2. Hillforts and Hurtleberries at Hurtwood and Holmbury Hill, Surrey
Start/finish: Hurtwood Car Park 1, Peaslake, Dorking, RH5 6NU
Distance: 2.8 miles / 4.5km
Hurtwood, Surrey. Image © Jen & Sim Benson.
Foraging is always popular with children – and grownups – of any age. Bilberries, also known as blaeberries, wortleberries and wild blueberries among many other regional names, are safe, easy, and delicious to eat straight from their bushes over the summer months. The Hurtwood, standing high on the greensand ridge in the Surrey Hills, is carpeted in bilberry bushes, and its name was once thought to derive from ‘hurts’, or ‘hurtleberries’ – the local name for the fruit; however, it may actually derive from the Old English word ceart or churt for a rough common covered in gorse, broom and bracken.
The Hurtwood is privately owned, and looked after by a local charity, the Friends of the Hurtwood. As well as walkers and runners, cycling and horse riding is also permitted in the wood, so be aware of horses and bikes as you go. This is a great place to spot wildlife, too: the heather and bilberry cover across the woodland floor provides an ideal habitat for a number of snakes and lizards, including the endangered smooth snake and sand lizards, as well as birds such as the nightjar.
This walk takes in a loop through the woodland on clear, well-made trails, enjoyable at any time of the year. It passes through the picturesque village of Holmbury St Mary at around halfway, then makes an ascent of Holmbury Hill – an Iron Age hill fort with fantastic views out across the Surrey Hills. On a clear day, you can see the sea at Shoreham to the south, and the London skyline to the north.
3. Boggart Spotting at Longshaw, Derbyshire
Start/finish: Longshaw visitor centre and cafe, Longshaw, Sheffield, S11 7TZ
Distance: 1.7 miles / 2.8km
Longshaw, Derbyshire. Image © Jen & Sim Benson.
Boggarts are popular in folklore, particularly further north in England, and in children’s literature – from Susan Cooper’s ‘The Boggart’ to the shape-shifting terrors of the Harry Potter books. Definitions vary, but they’re often mischievous, mysterious and usually appear either indoors – as house fairies that sour milk and make things disappear – or outdoors, hiding behind trees, in marshes or under bridges.
The National Trust-owned Longshaw Estate covers 1,600 acres of wild moorland, rugged gritstone edges and peaceful woodland in the heart of the Peak District National Park. Networked with paths and trails, many of which are accessible for buggies and wheelchairs, it’s a wonderful place to discover spectacular views, paddle in the brook that runs through the estate, spot wildlife and, if you’re lucky, even find some boggart houses. There’s some fascinating human history to discover at Longshaw, too, from the Bronze Age ring cairns and hut circles on the moors to the remnants of millstones that can be found dotted across the estate. These date back to the 15th century, when millstones were made at Yarncliffe Quarry.
This walk follows the pink waymarked Burbage Brook trail around the estate, taking in woodland and following a stretch of the brook, perfect for picnics.