Relish the delights of winter at Bookham Commons

The woods, plains, streams and ponds offer a huge variety of landscapes at Bookham Commons. It's a great place to explore and revel in winter magic.


The Bookham Commons family trail provides an easy to follow route around the commons. Don’t forget to visit the natural play area not far from the tunnel car park.

Go on a winter foliage photographic safari

Woodlands have a particular magic in the winter. The bare branches of trees reveal the skeletal shape and the low sun can light up corners and reveal brillant colours in the landscape.  

  • Winter colour. Look out for the bright reds of berries - holly, rosehips, guelder rose. Dogwood is a small shrub that has red stems that can shine in winter sunshine. In January and February you may find snowdrops poking through, burnished hazel catkins appearing and even the bright yellow of gorse  flowers blooming.
  • Foliage shapes. The wispy strands of lichen can be found on old trees and are a sign of pure air. Also keep an eye out for wild clematis seed heads - known as Old Man's Beard for the way they cover undergrowth.  Holly and ivy provide some green contrast to bare branches.  
  • Colourful fungi can still be found amongst the leaf litter or on decaying wood in the broadleaf woodland - oaks, beeches, ash. Look out for yellow chicken in the woods, white candle snuff fungus, scarlet elfcap, blood red beefsteak fungus and black lumps of King Alfred’s cakes, looking like pieces of coal. Check out our special fungi guide.

Watch, and listen, for autumn birds

Autumn is a period when many birds become active again and as the leaves fall, they’re easier to spot. As you stroll across the commons see what you can find:

  • Buzzards. You can often hear the cat-lie cries of buzzards far above you as they soar in the sky
  • Kestrels. Easily identified as a small bird that hovers above the fields hunting for small mammals
  • Woodland birds such fast flying jays, often seen as a bight flash with a hint of blue as it dashes through the trees collecting acorns for the winter. The drumming of spotted woodpeckers in woods is unmistakeable. The chuckling ‘yaffle’ of a green woodpecker is also notable. They like to hunt for ants on grass, and will fly off when disturbed.
  • Owls. With the light falling earlier in the afternoon, you may catch some of the owls coming out to hunt. Look for the eerie whiteness of a barn owl, the chunky petite little owl or hear the haunting t’whit-t’woo of tawny owls. 
  • Water birds. Check out our bird hide and watch the elegant herons, the merry coots and chuckling moorhens. You may also spot some off our glamorous guest such as shelduck or widgeon
  • Winter visitors. As the season progresses and the temperature drops you may be lucky to see some of our regular winter visitors in the woods and open areas - bramblings, fieldfares and redwings. Look out for the dandy waxwings perching high, chomping greedily on rowan berries or hawthorns.

On yer bike

There are a number of bridlepaths criss-crossing the Commons providing great cycleways to explore the surrounding countryside.

Play among the trees

The Hill House wood, Central wood and Eastern woods are all leafy playgrounds. Get the family stuck into these activities:

  • Climb a tree. Scramble up and see how far you can go!
  • Collect fruits - nuts, acorns, berries. See how many you can collect and identify. Score extra points for the rare items - juniper berries, alder cones, wild cherry, yew berries. No matter how tasty they look, don’t eat unless you are sure they are safe. Some can cause an upset tummy.
  • Measure the  girth. Put your arms around the trunk and see how big it is. How many family  members have to join in to reach all around? Which is the fattest tree in the wood?
  • Hunt for bugs. Examine the bark and see what creepy-crawlies are there?  What sort of tree has the greatest variety? 
  • Bark rubbing. Take some paper and some crayons. Hold the paper onto the bark and rub to reveal the pattern. Which tree makes the most interesting pattern?

And if there's snow.....

If you wish to simply enjoy the tranquil magic of a white winter wonderland then there are plenty of paths to wander along and enjoy the snow on the branches.

If you want to be more active there are lots of open areas for snowball fights and building snowmen.