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Thursley’s Dragonflies and the Atlantic Wall

There are currently 1 comments and 6 photos online for this walk.

Thursley’s Dragonflies and the Atlantic Wall
Author: Claire, Published: 18 Jun 2018 Walk Rating:star1 Thursley’s Dragonflies and the Atlantic Wall, Surrey Walkstar1 Thursley’s Dragonflies and the Atlantic Wall, Surrey Walkstar1 Thursley’s Dragonflies and the Atlantic Wall, Surrey Walkstar1 Thursley’s Dragonflies and the Atlantic Wall, Surrey Walkstar1 Thursley’s Dragonflies and the Atlantic Wall, Surrey Walk
Surrey, Elstead
Walk Type: Woodland
Thursley’s Dragonflies and the Atlantic Wall
Length: 5 miles,  Difficulty: boot Thursley’s Dragonflies and the Atlantic Wall, Surrey Walk boot Thursley’s Dragonflies and the Atlantic Wall, Surrey Walk
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A 5 mile circular walk around part of Thursley National Nature Reserve, just south of the village of Elstead in Surrey. The walk begins by exploring the easy-access boardwalk trail between Moat Pond and Pudmore Pond, designed to carry you over a section of wetland that is alive with dragonflies and damselflies in the summer months. The remainder of the route follows heathland paths through Thursley Common and Hankley Common, visiting the Lion’s Mouth and Atlantic Wall along the way, reminders of the importance of this heathland for military training. There are beautiful far reaching views and plenty of wildlife to enjoy.

The first stretch of the walk follows a boardwalk trail, more than one metre wide with a handful of passing places and no steps or other obstacles – this stretch would be suitable for rugged pushchairs or rugged disability buggies, giving a there-and-back walk of about 1.3 miles. The remainder of the route has several climbs and descents and follows heathland paths which can be muddy, rutted and deep with sand in some places. There are no stiles, steps, gates or livestock on route – the only obstacles are gaps alongside vehicle gates (all about one metre wide). There are a couple of very short stretches along roads. The commons have lots of intersecting paths, so the iFootpath App’s live GPS map will be the best navigation tool. Hankley Common is used as an MOD Training Area – this is open to the public and no live ammunition is used, but you may come across troops training so please follow any local signage, temporary diversions and instructions from military personnel. Dogs are welcome on the entire trail, indeed it is a popular dog walking area, but they need to remain on leads for the boardwalk section. Allow 2.5 hours.

The walk starts and finishes from the Thursley National Nature Reserve Moat Pond car park. This free car park is managed by Natural England and is accessed from Thursley Road, just south of Elstead village. The car park will be on your left as you head south from Elstead. Approximate post code GU8 6LW. The car park can be busy at peak times, so if it is full, you can adjust the walk by starting at the Hankley Common car park instead (this is Waypoint 4, so simply use the GPS Map to guide you).

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Walk Sections

Start to Boardwalk
Start to Boardwalk

Start point: 51.1666 lat, -0.7149 long
End point: 51.1661 lat, -0.7125 long

Standing in the Moat Pond car park with your back to the vehicle entrance, take the path at about 1 o’clock passing immediately to the left of the two large noticeboards (and signed for the Dragonfly and Heath Trails). The path leads you ahead through the woodland, immediately with lovely views of Moat Pond on your right.

Take a moment to pause and enjoy the views of Moat Pond, this is also a good moment to understand the National Nature Reserve that you are about to explore. Thursley Common takes its name from the nearby village, which in turn takes its name from the old English meaning Lea of the Thor, the Norse god. It covers 325 hectares and includes open dry heathland, peat bogs, ponds, pine and deciduous woodlands. With such a range of habitats, it is no wonder that it is also home to many species of rare or endangered wildlife. Moat Pond itself has beautiful displays of waterlilies in the summer months.

Stay on the path, passing another Natural England Trails waymarker and keep ahead at the junction (ignoring the main left-hand woodland path). Your path passes another waymarker and leads you between gorse bushes with Moat Pond still on you right. At the small path crossroads, turn left (signed for the Trails) and this will lead you to the next path junction, with the start of the boardwalks directly ahead.

Boardwalk to Boardwalk Ends
Boardwalk to Boardwalk Ends

Start point: 51.1661 lat, -0.7125 long
End point: 51.1645 lat, -0.7077 long

Go straight ahead to join the boardwalk which leads you across this northern part of Thursley Common. This area of wetland bog is home to plants and animals adapted to the wet and nutrient-poor acidic conditions. You will see sphagnum mosses that form the peat bog as well as marsh orchids and carnivorous plants such as the sundew. Amongst the plants are open ponds and ditches with more than 20 species of dragonflies and damselflies living and breeding here. Thursley is one of the best places in England to watch these aerial acrobats as they hunt and mate over the open water. These insects attract the attention of one of the most enigmatic birds on Thursley, the hobby. This falcon, a summer visitor from Africa, spends the summer feeding on dragonflies and smaller birds in order to raise its chicks.

