Hiking through the Hurtwood Roaming through the Rhodies

Walk Event icon - Jewel Created with Sketch.
Lowland and Hill Walks
May 09

23 people attending

7 places left

Your price
Event difficulty background shape EventDifficulty
Easy Moderate Very Hard
Distance is 20 km (12.5 miles); total ascent is 565m; terrain is sharply undulating with some short, steep ascents and descents; surfaces are dirt, sand, grass and tarmac.

Please note the change of date.

I don't seem to have much success calendaring walks to coincide with seasonal displays of flowers. Blenched bluebells, droopin' lupins... I never learn. On this latest attempt, the rhododendrons planted by Charles Darwin's sister on the southern slopes of Leith Hill will form an incidental pleasure to a strenuous but steady hike along the greensand ridge which will run from coffee time at much-loved Leith Hill to a late lunchtime at mostly-unknown Holmbury Hill. After a lunch break looking over the landscape we'll descend to wolds and woods, one of these being Rhododendron Wood, where the blowsy blooms should make for a dazzling display if I've scheduled the walk correctly.

The sights:

Abinger: A scattered village with three centres. Suburbanised but cosy and comfortable, especially the area near the pub, church, village green and well. St James' Church was Norman, bombed in the war and sensitively restored in 1950, and then again in 1964 after a fire when it was struck by lightning. Striking and modern stained glass and a C15 alabaster crucifix. Goddards is a large house of 1898-9 by Edwin Lutyens designed in an Arts and Crafts style with gardens by Gertrude Jeykll. It is considered to be one of his most successful early designs and was built as 'as a Home of Rest to which ladies of small means might repair for holiday'.

Leith Hill: At 294m, the highest hill in Surrey and the second highest in the southeast. The National Trust reports: '...from the tower...you can see sweeping views towards London in the North and the English Channel in the South. The top of the tower is the highest point in South-East England...Leith Hill is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is home to abundant wildlife.' The gothick-style tower was built in 1765-6 to raise the height of the hill above 1000 feet. Thirteen counties may be seen from the top on a clear day, it is claimed.

Holmbury Hill: 261 metres above sea level and the site of an Iron Age hillfort. It sits along the undulating Greensand Ridge. The hillfort is early 1st century BC, possibly built by the Belgic tribes of Celts to defend trade routes across the Weald. The ramparts make good use of the natural slope of the site.

Rhododendron Wood, Leith Hill: The National Trust reports: 'Created in the late 1800s by Caroline Wedgwood of the illustrious pottery family...A keen plantswoman and botanist, Caroline was the eldest sister of Charles Darwin who would visit Leith Hill and walk in the woods. By planting up two fields with rhododendrons and azaleas, many of which were specimens brought back from Asia, Caroline created a beautiful entrance driveway to her home at Leith Hill Place. In 1944 the Rhododendron Wood was bequeathed to the National Trust by Caroline's grandson, the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams [who lived at Leith Hill Place].' Trees and shrubs to be seen on the tiny trail suggested by the National Trust that we'll follow include: giant redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum); coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens); the UK's oldest tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera); Rhododendron 'Winsome'; Rhododendron macabeanum; and the tree-like Rhododendron arboreum. 


I love having dogs on my walks and this walk may be suitable for them in that there will be almost no farm livestock on the route, much if it is under trees in shade and it is not too long. However, it may be less suitable because there's quite a bit of climbing and country lanes to walk along. The weather might also be very warm. Any dog off its lead must be obedient.

The route (please click on the link in red):

Footpaths and bridleways heading southeast will take us out to Abinger Common where we'll walk a little way along Leith Hill Road. At Abinger Bottom we'll reach Leyland's Farm. Crossing Wootton Common, we'll reach Leith Hill Tower. We'll then continue on the Greensand Way west off Leith Hill and reach Rhododendron Wood for a short tour of the trees and shrubs. Then, heading west we'll get to Pasture Wood and on to Holmbury Hill for lunch at the viewpoint. We'll then turn north then northwest and bridleways and footpaths will take us along Colmans Hill and through Hoe where we'll pick up Broadfield Road (track) and Towerhill Lane (path) north back to the station.

