Living in a busy city such as London, I yearn to escape every now and then, to recharge my batteries and to remind myself why I fell in love with this country in the first place.
While I quite enjoy my foodie experiences in the city, I also need a physical activity to balance those calories I intake in the name of research!
I heard about Box Hill for the first time through my hiking-obsessed friends. So on a warm and sunny May bank holiday weekend, Husband and I decided to explore this area.
Box Hill is easily reachable from London. Trains frequently leave from Waterloo and Victoria and the nearest station is Boxhill and Westhumble. From Clapham Junction, it took us just under 45 minutes. It is outside the Oyster zone so you will have to purchase tickets beforehand. It cost us £10.60 from CJ , but may be pricier from London terminals.
The first realisation when you reach Box Hill station is the overall peace and quiet. You really feel you have left the city far behind!
B&W is a small station in a remote area, with only a few cyclists and a cafe for company. The cafe also serves fresh sandwiches, teas, coffees, healthy snacks and chocolates ; good idea to stock up before you begin your walk. As a cafe customer, you can also use their facilities (recommended) as there is nothing else available in the station itself.
As we exited the station, we turned right and walked past a pub called The Stepping Stones, making a mental note to return. The road meets the A24 at the end. We turned left, walked along the pavement and came across a subway to cross. Once on the other side, we went past the Burford Bridge Hotel to reach an opening that pretty much lead us to the starting point of our walk.
We chose a rather steep climb to begin the walk. I must say, I was not expecting it to be that strenuous. Nevertheless, we continued to soldier on, only to find out once we reached the top, that there is a flatter, more gentler scope to go up the hill. Ah well, thanks Husband for his navigation skills!
Tip 1: Please wear appropriate footwear with good grips for these walks , as it can get quite slippery in places!
Once at the top, you reach a relatively flat piece of land and can take stock of the gorgeous 360 degree views. A lot of families around us were having picnics and it seemed a perfect place for a pause.
After a few minutes rest, we carried on walking via a dry muddy path, deeper into the dark woods!
On the way, we stumbled upon the tombstone for a Major Labelliere, who, as per the words on the headstone, was buried there upside down in 1800s. Crikey!
We carried on walking until the path started to open up, leading to the Visitor Centre and car park. This was a good place to recharge and refuel; toilet facilities were adequately clean and there was a snack bar selling soup, ice creams and hot/cold sandwiches. A map and information point advised us of the various walking trails one can take to explore Box Hill. Many groups of cyclists were resting and networking at this place. Not surprising, as Box Hill is challenging territory and a popular place to practice for many cyclists.
From this point onwards, we embarked upon what is called the Stepping Stones walking trail – a gentler trek with a couple of landmarks.
One of the highlights of this path was the Salomon’s Memorial, offering panoramic views out to as far as Gatwick and Sussex.
We then carried downhill via a series of steps cut into the ground (275 in total). I did not envy the poor souls who were climbing up those steps as our paths crossed!
Eventually, we reached a fork in the pathway. Left pointed to the Stepping Stones and River Mole while right pointed to the footbridge. Intrigued by the Stepping Stones, we chose to go left.
We were so glad we did, as the Stepping Stones turned out to be the most interesting feature of the entire walk. A series of hexagonal stones that traversed a river! It was an enchanting little spot! The river itself was quite shallow and you could see little floating fish every now and then.
Tip 2 : Be wary of the slippery stones when crossing. If you have small children with you, it’s best to carry them, as the gaps between each stone might be too big for their little feet!
Once across , we carried alongside the river till we reached a wide open space called the Burford Meadow. As we made our way to the exit, on the right loomed tall, white, wooded chalk cliffs, popularly known as The Whites.
We ended our 2.5 hours walk with a celebratory stop at the Stepping Stones pub for some cold beers and burgers. It was teeming with other walkers, hikers, meet-up groups and families.
It was a gorgeous day under the blazing sun and a perfect way to end a lovely walk!