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Weekend Walk: Thursley, Hankley Common, Kettlebury Hill

Hankley Common. Pinterest

The village of Thursley is a little Surrey jewel situated on the edge of the vast area of commonland comprising Thursley and Hankley Commons, stretching as far as Elstead in the east and nearly to Frensham in the west. Kettlebury Hill is an arc-shaped ridge shaded with pines and offering fantastic views of seeming wilderness. This walk is perfect for any season, even the bleakest winter. Taken from www.fancyfreewalks.org.

1. Starting in the Thursley car park, walk parallel to the road on your right towards a children’s playground and take a narrow path between the playground and an oak tree with a circular bench. You pass a welcome notice board for the Thursley Nature Reserve and, in 60m, reach a marker post with blue arrows and a crossing path.
2. Turn left at the crossing path which takes a rather narrow sunken course through bracken. In nearly 200m, you arrive at a junction with a diagonal crossing path, offering you a choice of two paths ahead. Take the right fork, slightly uphill. (The left fork is the riders’ path which runs down on your left close to a pasture, maybe a less attractive option.) Follow the path through a pleasant birch wood for nearly ½ km where you meet a fork in the path. Take the left fork, leading down in 20m to another post with a blue arrow. Keep right, joining the bridleway, leading in 20m to a post with blue arrows. Fork left, staying on the horse path. In 150m or so, you reach a T-junction with a farm track.
3. Turn left on the road and, in 100m, turn right on a tarmac track, passing Truxford Cottage and October Farm. In 350m, at a 4-way crossing, keep straight ahead. In 300m you pass a car park on your left and go past a heavy metal barrier. The tarmac goes gently downhill for another 250m and curves left. Just after the curve, you will see on your right a post with blue arrows and a sandy track going uphill.
Decision point. You now have a choice of route leading to the spectacular views at the top of the ridge. The high path, section 4a is an exhilarating walk along the ridge path. The low path, section 4b is shorter and also provides good views.
4a. The high path. Turn right at the post with blue arrows and follow the sandy track uphill. In 300m or so, you reach a sandy space with many tracks leading away in all directions, including a steep track on your right going up between stumps. This is the Lion’s Mouth, a yawning gap in the ridge. Ignore a steep irregular sandy path immediately on your left, but take the second path on your left, a wide straight track going gradually uphill. Just out of sight on your right is a thick stone wall. This is the Atlantic Wall used in WWII for training for the D Day landings, worth a visit. At the top of the slope, in 150m or so, veer right on the wide ridge path. At once you have great views left across the valley. You will be following this excellent wide path for 2 km, gradually curving left. After 650m, at a large marker post, another wide path joins from your right. Soon your views are obscured by pine forests. In about 350m suddenly you have open views right. In a further 400m, at a marker post, the wide valley path joins you from the left crossing via a steep drop on your right. Keep straight on.
4b. The low path. Keep straight on, ignoring the blue arrows and the sandy track, staying on the tarmac. In 20m, as the tarmac curves left towards an army enclosure, leave the track by forking right, effectively straight ahead, on a shingle path between trees. Pass just to the right of the army huts and out into the open valley. Your valley path is visible far ahead, a snaking course leading up to the ridge about 1 km distant. Follow this path, with great views all round. Towards the end, the path gets a bit steeper and goes through pines till finally you meet the ridge path. Veer left to join it.
5. Your path immediately comes into the open with great views on all sides. This walk will take you about ½ km further along this excellent high path up to a promontory which you can see ahead to the left. Avoid all minor side paths until you reach a major fork: take the left fork, slightly narrower, going up to the promontory. This is the highest point on the ridge and here you have the best views with perhaps a chance for a breather and a photo.
6. Care! This section is tricky and you may need to concentrate more than usual. Veer right to descend to the original main path and immediately turn left on it. In 20m you reach a junction of many tracks with a small marker post on your left bearing various light-coloured arrows. Avoid the first wide track on your left which goes steeply down into the open plain and instead take the second wide sandy track on your left. This track goes downhill through pine trees. In 250m you approach power lines running down on your right. Just before the first pylon, turn right, go straight over a sandy path, crossing under the power lines, onto a narrower forest path on the other side. This path is relatively grassy and rooty and is usually marked by vehicle tracks. It runs straight for 200m, gradually descending at the end. You can now see a small white house in the bottom of the valley, together with a horse path and a dirt driveway. Just before your path curves away left, take a narrower right fork, crossing over the horse path and meeting the dirt drive near the entrance to the garden of the house, Howndown.
7. Turn right on the drive and follow it for 150m to be faced with the large garden gate of Hounmere House. Wheel left with the drive and, immediately after a second large gate, turn right by an electricity pole onto a signed bridleway running up beside the fence of the property on your right. At the end, in 100m, you meet the Thursley Road. Turn left on the road and follow it for 100m till, just over a crest and next to a SLOW mark in the road, you see a small fingerpost. Turn right here on a narrow footpath running beside a pasture on your right. This path, overgrown with tree roots, leads down over a lively stream via a sturdy bridge with rails. This path can be slippery so take care! Your path takes a pleasant curving course by a low timber fence and takes you past a large wooden gate into a very pretty water meadow with the meandering stream winding its way through. Go over a flat bridge passing a duck pond on your left. The large house up on your left is Dye House, built in the mid-1700s. Go through a gap by a large wooden gate onto a narrow tarmac lane.
Decision point. The main walk takes you on a very brief circuit to the church and back through the village. If you are in a hurry to get back to the Thursley car park, do section 8b instead of 8a.
8a.Village walk. Turn right on the lane, soon going past Little Shavings on the left. The garden on the right has a bank which, in spring, is covered in snowdrops. Note the small stone-backed alcove in the bank on the left with a metal cockerel. Just past Smallbrook Farm on the right and a black wooden barn on the left is a fingerpost. Turn left here, joining part of the Greensand Way. Go up the concrete ramp and through a small wooden gate on the right. Follow the fenced path between pastures, then trees, until you reach Thursley churchyard. Walk through the churchyard keeping to the left of the church, thus leaving the Greensand Way. Go left with the path down some wooden steps to reach a drive. Follow the drive to the road, called The Street, and turn left on it. Continue, passing several historic houses, until you arrive at the little green in the centre of Thursley. Fork left here and continue left to reach the car park where the walk began.
8b. Shortcut. Turn left on the tarmac lane. In 100m or so, turn right on the main Dyehouse Road. In less than 100m, look for a small fingerpost and a forest path forking right. Take this path but immediately ignore the official footpath by keeping straight on instead of turning right. Your path leads up a shallow gully. In 150m it curves left to re-join the road, opposite the entrance to the car park where the walk began.

DISTANCE: 5 miles
MAP: OS Explorer 145 (Guildford) and 133 (Haslemere)
START: The walk begins at the Thursley car park, near the cricket green and playground, postcode GU8 6QA.

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