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Surrey Heath Age Concern’s “A walk on the Wildside” was held on Sunday 26th September.
A location map, the walk route and a fascinating history of the local area can be seen below.
A potted history of Barossa and its surrounding.
The areas you will be walking on were formerly Crown Land and formed part of Windsor Forest.
From the car park our walk starts in The Old Dean housing estate, built on part of The Old Dean Common, (not actually common land), during the 1950s to house Londoners who had lost their homes during the World War Two bombings. Street names reflect the effort made to make the newcomers feel at home.
The Poors Allotment, bordering Barossa is a wonderful example of lowland heath and acid grassland .Covering 183 acres the land was set aside under the Enclosures Act for the benefit of the poor of Windlesahm in the 1800’s, and is today managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust.Volunteers have worked for many years to restore the Heathland to good health, and it is an internationally recognised site for supporting rare ground nesting birds, lizards and insects.
From atop its eastern escarpment The Poors offers stunning views of London and boasts two concrete training Pill Boxes built in World War Two, one looks out across the East – you can make out the Shard on a clear day !
As you approach Wishmoor Cross, at the base of Deer Rock Hill, one of the few obvious natural landmarks called Surrey Hill is some distance away on to the East.
Bagshot Hill to the South East , is the site of a reservoir and is where the Wish Stream begins. It is quite close to the ancient sheep droving path known as The Maultway that now passes over the M3 !!!.
The Wish Stream, which forms the boundary between Surrey and Berkshire flows across Wishmoor Bottom and into the enclosed section of the military training area.
Once upon a time there were two watermills on The Wish Stream, and the millpond on the first mill was dammed in order to create the Lower Lake in front of the Royal Military College. The College was opened in 1802 built on a farm originally owned by William Pitt the Younger, and now known as the world famous Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
Another section of the stream was dammed to create a bathing lake. The very recently demolished Crown Inn on London Road Camberley was once the home of one of the Wish Stream millers. The stream flows through the middle of The Meadows roundabout and joins the River Blackwater.
On the righthand side of the path, just before Wishmoor Cross, (where the Wish Stream crosses from the Crown Estate area known as Swinley Forest,) you will notice a a standing stone, near the gate. This is probably a parish boundary stone.
From this gate you can access The Look Out, Bracknell and Rapley Lake but beware, it is easy to get lost with few landmarks to help you find your way. No wonder this area was chosen by Highway men of the past to prey on vulnerable travellers. And the MOD choose Barossa for Orienteering training and competency assessment.
-As you continue your walk on Old Dean Common and the surrounding areas you might decide to research some of the history of the area.
The Free French forces were based on the Old Dean Camp from 1940 to 1944. After undergoing training on the Old Dean, missions were planned, including resistance missions, which flew from RAF Hartfordbridge, now known as Blackbushe.
Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the Free French Army(and later President of France), regularly visited the camp and was seen in and around Camberley. Lorraine School takes its name from the Cross of Lorraine.
(There is a lot of information available in the Surrey Heath museum, and in a variety of books written by local authors).
During the 1948 Olympic Games, the individual Eventing took place in Camberley -apparently in the military training area.
In 1924 a motorcycle scramble event on the heathland was the forerunner of what became known as ‘motocross’.
On the higher ground beyond Wishmoor Bottom you will be quite close to the Roman Road known as The Devils Highway, one of the roads from the Roman town of Silchester – indeed then the major Roman road connecting London with the West of Britain, and which included the first bridge over the River Thames at Staines.
Beyond ‘Upper Star Post’ on The Devils Highway is ‘Caesars Camp’, actually an Iron Age hillfort.
You will come to the sobering sight of FOB William (Forward Operating Base), a military training facility built in 2012, a reminder of the serious nature of the training carried out on Barossa.
You will descend a steep path that was shown on BBC TV news, showing the first intake of female cadets, into RMAS, they were fully laden and running up the slope !!
Until 1984 female officers were trained at a college in Bagshot.
Whilst at RMAS Princes William and Harry could be seen training in the areas where you are now walking. Note : You will often come across the Drag Hunt Pack of hounds on their daily exercise – a host of white tails wafting by and a live nod to a past era,
Having re-crossed the Wish Stream, with fence posts adorned with the bright Colours of Regiments active in the training area, you are back in Surrey.
You will then cross over Kings Ride, which meets the A30 at Camberley Town centre, it is named after King George the Third, who reigned from 1760 to 1820.
Apparently after inspecting his fleet at Portsmouth, King George would take a short cut across the heathland on his way to Windsor. Of course in those far off days ‘Camberley’ did not exist, and the address of Kings Ride would have been Frimley.
After the new Staff College was completed in 1863 the developing community was known as Cambridge Town, which clearly caused some difficulties for the postal services of the day. On January 15th 1877 the town was named ‘Camberley’, after the River Cam, which flowed past The Knoll, but for many years has been piped underground.
Yes like Cambridge, Camberley had its own River Cam, but was it never wide or deep enough to be enjoyed by punters?
Leaving Kings Ride the track takes up to the base of Saddle Back Ridge. This natural forming feature, with its steep rough sides, is heavily used in challenging training Army exercises.
The Heathland walk ends at the monstrous BT Communication Tower, built in the 60’s as part of BT’s TV transmission network. It provided the first hop from the world famous London BT Tower relaying transmissions to both Southampton and to Bristol in the west, using point to point Microwave technology.