Leith Tower, its woodlands & heathlands
|Length||16.7km (10.4 miles), 4 hours 40 minutes. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 8 hours 30 minutes.|
|Toughness||6 out of 10.|
|OS Maps||Explorers 145 & 146 or Landranger 187. Holmwood, map reference TQ 175 437, is in Surrey, 6km south of Dorking.|
A lovely walk. Recommended. Much of it is through National Trust land, the broadleaf woods and heathland of Coldharbour, Leith Hill and Abinger Common. Leith Hill with its tower is the highest point in south-east England, with views out across the Weald to the English Channel (with the tower, 1,000 feet).
It starts across fields before a strenuous ascent to Leith Hill. Then its a gentle stroll through woods to the Tower and summit. Next is a gentle stroll through woodland to the hamlet of Friday Street is the suggested lunch place. After lunch, the walk follows the Tilling Bourne stream to within sight of Wotton House; from there it goes through the National Trust's Deerleap Wood. The final stretch is through an open valley between the Surrey Hills and North Downs to the picturesque village of Abinger Hammer and for tea to the mill at Gomshall with its functioning waterwheels oxygenating the water and attracting the trout.
One short part of the walk on the ascent to Leith Hill near the start is very steep (there is a longer, easier alternative), but mostly it is easy going, mainly on sandy ways.
The Tower (NT) is a folly, there is a small charge for climbing it, and there is a kiosk for a cup of tea. Its also a nice picnic spot.
Trains at Gomshall are only every 2 hours, so time you arrival carefully, or make use of the pub.
Shortening the Walk
You could catch a bus from Coldharbour; you could catch a 21 or 22 bus (operated by London & Country) from opposite the lunchtime pub in Friday Street, going to Guildford or Redhill; or you could catch a taxi from the Wotton Hatch pub in Wotton. You could have tea slightly earlier, in Abinger Hammer, as detailed in the book's walk directions (then simply turn right, westwards, and stay on the A25 to Gomshall Station).
Lengthening the walk
If you want a long walk, try adding on Book 1 Walk 14, Gomshall to Guildford, making an overall walk of some 19 miles.
Leith Hill, the highest point in south-east England, is based on a 70 million-year-old sandstone bedrock, one formed by a cementing amalgam of sand and the silica from seashells. It was on the summit of Leith Hill in 851AD, that Ethelwulf (father of Alfred the Great) defeated the Danes who were heading for Winchester, having sacked Canterbury and London.
In 1765, Richard Hull built Leith Hill Tower with the intention, it is said, of raising the hill above 1,000 feet. He is buried underneath it. The Tower is open for people to clamber up it on weekends and bank holidays, and Wednesdays and Fridays from April to October; admission (2010) is £1.20. It has drinks for sale and maps and information about the area.
The Stephan Langton Inn in Friday Street takes its name from the Archbishop of Canterbury who was born in 1150 and is said to have spent his childhood in this hamlet. Archbishop Langton was a subscribing witness to the Magna Carta, supporting the barons against King John and refusing to publish their excommunication by the pope.
The Church of St John the Evangelist, near Wotton (open Sunday only) is of Saxon origin. It contains the tomb of John Evelyn, the essayist (author of, among other works, Fumifugium, or the Inconvenience of the Air and Smoke of London Dissipated) who was born at Wotton House in 1620. His diaries were discovered in an old clothes basket there in 1817.
The monument to Samuel Wilberforce in Abinger Roughs marks the spot where this Victorian bishop fell from his horse and died in 1873. Known as ‘Soapy Sam’, he vigorously opposed Darwin’s new theory of evolution, most notably in a famous debate with Thomas Huxley in 1860. Hearing of his death, Huxley is said to have waspishly remarked that ‘Wilberforce’s brains had at last come into contact with reality, and the result had been fatal’.
Abinger Hammer village is named after the Hammer Pond, which enabled the working of the iron industry furnaces here from Tudor times. The commemorative iron master's clock (seen on this walk) has Jack the Smith striking the hours. John Evelyn inveighed against the widespread felling of trees as fuel for iron works. In Sylva, first published in 1664, he suggested exploiting the developing world instead: ' 'Twere better to purchase all our iron out of America, than thus to exhaust our woods at home.'
Gomshall Mill is mentioned in the Domesday Book, but the present mill dates from the seventeenth century. The Tilling Bourne stream (which springs out of the north slope of Leigh Hill) passes directly under the mill.
