Peaslake Walk

Leave the carpark by the footpath beside the Hurtwood Control notice board and, on reaching the broad track, turn left. At the first crossing path turn left and, at the road, cross to another path, passing between concrete bollards.  After crossing two forestry roads, the path goes slightly uphill and, just after the top of the rise, turn left on to a narrow path passing a holly bush. Although you are walking through plantation, the trees are not in regimented rows; the result is more attractive open woodland.  After crossing two more forest roads, the path goes downhill to a junction. Note the old beech and oak trees on the bank to the right. This is a boundary bank or hedgebank1; behind the hedgebank, the wood is called Riding Copse.  At this junction, turn sharp right uphill with the hedgebank on your left and at the next junction, keeping the hedgebank on your left, turn left round the end of Riding Copse.

Peaslake Walk MapOn reaching a small clearing with two very large old trees to the left and a large house and fields visible ahead, bear right. Continue along this path and, when it goes down into a valley, follow it up the other side on a rutted2 path. The trees are mostly deciduous close to the path, especially on the left, but on the right the pines have been felled leaving occasional broadleaved (deciduous) trees.

Soon the path goes down into another shallow valley but with two ponds.  Cross between the ponds and bear left uphill. At the next junction, bear left on to a path with another old hedgebank on your left and an old iron gate; shortly this path reaches a carpark. Across the carpark to the left is Holmbury St Mary Youth Hostel.

Take the small footpath behind the Hurtwood Control information panel and, on reaching the broad sandy track, turn left; then at the next broad crossing track, turn left again. The Scots pines along here have a more natural appearance because they have more space to grow into. At the T-junction, turn right on another broad track with rhododendron on either side. The village of Holmbury St Mary is down the hill to your left.

At the junction of five paths, take the one to the left of the curved seat, continuing your previous direction. At the waymark post, bear right on the Greensand Way (GW), shortly passing through a barrier and uphill. On reaching the sign for the hill fort, take the path ahead to a high point; the hill fort is to your right. Gradually views will open up revealing The Weald, the Sussex Downs and other Surrey sandstone hills.  These hills, of which The Hurtwood is part, form part of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The path eventually reaches the toposcope on top of Holmbury Hill which will explain the view.

Having enjoyed the views, turn away and with the hill fort information panel on your right, take the footpath (GW) near the donations box through a deep but short cutting. Follow this path, bearing left at the next three junctions, and keeping to the edge of the hill. After going through two barriers, there is another viewpoint which has been made accessible to disabled people. Leave this viewpoint by the path opposite the way you entered, crossing a deeply rutted track and going up to a carpark.  Turn left through the carpark and go down to the road, then turn right and almost immediately left by three wooden posts. Bear right at the next junction and keep ahead at the next junction (waymarked).  Later, ignore the waymarked path to your left, continuing ahead until reaching a wide track at a T-junction. Bear left, then keep ahead at the crossing path and shortly right to the carpark.

1 The woodland behind the bank is called Riding Copse and is mostly broadleaved woodland. These hedgebanks were used to mark boundaries and to keep stock in or out of an area. The trees would have been managed by a system called “laying” to ensure that they were stock-proof.

2 The paths become rutted by use but also by the weather. However, the depth of the rut can be an indication of the age of the path. Some of the lanes and roads in this area of Surrey are deeply rutted not by modern roadbuilders but because they are ancient trackways previously used by horses and horse-drawn carts. Over time, the wheels and hooves cut into the sand, the loose sand is washed away by rain and the rut gets deeper. Look for them on your way home, even on the A25.

Paul Collins
Trustee, Surrey Wildlife Trust