Breath-taking Box Hill and Beyond
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***This walk has been rescheduled from 9 September to 7 October, due to the hot weather forecast**'
Join me on this exhilarating circular walk exploring the delightful Surrey countryside, culminating in the splendours of Box Hill. This is a repeat of my Leader Assessment walk from 2021.
Text below is provided by Gavin Blackman.
Points of interest:
Westhumble: High-class leafy suburbia, very well-kept. The station we start the walk at is among the most noteworthy in the south: designed by Charles Henry Driver in 1869 in a 'chateauesque' style with steeply-pitched roofs, gothic details, porch and weathervane.
Denbies Wine Estate: This has the largest vineyard in England, with 265 acres (1.07 km2) under vines, representing more than 10 per cent of the plantings in the whole of the United Kingdom. The visitors' centre that attracts around 300,000 visits a year. The chalky terroir and sunny aspect grows both white and red grape varieties.
Ranmore Common: On top of the Downs, a long green with scattered houses all around. St Bartholomew's Church, 1859, is by Sir George Gilbert Scott. Hard and imposing, but successful. The tower and spire are a landmark for many miles around. The Common itself is mixed woodland in the care of the National Trust.
Polesden Lacey: A pretty Grecian villa of 1824, Edwardianised in 1906. Now one of the National Trust's most recognisable properties, pretty, informal and electic with a cupola and Ionic colonnade. We will have lunch in the grounds, but there won't be time to visit the house.
Mickleham: A pretty, unpretentious village winding up the hill, bypassed in 1934 by a a road considered among the best-integrated into the landscape. St Michael's Church is fundamentally Norman with a massive C12 tower. Graveboards - a local speciality - remain in the churchyard. Pretty Rose Cottage is ealry C19, Old House is 1636. Cherkley Court is 1893, bought by Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook and proprietor of the Daily Express in 1910. The house attracted many famous weekend guests including Winston Churchill, Bonar Law, Rebecca West, H.G. Wells, Harold Macmillan and Rudyard Kipling. An al fresco drink at The Running Horses may be on the cards.
Box Hill: A famous high-point on the North Downs and part of the Surrey Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The highest point is 224 metres at Betchworth Clumps, but 171 metres at the popular Salomon's Memorial viewpoint which overlooks the town of Dorking. It takes its name from the ancient box woodland found on the steepest west-facing chalk slopes overlooking the River Mole. The north- and south-facing slopes support an area of chalk downland, noted for its orchids and other rare plant species which in turn support over 40 species of butterfly. It is managed by the National Trust, who run a cafe and visitor centre on the site (https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/box-hill).
River Mole Stepping Stones: A crossing on the River Mole at this point was probably present in prehistoric times. The first record of stepping stones is from 1841, when they were used to access the waypole that measured the height of the river. The present stones were dedicated in 1946 by the then Prime Minister Clement Attlee after the originals were removed as an anti-invasion measure.
This walk is suitable for them although there may be some stiles and country lanes to walk along and roads to cross. There will likley be fields with livestock. Any dog off its lead must be under control.
The route: (please click on the link in red to see it)
Heading south out of Westhumble, we'll reach the North Downs Way. Heading southeast we'll cross Denbies Estate and ascend Ranmore Common, leaving the trees at Ranmore Common Road to view the view before heading back into the Common. Near Tanners Hatch we'll take a path to the grounds of Polesden Lacey where we'll stop for lunch. At Polesden Road a byway will take us around the edge of Great Bookham. From Admiral's Road we'll head east across Fetcham Downs to pass Norbury Park. Near Norbury Park Farm we'll cross the A24 and head south through Mickleham. At the church we'll bear east again, cross Downs Road and ascend Box Hill along Juniper Bottom near Flint Hill we'll head west to go to the Salomon's Memorial. We'll then descend using the steps, cross the Mole on the stepping stones, then follow the Mole to the Burford Bridge subway under the A24. We'll turn into Westhumble Street and we'll go for an optional post walk drink at the Stepping Stone pub. Westhumble Station is 5 mins further up this road.
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All photos are my own and taken by the event leader.
What to bring
Walking boots are essential to cope with the rugged terrain. Wear thick socks to prevent blisters. Wear clothing appropriate to the weather.
Food & drink
Please bring a packed lunch and lots to drink and have these things with you before we start the walk. There should be a chance to go to the pub at Mickleham, or join me for a post walk drink at the Stepping Stones pub.