Headley Heath & Box Hill

Tadworth Station – Walton on the Hill – Headley – Box Hill – Dorking Station

A wander through peaceful Surrey heaths, woodland and paddocks to approach the Downs escarpment and the Box Hill beauty spot from behind, culminating in a walk across vineyards to reach Dorking.

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Length: 9 ¼ miles (14.9 km). The walk can alternatively be ended at Boxhill & Westhumble station, reducing the length by around 1 mile.
Underfoot: Field paths and heathland rides, some of which will be squelchy after rain or in winter. Good footwear recommended.
Terrain: Mostly flat, but two long descents and one steep rise in the Box Hill area.
Maps: 1:50,000 Landranger 187 Dorking & Reigate; 1:25,000 Explorer 146 Dorking, Box Hill & Reigate.
Getting there: Tadworth is situated on the Tattenham Corner branchline, served by 2 Southern trains per hour daily from London Bridge (46 mins) via Norwood Junction (33 mins) for London Overground connections and East Croydon (29 mins) for connections from London Victoria. Mondays-Saturdays, Tadworth is served by a third train per hour from Purley (20 mins) for connections from London Victoria.
Useful websites: Parts of this route follow the North Downs Way. It passes through the National Trust land at Box Hill and crosses Denbies Wine Estate near Dorking.
Getting home: From Dorking there are two Southern trains per hour daily to London Victoria (59 mins) via Sutton (26 mins), with one train per hour calling at Boxhill & Westhumble; and two South Western Railway services per hour (one on Sundays) to London Waterloo (51 mins). Alternatively, First Great Western trains run twice an hour (hourly on Sundays) to Redhill (12 mins) for connections to London Victoria or London Bridge.
Fares: Tadworth is in zone 6, so the cheapest ticketing combination is to purchase an off peak zones 1-6 Travelcard for £8.00 (£3 child, £5.30 railcard) and then purchase a ticket to cover the section from Dorking back to the boundary. If travelling on a Victoria train you will need a Dorking to Ewell East single, or a single to Ewell West if using a Waterloo train – both are £3.60 (£1.80 child, £2.30 railcard). Returning via Redhill, you will need a Dorking (Deepdene) to Coulsdon South single for £6.20 (£3.10 child, £4.10 railcard).

  • Exit the station platform at Tadworth via steps and turn left up road to T-junction in
    Tadworth station

    Tadworth station

    the little village centre. Continue straight ahead before soon veering right on the narrow tarmac footpath heading uphill in front of the branch of Barclays. The path cuts between houses to reach a residential road.

  • Turn right, then opposite the junction with Spindlewoods, take a left on a bridleway. Where the path leaves the houses into open space and divides, follow the tarmac path ahead, cutting through the attractive woodland of Banstead Heath, passing a small pond on the right.

    Mere Pond, Walton on the Hill

  • Where the path arrives at a busy main road, turn right along the pavement to enter Walton on the Hill by the bird-filled and cottage lined Mere Pond. Continue straight ahead along the twisting high street, lined by nineteenth century villas and stockbroker mock-Tudor. Amongst the numerous estate agents, you will also find a blacksmiths and other such rural charms.

Walton is a much expanded historic village, which grew up from pre-Norman origins around a Roman villa, a Norman motte-and-bailey castle and later Walton Place manor house. 

  • On reaching the triangular junction with Ebbisham Lane, veer left, keeping to the main road, passing the entrance to Walton Manor, unfortunately hidden from the public eye. Just past Chequers Lane Garage, turn right on Queens Close. The road soon ends, but keep straight ahead on a bridle path into the fields beyond.
  • At the end of the first field, turn left through a gate with footpath waymarks. After the first gate, take the faint fieldpath to the right towards the M25, the spire of Headley church nestling in the woods beyond it. A waymarked gate leads to a short section of fenced path beside a wood, at the end of which the path veers right to follow the fence, views west to Leatherhead and beyond opening up. Descend through a second field, cross a stile and turn left along the hedgerow, the path curving round to a rather dark subway under the M25.

    Costal Wood

  • Beyond the motorway, a broad path climbs gently beside Costal Wood, the drone of the motorway fading fast. Joining a track at the top of the hill, turn left between paddocks towards the buildings of Heath Farm. Just before the farm, follow a footpath sign to the right.
  • Across two fields, you come to another footpath junction. Turn right again, following a clear path across a series of fields and two tracks.
  • At a hilltop path junction next to the church, turn left through a lych gate and take the path between yew trees across the

    Headley church

    graveyard. Pass a flintstone crypt to your right and leave the churchyard next to a second lych gate. Walk down the church drive to reach a road next to the Cock Inn, opposite the attractive Old School House.

Headley is a scattered hamlet set amongst heathlands and paddocks. Pre-Norman conquest, its manor was held by the mother of King Harold Godwinson.

