Box Hill Riverside Walk
As you walk along the river Mole look out for dragonflies, wagtails and the electric blue of a darting kingfisher. Stop awhile to take in the ageing Second World War concrete structures which stand sentinel along the waters’ edge. This is a circular walk with a steep descent and climb. In wet weather it can be very muddy. Cattle graze along part of the route so please keep your dog under close control.
Salomons Memorial Viewpoint
You can choose to start your walk at the Visitor Centre, or at Salomons Memorial Viewpoint. Once at the viewpoint looking out over Surrey and Sussex, walk down the steps and follow the path to the right, following the signs. Look out for the left turn which takes you diagonally down the hill below the viewpoint.
Reaching the tarmac road turn right and walk along it. The fields on either side of you are part of Box Hill Farm.
Continue along the road, ignoring other turnings until the road runs out. You’ll see a gate to your right hand side – go through this. To your left you’ll see the river Mole which you’ll walk along for the next mile.
Here the species-rich slopes of Box Hill to your right are often grazed by belted Galloway cattle for the conservation of our rare flowers and insects. Soon you’ll come across Pixham weir and mill. Until the early 20th century, the river Mole turned several waterwheels here, principally for corn grinding and fulling (a term used to describe cleaning cloth, particularly wool).
Pixham Mill is three storeys high and dates from 1837. The mill machinery was powered by a 13ft diameter overshot wheel which was turned by falling water hitting paddles near the top of the wheel. The water made the contact edge heavier than the other “empty” side, thus turning the wheel. The mill was owned by J & W Attlee from 1882 until 1910. By 1937 the mill machinery had been removed. The company Moss Bros used the building as a warehouse during the Second World War. It is now a private house.
The path will take you under Pixham viaduct, built in the Victorian era. Shortly you’ll come to an unusual collection of 12 anti-tank cylinders perched at the waters’ edge. Built in 1940, they were part of a wider anti-invasion scheme.
These formed part of the GHQ (General Head Quarters) Line ‘B’ anti-tank barrier. GHQ Line ‘B’ ran along the southern slopes of the North Downs in an area known as the Dorking Gap. Its purpose was to create a link of road blocks, tank-traps and anti-tank barriers to protect London and ultimately the industrial heartland of England should an invasion occur. Pill boxes and anti-tank structures were positioned at crucial viewpoints and road or river crossings. The river Mole itself would also have formed a suitable obstacle to an invading force. In August 1940, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade, part of the mobile reserve of VII Corps was positioned to man the GHQ Line defences at the Dorking Gap.
This stretch of land is floodplain and the creation of a ‘scrape’ in this area will form a wetland habitat for wildlife such as amphibians and waterfowl. Self-seeding reeds, rushes and sedges will provide a valuable nesting and foraging habitat for wading birds. The pathway will now take you away from the banks of the river, climbing into woodland. Just before you start your climb, look through the trees to see a Second World War Type 24 Infantry shell-proof pill box. This would have been defended by infantry with Bren guns and covered the east bank of the river Mole and the lower western slopes of Box Hill.
In early 2017, we dug a large area of earth with the express purpose of creating a wetland wildlife haven close to the river Mole. Known as a ‘scrape’, the pool has shallow edges and reaches a depth of one metre in places. It’s hoped that the water table and flood water will fill the scrape for periods of time, allowing a temporary habitat for amphibians such as frogs, toads and newts. Such pools, known as ephemeral or vernal pools, are usually devoid of fish thus allowing the safe development of species which may otherwise compete with or be predated by fish. In time rushes, reeds and sedges will self-seed and create feeding and safe nesting grounds for birds such as ducks, geese and waders. Cattle will be able to access the pond for drinking, and in turn will keep down the growth of fast-growing vegetation such as willow around the edges of the pool.
A set of steps will take you uphill through woodland comprising yew, beech and oak.
At the top of the steps, turn left. Carry along the path through the woods and take the first right hand turn.
Look out for Swiss Cottage, the former home of John Logie Baird and the site of his first experiments in the development of television. A few metres on is the Box Hill visitor centre, the end of your walk.
Box Hill Visitor Centre
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