Run Report 1962 – The Volunteer, Abinger Sutton

Never accuse Virgil of short-cutting!

Scribed by Secret Squirrel

The Spring is sprung, the grass is riz

I wonder where dem hashers is?

They should be out upon the trail,

But they’re getting old, and bodies fail …

(apologies to whatever comedian coined the original about birds on the wing and wings on the bird).

It was a glorious spring morning on Sunday in the Tillingbourne Valley. The sun was shining strongly, and the ground was firm and dry underfoot. It was not too hot or too cold, in fact the conditions for running could not have been better. The only fly in the ointment was that someone had closed the road from Abinger Hammer towards Holmbury and everyone was trying to use Raikes Lane as the alternative route. Gathering on the junction with Raikes Lane just outside The Volunteer were Call Girl, TIFM, Secret Squirrel and the hares (Wally & Sparkly). Was this going to be it? Well, it was only 10:30 so there was time for some more to arrive, and Cynthia, ITB, Virgil and Venus duly responded (I won’t mention Virgil’s struggles to park in the pub’s empty carpark, sometimes you can have just too much choice). Sorry John’s motor was there, so we guessed that he was somewhere ahead of us, but, with CG and ITB also walking, it was a very select pack that intended to run. Luckily Wally decided to be checking-chicken and so we became six.

Wally’s briefing told us that it was marked in sawdust in Guildford Hash style (ie no marked falsies), not one but 2 re-groups to look forward to, and we should beware of mountain bikes which were out in force that morning, and then Sparkly waved us off towards the Abinger road. Clearly Virgil has set trails around this area before and he set off as though in a hurry to get away from the rest of us (or maybe just Venus, who had been very rude about his parking). Like a shot from a gun or a rat up a drainpipe he was away and racing up that steep and narrow footpath leading to Tellytubby Land (as Sparkly calls it), that area of big houses on private roads east of Peaslake. There is only one footpath through there and Wally’s circles were no challenge to a hasher in the know.

I was however just close enough behind to hear Virgil asking a dog-walker whether they had seen any sawdust when he got to the first circle where a real choice of routes existed. (He was probably wise because S-J admitted later that he had tried the correct route, given up, tried the wrong route, given up, and then persevered that bit further to find the trail at last, just beyond the stile.) But that is a downside to this type of trail marking, if a passer-by can tell you they have seen just one blob of sawdust along a possible path then they have told you all you need to know at that point!

It didn’t matter too much because the next couple of circles, when we emerged onto Franksfield, did for Virgil and me very comprehensively and brought about a natural re-group. Wally must have been pleased to witness that! We jinked this way and that around those confusing lanes until we finally came out onto Pursers Lane, the main road into Peaslake. Virgil went a long way down the road towards that village while Venus found the trail going in the opposite direction, towards Gomshall, and then led us on tracks west and south, returning to Pursers Lane just beyond the point where Virgil had last been seen. A little way beyond that we came to a circle at a place that has been used many times before with a choice of going on into Peaslake (and towards Holmbury Hill, where the mountain bikers we had been warned about would probably be found) or turning back and west into a grassy field on a path contouring around a gentle slope. I had only gone about 15 yards beyond that circle when a male voice called “on-on” from about 40 yards along the other trail – clearly that wasn’t Venus, maybe TIFM had taken a short-cut? I hurried back and round the hill, only to see Virgil way out ahead of us. The last time I had seen him he was about 100 yards behind us at the bottom of a hill going the wrong way – how had he got so far in front? Well, he took the wrong direction again at the next circle and so I was in front of him as we toiled up the big field, once more heading towards Peaslake, and as he passed me I casually chided him on taking a short-cut on Pursers Lane instead of doing the loop that Venus had led round there. I might just as well have accused him of raping and murdering small children – let’s just say he was mightily offended! But he must have made a huge effort to get past us all like that.

Fortunately, by the time we reached the first regroup, in a field with a lovely avenue of beech (?) trees (that hadn’t been planted the first few times I ran that path) and a glorious view to the North Downs above Gomshall, Virgil had recovered his sense of humour and I had acknowledged the error of my suspicions. Wally was disappointed that we not so much guessed as knew the correct way to leave that re-group, directly down to The Hurtwood Inn and “Mountain biker central”. Foolishly, I started up the road beside Peaslake Church despite it being on the wrong ridge for our destination, but Virgil’s calls as he ran through the middle of the village were so loud that they could be heard in Guildford, and I was soon following him again.

