Hidden gems: gorgeous walks in Surrey
Hidden Gems: gorgeous walks in Surrey
Jess Woolridge reveals some of the most stunning places for a stroll in Surrey
Main image: Langley Vale by Seb McKie
It can sometimes be tricky to find local beauty spots that aren’t full of visitors when you’re in need of a relaxed day out. This guide has got you covered, with ten lesser-known spots perfect for nature lovers, ramblers, cyclists and adventurers alike. No need to travel far to discover incredible views; the scenic Surrey Hills offer a range of wildlife and scenery, including ancient woodlands and secret waterfalls. Here are some of the breath-taking areas of natural beauty right on your doorstep…
SILENT POOL, Guildford
Step into paradise just 6.5km east of Guildford at this local beauty spot. The striking spring-fed lake is nestled amongst a range of trails for walking and running in the Surrey Hills, including lots around Newlands Corner. The enchanting pool is also home to aquatic life such as kingfishers, which you may be able to spot darting across the vibrant blue water. The lake is situated on the Albury Estate, also home to the Silent Pool Distillery, which includes a gin shop and bar overlooking the magnificent landscape. (Image courtesy of silentpooldistillers.com)
BANSTEAD WOOD, Banstead
Explore 250 acres of ancient woodland at this magical location. The area is perfect for a relaxed wander, or you could follow a particular route such as the Banstead Wood Nature Trail, a 5km circular stroll starting and finishing at the Holly Lane car park. The highlights of this location are the enchanting, ornate wooden sculptures depicting various images from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Explore the forest of Narnia and spot Aslan the lion, the White Witch, or even step through the magical wardrobe, complete with hanging coats. This great addition makes Banstead Wood the perfect spot for a kid-friendly ramble. (Image courtesy of Reigate and Banstead Borough Council)
HOLMBURY HILL, Dorking
As the fourth highest summit in Surrey, Holmbury Hill offers incredible sights that are well worth the climb. At the viewpoint, you’ll discover an Iron Age hillfort alongside beautiful views. The toposcope is a nice addition, enabling you to interpret the panoramic scenes of the south of England. Alongside routes for walkers, there are also some well-known mountain bike trails to explore, such as Telegraph Row, which is suitable for cyclists of all abilities. Image courtesy of Visit Surrey, the county’s official tourist board, which has an amazing website full of more information on local beauty spots.
LANGLEY VALE WOOD, Epsom
This centenary wood is truly a hidden gem for a beautiful walk, offering routes across woodland and fields. It is also one of four sites that The Woodland Trust has recently transformed into an impressive First World War memorial. The Regiment of Trees is the most stunning feature, displaying twelve sandstone figures created by Patrick Walls to commemorate the 2nd London Division of Kitchener’s New Army. An array of oak porthole posts similarly memorialises the British warships sunk in the Battle of Jutland, alongside thousands of trees planted to honour those who lost their lives. Despite the recent appeal of the memorial, Langley Vale Wood remains a rather quiet area, making it the perfect spot for a peaceful stroll. It’s also close to Epsom Downs, which offers further rambles as well as a range of pubs and restaurants. (Image by Seb McKie).
ASHTEAD COMMON, Ashtead
This historical woodland is one for all nature lovers, since the ancient trees are home to all kinds of rare wildlife. Scenery includes gorgeous woodland, meadows and streams for ramblers and dog-walkers. There are also a few sites of historical interest, including the Roman villa. See if you can make out the remains and earthworks of the ancient bathhouse that are just visible amongst the grass. There’s an information board at the site with more details for those interested in Ashtead’s fascinating history.
Images: Silent Pool, Holmbury Hill, Banstead Woods, Langley Vale
HEADLEY HEATH, Epsom
This National Trust site offers stunning walks across heathland and woodland. One for all the history lovers, the area has previously been a training ground for World War Two troops and secret agents. Wildlife enthusiasts should keep their eyes open for grazing cattle, dragonflies, deer and badgers. If you look carefully around the ponds, you may even spot a grass snake or lizard. In terms of walking routes, the 3km lizard trail is great for families with younger kids. If you fancy a challenge, you could even try the 13km hike to Box Hill and back. This one’s definitely a lot more strenuous and may require some rest stops, but it’s worth it for the beautiful views.
TILLINGBOURNE WATERFALL, Dorking
This natural wonder is hidden deep in the Wotton Estate, away from the busier slopes of Leith Hill. Though the secret waterfall is situated on private land, it can still be admired and photographed from a short distance. The river is also a lovely sight, running through Abinger Hammer, Gomshall and Shere. Starting at the Broadmore car park, you’ll have to hike through the woods to find the waterfall. With no signs to guide you, it’s definitely one for those who fancy more of a challenge. Though it’s not easy to find the way, the scramble is definitely worthwhile. Plus, there are lots of guides online that can help you in your adventure.
With lots of walking trails on offer, you’ll be able to avoid crowds in this quiet location. Explore the Runnymede meadows, relax by the Thames, or climb the slopes of Cooper’s Hill Woods in this versatile stretch of landscape. You could take the refreshing Egham to Runnymede stroll through woodland and wetland, or take a look at the Ankerwyke Yew, the National Trust’s oldest tree. The memorial sites at Runnymede are a must-see, including the John F Kennedy, Magna Carta and Air Forces memorials. After your walk, head to the Magna Carta tearoom for a well-deserved treat.
LIMPSFIELD COMMON, Oxted
With bright bluebells in the spring, and bold colours across leafy woodland in the autumn, the common offers spectacular scenery all year round. The area is also bustling with fascinating wildlife, such as roe deer, badgers and lizards. Sit and admire the views looking toward the Weald, or lace up your hiking boots and join the Greensands Way, a stunning long-distance route starting in Haslemere and finishing in Kent. A lesser-known addition to Limpsfield Common is the charming collection of woodland creatures’ mini houses near Ridlands Grove. Children and adults alike are sure to be enchanted by Peter Rabbit’s Post Office, Hedgehog Hall, and more, all built by National Trust volunteers. The fairy-tale village also provides a red post box where kids can post letters, as well as swings and dens to play in.
GIBBET HILL, Hindhead
Gibbet Hill is the second highest hill in Surrey, offering panoramic views of the Devil’s Punchbowl, Sussex Weald and Haslemere hills. On clearer days, you might even notice the London skyline less than 50 miles away. Despite its incredible scenery, this spot definitely gains less visitors than the nearby Leith Hill, so it’s great for a peaceful day out. There’s a simple walking loop of Gibbet Hill and Hindhead Common where you can spot wildlife, admire the views, and learn some haunting historical facts about the site. Why not bring along a picnic and sit back, relax and appreciate the beauty of the Surrey Hills from the summit?