Take the train nearest to 9.30am from Victoria Station to Holmwood. Journey time 55 minutes. Note that there is no service on this line on Sundays and some Bank Holiday Mondays. Trains back from Gomshall run every two hours to Guildford (where you change for Waterloo), and in the other direction to Dorking and Redhill (you can change at either station for a train back to London). Journey time about 1 hour via Guildford, longer on the other routes. If you find you have a long wait for a train at Gomshall, you could take the hourly bus outside the Compasses Inn to Guildford or Dorking (Monday to Saturday only).
Holmwood and Gomshall are on different lines with trains operated by different railway companies. If you want the option of travelling back via Guildford, you will need to buy a day return to Gomshall and specifically ask for a ticket which is valid via Guildford. This will be valid as far as Dorking on the outward route and might be accepted to Holmwood, although you could be asked to pay a small supplement. A cheaper alternative is to buy a day return to Holmwood and then a ticket from Gomshall to Dorking (by train or bus) on the return journey, catching a train from there to London. But if you are not sure which ticket to buy, ask at your local railway station.
Drivers: Holmwood has free parking. Change at Dorking (2 min walk bewteen stations) to return to your car.
For slower walkers, and those leaving London on a later (10.30 am) train, your recommended lunch stop is the atmospheric 17th century pub, the Plough Inn (tel. 01306-711793) in Coldharbour (close to the start), which serves food from midday to 2pm weekdays, and to 2.30 pm on Sundays.
Elevenses can be taken at the kiosk within Leith Hill Tower, opening hours 10.00am to 5.00pm, on Friday, Saturday & Sunday ( plus Wednesdays during August) in summer,- 10.00am to 3.30pm on Saturday and Sunday, plus Bank Holidays except Christmas Day, at other times of the year.
The recommended lunch pub is the Stephan Langton Inn (tel. 01306-730775) in the remote and secluded hamlet of Friday Street. This pub welcomes walkers. and serves food between 12-30 pm and 2.30 pm, Tuesday to Saturday and 12.30 pm to 3pm on Sundays (bar and restaurant closed Monday lunchtime). This pub is some 5 miles into the walk.
For a late lunch or refreshments later en route, you can try the Wotton Hatch pub (tel.01306 887694) in Wotton, 40 minutes beyond the Stephan Langton pub.
Earlier alternative tea stops in Abinger Hammer are The Abinger Hammer Tea Rooms, and The Abinger Arms pub.
The large and popular Tillings Cafe in Gomshall is the recommended tea place, just by the turn off to the station.
A little further along the road is the suggested pub, the Compasses Inn (tel. 01483-202506) at Gomshall Mill, which is friendly to walkers and serves drinks and meals all afternoon and has a pleasant beer garden with a stream outside.
No major changes. The Stephen Langton is under new management as of 2015
Use the online version of the walk, if you have an old (pre 2011) edition of the book.
Help us! After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
Out: (not a train station)
Back: (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
|Copyright||© Saturday Walkers Club. All Rights Reserved. No commercial use. No copying. No derivatives. Free with attribution for one time non-commercial use only. www.walkingclub.org.uk/site/license.shtml|
The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
The [numbers] refer to a sketch map which is only in the book.
-  Leave Holmwood Station, platform 2, not by the stairs but by the swing gate halfway along the platform. In 5 metres turn left on a quiet lane , your direction 65° initially, before the lane swings to the right. In 105 metres you come to the main road where you turn right , with a pond on your right-hand side.
- In 75 metres, at the other end of the pond, turn right by the phone box, on Merebank. In 40 metres ignore the fork right to the village hall. In 35 metres ignore Leith Road to the right, bearing left with the road, your direction 145°. In 40 metres ignore Leith Grove to the right. Then in a further 140 metres turn right on Woodside Road. .
- Ignore all ways off. In 160 metres, at the Highland Road T-junction , carry straight on , following a signposted footpath, with a timber fence on your left, your direction 210°. In 50 metres you ignore a path off to the right.
- In a further 25 metres go down four steps and over a wooden bridge with railings, across a stream, over a stile, and follow the yellow arrow to the left, your direction then 145°.
- In 60 metres, by a two arm footpath sign, fork right with the path across fields, your direction 240°.
- In 575 metres, having ignored all ways off and crossed three stiles and a farm drive, you go up steps to cross the railway line.
