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Surrey dog walks - Epsom Downs

PUBLISHED: 10:45 25 March 2011 | UPDATED: 14:52 20 February 2013

Jane Eyles, and her four legged friends, Meg and Benson

Jane Eyles, and her four legged friends, Meg and Benson

Every month, Jane Eyles explores a different dog walk in Surrey with her rescue dog, Meg, and golden retriever, Benson. This month, they visited Epsom Downs, home of the word-famous Derby, and enjoyed a pleasant trek over to Walton on the Hill

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine 2007


Every month, Jane Eyles explores a different dog walk in Surrey with her rescue dog, Meg, and golden retriever, Benson. This month, they visited Epsom Downs, home of the word-famous Derby, and enjoyed a pleasant trek over to Walton on the Hill


This year, after 15 attempts, Frankie Dettori at last conquered Epsom and The Derby, and although I've been to the races and driven past the course for years, I'm afraid to say that unlike Frankie, I've never even walked the course. So after watching his victory on Authorized, I decided to make amends and called my friend Rose who lives in Epsom and could act as my guide with her Jack Russell, Poppy. She planned a walk from the Downs to Walton on the Hill for lunch.

Epsom Downs, most famous for its racecourse, is an area of 600 acres of unspoilt downland. From there, on a clear day, the view takes in the whole of London as well as panoramas of rural Surrey. The day that we chose was warm, dry and clear; in fact, you couldn't have asked for better dog walking weather.

We approached the downs from the B290, which runs behind the racecourse Grandstand. Driving past the course, we turned left at the traffic lights down Langley Vale Road, passing under the bridge and then turned left and parked outside the Rubbing House pub on the road. Don't park in their carpark as you are in danger of getting clamped!

With our backs to the Grandstand, we set off across the course following a well worn footpath that took us over the turf and uphill to the centre of the course itself. Standing on the peak, we got a real feeling for how tough the Derby really is; half the course is uphill. The grass was just recovering after the racing and the skylarks were singing their hearts out chorusing the fine weather and no doubt pleased to be left in peace again, although it wasn't long before Poppy decided that they were fair game, and spent a few happy minutes chasing them as they flew around. The best thing about a dog is that they never doubt their abilities.

The downs are an important chalk grassland habitat and there are reported to be a number of rare plant species present in some locations, including three national scarcities - Round-Headed Rampion, Bastard-Toadflax and Chalk Hill Eyebright. I'm afraid to say that gossip put paid to us noticing any of them though. The variety of habitats also provides breeding and feeding places for important populations of Small Blue and Chalk Hill Blue Butterflies.

Crossing the far side of the course, we walked through a wooded area with some stables on our right and then out on to the south side of the downs. Do be careful crossing as racehorses are often out training. Your dog should be on its lead if you are walking between 6am and 12noon.

Surprisingly, the gallops are all covered with what looks like shredded carpet and underlay, which is very soft underfoot. We were lucky enough to watch a beautiful string of race horses power up the hill behind us.

Carrying on, we walked uphill again with some houses on our right and woods on our left before breaking out into the open again onto Walton Downs where the footpath heads downhill to a wide track between the trees. Turning left, we headed uphill again to Noname Farm where a right turn took us up quite a steep track, but the views to the right over the downs are worth the climb. Now I understand why the wood to our right was called Downs View Wood.

The dogs were having a fantastic time in the fields chasing out the game and rabbits, although we did have to keep an eye out for horses.

Before we reached the houses on the top of the hill, we took a left turn over a stile and crossed a narrow field to Ebbisham Lane, straight across the lane we took a footpath between the houses, giving us a good view of gardens - ideal if you are looking for inspiration and are nosey.

After a couple hundred metres, we went straight across another stile and lane (Motts Hill Lane) and joined another footpath before, after another stile, we turned left into some woods, where we passed a police dog training school, much to excitement of our pack; well, I hope they were training because otherwise we left some poor man to be mauled to death! A final right turn brings you out of the woods by The Bell Public House, where we had planned to break for lunch. Unfortunately, they no longer served food, so we all had a watering stop; huge water bowls are thoughtfully provided outside for thirsty dogs.

Walking past The Bell on our right we came out adjacent to Mere Pond in the centre of Walton on the Hill. Needing to find somewhere to refuel, we walked along the High Street keeping the pond to our right, to The Fox & Hounds. Needless to say the way back was a lot easier; either because more of it was downhill or the wine had taken effect! So now, like Frankie I've conquered Epsom and no doubt, like him I'll definitely be back!

The Dog Facts: Things you need to know

Going: Quite hard, lots of fairly steep hills.
Ground: Could get muddy if wet, some paths very rutted. Sensible shoes needed.
Parking: Free.
Website: www.epsom-ewell.gov.uk (look at the leisure pages).
Special Interest: Do take a camera and take time to enjoy the views. Look for butterflies and wild flowers. If you like horses, go in the morning to see them exercise.
Disabled Access: Not suitable.
Where to Eat: More of a restaurant than a pub, The Fox and Hounds, Walton on the Hill, allows dogs on the patio. (Tel: 01737 819001)

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