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Back to full list   At 193 metres (634 feet), it is prominent in the landscape, standing at the corner of one of the few big gaps in the otherwise unbroken line of the North Downs. Since Roman times all lines of communication have had to pass through the gap carved by the River Mole right beside Box Hill: the Roman Stane, or 'Stone', Street, linking the then seaport of Chichester with London, crossed the River Mole by a ford; and that was followed by the carriageways, the stagecoach routes, the railway and the present-day roads.
The seventeenth-century diarist John Evelyn, who lived nearby for a time, noted on 27 August 1655: 'I went... to Box Hill to see those rare natural bowers, cabinets and shady walkes in the box coppses ... there are such goodly walks and hills shaded with yew and box as render the place extreamely agreeable, it seeming to be summer all the winter for many miles prospect.'
But it is clear that other visitors were not just attracted by the natural beauty of the place. Daniel Defoe observed in A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724-6) that 'here every Sunday, during the summer season, there used to be a rendezvous of coaches and horsemen, with abundance of gentlemen and ladies from Epsome to take the air, and walk in the boxwoods; and in a word, divert, or debauch, or perhaps both, as they thought fit, and the game increased so much, that it began almost on a sudden, to make a great noise in the county.'   To the Victorians it was literally a breath of fresh air, and the advent of the railway in 1849 made easy access possible for large numbers of people. They came to walk, cycle, picnic and admire the views and their surroundings.

Box Hill is so close to London that it still draws around a million visitors a year. In 1971 it was declared an official Country Park, a measure that was intended to protect countryside near cities and give people a chance to enjoy the open air. Box Hill is one of the best-known summits of the North Downs, the chalk ridge which runs from the Hampshire border, eastwards through Surrey and Kent to the Straits of Dover. Hilaire Belloc, who loved the North Downs, described Box Hill as 'the strongest and most simple of our southern hills'; and there is certainly something elemental about it.




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