Spotlight on Surrey – Box Hill
For many avid cyclists based either in London or the South East, Box Hill has become something of a Meccah. Within riding distance of the big city and easily accessible from many outward routes, the hill draws people from miles around, who battle through the ride to the top to enjoy the spectacular views the hill offers, among other rewards along the way. The Surrey Hills website recommends a 19-kilometre round trail, which will take you in the foot-steps (tyre-prints?) of Bradley Wiggins in this particularly beautiful section of the 2012 Olympic cycling route. Around the back of the hill you’ll go and up a picturesque, winding hill to the top, to be greeted by the view.
The view is stunning, by the way, when you get there. It offers a sweeping look out over small towns and rolling greenery. Tall pines reach to the sky and horses trot in open fields - it encompasses the very best that Surrey has to offer. That climb on the way up is a doozey though. Aptly named “Zig-Zag Road”, it bears an uncanny resemblance to a lightning bolt when viewed from above. The gradient is not too steep, but it is relentless. You’ll definitely want a swig of Veloflow before you get started!
The road itself is fantastically well-maintained. Don’t worry about pot-holes or devilish hidden bumps because you won’t find any. Just smooth sailing, steepness aside, all the way to the top. Toward the summit of the hill, besides the view, of course, you’ll find a variety of sources of entertainment. The climb itself, for one. It’s challenging, but not impossible. I’ve never seen anyone in lycra having to get off and push. As I said earlier, a little bit of Veloflow and you’ll be at the top in no time. Up there, by the car park, there is a café with various artisan snacks and drinks for sale. If you’re particularly hungry, carry on past the car park and up the road. There, before Box Hill village, you’ll find a “Smith and Western” Steakhouse and a restaurant called The Tree, both offering scrumptious fare.
Another point of interest is the remains of an old military bunker, set up during the Second World War. It is a larger version of what were called “pillboxes”, 28,000 of which were set up all along the Surrey Hills as a last line of defence before London against a potential German invasion. They have been long dis-used and most have fallen into disrepair, but as a historical marker, it’s quite fascinating.
With a variety of walks (if you have the energy after the climb up there), Box Hill is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. Getting out on the bike and cresting something steep is always a reward in itself, but there is a reason this hill in particular has become so well-renowned in recent years. The greenery, the rolling hills and tree-tops, kissed by sunset, never fail to amaze, no matter how many times you make the trek. It’s definitely worth a trip.