Map details for Deepcut Surrey Walk
Map top Although it’s great to occasionally visit a national park or area of outstanding natural beauty, most of the walks we take are in the country side near where we live. When the weather is fine and we feel like a pleasant stroll outdoors, it is the country side on our doorstep that we are most likely to visit. Often however these are the areas that are threatened by development and are slowly being eaten away by the march of new urban development. In our locality of North-East Hants or West Surrey, the demand for more housing seems insatiable, creating an ever expanding ring of building around London, with talk that even the green belt areas are no longer sacrosanct. Such, I suppose is the march of progress. A short while ago I lead a walk around Deepcut in Surrey, an area that up until recently was dominated by the Army,with a camp established here during the early years of the 20th C. Deepcut became the headquarters for the Royal Logistic Corp stationed at the Princess Royal Barracks here. However recently the MOD decided to move the Corp to Worthy Down, near Winchester,and the camp, no longer required for defence use, is to be disposed of and the land then used for residential development.This means that within a few years Deepcut, perhaps now best described as a small shanty town that grew up in the shadow of the army, will within a few years evolve into a township of some 1200 dwellings and associated infrastructure. A walk round the area was a good chance to see the area prior to the impending considerable change.
Details of Route Summary of Route: Our 6 mile walk initially started from Frimley Lodge Park and used a stretch of the Basingstoke canal to reach Deepcut Bridge. After a short walk along roads, our trail then continued North, through woods, part private and part belonging to the MOD, until we reached Frith Hill, just south of the Frimley Fuel Allotments. From here we followed a route through the woods, over Blackdown hill, bringing us out in the centre of Deepcut to view the Garrison Church of St Barbara, an interesting building being mainly built of corrugated iron. Our trail then followed a track way just north of the canal and adjacent to the now disused Deepcut barracks taking us to the first of the Deepcut flight of locks (Lock 28) between Deepcut and Brookwood. At this point we crossed over the canal and followed the tow path back to our starting point in Frimley Lodge Park.We chose a day in mid-November for the walk so as to capture the many shades of colour of the trees in the woodland areas we traversed. Once we had reached Deepcut, our outward trail was through mixed woods round Frith Hill and Blackdown. These woods, containing silver birch, pine, and sweet chestnut, presented to us a paint box of greens yellows and browns. On the return leg of our journey, a magnificent stand of beech trees, lining the banks of the nearby canal cutting, presented a colourful scene of autumn browns. It is from this cutting that the local settlement derives its name.
Also the locality has much of interest to the local historian and a few points of interest are outlined in the remainder of this essay.
Frimley Lodge Park is a 24 hectare area that was originally used for rough grazing land saved from development after its compulsory purchase by Surrey heath in the mid-1980s when the area had become overgrown and derelict after the death in 1974 without heirs, of the former landowner. It was opened in 1987 and contains a balanced mixture of playing fields, open spaces and some wooded areas. As well as a Café it has a model railway and pitch and put course.
The Basingstoke canal, which was started in 1787 and completed in 1794, originally ran from Basingstoke to the River Wey navigation near West-By-Fleet - a length of some 37 miles. The civil engineer who surveyed the canal was William Jessop who was a pupil of John Smeaton of light house fame. The section of the canal at Deepcut passes through a deep cutting of 1000 yards in length, which gives the locality its name. Built at a pre-mechanisation time, when such constructions could only rely on the muscle power of the navies using wooden shovels and wheelbarrows, the cutting must surly represent one of the civil engineering achievements of the canal. At the Deepcut section, the canal is wooded on both sides, and the north bank of the cutting, is lined with mature beech trees. In the autumn, this section of the tow path is particularly colourful and well worth a visit. The last attempt to navigate the western stretch of the canal was made by A.J Harmsworth in 1913, who attempted to run a barge from Ash Whaf but only managed to reach Old Basing some 3 weeks later. This trip was necessary to preserve the right of navigation and prevent the canal being closed.
Frimhurst Centre is a Victorian manor currently used for providing short respite breaks for disadvantage families and is part of ATD Fourth World, an International anti-poverty and Human Rights organisation. The house was built in the 1830s on a 47 acre estate and in the past has been the home of a number of local military dignitaries including Major General Lord Paget in charge of the Calvary in Aldershot in 1860 and Major General J.H. Smyth in charge of the Artillery in Aldershot from 1867-97 . Dame Ethel Smyth, a daughter of General Smyth, was famous both as a composer and a suffragette
The Railway Aqueduct was constructed to carry the canal over the two-track London to Southampton Railway in 1838, a nd was subsequently lengthened on the southern side when the railway was doubled in 1901. It was re-lined by British Rail in 1981.
Lakeside country club and hotels is part of the Bob Potter Leisure group and is well known for hosting international dart competitions and international cabaret. The complex was first opened in 1972 after Bob Potter, a local music promoter, bought Warfenden house and lake and developed this as an entertainment venue. Lakeside suffered a disastrous fire in 1978 but was subsequently refurbished to reopen in 1979 and went on to became the venue for the world darts championship from 1986.
