Originally built for the Bryant family, of the matchmaking firm Bryant & May, this lovely…
The two commons at Epsom and Ashtead are very ancient and go back to the wild wood, which once covered much of England. As settlements grew up, the villagers had commoner’s rights for grazing, collecting firewood and extracting gravel and clay. The woods were often pollarded, partly to produce straight, thin pieces of wood, but also to allow grass to grow underneath them so that cattle could graze.
Roman tile factory
In Roman times there was considerable activity in the area. Stane Street, which ran from London Bridge to Chichester, passes only a mile (1.6km) away. A Roman villa and bathouse has been found in the northern part of Ashtead Common and it is thought it was located near a large tile factory and several clay pits. It was occupied between ad 117 and 138, although some parts are older, and it is known that it was completely abandoned by ad 200. Among the objects found here are some gold jewellery, pottery and other objects used for religious or ritual purposes.
Epsom’s fortunes really picked up in the 17th century. On the west side of Epsom Common there is now a housing development known as The Wells. Towards the end of the Elizabethan era it was discovered that the water in some of the ponds on the common was good for constipation, and Epsom Well was developed (it is now a wishing well in the centre of the housing development). Aristocrats came down from London to take the waters and Epsom became one of the most celebrated spas of the 17th century. Epsom Salts were prepared by boiling down the waters. Later that century, the existence of this spa led to the need to provide additional forms of entertainment, so horse racing was introduced and survives today as the Epsom Derby.
Ashtead Common was given the status of a national Nature Reserve in 1995 and was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1955. The ancient woodland has some very venerable trees, including more than 2,300 veteran oak pollards, some of which are over 400 years old. A rigorous programme of preservation of these valuable trees helps to secure their future. The area is also very important for its birdlife, particularly for breeding warblers, and for the diversity of habitat that brings rare plants, dozens of species of butterfly and over 1,000 species of beetle to the common. Active conservation work being undertaken here includes the restoration of the Rye Brook, which can be observed between Points 3 and 4 of the walk. The brook now flows more freely than it used to and supports more wildlife. This variety of habitat and wildlife is one of the pleasures of this walk.
From the car park head away from the road past two posts (signed Epsom Well) and a notice board. Stick to the main path through woodland. At a cross-tracks and a fingerpost turn right following bridleway 29, signed ‘Ashtead Common’. Pass the nature reserve notice board on the left and walk on with a field to the right. At the next fingerpost carry straight on signed ‘Kingston Road’. At the next cross-tracks there is a fingerpost and a notice board named Chessington View. The route goes straight on keeping to the bridleway for Kingston Road.
At the next fingerpost go left following footpath 32 over a boardwalk. Go gently uphill for about 110yds (100m) and at a grassy area on the right, take the path on the left and follow it round to the right. Pass an earthwork on the right (very overgrown), and keep ahead ignoring the tracks from the left. At the next fingerpost turn right following footpath 32, then meet a broad track and turn right. Pass a fingerpost signed ‘Concessionary Ride 2’ on the left and continue on bridleway 33.
At the next fingerpost on the right, turn left along footpath 25 and go on past the crossing with footpath 34. At the next cross-tracks by a fingerpost leave footpath 25 and turn left. Within 15yds (14m) turn right and continue, ignoring tracks on the right. Bear left and see the river restoration project. Meet a T-junction with a public bridleway and turn left, then after 10yds (9m) turn right. Pass a notice board on the left and enter Epsom Common. At the next fingerpost, by the marker for West Heath, continue ahead. After an open space on the left pass the Summer Horseride, also on the left and the signpost for the Thames Down Link. Follow the path right and, by a fingerpost, continue along the main path, bearing right. Pass a fingerpost and a bench and continue on the main path. Reach a fork, with houses and a notice board to the right.
Take the left fork and then turn left at a fingerpost along a bridleway signed ‘Christchurch Road’. Our route is along Summer Horseride. (For The Cricketers pub, continue on the main path to Stamford Green.) Meet a cross-tracks and go left at the fingerpost on Footpath 55.
At the next cross-tracks, with a a sign for ‘Thames Down Link’, turn right. At the next cross-tracks turn left, and ignore the next tracks. At a gate on the right, where the Thames Down Link and the Chessington Countryside Walk go right, go along bridleway 29. Continue past a notice board to a stew pond, left. Just past here take the path on the right to the car park.
Generally broad paths, well marked
Commons and light woodland with views of farmland
OS Explorer 146 Dorking, Box Hill & Reigate
Epsom and Ashtead Commons Car Park, Christchurch Road
None on route, nearest at Ashtead Peace Memorial Hall car park, Ashtead
WALKING IN SAFETY
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
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About the area
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