Selborne Common and The Lythe butterfly walk

Walking trail

Selborne Common has a strong sense of antiquity and spirit of place, as you move from glade to glade.

A good site for high summer butterflies, notably silver-washed fritillary, but also some purple emperor, white admiral, brown argus and purple and brown hairstreak. Speckled wood is common, and orange tip and green-veined white in spring.

Silver-washed Fritillary butterfly


Map route for Selborne Common and The Lythe butterfly walk


Selborne car park, behind Selborne Arms, grid ref: SU742335


From the entrance of the car park behind the Selborne Arms, follow the footpath sign to Selborne Common. Go through the footpath gate to the bottom of the Zig-Zag path, which ascends the scarp slope. This path was cut in 1753 by the brother of 18th-century natural historian and ecologist Gilbert White. It isn't as steep as it looks and there's an iron seat three-quarters of the way up, offering views over Selborne and the Oakhanger woods. There's another seat at the top.

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At the top, after regaining your breath, bear right, upslope, and go through the gate on to Selborne Common proper. Inside the gate, turn immediate left to follow a broad grassy path, through a glade with ivy-covered dead trunks of beech trees truncated by the great storms of 1987 and 1990. Carry on right down this track, which has shady sections below towering trees and sunny open glades. There are occasional vistas out over Noar Hill and Edward Thomas country to the south east. Eventually, you come to a fingerpost in the far bottom corner of the Common.

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At the fingerpost, turn right and quickly right again by a second fingerpost, up a broad straight track heading back up into the Common.

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This track opens out onto The Green, which was used as a cricket ground for about 100 years from the 1790s. A small number of docile cattle now graze here in summer. On entering, bear left and head towards Wood Pond, and then turn right and head north along the mown path, skirting the western edge of the open grassy area.

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At the path junction, where a major path joins from the right, bear left along the broad straight ride known as The Pipeline (for that is what it is). This leads back to the gate at the top of the Zig-Zag.

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For the Lythe from Selborne car park, turn left along Selborne High Street (which is very busy). Just past the Gilbert White and Oates Museum, cross the road and head for Selborne churchyard. Gilbert White's grave is signed here, on the north side of the church. Valezina Viscountess Bolingbroke (daughter of the great butterfly artist and expert FW Frohawk) is buried in the graveyard's south-east corner. Take the path that leads out from the graveyard into and across Church Meadow, heading for a wooden bridge across the stream.

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Cross the wooden footbridge and carry on down the track. Between the Short and Long Lythes (two steep banks of 'hanging' beech and ash woodland on your left) is a small grassy coombe on your left and a small meadow on your right. Past the iron bench, along the Long Lythe, the ground opens out on your right into a long thin and rough meadow, developing where a poplar plantation has been removed. National Trust property ends at the field entrance beyond this linear meadow. The easiest thing to do is retrace your steps, but you can follow the public footpath across the privately-owned field towards Wick Wood, turn right at the junction with another footpath to Priory Farm, turn right again there and follow the footpath system back along the opposite side of the valley (2 miles/3km). It's advisable to take the OS map with you for this.

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Selborne car park, behind Selborne Arms, grid ref: SU742335

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Selborne Common and The Lythe butterfly walk


Selborne Common is on clay overlying chalk. In wet weather the unsurfaced paths are very muddy. One steep ascent and descent, via the famous Zig-Zag. The Lythe is a gentle there-and-back walk on fairly level ground, largely along made-up paths (option of a longer circular extension off National Trust land).

Dogs welcome under close control.

Selborne Common and The Lythe butterfly walk

Contact us

Selborne Common and The Lythe butterfly walk

How to get here

Selborne, Near Alton, Hampshire
By train

Alton, 3 miles (4.8km); Liss, 3.5 miles (5.6km); Petersfield, 6 miles (9.6km).

By road

Nearest major roads are A31/A3. Follow signs to Selborne on B3006. Park in free public car park behind Selborne Arms in middle of High Street.

By foot

Just off The Hangers Way.

By bus

Stagecoach 38, from Alton or Petersfield. Limited service daily except Sunday.

Selborne Common and The Lythe butterfly walk

Facilities and access

  • Car park (not National Trust)
  • Toilets including disabled (not National Trust)
  • Shops, museum, pubs and tea-room in village (not National Trust)