The Surrey Hills.
The Surrey Hills is the particular area of the UK where I currently live and this is, very much, out of choice. Indeed, The Surrey Hills is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty otherwise known as an AONB and rightly so. The scenery here is stunning! Full of ancient woodland, it is well worth a visit. The Surrey Hills is especially noted for its sunken lanes, cute villages and trees.
Hammer Pond at Friday Street
A Drive in the Surrey Hills
I’ll start with my driving route in the Surrey Hills and after that explain a little about each place and point. This is just a sample route and unfortunately, I can’t include everything I wanted to! However, the route is a great primer, an introduction if you like, to the Surrey Hills.
Sunday Afternoon Drive
If you’re looking just for an afternoon drive, this could be just the thing. If you have an interest in trees, countryside and walks in the woods. Click the link below to see the route on Google maps. It takes you up Leith Hill and through some very small back roads. Don’t worry, they are all tarmac, there’s no offroading involved!
Holmbury St Mary – Surrey Hills
You can either print out the directions or send them to your phone. It’s a circular route on some winding roads, full details are below the map. Also, the map is clickable and you can zoom in and out. The suggested starting points are just that, a suggestion. Depending on where you are coming from you can start the circuit anywhere.
- Start in Shere, at the White Horse, where part of the movie ‘The Holiday‘ was filmed. That is not the only thing to have been filmed in Shere, the village has appeared in many Hollywood Films. The old church here is also worth a look around.
- The route will take you slightly along the main A25, into the Hamlet of Abinger Hammer. Just before you turn off the main road, you can see the figure of ‘Jack the Blacksmith’. He strikes Abinger’s famous clock every hour. The clock is on the left-hand side, above the road, about 300 metres before the turning on the right. There is a small pull in just after you’ve turned on the left if you want to stop here.
- Then follow the road down through Holmbury St Mary. Interestingly, Holmbury St Mary is believed to be the basis of the fictional village of Summer Street, from E.M Forsters’ ‘A Room With A View‘. Forster used to live in Abinger Hammer.
- Then follow the road down to Forest Green, then along and left. You start going up the hill and on the left is Leith Hill Place. This was the childhood home of Ralph Vaughn Williams, the composer. The building has a distinguished list of residents including the Wedgewoods. It is open to the public and details can be found here.
Sunken Lanes, Surrey Hills
- There is also a Rhododendron garden here to which is worth a visit in late spring when they are flowering. The fragrances are quite intoxicating.
- The next waypoint is Starveall Car Park. Parking here and following the signs will take you up to the top of Leith Hill and the tower. As mentioned above it is the highest point in South East England.
- The route now takes you through some very small lanes to the hamlet of Friday Street and the pub, the Stephan Langton. The hamlet with its Hammer Pond is very picturesque. Of course, everything around this area is picturesque!
- Then back to the ‘main road’ and off to the village of Coldharbour, the highest settlement in Surrey. The pub here is The Plough
- Then a long drive down, off the hill into Dorking. Dorking is a historic market town named after a type of chicken, see, every day is a school day!
- From Dorking follow the main road finishing up at the Gomshall Mill in Gomshall. This pub is built over the Tillingbourne river and you can see the waterwheel inside.
Surrey Hills History
There is a lot of history in the Surrey Hills it can even be seen in the landscape. There are hammer ponds situated in the Surrey Hills, I draw your attention in particular, to Friday Street, which has a hammer pond. ‘What is a Hammer Pond’, you may or may not be asking?
These were ponds which drove waterwheels, powered forges and other machinery in the production of iron. At Friday Street, you can see the mill race disappear underneath the road and head towards what would have been, the Old Forge. the information below has a few interesting facts about the place you will see on the driving route.
The village of Shere in Surrey is arguably the most filmed village in Surrey. Bridget Jones – The Edge of Reason was filmed in this church, St James’ Shere. Also, The Holiday was shot in part in The White Horse and around the village. A picture on the wall in the pub commemorates where Cameron Diaz sat.
Shere appears in the Domesday book of 1086. And, according to the book, it generated £15 per year to William the Conqueror who held the land here. A princely sum I’m sure you’ll agree! There was a famous battle at Shere, and when I use the word famous, I use the word quite wrongly! To read more on the Shere battle and the church in general click here.
The name Abinger Hammer is once again a nod at this villages’ past. The one thing that the village is famous for is its bell. The bell can be seen overhanging the main road on the left-hand side when travelling west to east. As can be seen below, the figure of Jack the blacksmith strikes the bell every hour. Without thought and with complete disregard for anybody who happens to be sleeping at the time!
The Tillingbourne, that can be seen in the photo below with the sunset, was fashioned into a hammer pond providing power to the Abinger Hammer Mill. The Mill was in operation during the second half of the 16th century the waters powered a massive hammer, allegedly 400 kg in weight that pounded the iron. The forge closed in 1787. The clock bears the motto ‘by me you know how fast to go’.
The hammer pond has since been converted to grow watercress.
