Hankley Common to Thursley

This pretty Surrey village is surrounded by extensive heathland that is rich in wildlife.




3 miles (4.8kms)

315ft (96m)
1hr 45min

About the walk

The architect Edwin Lutyens grew up in the village, and Monica Edwards, the children’s writer best known for her Romney Marsh and Punchbowl Farm series of children’s novels, lived at Punch Bowl Farm for a time. Sir Malcolm Arnold, who composed many film scores, including the one for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) for which he won an Academy Award, also lived in the village in the 1960s.

Thursley Common

Today it is a peaceful spot, surrounded by lovely countryside that is rich in wildlife. Thursley is lucky enough to have a National Nature Reserve on its doorstep, and this walk goes through part of it. The reserve is one of the largest surviving areas of Surrey heath and supports a variety of rare wildlife. Although this walk visits only the heathland areas, other parts are much damper, with bog pools and sphagnum lawns. This is one of the best sites in Britain for dragonflies, with 26 species having been recorded. There are also sundews, marsh orchids and bog asphodel. Some rare birds nest in the area, including the Dartford warbler, and there is a good chance you will see the eye-catchingly beautiful silver-studded blue butterfly on your walk.

The Nature Reserve is part of Thursley Common, which suffered terrible fires in 2006. They lasted for five days and damaged around 60 per cent of the area. More than 120 firefighters were involved and, at first, it was feared that the losses were irreversible. The heathland is recovering, but the event had a major impact on the community, and references to it can be found in Thursley’s church on a splendid pair of modern glass vestry doors. Walking through Thursley Common today shows how resilient nature can be.

Walk directions

From the entrance to the car park, turn right along a tarmac road for about 120yds (110m), turn right by telegraph pole 11, passing a metal barrier, and walk along a straight, sandy track, lined with pine trees, and carry straight on into open heathland, with the power lines to your right. Continue walking past pylons to reach pylon 23; and, immediately afterwards, turn left down a track that descends and curves left. At a T-junction, turn right down a sandy path beneath power cables and continue uphill near a house called Houndown, parallel to another path by some houses. As the path forks under power cables, take the left fork along a path, which descends and meets another track coming in from the right. Pass a barrier to meet a tarmac track and turn right. Turn right again near the entrance to Hounmere House to follow a public bridleway. Ascend to meet Thursley Road.

Turn left and, in about 100yds (91m), turn right along a public footpath that descends and crosses a wooden bridge. Pass through at a wooden gate to enter a pretty grassy area with a small stream. Keep to the left side and bear right to cross a wooden bridge. Continue with the fence on the left, cross a wooden boardwalk and head for a gate. Turn left at the fingerpost to follow a public footpath along a tarmac track. On meeting a road at Brook Cottage, turn right and follow it as it ascends and curves left. At a fingerpost and a 30mph sign, turn right along a public footpath, walking uphill and then fork right through woods. Emerge onto a tarmac drive by some houses and continue ahead to reach a triangular green.

Turn left to reach the main road and cross to a fingerpost opposite, then take the public bridleway, turning left after 22yds (20m). At a cross-track, go straight ahead, and bear left at the next cross-track onto a broad, sandy track, following the public bridleway. Continue on the main track, which curves right at the next waymarker. On meeting a path coming in from the right, turn left and immediately bear left at the next fork, keeping the field on the left. Ignore side tracks as the path widens.

Meet Thursley Road, just beyond Truxford Stream Cottage, and turn left. Then, as the road bears left, turn right along a public bridleway, signed to October Farm, to return to the car park

Additional information

Sandy paths across heathland, some steeper paths in woodland

Mostly heathland, with some pretty paths and lanes around the village of Thursley

Dogs can run free across Hankley Common, but leads required on Thursley National Nature Reserve

OS Explorer OL33 Haslemere & Petersfield

In Hankley Common, off Thursley Road

None on route

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About the area

Discover Surrey

Surrey may be better known for its suburbia than its scenery, but the image is unjust. Over a quarter of the county’s landscapes are official Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and along the downs and the greensand ridge you can gaze to distant horizons with hardly a building in sight. This is one of England’s most wooded counties, and has more village greens than any other shire. You’ll find sandy tracks and cottage gardens, folded hillsides and welcoming village inns. There’s variety, too, as the fields and meadows of the east give way to the wooded downs and valleys west of the River Mole.

Of course there are also large built-up areas, mainly within and around the M25; but even here you can still find appealing visits and days out. On the fringe of Greater London you can picnic in Chaldon’s hay meadows, explore the wide open downs at Epsom, or drift idly beside the broad reaches of the stately River Thames. Deep in the Surrey countryside you’ll discover the Romans at Farley Heath, and mingle with the monks at England’s first Cistercian monastery. You’ll see buildings by great architects like Edwin Lutyens and Sir George Gilbert Scott, and meet authors too, from John Donne to Agatha Christie. 

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