A little way along, you will come to the first viewing area on you right, ideal for wildlife spotting across the wetland bog. Continue on the main boardwalk ahead and in the next viewing area (on your left) notice the beautiful carved wooden plaques. As you continue, keep your eyes peeled on the edges of the boardwalk for small common lizards that are attracted by the warmth of the wood and bask in the sun, scurrying away as people approach. Thursley is the ideal habitat for reptiles and is home to all six of our native species.

Further along on your left, you will have great views of Pudmore Pond. As you draw level with this pond, pass an interpretation board on your left and you will reach a junction in the boardwalk (with a footbridge on your right). Turn right here, crossing the bridge and following this side branch. Where this stretch of boardwalk ends, continue ahead on the heathland path which winds between gorse, bracken and trees to reach the next stretch of boardwalk. Follow this ahead (detouring along the left-hand viewing platform should you wish) and at the far end of the boardwalk you will emerge to a T-junction with a sandy path.

Boardwalk Ends to Road Crossing
Boardwalk Ends to Road Crossing

Start point: 51.1645 lat, -0.7077 long
End point: 51.1584 lat, -0.718 long

(If you are following the shorter easy-access version of this walk you have two choices. You could either turn around and retrace your steps to the start, or if you can manage the sandy heath paths, turn right at this junction and follow the Dragonfly Trail waymarkers which will guide you back to the car park.)

For the full route, turn left along the sandy path. At the first path fork, take the left-hand branch (straight ahead) and at the second fork, take the right-hand branch (straight on again). This sandy track leads you through open heath and then a section lined with young trees and you will emerge to a crossroads of paths (with waymarker posts). Turn right to join the wide sandy bridleway.

This southern area of the common is open dry heath, with common heather and bell heather as the dominant plants. This habitat is no less rich in wildlife. Butterflies thrive on the common, with elusive species including purple emperors and silver-studded blues. Look and listen for nightjars, woodlarks, redstarts, woodpeckers, terns, dabchicks, Dartford warblers and great grey shrikes. Curlews breed here and, if you’re lucky, you might spy peregrines, merlins, short-eared owls or even a soprano pipistrelle bat.

Simply keep ahead on this bridleway (with a deep golden sand surface) for about 0.6 miles, ignoring any side turns. As you approach the area of woodland, you will come to metal gate ahead. Pass through the gap alongside this and follow the main track to reach a T-junction with an access drive. Turn right along the drive for just a few metres to reach a junction with the road.

Road Crossing to Hankley Car Park
Road Crossing to Hankley Car Park

Start point: 51.1584 lat, -0.718 long
End point: 51.1621 lat, -0.7267 long

NOTE: This next very short stretch follows the road edge, so take care of traffic. Turn left along the road, making use of the left-hand verge path as much as possible. Where the road bends left, cross over with care to join the tarmac access drive ahead (signed as a public bridleway), passing Truxford Cottage on your right.

You will soon pass MOD signs that explain you are now entering an MOD Training Area. No live ammunition is used here and public access is allowed, but please do not disturb any training troops or any unusual objects. Keep ahead on the tarmac access drive, passing October Farm on your right. At the first crossroads, continue ahead on the tarmac access drive. The access drive leads you past Hankley Common car park on your left, to reach a vehicle barrier ahead.

Hankley Car Park to Atlantic Wall
Hankley Car Park to Atlantic Wall

Start point: 51.1621 lat, -0.7267 long
End point: 51.1647 lat, -0.7358 long

Pass alongside the barrier and continue ahead on the tarmac bridleway. This area of heathland is known as Hankley Common. The tarmac track leads you downhill to reach a junction of paths where the tarmac track swings left. Ignore the first path on your right, instead follow the tarmac as it begins to swing left for just a few paces and then turn right onto the second right path. Follow this sandy bridleway as it leads you steadily uphill through the trees.

At the top of this slope, follow the sandy bridleway as it swings left to reach a junction of multiple paths, with a waymarker post directly ahead. It is worth taking a moment here to check your bearings. If you look to your right you will see a sandy path (with low stumps at the start) which leads steeply up a bank. This path, known as the Lion’s Mouth, is the path we will take in a moment, but first we take a detour to visit a historic landmark.

For this detour, take the path at about 11 o’clock. After just 50 metres, fork left and immediately on your left you will see the impressive remains of a concrete wall known as the Atlantic Wall. This wall was constructed in 1943 by Canadian Troops to act as a replica section of the German Atlantic anti-tank defences that had been constructed on the northern French coast. It was used in the training and preparation for Operation Overlord and Operation Neptune, the D-Day invasion of Normandy by allied forces. The replica section is 100 metres long, 3 metres tall and more than 3 metres thick and originally had a heavy set of steel gates in the centre. You can see the damage caused by the live weapons training, as techniques to breach the wall were tested. Large breaches were caused by Double Onions, a steel framework with explosives mounted to the front of a Churchill Tank. The tank would place the charges before backing off whilst trailing a wire, which would be used to detonate from a safe distance. Today the wall has become colonised by alkaline-loving lichens and mosses that are supported by the lime-based structure.

