Friday 25 August 2023

I've got binoculars on top of Box Hill

The Surrey Alps is one of Southern England's most impressive ranges, towering to almost a thousand feet in places. The ascent of perhaps its best known peak, Box Hill, is not to be taken lightly particularly if you've already been to BJJ training that morning. But did I let that stop me? Oh no! 

My mate Dan was keen to do some navigation practice so it seemed like an excellent opportunity to do one of CAMRA's South East Pub Walks that I'd wanted to do for ages. Our start point was some way from the official start, which meant we walked even further than the route in the book. That's how heroic we are! 

It also meant we passed what looked suspiciously like an old maltings to me:

I suspect this is an old maltings

When tax was paid on malt people would shovel it out of the windows when they saw the tax man coming so a law was passed requiring maltings to have bars on the windows. 

The route took us down tunnels...

over stepping stones ...

and up lots.

I didn't actually have any binoculars with me. I'm more a cup of splosh and a greasy dog man myself anyway, but there is a good view. 

View from Box Hill

We had a look at the fort that kept Napoleon out of London:

Though from the cave art it looks like it's also the site of ancient fertility rituals:

After that it was back into woods, which personally I find a lot harder to navigate than hills. You do get a better class of mushrooms in woods though:

There were some unexpected sights too:

I reckon a folly

And this was definitely folly

The late Bob Steel's pub walks have never let me down but I have to say I was getting worried as the started drawing nearer to the first pub. We had most definitely earned a pint by this stage but as I've said navigating in woods can be hard and the guide book did little to calm my nerves:
"... the confusion of paths on Mickleham Downs make it a bit of a navigational graveyard so stick to my directions carefully here if you want that beer"

Stick carefully we did until we got to what we hoped was the required "indistinct path to the left". This was the point I was most concerned would go wrong and by this stage I was quite prepared to knock on the head temporarily suspend the navigation practice and see if I could get google maps on my phone. I needn't have worried though as Bob saw us right and we got to the William IV. We were told it was table service and though we didn't get any grief when we said we weren't eating I was staring to suspect the place was an abomination unto the lord. Then the beers arrived and I remembered our Mother Church values beer quality above all else.  

Shere Drop, Champion Beer of Britain 2019-2023

As we were heading outside a door sprang open and someone leapt out saying "Hi guys!". It was only someone from the BJJ club! Bumping into someone we know definitely boosted this places pub credentials, as bumping into people is definitely a pub thing. We were in good spirits when we left.

Soon after we had to dash across four lanes of traffic, which made getting delayed by a herd of cows next all the more surprising. 

Though not as surprising as the communist base we passed: 

Should I ever be a soldier 'neath the red flag I would fight

At least I think they were communists, what else could a red flag mean? After passing the Leatherhead Soviet I put the map, compass and guide book away as we'd been told the pub was just over a bridge and you can trust Bob. And sure enough there it was: 

Oh yes

I've wanted to go to the Running Horse for ages, after reading Alan McLeod's blog about it. The pub's been around for ages and there's even rambling sexist doggerel written over 500 years ago by the poet laureate of the time about the then landlady. I guess that's the sort of thing people did before television or feminism were invented. 

The poem features prominently on the outside of the pub but I must confess I was more interested in the inside and more refreshment. I loitered outside a little while before entering as I had a pasty to finish and the smell of pub was wafting out of the doorway. Had it brought back any specific memories it would definitely have been a Proustian moment. But as it didn't it was just a moment when I thought "cor, bet this is a proper pub!" And indeed it was, complete with horse brasses: 

When we left I spotted it even had two bars and you don't get more proper pub than that. It's a Sheps pub but they had Surrey Hills on so I swerved the Spitfire and went for that. Glorious it was too. 

Ranmore Ale

That was the pub walk done, which definitely had a high walk to pub ratio but that's probably for the best as more beer wouldn't have helped with the heroic amount of walking we did or the navigation. 


  1. Descended Box Hill on New Year's Eve, a couple of years ago, whilst walking the North Downs Way.
    Slippery, to put it mildly and I ended up going off off piste and missing the famous Stepping Stones. Probably just as well as that crossing is much wider than I imagined.
    Some excellent Harvey's Old at the Garland, Redhill, whilst waiting for my connecting train back home.

  2. ps. I passed that Victorian fort on a different section of the North Downs Way. Quite a construction.