Never. Stop. Exploring.
I love being outdoors. The kids love being outdoors. My husband loves being outdoors…but mainly when he’s on a bike.
After twisting his arm (and the kids badgering him) he finally gave in to our pleading and we went for a well overdue family walk/picnic/day out.
My husband isn’t much of a planner either, and always expects me to have the answers, so after a bit of research on my phone, I found a good walk on Box Hill, Surrey (which is about 30 minutes from where we live). Not too far away and in a lovely part of our green and (mostly) pleasant land. We are so lucky to have these places on our doorsteps here in the UK.
Box Hill is part of the North Downs. From the memorial near the top, you can see up to 26 miles on a good day (and if you’re me, you remember your glasses!)
It takes it’s name form the ancient Box Woodland that can be found on the steepest West-facing chalk face slope. Local historians says that witches once used to congregate in their Covens on Box Hill, because they believed the Box Trees enabled them to better interract with the spirit world. Whilst there, they took part in spells, enchantments and other events relevant to the Pagan and Wicca religions. Spooky eh?! It certainly captured my eldests imagination…
My husband is very familiar with Box Hill because of his love of sitting on a 2 wheeled contraption with pedals whilst wearing lycra. It was used as a hill in the Olympics road cycling event so it has now become the holy grail of hills to attempt here in the UK.
The walk was called “Stepping Stones” and was estimated to take 2 hours. Granted that estimate is not 2 hours with a toddler in tow, but it was an approximate guess.
It looked lovely so we decided to give it a go. After making a picnic and packing a multitude of things into a rucksack (you have to prepare for all eventualities, including alien abduction, hurricanes and searing heat) we loaded up into the car and set off for Box Hill.
After driving for 20 minutes, I could tell we were nearing it as there were lycra clad bottoms everywhere. Going side to side, up and down, bottoms in tight, shiny, padded shorts were motoring their way towards the cycling Mecca of the South. After we had weaved our way between the cyclists and driven up Box Hill itself, we pulled into the car park. The Car Park is pay and display unless you are a National Trust member, then it is free. We sadly aren’t members yet, so off to find a pay machine my husband trotted. The kids had already aquainted themselves with some tree trunks which were arranged for the kids and perfect for climbing. a few minutes later, my husband returns and says the pay machine is out of order and that he needs to pay in the cafe. He went into the cafe, but because the place is a cycling magnet, the cafe was HEAVING with people. To the point he was told it would be a 30 minute wait for a ticket.
We decided not to wait and opted to try and find another car park. The kids moaned and had a strop as they didn’t want to leave, but we explained there was nowhere to pay and we would still be going for a walk, we just needed to find somewhere else to park. My husband then remembered there was another car park further up the road so we went and tried there instead. Success!
So, off we went. Into the Woods.
The first thing that you see upon arriving at Box Hill is the thing everyone comes for, the view!
It is utterly breathtaking. Even the kids were in awe of it.
Their immediate reaction was to drop onto the grassy hill and roll down it, then run up again only to repeat the whole process again.
The things childhood are made of, family time, outdoors, exploring, sunshine and hill rolling. As long as you avoid the dog poo people haven’t picked up…we had a pretty close call!
Once we had prised the boys away from the hill, we began our walk. It is a circular route which involves walking down 275 steps (so as you can guess, this route is no good for pushchairs or wheelchairs). The steps are fairly steep and it takes us about 15 minutes to get down them with the toddler…and Daddy’s gammy legs! 😉
Once at the bottom, we walk for a little while through the woods where there was an abundance of Wild Garlic growing. You could smell it in the air, it was lovely and the flowers were a carpet of white and green on the woodland floor.
After a bit of a walk in the shade of the woods, we reached the stepping stones. They go across the River Mole at a low point and these ones have been there since the 1940’s. The originals were destoryed just before WW2 to stop anyone invading from using them. They think there has been a Ford at this point of the river since prehistoric times.
We wait for the people coming the other way to cross, and then for another family who want to have their photo taken as they cross. It is quite busy and there are dogs everywhere. I notice one of the dogs emerging from the water and I see how soaking wet it is and then, right next to me, it shakes itself dry. Awesome. Eau d’wet dog. Marvellous.
We take our turn to walk across the stepping stones. The water is far deeper and faster flowing than I had imagined, so the falling in risk is quite high if one of you was to go for an accidental swim. Mr Knutts carried the toddler across who thought the whole thing was hilarious. The older 2 went first up front and all I could hear were whimpers of ‘I don’t like this!’ and ‘I think I’m going to die!’ – nothing like a bit of drama eh?! I don’t know where they get it from…??
