BOAT: Old Portsmouth Road/Gnome Cottage Lane/High Button Lane/Farnham Lane

Location: Thursley, Surrey, UK
  • Overall Rating: 5
  • Location: Hindhead, Surrey.
  • OS Explorer Map 133, 'Haslemere & Petersfield'.
  • Starting OS Grid Reference: SU896384
  • Starting GPS Co-ordinates: N51 13' 80" W000 72' 00"
  • Finishing OS Grid Reference:  SU890357
  • Finishing GPS Co-ordinates: N51 11' 40" E000 72' 90"
  • To see: the Devils Punchbowl.
  • ALWAYS follow the Greenlane Code!
Old Portsmouth Road
Yes, thank you. We know that this is a huge post covering the multiple byways that criss-cross the Devils Punchbowl, but since you can't drive one without driving the others we are treating all the green lanes here as one entry. Therefore: shortcuts!
All the byways here unless otherwise specified have a solid, well-drained surface of sand and in places broken sandstone. It is very easy going and at no stage will it present the remotest challenge to any 4x4/trail bike short of the odd bump and pothole and the undergrowth never encroaches.

We started with Old Portsmouth Road: Byway 500 for Surrey County Council (and Highfield Lane for Google, whaaaa?). We drove this, the 'high level' road and the longest byway of them all, from its northern end, from its junction with another decent green lane called Rockey Lane: in fact, you'd be mad not to drive both at the same sitting!

On passing into National Trust land, at a junction between this byway and the un-named Byway 501 (which we have called Gnome Cottage Lane) one crosses a cattle grid and the surface almost immediately deteriorates to broken and loose sandstone. Climbing ever upwards through extremely pleasant heathland, the most epic views begin to unfurl to the east (even better in the snow we had in February 2013) reminding one how wild and beautiful the Surrey Hills must have been before the stockbrokers began to settle them. Humans: tisk.

Old Portsmouth Road
I digress. After a false summit and after plunging through some large puddles the green lane crosses another cattle grid and emerges out onto the route of the old A3, which has changed beyond all recognition. Basically, it's disappeared! Anyone who regularly drove this road (as we used to) will be astounded by the change since the tunnel was completed. There is almost no trace of the A3 now, just a slowly healing scar on the landscape and all the better for it. It's now (obviously) closed to all motorised traffic and instead at the Youth Hostel we transition from the sandstone onto the hard prepared surface as the byway continues southwards. From this point on its pretty disappointing from a purely green laning point of view as it is basically a metalled country road. It is also extremely popular with dog walkers and families looking to avoid the mud, so needless to say you should drive it dead slow and with even more care and courtesy than usual!

Driving past the original milestone for the old coach road and the memorial to the murdered sailor (all this great local history is explained by notice boards, so I shan't bother here), presently the byway crests Gibbet Hill and turns to the west from a subtle junction between it, Farnham Lane (21A) and High Button (503), the latter subject to a TRO and gated off. After a short distance further the track ends back out on the remains of the old A3 in Hindhead village proper, conveniently opposite the National Trust cafe. It would be positively indecent if you did not stop by and refresh yourselves!

Gnome Cottage Lane
Now for the 'low level' byway: Gnome Cottage Lane. Starting from the eastern end from the unhelpfully confusing yet entirely unrelated 'Old Portsmouth Road' (metalled), the byway strikes out westwards and over a cattle grid. Here the surface is muddy with underlying sand, so it's easy going. Continuing westwards the green lane twists and turns downhill and passes a shallow pond before climbing up again and then crossing Old Portsmouth Road (BOAT) in two places: take the left-hand track when they diverge. On the other side the byway turns to the south, passing through spell-bindingly beautiful heathland. The National Trust really do keep it well. Eventually the lane passes over another cattle grid, begins to climb at Gnome Cottage (an ancient & beautiful dwelling, lucky B******S) and emerges onto the gravel surface that serves the Youth Hostel, where the lane turns back eastwards. Climbing steeply up towards the old A3, on passing an aged and gnarled beech tree the surface changes to tarmac. The byway ends as it rejoins Old Portsmouth Road (BOAT). This is our preferred routing.

