Things to see and do at Bookham Commons
Escape to Bookham Commons to relax by tranquil ponds, in secret glades and open grasslands, and spot a variety of wildlife, from rare birds and butterflies to aquatic creatures and roe deer. If you’re feeling energetic, go on a fun woodland walk specially designed for families, or run, cycle or horse ride on the dedicated tracks and bridleways.
Summer at Bookham Commons
On a summer’s evening be engulfed by the sweet, exquisite scent of honeysuckle as you stroll through the woods. In the spring and summer months, the woodland glades support a variety of orchids. Keep an eye out for them in the long grass.
Family fun at Bookham Commons
Dress them in old clothes and your kids can splash in puddles, run, jump and explore the commons and woodlands. Fallen trees are great for balancing on, playing hide and seek or spotting mini beasts, and you can find broken branches to build a den.
For a more structured activity, follow our family trail around the outskirts of the woodland and past three of the ponds. At a gentle pace, children will be on the go for about two hours (it’s flat terrain but can be wet underfoot).
Stop for a picnic
There are plenty of beautiful spots to throw down a blanket and enjoy a picnic close to nature. Sit overlooking the ponds on Hollows Path, beside the ancient oaks next to Kelsey’s Pond, amid the grassy glades on Eastern Plain or listen to the birds on Western Plain.
Running at Bookham Commons
Whether you’re out for a tough training run or a gentle jog, the surfaced tracks on the commons are perfect all year round. In dry periods, the footpaths are suitable too, although you should watch out for rabbit or badger digging, pot-holes or slippery clay – the details of the landscape are always changing.
Horse riding and cycling at Bookham Commons
The network of surfaced public bridleways and permitted paths are perfect for exploring on horseback or by bike. Please follow the waymarked blue arrows to avoid damaging the delicate soils on unsurfaced paths, which are vital for the protection of rare wildflowers.
Wildlife spotting at Bookham Commons
The woodlands, open grasslands, marshy ponds and wet heathland habitats of the Bookham Commons are home to a wonderful variety of wildlife and the area is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by Natural England.
In the summer, the commons are alive with butterflies, including silver-washed fritillaries, white admirals, purple hairstreaks and holly blues. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a magnificent purple emperor.
The ponds – some of which were created by the monks of Chertsey Abbey for rearing fish and watering livestock – are now home to dragonfly nymphs, newts, grass snakes, toads and frogs.
The hide at Upper Eastern Pond is not just for spotting birds – watch for roe deer on the opposite bank too.
Birds to look out for:
- Bookham is one of the few remaining places in Surrey to see this shy and rare bird. Look out for it in particular between December and March, feeding on sloes behind the railway station on Central Plain.
- On Hollows Path, to the north of Isle of Wight pond, is the heronry, where you’ll see the birds in the treetops and find the remnants of their meals on the ground below, including crayfish claws, fish scales and frogs' legs.
- Next to the Upper Eastern Pond is a bird hide where you can watch the more cautious wild ducks such as teal, shoveler, tufted duck and dabchick (also known as little grebe).
- The Western Plain is prime hunting ground for sparrow hawks and goshawks. And on a May evening, you may even hear the strident call of a male nightingale as he sings for a mate.
- At the woodland’s edge, listen out for the drumming of great spotted woodpeckers in spring and the hooting of tawny owls at dusk in the autumn.
The commons were home to Stone Age man and Saxon monks, were plundered by Henry VIII and visited by the Victorians, saw wartime action and were saved with help from local people.
Bookham Commons is home to some important and rare butterfly species such as the purple emperor, white admiral and silver-washed fritillary.
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A 1,600-acre estate with elegant gardens, Edwardian house and plenty of room to play
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