Hiking through the Hurtwood Roaming through the Rhodies
23 people attending
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Please note the change of date.
I don't seem to have much success calendaring walks to coincide with seasonal displays of flowers. Blenched bluebells, droopin' lupins... I never learn. On this latest attempt, the rhododendrons planted by Charles Darwin's sister on the southern slopes of Leith Hill will form an incidental pleasure to a strenuous but steady hike along the greensand ridge which will run from coffee time at much-loved Leith Hill to a late lunchtime at mostly-unknown Holmbury Hill. After a lunch break looking over the landscape we'll descend to wolds and woods, one of these being Rhododendron Wood, where the blowsy blooms should make for a dazzling display if I've scheduled the walk correctly.
Abinger: A scattered village with three centres. Suburbanised but cosy and comfortable, especially the area near the pub, church, village green and well. St James' Church was Norman, bombed in the war and sensitively restored in 1950, and then again in 1964 after a fire when it was struck by lightning. Striking and modern stained glass and a C15 alabaster crucifix. Goddards is a large house of 1898-9 by Edwin Lutyens designed in an Arts and Crafts style with gardens by Gertrude Jeykll. It is considered to be one of his most successful early designs and was built as 'as a Home of Rest to which ladies of small means might repair for holiday'.
Leith Hill: At 294m, the highest hill in Surrey and the second highest in the southeast. The National Trust reports: '...from the tower...you can see sweeping views towards London in the North and the English Channel in the South. The top of the tower is the highest point in South-East England...Leith Hill is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is home to abundant wildlife.' The gothick-style tower was built in 1765-6 to raise the height of the hill above 1000 feet. Thirteen counties may be seen from the top on a clear day, it is claimed.
Holmbury Hill: 261 metres above sea level and the site of an Iron Age hillfort. It sits along the undulating Greensand Ridge. The hillfort is early 1st century BC, possibly built by the Belgic tribes of Celts to defend trade routes across the Weald. The ramparts make good use of the natural slope of the site.
Rhododendron Wood, Leith Hill: The National Trust reports: 'Created in the late 1800s by Caroline Wedgwood of the illustrious pottery family...A keen plantswoman and botanist, Caroline was the eldest sister of Charles Darwin who would visit Leith Hill and walk in the woods. By planting up two fields with rhododendrons and azaleas, many of which were specimens brought back from Asia, Caroline created a beautiful entrance driveway to her home at Leith Hill Place. In 1944 the Rhododendron Wood was bequeathed to the National Trust by Caroline's grandson, the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams [who lived at Leith Hill Place].' Trees and shrubs to be seen on the tiny trail suggested by the National Trust that we'll follow include: giant redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum); coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens); the UK's oldest tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera); Rhododendron 'Winsome'; Rhododendron macabeanum; and the tree-like Rhododendron arboreum.
I love having dogs on my walks and this walk may be suitable for them in that there will be almost no farm livestock on the route, much if it is under trees in shade and it is not too long. However, it may be less suitable because there's quite a bit of climbing and country lanes to walk along. The weather might also be very warm. Any dog off its lead must be obedient.
The route (please click on the link in red):
Footpaths and bridleways heading southeast will take us out to Abinger Common where we'll walk a little way along Leith Hill Road. At Abinger Bottom we'll reach Leyland's Farm. Crossing Wootton Common, we'll reach Leith Hill Tower. We'll then continue on the Greensand Way west off Leith Hill and reach Rhododendron Wood for a short tour of the trees and shrubs. Then, heading west we'll get to Pasture Wood and on to Holmbury Hill for lunch at the viewpoint. We'll then turn north then northwest and bridleways and footpaths will take us along Colmans Hill and through Hoe where we'll pick up Broadfield Road (track) and Towerhill Lane (path) north back to the station.
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(Photo credits: Looking west along the hills, at Tanhurst: Photo © Christopher Hilton (cc-by-sa/2.0) (image trimmed), View south from Leith Hill: Photo © Christopher Hilton (cc-by-sa/2.0); Goddards by Mark Percy: Photo © Mark Percy (cc-by-sa/2.0); Leith Hill: Photo © Rude Health (cc-by-sa/2.0); Footpath through the woods: Photo © N Chadwick (cc-by-sa/2.0); Path in Pasture Wood: Photo © michael (cc-by-sa/2.0); Leith Hill: view southwards: Photo © Christopher Hilton (cc-by-sa/2.0); Warning sign, Holmbury Hill: Photo © N Chadwick (cc-by-sa/2.0); Rhododendron Wood, Leith Hill Wood: Photo © Colin Smith (cc-by-sa/2.0); Rhododendron Wood: Photo © Colin Smith (cc-by-sa/2.0); Azaleas in Rhododendron Wood: Photo © Colin Smith (cc-by-sa/2.0); Sheep Green from Leith Hill: Photo © Colin Smith (cc-by-sa/2.0). All images are copyrighted but are designated 'Free to share and use' under Creative Commons CC BY-SA/2.0 and are here attributed to their copyright holders.)
What to bring
Walking boots are essential as the walk will involve rough terrain and steep ascents and descents. Wear thick socks to prevent blisters. Otherwise, just bring and wear clothing appropriate to the weather. Jeans should be avoided, though, because they become heavy, cold and chafing if wet.
Food & drink
Please bring a packed lunch and lots to drink. Time permitting, we could have a late break/lunch at Leith Hill Tower at about 12.30 and another break at Holmbury Hill at about 15.00.