Leith Hill woodland walk
Enjoy an exhilarating walk at Leith Hill, which has been a popular picnic spot since the 19th century.
Panoramic views on a clear day
Take in panoramic views from Leith Hill tower and discover the countryside surrounding composer Ralph Vaughan Williams’ former childhood home. The woods are a mass of colour in spring and summer, and are equally stunning in autumn as the leaves on the trees change colour.
Windy Gap car park, grid ref: TQ139429
From either of the Windy Gap car parks, head south using the track adjacent to the cottage, following the orange waymarkers.
This track leads you down through the woodland where, in the autumn, you can hear roving flocks of woodland birds including nuthatches, coal tits and treecreepers. 'The Woodland Trail offers a lovely walk at all times of year with autumn being particularly stunning due to the the turning colours of the trees.' Paul Redsell, Countryside Manager, Surrey Hills West.
At the junction of tracks take the second left through the Lime Avenue, planted as part of the original estate landscape. The path takes you past the walled garden on the right and to the road where you should turn left carefully heading down the road for 55yd (50m) before heading right into the farmland over the stile.
Follow straight ahead in front of Leith Hill Place on your right and admire the stunning views across the parkland and southwards over the Weald onto the ridge of the South Downs. Pass through the kissing gate and cross the second field to the gate just below the pond. Once through the gate you will pass through woodland. Bear right and follow the straight track ahead of you.
Leith Hill Place
Leith Hill Place dates from around 1600 and was bought by Josiah Wedgwood (grandson of the famous potter) in 1847. It later became the home of his grandson, composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, who bequeathed the house and estate to us in 1944. Josiah Wedgwood's wife, Caroline, was the eldest sister of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, who made frequent visits to Leith Hill, to undertake field research work with assistance from his nieces.
Follow this track which bends right and heads uphill. Bear right, following the signs which lead you through the rhododendron wood and up through the car park to the road.
This walk takes you down onto clay soils, through woodland and back up through the rhododendron wood. On the southern slopes of Leith Hill, the wood is a mass of colour in spring and early summer. The wood's rhododendron plantings were created by Caroline Wedgwood in around 1900, creating an attractive vista from Leith Hill Place.
Turn right from the car park and then left up a couple of steps, being careful when crossing the road. Once across the road follow the path heading left up alongside the sandstone wall. This path will lead you all the way up through woodland to the tower.
Leith Hill Tower
This fortified folly marks the highest point in south-east England and was built in 1765 by Richard Hull of Leith Hill Place. Crowning the summit of the hill and standing 965ft (317m) above sea level, it has impressive 360 degree views from the top, north to London and south to the English Channel. Amazingly, on a clear day up to 13 counties can be seen. (Check http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/leith-hill/ or call the property on 01306 712711 for opening times.)
Reward yourself with some light refreshments from the servery whilst enjoying the stunning views of inner London looking north and the English Channel to the south, through Shoreham Gap some 25 miles (40km) away. To learn more about the area, and enjoy the spectacular panoramic view from the top battlements, why not enter the tower. To return to the car park head down from the tower, turning left with your back to the noticeboard following the rail around to the top of the steps. Carefully take the steps back to the car park.
Windy Gap car park, grid ref: TQ139429
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