- On the other side, you cross a stile to continue ahead, your direction 285°. In 65 metres go over two stiles with steps in between and continue upwards, with a field hedge on your left-hand side.
- In a further 125 metres you pass a manor house on your left-hand side ( Trouts Grange).
- In 80 metres go over a stile beyond the tennis court (a metal fieldgate to its right-hand side) and in 15 metres turn right on a tarmac driveway , your direction 300°.
- Stay on this tarmac driveway all the way as it turns left, right and left again. Ignore a footpath to the right in 330 metres, passing Minnickfold manor house (which is marked on the OS map) on your right-hand side.
- In 240 metres pass between white gates and out on to a tarmac road (Henhurst Cross Lane)  which you cross, your direction 240°, to enter Bearhurst estate on a public footpath, with its lodge on your right-hand side.
- In 35 metres, immediately after crossing a bridge with its stone parapet on your right, [!] take the footpath to the right between fences (the signpost may be half hidden in a hawthorn bush), your direction 310°.
- In 100 metres go over a stile and turn half left uphill, a field fence on your left-hand side, your direction due west.
- In 240 metres turn left over a stile (a metal fieldgate to its side) to continue straight on, slightly to the right, following a yellow arrow, heading for the stile in the top right-hand corner of the field, your direction 300°; (not the stile due west into the wood, 80 metres to the left).
- In 170 metres cross the stile and then another (a metal fieldgate to its left) to follow the yellow arrow uphill, your direction 255°.
- In 215 metres go over a stile (a wooden fieldgate to its right) and follow the yellow arrow on, initially downhill then up, your direction 305°, aiming 50 metres to the right of the house ahead.
- In 250 metres go over a stile (a wooden fieldgate to its right) and in 20 metres you go through or around a wooden fieldgate to cross a tarmac road, slightly to your right,[!] continuing on a public footpath uphill with a footpath signpost 5 metres ahead and to your right, your direction 265°.
- In 12 metres you cross a path to continue on up into the National Trust Leith Hill Area woodland.
- Follow the yellow arrows on posts on the path ahead and in 300 metres you come to a tarmac road where you go right.
- In 120 metres a sign indicates that you are entering Coldharbour.
- There is a pub, the Plough Inn, 750 metres up the road, should you want an early lunch.
- In 80 metres you pass the entrance to Mosses Wood Cottage on your left-hand side. In 20 metres  [!] turn left and take the signposted public footpath (not the path through the wooden barrier, but the less clear path to the left of it), due west and very steeply up into the National Trust’s Coldharbour Common. This is a 1 in 3 path and a scramble in places.
- An alternative is the less steep route up past the wooden barrier. If taking this alternative route (particularly advisable if the ground is slippery after wet weather) ignore ways off and in 280 metres you come to a major path crossing and you go left, following the Coldharbour Walk arrows. In 260 metres you then rejoin the main suggested route at the asterisk [*] below.
- The very steep (main) route: in 40 metres or so your path is now a gully, still going very steeply upwards. At the top of the gully, in 40 metres, you follow a less steep, clear path, straight onwards, keeping due west. In a further 40 metres you come to a path crossroads where you go left , your direction 190°; there is a yellow arrow on a post here.
- In 20 metres [*] you follow the National Trust Coldharbour Walk arrow to the right, your direction 250°.
- Following the NT arrows keep ahead in 20 metres, through chestnut trees (the woodland was being cleared at the time of this walk update).
- In 60 metres by post 7 your path is joined by one from the right. In another 85 metres follow the arrow by forking right, your direction 245°, as your path merges with the ridge path coming in from the left. Proceed along the undulating ridge path with a view over the Weald and the far line of the South Downs on your left-hand side.
- In 150 metres you pass post 8 on your right and keep ahead. In a further 170 metres, by a post with indicators left to Landslip car park and right to Leith Tower, you go right passing a wooden barrier, your direction due west, on a downhill path. In 10 metres, take the middle of three tracks towards Leith Tower.
- In 150 metres you pass a sign on your right side saying ‘Dukes Warren’, and you ignore a car-wide wooden bridleway barrier straight ahead to go left uphill, your direction 240°, and so to Leith Hill Tower.
- Enjoy the panoramic views from the Tower and if the kiosk is open you can buy hot and cold drinks and snacks.
- Just 10 metres beyond the Tower, continuing westwards, you fork right on a bridleway, your direction 320°.
