Country Lanes

Narrow, winding country lanes are a characteristic feature of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB). They can be of considerable biodiversity as well as historic value. Many country lanes, along with other routeways, such as bridleways, byways or footpaths, are important historic landscape features which can still retain much of the atmosphere of times before the invention of the combustion engine. Frequently associated with country lanes are old sign posts, milestones, former drovers’ ponds, roadside quarries for stone to repair the track, and ancient pollarded trees. The last often mark where parish, manor or ownership boundaries cross routes. Country lanes are commonly narrow routes bounded on either side by hedges, shaws or fences, sinuous in form as they link farm to farm and hamlet to hamlet. A particular characteristic feature of the Surrey Hills is the hollow way, or sunken lane. The relatively soft geology together with the general steepness of slope and the passage of feet combined with natural water erosion of the sands and chalk has produced these deep narrow lanes bounded by high banks. The tops of the hollow ways are often enclosed by ancient beech, yew and oak trees. Other country lanes are broad routes with wide verges the remnants of former commons and greens where roadside ‘waste’ was once utilised for grazing. Background The Surrey Hills AONB Management Plan (2004) seeks to provide opportunities for people to enjoy country lanes in greater safety. The aims for country lanes are to:

  • protect and enhance their rural and historic character
  • discourage through traffic and inappropriate use by HGV’s
  • reduce traffic speeds and make lanes safer, quieter and more accessible for pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians

Country lanes are usually not capable of coping with modern day traffic. This and ‘creeping urbanisation’ can have a negative impact on the character and amenity value of many country lanes in the Surrey Hills. One of the best ways to improve safety is to increase or make use of perception of danger.

Principles of good design and management

Designing and managing country lanes in line with the following principles will create an environment that is more attractive and help to encourage safer and a more considerate approach to driving in the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Choose appropriate materials
Timber bollards, marker posts and other roadside furniture are more in keeping with the rural scene, don’t need painting, won’t get dirty and are more resistant to damage.
Value the treatment of boundaries
Fences, walls and hedgerows should use traditional, local materials and species. Use native species and avoid introducing exotics. Value-the-treatment-of-boundaries
Reinforce the ‘natural’ geometry of country lanes to influence drivers
Improvements to the roads should consider reinforcing the traditional geometry of country lanes. Concrete keerbing should be avoided. Natural-geometry Resist-excess-road-markings
Resist excess road markings
Where possible they should be resisted or in some cases removed. Use edge lining with care, only when other solutions are impractical. Resist-excess-road-markings-2
Reduce clutter and urbanising influences
Remove unnecessary or redundant signs, whilst amalgamating signs into posts. Reduce-clutter
Celebrate local distinctiveness
Preserve and restore existing distinctive and historical finger posts where practical. Celebrate-local-distinctiveness
Highlight local names and features of historic interest
Use traditional black and white signs for street names. Local-names
Enhance the biodiversity of verges and maintain views
Enhance the biodiversity value with appropriate mowing regimes. Less frequent mowing could benefit verges and also result in lower maintenance costs. Biodiversity
Examples of best practice


For more information, please download the full leaflet here:

Country Lanes Guide