  • Across the road, take the path almost opposite, immediately veering left on the fenced path beside the School House. At the next path junction keep straight ahead, across paddocks grazed by horses and llamas to emerge on a small road. Turn left, passing Dove Cottage and keep straight ahead to descend to the B2033.
  • Cross to take Crabtree Lane track ahead. At a junction, swing right (following ‘horse track’ signs) past the attractive garden of Broom House. Through a gate, you enter the woodland of Headley Heath.

    Headley Heath

Headley Heath was purchased from the then Lords of Headley Manor by the National Trust in 1946. It covers 500 acres of heath and woodland. Until the 1930s, most of the area would have been grazed grassland, but heather, bracken and woodland took over with a decline in grazing and the reduction of rabbits following the myxomatosis outbreak. Grazing is now limited to small numbers of belted cows to keep undergrowth under control.

  • After 20 metres the path divides by a waymark post. Keep left, cross a broad path and head straight ahead along a narrow path through the bracken. You eventually reach a path junction by a yellow topped waymark post. Descend to a second post by a drinking trough, cross another broad path and continue ahead on narrow path. This drops into a small dry valley, then climbs straight out again to join a broad track.
  • Turn right for 20 metres, then just before a set of animal pens, turn left on a broad grassy path. Keep straight ahead on this path across the heath for around a kilometer, becoming a clear stony path. 
  • Eventually, you arrive at a wider track, sometimes muddy where you turn right until you reach a waymark post, where you turn right again on a National Trust path. At a big path junction, take the first left (waymarked ‘National Trust long walk’), descend into a small valley and keep left to climb out again.
  • On top of the rise, the path parallels the heath’s boundary fence for a while, then swings  sharp right to begin the descent into the next valley. Do not pass through the chicane ahead, but hairpin left on a broad path to the valley bottom. Climb out, keeping left (still following ‘long walk’ waymarks) at the fork in the track.
  • You soon reach a gate leading out onto a larger track. Turn left, immediately forking right past around 600 metres worth of bungalows in the village of Box Hill. Arriving at a road, cross and take the path opposite, which soon begins to drop, joining the North Downs Way (NDW) above the former Brockham lime works on the edge of the Downs escarpment.
  • After about 300 metres of steep descent down the wooded slope, follow the NDW waymarks right, immediately starting to regain height up a flight of steps. At top of steps, keep to the right hand path (NDW), now ascending much more gently, with glimpses through the trees of the large village of Brockham below.

    Dorking from Box Hill

  • Arriving at a white gate, the path doglegs left down steps, and then meanders through the wood. You cross a descending path and eventually pass through a foot gate into open meadows on the escarpment, Dorking nestling below. Another wooded section follows, next to the road, before you suddenly emerge at a triangulation point and viewpoint at Box Hill.

Box Hill is named after the box woodlands found on some of the slopes below. With 850,000 visitors a year, it is an immensely popular spot, with sweeping views south. The south facing slopes are an important chalk downland habitat, harboring orchids and butterflies. 

Mole Valley and Denbies vineyards from Box Hill

  • To continue, keep to the path below the viewpoint structure. Where this enters the woods, follow the NDW left down steps. A long descent follows, with occasional views across the Mole valley to the vineyards. At the bottom, the path forks, where you keep left to reach stepping stones across the Mole (after rain or if you’d rather not use the stepping stones, keep right at the fork to divert via a footbridge).
  • Over the stepping stones you come to a car park (the route via the footbridge rejoins here) next to the A24 dual carriageway. Cross with care and head up the tarmac drive slightly to the left. The drive passes under an ornate railway bridge and passes Denbies Lodge, after which it becomes a firm path up a narrow woodland strip.
  • Just before the path starts to climb, turn left on a path (signposted ‘Dorking’) into the vineyard. If you want to end at Boxhill & Westhumble station, instead turn right here, follow path across fields and a road, and down fenced route between houses to a second road. Turn right here to reach station after about 200 meters.

Planting of the vineyard on the Denbies estate (named after 18th century owner John Denby) began in 1986. It now covers 265 acres, more than 10% of the UK’s total vines. The winery, in the large German-style building which also houses the visitor centre, produces white and red varieties, and the vineyard plantings include eight major grape types, including seyval blanc, pinot noir and chardonnay – the vines are labelled with their varieties as you walk through.

  • Reaching a concrete track, you can turn left to the vineyard visitor centre, but

    Denbies vineyard

    otherwise keep straight ahead on the broad track through the vines. Where the main track veers right, keep straight ahead towards Dorking, leaving the vineyard at a gate.

  • At the top of a rise, take the path left, signed ‘Dorking station’. Follow the clear path through a wooded strip, which then curves between back gardens and the vineyard to reach a road. Head left, then take first right to reach the A24.
  • Keep straight ahead and cross Ashcombe Road at traffic lights. After the next road (Croft Avenue) use subway to access the approach road to Dorking’s main station. For Deepdene station (for Redhill trains) do not use the subway but keep straight ahead under the rail bridge, and cross at the lights. For Redhill trains turn left back under the bridge and up the platform access path.

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