Much of the Basingstoke Canal towpath is ideal for “walks with wheels” and especially the stretch from Pirbright Bridge (Brookwood) to Scotland Bridge (east of Woking) which has a hard surface: it is designated National Cycle Route 221 and signposted locally as the Saturn Trail, being one of Woking’s Planet cycle routes.
Much of the reminder of the canal’s footpath, as far as Greywell Tunnel in Hampshire, has been surfaced with compacted stone. This has been done in short stretches and over many years: some are excellent, others tend to be “lumpy” and muddy in places where the surface has broken down.
To begin a canal-side “walk with wheels” you first need an access point with car parking. I’ve included some below with the routes you can take from each point. Presently they are all in the Woking area; I hope to add more soon, including some further afield.
St John’s Lye
St John’s Lye (see my notes HERE) is an excellent starting point with a car park, toilets and local shops for refreshments. The canal in both directions has an excellent hard surface, ideal for wheelchairs. You can either:
- Go towards Woking town centre alongside the Goldsworth flight of locks (there are five taking the canal downhill from St Johns towards Woking). It’s 1.75 miles (2.85 km) to Woking’s Wooden Bridge providing access to the town centre. Or you can go just as far as you feel comfortable. The route is surprisingly tranquil, despite passing between heavily built-up areas. On the return journey, remember there’s an uphill push at each of the five locks back to St Johns!
- Go towards Brookwood, in which case there are no locks or inclines. The path runs skirts the Hermitage Woods Estate (on the opposite side to the towpath), with woodland to your left for most of the time. The railway (raised on a high embankment) is to your left for a short distance. You reach the Hermitage Road bridge after 1 mile (1.6 km) at which point the hard surfaced path crosses to the other side of the canal. If you’re walking with a baby buggy, this shouldn’t be a problem, but the transfer isn’t easy for a wheelchair at present because it’s necessary to cross and walk alongside the busy road – I don’t recommend you try! (Woking Borough Council has plans to provide a wheelchair accessible footbridge across the canal.)
Brookwood Country Park
Brookwood Country Park provides easy access to the canal footpath (see my notes HERE). There is an excellent hard-surfaced path from the car park leading to the canal, which you can then follow to Brookwood Bridge (A322). It’s 0.6 mil (1 km) from the car park to the bridge, with no canal locks.
There’s parking for a few cars next to Pirbright Bridge, which crosses the canal to the west of Brookwood village. Click HERE for the location on Streetmap. If approaching via the A322, turn into Connaught Road (this is the A245 to Aldershot) at the Brookwood crossroads. Proceed through Brookwood village on this road for about 1 mile (1.6 km) to the traffic lights. The A324 route to Aldershot bears left under the rail bridge, but you should turn right and be prepared to park in the informal lay-by immediately after the canal bridge.
You can take the canal-side path in either direction:
- Cross the road to walk towards Brookwood village centre along the hard surfaced path: after the slope down from the road, the canal path itself is level. There’s woodland to your left while, on the other side of the canal, you can see the many ways residents have adapted the bottoms of their gardens to take advantage of their canal-side locations! It’s about 0.6 mile (1 km) to a metal bridge, where you can cross the canal to the village shops and Brookwood Railway Station, both about 300 yards (270 metres).
- Stay on the same side of the raid, cross the road bridge and descend to the footpath, next to a lock. This stretch is of compacted gravel, but tends to be larger materials including bricks adjacent to the locks. The opposite bank is attractive woodland (with the Pirbright Army Barracks beyond) while to your left the railway is high above you on an embankment for about a mile. In January 2012 we walked 0.5 mile (0.8 km) from the start point along a good path to Cowshot bridge (formerly a vehicular bridge but now restricted to a footpath) and its adjacent lock. Reconstruction work on this lock was in progress and the construction vehicles had carved up the footpath, making it very muddy. We turned back at this point, making it a very pleasant walk of about a mile.
I hope to post more starting points for short “walks with wheels” alongside the Basingstoke Canal soon. Please get in touch if you have ideas!
Frimley Lodge Park
The canal towpath runs along the eastern boundary of this large park, which provides woodland, lots of open space, picnic areas, two children’s playgrounds, a trim trail, miniature railway and meadows. There are also football, cricket pitches and a ‘pitch and putt’ course available to hire. For more information including canal access click HERE.
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