Discover our special trees
Abinger Roughs is an area of magical woodland with a range of specimen trees to be enjoyed, as well as lovely views over the North Downs and the Tillingbourne Valley. Follow this post-marked trail to learn more about these magnificent trees.
NT car park, White Downs Lane, Abinger Hammer, RH5 6QS
The trail follows the main path from the car park through Abinger Roughs to the viewpoint and then bends round to the left to head back to the natural play area and the car park. Leave the car park taking the path that is directly opposite the entrance and marked by the trail marker 1.
Walk forwards through the trees and you will notice a path coming in from the right. Here you will see marker 2 beside a beech tree. Common beeches can grow up to 40 metres high. They are well known to produce beautiful autumn colours.
Common beech (Fagus sylvatica)
Reddish brown, slim leaf buds form in the early spring, with a distinctive criss-cross pattern, later forming lime green leaves with silky hairs. These darken and lose the hairs as they mature. They are 4–9cm long, oval in shape with a wavy edge and a pointy tip. In autumn beech nuts (known as beech mast) appear enclosed in a hard, prickly, four lobed case which open to create ‘fairies bonnets’.
Head further along the main path towards an opening and at the fork take the wide grassy path to the left, ignoring a small path to the right. Walk through the more open area along the main path. As you go slightly downhill, there are more trees growing closer to the path. On your left you will see a very large veteran beech tree with an information panel. This is called the 'witches' broom' tree
Common beech (Fagus sylvatica)
This is a very old tree and as you can see its limbs are so ancient that they need to be propped up. There is more information on the information panel.
Leaving the veteran beech, come down to the path 10 metres, turn left and you will be standing amongst some oak trees. Oak trees support more life forms than any other native tree. They host hundreds of insect species - an important food source for many birds. In autumn mammals such as badgers and deer take advantage of the falling acorns.
English oak (Quercus robur)
In spring orange–brown buds cluster on twigs, which burst into leaf in mid-May producing bunches of shortish leaves with 4-5 deep lobes and smooth edges. In autumn acorns are borne on lengthy stalks within cupules (the cup-shaped base of the acorn). As it ripens, the green acorn becomes brown, loosens from the cupule and falls to the canopy below. Interesting fact: acorns are not produced until the tree is at least 40 years old.
From the oaks carry on along the main track, crossing a farm track and then walking up a small slope. At the top you will see the large holly bushes. An evergreen tree that can live to 300 years, holly provides dense cover and good nesting sites for birds. Its deep, dry leaf litter can also be used for hibernation by hedgehogs and other small mammals. This is point five on our trail.
Common holly (Ilex aquifolium)
The leaves are dark green, glossy and oval. Only the lower leaves are prickly; higher up they are smooth. This is a defence mechanism to stop leaves being eaten by animals. Once pollinated by insects, female flowers develop into scarlet red berries, which can persist throughout winter. They are a vital source of food for birds and small mammals such as wood mice and dormice. Interesting fact: the mistle thrush is known for vigorously guarding the berries of holly in winter, to prevent other birds from eating them.
From the holly trees continue along the main path. On your right you will see the signs to the Rhody Ramble. The rhododendrons here were part of the wild garden planted by Thomas Farrer of Abinger Hall in the 19th century. They have become very well established and we've cut paths through them to create room to play; a hide and seek paradise! Come in May to see the beautiful purple flowers.
From the Rhody Ramble marker return to the main path and continue walking to the west. As you come to the edge of an open area you will see the next marker - number 7 for Scots Pine. This evergreen is one of just three conifers native to the UK. Mature trees grow to 35m and can live for up to 700 years.
Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
The needle-like leaves are blue-green and slightly twisted, growing in pairs on short side shoots. The scaly orange-brown bark develops plates and fissures with age. The female flowers are wind-pollinated, then turn green and develop into cones. They mature the following season, so there are always cones of different ages on the one tree. Interesting fact: the needles on young trees grow longer than those on older trees.
Walk straight ahead across the open glade and follow the main path into another area of woodland heading slightly uphill. You will come to cross roads of path with a fence on the right hand side and an open view up to the Downs. Pause a minute to drink in the view. Turn to the left and walk towards the large oaks. Look carefully to spot the rowan trees in between the oaks. Also known as mountain ash, rowan is a small tree found on mountains, heathland and in woodland edges, and is frequently planted in towns and gardens.
Common rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)
The leaves are pinnate (like a feather) with 5-8 pairs of leaflets, plus one 'terminal' leaflet at the end. Each leaflet is long, oval and toothed. The buds are distinctly purple and hairy, and after pollination by insects, they develop into scarlet red fruits, much loved by birds. Interesting fact: rowan was once widely planted by houses as a protection against witches.