The hares wanted us to do 2 sides of a small triangle and thus avoid the very steep path up from Peaslake, but their system of marking didn’t allow them to make this clear. Virgil found a blob about 25 yards from the circle (and 50 feet above it) on the direct route and so naturally called us on that way. (Hmmm – a cross, marking it as a falsie, would have worked really well there, to send him back down to the road and then irritate him when the full trail brought him back just above that cross a few moments later – sigh!!).

The remainder of the trail, where we soon caught up with S-J and his one dog, was a delight. We ran hither and thither around Holmbury Woods, on wide tracks and narrow paths, with gentle ascents and descents, the glorious sunshine was making everyone happy, and there was hardly a mountain bike to be seen. Virgil made enough mistakes at circles to allow most of the rest of us to have the lead at some point, and we were so close together at the 2nd re-group that we didn’t linger much at all. The final descent in the woods, down to the Abinger-Holmbury road gave Venus plenty to think about with treacherous tree roots aplenty, so she and Cynthia took that gently, while Virgil roared ahead. We crossed the road with a little arrow pointing us towards a lovely footpath, crossing the valley and taking us to Sutton Lane and the on-in along Water Lane. Virgil took line-honours, of course, but he didn’t have to track back very far before he met Venus to accompany her to the finish in a demonstration of restored marital harmony.

Verdict: I hope that those of you reading this who missed this run were having a good time on Sunday – because you missed a cracker! The route provided some good running and a variety of views and conditions. Despite a very small pack, we coped with unmarked falsies pretty well (or Virgil did, because he probably did more route finding and explored more non-trails than anyone else) and all got back within a few minutes of each other having covered nearly 6 miles. Thank you Sparkly and Wally for your efforts, they were worth it!

At the Pub: We gathered in the garden at the picnic benches furthest away from the bar (because all the others were marked as reserved), where some could lie on the warm soft grass. The beers were all Badger brewed and Fursty Ferret seemed the most popular. Venus was especially pleased to get a huge tea-pot and even a jug of hot water to go with it, she was able to drink about 2 pints of that warming beverage (and I am not talking about the one made at the Hogs Back Brewery), all it (and we) lacked was a Tea-Cosy! We had a choice of plain or cheesy chips, both of which were soon consumed.

Sadly, Sparkly was struggling with a shoulder injury which was really giving her grief. Apparently, it had started as an arm injury on the golf course but had somehow spread and taking a jacket on and off caused her acute pain. Hopefully she will recover soon – and stay off the golf course!

From our vantage point in The Volunteer’s garden, we had a grandstand view of the junction between Raikes Lane and the Abinger road as a queue of classic cars tried to pass through towards the A25. It was fun guessing which way they would turn and betting on which ones would return having given up on either Hoe Lane or Raikes Lane in the face of on-coming SUVs driven by Surrey people who don’t know how to find reverse gear. Oh, how we laughed – and then plotted our escape via Sutton Lane and Hollow Lane. What an excellent morning it had been!


Run Report 1960: The Wotton Hatch

Pheasant Fun

Scribed by Secret Squirrel

The Pis’t’offen Ramblers’ Club met up at the Wotton Hatch last Sunday in bright but chilly conditions. The walkers set off in various groups at different times, and included some of the following: Sorry John, Robic, Moondance, Sparkly, Call Girl, Maid Marion, and ITB. Around the same time a few runners turned up to try and follow Trip Advisor’s sawdust trail in its entirety, without hesitation, repetition or deviation – these included: Wally, Robin Hood, Venus, Cynthia, Newish Heather, TIFM and your scribe Secret Squirrel. Actually, TIFM very nearly missed this run because he went to the other Hatch first (the one at Abinger) but realised his mistake when he found no runners or walkers waiting there!

As the Speaking Clock called us to order, our hare issued a short briefing to the effect that it was set in “Guildford” style (so no marked falsies), there would be one re-group after 4.39 miles, and the overall trail was at least 7 miles. Oh, and the trail started and finished through the housing estate just behind the pub where TA’s lovely neighbours had already been out with their dustpans and brushes to remove the sawdust trail!

