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Weekend Walk: Leith Hill, Surrey – Hills, Mills and Gunpowder

Our walk is taken with kind permission from the Ramblers. It is a circular route in the Surrey Hills AONB which passes sleepy Surrey mill hamlets and ‘hammer’ ponds and climbs to a 360-degree view from Leith Hill Tower. It follows wide, well maintained bridleways to Friday Street, then along narrower forest tracks.

1. With Holmbury St Mary bus stop (one stop after the Royal Oak) on your left, walk a short distance along the road then turn left into Pasture Wood Road. Walk past Bulmer Farm on your left and a minor turning on your right. As the road turns left take a right turn onto the Greensand Way. Follow the Greensand Way through Pasture Wood for approximately 20 mins until you reach High Ashes Farm. Go past the farm and turn right at the fingerpost and continue on the Greensand Way, but take the first left to cut a corner and rejoin the Greensand Way 5 mins later, where you turn left up the hill to a road. Cross the road, turn right and then turn left onto a footpath. Turn left again immediately, ignoring the wide main track. After approximately 2 mins turn right and after another 1 or 2 mins take the right fork, following a sign to the tower. After a further 2 mins fork left and continue on the upward path following more signs to the tower. The path joins a wide track which leads up to an open space and Leith Hill Tower (TQ139431).

Leith Hill at 294 metres (965 ft) is the highest point on the Greensand Ridge, and is the second highest point in south-east England. Leith Hill Tower, an 18th century Gothic tower, stands on the summit with panoramic views northwards to London and the English Channel to the south.

2. From Leith Hill, with the tower on your left, walk downhill on the Green Trail to a crossroads where you turn left along the Greensand Way again. There is now a pleasant descent through the woods lasting approximately 20 mins, passing a crossroads at Whiteberry Gate, past Warren Farm to the track junction.

3. For an optional 15 min detour to the source of the Tillingbourne and Brookwick Copse, turn right towards Tilling Springs (signposted), and then left at a finger post, passing across the bridge over the Tillingbourne and uphill to a staggered gate. Turn left downhill just before the gate and follow the poorly defined track passing through holly and bracken of Brookwick Copse which eventually becomes marshland. Use the boardwalk provided then follow the path uphill again to rejoin the Greensand Way at Pond Cottage. There are some fairly steep ascents and descents in this short detour and it can be muddy in places.

4. If you’re not taking the detour, continue along the Greensand Way past Pond Cottage down to a road and riding stables at Broadmoor. Turn left up the road to Broadmoor and turn right on the path next to the Parish Council noticeboard. Bear right at the first fork and left at a second fork and press on uphill to a T-junction. Turn left and across two small roads and past the sign for the Wotton Estate. Continue through the woods past Severalls Copse (National Trust) down to the road, turning left to the mill pond at Friday Street. Circle the pond round to the left and up to the Stephen Langton pub in Friday Street.

Friday Street features a huge man-made pond, a hammer pond used to power a large waterwheel. Its pub is named after the thirteenth century Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, a member of the baron’s council which forced King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215 at Runnymede. It is claimed Langton was born in Friday Street.

5. Carry on with the pub on your left up the lane and take the first right (unmarked footpath) at the gate into the woods of Abinger Common. Push through any overgrowth and climb the short steep woodland track which soon levels out. Continue (westerly), ignoring another path leading backwards, to reach a fork where you turn left (ignoring a small path to your right) to reach a five-way junction. Take the second right down through the woods, crossing another path (ignore the downhill path going slightly right here). Continue for another 5 mins ignoring small paths to right and left until you emerge on the road. Abinger Common bus stop is to your right (buses to Guildford and Dorking). To your left is a small green with a well, built by William John Evelyn (1893), and Goddards house, designed and built by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1898.

6. To continue back to Holmbury St Mary, cross the green and follow a well defined footpath through Pasture Wood, which starts nearly opposite the red phone box. Ignore all turnings left and right and stay on the main track, which undulates through the woods. Pass a plantation of large conifers on the right and stay on the main track until it narrows and starts to descend. Here bear left to leave the main track and head steeply downhill on a narrow forest path to a kissing gate (about 15 mins). Continue straight ahead across the path junction turning left on the main road to reach Holmbury St Mary and the Royal Oak pub. Continue along the maIn road to reach the starting point at the next bus stop.

DISTANCE: 6.5 miles
OS MAPS: OS Explorer 146 (Dorking, Box Hill & Reigate).
START POINT: Holmbury St Mary bus stop, Horsham Road, RH5 6NH (TQ112441).
DIRECTIONS: By road the start location is on the B2126 about 4km/2.5 miles south of the A25 at Abinger Hammer, between Guildford and Dorking. Parking is possible at the roadside or by the green.

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