brenda parker way basingstoke and deane A long distance path across north Hampshire

Aldershot to Fleet - 8 miles

The map above shows the whole of the route section described below. It is interactive, and can be navigated by clicking on the direction arrows. The scale can be varied by clicking on the map or on the plus/minus buttons. The route was drawn on the normal OS Landranger mapping, so use of smaller scales may be slightly misleading at the detail level.


CLICK HERE for a printable version of this route which needs the Adobe Acrobat Reader. Should you require it, the latest version can be downloaded from here.


Introduction


Both Aldershot and Fleet have good bus and train services, with a direct bus service between these two towns. Always check the latest times at www.travelinesw.com. Parking is limited at both ends, particularly at the railway stations, although there is a public car park on the north east side of Fleet Pond.


This first section of the Brenda Parker Way crosses land used by the Army at Aldershot but which has public access along many tracks and paths open to walkers but where there are few official public rights of way shown on the map. Defence Estates (MOD) have given permission for the Brenda Parker Way to pass through this land on the basis that users understand that military training takes precedence over public access and that you may be asked by the military to make a deviation from the route. Walkers should read the note below and take a moment to read one of the official notices sited at the entrances to the military land. Users of the route should stay on the paths as they cross the training area.


A consequence of the long-term military use is that a large area of land has been protected from development and the training area forms a significant part of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA). This is a habitat virtually unique in Europe, which explains its current high level of conservation protection. Of particular concern is possible disturbance of ground-nesting birds. All Brenda Parker Way users are strongly requested to stay on the paths and to keep dogs under close control. During the nesting period (March to August inclusive) every dog must be kept on a leash anywhere within the training area. We have not been able to waymark the route here, so close attention to the walk description and accompanying map is required.


From the upper reaches of the River Blackwater the route crosses heath and woodland before descending to the Basingstoke Canal and then on to Fleet Pond. Explorer map 145 is required.


To the start


From the bus station and the west side of Aldershot railway station cross over the footbridge, to join train passengers from London and the east, and go down the short road from the station and turn left into St George’s Road. At the end cross over into St George’s Road East and follow the right side round to the end opposite the A323. Follow the pavement round to the right into Manor Park and take the middle path to Aldershot Manor. Go round the right side to the back of the manor and into the Heroes Shrine and Garden, the start of the walk.


The Route


Aldershot to near Hungry Hill


Walk through the Heroes Shrine and Garden from the left side, past the mountain ash tree on the corner planted in 2012 to commemorate Brenda and up to the road besides the church. Follow the road round to the right and cross over by St Michael’s Church, turn right and then left into Croft Road. Go past the first side turnings and keep going along a metalled path between a hedge and a wall. Keep right at the first turning and at the second one turn left just before a path junction. Take this left turn southwards along a gravel path into Brickfields Park. Within the park take the leftward path alongside the lake. Follow this path round to rejoin the main path and turn left onto it. After a short distance turn right, continuing into the housing estate, Laurel Gardens. Follow the road and turn right into Walnut Close, continuing onwards to join Highfield Avenue. Turn right and walk a short way, looking out for a fenced path opposite. Turn sharp left into the path and walk on to Boxall’s Grove. Follow this to the main road, Boxall’s Lane. Turn right to pass under the railway and into Weybourne Road. Keep on the right side of the road and follow it over the stream, the River Blackwater, into Surrey.


Take the first right into Parkland Grove and at the end take the left track up along The Blackwater Valley Path through Rowhill Copse, home of Rowhill Nature Reserve, passing a meadow on the right, a pond  and the source of the River Blackwater before descending beside back gardens to the road by a car park.


Turn left onto Cranmore Lane to the small roundabout on the Farnborough Road. Cross this too and turn right then left into Ministry of Defence (MOD) land used by the Army at Aldershot, passing an information board on Caesar’s Camp to enter the Aldershot and Minley Training Area that has public access subject to the bylaws. Follow the main path up, then up a sandy gully to a concrete foundation block.


Hungry Hill to the Wellington Statue


At the foundation block turn right down the main track with trees on the right and heath on the left. Then go through trees on both sides along a slight ridge before dropping into a path in a gully to arrive at a sandy area at the bottom. Take the path to the left, continuing down to reach a wide open sandy strip. Cross this, glancing left in the middle to see Caesar’s Camp, then passing to the right of Sunny Hill, and then turn left along a concrete track; follow this to the left of the Royal Pavilion to reach the Bourley Road.


Carefully cross this and turn right along the verge to a barrier on the left. Turn left at the barrier and then take the first right, passing a small building, continuing and keeping parallel to the road on the right to reach a cross roads. Turn right along Claycart Road and follow the verge to a grassy gap on the left and climb up to the Wellington Statue.


The Wellington Statue to the Basingstoke Canal


From your entrance, go past the statue and take the far left gap and continue down past a knoll with some fir trees on it. Keep going, generally north-easterly to reach the crossroads of Bourley Road and Rushmoor Road. Take the second left into Rushmoor Road, the turning opposite two cul-de-sac signs. Continue to the dip in the road and then turn right past some signs along a track towards some large gates. Meeting the fence at the gates, turn right and follow the fence line to a wide open strip. Follow this between the fence on the left and Rushmoor Bottom on the right to reach the Fleet Road, A323.