Atlantic Wall to Yagdon Hill
Atlantic Wall to Yagdon Hill

Start point: 51.1647 lat, -0.7358 long
End point: 51.1735 lat, -0.7334 long

When you have finished at the wall, retrace your steps back to the multiple paths junction and turn left to follow the sandy path (the Lion’s Mouth) between the stumps and climbing uphill into a cutting of heather. At the top of this short sharp slope, pass between more stumps and keep ahead on the level heathland track. Take time to enjoy the far-reaching views that have opened up ahead and left. Down to your left you will be able to see the golf course that occupies part of Hankley Common.

Hankley Common has played an important role as a set for film and TV. It was used in three James Bond Films – The World is Not Enough, Die Another Day and Skyfall. The 1980s TV Drama Tenko, which followed the lives of women held in a Japanese Internment Camp during World War II, was also filmed on this common.

Simply keep ahead on the main wide track along this ridge, ignoring any side paths. Further along, keep ahead as the track leads you downhill on a roughly eroded stretch. The track becomes sandy once again to reach a crossroads. Go straight ahead and, at the next crossroads, go straight ahead again on the sandy track that climbs once again. This short sharp sandy rise brings you to the highest point on the common, the top of Yagdon Hill. Take a moment to enjoy the lovely views, remembering to look behind you too.

Yagdon Hill to Bridleway T Junction
Yagdon Hill to Bridleway T Junction

Start point: 51.1735 lat, -0.7334 long
End point: 51.168 lat, -0.7259 long

Continue ahead on the level sandy track. After 50 metres, ignore the side path to your left. Instead continue ahead for another 100 metres, heading down the sunken sandy slope to reach a crossroads. Turn right here, following a double track gently downhill to reach a multiple path junction.

Turn right (about 2 o’clock) and follow this sandy track as it swings hard right. After this bend you will reach a fork (with a waymarker ahead). Take the right-hand branch (straight ahead) which leads you over the brow of a small rise and descends gently to reach a staggered junction. Ignore the first two side paths (left and right), instead follow the main track which swings left to reach a fork with waymarker post.

Take the left-hand branch (this is the main wide track marked with a blue arrow for the bridleway). Follow this bridleway for about 500 metres, eventually descending between wooded banks to reach a fork with a waymarker post. Turn left (following the blue arrow) and follow the sandy track as it swings right to reach a T-junction of bridleways (with a waymarker and section of woodland ahead).

Bridleway T Junction to End
Bridleway T Junction to End

Start point: 51.168 lat, -0.7259 long
End point: 51.1668 lat, -0.7149 long

Turn left at this T-junction to follow the bridleway with woodland on your right and open heath on your left. Keep ahead, passing through a wide gap alongside a disused metal gate (this marks the point at which we leave the MOD Training Area). Keep ahead on the woodland bridleway and, at the far end, you will emerge alongside another metal gate to reach a junction with a quiet access lane, Woolfords Lane.

Turn sharp right to follow this lane, taking care of any traffic. Stay with this access lane to pass a property called The Lodge on your right. Just after this, you will see the large entrance gates for Elstead Manor on your right. Turn left at this point, joining the stone woodland track, signed as a public footpath. This path once formed the entrance avenue for the manor house.

Follow the footpath track ahead, passing over a pretty stream, passing through some old wrought iron entrance gates and going on to reach a junction with the road. Taking care of traffic, simply cross the road diagonally right to reach the Moat Pond car park where the walk began.

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network Thursley’s Dragonflies and the Atlantic Wall, Surrey Walk Original GPX source file

Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2018 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


1 comments for "Thursley’s Dragonflies and the Atlantic Wall"

Enjoyed the first part of the walk around the pools and boardwalks and the end near woods where we saw deer and birds of prey. But struggled in the heat in the middle part which is very open and sandy. Too much for a hot day, probably better when weather cooler.

By JoMo55 on 24 Jun 2018

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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6 gallery images for "Thursley’s Dragonflies and the Atlantic Wall"

10995_0Richard1529305241 Thursley’s Dragonflies and the Atlantic Wall, Surrey Walk Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 18 Jun 2018
Just loved the boardwalks (perhaps a little like Jurassic Park?)
10995_1Richard1529305241 Thursley’s Dragonflies and the Atlantic Wall, Surrey Walk Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 18 Jun 2018
Look out for the lizards on a warm day soaking up the heat from the boardwalk
10995_2Richard1529305241 Thursley’s Dragonflies and the Atlantic Wall, Surrey Walk Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 18 Jun 2018
The golden sand is deep in places....
10995_3Richard1529305241 Thursley’s Dragonflies and the Atlantic Wall, Surrey Walk Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 18 Jun 2018
The Atlantic Wall
10995_4Richard1529305242 Thursley’s Dragonflies and the Atlantic Wall, Surrey Walk Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 18 Jun 2018
The Atlantic wall
10995_0Richard1529305301 Thursley’s Dragonflies and the Atlantic Wall, Surrey Walk Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 18 Jun 2018
We had wonderful far reaching views to enjoy when we visited in June 2018

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