Friday, 18 July 2014

Another jaunt up Box Hill, this time with a bag full of hooch

My walking obsession continues....

Recently, my friend Mary and I found ourselves both with a weekday in which neither one of us had work lined up.  After some consulting with my book of countryside walks, we decided to do a walk in the gentle downland near Box Hill.  A half hour train ride later to Westhumble Station in Surrey, we were rambling around the countryside just south of the city around the North Downs.

It was a lovely day for walking- completely overcast and cool.  It threatened to rain, but never did.  In fact (spoiler alert, I made it home at the end of the hike) arriving back in London that evening, I thought someone did me the kindness of watering my plants for me, as London got a proper soaking.  

With my OS map and compass and guidebook, we found the trail that led past a posh gated community to Norbury Park.

Deep, green quiet forest with lovely views when there was a break in the trees.  Through lovely forest of beech, cherry and ash trees in Durid's grove, past a working sawmill, and chalk grassland.  If we wouldn't have been chatting and laughing the whole time, I'm sure we would have seen wildlife.


I don't think the country house was open as we couldn't figure out how to get in, but Polesden Lacey estate had more lovely wooden trails all around it.  I want to live here.    

It's really lovely walking, and we only saw a handful of dog walkers the entire time.  Considering the park was sandwiched between two busy A-roads and we were barely outside the M25, it was surprisingly peaceful.

Eventually, we joined up the North Downs Way, past St Barnabus church.  I keep thinking that I'm going to walk the NDW in its entirety: it's broken up in easy day-trip stretches with easy trains to and from London every 10-12 miles or so.

We started walking down the North Downs.  I got distracted instantly by two walkers who looked a bit too jolly and done up to be really out waking, and stopped to chat.  "We've just been down to Denbie's", the man said, pointing down the hill.

Denbie's, eh?

Last time I was hiking Box Hill, I did see vines growing down in the valley.  I had no idea there was a big California-style chateau and tasting room attached to it.

We pretty much bolted down that hill.  Even after a 10 mile hike, I felt perfectly fresh despite the fact that I suddenly needed refreshment.  Oooh, my favorite kind of hike is the one down the hill to the vineyard.

Denby's ended up being huge, with a big car park and a cycle race finish line out front.  They give tours, there's an enormous cafe, an art gallery, a packed gift shop, and a place to taste.  And loos!  I guess if you've come that far, it's almost a public service to provide toilets.  They seem to have a lot of events and gatherings here, and even on a weekday, it was bustling.  

The wines weren't my favorite, but I bought a couple of bottles anyway, just for fun and good luck.  Although, I probably should have bought them after we hiked up and down Box Hill.  There was also a little marketplace selling beautiful tomatoes and local goodies, so we picked up some good cheese and fruit.

Then we packed up the whole mass and carried it up the overly steep Box Hill.  We had to walk a stretch along the A road for about a half mile, with the trucks roaring by, but there was a side walk and bike path and an underpass to eventually get across.

It's good to end the hike on a high note, and it was still an amazingly tough climb for such a small hill.  But the views, and the elation of doing it, was well worth it.  I could have walked another 10 miles in the woods, but as soon as we reached the top of the hill, I was knackered and ready to be done for the day.

For Sale, you say?   Hmmmm....
This kid had a bottle of coke that took off down the hill.  He started after it, panicked, and went running back to his parents with a loud wail while the bottle bounced further down the hill:

Ha ha, kids shouldn't be drinking that crap anyway.

We made our way down the hill and over the Stepping Stones.  Nope, didn't get wet this time.  They do have an alternate foot bridge nearby, but that's no fun at all.

Overall, it was a nice 12 miles of happy fine hiking, and I love setting off with these OS maps to connect a bunch of footpaths and creating a real hike from it.  I think we both had a fantastic walk, and no real horror stories or mishaps to go with the miles.  Although, the crowded rush hour train going back to the city was probably a bit unpleasant for the other passengers as I bet you could photograph the stink coming off me.  

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