Box Hill is a well-known beauty spot with fantastic views over the South Downs – but did you know that it’s also a great place to go for a walk with children, with a dedicated ‘natural play trail’ with plenty of things to climb on, swing from and explore?
I’ve lived in this area for more than a decade and had only ever driven through Box Hill before. I have to admit I found the idea of going for a walk there a little daunting, as it is really steep, and I wasn’t sure is Box Hill suitable for young children? Where can you walk on Box Hill with young children? And is there anything at Box Hill for young children to do?
The answer to that is yes! We had lunch and cake in a café, followed a nature trail and came across dens, bridges, swings and more – my three and a half year old had a brilliant time with two of her friends and the adults really enjoyed themselves too.
The National Trust website for Box Hill is excellent – it tells you that to walk the full loop, it is 8 miles and will take around four hours, but there are several other routes you can take as well. I’d heard about the Stepping Stones, which are literally giant stepping stones crossing the river – there’s a trail that will take you down the hill, down some (sometimes slippery) steps and then back uphill at the end – or there is a hilltop stroll which will only take you 30 minutes. You can see all of the trails here, including how long they will take, and detailed descriptions of the route to take and landmarks you will pass on the way:
We chose the natural play trail, a flat two-mile walk aimed at children. It suggests the walk could take anywhere from an hour to a whole day depending on how long you stop and play; it took us a couple of hours with two three year olds and a five year old with lots of stops to climb on things. The route is described step by step here:
But you don’t need to worry about remembering this or keeping a copy to hand as the route is clearly marked with signposts as you go. We climbed on knobbly tree roots and logs, played in a den, swung on a rope, walked across a tightrope, and more. We had a lot of fun and the fact that there were lots of things to stop and do – as well as piles of leaves to kick through – meant the children didn’t find the walk too long. You can even do it with a buggy and the route guide lets you know of any places where you would need to take an alternative path.
There is a visitor car park but it’s not huge and we got one of the last spaces when we arrived mid-morning on a sunny weekend in November 2021.
The cafe has a few things for children to play with on the walls which helped keep them occupied. It has a fairly small menu of a few lunch dishes and various cakes, and isn’t particularly cheap, but the food – the cake in particular – was really nice. I would recommend taking a picnic lunch but definitely stopping for a drink and snack here after your walk!