After crossing the river, we walk down a path to find…a car park. Exciting eh?! But in the Car Park is an ice cream man so we go over and get some to cool down a bit, it’s a lovely sunny day.
The ice cream man is Italian, with a stong accent. There is also a generator running so he can keep his ice creams cold. The noise from this cancels out what I can pick out from the Italian Ice cream mans instructions as to what he does and doesn’t have in stock. I end up asking for 3 lollies he doesn’t have. Brilliant. It then becomes a game of point and nod. I have no idea what I’m being given but count that there is enough ice cream/lollies for everyone and just hand over my money to get this awkward situation over and done with. I hate situations like this and even if i’m given the wrong thing and I don’t really want it, I still say, “thanks very much!” and get on my way. I’m my own worst enemy at times.
Me, Mr Knutts and Ben the toddler have a traditional whippy with a flake. I can’t call them 99’s anymore because they certainly do not cost 99p like they used to!
The older 2 have a screwball and a Cola Lolly.
We walk along as we eat them and the toddler once again refuses to hold my hand. He walks along in his own little world, marvelling at his enormos, delicious ice cream, which is all his! He can’t believe his luck! No sooner have we set off than the toddler trips over thin air and “SPLAT” goes the ice cream on the dirt path. Fecking awesome.
We all sigh and check that he is ok. He is fine, but utterly devastated at the loss of his first, entirely his, I don’t need to share this with anyone, whippy ice cream. I see my husband look at his sadly and I think he fleetingly considers giving it to the toddler…fleetingly. Then he licks some more of it and ignores the situation. Right. You’re not giving him yours then. I do the dutiful mummy thing of handing over my whippy. It pained me. I rarely have an ice cream but I thought I would treat myself this day, only to have it nabbed by the tiny tot. Hey ho, he saved me unrequired calorie intake I guess…every cloud and all that.
We walk along the bottom of Box Hill and along the river bank. There are families playing in the long grass, having BBQ’s, Kite flying, frisbee throwing, rope swinging, all having a lovely time. It’s really marvellous to see so many people out enjoying the weather and the location. The boys finish their Ice creams and I am lucky to get the end of Ben’s cone as a treat. All soggy and covered in slobber. Lovely.
We reach a signpost which tells us to walk along the path next to the road for a while. The road is busy and noisy and it’s a bit of a shock to the system after being somewhere so tranquil just few minutes ago. A bit like being woken up while you’re in a deep sleep by a toddler screaming “PEPPA PIG!!!!!!”
We then reach another sign post which points us up Box Hill again. It is SOOOOOOOO STEEP!!! What goes down must come up, or something like that anyway. That rule applies to too much alcohol consumption I know that much… 😉
We start our climb up the hill. It’s hard going and my poor Mr Knutts has the toddler on his back in his carrier. We have to stop a couple of times, only to admire the view, obviously, not because we are knackered, and after 10 minutes, we are almost at the top. We decide this is a good spot to have our picnic and collapse on the floor in a heap.
The view is worth the climb and we have a lovely time eating our squashed, now slightly warm, sarnies and crisps. Nothing better.
Time with my family. I loved it.
We packed up after our picnic and began the last bit of the walk back to the car. This last bit of the route takes us past Box Hill Fort. The Fort was built in the 1890’s as one of thirteen mobilisation centres, known collectively as the London Defence Positions. These places were built to defend the UK from invasion by continental Europe. The land was purchased by the MOD in 1891 and construction began in 1896. It is buried part under the earth so you can’t see it and was meant as a base for soldiers and for storing ammunition. The fort was made redundant in 1905 as the invasion never came and the UK’s defense policy was reformed. Box Hill Fort was sold back to the estate in 1908. You cannot go into the fort as it has Bats inside, which are a protected species here in the UK.. You can, however, walk around the outside and peer in through the iron gates.
It is actually quite creepy peering inside and it makes you think about the people who would have worked there for a time. The site is now, slowly, being reclaimed by nature.
So that was our walk around Box Hill!
There are a number of other routes you can walk and one has some natural play equipment for the kids on which I think we would like to try next time.
There is a cafe, shop and toilet facilities there so you’re well catered for as a visitor if you require the use of these services.
We would thoroughly recommend a family day out at Box Hill. There is so much to see and explore…and I can only imagine how much fun the hill would be if we ever got any snow!
You can find the walk we did by clicking the link below: