A Sublime Wintertime Climb for a Leith Hill Heath Chill

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Lowland and Hill Walks
Jan 26

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Distance is 18 km (11.5 miles); total climb is 516 m; terrain is hilly with a number of ascents and descents; surfaces are dirt, grass and tarmac.

We'll take it gently. We'll use tarmac lanes towards it and gravel paths across it. We'll have a pub lunch halfway round. We'll take those memorable steps down rather than up. As a result this clamber up Leith Hill will be strenuous but not too arduous. We'll never be less than 100 metres above sea level, and at the top of the southeast's preeminent promontory we'll be 294 metres above it (or 313 if you go up the tower). A demanding yet rewarding walk: superb views southwards across the Weald and northwards to the capital; an abundance of turn-of-the-century domestic design; an idyllic lake that looks like it's in Wales; a secluded pub for lunch; a sprinkling of the customary OutdoorLads magic.

The sights:

Coldharbour: An amazing place; stone houses perched 230 metres up on the southern slopes of Leith Hill, unlike anything else in southern England. More like Shropshire than Surrey. Remote and unsuburbanised. 

Leith Hill: 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. 

Friday Street: A group of cottages in a wonderful location by a pond at the head of a steep wooded valley. The 80s BBC science fiction series The Tripods was partly filmed here (pre-credits sequence). The pond is a hammer pond; constructed to drive a hammer at a forge. The waterfall was created by the diarist John Evelyn in around 1650 as an ornament to his estate at Wotton House.

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. Striking and modern stained glass. Goddards is a large house of 1898-9 by Edwin Lutyens designed in an arts and crafts style with gardens by Gertrude Jeykll. 

The route:    

Heading out west from Holmwood Station along Moorhurst lane we'll reach Anstie Lane which will take us to Coldharbour by following it northwest. This will then be the edge of the open access land of Leith Hill and Coldharbour Common which we'll cross via Wolvens Lane. We'll then cross Simon's Copse to Home Farm to see the waterfall. After using footpaths to cross Broadmoor and Severells Copse, we'll reach Friday Street. Then it'll be on to Abinger Common for the pub lunch.

After lunch we'll follow Abinger Common Road and then a bridleway along Abinger Bottom and across Leith Hill to the Tower which we should have time to ascend and perhaps get tea. We'll then descend using the steps, cross Mosses Wood and continue back to the station at Holmwood across Bushy Copse and Nob's Copse, rejoining Moorhurst Lane just after Moorhurst Farm.

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