For ages, exploring Box Hill in Dorking in Surrey has been on the list to climb and explore – and we finally got around to giving it a climb.
Box Hill is just a short drive from where we live, and in my life time I must have driven past it countless times. Before we arrived, I had no idea that Box Hill is a National Trust site, and it consists of a number of trails, some like the stepping stones are more known than others. Starting from the base of the hill, we decided to take on the Hilltop Stroll trail.
We climbed from the main road, and at first we thought it’s going to rain, which would have put a huger downer on the excursion.
Box Hill is quite steep, but it’s no Old Man of Coniston, it’s a great walk if you’re looking to feel like you’ve had a walk, but not be completely exhausted by the end of it.
At some point, we found ourselves at a summit and we were looking out across Dorking and the famous Denbies Vineyard – a steadfast and historic marker on the landscape, and a place that is also on the list to visit.
The great thing about this particular trail, is that at one point you find yourself in open air, looking at the sprawling Surrey landscape, and the next thing you know, you’re in a forest, so it really does provide a decent sense of variety.
As we walked through the forest we came across a headstone, or a marker of you will, for a now deceased local resident…
Major Peter Labelliere
The memorial read:
Major Peter Labelliere
An eccentric resident of Dorking was buried here head downwards 11th July 1800
A Google search has revealed that he was a British Major, who was against the American Civil War of Independence. In the late 1700s he was in regular contact with Benjamin Franklin (one of the Founding Fathers of the United States), whilst Benjamin Franklin was based in France.
Box Hill was a regular place of meditation for Major Labelliere, and it was in accordance with his wishes that he was buried there, head downward.
It’s amazing what you can find, and I wonder what influence the Major had on the history of his time.
There’s a little bit more about Major Labelliere here.
We kept walking and we soon found ourselves at Salomons viewpoint (The Viewpoint), which looks out the whole of Dorking and Surrey.
In 1914, Leopold Salomen (a director for the City of London) purchased over 200 acres of Box Hill, to spare the area from development. His purchase was later donated to the nation. (Thanks Leo!)
What struck me most at this point in the walk, was the amount of people who were out and about – during these uncertain times. It really does show that a lot of people are regaining an appreciation for green open spaces that are on their doorstep.
The sun also made an appearance on this point, which made for a lovely walk back down the other side of the hill top.
We were very lucky on the second half of the day – the sun really made the difference on the landscape, and being that high, the air really is clearer at that height.
It was great to sit down and just survey the area before heading home.
Overall, this was a fantastic walk that killed a good few hours – I would definitely recommend it. Looking back, I would perhaps do some research on the different trails, to avoid a concentration of people accumulating on one trail.
I think we’ll definitely go back at some point and take on a different trail, perhaps the stepping stones and the river walk. I am very curious about visiting Denbies though, and I would love to give that a visit some time soon.