James Reader visits Surrey’s front lines and takes a trip back in time


The North Downs Way is carved out of history, but none is more apparent than the World War II-built pillboxes that sit along its rolling Surrey slopes. These sleeping concrete creatures continue to guard this stretch of the trail and haunt your every step with their chilling presence. You can still go inside many of these leaf-filled, tomb-like fortifications, feel the warmth of the sunlight that beams through their narrow, stone embrasures, and almost hear the echoes of the past rattle through their cold walls. It’s a spine-tingling experience and one which will still be with you long after as you stand at the peak of Box Hill, looking ceaselessly into the past.

ROUTE DESCRIPTION

  • Make your way out of the station, walk under the bridge and NW up the A25 (if you fancy an early morning tipple, pop into The Gomshall Mill). Turn N onto Colekitchen Lane. Follow the road until you hit a public footpath and continue ascending N. Once you reach a concrete water tank start walking E up the North Downs Way (NDW). The NDW is very clearly posted and follows an ENE direction. When you are met with the rare fork in the road, the rule of thumb is to bare to the left.
  • At the vineyard break away from the NDW at the first opportunity and walk E down Bradley Lane. Turn N just before the Bradley Farm house to reconnect with the route.
  • Continue following the NDW E until you reach the disused quarry (just before this, the path will briefly take you on a steep S descent followed immediately by a steep N ascent). Here, you will start a slow, meandering descent until you reach a small street which leads to Pebblehill Road. From here, walk S to Betchworth station.

Walking the war path: North Downs Way, Surrey

Details

  • Distance: 16km/10miles
  • Ascent: 403m/1322ft
  • Time: 4-6 hours
  • Start/ Finish: Gomshall train station (GR: TQ089478)/ Betchworth train station (GR: TQ210512)
  • Map: OS: 1:25,000 Explorer Sheet 145 (Guildford & Farnham); OS 1:25,000 Explorer Sheet 146 (Dorking, Box Hill & Reigate); OS 1:50,000 Landranger Sheet 187 (Dorking & Reigate); Harvey 1:40,000 North Downs Way (West)
  • Public transport: Gomshall station and Betchworth station are both reachable via Reading, Guilford, Reigate and Redhill
  • Information: nationaltrail.co.uk/northdowns; nationaltrust.org.uk/box-hill; North Downs Way by Colin Saunders (Aurum, £14.99)
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