This blog dates back to the beginning of September which just shows how far behind I am…we are already well into autumn and these pictures feel like the very last hurrah of summer.
Box Hill is another place I’d been wanting to visit for a while, having first encountered it in Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’ (although I have always wondered if the Box Hill mentioned there was the one in Bath, which I now associate with the rather more gory Box Tunnel events of ‘Being Human’), and more recently watched it as the site of the Olympics cycle road race. I also knew it was a famous spot for chalk downland flower meadows and orchids, although I realised we were in the wrong season for those.
I suspect late August/early September is probably when most things are past their best, but I still managed to spot a few interesting plants – firstly, a wild campanula which was so similar to the garden varieties it looked very incongruous in a flower meadow.
Besides a few usual suspects like ragwort, knapweed and scabious, amongst some dried thistle-heads was this example which had lost its fluffy seeds and, dried out, had a amazing metallic sheen to it – looking just like a child’s drawing of the sun, or some expensive piece of jewellery.
Apart from wandering across the flower meadows, we tried to follow a trail through the wooded part of the hill but got thoroughly lost – no 3G signal meant no blue dot to help us on Google maps, and the signposts for the various trail options were either missing or rather confusing. The paths through the undergrowth are so labyrinthine they had me in mind of Hansel and Gretel – we should have been dropping white pebbles or unwinding a thread like Theseus to find our way back!
We eventually emerged from the woods near Broadwood’s Folly, a ruined tower built by Broadwood of the pianos fame, and managed to work out from there a route which eventually brought us back to the car park.
I’m pleased to report, though, that mentioning the lack of signposting on Twitter got me a friendly response from the National Trust acknowledging that they needed to do some work on this. Always good to see an organisation with a social media team on the ball! Hopefully if we go back in spring for the orchid season, we might be able to find our way round a little better.
Either way, we couldn’t miss the main viewpoint looking out over the valley – still sporting the Olympic rings – and from there it was a quick walk, fortunately, to the tea room.
Definitely a place I want to revisit in the spring, and next time, be prepared with a proper map, baby carrier and walking boots to do a serious hike.