Farnham Castle stands on a wooded hillside to the north of the town. It was built as an episcopal fortress by the Bishops of Winchester. It is set in 5 acres of gardens overlooking the town centre.
The first castle was built by bishop Henry of Blois, the grandson of William the Conqueror. At this time the Bishop's lands spread all the way from Somerset to London. Farnham was chosen because it was located in a convenient position on the main road between Winchester and London.
The architecture reflects changing styles through the ages, making it one of the most important historical buildings in the south of England. The most impressive of these date from the mid 17th century.
Little is known about this early castle other than it had a tower, possibly made of stone, on top of a large motte. This was demolished on the orders of Henry II, but recent archaeological excavations have revealed the large basement and foundations of the original tower at the centre of the motte. The castle was rebuilt in the late 12th - early 13th centuries, with the earlier motte entirely surrounded by a shell keep, and an outer curtain wall constructed. The space between the wall of the shell keep and the slopes of the motte were filled in sometime in the 13th century.
The castle remained a residence of the Bishops of Winchester through to the late 20s. During the Civil War, the Castle was captured by Parliamentarian troops and slighted. Although the upper walls of the shell keep were destroyed, the residential buildings remained mostly undamaged. In World War II, the castle functioned as a Camouflage Development and Training Centre, exploring the arts of military camouflage. The courtyard buildings and grounds are now privately owned, and have been leased to a private enterprise as a residential training and conference centre, although occasional tours can be arranged.
The shell-keep is managed by English Heritage and is the only part of the castle open to the public.
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
- Family Travel
Ruins of the Waverley Abbey
The ruins of this almost forgotten monastery are set in a tranquil meadow beside the River Wey. All that remains at the site is an atmospheric evocation of the original abbey through some remaining frater arches. Perhaps the most noteworthy fragment to remain standing is the undercroft of the lay brothers refectory. A good section of 13th century vaulting still exists, supported by slender columns with circular capitals. The south gabled end stands almost to full height.Unfortunately, the is very little left of the other buildings.
The Abbey was founded in 1128 by the Bishop of Winchester, and it was the first abbey in England where monks of the Cistercian order settled, forming a significant starting point for the movement. It was a relatively small and plain monastery, lacking the ornateness, enormity and wealth of many other abbeys. During the first century of its existence, there were 70 monks and 120 lay brothers. It kept about 30 ploughs and produced a manuscript Annales Waverleiae, written by the monks commenting on events in the abbey and nationally. These are now held at the British Museum.
During its 400 years of existence, several English kings, bishops and even humble travellers benefited from Waverley hospitality. It was a well known refuge on the road between London and Winchester, and on the Canterbury pilgrimage route. The abbey grounds and its community was subject to regular flooding, famine and Black Death. The activities at the monastry were ceased due to the Reformation by King Henry VIII. Shortly after this, the abbey was dismantled by its new owner William Fitzwilliam. it changed hands many times as a private estate and was later quarried for stone for nearby houses. According to some, the site formed part of the defences of London set up in World War II. These claims are at least partly supported by the brick gun emplacement forming one side of the car park, and the multitude of tank traps along the bank of the river at the back of the abbey.
- Historical Travel
- Religious Travel
Farnham beer festival
The annual Farnham beer festival (Beerex) is the longest running beer festival held at a single location in the world. It was started in 1977, so year 2007 saw the festival being organised for the 31st time at the Farnham Maltings. It provides a great opportunity to sample a selection of some fine real aleas (+some mediocre ones too), ciders and perries. Plus you can keep the tasting mug as a souvenir. It gets rather crowded so arrive early to avoid disappointment.
The event is organised by Farnham Lions, Campaign for Real Ales (CAMRA) and Farnham Maltings. Enjoy some live music in the Spring sunshine. The event will take place around the end of April / beginning of May.
They also sell Beer Festival T-shirts and sweat shirts + various products containing beer.
Typical English snacks (i.e. beef burgers and hot dogs) are being sold outside and there is info about beer associations, other forthcoming beer festivals etc.
Tickets (£6) are available before hand at the Maltings in the South West Kiln.
- Arts and Culture
- Beer Tasting
Birdworld is set on 26 acres of beautiful parkland and landscaped gardens. The gardens are being kept up-to-date with selected areas chosen for re-landscaping such as the willow structure in woodland walk, but many mature trees create the finer structure. The topiary garden, shrub and herbaceous borders, herb beds, cottage gardens and lawns, bulbs and colourful containers all help to provide a complementary setting for the birds.
