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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

Butterflies, Trees and Landscapes. Box Hill, Dorking, Surrey. 22.06.22

Updated: Jun 25, 2022

Box Hill is under the stewardship of the National Trust Box Hill | National Trust, and is an extraordinarily beautiful landscape of chalk grassland and tress, part of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Naturel Beauty, see: The Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) - Towns & Villages in Surrey - Visit Surrey

To get to Box Hill I took the train from Brighton to Box Hill & Westhumble, changing at Three Bridges, Red Hill, Dorking Deepdene and Dorking Main. On the way back I went from Dorking Deepdene as I had walked from Box Hill to Dorking,

The photographs in this post in the chronological order. All sections of text in italics are quotations, sources cited.

Box Hill and Westhumble station has the most extraordinary booking hall for a station that serves a tiny village. It is a Victorian Gothic building listed by Historic Britain:

1867. By C H Driver. Gothic style railway station. Red brick with stone dressings and tiled roof.

Downside has booking hall with open hammerbeam roof. Large gabled porch supported by Venetian columns. Sash windows with Caernarvon heads. Tower with pyramid roof to the station house. Wooden platform canopy with scalloped valance and iron posts. Upside. Similar treatment. Central door with triple windows on either side. Cantilevered canopy.

A characterful building completely in period and very little altered. BOXHILL AND WEST HUMBLE RAILWAY STATION, Non Civil Parish - 1278326 | Historic England

The size and lavishness may reflect that Box Hill has always been a popular location for day trips. The coming of railway lines in 1849 and 1867 brought day trippers via Box Hill and West Humble Station (also known, over the years as ‘Westhumble’, ‘Boxhill’, and ‘Boxhill and Burford Bridge’), but many trippers came in via Dorking itself. By the end of the nineteenth century cyclists, charabancs and cars were also making the trip. So popular was Box Hill with Londoners by the twentieth century that ticket receipts reveal that 14, 000 arrived at Box Hill station on Whit Monday 1947, with another 12,000 travelling via Dorking North station. Box Hill (

As I started the walk to the summit of Box Hill, on the paths bordering the zig-zag road, I saw many butterflies; Marbled Whites and Dark Green Fritillaries were dominant (as one would predict from the typical flight times of these and other butterflies and the landscape; these are the butterflies typically common in late June on chalk grasslands).

Most of the Marbled Whites and Dark Green Fritillaries were in flight. I saw a few of these butterflies nectaring or mating on mostly purple wild flowers (Knapweeds, Wild Thyme etc.) and occasionally n yellow wild flowers (e.g. Horseshoe Vetch, Bird's-Foot Trefoil)

Male Marbled White

Dark Green Fritillary in flight

Male Marbled White on Knapweed

It was a pleasure to see my first Ringlets of the year. Ringlets, named for the rings on their underwings, are common but not easy to spot.

Female (more brown underwings)

The Marbled White is a distinctive and attractive black and white butterfly, unlikely to be mistaken for any other species. In July it flies in areas of unimproved grassland and can occur in large numbers on southern downland. It shows a marked preference for purple flowers such as Wild Marjoram, Field Scabious, thistles, and knapweeds. Adults may be found roosting halfway down tall grass stems.

Found in flowery grassland but may stray into gardens. This species is widespread in southern Britain and has expanded northwards and eastwards over the last twenty years, despite some losses within its range, with outlying populations in Yorkshire and SW Wales. Marbled White | Butterfly Conservation (

Female Marble White photobombed by a bee

Dark Green Fritillary leaving knapweed


Dark Green Fritillaries in flight

This large and powerful butterfly is one of our most widespread fritillaries and can be seen flying rapidly in a range of open sunny habitats. The males look similar to the High Brown Fritillary, which is far rarer but sometimes flies with them on bracken-covered hillsides. The two can be distinguished from the underwing markings, visible when they are feeding on flowers such as thistles.

