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Guildford Ramblings: Walking Over Ancient Heathland On Chobham Common

Published on: 9 Dec, 2014
Updated on: 10 Dec, 2014

Report and pictures by Kay Hiatt

Guildford Ramblers held its annual meeting a few weeks ago, starting with a fascinating talk by David McDowall based on his latest book, West Surrey Walks into History.

Walk 16 in his book was Chobham Common, described as “one of the best examples of lowland heathland anywhere”.

It is virtually the only heathland on Bagshot Sands, made up of coarse, infertile material deposited 40 million years ago and then carried eastwards by a huge freshwater river as large as the Ganges!

It is a 1,400 acre area, a type of habitat that is globally rare and threatened and managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust.

Walking on Chobham Common.

Walking on Chobham Common.

The common is a national nature reserve, an EU special protection area (for the protection of rare birds) and a site of special scientific interest. It is an important breeding area for a number of rare animals including water voles, nightjars and sand lizards.

So our group set off across this historic and rare landscape one cold and damp morning, starting off at the Four Horseshoes pub. It had been raining heavily so we were dressed to suit the weather with some of us sporting wellies rather than our walking boots!

Tufted grass.

Tufted grass.

We began our walk along a wide sandy path, past typical tufted grasses, flowering yellow gorse, silver birch trees and Scots pine. Several trees were covered in pale green lichen, probably because of the damp nature of the common.



These do no harm to the tree and add a touch of colour to what will soon be a wintry landscape.

Large collections of ferns were seen, brown and drooping – literally on their last legs before the frosts finish them off.

Horizontal webs.

Horizontal webs.

The gorse was festooned in horizontal spider webs which are probably those of a red spider mite. We walked up gentle hills, through lightly wooded areas and had some good views of quiet Chobham landscape. A few birds were spotted – blue tit, blackbird, and robin and though not seen, our birding rambler, Carol, thought she heard a stonechat.

Winter time on Chobham Common.

Winter time on Chobham Common.

There was a lot of surface water around and we had to jump over on paddle through a selection of puddles and ponds – and then viewed Gracious Pond.

All in all it was a most interesting walk of around 5.5 miles, and the conviviality of the group made for a pleasant experience. Then off to the pub for lunch!

Anyone in Guildford interested in joining the ramblers should visit their website.

Kay Hiatt is the Publicity Officer for the Guildford Ramblers

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