With that, we were off, and passed through the vandalised section without trouble as there is only one way to go. An early attempt to go towards Wolvens Lane was foiled by a lack of sawdust, but TIFM found our route along the Greensand Way until a pair of circles barely 20 feet apart caused us some confusion, with Venus taking the lead and heading down onto Sheephouse Lane (I think that she was convinced we were going to be taken to Leith Hill and based her guesses around that hunch for quite a lot of the run, this time it worked for her). For a while we headed towards Friday Street, until a decisive circle near Kempslade Farm turned us east and back down to the Tillingbourne stream, which we followed for a while, past the artificial waterfall and into the hamlet of Broadmoor. Here I lost my substantial lead with 2 wrong choices in quick succession, and so ended up following Cynthia further to the East and up a very steep climb into Simons Copse (where TIFM should surely have had the advantage of personal knowledge) and eventually to a circle at Wolvens Lane.

TA could have taken us anywhere from this point, south towards Leith Hill would have been Venus’s choice, north towards home was where the short-cutting ramblers went, but we were led on further to the east and a merry dance around Squire’s Great Wood. Newish Heather made a bold move here and led us round the hill on a wide forest track, but the next circle deceived her as she wisely hesitated to take the downhill route although that was eventually the way to go. At the next, Venus boldly announced that she was not a gambler and was still on her way to Leith Hill, so she did not follow me when I headed sharp left and steeply downhill – but I was right and she was wrong, and in the end she had to follow me. We twisted and turned in the woods, still going downhill, until we arrived at Squire’s Farm where I made my last mistake of the morning and explored a path which Virgil had used sometime ago coming up from Westcott.

But Venus was right this time as she headed down the smooth concrete road – and found she had made a new friend (or collected a new pet)! There was a splendid cock pheasant in the field beside the road and he started running down the fence beside Venus – his legs must have been less than one-twentieth of the length of hers but he was a game bird (get it?) and he kept pace with her. To test his resolve, Venus stopped and ran back up the slope again, but he was up for that challenge and stayed beside her. A phone was produced so that these antics could be filmed, and I expect you will find them posted somewhere on social media. The parallel running was repeated several times before Venus tired of the game (the pheasant was still up for it) and headed off down the hill again. I think several of the pack kept it going for a while longer because they were a little way behind us when we made a mess of a pair of circles at Logmore Lane.

So the group was quite close together as we headed to the north, down onto the flatlands and at last found the re-group just before we reached the lake at Bury Hill Fisheries. It was past 12 o’clock, and that used to mean that we were missing drinking time, so we didn’t linger here and soon pressed on all together. There was a short stretch of tricky ground with tree roots, mud, rocks and all sorts of hazards underfoot; here Venus slowed down announcing that she didn’t want to fall flat on her face – only to do precisely that about 50 yards further on when it was difficult to identify just what had tripped her up! Luckily the mud there was soft and gentle, so no damage was done other than to her dignity.

A sharp left turn at the next circle allowed us to feel we were heading towards home, but there was still a daunting climb ahead of us. Wally was amused by a sign on a gate advising us that we were on a “Public Footpath across Private Land, so we should take only photographs and leave only footprints”. Thus warned, we staggered on as the contour lines began to accumulate across our route. We went up through Logmore Green, and more and more steeply uphill to finally reach Wolvens Lane for the third time of the morning in a breathless state. At last, we were allowed to follow it, initially to the north and finally west to return to Wotton and the cleaned up on-in past TA’s neighbours.

All the runners returned between 12:35 and 12:40, to be met by Sparkly and Call Girl who had returned a short while before. There was no sign of the hare to welcome us back, I think she was already in the pub without a care in the world, having supreme confidence that we would all find her trail and come home safely.

VERDICT: This was a long but interesting route which certainly took us in some unexpected directions at times. From a technical point of view, and in the interests of “hare training” I would like to suggest that it is helpful to keep laying blobs of sawdust at fairly regular intervals along all of the route, even after the correct direction from a circle has been established. This is because I had a few anxious times, wondering whether I had passed a circle without seeing it, because I found no blobs to reassure me. I am sure that those following my calls were quite happy and we all enjoyed a great morning’s outing in the Surrey Hills, so thank you Trip Advisor for all your efforts.