- In 8 metres you pass a bench, 10 metres away on your right-hand side. In a further 90 metres, ignore a fork to the left . In 25 metres you cross a path.
- In a further 60 metres  while going downhill, [!] take the left fork by a post on your right, gently uphill, your direction 310° (the right, equally main way, would have made your direction 5°). 450 metres from this fork, your path having bent left, you come to a T-junction where you go right, your direction 5°.
- In 100 metres ignore a car-wide track to the right. Continue gently downhill and in 25 metres ignore paths to the left. In 150 metres your way is joined by another earth car-wide way from behind on your right.
- Continue ahead, gently downhill and in a further 350 metres, at a three-way fork (where the right fork has a car-wide wooden barrier marked footpath) take the middle fork , your direction 355°.
- In 200 metres, by a three arm footpath post, a path joins from behind and to your left.
- [!] In a further 100 metres, at a crossing of paths with a four arm footpath post on your right, take the clear but zigzag path to the left uphill, your direction 285°.
- In 60 metres you come out onto a tarmac road, with Leylands farm opposite. Go right on the road, your direction 25°. In 35 metres  go left on a signposted public footpath , your direction 280°.
- In 150 metres you come to wide open fields where you turn right, by a two arm footpath post, with the field edge on your right-hand side and a new wire fence to your left, your direction 5°.
- In 65 metres go through a metal kissing gate and turn left with the path to keep a field hedge on your right-hand side, your direction 275°. Keep to this path downhill and in 90 metres go through a metal kissing gate ahead and continue down a closed-in path, passing a house on your right-hand side. In 75 metres [!] turn right through a gap in the hedge by a two arm footpath sign, into the wood, your direction 330°.
- In 45 metres (where the fork right heads to a driveway in 10 metres) fork left, following the metal two arm footpath sign over to the right, downhill, your direction 285°. In 100 metres you pass sheds on your left-hand side.
- In 100 metres you continue on a tarmac house driveway, downhill. In 50 metres you come to a road T-junction – the end of a loop of road – and you go left, downhill, with Spring Cottage on your left-hand side, your direction 305°.
- In 70 metres ignore a bridleway signposted to the left, and a footpath signposted straight on, to swing right with a tarmac road, your direction due north.
- In 70 metres, by a car entrance to St John’s House on your left-hand side , you fork right on a bridleway marked by a post with dragon and oak leaf symbols, your direction 15°.
- In 35 metres ignore a footbridge to your right. You keep the stream on your right-hand side all the way to Friday Street.
- In 400 metres ignore another footbridge on your right.
- In 140 metres your way becomes a lane between houses, leading in 50 metres to the Stephan Langton Inn in Friday Street on your right-hand side, the suggested lunchtime stop.
- After lunch, coming out of the pub, turn right to carry on up the lane, due north. Ignore other ways off. In 110 metres you have a pond on your right-hand side. In 40 metres you come to a T-junction which you cross over, going slightly to the right to follow a public footpath sign, on a tarmac driveway downhill, your direction 35°.
- In 25 metres you pass Pond Cottage on your right-hand side. In a further 75 metres, you cross a stream on a low footbridge, where cars ford it.
- In a further 65 metres, by Yew Tree Cottage on your left-hand side, keep left with your road, joined by a driveway from the right, with the stream on your left-hand side.
- In 140 metres cross a path, ignoring the bridge on your left-hand side, to keep on over a stile (with a wooden fieldgate to its left-hand side) into the parkland of Wotton Estate and to a series of ponds created by dams.
- In 320 metres you pass wooden fieldgates to your right and left, both marked ‘Private’.
- In 65 metres , by a three arm footpath sign, take the footpath fork to the right, steeply up a gully into the woods, your direction 25°, between fencing.
- In 320 metres cross a car-wide way marked ‘Private’, to carry on downwards, your direction 30°. In 160 metres go over a stile to exit the wood on a path between wire fences, Wotton House visible away on your left-hand side.
- In 65 metres go over a stream. In 30 metres go up three steps into the wood. In a further 85 metres go over a stile (with a road 5 metres below on your left-hand side) and carry on bearing half right across the field towards the left of the house ahead, your direction 5°. (Ignore the stile in the left-hand fence, 75 metres away).
- In 240 metres go over a stile (a metal fieldgate on its right-hand side) and in 12 metres carry straight on across a car park towards the A25. T he Wotton Hatch pub (a late lunch option) is to the left.
