach two similar posts 300yds (274m) further on. Fork right here, onto a narrow path that climbs gently through the bracken. Continue for 25yds (23m) beyond a line of electricity wires, then turn right, onto a broad sandy track. After 150yds (137m), turn sharp left onto a similar track. Pass a large white house on your right, then, ignoring all turnings, follow the waymarked public bridleway to the junction with the North Downs Way National Trail.

3 Turn sharp right here and follow the North Downs Way as it winds over Little Common and continues through Puttenham village.

4 Turn right opposite the Good Intent, into Suffield Lane. As the lane swings to the right, nip over the stile by the public footpath signpost on your left, and follow the left-hand edge of an open field to the trees on the far side. Now take the waymarked route over a second stile to the left of the woods. Two more stiles now lead you away from the woods, keeping a post and wire fence on your right hand side. Cross the stile beside a prominent oak tree and keep straight ahead, through the metal field gate. Bear right down a short, sharp slope towards the woods, and jump the stile leading out onto Hook Lane.

5 Turn right, and follow the road to the left hand bend. Turn right again, over the stile by a public footpath sign. Three more stiles bring you to a 'right of way' waymark; bear right here, and follow the post and wire fence on your right. Continue to a small wood, step over a wooden barrier into an old sunken lane, and keep straight on for 150yds (137m) to a small waymark post. Turn left for just a few paces, then right at a second waymark. Climb steeply here, for the short way back to Suffield Lane and the entrance to

The railway line no longer runs to Hayfield, high in the Derbyshire Peak District. With it have passed many of the 400 people who gathered at the little station for the mass trespass on Kinder Scout in 1932. But what has that to do with a gentle walk in the Surrey countryside? Have you stumbled into a different book? Not at all. The 1930s saw an explosion of interest in walking, and the Kinder Scout trespass was a landmark along the way to the legislation which underpins the modern family of National Trails. First was the Pennine Way, opened in 1965; but other routes soon followed.

In September 1978 the North Downs Way was officially opened between Farnham and Dover, and you'll follow a section of it on your way through Puttenham today. In many places, the route follows the old Pilgrim's Way that runs from Winchester, through Farnham and Guildford to Canterbury. The National Trail has a loop that allows modern-day pilgrims to visit Canterbury on their way to or from Dover, but you don't need to walk all the way to Becket's cathedral to enjoy a few stories of the road.

About 400yds (366m) before you reach the North Downs Way, near the entrance to a Woodland Trust property on your right, you'll pass a bridleway which was part of the old carriage drive to Hampton Park. Legend has it that when Richard Brinsley Sheridan was visiting his friend Edward Long at Hampton in the early years of the nineteenth century, his coach turned over at this spot. Long subsequently planted seven trees to mark the route; one for each of his daughters.

A little further on, where a line of trees marks the path from Lascombe Farm out onto the common, you'll see the remains of an old wooden gate. This is Highfield Hatch, one of the 'hatches' or gates that were placed around the common to prevent grazing animals from straying onto the arable fields. General James Oglethorpe, who founded the American state of Georgia, bought the Puttenham estate in 1744. However, he actually lived in Godalming, and he sold the estate in 1761. The new owner demolished the little manor house, and built the Palladian mansion that you'll see from the footpath off Suffield Lane, just after leaving the North Downs Way. Although he renamed it 'The Priory', the building never had any religious connections.

As you say goodbye to the North Downs Way, cast your mind back to Hayfield and its little railway - because, appropriately enough, the old trackbed has now been turned into a very pleasant footpath.

What to look for

Visit the Church of St John the Baptist in Puttenham. As you enter the churchyard, you'll see a well on the left, last used around 1750 when the church caught fire. It was filled in and forgotten about until 1972, when it was dramatically rediscovered. During morning service on Palm Sunday the first of a line of recently planted yew trees suddenly disappeared down the well.

While you're there

The Manor Farm Craft Centre is tucked away in picturesque old buildings in the middle of Seale village, just along the road from Puttenham. You can visit the different craftsmen and women in their native habitat, and watch demonstrations of jewellery, calligraphy, knitwear and many others. There's also a craft shop, and a tea room. Closed Mondays.

Where to eat and drink

Puttenham is handily placed, half-way round the walk. Pilgrim's News sells snacks and ices to eat on the hoof. For something more substantial, the Good Intent at the other end of The Street. serves real ales and bar meals.

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