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Leigh's Triangular Landscape

A peaceful walk through the pastoral scenery of Leigh and the upper Mole valley.

Distance 4 miles (6.4km)

Minimum time 1hr 45min

Ascent/gradient 73ft (22m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Field edge and cross field paths, 22 stiles

Landscape Low lying, small scale agricultural scenery

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 146 Dorking, Box Hill & Reigate

Start/finish TQ 223468

Dog friendliness Keep on lead near livestock

Parking Lay-by between the Plough and church in Leigh

Public toilets None on route

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1 With your back to the Plough, turn left onto the village green and take the signposted footpath through the churchyard and across an open field to a wooden footbridge. Cross the brook, and the waymarked stile 40yds (37m) further on, then follow the hedge on your right to the far corner of the field. Jump the stile, and turn left onto a waymarked bridleway.
After 100yds (91m), bear right through a waymarked wicket gate towards another stile. Nip across, and continue straight ahead towards the far corner of the field. Turn right over a waymarked stile, and up the short hill beside the woods. At the brow, you'll come to a stile; don't jump it, but turn right, towards the triangulation pillar (or trig point) across the field. As you'd expect, there are some splendid views from here.

2 Turn hard left at the triangulation pillar, and double back to the far corner of the field. Yes, you could have kept straight on beside the hedge you were following earlier, but that would have been trespassing! Cross the stile in the corner of the field, then follow the succession of waymarked stiles that lead you to Dene Farm, and guide you across the farm drive. Bear half right here, and cross the field to a plank bridge and stile. Continue through the next field, and out onto Deanoak Lane.

3 Turn left; then, just beyond the double bend, turn left again, up the lane towards Stumblehole Farm. Follow the lane straight past Tamworth Farm and through a small patch of woodland, then bear left at the three way signpost onto a concrete road.
Continue past Bury's Court School; then, 55yds (50m) beyond Keeper's Cottage, look out for a metal gate on your right. Climb over here, and bear away beside the infant River Mole. Follow the waymarked route over a wooden footbridge, and out onto Flanchford Road.

4 Turn left, as far as Little Flanchford Cottages. A few paces further on, take the footpath on your left, and cross the stile after 150yds (137m). Now bear right across two footbridges, and continue along the right hand edge of the next three fields. Walk diagonally to your left across the fourth field, to a small wicket gate. Turn left here, for the last 100yds (91m) along the road and back to the start.

Leigh is one of those places that seems happy for history to pass it by. Indeed, part of its charm is that so little seems to have happened here recently. Your walk starts on the picturesque village green, where the pub, church and adjoining Priest's House all have their origins in the 15th century. Just up the road, Leigh Place may be older still; but in 1530 it was sold to Edward Shelley, an ancestor of the poet. The sale deed records the village as 'Lye' - and that's how the name is pronounced.

In Tudor times, Leigh was in the heart of Surrey's Black Country. There was a small iron smelting furnace or 'bloomery' here, and the water-powered hammers near Hammer Bridge, to the south of Clayhill Farm, would beat the metal into shape. Later, the dramatist Ben Jonson is said to have lived at Swain's Farm; but by then the place was so quiet that an early 20th century writer wondered what on earth he could have found to do there.

To put Leigh on the map, you must climb to the top of the low hill above Swain's Farm. Here, about a mile into your walk, you'll come to a curious concrete pillar standing aloof near the middle of the field. The column is just one of around 6,500 'triangulation pillars' that, until very recently, formed the basic framework for all Ordnance Survey mapping.

Triangulation relies on a network of triangles with precisely measured sides and angles, like the frame of those geodetic domes that were popular in the 1970s. It all started in the reign of George III, when Major General William Roy was commissioned by the Royal Society to measure the first baseline on Hounslow Heath, now the site of Heathrow Airport.

Roy had campaigned for a national mapping authority, but he died in 1790, a year before the Ordnance Survey was founded. The new organisation built on Roy's work to complete the triangulation of Great Britain, and published its first one-inch-to-the-mile maps during the early years of the 19th century. These were to become the Ordnance Survey's flagship products, progressing through seven different series until being replaced by the modern Landranger maps in the mid-1970s. On the top of the triangulation pillar, you'll see the metal fitment where generations of Ordnance Survey surveyors have fixed their theodolites to check the location of similar pillars on the surrounding hills. But time marches on. At the dawn of the new millennium, the advent of satellite-based global positioning systems (GPS) has transformed map-making technology and consigned most of these hilltop pillars to the history books; some have even been demolished. Leigh can once more return to its slumbers.

Where to eat and drink

The Plough in Leigh is your stereotype English country pub, with its pretty flower tubs and pleasant garden. White weatherboarded and tile-hung, it sits comfortably overlooking the village green. There are Hall & Woodhouse ales behind the bar and a huge range of eating options, from bar snacks to restaurant meals. It's open all day at weekends. Dogs are welcome in the public bar and garden and children under 14 in the restaurant and garden.

What to look for

Take a good look at the west end of St Bartholomew's Church as you set off through the churchyard - it has a remarkable history. Much of the church dates from around 1430, when the building was given a low stone tower and weatherboarded belfry. It stood for more than four centuries, until it was replaced by a larger tower when the church was restored in 1855. But the new tower didn't last. In 1890 it was swept away in a dramatic remodelling which extended the nave, and added the western porch and shingled spire which you see today.

While you're there

A short drive will bring you to Reigate Priory Museum, which shares its impressive location with Reigate Priory School. The priory buildings date from Tudor times, and are set in 65 acres (26.3ha) of parkland on the outskirts of town. Here you'll find changing displays of local history, domestic items and costumes, often displayed in life-like settings that evoke the spirit of their time. The museum's facilities include a gift shop and toilets, and it's open on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons.

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