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Awesome Autumn Commons and Bottoms (Surrey) (37791)

Event Overview

If, on this walk, Hankley Common seems familiar, it may be because you've seen it on film or TV pretending to be somewhere quite different. It has appeared as the Scottish Highlands, Derbyshire, the edge of the Caspian Sea, the Korean Demilitarised Zone and Indonesia. It has also stood in, historically, for the Atlantic coast of mainland Europe. Of course, the Commons of Hankley, Ockley, Witley and Thursley do have their own character: exhilarating expanses of birch and bracken, separated by the woods and watercourses of the Bottoms of Houndown and Culmer. There are the cosy, comely communities of Thursley and Witley to savour too.

Hankley Common: A Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) of birch, bracken and common and bell heather. On TV and film it has been shown as the following: the Scottish Highlands and the setting for James Bond's ancestral home (Skyfall); the edge of the Caspian Sea (The World Is Not Enough); the Korean Demilitarised Zone (Die Another Day); Derbyshire (Doctor Who and the Silurians); and Indonesia (Tenko). In history it was used for training for Operation Overlord, where troops and tanks practised for their assault on the Atlantic Wall using a 100m-long, 3.5m-wide reinforced concrete replica; we'll see the substantial remains of this along with other relics. See for more detail. 

Witley Common: An area of woodland and heath, and an SSSI. It features Bronze Age burial mounds and has been used as common land by many generations. During World War II it was home to 20,000 soldiers prior to D-Day. Today it is managed by the National Trust to provide a mixture of habitats for wildlife. See

Thursley and Ockley Commons: Another SSSI and National Nature Reserve. Crossbill, red kite, woodlark and stonechat are seen regularly, and Dartford warbler, whinchat, wheatear, redstart and tree pipit may be. The series of ponds, linked by a boardwalk, are especially biodiverse.

Thursley: An immaculate and unsuburbanised village. The Norse name and origins of the place are interesting: 'Thor's Lee', and the village sign depicts the god wielding his hammer. St Michael's Church is almost all new after a restoration in 1860, but 12th and 13th century fragments remain. The cottages in the village are among the best in Surrey, for instance Olde Hall and Wheeler's Farm are 17th century, and Badgers and Vine Cottage are early 18th. 

Witley: A typical large Surrey village. All Saints Church is a picturesque and complex building of the 13th to the 19th centuries. Few cottages are that special, but Step Cottage, along with the church and other buildings form a delightful group. The hamlet of Sandhills overlooks the Weald and has a number of luxurious houses. We'll see the gatehouses to Witley Park, which are late-Victorian neo-Elizabethan. 


For the route, see:

The outward-bound route involves the Greensand Way (GSW) which will take us out of Wormley and Sandhills out to Brook. Crossing the A286, the GSW will take us past Furzefield Wood, Heath Hall and Cosford. We will then negotiate the A3 by walking up the pavement up the slip road, crossing the bridge and then descending. The GSW takes us to Thursley. Then, we will leave the village to go to Wheeler's Farm and then Houndown Bottom. The GSW and then footpaths and permissive paths will take us over Hankley Common to our scenic lunch spot.

The return leg uses more footpaths around in a big loop eastwards. A short stretch along Woolford Lane will take us to Ockley Common and then Thursley Common where we'll use a boardwalk to cross the ponds. Passing Hammer Pond, we'll safely use bridleways on the slip roads up and over the A3 again. Footpaths and lanes along French Hill, The Shrubbery (of Witley Park) and Mare Hill will lead us to Witley. After a drink at the White Hart we'll follow a short section on the pavement along the A283. Footpaths off this road will be lead us back to Witley Station at Wormley. 

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What to bring

For your comfort and safety please be prepared for the anticipated weather and the terrain of the walk - keep in mind the following:

Boots:  Hiking boots  that  are both waterproof and breathable, and provide good ankle support, are important as soon as you encounter any mud. Cross trainers may suffice in good weather and flat routes.

Socks:  Proper walking socks keep your feet dry, and help prevent blisters.

Walking Trousers:  (ideally water resistant) will be more comfortable than Jeans which are heavy and cold when wet.  From April to October shorts are usually a better bet.

Waterproof Over-Trousers:  essential in any significant rainfall.  Breathable ones are best.

Layered clothing: allows you to quickly adapt to changes in the weather as well as body temperature. E.g. a base layer or a cotton T-Shirt; a mid layer like a micro fleece, or a rugby type thick shirt,  and in cooler weather an outer layer consisting of a windproof jacket or a thick fleece. 

Waterproof Jacket: essential when hiking in all but the calmest of weather.  You get what you pay for with these. Breathable fabrics are advisable.

Hat: essential both in mid winter to preserve heat and in summer to prevent sunburn and heatstroke. 

Gloves: essential in frosty weather.

Small Rucksack: One that is comfortable to wear is essential so that you can use your arms freely. Place valuables in water proof bags inside.

Sunglassses: April- Sept: comfortable sunglasses enhance your pleasure and keep insects out of the eye

Water: even in winter one can loose a litre or more of fluid by perspiration. If you fail to make this up you'll get dehydrated which can lead to headaches and other problems. A hydration bladder is easier to use than bottled water, but higher maintenance.

Food: a packed lunch will be required unless otherwise stated. In addition carry energy bars or similar to counter 'sugar lows'.

Medicines: If you have allergies, are diabetic, or have minor ailments don't forget these!

Food & Drink

Please bring a packed lunch and lots of liquid with you before we set off. We'll eat it just before halfway round at Yagden Hill on Hankley Common. 

Near the end of the walk, there is The White Hart in Witley ( for a drink.

Meeting & Times

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Other Useful Information

To take a place: Log in and click the 'Book Now' button on this page then put the details in your personal diary.  If you are unsure, then click the 'Interested button' - this won't hold an event place, but will add the event to your dashboard.

Travel and lifts: Do check your travel arrangements - how will you get there? If you can offer a lift or need one, why not advertise this in the event forum below! NB The anticipated end time shown cannot be guaranteed and if buying pre-timed tickets for return travel you should allow plenty of margin.

Event limits: If the event is full when you register, you will appear on the event 'waiting list'. Places often become available and are filled on a first-registered, first-served basis.

Change of plan? At least a week beforehand please make sure you are able to go. If circumstances have changed please be courteous and un-register quickly! This will free up a space for someone else.

If you can't make it and the last booking date has passed: this may mean someone else loses out, so an apology left below on this event page would be appreciated by those going, and noticed by the leader.

Please try to be on time: Latecomers may be left behind or else upset the event timing and cause others to miss trains home etc. When you arrive please stay with the Event Leader in case we suddenly set off.

If you are late or lost: Please call or text me, Gavin, on 07944 014620.

During the event: It may seem obvious, but please keep with the group. People who go on ahead, or lag behind can cause problems for everyone else! Also, if you feel ill or have a problem do tell the leader straight away; if you need to drop out there may be a place you can wait for a lift, or catch a bus back.

Do mix and mingle: Especially if there are new members please chat with everyone. We are known to be a friendly group!

If it's your first event: Don't worry! Outdoorlads members come from all walks of life and are as varied as our events. You will meet some nice mates and have a great time. The Event Leader will ensure you are made welcome and introduced to others. Do feel free to message the leader and ask to meet beforehand if you wish.

Media disclaimer

All photos taken by me on my recon of 16/09/17.

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