YHA Tanners Hatch Surrey Hills is a centuries-old cottage a world away from the stresses of…
Ranmore Common lies along the ridge of the North Downs on a chalk escarpment. It includes an ancient woodland with a rich variety of birds, plants and insects. The common is smothered in bluebells in the spring, has some rare orchids, and boasts several unusual butterflies such as the white admiral, the chalk hill blue, the Adonis blue, and the satin wave moth. There are also some uncommon breeding birds, such as the nightjar and woodcock. Aside from the wildlife, another good reason for walking on Ranmore Common is the spectacular range of views. Looking south, over Denbies Hillside, it is possible, on a clear day, to see as far as Leith Hill to the southeast and Holmbury Hill to the west. Looking down over Dorking the spire of St Martin’s Church stands out, as it should, since it is one of the tallest in the country.
Dorking is an interesting town to explore in its own right. West Street, in particular, is popular for its many antiques shops and old buildings. It is the home of Dorking Museum and has several intriguing little alleyways. Many writers have visited Dorking and drawn on its character for their work. For example, Charles Dickens set part of the Pickwick Papers in Dorking and modelled Tony Weller (Sam’s father) on one of the town’s innkeepers. Other writers who have written about Dorking and the countryside around are Jane Austen, E M Forster, George Meredith and Richard Sheridan. The popular writer, Fanny Burney and her husband, Alexandre D’Arblay, a French monarchist who had fled from the French Revolution, bought a house at Juniper Hill near Mickleham. They also built a small house, Camilla Cottage, at Chapel Lane, Westhumble, near the route of this walk. This is commemorated by a plaque in Westhumble.
The composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams, has close connections with Dorking. He lived here with his first wife, Adeline, and composed a great deal of his music here, including his Serenade to Music (1938). He was the conductor of the music festival at Leith Hill for 48 years. A huge collection of scores, books and his recorded music is housed in the Surrey Performing Arts Library (open all day Tue, Thu, Fri; Sat til 1pm) at Denbies Vineyard. While visiting the vineyard the opportunity should be taken to take one of their tours and to sample their prize-winning wines.
From the car park cross the road and turn left to walk along the grass verge. Continue until you reach the sign for the youth hostel and turn right. Go past a wooden gate and bear left. Walk past a second wooden gate following the public footpath. It enters woodland and, at a waymark at cross-tracks go straight on. Descending through the woods, you meet a broad track at a cross-tracks in the valley.
Turn left by the waymarker inscribed ‘Ash Valley 62’ and continue on this path until it approaches the road. Before you reach the road turn right until you meet a gravel track, then turn left to reach and cross the road with care. Walk to the path which runs close to the trees and turn right. Continue for 200yds (183m) to the entrance path to Ranmore Campsite and turn left along the public bridleway. Ignore any side tracks and when the drive bends to the left into the campsite, continue straight ahead as the track enters woodland and descends. Meet paths coming from the right and turn left, at the fingerpost, along the North Downs Way.
There are wide views to the right, with Dorking visible ahead. The path proceeds through a line of trees, and you ignore any side paths. It reaches a cross-tracks with a public footpath, but continue ahead with the North Downs Way. The path goes through a wooden kissing gate into Steers Field, which is an open area. At the far end there is a seat, which makes a good vantage point. To return to the car park, go right from the seat and take the path immediately on the right by a wooden post. If you wish to visit St Barnabus Church (normally closed), cross the road from the car park and turn right along the broad grassy path, then at Common Road, turn left.
Through woodland and then along the North Downs Way
Superb views from the North Downs Way
Plenty of space to run
AA Walker's Map 23 Guildford, Farnham & The Downs
Denbies Hillside National Trust Car Park (fee)
None on route, nearest South Street, Dorking
WALKING IN SAFETY
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
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