Friday, June 30, 2017

Playing the Tourist: Box Hill

Emma lives a very cloistered life in Surrey. The fictional town of Highbury and her home of Hartfield are her entire world. A trip to Mr. Knightly's house is a big to-do. It's literally a half a mile away from Hartfield and Mr. Knightly visits Emma and her father daily and yet she hasn't been to Donwell Abbey in over two years! With these locations being in a small fixed sphere and fictional you might think that there's no way to "play the tourist" for Emma, but you'd be wrong. Because there is Box Hill! Box Hill is a very real place and if you think visiting Donwell Abbey is a big endeavor, just think about what going to an actual tourist site means for Emma? But it's just not the fact that Emma gets to see a glimpse of the wider world which makes Box Hill so important, it's that it's during this trip that everything comes to a head narratively speaking. During this trip Jane Fairfax decides to leave Highbury, Mr. Knightly gives up hope of winning Emma because of the display her and Frank Churchill put on, but most importantly this is where Knightly gives his "badly done Emma" smack down which makes her start to reflect inwardly and finally grow into the woman who would marry Mr. Knightly. Box Hill doesn't just command gloriously epic views of Surrey, it's an epic place psychologically for all our characters. Seriously, Box Hill is the linchpin of Emma.
 And while the excursion for our beloved characters mights not have gone to plan, that doesn't mean you should skip this destination spot which is cared for by the National Trust, there's a plaque and everything! It is the twelfth highest spot in Surrey and overlooks Dorking to the southwest. Due to generous donations of land and money over the years to save the site from development the area covers over 1,200 acres that you can walk admiring over forty species of butterflies and plants. That makes me sound incredible dorky (dorking?) when it comes to nature, but who doesn't love a pretty flower with a butterfly landing on it? Bizarre side note, my friend Matt actually made up a song about Butterfly Weed that I can still sing. If you're like me though the main thing you're wondering is why it's called Box Hill. Apparently it takes it's name from the box woodland on the steep west-facing chalk slopes overlooking the River Mole. Though I have no idea how the River Mole got it's name so I'm just going to make up a The Wind in the Willows reference for my own amusement. And speaking of amusement which tends to lead for the need of refreshment, instead of needing a huge staff of servants to take a picnic to the top of Box Hill for you the National Trust has kindly put in a cafe in the shop cum visitor's center near the viewpoint which serves light lunches and afternoon teas with takeaway teas and cakes available. So who's ready to go with me? You're paying.


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