Carry straight along the path bending left round the corner and heading slightly downhill you will come to an area of some massive veteran trees.
As you stand by the veteran trees look up to the birch trees. Can you spot the large knobbly growth on the birch tree? A burr usually forms over a wound, which may have been caused by anything - fungi, bacteria, virus, insect activity, animal activity or weather. They don’t cause any harm to the tree. Whatever wound originally caused the burr is usually healed over during the period of irregular growth, protecting the tree from any further damage.
Walk forwards along the path and you will return to the open glade. Follow the path round to the right and see the marker post. On the right hand side of the path there are some young elm trees. English elm dominated the British countryside landscape, but has been ravaged by Dutch elm disease since the 1960s. As the tree gets older it becomes more susceptible to the disease. Now you can only find young trees or shrubby trees in hedgerows.
The leaves are round to oval with a rough, hairy surface. They have a characteristic asymmetrical base with a pointy tip. Pollinated by wind, the flowers develop into tiny winged fruits, known as samaras, which are dispersed by breezes. The bark is grey brown, rough and fissured, often with suckers growing from the base of the trunk. Interesting fact: before metal was widely available, elm was used for water pipes in many English towns and also the keels of ships.
Follow the path round the bend to the left, leaving the path and sign to the Snowdrop Walk to the right hand side. On your left you will some magnificent yew trees. Yew is an evergreen conifer that can reach 400 to 600 years of age. Some specimens live longer; ten yews in Britain are believed to predate the 10th century making them at least 1000 years old.
Yew (Taxus bacata)
The leaves are straight, small needles with a pointed tip, and coloured dark green above and green-grey below. They grow in two rows on either side of each twig. Unlike many other conifers, the common yew does not actually bear its seeds in a cone. Instead, each seed is enclosed in a red, fleshy, berry-like structure known as an aril which is open at the tip. The bark is reddish-brown with purple tones, and peeling. Interesting fact: Yew trees contain the highly poisonous taxane alkaloids that have been developed as anti-cancer drugs. Eating just a few leaves can make a small child severely ill and fatalities have occurred.
From the yew tree, follow the path along an open glade with views to the south over the farmland of the Wootton estate. You will come to a fork in the path: take the right fork. Around here you will see marker 13 for sweet chestnut. The sweet chestnut is thought to have been introduced to the British Isles by the Romans but today can be found throughout Britain in woods and copses, especially in parts of southern England.
Sweet chestnut (castanea satvia)
The leaves are oblong and toothed with a pointed tip, and featuring prominent parallel veins. After pollination by insects, female flowers develop into shiny red-brown small fruits wrapped in a green, spiky case. The bark is grey-purple and smooth, which develops impressive twisting vertical fissures with age. Interesting fact: the Romans ground sweet chestnuts to make flour, and these are the chestnuts traditionally roasted for Christmas.
From the sweet chestnut glade walk up the hill passing the well on your right. Continue to follow the path walking trough lighter woodland and grassland. You will come to marker 14. Silver birch is a striking, medium-sized deciduous tree native throughout the UK and Europe.
Silver Birch (Betula pendula)
Light green, small and triangular-shaped leaves have a toothed edge, and fade from green to yellow in autumn. Silver birch is monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers (catkins) are found on the same tree, from April to May. Male catkins are long and yellow-brown in colour, and hang in groups of two to four at the tips of shoots, like lambs' tails. Female catkins are smaller, short, bright green and erect. The distinctive white bark sheds layers like tissue paper and becomes black and rugged at the base. As the trees mature, the bark develops dark, diamond-shaped fissures. Interesting fact: Silver birch provides food and habitat for more than 300 insect species, making them a rich hunting ground for insect-eating birds.
From the silver birch area follow the path and you will come out into the open area around the natural play area. Here you will find the final marker by a sycamore. Sycamore is a deciduous broadleaf tree native tree to central, eastern and southern Europe. It was probably introduced to the UK in the Middle Ages and is now a naturalised species.
Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus)
The palmate (hand-like) leaves have five lobes with characteristically red stems on younger trees. When the leaves are shed they leave horseshoe shaped marks called leaf scars on the stem. After pollination by wind and insects, female flowers develop into distinctive winged fruits known as samaras. Interesting fact: in some parts of the UK the winged seeds are known as 'helicopters', and used in flying competitions and model-making by children.
From the natural play area, follow the path back to the car park. Well done you've completed the walk and hopefully you've learned more about some of our native trees. Keep an eye out for them on your next walk.
NT car park, White Downs Lane, Abinger Hammer, RH5 6QS
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