Awesome Autumn Commons and Bottoms (Surrey)
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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 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hankley_Common 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 https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/witley-and-milford-commons.
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.
What to bring
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 (http://whitehartwitley.co.uk/) for a drink.