Spotlight on Surrey: Leith Hill
I’d like to begin a new series on this blog, called “Spotlight”, where I’ll focus on various parts of the UK and highlight what’s so great about them, with regards to cycling. Every journey starts by stepping out your front door, so today I’m focusing on a place close to my own heart and home. Leith Hill sits in the middle of the Surrey Hills, twenty-five miles outside of London, and marks the highest geographical point in the South East of England. Quite a climb, you might be thinking, but don’t worry – It carries the “highest point” title due to the tower itself, rather than the hilltop. In fact, the tower was built specifically so that the owner of the land could claim said title, rather than for any practical reason. The tower is what was known as a “folly”, a landmark built for the sake of beauty, or for its own sake.
It is steep climb, but the rewards upon cresting the hill are more than worth it. Look in one direction and, on a clear day, you can see all the way to London. From Wembley stadium, to The Shard, to Canary Wharf in the financial district, it’s all visible. Turn around and you look out over the south downs. The rolling hills of Surrey and West Sussex stretch from east to west, absolutely beautiful. Further on, Brighton awaits, and the sea beyond it. If you wish, you can scale the tower (not bike accessible, unfortunately) and look out through the binoculars that are accessible at the very top. On a clear day, you can see the mills of off-shore wind-farms spinning. A glimpse of the future viewed from atop a remnant of the past. Take a break and grab a tea or coffee from the café (maybe a piece of cake or a pie of you’re feeling cheeky, too) and take it all in.
From bottom to top, on road, the trek is about a kilometre. The road is in good nick but, as I said before, it’s a steep climb. Have a swig of Veloflow and then endure a km of pain before you reach the aforementioned rewards at the top. It’s not all bad though. As you climb, you’ll pass through a mixture of woodland and open ground - the view starts to open up as you reach the summit. For mountain-bikers, starting at the top, just a few metres from the tower itself, is a trail called “Summer Lightning”. It careens down the steep hill itself, before levelling off as you reach Coldharbour. There are some pedal bits and some dips as you make your way along a verge, toward Wotton village, with beautiful views either side as you pass along by corn fields and wooded forest. The track is well-sanded, although there are some rocky places to avoid, so be careful! All in all, a wonderful place to visit and to ride, whether on a road bike or MTB. You could even take a fixie up there without trouble. If you’re ever in the area, I couldn’t recommend it more as a place to spend a day on the road.