Carefully cross the road and follow the pavement to the left with Claycart Hill to the right, and then seeing a gravelled area to the right. At the junction with a road on the left, Rushmoor Road, leave the Fleet Road and cross to the far left side of the gravelled area along Puckridge Hill Road to a Bailey bridge that crosses the Basingstoke Canal. Cross the bridge, then turn left and follow the path down to the canal and continue along the tow path north-westwards.


Basingstoke Canal to Fleet


Follow the tow path on the north side of the Basingstoke Canal under another Bailey bridge before Eelmoor Flash, past the end of Farnborough Airfield as far as a sign for Norris Bridge. If you go under the pair of road bridges, you have gone too far. Fork to the right after the sign, taking the path up to a small car park and a minor metalled road. Cross this road and an open area to join a bridleway at a barrier. Follow the bridleway generally parallel to Ively Road and then to the other side through an underpass. Turn right and left here to join a limestone chippings track that descends then flattens out before reaching a track junction in front of the Gelvert Stream with a wooden bridge crossing it.


Cross the bridge and turn right to enter Fleet Pond Nature Reserve with marked trails around the pond. Continue on the blue marked path keeping to the left bank of the Gelvert Stream as far as Gelvert Bridge where there is a choice. If you are in a hurry to catch a bus or train turn left away from the stream following the yellow nature trail posts in a clockwise direction round Fleet Pond and at the northwest corner take the steps up to Fleet railway station car park and turn left to the railway station and bus stop. Otherwise our route continues along the Gelvert Stream following the blue markers to reach Sandy Bay on the shore of Fleet Pond. From the beach turn around and take the left exit of the blue marked path which is partly on boardwalks leading round the east and north sides of the pond up to a raised view point and picnic area. Here keep left to follow the red markers near the pond edge to converge with the railway; the public car park can be reached by following the blue, yellow and red marked path from the view point and picnic area to the right away from the pond north-easterly. In the northwest corner of Fleet Pond where the path turns left away from the station car park, take the steps on the right and cross the car park to Fleet railway station and bus stop where there is a coffee stall and toilets and a pub is fairly close across the main road on the edge of Fleet.



Places of Interest


Heroes Shrine and Garden

Marking the official start of the Brenda Parker Way, the Heroes Shrine War memorial is located near the 17th century Manor House in Manor Park and is a Portland stone statue of Christ stilling the storm, surrounded by a rock garden containing fragments of bombed buildings from 54 towns and cities, including Coventry, London, Dover & Canterbury, making it a national memorial to those civilians who died from bombing raids in the Second World War. The Memorial was officially unveiled in 1950 by the Duchess of Gloucester, and underwent some restoration work in 1998. For more click here.

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St Michael’s Church

 Although there may have been a place of worship here in Saxon times, Aldershot’s old parish church is a pre-Reformation building but it was much extended during Victorian times. For more click here from which this is taken. Back.


The Blackwater Valley Path

The Blackwater Valley Path runs for 23 miles from the source of the River Blackwater in Rowhill Nature Reserve to Swallowfield where it meets the River Loddon. For more information click here.

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Rowhill Nature Reserve

This consists of 55 acres of mostly mixed woodland managed by the Rowhill Nature Reserve Society which has a Field Centre near the exit by the car park. For more information click here, from which this is taken. Back.


River Blackwater

This river has its source in Rowhill Copse and flows north, joined by the Rivers Hart and Whitewater. It then joins the River Loddon that flows into the River Thames at Wargrave. The River Blackwater forms the county border with Surrey and Berkshire until it meets the River Whitewater. Back.


The Army at Aldershot

In the mid 1800s there had been little development or progress in the army since the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert urged that better army training was needed which contributed to a summer camp on Chobham Heath in Surrey during 1853. At this time land around Aldershot was identified for a suitable permanent training area that was close to the south coast and access to France, then the source of potential threat. The ‘camp at Aldershott’ soon developed with land bought at £12 per acre and hutted camps were erected beside the Basingstoke Canal in 1855, which later became the permanent home of troops returning from the Crimea War. Brick barracks were constructed in the 1880s and 1890s, with schools, hospitals and everything else needed to become a complete military town. Aldershot became the home of the 1st and 2nd Divisions comprising the bulk of the British Army Corps and it was from here that the British Expeditionary Forces set out for France in both 1914 and 1939. Reviews, sporting events and the famous Searchlight Tattoos had made Aldershot ‘the Home of the British Army’. After 1945 the character of the camp changed to become the training centre for National Service, the training centres of the eight Corps of the British Army and the home of the newly formed Parachute Regiment. When National Service ended in the early 1960s the army once more became a dedicated professional force and this lead to the decision to build a new home on the site of the old one. The new plan replaced the self contained facilities with separate living and working areas, particularly married quarters quite apart from the barracks. However, these buildings were a product of their day and many have been since demolished. Since then investment has taken place in improved sports facilities. For more details click here from which this is extracted. Back.


