Denbies Hillside nature walk
Ranmore Common Road, Dorking, Surrey, RH5 6SRRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Enjoy an exhilarating walk across Denbies Hillside (named after John Denby a 17th-century farmer) and discover our wildlife along the way. The walk takes you along part of the North Downs Way National trail, across grassy chalk downland and down through dappled woods.
- Bus stop
Start: Denbies Hillside car park, OS map ref: TQ141503
Leave the car park and walk south through the marked opening into Steers Field. The long grass in this field is much loved by butterflies and grass hoppers.
To your left is the town of Dorking and across the valley is Leith Hill and further west Holmbury Hill. There're some picnic benches here - build up your energy and enjoy a snack before you venture out or maybe stop here on your return...
Following the orange waymarkers turn left and on through the gates into the woodland. Here you'll see a number of evergreen trees yew, box and juniper. These native trees thrive on the chalk soils. Look out for the giant redwood to your left as you descend the hill. The redwood, which is native to California, was planted during Victorian times.
On the chalk downland you may see grazing cattle. These animals help to nibble down any woody regrowth and prevent scrubby thorn trees from invading the rich chalk grassland.
At the bottom of the wooded slope, turn right onto the Carriage Road. Walk along the road fringed with various trees including yew, horse chestnut and laburnum. In the valley, on your left, is the Gatwick to Reading railway line which was opened in 1849. If you're lucky you may see a steam train passing by...
This popular track was once the access road to Denbies House, owned by the Ashcombe family. The family would ride their horse and carriage down to the village of Westcott and beyond. The Carriage Road passes through Landbarn Farm which is where our rangers are based.
Ready for a rest? Then turn left at the post and venture into the small wood. Enjoy the cool shade and listen to the birds up in the canopy. Return to post 4 and continue on the Carriage Road. At the bend where the road swings left towards the railway line turn right.
Enter the Big Field where you'll find a mixture of scrub including dogwood, hawthorn and dog rose - an excellent place for nesting birds. Continue the steady climb up along the south facing scarp slope. This path is known as Fox Lane and leads up to a now private residence, once the Fox Inn.
The Big Field is another lovely spot to sit for a while, admire the views and ponder. You may see green woodpeckers here; they're often on the ground looking for ants. Look out too for the hovering kestrel searching for prey.
At the top of the field, pass through the gate and join the North Downs Way, the long distance national trail which takes you to Dover in the east or Farnham in the west if you have the time... When you see the Ranmore church spire you've not got far to go. Walk back across the picnic field to the car park.
On returning across the chalk grassland look out for the many species of orchid growing in the warmer months. See it you can spot a bee orchid, named because it mimics the bees it wishes to attract for pollination.
End: Denbies Hillside car park, OS map ref: TQ141503
In partnership with
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Moderate
- Distance: 2 miles
- Time: 2 hours
- OS Map: Landranger 187; Explorer 146
Moderate terrain with a fairly steep ascent back to the car park. Well maintained, but naturally uneven paths which may become muddy and slippery after wet weather.
- How to get here:
By foot: Comprehensive network of rights of way including the Greensand Way and the North Downs Way National trails. You can also walk from Dorking West railway station and Westcott village.
By bike: Join the Surrey Cycleway at Westhumble railway station, near Dorking, to Ranmore Common. See www.sustrans.org.uk for more information.
By train: Dorking West station 1.5 miles walk to Denbies Hillside or Dorking Town station.
By bus: Carlone 533 to Ranmore Common (Fridays only); Arriva 21, 22 and 32 to Westcott village and walk .
By car: Exit M25 at J9 (Leatherhead) and take the A24 south towards Dorking. Turn west at the traffic lights, near Dorking railway station, along the A2003 Ashcombe Road. At the mini roundabout continue ahead and then turn right up onto Ranmore Common Road. Carry on up the hill until the road levels out. The National Trust car park will be on your left.
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