AT THE PUB: By the time I had stretched and changed, there was quite a gang seated in a far corner of the pub as the ramblers and hashers were now united. A party of other diners at the next table were probably less happy with the general noise and the difficulty of allowing me to squeeze through to join Sparkly and Wally by the window, so sensibly they left soon after. The St Austell Brewery’s Tribute Ale was the choice preferred over the ubiquitous Doombar, but chips were not ordered due to overpricing and under-delivery on our last visit to this pub. I did not linger, despite the pleasant company, as it was Boat Race day and I wanted to watch the full broadcast. But some of our number looked well settled and maybe they are still there now.

Run Report 1958 – Hindhead

Take my breath away

Scribed by Secret Squirrel

We were given fair warning at the previous week’s hash that this was going to be a mountainous run. Hawkeye’s words then were something like “Ice-axes and crampons would probably be useful”. So, as I drove towards the Hindhead Tunnel on a sunny spring morning, it seemed appropriate that Steve Wright played the hit song from the film Top Gun – “Take my breath away”. Yes, I thought, breath is going to be in short supply this morning.

But all was peaceful in the sheltered glade where we gathered somewhere between the Churt Road and The Devil’s Punch Bowl. It was a bit chilly in the shade so the assembly kept finding sunny patches as we moved to greet each new arrival. Wally got there first, followed by your scribe, Pis’t’man Pat, Easily Overlooked, Robin Hood, Venus, Trip Advisor, Tea Cosy, and finally TIFM. We later discovered that Sorry John was somewhere out on the trail, although I didn’t see his car parked on the track. TIFM had evidently taken Hawkeye’s warning to another level because he brought a ladder with him, though fortunately the hare was able to persuade him to leave it strapped to the roof of his van because it would have been a cumbersome accessory to carry on the downhill stretches.

We were told the route was fairly short but mostly up and down, there would be a flatter bit towards the end, and there was a re-group. Setting off back the way we had come, we found it just as difficult to run along the pot-holed and bumpy track as it had been to drive on it a few moments earlier, but we managed to get to the woods without any fallers. We were led to the top of Golden Valley and were then presented repeatedly with a conundrum – an old PH3 maxim is “never run downhill from a circle”, so Hawkeye set a series of circles along the path down the valley knowing that we would have to explore all of their falsies before reluctantly taking the downhill route. This worked a treat until we reached the bottom with everyone except PP taking at least one falsie on the way down.

But what goes down must go up again (in another, less well-known, PH3 maxim) and so we had to struggle up a steep hill to our left to regain most of the altitude we had just lost. We did enjoy a little bit of gentle downhill heading west again at the top of that ridge, before a steeper descent took us towards Whitmore Vale Farm. Here we were joined by TIFM who had benefitted from a short cut at the first circle. I recognized the location of the circle in that valley as one used before by Hawkeye when setting from Grayshott, but that knowledge was of little use since he took us in a new direction – up the valley to our left. This was a long and wearisome climb, during which my breathless, oxygen-starved brain gave up trying to work out where we were – so I failed to recognize the road junction at the top as being the approach to Grayshott from the old A3.

We briefly lost the trail as we crossed the mini-roundabout (our hare admitted later that he laid very little sawdust here because he didn’t want us to spot it as we drove in) but we managed to pick it up and lose it a couple of times before Trip Advisor led a few of us on a long downhill falsie to the left, while Venus rejoiced in a lucky guess straight on to a grassy bridge over the new A3 just south of the tunnel mouth. All this had created a natural re-group, so we were together as we headed steeply down into Nutcombe Valley, a place I don’t think I have ever visited before. Once again we reached the bottom only to immediately start climbing again, with Trip Advisor redeeming herself with some inspired guessing at several circles. I think that it was at one stage on this particular climb that TIFM’s ladder might have come in handy because it did get very steep indeed.

