Over the years I’ve heard great things about Leith Hill – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the highest point in south-east England. It’s taken us a while to finally get there… But they do say better late than never… And I am so glad we’ve finally discovered how fortunate we are to have such breathtaking scenery so close to home.
Although we saw Leith Hill Place on our drive towards the woodland trails that lead to Leith Hill Tower, we decided that, rather than stopping at the childhood home of composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, we really wanted to enjoy the crisp dry weather and take a leisurely stroll.
Pulling into the free car park situated on Leith Hill Road, we were lucky to find a space quickly, although it was filling up. Having seen the Tower glistening in the distance we knew in which direction to head to, and soon discovered wooden signposts with tower etchings on them. We were also relieved to see that that the route we’d be taking was only a 3/4 mile walk and not too difficult, even though there are several trails and footpaths for the more serious hikers such as Frank’s Walk, which takes visitors to the historic arboretum, through a conifer avenue and into Frank’s Wood.
Heading deeper into the forest, the main thoroughfare was pretty muddy, but this didn’t deter Monkey as we skirted around them and found less slippery routes. Walking at a leisurely pace, and only having to face a medium incline, it took around 25 minutes and we cleared the canopy of trees and found ourselves in open space and an expansive view of the stunning Surrey countryside.
We immediately headed towards the Tower, which was abuzz with families, hikers, and tourists all taking in the wonderful surroundings. Before climbing it, we decided we needed some warm sustenance at the Servery hatch situated at the bottom of the Tower itself. Run by the Tanhouse Farm Shop, we purchased hot drinks, sandwiches and sausage rolls. Plonking ourselves on a free bench, we thoroughly enjoyed our picnic lunch.
Tummies full, it was time to climb the 74 steps to the top of the Tower, built in 1765 by Mr Richard Hull of Leith Hill Place as a ‘place for people to enjoy the glory of the English countryside’. The spiral staircase is narrow and steep and fairly dark in some areas – which unnerved Monkey a little. He was relieved to get up top, and spotting the telescope excitedly jumped on to see what he could spot in the distance.
On a super clear day it is possible to see boats on the English Channel and the clock face of Big Ben through the lens. We didn’t, but I did make out the Wembley arches in north London. It was glorious and we spent some time just drinking in the stillness of the panorama below us.
Once we’d returned to ground, we explored the surrounding area and different vantage points. We noticed several picnic tables and remarked how lovely it would be to spend a day in the summer just perched on them with a scrummy picnic. Monkey was in his element, running around in the wide open spaces, especially after we had made up a game of trying to find as many pinecones as possible. We even bumped into an old classmate of mine for a quick chat.
Although I would have loved to explore more, the baby was beginning to get restless, and we still had our walk back to the car. This time, the trail seemed so much busier than a few hours previously, but then again, I wasn’t at all surprised.
Leith Hill truly is a beautiful spot and, even though we haven’t even seen a fraction of what this ancient woodland has to offer, we’ll certainly make up for lost time over the coming months.
* Leith Hill and Tower, near Coldharbour village, Dorking, Surrey; Tower is open from 10am-3pm