The Bookham Common butterfly walk

Walking trail

This walk takes you through one of the best woods in England for sighting the elusive Purple Emperor butterfly. Purple emperors are Britain’s second largest butterfly, with a wingspan of over 8cm. It was recorded here on June 11 2017, at the earliest point in more than 120 years, following balmy temperatures in the spring. It is thanks to decades of work by National Trust rangers to protect the specialist habitats it needs. Richard Fox, Head of Recording at Butterfly Conservation, said: “The Purple Emperor is the rock star of the butterfly world – it’s glamorous, elusive and has some unsavoury habits – and its appearance each year is eagerly awaited by wildlife watchers."

Spot a variety of butterflies and many birds in the woodland

Each afternoon the males gather at two special clumps of trees and put on amazing territorial displays. You’ll also enjoy plenty of other butterflies and many birds.

Purple emperor butterfly


Map route for deep in the purple empire butterfly walk


Near Bookham station, grid ref: TQ130565


Leave Tunnel car park and head north-west. Search for purple emperors sipping moisture along the paths on the lower slopes of the common, especially between 10am and 11.30am. You can also see them later on by the 'master trees'.

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Purple Emperor (female)


Follow the main path (Common Road) towards and past the houses. All the open, sunny rides in this part of the commons may reveal male purple emperors (rotting fruit and even dog poo are popular places for them). Look out for the closed wings of the male that resemble a sharks fin.

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A white Admiral butterfly


Turn right onto Hollows Path that leads past the lakes. They're worth exploring and tend to be good for white admiral, silver-washed fritillary and dragonflies.

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Silver-washed fritillary


Turn left before the wood edge and go up Broadway. This leads to the Mark Oak 'master tree' on the left, just before the ride junction at the top. Purple emperors fly around the tall turkey oaks here but can be difficult to spot. Patience is needed.

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Enjoy our tall trees


Turn left and westwards to follow High Point Path. There's lots of other wildlife to look out for too. Fantastic birdlife with woodpeckers, hawfinches and nightingales. Southern marsh orchids in scrubby areas and great-crested newts around the ponds.

Southern marsh orchid in the meadow


Spend some time at the Hill Farm territory and at the second 'master tree' (a hornbeam) located on the north side of the path on the summit, just south of the farm.


Continue to the houses at the Isle of Wight enclosure and retrace your path to the car park and station.

Canada geese


Near Bookham station, grid ref: TQ130565

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The Bookham Common butterfly walk


Moderate slopes and the rides can be very muddy in wet weather.

Dogs welcome on paths and in woods.

The Bookham Common butterfly walk

Contact us

The Bookham Common butterfly walk

How to get here

Bookham, Leatherhead, Surrey, KT23
By train

Bookham (regular service).

By road

Exit M25 at junction 9, then A243, A24 and A246. After 2 miles (3.2km), turn right onto High Street then left onto Church Road. Various car parks, including near Bookham Station.

By bus

622 from Epsom; 479 from Epsom, Guildford and Leatherhead to Bookham train station.

By bicycle

Surrey National Cycle Network Route 3.

The Bookham Common butterfly walk

Facilities and access

  • Dogs welcome; please keep them on leads when livestock are grazing