Sunday, 6 January 2019

Cistercian ruins and a Surrey ramble.

Waverley Abbey was the first Cistercian abbey in England. It was founded in 1128 by William Giffard, Bishop of Winchester. Located in Farnham, Surrey, about 2 miles (3.2 km) southeast of the town centre, the abbey is situated on a floodplain, surrounded by current and previous channels of the River Wey.

What's left of it, which is a few fragments of its former extensive self, is in the care of English Heritage. Entry is free and there is a small car parking area off Waverley Lane about 350 yards away from the abbey ruins.

The abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1536 and subsequently the buildings largely demolished and used as a source of stone for other local buildings.

A small part of the ruins still has a ceiling - might be useful if it rains when you visit though today it was dry and quite mild for January.

Nearby is Waverley Abbey House, a Grade II* listed mansion which now offers business meeting and function facilities. The house was built in 1723 and replaced an earlier dwelling on the abbey site which had incorporated some of the former abbey buildings.

So having had a good look around the abbey ruins it was time for a ramble down to Tilford and back, mostly following the public byway that leads through the woods and past Sheephatch Farm.

See the route on OS Maps

Apart from a short section at the start along Waverley Lane the walk is mostly off road (although the byway is open to all traffic so you might meet the odd trail bike rider) it crosses one minor road, Sheephatch Lane, and at Tilford where you join the road there is a footway down into the village by way of the old bridge across the River Wey.

When you get to Tilford I recommend you pop into The Barley Mow pub where a nice pint of real ale may be obtained. The many people tucking into a late Sunday lunch seemed to be enjoying it as well. If you go in the summer you might be able to watch the cricket on the village green - though there are several signs on the outside of the pub warning of possible incoming stray cricket balls!

You could carry on through Tilford and follow the road back to Waverley Abbey, maybe cutting across on a footpath but the roads are narrow and the manic cyclists and SUVs tear along them so better to recross the Wey and take the bridleway on the left up the hill to rejoin the byway and retrace your steps back to your starting point.

 Wartime defences in a field next to the river in Tilford. This area lies on one of the "stop lines" constructed during the second world war in preparation for the expected Nazi German invasion. Fortunately they were never needed to be used. Also in the car parking area for Waverley Abbey is something that looks very like a fortified gun emplacement. Look to your left as you go through the gate onto the path to the ruins.

Little tower in the woods by Tilhill House. Former dovecote maybe?

The byway through the woods.

The River Wey through the trees near Waverley Abbey.

Flickr Album of photos at Waverley Abbey.

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