Short, 2 steep climbs and the view from Box Hill in the morning, and a gentle river valley after lunch
11.5km (7.1 miles), 3 hours 30 minutes. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 6 hours 30 minutes.
7 out of 10.
Explorer 146 or Landranger 187. Box Hill & Westhumble Station, map reference TQ 167 518, is in Surrey, 5km south of Leatherhead.
This is a short but hilly walk that's close to London. A strenuous morning with Box Hill (views!) and White Hill before lunch in a pretty hamlet. After lunch, gentle fields, or a rural or hilly options.
The route starts by crossing the River Mole on stepping stones (or detouring if these are under water), before going steeply up steps on the North Downs Way to the top of Box Hill (NT, Visitor Centre, and lots of Box trees!), to enjoy views out over the valley. The route then follows Box and Yew woods before you drop down Juniper Top, which also enjoys fine views.
There is then a second very steep climb up White Hill onto Mickleham Downs and down to lunch in the pretty village of Mickleham at one of its two pubs. The 2 steep climbs can be slippery at times.
After lunch, the route has a very different character. It is flat, along the River Mole valley, through Norbury Park, into the centre of Leatherhead.
For a more rural feel, there are 2 highly recommended options below.
Shortening the walk
From Mickleham, the lunch stop, TFL bus #465 goes north to Leatherhead and Kingston, or south to Dorking (1/2 hourly, hourly on Sundays). It accepts Oyster Cards.
Boxhill Circular highly recommended
After lunch in Mickleham, instead of walking to Leatherhead along a flat valley bottom, you could loop back to Box Hill station. The Stepping Stones pub is nearby for tea. Both routes return on the other side of the Mole valley through Norbury park.
- The easier route, still very rural, returns along the river and the rail line.
- The harder route, climbs the ridge on other side of the valley, with fine views down into it.
Leatherhead to Boxhill reversing the walk
An easy start from Leatherhead, with 2 long climbs, and 2 very steep descents after lunch. There is 'Stepping Stones' pub near Boxill station for tea. Directions are at the end of this document. Obviously, take a train to Leatherhead for this option.
Box Hill & Westhumble Station was built in 1867 in polychrome brick with stone dressings, as part of an agreement with the landowner that it should be ‘of an ornamental character’.
Box Hill derives its name from the box trees there; yew trees are also found on its chalky slopes, with beech and oak up on top where the ground is clay and flint. It is 172 metres above sea level, contains Bronze Age burial mounds. Daniel Defoe described scenes of drinking, dancing and debauchery on Box Hill; Jane Austen placed the picnic scene in Emma here; John Keats climbed Box Hill by moonlight whilst composing Endymion; and John Logie Baird conducted his TV experiments from the summit. The area was given to the nation by Leopold Salomons of Norbury Park in 1914 and is now in the care of the National Trust. Box trees used to be in demand for making woodcut blocks and mathematical rulers – boxwood is heavy and does not float in water.
St Michael & All Angels Church, Mickleham, has Saxon and Norman origins and was renovated by the Victorians. Its chancel is noticeably out of alignment with the nave – ‘a weeping chancel, to suggest the head of Christ leaning on the cross’.
The poet and novelist George Meredith lived at Flint Cottage in Mickleham.
The River Mole is thought to have got its name from a tendency to disappear underground in dry weather near Dorking. It rises near Crawley in Sussex, to join the Thames near Hampton Court.
Thorncroft Manor was completed in the 1770s when Capability Brown worked on the gardens, creating a bridge and island on the river. It was used by Canadian troops during World War II.
Take the train nearest to 09.45am from Victoria Station to Box Hill & Westhumble (Horsham service). Journey time 50 minutes. (2017 - the best train is the 09-31am service).There are six trains an hour (four on Sundays) back from Leatherhead to Victoria or Waterloo. Journey time about 45 minutes. From Box Hill there are usually two trains an hour. Buy a day return to Box Hill & Westhumble.
For those in need of an early cup of coffee or tea, you can stop at Denbies Wine Estate restaurant and visitor centre (tel. 01306-876616) within 1 km of the start of the walk.
For late starters the Smith and Western bar grill (tel. 01737-841666), close to the start, at the summit of Box Hill can be used as a lunch stop.
You have a choice of two recommended pubs in Mickleham for your lunch stop and both are very popular, so try to plan your arrival well before 1 pm.
The first is the Running Horses pub (tel. 01372-372279) on Old London Road, opposite the church. The pub serves an excellent choice of main meals and deep-filled sandwiches and has a log fire in winter. The pub’s management likes walkers to take off their walking boots, so please comply.
The second pub, the King William IV freehouse, (tel.01372-372590), is much smaller, perched on a hill above the A24. It also serves good food and good beer and being small (40 covers inside), is cosy. It has a covered outdoor area for summer dining. Groups of more than six should try the Running Horses first.
The Swan Shopping Centre in the centre of Leatherhead has a Costa Coffee shop. There is also a Starbucks coffee shop in the High Street. Near the upper entrance to the shopping centre is Annies Tea Room (tel. 01372-373399), open 8 am to 5pm, closes at 2pm on Sundays. At the top of Bridge Street is Soulinnis coffee shop and eatery (tel. 01372-386108) (closed on Sundays).
There are a number of pubs in Leatherhead, including a Wetherspoons, for those who prefer a stronger drink at walk end.
If finishing your walk back at Box Hill, you have the choice of the Stepping Stones pub or Pilgrims Cycles in the station forecourt, or Denbies Wine Estate restaurant.
No Major Changes. This edition November 2017. Some post markings changed on descent from White Hill to Mickleham.
[Pre 2011 Edition] Use the online version. In the morning, the original route in the pre 2011 editions of the TO Book took you down Juniper Bottom in a valley to White Hill car park. The preferred route now is down Juniper Top, which enjoys lovely open views.