A circular walk on Thursley and Hankley Commons, Surrey

by Jan

This 5-mile circular walk on Thursley and Hankley Commons takes you to the historic Atalantic Wall, before returning to the pretty Surrey village of Thursley .  It is a picturesque walk with varied landscapes, including heathland, woodland, a village pub, and a historic ruin.  The route takes you to the ridge of Kettlebury Hill, where you’ll get fantastic views of Thursley and Hankley Commons.

The walk from Thursley is perfect for nature-lovers, history-lovers, and walkers.  It is family-friendly and suitable for most levels, with just a few gentle ascents.  However, it is uneven and muddy in some places and not suitable for buggies or wheelchairs.

Map taken from www.fancyfreewalks.org

  • Start of Walk:  Thursley Car Park (Postcode:  GU8 6QA)
  • Distance:  4.8 miles (can take a shorter option)
  • Type of Walk:  Circular
  • Terrain: Varied (heathland/woodland/village)
  • Refreshments:  The Three Horseshoes pub

Start of Walk - Thursley Nature Reserve

This circular walk to the Atlantic Wall starts at the car park by the cricket green in the pretty village of Thursley.  Parking is free and in winter it was easy to find a space.  The start of the walk is at the entrance to Thursley Nature Reserve, by a small children’s playground on the right of the green.

Within minutes of walking, we took a sharp left, which follows a footpath across Thursley Common.  The path is narrow and underfoot roots make it uneven in places.  However, the russet colours of the ferns looked spectacular (even in December).

Thursley Common, Surrey, UK

Thursley Common is a national nature reserve, which covers 350 hectares. It is one of the last surviving areas of lowland peat bog in southern Britain and has been designated as a SSSI.  The common attracts some rare wildlife, especially dragonflies and the rare Dartford Warbler.

Thursley Common offers a good choice of walks and wooden boardwalks over some bogland areas provide some more accessible walking.  However, our route does not include these.

From the main footpath you’ll join a wider bridleway, which leads up to Thursley Road.  You must walk on a tiny section of the road before crossing and heading up a tarmac track towards Hankley Common.

Hankley Common

Hankley Common Walk, Surrey, UK

With over 1,400 acres of heathland, Hankley Common is the larger of the two commons.  It is managed by the Surrey Wildlife Trust, but often used by the MOD as a training area.

As you arrive at a sandy junction the map will give you the option of the low or high path.  I highly recommend taking the longer route on the high path to the Lion’s Mouth.  This leads to the summit of Kettlebury Hill and a flat leisurely walk along the ridge.

As you’re walking, you may recognise the area, as Hankley Common is a popular filming location.  It has been used in several James Bond films, including The World is Not Enough, Die Another Day and Skyfall.  Other films that feature Hankley Common are Marvel’s Black Widow, The King’s Men and 1917.

The Atlantic Wall

However, before you walk along the ridge, take a quick detour to visit the Atlantic Wall.

In 1943, Canadian troops constructed a replica section of the Atlantic Wall as part of an army training site for Operation Overlord in World War II.  The troops used this area to practise for the D-Day landings before heading to the French coast.

The Atlantic Wall, Surrey, UK

Today you can still observe evidence of bomb damage in the concrete wall.  Nearby you can see other obstacles used in the training, such as dragon’s teeth, bunkers, and concrete blocks.  Most of these are now covered in moss, lichen and plants and blend well into their woodland environment.  It’s a great area to explore with kids, and adds some interest to the walk.

Once you’ve explored the Atlantic Wall return to the path which takes you across the ridge.  The views from here of Thursley and Hankley Commons are spectacular.  You can see for miles over the valley and as the sun started to set, the vista was breath-taking.

The sandy track continues for over a mile, so resist the temptation to go down into the valley.  I was certain that we’d missed a turn, but the top of the ridge is the correct route.  It’s an easy route, with a flat, wide path.

Dragons teeth near Atlantic Wall, Surrey, UK

Return to Thursley village

The last stretch of our circular walk takes you on completely different terrain.  After a brief walk in the woods and a return walk on Thursley Road, you will be in a pretty meadow with a winding stream.  We crossed a couple of wooden bridges, but our attempts at Pooh Sticks weren’t successful.

You will have the choice of an extended section of walking on the Greensand way to the village of Thursley, before returning to your car.

Thursley is a charming, village with a Saxon church and a scattering of historic houses.  The name of the village comes from the Olde English, meaning sacred grove of Thor (after the Norse god of Thunder).

If you are looking for refreshments, they have one family-friendly pub, The Three Horseshoes, which is owned by the villagers themselves.  The pub serves food and local ales and has a large garden with a children’s play area.

Thursley village, Surrey, UK

Conclusion

We enjoyed this walk in winter.  Although some sections were muddy, none of the paths were impassable.  It has a varied landscape with some stunning views.  I would definitely do it again, though would probably start a bit earlier, so that we weren’t navigating in the dark!

How to get to Thursley

Thursley is a small, Surrey village between Milford and Hindhead.  It is only 3 miles from Elstead.  It is easy to get to Thursley by car on the A3 and takes about an hour from London.

The nearest train station to Thursley is at Milford, which is just over 3 miles away.

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Have you done any good walks near Thursley and Hankley Commons?

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