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Did you know… cold wintry air can boost your brain activity?

19th December 2023

You might have to wrap up in a few layers but exploring the countryside in winter is just as rewarding as any other time of year. In fact it’s been said that colder air boosts your brain activity, improves focus, and helps you think more clearly. Whilst it appears quieter and more sedate than the busy buzz of spring and summer months, there is still plenty of activity in the countryside all around us. Over the festive season why not get out and explore your local area on a family walk?

Studies show that our cognitive function is improved in colder weather meaning we’re quicker at making decisions and better at staying calm. If you had a particularly hectic approach to the Christmas break then planning a walk in the Surrey countryside might be just the ticket. There are other health benefits of wintry weather too:

  • Plants don’t make pollen in the winter, so allergy sufferers are often grateful for the relief of the colder weather when out and about in nature. 
  • Your furry friends are less likely to pick up ticks during colder weather and there’s also less chance of getting bitten by flying insects compared to summer months. 
  • Colder weather can reduce inflammation in the same way you apply ice to an injury. If you’re running in the winter some studies show recovery is faster when exposed to cold temperatures.
  • Also when exercising in the winter your body burns more calories to stay warm and a walk in cold weather boosts your body’s energy expenditure for hours afterwards so you’ll end up burning off your Christmas lunch in no time!

Kids walking in woolly hats

Short walks in Surrey

Box Hill’s Natural Play Trail is a two-mile mostly level walk that is perfect for all ages with plenty of trees to climb and the opportunity to make some dens en route. You can visit the cafe and facilities and there’s plenty of parking if you are coming from further afield.  

Farnham Heath is a heathland boasting views across the Surrey Hills and features the Surrey Hills Arts Inspiring View artwork ‘House of Invisible Hands’ by Walter Bailey. This permanent artwork is a shrine to those whose labours shaped the landscape of Surrey in the making of forest glass during mediaeval times. This mostly level walk has a free car park, toilets and a cafe for warming up afterwards. It’s only a mile to complete the loop of the Farnham Heath Orange Trail. 

Newlands Corner is a great viewpoint within the Surrey Hills and the easier access trail has recently been resurfaced making this walk one of the most accessible short walks in the area with plenty of woodlands to explore. It’s about a mile, with all the facilities you need too.  

Hindhead Commons has a one mile mostly level walk called ‘Sailor’s Stroll’ which passes the second highest point in Surrey at the summit of Gibbet Hill. On this route, you can learn about the murder of an unknown sailor and when you’ve walked as far as you’d like, you can return to the cafe to warm up!

Trees in snow

Longer walks in Surrey

If you’re looking for a more challenging walk in the Surrey area why not check out the Surrey Hills National Landscape’s website where you’ll find information on Leith Hill Greenway, North Downs Way National Trail and lots of Rail to Ramble routes which enable you to leave the car at home.

Also, take a look at for inspiration on walking routes across the county of Surrey or further afield. Spend some time planning your wintry walks with friends and family and let us know how they go!

Woman putting on a warm hat

Winter walking tips

CPRE has put together some tips for walking in the winter to get the most out of your local countryside whilst also staying safe:

  • Check local transport links in case services are restricted in wintry weather
  • Plan your outfit with layers to remove and add as time goes by
  • Consider packing a flask of a hot drink in your bag for a warming pit stop
  • Think about whether you need to change your route in bad weather or during darker afternoons
  • If you’re taking dogs with you, ensure you have plenty of water and maybe a coat for them too!

The most important thing about walking in the winter, or any time of the year is to enjoy and protect the countryside in your local area. Take your litter home, stick to pathways and follow The Countryside Code.

Love the countryside around you and want to help us work for it? Becoming a CPRE Surrey member – for as little as £5 a month – will mean that we can keep campaigning for the rural areas that we all love. Join us today.

Man walking with dog