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Things to see and do at Denbies Hillside

Two walkers follow a path along the side of the steep hill at Denbies Hillside, Surrey
Walkers at Denbies Hillside | © National Trust Images/John Miller

Denbies Hillside is the perfect place to explore Surrey’s beautiful countryside. Whether it’s wandering along the many footpaths and bridleways, watching out for wildlife including colourful butterflies and scaly lizards, or stopping for a picnic with a view towards Leith Hill, there’s plenty to see and do at Denbies Hillside for a brilliant day out.

Walking at Denbies Hillside

Embark on one of the many walks that start at or cross Denbies Hillside. From following the North Downs Way to discovering the floral banks of the Carriage Road leading to the hillside, Denbies has a trail for everyone.

Wildlife to see at Denbies Hillside

The hill and surrounding area (including Hackhurst Down, White Down and Ranmore Common) is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by Natural England for its rich variety of flora and fauna. Take a moment to savour the sights, sounds and smells of nature. Enjoy the sight of colourful butterflies fluttering over the hill and the beautiful wild orchids in the warmer months. Take in the smells of wild marjoram and thyme as you walk along the chalk grassland.

Butterflies

The herb-rich grassland provides food plants for the adonis blue and chalk hill blue butterflies. The rare silver-spotted skipper is also found here. A variety of sward (short grass) heights are maintained by grazing regimes, while longer areas of grass provide habitat for the marbled white butterfly. See if you can spot the black and red-spotted burnet moth here, too.

Reptiles

The remoteness of the hillside and rich habitat provides a refuge for a variety of reptiles. Areas of scrub and open grassland play host to adders, grass snakes, slow-worms and lizards.

Birds

The scrub and open grassland are a valuable habitat for many species of birds. Look and listen out for whitethroats and yellow hammers among the scrub, and in the open grassland you might spot kestrels and green woodpeckers.

Yellow meadow ants

Yellow meadow ants thrive on Denbies Hillside, and their anthills can be seen scattered throughout the open chalk grassland. The ants open the soil and keep it porous, as well as fertilize the grass roots with their droppings.

Unintentionally, the ants help to protect chalkhill blue butterfly caterpillars. They’re partial to the substances secreted by the butterfly’s caterpillars. Worker ants bury the larvae, which protects it from predators. This is a lovely example of symbiosis in nature.

Owls

Look out for barn owls at Westcott near Denbies. A few years ago, a nesting box became home to a pair of adult owls and their four chicks. To attract owls, we’ve encouraged areas of long tussock grass where the owl’s main prey species, mice and voles, can thrive.

Around 15 male Chalk Hill blue butterflies gathered on the ground at Denbies Hillside, Surrey
Chalk Hill Blue butterflies at Denbies Hillside | © National Trust Images/Matthew Oates

Enjoy a picnic with a view

With sweeping views over the Surrey countryside and towards Leith Hill, there are many beautiful spots to throw down a rug and enjoy a picnic. There are also picnic areas in Steer’s Field, accessed by a gate from Denbies Hillside car park, and in the meadow adjacent to the Ranmore West car park.

Discover history at Denbies Hillside

The concrete pill boxes, just west of Denbies Hillside along the North Downs Way, were built in 1940 to defend London during the Second World War. They acted as barriers where the advancing enemy could be engaged before reaching the capital.

Two walkers follow a path along the side of the steep hill at Denbies Hillside, Surrey

Discover more at Denbies Hillside

Find out how to get to Denbies Hillside, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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