At the top of that ascent we crossed the Haslemere to Hindhead road, dived onto a side path and headed right back down a long flight of steps. So now both the climbing and descending muscles were giving us grief, and our heads were spinning. TIFM still couldn’t understand how we could re- cross the A3, he had forgotten that it was in a tunnel somewhere beneath our feet. I am getting worried about him as last week he was convinced we were running a clockwise circuit when we neatly circum-ambulated Pirbright in an anti-clockwise direction.

Now it was Tea Cosy’s turn to get inspired and he led us on a long gradual climb up a gentle grassy valley, heading north-east in the direction of Gibbet Hill (where I fully expected the re-group to be found). Eventually, he fell foul of a circle/falsie combination so that we could still see him as he crested yet another ridge. And when each of us came over that summit we joined him sitting on a bench with a lovely view across the Weald towards Brighton. It wasn’t the official re-group but we felt that we had earned one anyway.

TIFM can never bear to wait at a re-group, so he headed on along the obvious path to our left, only to tell us when we eventually followed him that he had lost the trail. It was Venus who spotted the vandalized circle and Tea Cosy and I who led the charge along a good track, spotting tiny remnants of sawdust from time to time amongst the chalk, where somebody had had a really good go at disrupting us – they failed of course! At the end of this we found the proper re-group, but it was occupied by 2 ladies, one on a mobility scooter, so we were glad we had stopped earlier, and I suspected that we had completed the tough part of the morning’s exercise.

Indeed, there was no more climbing to be done and the rest of the trail was flat or gently downhill as we headed, with a few diversions, back towards the Punch Bowl Café and the big track along the left of the valley that brought us back to where we had started.

Verdict:  Last week we were grumbling about getting wet feet in the swamps around Pirbright, so at least this week our feet stayed dry. I reckon we did 1 gentle and 3 steep descents, with 2 gentle (but long) and 2 steep ascents in this circum-ambulation of Hindhead. I would be interested to know if anyone’s GPS recorded an accurate total amount of climbing, PP’s guess was 1,000 feet. But I am not complaining because there was a lot of unfamiliar territory and we were kept together by lots of devious trail-setting. So, thanks Hawkeye, this has to count as a great run – once I discover how to walk again!

At the Pub:  By mutual consent we repaired to the Fox & Pelican at Grayshott, passing the roundabout where we had briefly lost the trail an hour earlier. Here we settled in the tented enclosure where the temperature was much more pleasant than in the overheated dining-room, and we could assemble plenty of chairs together. The range of beers was impressive with London Pride, HSB, and a pair of Dark Star brews – Hophead and Nordland. Of these the Hophead seemed to get the general seal of approval, although our GM had to wait a long time for his (bog-standard) lager and some of the ladies preferred to take tea in cups (with or without extra hot water). The chips were very pleasant, but nothing to write home about. The company was similar to that we had enjoyed on the run but with the addition of Sorry-John (did anyone see him during the run – or was he only here for the beer?). The mirth was cut short this week because PP had to get to Brighton by 2pm for lunch with his sister. We managed to talk about quite a few things other than the war (“Don’t mention the war!”) but it is difficult to escape the fact that these are troubling times.

Run Report 1949: Ockham

Navigation, navigation, navigation (to misquote “Sir” Tony Blair!)

Scribed by Secret Squirrel

Sunday morning dawned (eventually) cold, bright and crisp. There had been quite a sharp frost but the sky was clear and blue so it promised to be a fine morning for a run. I called Dusty to see if he was interested in joining in the fun and not only did I manage to persuade him to change his plans and come out to play, but I also managed to inveigle a lift out of him into the bargain – a win win! At 10:30 he was outside my house in his little sports car and I dropped down into its low-slung seat feeling very happy. Now, there are 3 possible routes from Tilehouse Road to the A3 northbound:- a) goes up Pilgrims Way and Warwicks Bench, past G-Live and out through Burpham, b) goes through the town centre and the gyratory to Ladymead then right along the A25 to the Stoke traffic lights, and c) also uses the gyratory but then takes York Road past Waitrose before a left turn onto Stoke Road past Guildford College to the Stoke traffic lights. Route a) involves just two sets of traffic lights plus 5 sets of pedestrian crossing lights, route b) involves 8 traffic lights and 5 pedestrian lights, and c) has 9 traffic lights and 5 pedestrian lights – so which way do you think Dusty chose to use? Yup, route c, and almost all of the traffic lights were against us. Luckily we had left in good time so this wasn’t a big problem but I did hope that Dusty’s lack of navigation skill would help me when it came to hashing.