Farnham Lane
Finally (yeah, I know) it's Farnham Lane (Byway 21A)! It is technically un-named, but we have logically given it the same name as the tarmac road at its southern end. It's not all that long, and almost dead straight from its junction with Old Portsmouth Road in the north and it's ending (via another cattle grid) at The Royal School at its south. It is very similar to all the others in this area in that it runs on a muddy surface with underlying sand, it crosses beautiful heathland (yet with more woodland on this lane), and the undergrowth is well cut back. You get the idea by now. We shan't go into any more detail, as this byway principally serves to offer a choice of routes: you can either miss out this stage and end up at the National Trust Cafe or use this byway to access the other byways around Haslemere if you are thus inclined.

As you can tell, we're pretty excited about the green laning prospects in this area. They're great, maybe not quite as great as that at Five Lanes End near Basingstoke, but certainly worthy of a 5 rating. Now, if only we could find a killer pub nearby... Any ideas?

View Old Portsmouth Road in a larger map


Unknown said...

Don't know if you guys ever look at as it shows all the tracks much more clearly than Google.

I'm off to try out these lanes myself. Bit out of my way but you guys have convinced me it'll be worth it. Thanks for the great work you are doing!

Dempo said...

Well... if only we'd known about that site before starting this website (though in fairness I don't think it existed back then)! I'm not sure if its compatible with our Android GPS program, and it would take so much work to swap it all over to OpenStreetMap now (there's over 300 individual greenlanes on here) that it would take an exceedingly long time to do. I'm not saying that we won't do it, but it's not likely until the remainder of the outstanding green lanes have been driven and reviewed!

I'm so glad we've managed to convince you out on the byways of the south. If you drive any of the green lanes on here with a 4 or 5 rating you will not be disappointed! Check out one of the pubs (click the 'pubs' tag on the menu to the right) to nicely round off your day too!

Anonymous said...

Ran straight up the middle North to South 22/12/2013. Fantastic long lane to amble along, just remember to slow down for dog walkers, but they were all friendly. One of the best lanes I've ever done.

Anonymous said...

Great lanes had lots of fun. Loads of walkers most friendly othere seem not to like our presence. Realy nice friendly couple who live over there gave use some great info on where to go and where to avoid. All in all a fantastic 2 hours spend in the landy.

MarkyD said...

Drove Byway 500 in my Wrangler today. Nothing too adventurous with all of the rain around but thoroughly enjoy it. As a beginner the info was very helpful indeed and I know that I would not get into trouble. I did have to get out and remove a fallen branch. Dog walkers and horse riders in surrounding roads were v courteous as of course was I. Thank you.

Dempo said...

It's my pleasure, MarkyD! Glad you had fun.

Anonymous said...

Great website which I've just discovered today! I've never greenlaned before and would like to give this one a try. Do you think that it would be fine to do in a RRS with General Grabber AT tyres? Also do you think the lanes wide enough not to scratch the paintwork? Cheers!

Dempo said...

Thanks, glad you've found us! On our last visit this particular byway was be wide enough to avoid scratching the paintwork and I should imagine that, being on National Trust land, this is still the case. I would imagine that your vehicle would easily make it through this one. However, do check every entry on this website as if encroaching foliage is ever an issue we always mention it!

Unknown said...

Drove these lanes today bar high button lane (TRO) all very easy to drive and a real pleasure, the views are stunning as well, plus some photos you can take, unfortunately i only thought of this once i had driven them and finished :) Met one of the maintenance team who owns and was working in his series 3 which he stops and had a chat and told me the best routes to take even said next time he will so me some of the none marked ones to try :) (added bonus) he also said to take extra care as they had to nearly close all lanes here 3-4 months ago due to people being irresponsible and knocking over 3 pedestrians.

every one was very welcoming there and plus had alot of people say thank you and some were very surprised i let them pass me as i pulled over to let them pass, even had one guy say I am one exception for my generation lol (only 23) nice to know tho :P

keep up the good work guys on this website, and i will continue to update as i try them all out :) gotta keep myself busy and the mrs happy and give her any excuses as to why she has to share me between her and the landy :)

Dempo said...

So glad that you had fun Oliver! That is the very purpose of this website, after all. Any updates you can provide are most appreciated.

Dempo said...

So glad that you had fun Oliver! That is the very purpose of this website, after all. Any updates you can provide are most appreciated.

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