Monday, 5 April 2010

Leith Hill (Circular) – (Surrey) – 05/04/10 – 9.5 Miles – IVC

My heart nearly stopped at Clapham Junction station, when it showed on the board three trains departing at 1038, with not one of them stopping at Holmwood. ‘Oh my God’ I thought, ‘the bank holiday is a Sunday service after all’ (as trains don’t stop at Holmwood on a Sunday). After standing there for something near ten minutes contemplating should I resign or just wait to be expelled from IVC, thankfully the board moved up a line and the 1038 to Horsham appeared (stopping at Holmwood). Just as well then as including myself we had 14 people along for this walk (sadly not 15), which I was pleased to see included an old friend from The Arts Group.
Now the logical lunch stop on this walk (as you know from my two previous blog entries on it) is the Plough in Coldharbour, and after three quarters of an hour of walking: down a lane, across fields, and through a farm, we were there. Sadly the food didn’t seem quite as exciting as when I was last there, probably not helped by our decision to sit in the garden whilst the chilly weather constantly threatened to suddenly throw it down. Anyway for the record I had two eggs, ham and chips, and no one had any pudding.

Having regrouped we set off up towards Leith Hill, passing to the left of Coldharbour cricket club. It’s amazing when walking in a group, how quickly everyone becomes strung out when going up any sort of gradient; and this was to become quite a feature of the day. The problem was compounded whenever I stopped to make sure no one took a wrong turn, as everyone else would then come to a halt to have a natter. Once at the National Trust tower on Leith Hill, various members of our group then stopped for refreshments at the Kiosk, which I found perplexing considering they had only left the pub about 50 minutes prior to that. One older member did drop out at this point however (which he had previously warned me that he was likely to do).

So moving on we carried on through Wooton common and Abinger Bottom, finally arriving at the Stephan Langton Inn, where two other members (who had been the slowest ones in the group) decided they were going to make an afternoon of it there. For my part I was busting for a leak, which is a bit difficult to go off and do discreetly behind a tree when you are leading a walk, and everyone is behind you. So it was with some relief (geddit) that I saw a sign pointing to the outside toilets at the pub. At this point a new member said she had blisters and wanted to know was there a way she could drop out early. However as she didn’t want to phone for a taxi at the pub, and didn’t want any plasters from my first aid kit, the answer was basically no, given that Holmwood is the only logical station. In the event however she soldiered on to the end.

More climbing by Broadmoor and subsequently some steady gradients along the Greensand Way, meant the group kept getting strung out again (you should see the dots in the background of the picture) all of which made fast progress difficult. Now I had said that the hourly 1719 train should be the one we caught, and I had also said in the flyer that we might stop for late afternoon tea when we got back to the Plough. By the time we got back there however, it soon became apparent we couldn’t do the latter and still achieve the former, which thankfully didn’t present a problem for anyone.

Thus the muddy descent back to Holmwood station took a complete hour (which I assumed we should have been able to do in 45 minutes) meaning when we arrived at Holmwood station we had made it with 10 minutes to spare. Thus everyone congratulated me on my perfect timing (sheer bloody luck) as well as saying how much they had enjoyed the walk (after moaning most of the time about how uphill it was, and latterly about how it must be more than 9.5 miles). Anyway everyone seemed pleased with their own individual efforts, apart from me after I forgot to put on my gators.