Abinger Roughs rhododendron and bluebell walk
This gentle stroll is a walk to be savoured, enjoying the delights as the woods come to life in spring. Abinger Roughs is known for its rhododendron ramble and the bluebells, and is also a wonderful place to listen out for songbirds birds in the spring and early summer.
Abinger Roughs car park TQ110480
From the car park take the path through the fence at the opposite end of the car park from the road. You'll walk through some open woodland with some beautiful beech trees - their leaves in spring are a wonderful fresh green colour. Continue to follow the main path through grass. Some 300 yards from the start you will see some magnificent old beech trees on your left hand side. Look out for the Witches Broom tree. Just past here you will go down a small slope and meet a track crossing your path.
The Witches Broom tree
This tree is so old that some of its branches need to be propped up. It is estimated to be 200-300 years' old. Just think what has happened in history since it was planted. Can you measure how big it is around the trunk?
Following the sandy track you’ll see our 200 year old Scots and Corsican pine trees. We manage this area so that the best specimens grow strongest and tallest.
Scotts pine trees
Scots pine can grow up to 36m high and 1.5m round the trunk. Young trees have grey/green bark but as they grow older, the bark turns orange. Very old pine trees are known as ‘Granny pines’. They produce pine cones which hold the tree’s seeds.
The Rhody Ramble sign points to the entrance into the rhododendron wood - a fantastic place for hide and seek. These rhododendrons were planted in the 19th century by Thomas Farrer of Abinger Hall. Over time they have become somewhat overgrown. From the Rhody Ramble sign, continue your walk along the main path so you can also see the bluebells. The path will come out in a wide open area.
Take a close look at the Rhododendron flowers - how delicate they are. They only flower for a short time so you are lucky to catch them. Originally they were brought back from China for gardens but over time they have escaped into the countryside.
You have reached the open glade. To your left, over the greensand ridge, rises the Hurtwood (an area of heath and forest). Continue to the edge of the glade and a junction of paths. Take the second fork to the left along a glorious undulating path curving to the right and rising to a path signposted “the Snowdrop Trail”. Follow the path downhill to a gate and then a bench where the path turns sharply right and, if you're lucky, you'll see the bluebells on either side of the path. You'll pass through a gate and, keeping parallel to the hedge on your left, you'll come to a T-junction by an open gate. Turn right here along the rough track and up the slope to the trees.
English bluebells are small, intensely blue and fragrant. Their flower stems droop or nod to one side, the petal tips turn up and their pollen is creamy white. They are under threat from the robust Spanish bluebell which is more upright, paler blue and lacks scent.
Turn right and go up the broad sandy path back to the edge of the wood, where there is a wonderful view of the North Downs. At the cross roads take the path marked by a Nature Trail marker, which goes down a slope with a fence on your left hand side.
Continue to follow the signs for the Nature Trail along the ‘Mayor’s path’. See the rhododendrons which were planted years ago to form a wilderness garden by Thomas Farrer, who owned the Roughs in the late 19th century. Follow the path through the rhododedrons until you come out into a wider more open area.
The Mayor’s path was named in honour of Charles Darwin’s son, Horace. Horace Darwin was Mayor of Cambridge between 1896 and 1897 and he was married to the daughter of Thomas Farrer.
As you come out of the Rhododendrons you will see great views up to the North downs on your left. In front of you is the second patch of bluebells. The path bends round to the right and you will come out to some holly bushes on the main path. Turn left here to descend down the path.
Did you know that almost half of the world's bluebells are in the UK? They are very rare in other counties. Other names for English bluebells include wild hyacinth, wood bell, bell bottle, cuckoo's boots, lady's nightcap, witches' thimbles. Which do you think is most appropriate?
Keep to the left path as you go through the narrow 'neck' of Abinger Roughs. Keep on the path that runs parallel to the fence. To your left are the North downs. Continue along the path as it goes thorough the woodland ignoring paths to the right. You will come out of the woods into a more open space.
Keep an eye out on your left to see the twisted roots and branches of ancient beech trees. This is because they were originally laid as hedges and have grown out of shape over the years.
In this open space, there are some memorials to life here in the past. The old farm to your left is Leaser's Barn which has been used for lambing for centuries. The granite cross is the Wilberforce Memorial. Take a moment to stop and read the inscription. Then walk up the path running past the memorial and head back to the car park.
On 19 July 1873 Samuel Wilberforce, the Bishop of Winchester, tragically fell from his horse whilst journeying across the Roughs. His family erected this granite memorial where he fell near Leasers Barn (the 16th-century farm building near the monument where sheep used to be lambed).
Abinger Roughs car park TQ110480
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