The Surrey Hills Landscape
The beauty and distinctiveness of the Dorking area is mostly the result, of its complex geology. Within this area are the sweeping and dramatic North Downs, an escarpment that eventually outcrops to form the famous white cliffs of Dover. It is at its most dramatic where the River Mole has cut through the chalk below Box Hill to form the District's own white cliffs. The chalk itself is too soft and porous to be a good building material, but the hard flint contained within it is widely used for construction and decoration in churches, public buildings and houses.
To the north, above Leatherhead, are the London clays. These often provide damp, heavy conditions unsuitable for farming and living. But they are havens for wildlife and the ancient trees and woodlands are excellent for walking and riding.
Similar damp conditions and heavy soils characterise The Low Weald to the south and east of Dorking. Farming has tamed the landscape and the pattern of small fields with neat hedges and solitary oak trees provides a complete contrast to the rounded hills of the North Downs. Ancient woodlands provide special places to walk and observe the wild flowers, birds and butterflies. Many of these places are open to the public.
Last, but certainly not least are the Greensand Hills. They rise at Leith Hill to almost 1,000 feet to form the highest point in South East England. These hills run south of and parallel to the North Downs, but are at their most dramatic to the west of Dorking. Much of the town itself is built on the Greensand. The acid, sandy soils were once characterised by open heathland, grazed by sheep and cattle. Today their character is more wooded, hiding magical villages such as Friday Street and Coldharbour.