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.
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
and Southampton a bit of a pain since
you had to go north and change at Woking
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.