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    Surrey has a wealth of beautiful countryside, with rolling green hills as far as the eye can see. Despite being one of the most heavily populated counties around London, huge areas of its 642 square miles are protected because of their astounding natural beauty.

    One curiosity of the natural wonders in Surrey is the fact that a lot of them overlap with each other. For example, the extensive North Downs, which spread as far as Dover in Kent, contain the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which contains several noteworthy parks, peaks and highlights. On the bright side, this means you can visit many of the items on our list within just a day or 2.

    1

    River Thames

    Take a cruise along England’s most famous waterway

    The River Thames runs through the northern edge of Surrey for a little over 18 miles, passing through Runnymede, Staines-upon-Thames, Walton-on-Thames and several other towns on its way into London. There is some very nice scenery along the banks, especially around Runnymede, and the best way to see it is from a boat.

    There are dozens of companies offering boat tours and rentals, including GoBoat Kingston, Godalming Packetboat Company and JGF Passenger Boats. Each offers a subtly different experience, exploring different parts of the river (and some of the canals along the way) in different ways.

    2

    North Downs

    Walk a vast swathe of the rolling English countryside

    The North Downs is a massive ridge of chalk hills that stretches right across southeast England, starting in Surrey and eventually becoming Dover's famous white cliffs. They are best explored by walking at least a little of the North Downs Way, which starts at Farnham and ends 153 miles away in Dover.

    Highlights of the North Downs include the Hog’s Back, Box Hill and Newland’s Corner. Each is a perfect example of England’s ‘green and pleasant land’, where rolling grassy hills are dotted with ancient woodland, scrubland and chalk heath. Large areas of the North Downs are protected by the National Trust as each environment provides thriving habitats for local wildflowers and animals.

    3

    Box Hill

    Enjoy great views of Dorking and the River Mole

    Box Hill is one of the many peaks in the North Downs and, while it may not be the highest, it's certainly the most beautiful. The tallest hill in the area is the 885-ft Botley Hill, which is about 13 miles to the east. At 735 ft, the Betchworth Clump part of Box Hill is still pretty lofty. However, as part of the Mole Gap to Reigate Escarpment Site of Special Scientific Interest, the peak offers a much better view of the Surrey countryside, especially from the Salomons Memorial.

    The hill takes its name from the ancient forest of boxwood on the west-facing slopes, which overlook the River Mole. On the eastern side of the high ground is a charming little village that takes the name of the hill. If you like military history, you’ll find a couple of old forts on the hill, too.

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    4

    Devil’s Punch Bowl

    See woodland wildlife in this storied hollow

    The Devil’s Punch Bowl in Hindhead Commons is a natural hollow filled with heathland, woodland and local legends. The story goes that the Devil was getting annoyed at the number of churches being built in Sussex in the Middle Ages and tried to flood the area by digging a channel from the south coast to the South Downs. His efforts were interrupted by a cock crowing, indicating that dawn was about to break. He leapt in fright, landing in Surrey and creating the Devil’s Punch Bowl with the impact.

    The more scientific explanation for the hollow is that it was created by spring water eroding lower layers of the ground. Either way, the result is a great place to enjoy nature and look for local woodland wildlife like the lesser spotted woodpeckers and redstarts.

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    5

    Thursley Common

    The largest area of natural heathland in Surrey

    Thursley Common – also known as Thursley National Nature Reserve – is one of the largest areas of heathland in Surrey. Spanning over 800 acres, the common also features peat bogs and some lovely areas of woodland. Open ponds provide a habitat for 20 species of dragonflies and damselflies, as well as a wide variety of bird species including Dartford warblers, redstarts, wheatears and more.

    There’s nearly a mile of boardwalks to help you get around the reserve, so you can explore the wetter side of Thursley Common in comfort. Check out the giant dragonfly sculpture that’s made from an old electricity pylon, too.

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    6

    Surrey Hills

    Discover the natural beauty of a quarter of the county

    The Surrey Hills is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty encompassing 163 square miles of Surrey countryside. It covers parts of the North Downs as well as Greensand Ridge – about a quarter of the county in total. Highlights include Leith Hill, Box Hill and Blackheath Common.

    If you’re looking to enjoy some outdoor activities, Surrey Hills has no shortage of choices. There are plenty of walking and hiking trails, cycling routes, horse riding centres, and even a few water activities like paddleboarding and wild swimming. You can visit many lovely little villages in the vast area.

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    7

    Leith Hill

    See 13 counties from the top of the tower

    Leith Hill is the highest point of the Surrey Hills and the second-highest point in southeast England, reaching a height of 965 ft above sea level. Naturally, from this impressive height, the view of the surrounding countryside is spectacular. However, to get the very best view possible, you need to climb a little further – to the top of the Leith Hill Tower.

    The structure was built in 1765 in the gothic style of the time. It opens on weekdays from 10 am to 3 pm and from 9 am to 5 pm on weekends. It’s said that, on a clear day, you can see 13 counties from the top of the 64-ft-tall tower.

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    8

    Hatchlands Park

    Explore an 18th-century country estate

    Hatchlands Park is a beautiful Georgian country house surrounded by stunning gardens in East Clandon. The park was formerly the site of Chertsey Abbey but, after the dissolution of the monasteries, it passed from one notable noble to the next. The striking gardens were added by Lord Rendel, whose grandson gifted the estate to the National Trust.

    Highlights of the gardens include a parterre – a well-organised formal garden – that was first created in 1914 by noted horticulturist, Gertrude Jekyll. There are also extensive areas of forest and grassland, a couple of dog-walking routes, door mouse habitats, a café and Wizard Wix’s Willow Warren – a natural playground for kids.

    Beliggenhet: East Clandon, Guildford GU4 7RT, UK

    Åpent: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Telefonnummer: +44 (0)1483 222482

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    Foto: Leimenide (CC BY 2.0) retusjert

    9

    Winkworth Arboretum

    See an impressive variety of trees and wildflowers

    The Winkworth Arboretum is a 95-acre National Trust-owned area of historic woodland. It contains over 1,000 species of trees, with many beautiful wildflowers in between. Come in spring to see the bluebells blossoming, turning the ground into a sea of violet.

    The arboretum also contains a large lake surrounded by wetlands. These are home to an impressive array of relatively shy wildlife, including newts, bats and various waterfowl. You can walk along a boardwalk to explore this part of the park without getting your feet wet.

    Beliggenhet: Hascombe Rd, Godalming GU8 4AD, UK

    Åpent: Daily from 10 am to 4 pm

    Telefonnummer: +44 (0)1483 208477

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    10

    Norbury Park

    See summer in full bloom in a working landscape

    Norbury Park stretches out around a Georgian manor house for a total of about 1,312 acres. Forming a part of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the park is a working landscape. This means that it is partially farmland but also contains a mix of woodland and grassland.

    This combination of habitats makes it a home for a wide variety of plants and animals. Visit between May and September and you could see pyramid, bee, fly and common orchids, as well as a wide range of butterflies.

    Beliggenhet: Young Street, Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 9DX, UK

    Telefonnummer: +44 (0)1483 795478

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    Foto: AndyScott (CC BY-SA 4.0) retusjert

    Ben Reeves | Reiseentusiast

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