Surrey walk around Box Hill
- Credit: ©NTPL/Andrew Butler
Discover one of the most popular picnic sites in Surrey and explore around the historic hill fort, the stepping stones and the most challenging part of the 2012 Olympic road cycle race
• Start: National Trust shop at the top of Box Hill
• Grid ref: TQ178513 (or, if you’re using a Sat Nav, the postcode is KT20 7LB)
• Length of walk: Two-and-three-quarter miles. Allow about two hours for this strenuous walk, with many steps and steep, uneven terrain, which can also get slippery in wet conditions.
• Food and drink: Head for the National Trust Café at the top, Ryka’s café at the bottom, or the nearby Stepping Stones pub in Westhumble.
• While you are there: Located on the outskirts of Dorking, Denbies Wine Estate is the largest privately-owned vineyard in the UK. Take a tour of this sprawling vineyard or simply enjoy the well-stocked shop and conservatory café.
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This strenuous walk starts from the National Trust shop at the top of Box Hill. If you are not a National Trust member, then there is a car park charge of £3. Follow the signs to the Salomons Memorial and enjoy the spectacular vista from the viewpoint.
From there, take the flight of steps to the footpath below. Turn right and continue along this path.
Go through the trees and you will come out into a clearing. To your left, you will see 12 concrete anti-tank obelisks along the bank of the River Mole. Continue along the path, through the trees and then left down the steps, following the signs for the North Downs Way. Continue along this path as it descends down the hill.
Follow the North Downs Way descent, passing a stone sign directing you to the picturesque stepping stones and footbridge. Take the left fork towards the stones.
Gather your bravery and cross over the river on the 17 stones. Then head up to a car park. From there, take the left-hand fork back towards the footbridge. Don’t cross the bridge, but turn left through the gate, entering Burford Meadow. Follow the path along the riverbank to the A24. Take the footpath on the right alongside the A24. Turn right off the road at the Burford Bridge roundabout, pass in front of the Burford Bridge Hotel and continue on this footpath until it stops. Cross over the road to the footpath on the other side, which continues past the café. Continue towards Zig Zag Road.
As you approach Zig Zag Road and the Box Hill signpost, turn right onto the chalk bridleway. Stay on this bridleway, which leads you up one side of the Burford Spur and takes you past the Box Hill Fort and back to the Box Hill shop and car park.
• Box Hill takes its name from the ancient box woodland found on the steepest west-facing chalk slopes.
• Such is the popularity of this well-known beauty spot, it is estimated that nearly one million people visit Box Hill each year.
• Jane Austen famously wrote about a picnic at Box Hill in her novel Emma: “They had a very fine day for Box Hill… Nothing was wanting but to be happy when they got there. Seven miles were travelled in expectation of enjoyment, and everybody had a burst of admiration on first arriving.”
• A local eccentric, Peter Labilliere, was buried upside down on the top of the hill in 1880. There is a memorial stone near the burial place on the western side of the Hill.
• The Box Hill Fort is one of 13 mobilisation centres (known collectively as the London Defence Positions) built in the 1890s to protect London from invasion from continental Europe. The six-acre site of the fort was originally purchased by the Ministry of Defence in 1891, and construction began in 1896.
• There are also the extensive remains of defences constructed during World War Two for you to discover.
• The 17 stones over the river are a very unusual, historic feature. During World War Two, they were removed and then re-laid again after the war by prime minister Clement Atlee.
• More recently, Box Hill was a focal point for the 2012 Olympic road cycle race and remains a mecca – and challenge (!) – for cyclists to this day.