Winkworth to Oakhurst wonder walk
A beautiful wooded walk connecting three very special and unique National Trust properties hidden away in the sunny West Weald.
See a unique snapshot of a now largely forgotten way of life
The splendour of Winkworth Arboretum is linked through woodland to the spectacular views from the top of Hydon's Ball, then down to the charming village of Hambledon where you will discover Oakhurst Cottage, a delightful 16th-century labourer's home which has remained largely unchanged for the past hundred years or more.
Winkworth Arboretum, grid ref: SU990412
Leave Winkworth Arboretum car park by the National Trust omega sign and cross Hascombe Road into South Munstead Lane, following the bridleway sign. After you pass South Munstead Farm Cottage, bear left following the bridleway onto the gravel track at the end of the tarmac drive, before descending into a sunken lane.
As you emerge from the sunken lane, bear half right and gently climb into the Scots pine woodland of Busbridge Woods. Like Winkworth, this wood is a carpet of bluebells during the season. Keep to the main track as it starts to curve left and descend to a junction at the bottom of the gentle slope.
Stay on the main track as it curves right, ignoring the bridleway and footpath on the left as you start to gently climb and wind up towards Mark's Lane.
Just before the track reaches Marks Lane, turn left at the yellow footpath waymark, cross the road and continue into Hydon's Ball car park, emerging by a National Trust notice board. Cross the car park to exit past the large stump on the opposite side, turning left through the metal barrier.
Continue up the track past the stone cairn until you reach the top of the slope, then before the track starts to descend turn right and approach the chestnut post towards the rail barrier.
As you pass through the barrier ascend the uneven path to the top of Hydon's Ball, emerging at the top behind the stone memorial bench. The views to the east and south east are superb on a clear day.
Octavia Hill Memorial Bench
Hydon's Ball is believed to have once been a signalling station, but is now maintained as a memorial to Octavia Hill, one of the three founders of the National Trust, who died in August 1912 aged 74. The engraved bench at its peak offers fine views across the Surrey landscape, in honour of Hill's campaign work for green spaces.
Once you have taken in the view, leave the top of Hydon's Ball to the west with Octavia Hill's bench behind you. The path soon sweeps left, passing several green metal inspection covers for the reservoir below. Continue straight ahead as you descend past the Robertson Memorial on your right, then cross the path next to the pumping station.
Turning right, follow the foot path through the chestnut coppice until you reach a metal kissing gate on your left. Pass through it into an arable field, bearing half right as you cross to reach a solitary oak tree near the next metal kissing gate. Through the gate turn in the direction of the church and cross a second field towards another metal kissing gate.
Pass through the gate with the lime kiln on the left and continue ahead on to Church Lane, passing St Peter's Church on your right. Descend a short distance then turn left up a bank through a wooden kissing gate into a grass field and join the Greensands Way opposite the entrance to Court Farm.
Lime kilns such as this were used in the production of quicklime using extraordinary heat (900-1000°C!). Lime was invaluable both in agriculture and construction - for building mortars and later to purify iron in blast furnaces. This kiln was restored by us in 2009.
Descend into the field then ascend to the far-right-hand corner, passing through a timber kissing gate. Keeping on the same line, gently climb to another kissing gate and go down the steps on the other side onto the road by 'Matterves', heading left for 110yd (100m) towards Woodlands Lane.
Turn left into the lane then immediately right, following the bridleway down past Dora Cottage. Continue ahead as the lane narrows to a path and descend to the road, cross over and bear right along a single drive past Goodbrook Stables. Cross the stream to track and turn left, then head through the bollards and turn immediately right. Oakhurst Cottage is approximately 110yd (100m) on the right-hand side.
Before the end of the 19th century Oakhurst was anonymous in all but name, representing a type of building and way of life whose pattern had changed very little for centuries. It started life in the 1500s as a timber-framed barn, but once it became a cottage it was lived in continuously until the mid-20th century. Unusually, despite some alterations, it has faced very little modernisation over the past hundred years, and we now continue to maintain the property as an excellent illustration of a 19th-century rural home.
Oakhurst Cottage, grid ref: SU965380
You made it
Following this trail on mobile or tablet? Share your experience.