How to get there - Starting at the Stepping Stones near Dorking.
Public Vehicle Access to the Car Park at the Stepping Stones just passed Boxhill.
Get a map with driving directions to start or end (enter the postcode of your starting point at A)
Suggested Launch Site - It is simple and straight forward to find the turn off to the stepping stones off the London Road (A24) between the Burford Hotel and Dorking. After unloading your boat there is a short porterage of 100 yards to the stepping stones and a gentle ramp into the river Mole.
Description - This trip is at least 34kms and requires an early start along with full provisions if it is to be completed in a day.
We understand it took Captain Eel and Bosun Elver just over 11 hours continuous paddling to complete and the trip has not been done since 1951.
Given the continuing and increasing amount of fallen trees it is likely to get harder and harder in the future. There are only a few public footpaths and rights of way crossing and adjacent to the River throughout its length and in some areas exiting the river is not possible.
Best attempted in late or early summer after rainfall to appreciate the wildlife and to avoid hazards adjacent to the weirs.
We recorded over 50 smallish fallen tree obstacles requiring head protection to get through on the water, There were five locations where the canoe had to be exitted primarily due to weir damage and visible steel edges, but only two where porterage is required at Hersham and Tiffin School.
With a wide range of geography, wildlife and river conditions and features and the one way nature of the trip ending at Hampton Court Palace it is exciting.
Flora and Fauna galore and more than 30 Kingfishers, less than 3 people, historical sites, lovely bridges, Shallow and fast rapids, swallow holes, overtaking traffic on the M25 and then the final push through the slow sections towards the Thames. The worst features are between Cobham and Esher (ironically in the richest area too) where there are a couple of untreated sewage outfalls from a couple of big houses.
Apparently it used to be navigable and has since prehistoric times been too. Unclear legally so recommend no bank access except where porterage and public footpaths allow. Avoid peak weekend fishing periods and fisherman. Research shows one historic prosecution back in 1890s (Brookes). Wikipedia has some interesting information on the River Mole too. Full OS maps of the route should be carried and are recommended.
Comments on this trip
Michael 26 Oct 2019
Paddled with the water above the level of the stepping stones on a damp Sunday morning in October, from the stepping stones to the river mole nature reserve in Leatherhead. Fun, though one almost complete obstruction of the river, and hard to identify a good point to get out in Leatherhead once past the town centre. Only 4 kingfishers, but still very few people.
Jonathan Thornton 13 Apr 2017
Paddled the section from the Stepping Stones to Leatherhead on 9th April 2017. Family trip using two inflatable canoes. Water level low and we had to carry it several times, but that was fine. Very pretty section. Road noise sometimes a bit intrusive and several places where trees had come down but only once did they wholly obstruct the channel. Most of the time we could get round them ok. Overall, very easy and recommended.
Rob 27 Aug 2014
I paddled from Heywood (between Cobham and Esher) to the Thames in the summer of 2013. I used an inflatable canoe very pretty through the trees but a bit boring by the reservoir. Had to climb over two large weirs, up and down a metal ladder.
Mal Grey 02 Aug 2012
This is an excellent trip, but at the more serious end of the spectrum of paddles on this website.There can be many blockages, and when the water is deep enough to make the paddle possible, the flow is enough to make strainers a real possibility. A couple of the weirs are also worth respect.However, this is a truly lovely paddle, and when the water is at medium levels it is a great adventure for those prepared to climb in and out of a canoe through trees!A more realistic distance for most paddlers would be Dorking to Cobham, where there is an easy get out just below the easily portaged mill.