When I left Jess’s house in Church Crookham at around 8:00am, I still hadn’t made up my mind whether to aim for Guildford or Puttenham. I stopped at the entrance to the MOD land up the hill and considered my options. Although I’m ready to walk a little further, Puttenham won the day because I didn’t want to bypass Watts chapel (which is between here and Guildford) and Puttenham has an Eco Camping Barn, where I can stay for £15; my cheapest night so far. The first route that my app suggested went alongside the busy A31 dual carriageway for some distance. Rather than do that, I chose to walk across country to Wanborough and then south across the A31, a route which was mostly on footpaths and promised to add only 1km to the total distance.
The weather was good and the walking pleasant all day. After a short detour around some MOD land, I was back on the Basingstoke Canal towpath. I saw only one boat on the water today, and it was an official patrol boat, picking up rubbish from the canal. Perhaps pleasure boats don’t ply this section of the canal, or perhaps everyone’s back at work after the bank holiday. The peace of the canal was occasionally disturbed by the sound of military planes taking off and landing at the nearby Farnborough airport. I speculated about the people that I met on the tow path – some might have been off duty soldiers from the barracks all around, running for fun; some might have been retired; some might have been. cycling to or from part-time jobs.
After leaving the canal, I had a chicken salad for lunch at The Greyhound pub in Ash, Surrey (my fourth county on this walk). The Scottish barman was friendly and wanted to hear my “Canterbury Tale.” It’s funny that in Ash, the idea of a pilgrim to Canterbury seems exotic, whereas here in Puttenham it’s a well known thing. The Norman church has a stamp for pilgrims to put in their credentials, and the camping barn has a map of the route from Winchester to Canterbury on the wall.
Perhaps that’s because one has to risk one’s life to get here from Ash. The route indicated by Maps.me required me to cross four lanes of traffic with a wooded central reservation. I waited patiently for large gaps in traffic rather than turning back and walking to the next bridge. On a day with poorer visibility I wouldn’t have risked it.
There appears to be a changing of he guard among the wardens at the camping barn. Check-in was a somewhat awkward process as the warden wasn’t entirely sure what he was doing. The accommodation is on large platforms that multiple people put their sleeping bags onto. I’m not sure why this is better than bunk beds. Cheaper to build, perhaps? But I think you could more comfortably accommodate more people with two tiered beds like at the Spanish albergues. Fortunately, there are only three guests at the barn tonight.