Monday, 26 September 2016

Leith Hill and Friday Street

Leith Hill Tower

I've been away for a large part of the summer and only now am I catching up on walks that we have completed during those months.  First up was a rather cloudy day during July when we visited Leith Hill.  The weather forecast was rather better than we actually got but such is the leap of faith required sometimes that we decided to go for it anyway.  This is walk number 17 from volume 65 of the Pathfinder Guide Surrey Walks.

Leith Hill View
Getting to the start was rather interesting for there was a cycle race going on.  Getting around the racers was no mean feat going up the hill to the car park but it didn't seem to matter for one van driver coming hell for leather along the lane, seemingly not prepared to stop for anyone.  How he didn't cause a massive accident that day was amazing to me.  After our near miss it was something of a relief to get parked up safely.

Muddy Paths
Our first task at the car park was to head up the steep climb to the top of Leith Hill.  This is the highest point in the south east of England and the fact that it is just shy of 1000 feet high was enough to persuade Richard Hull, the local landowner, to build a tower at the top in 1766.  The top of the tower is now 1029 feet above sea level.  We took the opportunity to get ourselves a little snack in the snack bar run by the National Trust at the bottom of the tower.  This is worth knowing about if you don't want to have to lug a lunch around with you.  Not sure when it opens though - it might only be available on summer weekends.  There was a large gathering of young people at the bottom of the tower - they looked like they might be on a Duke of Edinburgh walk maybe?
Wotton Common

We climbed the tower and even on a fairly dull day like this the view from the top is truly stunning.  Away in the distance we could see the line of the South Downs and even the gaps where the rivers Ouse, Adur and Arun break through.  Nearer to us was Gatwick, our destination a few weeks later.  The plane activity was quite mesmerising, especially as the planes looked so small from up here.  We lingered for quite awhile before pushing on.

The next section of the walk was a little difficult to follow as there were so many possible paths and I couldn't be sure we were following any of the ones suggested in the guidebook.  Not only that but a dose of wet weather had ensured that many of the paths were pretty puddle strewn and the mud was rather more fearsome than you might expect in the middle of summer.  This section of the walk wasn't a very promising start and we even wondered whether to turn back.  

Abinger Common
Fortunately things looked up as we left the woods.  For a start the underfoot conditions were a lot better and secondly we had a view!  The fields were already showing a late summer look to them; I reckon this happens almost overnight sometime in early July.  We measured the maize that we walked through and my Mrs agreed that it was knee high by the 4th July, just as it should be!  Off in the distance we could see a house being built - the new owners will have a nice spot to call home when it is completed.

We dropped down the side of another wood into a valley bottom.  This looked like an area of woodland that had fairly recently been cleared.  The area cleared was about the size of a normal farmer's field so I guess this whole area is commercially forested.  We turned immediately right at the bottom and continued to the opposite corner where we eventually came across the small hamlet of Abinger Bottom; a very agreeable looking place that was characterised by very Surrey looking houses.  The gardens were neatly kept too, probably because the people that live here just want to be enjoying the peace and quiet of this rather lonely little place.

Stephan Langton
We turned off through some more woods along what looked like an old coaching road that came out in Friday Street.  Here was a very popular looking pub, the Stephan Langton.  When we saw how many people were having Sunday lunch here we thought better of going in for a quick shandy.  Our route took us around an unusually large mill pond that added a degree of serenity to the hamlet.  On the far side we disappeared back into the woods and climbed back up the slope that we had come down a couple of miles further back.

Friday Street Hammer Pond
The walking on this stretch wasn't too easy on account of the deeply rutted path.  It was something of a relief therefore when we left the forest to find another small collection of houses called Broadmoor.  Thankfully not the one with the fearsome reputation but another peaceful spot deep in the woods.  We turned right here and headed along a track that looked like it was well used by motor transport.  We realised why about a half mile later when we came upon an activity centre.  We headed on by and soon turned left to cross a small stream.

Broadmoor House
The onward walk back up towards the top of Leith Hill was perhaps the best section of the walk. The weather had significantly improved by this point too, with plenty of sunshine around and far fewer clouds.  However the wind was still pretty fresh, which was a relief for the climbing was quite steep in places.  The woodland changed from broadleaf to Scots Pine and heather, giving the landscape a much more open feel.

Whiteberry Gate
At the top of Leith Hill we passed by a cricket match in full flow - the competition between the two teams seemed quite intense.  I would have like to stay and watch for a few minutes but the girls were getting a little impatient now - we promised them an ice cream at the end of our walk!  The last stretch along the ridge was most pleasant and every now and again we could see glimpses of the view that we had seen from Leith Hill Tower.  Just shy of the tower we dropped back down the steep slope to meet the car once again.

The Duke's Warren
This is a walk of fairly modest length, mostly through woodland but with a few decent views along the way.  I imagine it would make for a very enjoyable autumn walk when underfoot conditions are still fairly dry.  It wasn't so enjoyable on our afternoon, except for the last stretch when the sun came out.  The muddy parts at the beginning were very tedious - be warned!