The Dark Green Fritillary has declined in parts of central and eastern England but remains locally abundant in western England, around the coast of Wales and in Scotland Dark Green Fritillary | Butterfly Conservation (

The Zig-Zag Road and the downs of Box Hill

A Robin, which has lost of its feathers

Pyramid Orchid

Views from the top of Box Hill

Speckled Wood - underwings

The Grave of Peter Labelliere, on the summit of Bix Hill. He left instructions that on his death he was to be buried upside down on Box Hill, claiming that the world was topsy-turvy and he wanted to be right in the end. Box Hill: Labelliere’s Grave (

Box Hill Fort

The 15 London mobilisation centres, constructed during the 1890s, formed part of a comprehensive military scheme known as the London Defence Positions, drawn up in 1888 to protect the capital in the event of enemy invasion. The scheme was a response to the rapid progress made in warship production by France and Russia during the early 1880s, which had led to official doubts about the Royal Navy's defence capability. Essentially a contingency plan, it provided for the establishment of a 72 mile long, entrenched stop-line divided into ten tactical sectors and supported by artillery batteries and redoubts. The planned stop-line ran from the southern edge of the Surrey and Kent Downs, up the western side of the Darenth Valley to the Thames, and then north westwards through Essex from Tilbury Fort to Epping. Although the stop-line and main defence positions were not to be established until an invasion was imminent, it was thought prudent to build a series of mobilisation centres, 13 on new sites, along the projected course, either for artillery deployment or where troops could assemble and collect tools and supplies. By 1905, official confidence in the Royal Navy had been restored, and the now obsolete mobilisation centres were abandoned and gradually sold off. No two mobilisation centres are exactly alike, and a broad distinction can be drawn between the four centres purpose built for artillery deployment, and eight which functioned as infantry positions. However, in general terms there are close similarities: each, for example, was typically enclosed by a rampart, ditch and spiked fence, containing a partly earth-sheltered, reinforced concrete and brick built magazine and stores. Beyond the main compound were associated buildings of a standard type, including a brick caretakers lodge and a large, barn-like tool store. Most mobilisation centres have been the subject of subsequent alteration and/or reuse. As a short-lived and rare monument type, all mobilisation centres with surviving remains sufficient to give a clear impression of their original form and function are considered to be nationally important. Box Hill Fort: a London mobilisation centre, Non Civil Parish - 1018074 | Historic England

There are a group of ancient Yews on Box Hill

Viper's Bugloss

Dark Green Fritillary

Meadow Heath on Knapweed

Common Spotted Orchid

Male Marbled White on Knapweed

Male and Female Marbled White


A larger patch of Wild Thyme and rabbit droppings proved a magnet for Dark Green Fritillaries and Marbled White

Dark Green Fritillary on Wild Thyme

Female Marbled White

Hidden Dark Green Fritillary


One of the many hills of Box Hill

A Pair (male and female) of Marbled Whites

Common Spotted Orchids

The path to the top

Another Ringlet, much darker than the one seen at the beginning of the day, so probably newly emerged.

Looking back up to the summit

A bikers café at the bottom of Mill Hill provided a cold drink on a very hot day.

Burford Meadow and the Steeping Stones walk along the foot of Box Hill, along the Mole Valley

There were many Meadow Browns in the meadow, some quite tatty (so Butterflies that emerged a few weeks ago)

The meadows

Another Meadow Brown

The walk through the Meadows

An old post at the Stepping Stones Bridge

The Mole

A fledgling Robin

The Stepping Stone

The Weypole (or Waypole) is a roughly semi-circular 2.4 ha (5.9-acre) area of level ground at the foot of Box Hill, between The Whites and the River Mole. The area was originally part of the grounds of Burford Lodge, built by John Eckersall in 1776, and the apple and cherry trees in the area suggest that it was used as an orchard for a time. The Burford Lodge estate was later owned by the horticulturalist Sir Trevor Lawrence, who created a garden along the banks of the Mole for his collection of orchids.

A ford across the River Mole is thought to have existed here since prehistoric times. The way-pole was a notched post secured in the riverbed, to indicate the depth of the water. Stepping stones at this site are first recorded in 1841 and they may have been installed by an owner of Burford Lodge to facilitate access to the Weypole orchard. The current stones were dedicated in September 1946 by the then Prime Minister Clement Attlee, replacing those destroyed during World War 2 as an anti-invasion measure. Box Hill, Surrey Facts for Kids (

Banded Demoiselle - male

Speckled Wood

Beautiful (name not adjective) Demoiselle - female

Meadow Brown

Banded Demoiselle - female

Chickens were an important part of the Dorking economy

The London 2012 Olympics held the men's and women's road races on Box Hill

Even long after the passing of the torch relay and cycle races through the area, and after the Olympic rings have been taken down from Box Hill, the sight of two steel cyclists will remain on the roundabout outside Denbies Wine Estate as a reminder of this summer's sporting events.

If the British cyclists who ride past it in next week's races are as fast as the process by which this sculpture was thought up, designed, granted permission, built and put on top of the junction of the A24 and Pixham Lane, then they will surely be the country's first medal winners at the London 2012 Games. Olympics cycling sculpture unveiled in Dorking - Surrey Live (



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