The Lye occupies about 135 acres (54.5 hectares), bounded by St Johns village, the Basingstoke Canal and the main south west railway line. Much of it is common land.
The Lye is a mixture of woodland, waterway, heathland and playing fields, carefully managed to be an attractive open space. There is a good children’s playground.
It is a designated Green Belt and most is a Site of Nature Conservation Importance.
The part of the Lye nearest the village centre, together with the Victorian heart of the village itself is a Conservation Area.
St Johns Lye car park is in the heart of St Johns village, which has frequent bus services and offers a variety of shops, including a small Co-op supermarket, bakery, pub, restaurants and takeaways.
There are several possibilities for easy walks along the canal footpath and on paths across the Lye – three suggestions are described below. The large open area of flat grassland is ideal for picnics (but there are no picnic tables).
Location: St Johns village, 1.5 miles (2.5 km) west of Woking town centre.
Buses: 34, 35, 28.
Parking: St Johns Lye Car Park (free) is 70 yards along the lane opposite the Co-op store.
Seats: Several in the village centre and around the playing field on St Johns Lye. One on the canal path approx 50m from Kiln Bridge.
Public toilets: Next to the car park on St Johns Lye. There is no separate disabled toilet.
Click HERE for my map showing the roads and footpaths on the Lye which are passable for wheelchairs and buggies. Please refer to the notes, as some areas become waterlogged after wet weather. You may see other paths through the woods but these are not passable with wheelchairs or buggies. As noted on the map, the final section of the road up to the railway bridge is fairly steep – easy if you have baby buggy, but an unfit assistant pushing an adult’s wheelchair may find it challenging!
Suggestions for “walks with wheels” (Click here for map)
Distance: 0.85 mile (1.36 km)
Very easy. Asphalt road; asphalt canal footpath topped with fine gravel. No steps.
Start at Kiln Bridge (point 1 on the map) and walk along the canal footpath, heading to point 2. You can avoid the slope down from Kiln Bridge by crossing the grassy area.
Look back from the footpath to see the picturesque view of Kiln Bridge with a canal lock between its portals (see photo).
The hard-wearing path surface was provided in 2008 by Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, to improve accessibility for walkers, cyclists and wheelchair users.
Among many plants growing along this path is “Butterbur” (Petasites hybridus). It earned its name because its huge rhubarb-like leaves were used to wrap around butter. Extracts from its roots have traditionally been used as a herbal remedy. Its purple flowers appear before the leaves, usually in March, and can at first look like pink mushrooms.
At the canal footbridge (point 2), turn left to leave the canal footpath, then left again along the metalled road (St Johns Lye Road, also known as Festival Path) to return to the car park and village centre.
You can extend the canal-side walk for as far as you wish: Hermitage Road bridge (A324) is about 1km further and Brookwood (A322 bridge) another 2km.
Note: This should not be attempted during winter or after heavy rain as wheels will sink into the soft ground near the stream. Wheelchairs will need pushing by an assistant, due to exposed tree roots and patches of uneven ground.
Distance: 1.0 mile (1.6 km)
Level asphalt road, followed by uneven woodland path (muddy in winter and after rain); soft turf.
Walk along St Johns Lye Road to point 2 (canal footbridge). Enter the woods between the litter bin and lamppost. Follow a well-worn footpath (but beware of tree roots!) which twists and turns to reach a simple footbridge over a stream. Continue ahead to follow the path running parallel to a wire fence, below the railway embankment. The woods open up into heathland to your left, but you should continue walking parallel to the railway embankment. You will reach a field used as an informal football pitch.
Turn left and skirt the edge of the field to enter a gap in the trees. Cross a small brick bridge over the stream. You have now reached the large playing field adjacent to the car park (point 4 on the map). You can either head directly across the field towards the car park and village, or skirt the field to your left or right for a slightly longer walk.
Fish pond and trains
Distance: 0.4 miles (0.6 km)
Level, then uphill (wheelchair users will need able-bodied assistance). No steps.
From the car park, head along the narrow asphalt road which passes the children’s playground. Continue into the woods. The road crosses a stream, then climbs uphill to a footbridge over the railway (point 5 on the map). The bridge is popular with trainspotters. Continue over the bridge and take the short path straight ahead to an asphalt road. Turn left. Alongside the road in 50 yards (50 m) is a large pond on Woking Golf Course, separated from the road by a wire fence. The pond is home to many huge carp which always appear to be grateful for bread titbits!
Retrace your steps to the car park.
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