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Blackwater Rd. (3)

The final stretch to Blackwater is not as exciting as it looks on the map.  At SU 667626 we joined a green lane going due east as straight as a die; it’s Roman and it’s called Park Lane – or, more interestingly, The Devil’s Highway1.

Why “Devil’s”?

My theory is that the people of medieval times ‘knew’ that the Devil liked straight lines.  Hence the path from the lychgate to the church always has one or two bends in it.  Chris Speed, my sole authority on the area, says it could be because the agricultural Anglo-Saxons found the straightness a bit other-worldly & didn’t trust it.  The jury is out.

The D H is impressively wide (#1), with plenty of trees either side (& the odd burnt-out car), but it lacks character and variety: 20 of the photos I took could have replaced #1 without adding more information.  Knowing that it’s been there since Roman times gives it spice; and, of course, it’s a lovely green corridor through the arable either side.  Also, it becomes tarmac at “Fair Cross”, (697628), which sounds busy in the commercial sense.  And it’s a great walk.  I’d better stop knocking it. 

We then walked from Fair Cross up Chequer's Lane (site of an old inn?), which  becomes “Welsh Lane” (#2) after Stanford Bridge, and on to where we had parked at the huge farm shop at 717626.  (They’re springing up everywhere and I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or not.)  Then we drove to the next section, starting at 754610 outside Bramshill Police College.  Best behaviour.  Bet there wouldn’t have been too much of that at The Plough (#3), now a private house on the edge of the forest.

I’ve got lost on Forestry Commission land before.  You need a compass to find the right path because tracks are everywhere.  Well, no compass and it was hot, so whether #4 is a shot of the original Welsh Drive - as the road to Yateley Common and Blackwater is called from Bramshill on - is anyone’s guess.  We emerged on to a tarmac road at about 4pm and luckily a film crew had been in the college grounds all day so there were plenty of van-drivers to tell us the wrong way back to the car.  (I meant that.)

And now Blackwater itself.  Well…it’s not my cup of tea and the traffic is ferocious, but we found some greenery the other side of the railway on the Blackwater River.  There used to be hundreds of acres of grazing; now there’s mostly #5.  We were told the old fair used to be where the Entecon building is now.  So now you know.   

Interesting thing: Red Devons were as common as Welsh Blacks at the fair.  Nora Hough says that Welsh cattle were put to graze on Starveacre Hill (!), the Irish in the valley, Devons & Herefords either side of the turnpike.  The only way to keep the peace, no doubt.

The last cattle fair was held in 1929.

1 The DH can be followed all the way to Virginia Water.

Blackwater Rd. (3) image 1
The Devil's Highway
Blackwater Rd. (3) image 2
Welsh Lane
Blackwater Rd. (3) image 3
The Plough at Bramshill
Blackwater Rd. (3) image 4
Welsh Drive??
Blackwater Rd. (3) image 5
Wot No Grass!