This Saturday I agreed to ride the Leith Hill Octopus, it is an unofficial sportive route which takes in all 8 ascents up Leith Hill in Surrey. Although Box Hill is probably the most famous climb in Surrey following the Olympic road race course Leith Hill is much more challenging and steep. Adding to that is the face the road conditions vary a lot, it is quite narrow and there are steep banks on either side of the road for a large proportion of the routes.
I’ve climbed a few of the routes up before but certainly not all in one ride especially as at least 2 loops of Barhatch Road had been thrown in at the end to add to the pain. This was all training for the other guys I was cycling with to ride the 3 faces of Ventoux in September, unfortunately I can’t make that trip though.
We all met at the main Dorking Station not far for the start of the first climb up Coldharbour Lane. Fortunately the morning rain had cleared leaving the roads a bit damp bit clear sky’s a bit of sun and a good temperature for setting off at 8am. There is no real build up to this ride to get the legs working, even heading from the car park, through Dorking and to
Coldharbour Lane (~5%) is mostly uphill. Coldharbour Lane is probably one of the more classic Leith Hill climbs having done it a few times I knew what was in store, there are a few points where you reach a flat part or a small down hill only to find you’re not quite at the top. The route goes through the small Coldharbour village (with a nice pub) and then finally heads past Leith Hill Place for the final ascent which we got very familiar with throughout the day. The “top” of the route is the highest point on the Leith Hill Road as no road crossed over the actual summit. The descent down to the A25 was one of the nicer ones but in a high banked cutting and a chance to recover somewhat.
After a bit down the A25, we headed up to the next ascent through Holmbury (average ~2%), this is part of the ascent on the Ride London route, this time we went left into Pastures Wood Road, it had steep start but a short break with a bit of downhill before the end of the road and right back on to Leith Hill Road southbound to the highest road point again.
The next descent was good fun on nice roads towards the A29 with a chance to recover and get some speed. The 3rd ascent up Broomehall Road (average ~4%; peaking ~12.5%) starts off fairly steady the s brief steep section it then gets narrower but still fairly steady. Just as you think you are at the top you have a final left turn up a ~20% climb for the final
kicker, some people had stopped for a break at the bottom of a this which I am sure means they have to do the whole thing again. The kicker brings you back on to Abinger Road and another climb up to the highest point on the road and some further familiarisation with the pot holes outside the Leith Hill tower car parks.
The descent this time was through Abinger branching left down Abinger Lane back to the A25 and then on to Hollow Lane (average ~4%; peak ~7%) which was the first descent. This was a steady fairly long ascent without any real steep parts to worry about. It felt good getting to the top again knowing we were half way through the Octopus but a bit worrying how much was still left!
The descent was back down Coldharbour Lane but turning left into Logmoore Lane. This was probably the worst road of the route with loose gravel all over the place, very narrow and pretty sketchy, certainly descent with a lot of caution here. This brought us back to the A25 for the 5th ascent, this starts on the A25 up to Wotton, just before the Wotton Hatch pub we turned left into Sheephouse Lane (average ~3%; peak ~19.5%), this is another quite narrow climb with a steep initial section although the last part is fairly flat and easy going.
The descent was the same route as descent 2 back down to the A29 before going back up the road past Broomhall and to Henhurst Cross Lane for the 6th ascent up into Coldharbour. This turns into Anstie Lane (average 7.5%; peak ~22%) this starts of quite gradual then a middle steep section with a fairly flat finish, this come back on to Abinger Road just before Coldharbour village for the ride back to the road summit. We were getting quite fed up with the final ascent to the top up Leith Hill Road by this point. The descent was back down the way we came up the 2nd time which was probably my favourite descent on some quite nice roads where you could get some good freewheeling and recovery time.
The 7th ascent was up Leith Hill Lane (average ~7%; peaking 12%) following the main Ride London Leith Hill ascent but with much less congestion this time so i beat my previous time up here. The route continued on to Leith Hill Road the the highest point for the penultimate time.
The descent for the last Leith Hill climb followed the same route as the last but turned off left a bit earlier up Tanhurst Lane (average ~7%; peak ~20%) which was certainly saving the best till last. This was the only one with a 12% warning road sign and it meant it, was a brutal final ascent along a quite narrow road with hedges or banking either side. This comes out past the Leith Hill Place car park before turning right on to the now so familiar final part of Leith Hill Road to the small lay-by at the highest point. I did take a video the final descent and ascent, although the battery died just before the summit! This has been sped up to twice real speed.
Unfortunately for us this wasn’t the end, where most people decide enough is enough and head back to Dorking we’d decided to go find Barhatch Road, a longer steeper climb that any on Leith Hill. Where there is a 21% road warning sign you know it is steep (average 6.5%).
I had done this climb once before and it was no better than that time especially after the Octopus beforehand. It starts off with a fairly short climb and then a descent before you finally see what is ahead after a right hand corner and the road goes super steep with high banking making it feel very enclosed, and very close when cars go past in either direction, although steep it is not the place to have a wobble. Then if that wasn’t enough there is a final kicker, apparently peaking at 28%, at the top that you have to force yourself over.
If that wasn’t enough we were set to do another lap up a less steep climb but instead ended up back on Barhatch and doing the climb again. This time to took it very slowly just to save some energy to get home at the end!
The ride back took us over Hoe Lane, through the small village of Hoe and back to the A25. Here it is a race down the main A25 back into Dorking and to the station where we started.
It was a good fun challenge but not one I’d want to repeat in the near future! If you are based in or can get to the Surrey area the Octopus is worth a go though, perhaps not with the added extras on Barhatch though. If you are thinking of doing this don’t rely on a bike GPS for navigation, my friends Garmin’s got confused about where they were on the course at various points especially when losing GPS signal. I took a laminated print out of the route including written arrows for each lap which was very useful to pull out of the back pocket and study on the flat sections.