Tag Archives: Boxhill

Five London Day Hikes for Winter

Richmond Park London day hikes

Limited daylight and wintry weather doesn’t mean your hiking plans have to go into hibernation. With a little forward planning and an early(ish) start, the following hikes can easily be completed from London in a day.

Seven Sisters a London day hike

For the Coastal Hikers – Birling Gap, the Seven Sisters and Exceat London Day Hike

Salty sea air and cold winds are the perfect remedy to sweep away the cobwebs after too much time indoors. While this route might require hikers to leave earlier in the morning (depending on where you live in London) to make the most of daylight hours, this walk is one of the prettiest stretches of the English coast in any weather. While the Seven Sisters attracts droves of visitors in the summer, it is quieter in the winter, giving you more space and quiet to appreciate its rugged beauty.

If you like to be beside the seaside for a hike, check the Beachy Head website, or check out my own route review for this route.

Deer in Richmond Park.

For the Lazy Sunday Hikers – Ham House from Richmond Walk London Day Hike

For those that like their walks with detours to cosy pubs and roast dinners, this route is ideal. This circular walk begins and ends handily at Richmond station, and if you’re lucky you might spot one of Richmond Park’s famous inhabitants. King Henry’s Mound still offers beautiful panoramic views of London, and there’s always the option to warm up with coffee and cake at Ham House, or The Dysart for those with deeper wallets. One of my favourite spots along this trail however is closer towards Richmond’s centre, along the Thames. Pubs line the riverfront, and in winter there’s a good chance you can stretch out and have a portion to yourself on a Sunday.  

For more information and to download the trail guide, check The National Trust website.

Slaugham Place historic remains.

For the History Buff Hikers – Balcombe Circular Walk London Day Hike

Located approximately 40 minutes away on the train from London Bridge, this walk takes London hikers through some of the prettiest sections of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The forests and walkways of Nymans gardens easily lull hikers into multiple detours around its stunning landscapes. The ruins of Slaugham Place, a 16th-century Elizabethan manor house, are also a beautiful place to stop for a breather. At the end of the walk in Balcombe is the quaint and hiker-friendly Half Moon Inn pub, to toast a successful walk.

To try this hike yourself, check out the Saturday Walker’s Club route directions.

Box Hill view London day hikes

For the ‘Tree Huggers’ – Mole Gap Trail Day Hike

While the Mole Gap Trail is famous in the summer for the fact that it includes a pitstop at the largest vineyard in England, hiking this in winter showcases the sheer variety of ancient trees located along this trail. Starting at Leatherhead station, the route meanders along the river before gradually climbing through forests, where old yew and box woodlands dwell. Towards the end of the trail hikers are treated to views from Box Hill after a lung-busting climb.

Box Hill London day hikes

If the thought of exploring hills and forests has you ‘leaf’ing the comfort of your sofa, check the route instructions from the folks at Explore Surrey or check out more things to see and do around Box Hill via my guide.

London winter day hikes ightham mote

For Historic House Hikers – Sevenoaks London Day Hike

For some strange reason, Sevenoaks is not featured too often in London guides. Despite being only a short distance from London and featuring Kent’s only deer park (think Richmond Park, but quieter), two expansive historic National Trust houses, not to mention an adorable high street with multiple lunch stops, it never attracts the same level of attention.

This is all the more benefit for hikers that venture on this route, as you can roam the deer park in search of its four-legged locals, admire the unusual architecture of Knole House and Ightham Mote, or count the number of oast houses (those houses with white caps on the pointy roofs that only seem to exist in Kent) you spot along the trail.

Knole park deer london day hikes sevenoaks

One of the benefits of hiking around Sevenoaks is the sheer number of footpaths in the area. Check some of my recommendations for extending hikes around this area, or follow through to the handy Saturday Walkers Club for route directions.

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London Walks: Boxhill

Box Hill is undoubtedly one of the easiest countryside areas for Londoners to escape to for a good day’s hike. Owned and managed by the National Trust, the area has a good selection of trails, panoramic views of the South Downs and enough follies to keep the walk interesting if woodland scenery is not necessarily your thing. Not to mention, it is only half an hour’s train ride from London Bridge.

However, Box Hill can be a little tricky to find if you don’t drive. When disembarking from Boxhill & Westhumble station, go past the School for Church Organists and head towards the T junction. Taking the subway to the other side of the road that is located on the left, follow the signs towards the car park for the National Trust Boxhill car park.

  It’ll soon become apparent that Boxhill is a fun hike as soon as you reach the start of the trail: STEPPING STONES!   Obviously it took a loooong time for the novelty to even slightly wear off….

 

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Enjoy hopping around on the stones for as long as you can though, as the trail right after the stones is steep and winding.

 

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However it is all worth it once you reach the top, with views stretching for 25 miles across the South Downs at the Salomon Memorial. Dedicated to the city financier Leopold Salomon who bought 230 acres of Box Hill and donated it to the National Trust in 1914, today Box Hill is known as a place of inspiration for British writers, as well as a few eccentric characters.

Purchase any snacks or drinks here, but be prepared to queue – Boxhill, and in particular the National Trust cafe, is a popular rest spot.

 

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Follow the trail towards Broadwood’s Tower, stopping to take a gander at the tree-stump Stonehenge on the left and the various wildflowers and butterflies that inhabit the area.   The word ‘tower’ might be stretching things a bit when describing Broadwood. Back in the day, when ruined castle remains and prehistoric monuments were the latest fashion trends, rich Victorians with time on their hands would build what are called ‘follies’, or faux-historical buildings and ruins with no real purpose other than to sit there and look pretty and entertain guests on walks around the rich Victorian’s property.   Luckily nature stepped in and made Broadwood folly even more impressive.

 

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After reaching the summit of a vast number of steps up the Mickleham Downs, take a lunch stop in the absurdly picturesque village of Mickleham. Complete with an ancient church, quaint pub and homes with lots of character, not to mention a private school that could easily pass for Hogwarts, this area is ideal for a pub lunch or picnic before attacking another steep section of the trail (keep an eye out for the ponies!).

 

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The narrow path of overhanging branches and haphazard tree roots might make you feel like you’ve walked off the path, but continue onwards and you’ll suddenly walk onto a wide open plain. The Mickleham Gallops is home to a Bronze Age hoard and barrow, and an old Roman road nearby. It is also home to enormous oak trees.

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Continue following the path towards Headley Heath, where there are more achingly-cute English homes than Pinterest can take.

The path eventually arrives full circle back to Salomon’s Memorial. Before heading back towards the car park and stepping stones however (tempting, I know) walk to the right of the National Trust cafe and there visitors can see one of the more truly bizarre sites in the UK.

 

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One of 13 forts to line the North Downs, the Box Hill Fort was originally built in 1889 as a ‘mobilisation centre’ as a part of the London Defence Scheme. With the threat of continental invasion fresh in the minds of Victorian military strategists, the scheme was created to defend London as the last great bastion of the British Empire. Box Hill Fort however never saw battle, and today it is mainly used as an elaborate house for bats.

For more information and trail directions, please download this map here.

 

Salomon_memorial

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