Headley Heath

A walk along pleasant field paths and beautiful heathland with fine views

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Start: Car Park Distance: 4.3 miles (6.9 km) Climbing: 132 metres
Grid Ref: TQ 20541 53784 Time: 2 hours Rating: Easy
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Headley Heath
Start: Car Park Distance: 4.3 miles (6.9 km)
Climbing: 132 metres Grid Ref: TQ 20541 53784
Time: 2 hours Rating: Easy
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

The Walk: This walk on lovely wild heathland is preceded by a stroll on field paths to Headley Church. Headley Heath, near Box Hill, covers 530 acres. The land was originally used for sheep grazing. Today, under the management of the National Trust, the heath's various habitats are maintained for the benefit of a wide variety of fauna and flora. Rich in wildlife and attractive plants the heathland has a variety of birds to look out for including woodpeckers, linnets, pipits, goldfinches and siskins. Heathers and ling are widespread and there are even orchids and rock roses.

Chalk downland of Headley HeathChalk downland of Headley Heath
Bluebell carpet on Headley HeathBluebell carpet on Headley Heath

The walk starts from the National Trust car park. A short walk across a bracken covered corner of the heath leads to the late Victorian church of St Mary the Virgin. Opposite the Cock public house a path leads through a pastoral landscape leading to a tiny wood, at the end of which is the heath. A moderately steep and stony path gives way to a surfaced drive, followed before long by a grassy path, a sandy track and a narrow stony path. These changes of surface underfoot continue for the rest of the walk as underlying soil types vary. The scenery differs even more as the route goes through a great variety of vegetation.

After a climb to an open grassy space, a steep descent follows down a path of wooden steps. On the way, a breathtaking view of a deeply wooded valley opens up on the left. From the foot of the hill another climb, albeit gentler, begins and another valley view appears to the right. Behind are delightful views of Box Hill.

Headley, as it appears today, owes much to the effects of World War Two, when extensive tank training disturbed the soil and encouraged the growth of birch. Birch is an early constituent in the development of forest and over the years longer living hardwoods such as oak and beech will take over.

The character of the heath changes over the seasons. In early spring ferns begin to grow and unfold but these are overshadowed by the spectacular show of bluebells in late April and early May. Summer sees areas of wild flower meadow when butterflies come to show their colourful array and in the autumn rich colours of russet red and golden yellows take shape in the leaves of the trees. So come anytime, there is always something to see on Headley Heath. All year round.

Acknowledgment: Text derived from the Out and Out Series; Discovering the Countryside on Foot. Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia.

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