Rail to Trail - Bentley to Alton - 7 miles
This really lovely walk in varied countryside will be accompanied by buzzards and birds all the way.
- Leave Bentley station via the footpath at the end of platform 2. It is signposted Alice Holt. Very quickly, you will see a stone carving on your right-hand side of a silver washed butterfly. Turn right here into the Butterfly Conservation nature reserve. The nature reserve is important for many butterflies and also interesting flowers. Follow the path, straight ahead, or investigate the reserve first, heading in the westerly direction. Exit the reserve next to the five bar gate. Continue on this public footpath now a vehicle track. On the right hand side are several Hornbeam trees. When you reach the houses and farm buildings, look for the narrow public footpath angling off to your left. You will reach a path junction with four directions. Take the right-hand one with the fence on your right hand side. Walk to the lane via the stile.
- Turn right and follow the road edge almost to the bottom of the hill and the last house. Turn left across the road where the footpath sign leads you into a field. Keep on the left-hand side. The woodland on the right-hand side comes to a halt in the middle of the field so, keeping to the left-hand side at this point, you will see a public footpath post. Turn left here into the woodland where the path is lined with hazel. At the top of the hill cross over the stile and continue on the edge of the field on the right-hand side crossing another stile and continuing along the woodland edge. In the bottom of the field, you will see a footpath sign just before the trees. Drop down through the trees to a metal gate and follow the footpath diagonally across the field to a field gate. Pass this gate and continue on the hawthorn lined farm track. It will go up and over a hill dropping down and meeting another stronger track angled to the left. Follow this a short way until you see a bridge on the right with a track passing under the railway line. Follow this to the road.
- At the road turn left, turning right at the next road junction. Follow this until you have crossed three bridges over the tiny River Wey at Isington Mill. After the last bridge, take the track on your left, a public footpath. When you reach the field, the footpath angles right across the crop towards an electricity pylon on the horizon, follow this path. Here I disturbed many linnets. At the entrance to the next field, turn left along the field edge and at the end, look for the footpath gates in the hedge and drop down to the road.
- Turn right and immediately left in front of the farm barns. Follow the signs onto the footpath. Down the steep bank, you may see the tiny river through the trees. Just before the farm gate look for the steps up to a footpath gate and go through this following the path around the corner up the hill through more gates. When you enter the field cross diagonally and slightly right across the middle of the open field. You will probably hear the electricity crackling in the cables as you pass under them. When you reach the top of the field, you will see a farm gate over in the far corner but look to the right along the field edge and you should be able to see a fenced area jutting into the field edge where you cross the stile.
- This is the A31, a very fast road. Cross it by crossing the first side of the dual carriageway and turning right on the grass to the end of the metal barrier. Cross the second part of the dual carriageway to a lane on the other side. Follow that lane. (Late in 2023 you will pass the reinstatement of the land used for the Southampton to London oil pipeline.) The lane splits and take the left-hand side into Froyle Park. You are now on the St Swithin's Way and we will follow this signposted path into Alton. At the 5 mph sign, where footpaths cross, turn right across the field until you reach the lane.
- Turn left. You are now passing through the village of Upper Froyle. This is a beautiful village and you will pass the Old School House and the church as you make progress along the lane. Pass Froyle Park and Froyle Green on your left. At the road junction, take the right-hand option and then immediately the left hand lane past the barns. There are St Swithin's Way signs. Follow this quiet lane until it bends right. At the bend you will see a farm gate in front of you and the footpath to the right of that. This lovely path should be a haven for birds, butterflies and flowers in the spring and summer time. When you reach the open fields continue up the slope with the hedgerow on your right. Follow the sign across the middle of the next field just left of the electricity pylon. There are many distant landscape views from here. Expect to find skylarks at most times of the year. At the end of the field, follow the signposts and turn left onto the track. After following this for a while along a field edge, meet a wider track for a short length before continuing in the same direction on the left-hand side of the hedgerow. Continue in this same direction, following the St Swithin's Way signs through several fields on the same sometimes narrow paths until you finally meet a road.
- Cross straight over with Holy Rood church to your left. Follow this lane along until it curves left and then look for the footpath on your right-hand side. Take this for a long stretch. You will pass Treloar College. Keep going. Continue past the sports pitches. You finally meet a T junction with a hedge in front of you and turn left again on the St Swithin's Way. The path bends left, and after about 50 m sends you to the right across the area of the sports pitches. Continue in a straight line along the right hand edge of the sports pitches. Cross the gravel path and the lane, and continue into the next field, aiming for the fitness equipment towards far right-hand corner.
- Cross the road onto the footpath immediately opposite. At the next junction, continue along the roadside footpath past the houses and onto the footpath still signposted for St Swithin’s Way. Cross one more road and at the next turn left. At the bottom of the road turn right and shortly on your left is the road to Alton Station and the Watercress Line if you wish to have a ride on a steam train. Alternatively there is a Station cafe and another cafe inside Waitrose.