Headley Heath bluebell walk
This walk takes you into some of the less well known part of Headley Heath washed in the delicate and hopeful colours of spring. Enjoy the magnificent display of bluebells in the woodland and the long range vistas from the tops.
Headley Heath main car park, grid ref: TQ193546
From the information board head across the picnic field with birches and oaks on your right. Go through the gate at the end of the field and turn right along a bridlepath, marked by blue trail markers. Leave an orange topped marker to your left keeping straight ahead on the bridleway. It'll bend round to the left and you begin to go downhill with birches to your right. Cross a broad track, keeping on the same bridlepath, passing the house called Goodman Furze. You walk through a small copse of birch woodland and past the old gravel pits on your right hand side. You will come to a T-junction.
Goodman Furze was the home of Sir Edward (later Lord) Bridges, who was chairman of the management committee formed when Headley Heath was given to the National Trust after World War 2. Bridges had been Secretary to Churchill’s wartime cabinet and head of the Treasury and Civil Service. The house is now privately owned.
At the T-junction you dink left and right rounding a big gravel pit on your right. You’ll come to a triangular piece of grass with a seat by the trees. Walk past the seat and look left across the valley to spot the Ranmore church spire in the distance. Turn to follow the track down the hill through woodland. Ignore the minor paths. The track goes up a small slope and then descends into a small valley. At the bottom you’ll see the wire fence that marks the boundary with Dean Wood (not NT). You walk parallel to this fence and if you look on the ground you will see masses of bluebells springing up.
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.
At the bottom of the dell, turn right at the T-junction heading up the slope. Walk up out of the glade into an open area of heathland. Follow the path parallel to the fence, and descend into the broad valley of Dean Wood Heath. You'll see that this area has been cleared to allow the heather to regenerate. Keep an eye out for more bluebells in the wood to your right. Descend to the bottom of the valley and then climb the hill opposite. At the top of the ridge you will see a short red-topped post. Take a minute to catch your breath and admire the view behind you.
At the T junction, the path dinks to the right and then left. There’s a seat under the lovely old oak. You have a wonderful view across to chalk spur. The path begins a steep descent down the steps of chalk slope. If you look across to your left you will see that there has been more scrub clearance and hopefully there will be lots of wildflowers there in the summer. This is rare chalk downland habitat. At the bottom of the steps you will come to a T-junction with a track. Bear to your right, cross the track and then start to climb the path marked by the post saying ‘Walkers only’.
As you climb up Chalk Spur you will spot a couple of benches, so you can catch your breath and admire the grand views. Looking back you will see Cherkley Wood across what was known as ‘Little Switzerland’. As you come to the top and the grounds levels, you will see some young oak trees either side of the path. The area to your left has been mown and you should see more bluebells here coming up in sunshine. There is an old tree trunk here to stop and enjoy them.
Carry on along the main path, called Bridges Walk through the trees and along the top of the ridge. The path cuts through open heathland with more bluebells either side. Ignore the minor paths to left and right. You will come to a woody area and about 200 metres further on you will come into an open area where six paths meet, encircled by young oak trees. This is called Bridges’ Oaks.
Looking at the paths as you enter this area, take the track that is at 10 o’clock. This is a broad track which bends round to the left and begins to descend into a valley. You cross a bridlepath and continue to go downhill. The path levels out on an embankment which may have been constructed as part of a military road during World War 2 when Headley Heath was occupied by the Royal Canadian Engineers. On the other side the path rises again up a small stony slope and you will come to another junction point where six paths meet. Take the second path on your left.
As you walk down the path keep an eye out on either side for banks. Woods were valuable assets to landowners in olden times for the timber, wood and firewood. The boundaries were often marked by banks with trees growing on top. You can see the remnants of such banks along this path.
This is a narrow dry path that opens up to overlook the valley on your left. To your right is birch woodland. Keep following the path along the edge of the ridge. After 150 yards you will come to a seat sitting in a small area of grass on your right. On a clear day, you can see 40 miles across the Thames valley to the Chiltern hills with the telecommunications mast at Stokenchurch. Continue walking along the path until you reach a cross roads. Turn left here to continue following the ridge. You will pass an orange topped trail marker for the lizard trail and you will also reach Aspen pond.
This is a manmade pond banked up to keep the water in. It’s named after the aspen trees that grow here. They love the damp soil. Reed mace (also known as bullrushes) also grows around the island. This is an invaluable site for reptiles and aquatic insects that thrive in the water. However dogs love it too and we’ve created their own swimming pool on one side.
Walk around the pond and follow the path that leads to the left through gorse. Follow this track which goes alongside a small area of oak woodland. This is a family fun area where kids can build dens, climb trees, hunt for bugs etc. The path come out of the woodland right by the Pyramids
Enjoy the view
The pyramids is called because it was used as storage area during the war and soldiers would pile up the boxes of goods and equipment in pyramids. This is an excellent viewpoint along the valleys of Headley Heath.
Walk back to the car park along the track that goes past the seat here and has the oak woodland on your right hand side. At the far edge of the wood you'll cross a main path coming in from the right. Carry straight on through the gorse bushes along a broad sandy track. You’ll walk between Bellamoss Pond and Brown Pond and then 200 yards further on you will see the gate back into the picnic field.
Walk through the gate and into the picnic field. This is a great place to share some sandwiches and cake. If your young ones still have energy left, there’s space for a quick game of frisbee or football. If you go over to the far side by the oakwood, and picnic tables you’ll find our Discovery zone where kids can go wild in the trees.
Family fun spot
The oak woodland here is our Discovery zone - a family fun spot where kids can build dens, play hard end seek, hunt for bugs, walk along the plank bridge.
Headley Heath main car park, grid ref: TQ193546
You made it
Following this trail on mobile or tablet? Share your experience.