Are the hills alive in Surrey?
There's a man buried on his head on Box Hill. Now, Box Hill is one of those beauty spots most of us have heard of - think Olympic road cycling, Jane Austen (the picnic in Emma), panoramic views of the other Surrey hills, Polesden Lacey, weekend bikers - but an eccentric local always livens things up. And if you do one of the many walks that use the visitor centre as a starting or stopping-off point, you'll probably pass his headstone. Or should that be footstone?
I found myself there on recently meeting friends for a walk. You could strike out with a map, but the visitor centre has several leaflets detailing circuits from very short and easy or a nature trail for children to an all-day hike. We opted to slither (it was a wet day) down to the stepping stones over the River Mole, although I took the footbridge option - the stones were slippery and someone fell in - and back up the steep side around the unusual wooded chalk cliffs called the Whites to a hot cuppa and cake at the cafe.
The views are fabulous, stretching across classic North Downs fields and woodland to Ranmore and Leith Hill, and if you don't want to take the car - access to the main car parks is via the aptly-named Switchback road which is very popular with cyclists - you can catch a train to Westhumble and walk up. Or cycle, of course.
For me though, Leith Hill is even better - the highest point in Surrey, it's part of the Greensand Ridge that links the North and South Downs. The famous tower, which I recall being told in primary school was built as a folly to make the hill into a mountain, gives panoramic views across as far as London to the north and the sea through Shoreham Gap to the south. You might need an exceptionally clear day for that, to be honest, but even so the views are wonderful - and of course there's a cafe there too. In not so many weeks it'll be time for the rhododendron wood at nearby Leith Hill Place to start looking magnificent, too.
Box Hill and Leith Hill are both a short trip from many of our holiday cottages around the West Sussex border - well worth a picnic. Click here to see our selection across Sussex.