National Trust's new natural play trail at Box Hill

The National Trust’s new natural play trail at Box Hill is the perfect place for the kids to burn off some energy. Emma Brien reveals all

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine April 2011


The National Trust has long been a keen supporter of children discovering the great outdoors for themselves; be that through playing, exploring, climbing or den-building.

Far from wrapping youngsters up in cotton wool, the organisation has taken the view that, while safety is of paramount importance, the odd grazed knee or brush with a stinging nettle will do no lasting damage, and will help children discover and respect the countryside around them.

One of the best places in Surrey for children to do this is undoubtedly Box Hill. The area offers interesting walks, attractive flora and fauna and amazing views that stretch out across the county; not to mention miles of woodland and other countryside to explore.

Boxing clever Now, though, Box Hill is set to offer even more opportunities for outdoor fun with the launch of its brand new natural play trail, aimed at visitors of all ages. This Easter saw the completion of the circular trail, which starts and ends on the top of the hill, close to the shop and servery. It will stay open to visitors all year round and free trail maps will be available from the centre to help families find their way around.

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The trail consists of a series of stopping-off points, where children can climb bridges, jump across stepping stones, swing on ropes and balance on logs. There are no hard and fast rules about how to use the equipment provided – the only limits are the participants’ imaginations. Everything has been made from natural materials, such as wood and rope, and has been built to tolerate plenty of hard play.

“Many of today’s children have less freedom to roam; less exposure to natural surroundings than their parents or grandparents were able to enjoy,” says Box Hill learning warden, Sarah Russell, summing up the benefits of the trail. “We have created this exciting new play trail to allow children to stretch their imaginations and to challenge themselves in the open air. The trail has been built with safety and sustainability in mind, and we hope that children of all ages will have fun using it over the Easter holidays and beyond.”

The components of the play trail at Box Hill have not been ‘bought off the peg’. Rather, the designers have taken advantage of existing natural elements, such as tree stumps, ditches, curved tree roots and dips in the land. Materials used to add to the trail, such as ropes, stepping stones, climbing features and materials to make dens are all sustainable, local and designed to blend into the surroundings as seamlessly as possible.

Initial funding came from central National Trust monies, with the Friends of Box Hill supporter group generously adding to the funding as work progressed. And the trail’s design and construction has made quite an impression already.

All ages welcome “This is only the beginning of the journey as far as natural play is concerned,” adds Sarah. “We want our trail to be a flagship for other areas of the National Trust to learn from across the land, so that we will end up with as many children as possible having access to inspirational outdoor play opportunities. 

“The beauty of our work here is that children of all ages and abilities can get something great out of their time on the trail. Adults too – playtime should not stop just because you reach a certain age!”

And so say all of us! We’ll see you on the stepping stones!

For more information about the new Box Hill play trail, call Sarah Russell on 01306 742809 or visit the NT website at