Walking through a small english town.

Farnham Travel Blog

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I love Farnham.

I am biased though, because I lived there for a while. It was my English home!

I have many fond memories of Farnham, the narrow streets, the cobble stone walk ways, and the little shops all within a short walk from where I lived. Needless to say this part of England isn’t a tourist attraction by nature, but it does have some classic things that make England what it is, and why I love that country as much as I do.

Farnham is a small town in Surrey England, served by Southwest trains on the Alton line. From here you can catch a train to London in less than 45 minutes and will take you right to Waterloo Station.

On this line can also visit neighboring areas such as Woking, and with one change you can see Guildford. There isn’t a whole lot south of Farnham via train, just Alton really, and is ultimately were the rail line ends. This made getting to areas like Winchester and Southampton a bit of a pain since you had to go north and change at Woking station, then head south west.

Farnham doesn’t have a ton in the history books, but had Romans living in the area as far back as 49BC as much clay pottery fragments have been found and dated.  The town has other historical significance such as the erection of St. Andrews Church, Parliamentarian Garrison lived in Farnham Castle in the years following 1642, it was the birthplace of William Cobbett in 1763, and the place of arrest of one of the first suspected German Spies during WWI.

Modern-day Farnham isn’t exiting per se, but if you like quiet English towns then you’ll find it interesting. Aside form the Waitrose, Iceland, and Sainsbury’s; there isn’t much else when shopping for food, other than the Farmers Market that exhibits the first Tuesday of every month. This is often a big event for the town and there are always tasty things to try such as locally made cheeses, freshly baked bread, and jams.

There have been a number of trendy shops opening in the area, such as Peacocks, and Accessorize. For nightlife, London is really where it’s at, whereas Farnham is very limited. There are a number of pubs and restaurants that offer classic English charm that one might miss setting foot into a more contemporary ‘branded’ establishment.

  Some of my favourites for eating out have been the Hogs Head, the Plough, Café Uno, the Balti Hut, Borelli’s and the Farnham Tandori, all of which you can get a decent meal without breaking the bank--with the exception of Borelli’s mainly because the wine is pricey.

If you like to walk, Farnham is easily seen via Foot. Starting from the train station, you can make a complete circle through the town in an hour or so. Heading down Station Hill and just before passing the Sainsbury’s you’ll see on your right some lovely meadows and lush park areas along side the River Wey, and is perfect for picnicking and reading a good book (if it’s sunny out). Continuing on, you’ll run into East Street on your left. This is one side of the town with a line of small shops and boutiques.

East Street has several banks, a music shop, and some clothing stores.

If you like Dorothy Perkin’s line of clothing, stop here--the selection is rather small, but you can often find good deals for quality items. Following East Street you’ll find the intersection called The Borough. Here East Street becomes West Street, and to the north is Castle Street. This is a very interesting place if you want to see well-maintained counsel houses, as there are a row of them all with matching blue doors on the west side of the street.

If you like hills and castles just follow this long walkway until you see brick steps and there you are, Farnham Castle.

Farnham Park isn’t much further north than the castle itself, and is serviced by a lovely green golf course if you fancy putting a few rounds. And if you’re physically fit, keep walking outside the town along a nice paved walkway that is shadowed with lush vines and giant trees, and you’ll be rewarded with some lovely views at the top of the hill overlooking the entire town.

From castle street you can cut through one of the pedestrian walk ways called Long Garden Walk, which will lead you past a lovely pub called the Hop Blossom. Stop here for an Ale or to catch a peek at some Footie on the telly. Then, following the side walk you’ll eventually run into Falkner Road which is home to the University College for the Creative Arts – where I went to Uni.

They sometimes have art on public view in the James Hockey Gallery, and offer a Contemporary Arts and Crafts centre.

