I visited Box Hill on Sunday; my first time there in thirty one years. Time plays tricks on the memory of course, but it was largely as I had remembered it, only much, much busier. Thirty one years ago we drove there from Carshalton in my mum’s friends’ car (as briefly remembered here), but this time I cycled there from the Surrey Hills under largely blue skies peppered with wisps of cloud scudding quickly past in the fierce north easterly wind. This being my first time up on a bicycle I took it easy, somehow always expecting Zig Zag Road to get steeper, and certainly for it to be longer. In reality the climb was over in the blink of an eye, and for the professionals who will ride it as part of the 2012 Olympic road race parcours I am sure it will seem little more than a pimple on the route.
It certainly does seem to be a Mecca for cyclists though. I was astonished at the number of riders assembled in the grounds of the cafe at the top, and who I had passed on my ride out there. Devon, by comparison, would appear to be a road cycling hinterland... I would be lucky to count the same number of cyclists I saw in one day in Surrey in a year in Devon.
It must be said though that the views from the top of Box Hill are very, very pretty: the garden of England spread below like a luxurious sun-kissed blanket. Thirty one years ago I remember seeing model gliders drift up on the thermals. This time there was only clear air (perhaps the National Trust has banned such activities in favour of healthier pastimes?) and the distant cries of hawks unseen.