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Things to see and do at Hydon’s Ball and Heath

Child in the park at Kingston Lacy, Dorset
Bring the family for a walk in the woodland | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Set within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Hydon’s Ball and Heath is one of the highest points in the county, providing impressive views over the surrounding countryside towards the Sussex border. Here are some of the highlights of what you can see and do in this special place.

The Octavia Hill trail

The Octavia Hill trail, dedicated to one of the co-founders of the National Trust, is a short 1.5-mile circular walk that winds through shady woodland and across open heathland. The dry and sandy soil here provides perfect walking conditions for families in all seasons.

Take in the view

Hydon’s Ball and Heath is one of the 10 highest points in Surrey. Indeed, it is believed that the ‘Ball’ in the name comes from its use as part of the signal system that existed between London and Portsmouth during the Napoleonic wars.

At the high point is a seat dedicated to Octavia Hill. It’s an ideal spot to enjoy an evening sunset.

Do some foraging

Blackberries are the quintessential foraging fruit and can be found around the hedges and scrubland in autumn time. Hydon’s Ball also has a lot of sweet chestnut trees – hunt on the ground for the small glossy nuts emerging from the spiky green cases. These nuts are always popular to roast at Christmas, or added to sprouts and parsnips or stuffings for meat.

Buzzard in southern woods at Quarry Bank Mill, Cheshire
Keep your eyes peeled for buzzards | © National Trust Images/Derek Hatton

Ideal for birdwatching

  • Buzzards. You can often hear their cat-like cries far above you as they soar in the sky.
  • Kestrels. Easily identified as a small bird hovering above the fields as it hunts for small mammals.
  • Jays. A fast-flying bird, often seen as a bright flash with a hint of blue as it dashes through the trees collecting acorns for the winter.
  • Woodpeckers. The drumming of spotted woodpeckers in woods is unmistakeable, as is the chuckling ‘yaffle’ of a green woodpecker.
  • Owls. As the light drops in the afternoon, you may catch some of these coming out to hunt. Look for the eerie whiteness of a barn owl or hear the distinctive t’whit-t’woo of tawny owls. 
  • Winter visitors. As the temperature drops you may be lucky to see bramblings, fieldfares and redwings in the woods and open areas. Look out for the dandy waxwings perched high, chomping greedily on rowan berries or hawthorns.

The Robertson memorial

Part of the site was bought by the WA Robertson Memorial Fund. William Alexander Robertson lost his two younger brothers, Laurance and Norman, in the First World War, and before he died in 1937 he left a bequest to commemorate them by nine memorials placed on high ground ‘within easy access of London’.

Grade II listed

The Robertson memorial at Hydon's Ball and Heath, which takes the form of an obelisk positioned close to the summit of the hill, has been listed as Grade II by Historic England.

A lasting legacy

Eight other memorials to Laurance and Norman exist on National Trust land, at Frensham Common, Birling Gap, The Devil's Punch Bowl, Netley Park, Toy’s Hill, Dunstable Downs, Sharpenhoe and Gomshall.

In addition to countryside sites, the Robertson bequest also funded the purchase of Sutton House in Hackney.

A view of a glade of pine trees at Cragside Northumberland


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