24 Oct Somewhere for the weekend : Autumn Walks
Living in England’s most densely wooded county, it’s always a pleasure to witness Surrey donning its autumn finery. Surrey Life was written about some of the best places to do just that – plus a few pub pit stops to enjoy on route!
An ancient semi-natural woodland, Chiphouse Wood was acquired by the Woodland Trust in 1982 following a successful local appeal. Found on part of the north facing side of Chipstead Bottom, a prominent dry valley in the dip slope of the North Downs, it is located between the villages of Chipstead and Kingswood. The more regularly mentioned Banstead Wood is found across the valley to the north. The best place to park for visiting Chiphouse Wood is at the Banstead Wood car park, about one mile away off Holly Lane (there are footpaths and bridleways between the two).
Post-walk refresher? The Ramblers Rest on Outwood Lane or the Kingswood Arms on Waterhouse Lane.
The Devil’s Punch Bowl,
Visitors to this spectacular natural amphitheatre witness the sweeping hillsides and valley turn to a rich russet and ochre in the autumn – look out for autumn colours in the bracken, beech trees and even Highland cattle (!) in the middle of the Punch Bowl. Surrounded by the Hindhead Commons, it is said that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes, found inspiration for the book The Hound of the Baskervilles while taking one of his regular walks around the area. Certainly, there is much to inspire here.
Post-walk refresher? The Three Horseshoes in Thursley (recently named County Dining Pub of the Year by the Good Pub Guide) or The Dog and Pheasant in Brook.
Holmbury St Mary and more
Owned principally by the Lords of the Manor in Shere, Albury and Ockley and the Friends of the Hurtwood (a group formed in 1926 and given charity status in the 60s), The Hurtwood was one of the first estates in England to offer the ‘right to roam’. As such, birdwatchers, dog walkers, horseback riders, mountain bikers and anyone who enjoys the fresh air flock there. With Holmbury Hill, Pitch Hill and the Winterfold ridge all offering views over the Weald to the South Downs, it’s even more spectacular in the autumn.
Post-walk refresher? The Volunteer at Sutton Abinger, The Stephan Langton at Friday Street or The Abinger Hatch at Abinger Common.
Not only does it have its own beautiful woodlands but, as the highest point in south-east England, Leith Hill also offers stunning views of the autumn takeover transforming the surrounding Surrey countryside too. On a clear day, you can see sweeping views towards London in the north and the English Channel in the south. As the National Trust states: “Leith Hill glows with rich reds, amber hues and vibrant oranges as summer turns to autumn.” Couldn’t have said it better ourselves – and then there’s the small matter of Box Hill just down the road too…
Post-walk refresher? The Plough Inn at Coldharbour (it’s got its own micro-brewery too!).
Made up of Marden Park and Great Church Wood, this area forms the largest landscape managed by the Woodland Trust in Surrey. It also boasts no fewer than 25 species of butterfly as well as rare snails and stripe-winged grasshoppers. Found on the narrow plateau and slopes of the North Downs, in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), both the North Downs Way and the six-mile Woldingham Countryside Walk pass through the site. As well as autumn colour, Marden Park is known for its stunning views.
Post-walk refresher? Botley Hill Farmhouse, Limpsfield Road.
just off the Hog’s Back
These days forming part of the Hampton Estate, Puttenham Common is home to a wide range of fungi species in early autumn when the reserve is at its best. Once a large area of lowland heath, the area is dominated by silver birch, bracken, and wavy hair grass. Also home to two ponds, the area attracts plenty of wildlife too and is managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust. The common is also of significant archaeological interest, due to substantial finds having been recorded from every period except Saxon. The main feature is the Hill Fort at Hillbury – a Scheduled Ancient Monument that probably dates back to the time of the Iron Age.
Post-walk refresher? The Mill at Elstead, The Squirrel at Hurtmore or The Good Intent in Puttenham.
Covering an area of 2,500 acres and home to 650 deer, Richmond Park is renowned for its ancient trees, of which there are around 1,200. Some of the oaks are so old they pre-date the enclosure of the park by Charles I in the 17th century. The park is also home to the Isabella Plantation, an ornamental woodland garden. Expect rich colours wherever you look as well as one of Britain’s top wildlife spectacles: the deer and their autumn rut.
Post-walk refresher? The Lass O’ Richmond Hill on Queen’s Road, The Marlborough on Friars Stile Road or The Hand & Flower on Upper Ham Road.
A Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Shere Woodlands includes West Hanger, Combe Bottom and the Netley Plantation. A group of Surrey Wildlife Trust reserves situated on the scarp slope of the North Downs overlooking Shere, the area is heavily wooded and eye-catching come the autumn. The woodlands once formed part of the Bray Estate of Shere and were used to produce timber for the estate and for the Gomshall Tannery. West Hanger, Combe Bottom and Netley also contain some interesting historical features, with Neolithic flint quarries and pillboxes.
Post-walk refresher? The William Bray in Shere, The Queen’s Head in East Clandon or Gomshall Mill in Gomshall.
A fragment of the old ‘Wildwood’ that once covered much of southern England, Staffhurst Wood is an Ancient Woodland that has remained continuously wooded since Saxon times. Used as an ammunitions dump during World War Two, these days it is a nationally important site boasting plentiful flora and fauna. Managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust, you can find a self-guided walk through the woods on their website.
Post-walk refresher? The Royal Oak on Caterfield Lane, which was the East & Mid Surrey CAMRA Cider Pub of the Year, 2011 to 2014.
Impressive at any time of the year, Winkworth Arboretum contains more than 1,000 different shrubs and trees, many of them rare, and is internationally famous for its autumn colour. An oasis of rural tranquillity, it becomes an inspirational paint palette of vibrant colours at this time of year. The arboretum was created from 1937 by professional dermatologist and amateur arboriculturist Dr Wilfrid Fox, who deemed it a hillside that ‘seemed to call for large scale planting’. Today, the arboretum is run by the National Trust and offers walks for all levels as well as wonderful lookout points across the landscape.
Post-walk refresher? Head to either The White Horse in Hascombe or The Merry Harriers in Hambledon.
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