Winter adventures at Denbies Hillside
With its stunning views overlooking Dorking, Denbies Hillside is almost designed for wintry pleasures. Take in the sweep of the landscape from the top of Steer’s field and then plunge down through the woodlands and paths to explore this wildlife haven.
There are a number of designated walks from Denbies Hillside. Follow the nature trail to take in the landscape and views. For a longer stroll you could head north from Ranmore Common to Polesden Lacey; or east to walk to Box Hill; or south to the Wotton Hatch pub. Click here to find walk details.
Watch and listen for birds
Many birds are active as they hunt for food at this time of year, and they’re easier to spot among bare trees . As you stroll 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 medium-sized bird that hovers above the fields hunting for small mammals
- Peregrine falcon. A fast flying raptor, famous for its dramatic high speed ’stoop’ as it plummets to catch lower flying birds.
- Jays. A fast flying bird, often seen as a bight flash with a hint of blue as it dashes through the trees collecting acorns for the winter
- Woodpeckers. 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. Look for them in Steer’s fields where there are plenty of ants.
- Owls. as the light drops 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 little owl or hear the haunting t’whit-t’woo of tawny owls.
- 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
Catch a steam train
Below Denbies Hillside runs the Gatwick to Reading railway line, which was opened in 1849. This is a really picturesque route and is often used by steam train ‘specials’. Why not do some research on dates and see if you can have your very own ‘Railway Children’ moment? Wear red flannel underwear at your own discretion!
Fly a kite
Got a kite for Christmas? The high point and open Steer's Field at Denbies Hillside is an ideal spot for trying them out, and the breeze will probably give it lift. Do make sure you are well out of everyone’s way though.
Have a winter solstice picnic and watch the sun set
Picnics are not just for summer! Bring a hot drink - hot chocolate, soup, maybe mulled wine for the adults. Warm food can be wrapped in silver foil - a super way to use up Christmas leftovers - sausage rolls, bacon rolls, jacket potatoes, and of course Christmas cake or mince pies to finish.
The short days of winter mean sunsets happen at a more convenient time and Denbies Hillside has a fantastic vista stretching out to the west. At the bottom of Steer’s Field (roughly 2 o’clock from the car park gate) is a gate and seat. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy the evening sunset. A garden kneeler or blanket will make the seats comfortable to sit on and avoid bum-numbness.
If you’re lucky you may also catch the owls or a few bats as they come out to hunt. This is a truly magical time of day.
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. Steer's Field is a great place for sledging and tobogganing.