Size: 14ha

Ownership: Bray Estate

Designation: None

Restrictions: Open access land. Please keep dogs on a lead.

Grid ref: TQ 10211 44054

Rich in history, and unique in that although it is the largest area of commonland in Surrey, Hurtwood has been privately owned by the Bray family since it was gifted to Sir Reginald in 1485 for presenting the crown of England for the new King Henry VII. Today, Hurtwood is an important heathland site supporting the highest colony of sand lizards in the country.

The reserve

Hurtwood is located just to the southeast of Peaslake in south Surrey. Sitting on a bedrock of sandstone from the Hythe formation of the lower greensands, the vegetative community is greatly influenced by the resulting free-draining soils.

The vegetation at this site comprises dense, tall stands of common heath, or ling, reaching 3 or 4 feet in height in places, interspersed with bell heather and dwarf gorse. It features a more diverse range of trees than many heathland sites, and scots pine, rowan, oak, aspen and whitebeam are all to be found dotting the landscape and bordering the open areas. Large quantities of the shrub bilberry, locally known as ‘hurts’, form carpets of greenery throughout the site.

Hurtwood supports all six native species of reptile: adder, grass snake, slow worm, viviparous lizard, sand lizard and smooth snake, along with rare heathland bird species such as stone chat and woodlark.


Two of our native rare reptile species, sand lizard and smooth snake, thrive at Hurtwood as the result of successful reintroduction programmes by ARC. Sand lizards were reintroduced 1986, followed by smooth snakes in 2000, and the site is now actively managed to support these vulnerable species, which are dependent these lowland heathland sites. Sand lizards require open areas of bare sand for successful egg laying, and hibernation, whilst smooth snakes need mature stands of heather with a mossy base.

What to see

  • Hurtwood supports all six native species of reptile. Look out for adders and grass snakes basking in open areas in the vegetation, particularly where there is a southerly aspect. Sand lizards can be spotted on sandy banks and mounds, whilst viviparous lizards often bask on dead wood.
  • Hurtwood may get its name from the bilberry or ‘hurts’ which are plentiful around the site. The plant produces fruit which resembles small blueberries around July.