Frimley Fuel Allotments: Two hundred years ago, fuel allotments were a common feature of rural England. Almost every village had its plot of land set aside to enable the poor to cut turf or wood for their domestic fires. As coal and coke became more readily available, these fuels allotments died out. However the Frimley fuel allotments, formally established by an act of parliament in 1785, possibly because no coal is mined locally, continued in use until the start of the 20th century. Today Frimley Fuel allotments exist as a local charity, set up over a 100 years ago, to assist local people in hardship and distress. The trust owns about 260 acres of woodland situated between Deepcut, Frimley Green. 140 acres has been leased to a Golf Centre and the remaining 120 acres remains in the hands of trustees to be managed in accordance with recommendations of the Surrey Trust for Nature Conservation with the help of a local volunteer group.
Deepcut: Before the first half of the 19th Century the area was sparsely inhabited, largely un-cultivated, covered with heather and trees, and was part of the Thames Basin heathland area. Later, much of this area was acquired by the Pain family of Frimley Green who purchased land here in the 1860s. The Pains were responsible for building a number of large houses in the locality, the first of these being Highbridge House just north of the canal alongside what is now called Lake Road.
In 1894 the Pain family sold 250 acres of their land to the Army for the building of Deepcut Barracks. During the early part of the 20th century a Camberley builder, James Knight, purchased land opposite to Deepcut Camp and was responsible for laying out new roads and building many shops along Deepcut Bridge Road, along with civilian housing in adjacent streets.
The recent closure of Deepcut Barracks and proposals to redevelop the site residentially will add 1200 dwellings, extra retailing including a new 2000sq m supermarket, schools and other infrastructure, all of which will have a massive impact on the locality; work is expected to commence in 2016.
Deepcut Barracks: The area had been used as a training ground for the army from the late 19th century but initially was without barracks or formal military infrastructure until 1903 when the Royal Engineers commenced the formal building of Blackdown camp.
Blackdown camp was initially established to accommodate artillery and infantry, and was grouped around an existing large Victorian house, known as Winchester house. On its purchase by the War Office for military use, it was renamed Blackdown house. The camp expanded to contain a number of Barracks including Minden, Dettingen, Alma, Frith, Aisne and Marne Barracks and by the 1940s had capacity for up to 25000 soldiers.
In postwar times several of the barracks were closed, and part of the area, around the original Blackdown House restored for forestry and as a training area. Between 1967 and 1971 Minden Barracks was demolished and rebuilt as Blackdown Barracks and then renamed Princess Royal Barracks becoming the headquarters of the Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) and the Defense School of Logistics in 1993. It was previously the headquarters of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps until the formation of the RLC in 1993 from the union of 5 other regiments including the Royal Transport Corp, the Royal Ordnance Corp and the Royal Catering Corp. The defence decision to move the RLC to Worthy down, near Winchester, lead to the decision to dispose of the MOD land in Deepcut and the development of this for housing as mentioned earlier.
In the period 1995 to 2002 the reputation of the camp was marred somewhat by the unexplained deaths of 4 young recruits- subsequent police investigations reached no satisfactory conclusion as to the circumstances leading to these deaths.
The Garrison Church of St Barbara Deepcut: This grade 2 listed building is unusual for a church being constructed of corrugated iron, although a number of similar corrugated iron churches were built in the early days of the Garrison in Aldershot. It was first dedicated in 29th September 1901 as St Michael and All Angels. The Church was renamed in 1967 and is currently the Royal Garrison church of the Royal Logistic Corps. On the merging of the Royal Ordnance Corp into the RLC in 1993, a new set of stained glass windows was installed to commemorate the services of the church to the Corps. The Church will continue in use after the redevelopment of the area.
Frith Hill Prisoner of war camp: Opened in September 1914, this temporary tented camp, was used to house both German POWs and Internees. Amongst the internees, the German artist George Kenner, was held there in the summer of 1915, before being transferred to a camp near Crystal Palace. At the outbreak of the First World War, Kenner who was then living in London, registered as an enemy alien and along with 350 other Germans was taken to the Frith Hill camp, where he painted a series of pictures depicting camp life in the spring, summer and autumn of 1915. Several of his sketches have been acquired by Surrey Heath museum and have recently been restored.
Deepcut Railway: The construction of the 3 mile branch line from Bisley Camp was undertaken by Canadian troops as well as Prisoners of War who were being held at Frith Hill to the north of Deepcut. Opened by King George V and Queen Mary, the railway line only had a short life, being discontinued in 1921. The terminus at Deepcut was a log-timbered building, constructed by Canadian troops. The military extension between Bisley Camp and Blackdown Camp was finally dismantled in 1928 although the section between Bisley and Brookwood was not dismantled until 1950.
Lock 28 is the last of the Pirbright flight of 13 locks, between Brookwood and Deepcut, that are required to raise the canal by 98ft. The cottage opposite lock 28 was built in 1925 to replace an earlier building. Adjacent was a workshop used to build canal gates, a saw pit and dry dock which was filled in 1935 during the period of canal decline, but reinstated in 1983. A workshop, created from a disused army swimming pool, just above the cottage, was used to build many of the lock gates required during the restoration of the canal in the 1980s, and is still in use.
Details of Route