View from Box Hill

A winter walk up Box Hill, Surrey

Woo hoo, I’ve completed the first of my British bucket list challenges, a walk to the top of Box Hill in Surrey. At 224m Box Hill would be a mere pimple if it was in the Lake District but down in this part of southern England it’s one of the higher hills.

The first part of the walk, alongside the busy A24 dual carriageway, wasn’t the tranquil stroll I hoped for. However it was a necessary evil to get us from the railway station to the foot of Box Hill.

Route up Box Hill
Route up Box Hill

Fortunately, as soon as we stepped off the main road we were away from the traffic noise and fumes. Instead we faced a steady climb uphill, the wet chalk underfoot making for a gooey path. We stopped a couple of times, looking out across Denbies Wine Estate, the largest vineyard in England. The estate attracts around 300,000 visitors per year with a visitor centre, cinema, restaurant and art gallery all appearing to contribute to the wine making experience.

Route up Box Hill
Route up Box Hill

Further on the hill levelled out and we were able to see cyclists tackling the famous Zig Zag Road to the top of Box Hill. This hill climb has been popular since the 1880s but achieved widespread fame in the 2012 Olympics cycling road race events. Given its proximity to London its a cyclist’s mecca, and particularly appeals to a certain cycling demographic.

National Trust cafe and visitor centre

We reached the top of the hill pretty quickly. At which point I realised how busy the Country Park gets. Although most people seem to drive to the top and then go for a walk rather than tackle the hill from the bottom. I’m sure that’s cheating!

I can understand why though as this is where the visitor facilities are located; toilets, information kiosk and of course a cafe. Albeit one that was heaving with small children and middle aged men in tight cycling gear. We’d bought a picnic with us but I couldn’t resist sharing a brownie with the children. Followed by a flapjack. Both very tasty. As was the picnic that followed.

Natural Play Trail

After lunch we wandered over to the Natural Play Trail. Whilst the kids have grown out of more traditional playgrounds the National Trust encourages everyone, not just youngsters, to enjoy its Natural Play Trail. Think stepping stones, balancing logs and trees to climb. Not that I saw any adults climbing trees.

Box Hill adventure play trail
Box Hill adventure play trail

The kids enjoyed it for about five minutes. Until my son slipped and flew, rather spectacularly, backwards off a tree trunk. Luckily he only had his pride, mud and a sore shoulder to deal with. The perils of natural play!

Salomons Memorial

With the playground out of favour we continued with the walk, heading towards Salomons Memorial.

Salomons Memorial isn’t the highest point on Box Hill but its viewing platform is a target for most visitors. The view stretches more than 20 miles southwards and commemorates the donation of Box Hill by Leopold Salomons (or possibly Salomon, depending on whether you trust Wikipedia or the National Trust).

Box Hill trig point
Box Hill trig point

Whilst I enjoyed the view the kids had a mad five minutes, chasing each other up and down the steep grassy slope. When they rejoined me we followed the route down off the hill through some wonderfully shaped trees. I’m glad we chose to descend this way. The 275 steps made it seem a lot steeper than the route up.

Box Hill woodland
Box Hill woodland

Stepping Stones

Down at the bottom we reached one of the highlights, stepping stones across the River Mole. I smiled when I read the stones were temporarily removed in World War II as an anti-invasion strategy. If an invading army was deterred by the lack of a few stepping stones I doubt they’d get far anyway!

Stepping stones at Box Hill
Stepping stones at Box Hill

Once safely over the river we rejoined the A24, following the traffic into Dorking. Box Hill might not be the most exciting or adventurous option on my bucket list but it’s a place I’ve wanted to visit for a while. A good choice to complete as my first challenge. Now, which one next?

More info

  • Box Hill is open to the public from dawn to dusk. The National Trust cafe, shop and discovery zone are usually open from 10am-4pm except Christmas Day. Check the National Trust website for full opening details and links to walks.

15 thoughts on “A winter walk up Box Hill, Surrey”

  1. Another great walk. You’re right about the size comparison. Couldn’t help smiling at the stepping stone story. Who knows, it may have been enough! I really admire that you take the train, as well as your picnic, to the start off your walks. I would love to be more organized and do both. Here’s to a year working through your bucket list.

    1. I’m not always organised – my picnics can be very hit and miss! We do go by train quite a lot though, it helps that I live near a railway station and have a family railcard. Although my ageing car is almost as big a factor in choosing to take the train.

    1. Definitely a popular spot. It was really busy when we visited in December so I can just imagine how it must be in the summer!

  2. The picnic at Box Hill from Emma was my introduction to the hill. Haven’t hiked it yet so enjoyed reading about your walk up the hill. Lovely views!

  3. Love those stepping stones and the WWII story. I am trying to stop my kids associating a trip to the park or a walk with a cafe visit to no avail! Any tips gratefully received! Thanks for joining us on #farawayfiles Christine

    1. Ahem, after Ahila’s and your comment about Emma – dare I admit that I’ve never read it and didn’t realise Box Hill featured!

  4. Like Katy, I’m smiling at the idea of removing the stepping stones during the war. I suppose every little thing to thwart the enemy might help!
    Love the idea of your British bucket list. Just had a peek at it. I’ve never been to the Edinburgh Fringe either and yet we have been to the city many times. Really must do this.

    1. The Fringe has been on my list ever since we visited Edinburgh a few days before it was due to start one year. I was very miffed we missed out on it.

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