Back down from The Borough, you’ll find yourself on West Street but before going too far make your way down Downing Street. Yes, Farnham has a Downing Street! While you wont find any MP’s here, you will find one of the best Fish n’ Chips shops in town, called the Traditional Plaice. For around 5-quid you can get a heaping mound of fried cod and huge chunky chips dripping in grease all wrapped up in paper for your gastronomic delight.

Heading west on West Street you’ll find my favourite part of Farnham. My all time favourite brand-name coffee shop is here, Costa Coffee.

I refused to have any Starbucks coffee while living in the UK as I felt that was an American thing to do in America, so needless to say I was a regular here. They have wonderful Café Latté’s and delectable pastries!

My favourite tiny musical instrument shop Guitar Village sits on the edge of West Street, and is just aside a road called The Hart. The next street on your right, Beaver Street, is very pretty and offers some lovely walking as you will pass old traditional style cottages. How lucky I was that this was the route I took to Uni nearly every day.

When you start noticing that the crowds thin out from the center of town you can continue along and get a gander at one of the grave yards just before the Farnham Bypass.

I know this sounds morbid, but old graveyards are amazing places once you give them a chance.  There is another graveyard back into the center of town, which in my opinion is the best to see.

From West Street and heading east, make a sharp right along one of the pedestrian walkways called Church Passage--you’ll be led down a narrow stone street and into the graveyards of St Andrews Church.  Most of the grave stones here are very weathered, some can barely be read. I’ve always been fascinated with one in particular with the name “Sara Sparks”. She died in the mid-1700s at a fairly young age, and even with some research I’ve never been able to find out exactly why, although I do suspect some sort of virus or disease which wasn’t completely treatable at the time.

One of the odd things I’ve noticed about this part of Farnham has much to do with one of the houses at the corner of the brick walk way and the graveyard itself, just aside a young children’s school.

In the window of this old house is a statue of a man’s head. Don’t ask me how I noticed this, but every once in a while this person who lives there will move that statue just to freak people out! So don’t be surprised that one day it looks east and the next it looks west. It’s done on purpose!

Along the River Wey which cuts through the edge of town back towards the station is the ever so popular Malting's Center. Here there are yoga classes, musical events, arts/crafts galleries, and sometimes on weekend local artists will sell various handicrafts in a market-like atmosphere. Mind you, prepare to shell out some cash because a lot of it is quite expensive.

I walked everywhere, but a lot of people drive outside of Farnham. As a runner I used to cross the busy A31 to a village called Wecclesham and on into an even smaller country village called Rowledge. If you love English country homes and few people on the roads, head out this way, you won’t be disappointed.

There is also a lovely Fish and Chips shop run by a Chinese couple whom barely speak any English but understand everything about English food! An you’ll also find a bread shop run by a friendly Englishman, the place is always filled with the most amazing smells of freshly baked bread.

If you have a car, Farnham is a great spot to go driving from. You can quickly find yourself in Chawton, where you can explore the house of Jane Austen and the lovely gardens in the area. There are also a number of thatch cottages; at the sight of them they will surely transport you back in time.

If you find yourself in Chawton, you must stop in Cassandra’s Cup—a tiny tea house right along the main road entering the town. I’d say they have the best Lemon Cake in the whole county of Hampshire and their coffee is divine! With a larger car park area next to the tea house, you can park here and walk to Jane Austen’s house or down the main road no more than a ½ mile to a lovely estate known as Chawton House.

Chawton House is a 400-yr old grade II Elizabethan manor home that belonged to Jane Austen herself. Next-door is St. Nicholas Church, which has some very nice stained glass windows and on a sunny day the lighting inside is absolutely beautiful. Outside the church is a small graveyard which contains the graves of Jane Austen’s mother and sister.

There are lots of other roads in and around Farnham and Chawton to explore should you have a car. But since I did most of my traveling on foot and via train, I never had the chance to see those sights.

That pretty much does it for Farnham. It’s a microcosm of English experiences that you might find in an average English town. But if you pay attention to details, you’ll enjoy a day out wandering about in this lovely little part of England.

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photo by: native_expat