The Stream at Abinger Hammer at Sunset
Leith Hill Tower
The Tower was built in the age of follies. Also, with the tower on top of Leith Hill, it has now become the tallest spot in South-East England. You can go up the tower and for a couple of quid, to see the views.
It was built in 1765-66 by Richard Hull of the nearby Leith Hill Place. This was also the home of Vaughan Williams, the composer. The Latin inscription above the door says that is not only been built for the pleasure of Richard Hull but also for the pleasure of others.
Sadly, he died in 1772 and was buried under the tower. After his death, the tower fell into ruin and the entrances bricked up. And it remained like that for a long time.
However, the tower was fully restored in 1984 by the National Trust. It is open from 10 AM to 3 PM on weekdays and 9 AM to 5 PM at the weekends. The most popular parking spot is the Starveall car park, mentioned on the map. Of course, there are other car parks which will take you up to the hill. But, Starveall makes the climb up easier.
Friday Street is a small hamlet containing a few houses and a pub. Also, it contains a Hammer Pond. A Hammer Pond traditionally powered a mill where they made iron and is ever such a pretty picturesque little village well, Hamlet.
The pub at Friday Street, the Stephan Langton is worth checking out too, it made my historic pubs of Surrey list and the food is local and excellent. There is some good walking to be found around the area too. Often, the pub is bust with walkers and cyclists alike.
The Hamlet of Friday Street, on a Summers day.
Leith Hill Place
Leith Hill Place is the former home of Ralph Vaughan Williams, the composer. It is a National Trust Property and can be visited. However, if you just want to look at the outside, a pathway leads from the Rhododendron Gardens down the hill to give a view of the house. Also, I have very fond memories of playing in this house in my childhood. My grandfather used to brew his homemade wine in the basement!
The Rhododendron Wood is also owned by the National Trust and really comes into its own in the spring. The scent of the rhododendrons and azaleas is just incredible. During that time of year, you can easily spend several hours wandering the gardens taking in the scent! And, of course, do take your camera, there are some fabulous photos to be taken here.
It is still a great walk in the autumn. The colours of the trees changing are marvellous. Summer is also a great time to visit. However, in the winter, with the wind-driven rain beating you about the face, it can lose its charm!
The Rhododendron Wood on Leith Hill is full of winding pathways arched by fragrant bushes and really is worth your time.
The Rhododendron Wood / Gardens were created in the late 1800s by Caroline Wedgwood. Yes, that Wedgewood, of pottery fame. She lived at the nearby Leith Hill Place. She was also the eldest sister of Charles Darwin. Yes, that Darwin! As you can see, it’s not just rhododendrons, there also imported trees here, including some impressive giant American redwoods.
All these photos are of the same place, just outside of Friday Street, at a place called Broadmoor. It is, of course, on the driving route! The Surrey Hills can be visited at any time of the year. But, after a snowfall, the roads can be treacherous.
To be sure, Autumn and Spring are the best times of the year for me personally. The colours in Autumn are spectacular, especially on a nice sunny day. As can be seen below, the autumn leaves carpet the banks by the side of the road. And, with the trees arching overhead, you feel like you are driving down a golden corridor of colour.
Spring is also a fantastic time of the year. When the new growth sprouts, it is an extremely vibrant green. It is what I have used for the header picture on this website. As can be seen below.
Pubs in the Surrey Hills
Here is a list of my favourite historic pubs of Surrey with a few in the Surrey Hills area. Certainly, the Plough at Coldharbour, Stephen Langton at Friday Street, the White Horse at Shere, and the Gomshall Mill are all pubs I’m happy to recommend and are in the driving route.
As I always say in my reviews;
‘As usual, on these reviews, we were not paid to do it, we paid for our own food and drink out of our own pockets and the staff had no idea we were reviewing! Therefore, I feel our review is exactly as you would experience when visiting the pub.’
I’m not on a commission or anything like that. These are just the pubs I use and enjoy a glass of wine in! And solids when pushed.
The Plough, Coldharbour in the Surrey Hills
More in my Historic Pubs in Surrey series
Photography in the Surrey Hills
Also, as you can see by the photos, the Surrey Hills are exceptionally photogenic. And, whether you are a photographer with all the kit or just have a camera phone in your pocket, the Surrey Hills offer some exception photo opportunities.
Sunset from the Surrey hills
All the photos have been taken by me using either Nikon D7200 DSLR or Samsung smartphone. I shall put a few links below to the kit I use for those that are interested. A lot of the shots were taken with my current favourite lens, the Sigma 10-20mm wide-angle.
And, if you are interested in photography please take a look at my photography tutorials, where you will see the Surrey Hills featured quite a lot!
For all my tips and tricks see my Photography Tutorials page.
Disclaimer: In short, some of the links on this site are affiliate links. These means that if you click on the link and buy the item, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. The money helps go towards the upkeep of the site – so it’s a win-win for both of us! Any videos used on this site if not my own, are, of course, used within Youtube’s sharing guidelines…