Aldershot and Minley Training Area

Much of the area between Aldershot and Fleet (but also the intial part of the route from Fleet to Winchfield) is part of the army’s Aldershot and Minley Training Area of which the majority is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and forms part of the European designated Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA). Open access is permitted within the managed areas subject to the terms and conditions of the Aldershot and District Military Byelaws (displayed on the notices at the main access points). The training exercises here do not involved the use of live ammunition but may include the use of pyrotechnics, blank ammunition and other battle simulators such as smoke grenades and thunder flashes, so be prepared for sudden noises.  Stay well clear of all military activity and do not touch any military debris as it may be harmful. The limits of the training area are shown by open red diamonds on the OS Explorer map (sheet 145) and labelled ‘Managed Access’. Back.


Caesar’s Camp

Despite its name, this is an Iron Age hill fort dating back to about 500BC, typically featuring banks and ditches and an entrance on the south side. On the top of the hillfort there would have been dwellings and places of work, making pottery and iron work for example. It is a scheduled monument and also has remains of a medieval park pale on its western edge.  Back.


The Wellington Statue

Near the Royal Garrison Church stands the 30 foot statue of the first Duke of Wellington, mounted on his horse, Copenhagen. It was commissioned to mark his victory at the 1815 Battle of Waterloo and is made mainly from bronze cannons captured at the time. The statue was not completed until 1846 and first erected at Hyde Park Corner, London. As traffic congestion increased it became necessary to find a new home for the statue and in 1884 it was moved from London and positioned on Round Hill the following year. For more information click here, from which this is taken.


The Duke of Wellington’s link with Hampshire is strong. In 1817 the nation bought Stratfield Saye estate for the first duke and his descendents continue to live there today. The Brenda Parker Way passes along the edge of the estate. Back.


Basingstoke Canal

The canal was completed in 1794 and originally ran 32 miles from the Wey Navigation to Basingstoke. It was never as commercially successful as it was hoped, largely due to competition from the nearby railway from the 1840s. However, the canal was much used in the construction of the original military facilities along its banks, such as Deep Cut, the name describing the route taken by the canal. Today the canal is an SSSI (site of special scientific interest) with public access to walkers, cyclists, boat users and anglers and is run by the Basingstoke Canal Authority, funded by both Hampshire and Surrey county councils. Click here for more information. Back.


Farnborough Airfield

Beyond the fence beside the canal is the complex that includes Farnborough Airport and a technology park; however today the site is best known as the home of the Farnborough Airshow. The site began in the mid 1900s as the Army's School of Ballooning; in 1908 Samuel Cody made Britain's first aeroplane flight from here. After the First World War the aircraft factory became the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) and remained in various guises until privatised in 2001 to become QinetiQ. The site has and continues to provide much local employment, including that of Brenda Parker, in whose memory this walk is created. Today the site is the home of a number of commercial business jet companies and the number of flights have been increasing. Following the departure of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) in 2003, some buildings were replaced and the runway was resurfaced. For more information click here and also here from which this information is taken. Back.


Fleet Pond

This is Hampshire's largest freshwater lake and was already a fishery for the Dean and Chapter of Winchester in 1324, but its origins are unknown. Later it also became a source of wild fowl. Fleet Pond was split by the construction of the railway in 1838 and then in 1854 it and surrounding land was bought by the government for military training. The railway brought people to Fleet Pond for recreation, both on the ice in winter and for the fresh air and pleasant walks at other times. During the Second World War the pond was drained to prevent it being used to assist enemy bombing. In 1972 the pond was bought by the local council and today it is a nature reserve, supported by the Fleet Pond Society and is served by information boards and marked paths around it. The management of Fleet Pond is carried out by Hart District Council and is supported with volunteer support through the Fleet Pond Society. An information leaflet is available, click here. Ongoing conservation work is aimed at encouraging reed growth and reclaiming areas of willow encroachment. Some of the shore area is grazed in the summer. For more information on the pond and the Society click here.

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Fleet

This name is derived from the Norman French for a stream or shallow water. From a parish of less than 300 scattered people, Fleet developed after the construction of the railway which arrived in 1838, but a station wasn’t proposed for this sparsely populated area until 1847. Called Fleetpond and located on the west side of the Fleet Road bridge the station was built to allow Londoners to skate on the pond in winter and enjoy the country air rather than serve the small local population. Gradually these visitors and retired army officers built homes and settled in the area. When the railway was doubled from two to four lines in 1897 the site of the original station became the down line from London and a new station was built on the east side of the bridge in 1904. The railway sidings were closed in 1969 and become the car park, the current station building dates from 1966. On the walk, look out for the top of the arches of the viaduct carrying the railway over part of Fleet Pond. This part of the line across the north side of the pond was built on a base of hazel rods and willow. As a consequence of the building of the railway, the oldest houses in Fleet date from the Victorian period, but with rapid development between the world wars of the 20th century and later, such as Elvetham Heath completed in 2008, it is now a commuter town for London but with some new industries in its business parks giving local employment. Much of this is taken from the Fleet Steam website, see under Fleet Station History for a complete version. Back.


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