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Our work at Hindhead Commons and the Devil’s Punch Bowl

Spring at Hindhead Commons and Devil's Punch Bowl, Surrey
Spring at Hindhead Commons and Devil's Punch Bowl | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Find out about the work we’ve been doing to return Hindhead Commons and the Devil’s Punch Bowl to nature, and to care for this special place. From an all-weather walking path and better access for all, to restoring fragile habitats to accommodate rare breeding birds, our work ensures that people and wildlife can happily coexist in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Improved access

As part of a European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) grant, and a donation from the Black Down and Hindhead Supporters Group, we've been making significant changes to Hindhead Commons and the Devil's Punch Bowl, allowing better access for all.

Over summer 2021 we extended and re-landscaped the car park and created an accessible path along the route of the old A3. We have increased capacity for visitors with 40 new car park spaces and we have relocated parking areas to improve visitors’ views of the landscape and the peace and tranquillity of the site. The all-weather accessible circular pathway is suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs.

We’ll be replanting native tree species on site and returning much of the old overflow car park to grass.

All-weather accessible path

Many people now use the route around the old A3, which you can find out more about below, and this gets very muddy in the winter months. We’ve installed a new path to offer an all-season, circular trail on a relatively flat surface. It's signposted up the byway and back along the old A3 platform.

Local ‘Fittleworth’ sandstone has been used, which has the right pH balance for the fragile heathland habitat. It's approved by Natural England to be used on Special Protection Area sites such as the Devil's Punch Bowl.

Returning the A3 to nature

2011 marked the end of a 20-year project to improve the road link between London and the south coast. A new tunnel to bypass a notorious traffic bottle neck in the Surrey village of Hindhead meant that the old A3 could be 'returned to nature'.

The old A3 was a barrier to people and wildlife between the Devil’s Punch Bowl on one side of the road and Hindhead Common on the other. Once the scar of the old road has healed, valuable lowland heath will replace the roar of traffic.

Hindhead recognised as a wildlife haven

Six years on from the opening of the tunnel, this Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) was assessed by Natural England as meeting its nature conservation targets, and considered to be in favourable condition. Our work, following management techniques set out under the Higher Level Stewardship and Countryside Stewardship schemes, has seen the restoration of fragile and endangered historic heathland habitat, and the return of rare and diverse breeding birds such as woodlark and nightjar.

The nationally scarce heath tiger beetle has been sighted, and conditions are now favourable for the return of the silver studded blue butterfly.

View from Gibbet Cross at Hindhead Commons and the Devil's Punch Bowl, Surrey in autumn
View from Gibbet Cross at Hindhead Commons and the Devil's Punch Bowl in autumn | © National Trust Images/John Miller

Our work for nature

It’s not only the removal of the A3 above ground which has made Hindhead and the Devil’s Punch Bowl so special. The SSSI is one of the highest points in Southern England. Just under 1,000 feet above sea level, the relatively cool, humid climate of this ‘lowland’ heathland contains species normally associated with more upland sites such as bilberry, and trees festooned with lichens and mosses.

The mosaic of habitats include upland and lowland heath, bog, streams, ancient woodland, and free draining sandy soil, making it a challenge to manage. Heather mowing, the introduction of woodlark nesting areas, grazing and scrub management has all contributed to its success for nature.

Blue tit in December near Bradworthy, Devon


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European Regional Development Fund partner

The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) provides funding to public and private bodies in all EU regions to reduce economic, social and territorial disparities. The Fund supports investments through dedicated national or regional programmes.

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