Day 11 – Cami again? A second Leith Hill Dose

Cami-flage Day 11 Monday 21st September 2020

After yesterday’s mournful maunderings about aches and pains, we both felt reasonably chipper today and keen to get on with the day’s walk; buoyed, perhaps by the continuing schadenfreude generated by the weather comparison between Surrey and Menorca, which featured both a nicer walking temperature and agreeably less chance of rain.

Our destination today was, for the second time (hence the title), Leith Hill, the highest point in Surrey, but this time approached from a different direction.

The start of the walk is top right, North Holmwood, which is south of Dorking (just off the image to the top); the major road shown is the A24, which we would therefore have to cross twice. The profile is basically up then down; hardly a surprise when the mid point is the highest point in the county.

However, this walk underlined the vagaries of unreliable memory, especially my unreliable memory. We had done this walk before, on only one occasion – records show that this was October 2016, so four years ago.  The only memory I had of the walk was the final gently uphill trail to Leith Hill Tower, which would have been the first time I’d visited there.  So, I thought we’d have a basically gentle-ish uphill walk there, followed by a gentle downhill walk back. The reality, although true in principle, is somewhat different in practice, and I had no memory at all of most of the scenes we passed.  Jane, however, remembered most aspects of the walk and described them to me in advance of us reaching them; this, of course, meant very little to me – except for a handful of scenes, when Jane’s reminder brought the memory back to me.

Some of the aspects I had forgotten involved some really quite steep ascents. Four years ago, I would have been quite a bit heavier and much less fit; I certainly found uphill work very unrewarding until really very recently.  So perhaps my brain had excised the unpleasant memories?  I eventually remembered some of the pleasant ones, but the uphill stuff seemed all new to me today.

Anyway, enough of this prattle about….sorry, what was I talking about?

The weather for today’s walk was absolutely superb; temperature about 20°C and sunshine.  But there was something about the quality of the light which made the day so pleasant.  I guess it was late Summer/early Autumn light, but it reminded both of us of the sort of light we’d experience on a trip abroad. So the whole day had an extra air of holiday about it, which is nice, since the whole idea of this fortnight was to be a holiday.

From the car park, the walk starts along a path which is nice whichever way you look along it

and it led past some trees with truly spectacular Virginia Creeper entwined.

(Further intimations of approaching Autumn….).  Sheep meadows

are followed by woodland – and the first of several sharpish uphill segments.

This walk, like many we have done in Surrey, comes from Fancy-Free Walks.  Jane brings the directions with her and reads them out as we go along so we both know what happens next.  She mentioned that the path went by a low bar, and I foolishly thought we might be able to stop in for a drink in an interesting dive.  But no….

We thought the very least we could do was to put our gin bottle on the low bar.

As we carried on, there was some lovely light coming through the trees.

Then we reached the one bit of the walk that I remembered from four years ago, the gentle rise to Leith Hill Tower.

When we got to the top, we discovered that the café was open, so we stopped for tea and cake and I got the drone out for a quick whizz.


Refreshed, we started down again, really quite steeply at first

but then levelling out a bit as we went into an area called Duke’s Warren, which has some great views, suitably enhanced, of course, by the presence of our gin bottle.

There’s some very fine heath land

and then the trail descends into Coldharbour, which at 750 feet is the highest community in the south of England. It has a chequered history.  According to the Fancy-Free Walks guide, “Coldharbour must be one of the most romantic isolated villages of the Surrey hills. For many years it was looked on with fear by inhabitants of the lowland towns as a refuge for smugglers who would keep their caches of contraband in safe underground sites and would deal ruthlessly with any outsider who interfered.”

All that’s as may be, but the important feature of Coldharbour for us today was

the pub, where we planned to take lunch.  The Plough brews its own beers – I can recommend Crooked Furrow, for example – and we had there the best fish’n’chips I can remember having  anywhere; it really was very good indeed.

Suitably refuelled, we continued downhill, where we got a final view of the village

before heading once again into woodland.

passing a place where they clearly had swingers’ parties

and emerging into open countryside at Anstiebury Farm, where the views continue to be quite spectacular.

There’s more open countryside

before the track goes back into the woods, where one can see the most extraordinary holly tree.

Quite how it has grown this way is not clear – maybe someone has trained it that way over the years – but it’s very striking.

The trail joins a road past some very fine buildings

before reaching South Holmwood, which has a beautiful church and churchyard.

The path carries on in its varied way, between meadows and woods;  it passes one very fine property called Mill House, which has wonderful chimneys

a fascinating tree platform in the garden

and (it being the time of year it is) a spectacular acer.

Now in the final stages of the walk, we approached North Holmwood once again via some splendid views

which we thought appropriate for a final gin bottle shot of the day – and it was joined by a friend it picked up in the pub at lunchtime.

There’s a final descent to a cinder track that leads back to the car park and the completion of an altogether delightful walk.  I can’t imagine why we’ve only done it once before, as it has much to recommend it.

We completed 11.13 miles on the walk, nearly two miles more than that demanded by the Menorca equivalent; so we find ourselves some seven miles ahead of the Cami-360 game.  We have now completed over 102 miles and there are two walks to go.  We both completed the walk today without any of the aches and pains of yesterday; we used different footwear, which might have some bearing on it; and it’s more strenuous than the Ockham Common walk – perhaps having to go up hill and down dale is easier for my back than a flat walk, or perhaps we’ve just passed The Wall and we’re good for many more miles.  Whatever, we’re looking forward to a walk at the very other end of the Surrey Hills tomorrow and fondly hope that you’ll join us to find out more.

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