They have birds from around the world, including Emu, Ostrich, Penguins, Owls, Peacocks etc. My favourite was definitely the Emu!
There are also loads of areas for kids to let off steam. Activities for kids include:
The penguins are being fed every day at 11.30am and 4pm.
The educational Heron Theatre with some young birds raised at Birdworld that perform natural tricks, as they would in the wild, to illustrate the magical world of birds in our own special shows.
Safari Ride through the park
Jenny Wren Farm provides visitors a chance to stroke and sometimes hold some of the new arrivals to the farm. Special sessions are held at 12.20pm and 2:00pm although the farm itself is open throughout the day.
Underwater World hosts tanks representing fish from the sparkling tropical seas, streams and Mangrove Forests (the only trees that are able to tolerate salty water). There is also a special Crocodilian Swamp with young crocodiles, alligators and Caimen. The freshwater displays feature a wide range of freshwater habitats, ranging from Amazonian streams and flooded forests to African lakes and tiny seasonal pools. Marine exhibits from the Caribbean, Indian and Pacific oceans.
Birdworld is fully accessible to visitors with disabilites. The site has flat and level paths throughout with plenty of resting places.
No dogs except Registered Assistance Dogs are allowed in the park. However, the adjacent Alice Holt Forest provides excellent walking routes.
24 hour information line: 01420 22838
- Theme Park Trips
- Family Travel
Farnham Park - a medieval deer park
The 320 acre park land dates back to the middle ages when it was a deer park belonging to the Bishop of Winchester. The park was used as the hunting ground for royalty. At the time, it was known either as the New or Little Park.
The majority of the park consists of large areas of grassland, old oak trees, winding streams and various ponds. It also has an impressive 1km long tree avenue that runs along the chalk ridge of the North Downs. The Avenue offers superb views over the town.
Many of the oak trees are rich in wildlife, providing important habitat for rare insects. There are also 25 recorded species of butterfly in the park. Much of the park is on thick clay which can often make access difficult in winter. In the medieveal times, the clay was dug for making pottery. There is also chalk that was extracted for building and as marl for agriculture.
The Nadder stream twists and turns across the northern part of the park. Other streams are more seasonal in nature, rising in heavy rain and then disappearing. There are several swallow holes where streams disappear underground when they cross from the clay to the more porous chalk. More substantial woodland has developed along the stream. Where it is densest, wild Roe deer can often seen.
The ponds are very different in character. Yo-Yo pond is a typical woodland pond, whilst Cannon Pond provides an important habitat for breeding waterfowl. Deer Pond and Friends Pond are more open. There are large populations of the Great Crested newt in the ponds.
Many of the birds in the park are seasonal. Warblers, Swallows and House Martins are common in spring and summer. There are also many Whitethroats and Garden warblers. Herons can often be seen fishing at the ponds. Large flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare often overwinter in the park.
Pay and play golf course, adventure playground, picnic area, cricket club, football pitches, small children's play area, footpaths, cyclepath, off road car parking. The site is not suitable for wheelchair users.
- Adventure Travel
The Hogs Back Brewery
The independent Hogs Back Brewery (established in 1992) is located in the nearby village of Tongham. The bewery is located in 18th century farm buildings. Their first ever brew of 10 barrels was sold out through a handful of local pubs. After 15 years, they brew over 140 barrels every week and supply over 500 outlets.
There are regular brewery tours with tastings on Wed-Fri evenings and on weekends. The cost is £8 per person. In addition, you can keep the tasting glass as a souviner. The tours should be booked and paid for in advance at the Brewery Shop.
Their flagship real ale is 'T.E.A.' (Traditional English Ale). It is a cask conditioned ale and is available throughout the UK. It has also won several awards including a gold medal for Best Bitter at the CAMRA Great British Beer festival.
The brewery shop & off licence supplies not just their own draught & bottled beer, but hundreds of other bottled beers from around the world. There is even beer from Finland(!!!), Belgium, South America, China and other small UK Breweries.
The shop offer a range of other Hogs Back products, including clothing, glassware and other brewery memorabilia. You can also see the brewery in action from the viewing gallery.
The shop opening hours
Mon, Tue and Sat 9am - 6pm
Wed, Thu, & Fri 9am - 8:30pm
Sun and May Bank Holiday 10am - 4:30pm
- Road Trip
- Beer Tasting
Visit the castle
Farnham Castle is Surrey's only intact castle, built about 1138 and used by the bishops of Winchester as a fortified manor.
It is open to the public every Wednesday from 2 till 4 otherwise you'll have to get yourself onto one of the conferences or courses run there.
The website I've listed has a great virtual tour.