- In a further 60 metres, you cross the A25 and continue on the lane to the Church of St John the Evangelist in Wotton.
- In 80 metres ignore a stile on your right-hand side. In 200 metres you come to the (locked) front door of the church and either take the new footpath diversion to the left and around the churchyard, or fork left through the churchyard, in 25 metres passing a tombstone table supported by griffins. In 15 metres exit the churchyard by a stile on your left-hand side. Go right on the other side, on a clear path downhill between fences, your direction 320°.
- In 140 metres go over a stile. In 80 metres you enter Deerleap Wood (marked on the OS map).
- In 200 metres you exit the wood over a stile and continue straight on across a field. In 120 metres you come out on to earth road crossings  with a three arm footpath post on the left where you fork left (but not sharp left), your direction 210°. In 30 metres you pass a timber-framed barn (held up by wooden posts) on your right-hand side and in 20 metres the entrance to Park Farm Cottage, also on your right-hand side.
- Keep straight on, following a blue arrow, with the edge of Deerleap Wood on your left-hand side.
- In 700 metres veer right with the path. In 65 metres continue in your previous direction (due west).
- In 190 metres you come to a tarmac road  where you go left for 10 metres, your direction 220°, and then join the public bridleway to the right , (whose signpost is 10 metres ahead) going past a metal fieldgate, your direction 250°. In 25 metres you pass the National Trust sign for Abinger The Roughs. In a further 80 metres ignore a fork to the left to follow the blue arrow onwards.
- In 70 metres you pass the monument to Samuel Wilberforce. Keep to the main path. In 360 metres ignore a sharp turn left and ignore a fork left in a further 18 metres , to bear right uphill, following the main trail.
- Keep on this, ignoring ways off. In 550 metres, at the other end of an open section, with a multiplicity of ways on offer , ignore the fork left, with its green arrow, and keep to the way that is to the right of this (the main blue arrow car-wide trail), your direction 260°.
- In 10 metres ignore a way to the left, marked with a green arrow.
- In 125 metres cross a path to continue on, a field fence now on your right-hand side and a farm visible down on your right-hand side (marked Hackhurst Farm on the OS map).
- In 145 metres you cross a farm track to carry straight on, following the blue NT arrow, through a wooden swing gate (to the right-hand side of a wooden fieldgate), still due west, with a hedge on your left-hand side and a wire fence to your right.
- In 160 metres go through a wooden swing gate. In 15 metres you come to a tarmac lane where you go left, downhill, your direction then 185°.
- In 300 metres you come down to the A25 , the Abinger Arms pub on your right-hand side (a possible early tea stop).
- For the Abinger Hammer Tea Rooms, turn left along the A25; the Tea Rooms are down the road on the left hand side, just before the post office. After tea here, retrace your steps to the junction by the pub.
- [!] To head direct to Gomshall railway station (ignoring the loop into Gomshall), stay on the A25 for some 600 metres, until 100 metres before you reach the railway bridge where you take the clear signposted path to your right which leads up to the railway station.
- Continuing on the main walk: Turn right, your direction 300°. In 200 metres, just past the red-brick, timber-framed house, turn left on a signposted public bridleway (a car-wide earth road), your direction 220°.
- In 80 metres you pass The Willows on your right-hand side. In a further 105 metres, you go over the Tilling Bourne stream. In 45 metres fork left (not sharp left) off the concrete road, your direction 265° ( following the right of two blue bridleway arrows).
- In 190 metres you come out on to an earth driveway. In 30 metres you come to an earth road T-junction, where you go right , your direction 285°.
- In 225 metres you pass the entrance to Twiga Lodge on your left-hand side and in 10 metres you take the second left, a narrow bridleway heading due west. In 150 metres, the bridleway having merged with a farm track, you pass a farmhouse on your left-hand side. In 60 metres you pass a manor house on your right-hand side, then a barn on your left. In 60 metres you come to a car road T-junction where you go right on Tower Hill Road. In 20 metres you go under a railway bridge and on to the T-junction, by a timber-framed house No 4 , where you go right on Goose Green Road.
- In 260 metres you come to Gomshall Mill on your right-hand side. The Compasses Inn, your suggested tea place, is to your left.
- After tea, turn right on the A25. In 225 metres fork left uphill, your direction 60°. In 160 metres you come to Gomshall Station. Cross over the railway to platform 2 for trains to Guildford, or stay on this side for Redhill.