Beyond Suburbia In Surrey
Practical Caravan|September 2017

The secrets of the Surrey Hills lure Bryony Symes out of the city and into some spectacular countryside.

I HAVE OFTEN thought of Surrey as a bit of a suburban jungle, having only ever experienced the sprawl of places such as Guildford and Woking. However, beyond the commuter towns is the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; a haven of wooded hills, charming coffee shops and a surprising amount of history.

On top of the world

I hitched up our long-term Caravelair Antarès 476 and ventured south for a weekend of exploring. After travelling for less than an hour, I was pitched at Henfold Lakes Fishery and Caravan Park.

Once I was set up and had taken a stroll around the lake, sipping my tea, I was eager to start finding out why the area has been awarded AONB status. Henfold Lakes Fisheries is on the eastern edge of the area, so I headed west, to the steep, wooded slopes of Leith Hill. The hill is said to have been the site of a great battle in the 9th century between Saxons and Danes, with the father of Alfred the Great victorious in preventing the Danes from advancing on Winchester.

I found a small car park on the way up the hill, with access to a steep walking ascent – a fast-track, of sorts. I hadn’t quite registered the fact that I would be climbing for a quarter of a mile before I got any reward, but what you see when you reach the summit is quite something. The countryside spread out below me for miles. The summit is above the thin cloud of air pollution, high enough that the air is blissfully fresh. With the sun warming my face, I found a bench near a wooden sculpture and gazed at the landscape.

Eventually, I stirred myself and walked around the top of the hill. If the views from terra firma aren’t far-reaching enough for you, you can tackle the 74 steps of Leith Hill Tower to see still further. This is the highest point in South East England, and on a clear day you may even be able to spot the English Channel.

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