With my roots stemming from London, I thought I knew my country. But visiting home this summer, I realised just how beautiful England is, and I’m not only talking about aesthetics.
A trip to the Surrey Hills for 2 nights was a chance to catch up with my Bestie, who recently moved from London with her 3.4 children. Like thousands of others who leave The Smoke seeking a change from concrete, congestion and crowds, these hills are popular with folk wanting the perks of bucolic living but within an easy commute to the city.
However it’s not until you experience the new lifestyle through the eyes of a newly local, that you can deeply understand its attraction. Particularly when it captures you by surprise.
Why You Should Visit Surrey Hills
Driving alone from Chelsea that day, after dinner & drinks at The Harwood Arms the night before, PLUS, recovering from jeg-lag and a BUSY week on the road catching up with fam, I was not at all prepared for the windy, narrow roads that look like it came out of Emmerdale Farm. Particularly not in my upgraded hire car!
I was staying just past Shere so had to regularly swerve over and give way to passing 4x4s, down tight roads only wide enough for one at a time. It felt a bit Bridget Jones, circa film number 1 when she’s on her way to the country with Daniel Cleaver. Except I had a permanently horrified look etched across my face!
The village did actually feature in the Edge of Reason and The Holiday with Cameron Diaz and Jude Law; plus heaps of others have been shot in the area. Which is not surprising considering the magnitude of rural beauty that engulfs every inch of this 422 km2 landscape.
The Surrey Hills is known for its chocolate box villages aplenty but nothing quite beats the almost Bilbo Baggins like set-up that exists in Shere. I even had to duck walking into a shop that appeared to date back to the medieval era. For a bit of maths, 34 listed buildings exist in the centre alone and it holds a charm that is incalculable.
No corner of London could ever be so humble and bewitching and New Forest would even struggle to rival this place. Also, having recently lived in Australia, which HAS the beaches and amazing coastal drives, it can never have this.
Even Guildford Village, ‘the capital’ makes for a nice visit with its cute lane-ways, cobbled streets and chilled country town presence.
Visitors to Surrey Hills will undoubtedly partake in some form of physical activity. It wasn’t until I came on this occasion that I remembered family trips in the summer to Box Hill, past Devil’s Dyke.
Biking and hiking trails in Surrey Hills is Christmas for outdoorsy adventurers. You could
probably definitely spend your whole life here and never have to walk down the same path twice. And each will allow you to soak up the reason why this place is deemed an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’, with carpets of wild flowers and rolling hills.
Plus you’ll be filled with those happy vibes, in remoteness and serenity that seems to be increasingly harder to find in this urban world.
Pubs will make a great stop at the end of a walk, like this one in Gomshall. Locals often take a long stroll into the hills and come back to enjoy a pint and delicious pub grub. There is even a working mill inside.
There must also be a local etiquette guide that residents are required to sign before being granted the right of abode here because people in Surrey Hills are LOVELY.
The People of Surrey Hills
My bestie told me how she received 14 ‘welcome to the neighbourhood’ cards when she moved in. Where on Earth does that still happen?! We were also greeted by happy people who were not shy to say ‘hello’ to us whilst walking through the hills. And friendly bartenders who asked about your day. Coming from urbanised cities most of my life, it did make me wonder what I’m still doing in them.
But honestly, I think it’s impossible to be unhappy in the Surrey Hills.
Visiting this place gave me memories I’ll cherish forever, because of the beauty within its idyllic landscape, hospitality and people. It also made me immensely proud of my bestie who is the happiest I have ever seen her.
Whenever I visit somewhere that makes a big impact on me, I wonder if I could see myself living there in the future. As an eternal expat who has not looked back since departing 7 years ago, it could quite possibly be the place that takes me back to Blighty.
I’d better start saving for that downpayment 😉