IMPORTANT! - Participation Statement

You MUST complete a Participation Statement, here, in addition to booking your event space before attending an OutdoorLads event. You only need to complete this Participation Statement once, not for each event you attend. 

COVID-19 - IMPORTANT: Please read the following before you sign up to this event:

  • Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, even if they are extremely mild, or who lives or is in a support bubble with someone showing symptoms, is asked not to attend. This is in line with the government’s coronavirus advice.
  • You must also immediately self-isolate and not attend the event if you or someone in your household or support bubble shows coronavirus symptoms or tests positive. You can find the NHS self-isolation guidance here.
  • The main symptoms of COVID-19 are a high temperature, a new continuous cough, and a loss or change to your sense of taste and/or smell.
  • You may be subject to local lockdown restrictions, which you must fully comply with. Details of the location of these restrictions can be found here for England, ScotlandWales, and Northern Ireland.   
  • We do not encourage car sharing to events during the pandemic. Please comply with the safety travel guidance for EnglandWales, and Scotland. Face coverings should be worn on public transport.
  • OutdoorLads will support the tracing systems in place across the UK  and attendance at an OutdoorLads event is considered permission to use contact details for this purpose if requested by the appropriate authority.  
  • All are required to practice social distancing – staying 2m (not 1m) apart at all times, including the lunch stop. Remember: Face, Hands, Space.
  • Unfortunately, there won’t be any planned pub / café stops en route or at the end, and please don’t share sweets or snacks with others – we’re sorry!
  • Please bring your own hand sanitising gel for your own use throughout the day. Use of face coverings is at your own choice, but please bring one with you just in case it's needed. Please bring any other PPE items required. Bring a disposable bag for any used PPE.
  • Members are advised to bring their own small first aid kit for personal use..
  • Be aware that opportunities for toilet stops may be minimal if facilities are closed.
  • Please, please cancel at your earliest opportunity if you are unable to attend or are unwell, so that we can allow others to take up these valuable event spaces.
  • Much as it's difficult - no handshakes or hugs!

COVID-19: Participation Statement

OutdoorLads draws your attention to the fact that travelling and being away from home increases the risk of receiving and transmitting Coronavirus, whilst it is present in the UK. You are likely to choose not to participate in OutdoorLads events whilst there is a risk of Coronavirus transmission. However, should you choose to participate in OutdoorLads events whilst the risk is present, you must be aware of and follow the law and government guidelines, both when travelling to and from events as well as when participating in events.

Please note that every person participating should be aware of (and accept) that those members perceived as ‘in charge’ or leading the event are not experts,  do not need to be experts, and are not regarded by OutdoorLads, or themselves as experts, but are amateurs with some experience in the event type and who are happy to impart their knowledge.  Any advice given should be considered with this in mind by the recipient.

By signing up to and attending an OutdoorLads event, you are confirming that you have read, understood and accept the content of this statement.

Please see our website for more information including an FAQ about our events.

(Photo credits: Looking west along the hills, at Tanhurst: Photo © Christopher Hilton (cc-by-sa/2.0) (image trimmed), View south from Leith Hill: Photo © Christopher Hilton (cc-by-sa/2.0); Goddards by Mark Percy: Photo © Mark Percy (cc-by-sa/2.0)Leith Hill: Photo © Rude Health (cc-by-sa/2.0); Footpath through the woods: Photo © N Chadwick (cc-by-sa/2.0); Path in Pasture Wood: Photo © michael (cc-by-sa/2.0); Leith Hill: view southwards: Photo © Christopher Hilton (cc-by-sa/2.0); Warning sign, Holmbury Hill: Photo © N Chadwick (cc-by-sa/2.0); Rhododendron Wood, Leith Hill Wood: Photo © Colin Smith (cc-by-sa/2.0); Rhododendron Wood: Photo © Colin Smith (cc-by-sa/2.0); Azaleas in Rhododendron Wood: Photo © Colin Smith (cc-by-sa/2.0); Sheep Green from Leith Hill: Photo © Colin Smith (cc-by-sa/2.0). All images are copyrighted but are designated 'Free to share and use' under Creative Commons CC BY-SA/2.0 and are here attributed to their copyright holders.)

View south from Holmbury Hill by N Chadwick
View south from Holmbury Hill by N Chadwick


51.2199895, -0.4417892