- Start: Scots Pine woodlands
- End: Scots Pine woodlands
- Country: England
- County: Surrey
- Type: Country
- Nearest pub: The Duke of Cambridge Pub on the Tilford Road allows dogs on the patio. We had the Tempura Prawns with Chilli Sauce and Rocket Salad and a good bottle of house white wine. A perfect end to the day (tel: 01252 792236).
- Ordnance Survey:
- Difficulty: Easy
Every month Jane Eyles will be taking her rescue dog, Meg, and golden retriever, Benson, to explore the best walks in Surrey, giving you tips and information on how best to enjoy them. For their first adventure, they visited Frensham Ponds near Fa...
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine 2007
Every month Jane Eyles will be taking her rescue dog, Meg, and golden retriever, Benson, to explore the best walks in Surrey, giving you tips and information on how best to enjoy them. For their first adventure, they visited Frensham Ponds near Farnham
Ask anyone who has a dog, and they'll all have a favourite walk they'll be only too happy to share with you. However, the problem with most of us doggie owners is that we get stuck in a rut wandering around the same fields, day in, day out! So, for the purpose of research, I asked a great friend, Jill Walker (no pun intended), who lives over near Farnham, to recommend a walk. She roped in the help of her Dalmatian and mad friend, Lynn, and together they took us to the Little Pond on Frensham Common.
One of the finest examples of open Surrey heath land, Frensham Common is one of the largest expanses in the Weald and is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Protection Area. Covering 372 hectares (922 acres), it consists of dry and wet heath, some woodland, scrub and ponds. Interestingly, it is of great importance for heathland insects, reptiles and birds, such as the Nightjar, Stonechat and Whinchat.
Both the common and Great Pond are leased to Waverley Borough Council, which manages the area. The Little Pond, which is owned and managed by the National Trust, is man-made and was formed when a dam was built in 1246. It was used to supply fish to the Bishop of Winchester's court when visiting Farnham Castle and was also run as a commercial enterprise.
The common is situated between Hindhead and Farnham right on the edge of the Surrey border. We approached through the pretty village of Tilford, on the Tilford Road, and heading south towards Hindhead turned right just after the Duke of Cambridge pub towards the ponds. After about a mile, you will see the Little Pond on your left; drive carefully as there is a small ford in the road. Just past this on the left hand side is the main car park. We continued onto the next car park, which is situated just before a sharp right hand bend. This, according to Lyn, is the 'Dog Walkers' car park, so we were in the right place! With our backs to the road, we set off on the right-hand footpath.
You start your walk in Scots Pine woodlands, and on the warm day that we were there, the heavy scent was almost drug-like. Meg, Benson and their new friends Pernod and Bertie galloped off to explore the new surroundings; noses super-glued to the ground and tails competing for first prize in the wagging contest! A gentle hill climb through the woods brings you out on King's Ridge, a vantage point between the two ponds from where Edward VII once reviewed his troops. On a clear day, the views are spectacular and a great place to stop to gather your breath. The council has provided benches from which you can enjoy the views and keep an eye on any wandering dogs. The woodland gives way to the heath land and soft, silver sand paths.
We made our way along the top of King's Ridge between the two ponds. The bright yellow Gorse had just come into flower and their almond scent was almost overpowering. We spent the next few minutes discussing what we could make with gorse flowers: ice cream, sorbet and Gorse gin were some of the ideas.
The footpaths throughout the common are all clearly marked and having decided that we wanted to walk for about an hour, we followed the dogs as they made their way into the birch woods at the end of the ridge. Now, anyone who owns a Retriever will know of their love of water and Benson is no exception to the rule. A huge muddy puddle proved too much of a lure for him and the next thing we knew he was chocolate Labrador from the waist down.
This called for a slight change of direction, as although Frensham Ponds are full of water, dogs are discouraged from swimming, so as to not disturb the wildlife, and in particular at this time of year, the nesting birds. We took a left hand turn off the ridge after we had entered the woods, and walked uphill slightly along the fire break. This path takes you back towards the Little Pond.
After about a kilometre, we came to a small house on the right hand side and turning right walked past the house down a tiny lane completely covered with a canopy of trees in their bright green, fresh spring leaves. A few hundred metres along this lane is a small ford full of fresh water - a haven for hot, dirty and thirsty dogs.
Now with clean dogs, we retraced our steps along the lane, and took a footpath off to the right before we reached the house. This took us over some rough heathland and the dogs had great fun running around in the heather which was just starting to flower.
At the bottom of the hill, the footpath rejoins the main fire break and if you follow this path you come to Little Pond.
The pond is surrounded with reeds and the footpath follows the edge of the water. We took a left turn and with the pond on our right walked back towards the King's Ridge.
Strangely, it was only at this stage that we met any other dog walkers. Walking round the end of the pond, still following its edge, we made our way back into woodland and then turned left towards the main car park. It is only a short walk back towards the left to the dog walkers' car park.
We were lucky enough to meet Tony, one of the National Trust rangers in the car park, and he solved a question that had been vexing us all on the way round the walk. As responsible dog owners, we couldn't understand why people would go to the trouble of collecting their dog's mess and then leave the bag hanging from a fence. The answer is simple: there is no provision for waste at the ponds, so if you collect mess - please take it home with you and dispose of it in your own bin. Alternatively, says Tony, simply kick the mess out of the path and cover it was some sand or leaves. In half a day last month, he collected a whole wheelbarrow full of bags, so spare a thought for him!
And so, the verdict. A great walk to do on a nice day with loads of different routes you can take. The views, diverse vegetation, colours and scents are fantastic. And, the dogs slept under the table all through lunch...
The Dog Facts: Things you need to know:
- Level of difficulty: Reasonably easy going over seven miles of footpaths.
- Ground: Loose sand, so be prepared with good walking boots or shoes.
- Parking: Free at Little Ponds - you pay at The Big Pond.
- Information when there: There is a National Trust Information booth at The Big Pond.
- Special Interest: Take some binoculars and look out for birds and insects.
- Disabled Access: There is a wheelchair route - check on the website for details.
- Where to Eat: The Duke of Cambridge Pub on the Tilford Road allows dogs on the patio. We had the Tempura Prawns with Chilli Sauce and Rocket Salad and a good bottle of house white wine. A perfect end to the day (tel: 01252 792236).