Arriving at the designated car park by the Ockham Bites Café we were greeted by scenes of mayhem and anarchy as too many people tried to park their cars in a limited amount of space. I have no idea what they were all doing there (it was the wrong time of day for the activities popularly associated with this area) and only a handful were looking out for Wally & Sparkly in order to follow their hash trail. With some careful double-parking of known hashers’ cars we were all able to secure a space and take advantage of the toilet facilities before assembling for our hares’ briefing. The eager pack included Call Girl, TIFM, Factor 30, Virgil, Venus, Uphill Gill, Trip Advisor, Wurzel, Robin Hood, Dusty and Secret Squirrel. Early starting walkers included Robic, Moondance and Sorry John.

We were told that there would be 2 re-groups, that the trail was laid in PH3 style with marked falsies, and we should be able to keep our feet dry. Also, Wally would follow us as checking-chicken. We managed to exit the car park with some difficulty due to the ongoing parking havoc and headed out into the woods to the north-east with a sense of relief. Of course, running in this part of the world entails a continuous hum of traffic noise as we would never be very far from a major road, but the usual mix of sunshine above and a soft carpet of pine needles underfoot soon helped us to ignore that disturbance. Where the sun had not yet got through the undergrowth there were still some patches of ice on puddles but we were generally able to skip over these with nimble footwork.

Alas, my hopes that Dusty’s odd navigation on the road would be continued on the hash proved to be unfounded, he was on a mission and seemed to have a map in his head as he led us almost faultlessly to the first re-group by the old Semaphore Tower. As we waited for the slower runners to join us Wally looked up to the heavens and drew our attention to an apparently imminent disaster as two high-flying aircraft were on collision courses above our heads – they crossed unscathed as they must have been at different altitudes, but it did look scary for a moment. Does that count as a “near miss”, I wonder? Their vapor trails left a perfect advert for the Halifax. Back down to earth we were spared the next falsie as the ever impatient TIFM had explored it for us, so, rather than heading on towards the M25 bridge we have often used in the past, we turned more to the south and out onto some open heathland. For once Dusty was not leading us, but Virgil soon squandered his advantage, as he would do quite often on this run, by exploring hopeless falsies.

We crossed Old Lane, negotiated someone’s driveway, and headed out onto the great open space of the old Wisley Airfield. We were actually quite a close pack but Wally asked us to pause for an unscheduled re-group to allow CG to catch up again. Actually, Wally wanted to give us a lecture about the significance of the strange circular construction sitting in the open field to the south of us and looking like an alien spaceship. Apparently, it is a navigation beacon indicating a key circling point for aircraft stacking overhead while waiting permission to land at Heathrow (I think – Ed. please confirm). It sends out direction signals over 360 separate directions so that the crews can locate themselves accurately with respect to it (is that really still necessary with SatNavs in our cars accurate to a few feet?). I wondered to myself why they had to build it on the farmland while just a few yards away there were acres of empty old runway tarmac. Anyway, the radio signals must have interfered with Virgil’s instruments because he set off across the field, ignoring the fact that TIFM had once again failed to wait and this time had kept going along the runway and off into the sunset. Dusty made no such mistake and was soon hot on TIFM’s tail.

Leaving the airfield behind us, we went into the woods again and I struggled to keep Dusty in sight as he sped, as though on rails, through the trees and over the A3 to the edge of the Wisley Gardens. We could all agree that we had to turn right before we got to the huge car parks, and indeed we crossed onto the heathland area that is south of the M25 and west of the A3. Virgil had caught up with me as we arrived at a circle just by Wisley but, yet again, he backed the wrong hunch and explored another falsie. I guessed correctly and soon spotted Dusty nonchalantly resting against a tree in the sunshine at the third re-group – I don’t think he had put a foot wrong since the airfield re-group. The run-in from here was fairly direct as it had to go over the other A3 bridge, but there were several opportunities to get our feet wet on the way. For once Virgil made no mistakes. I passed S-J and his dogs just yards before the café, so he had timed his walk to perfection.

We met up with Robic and Moondance, who had walked the trail earlier and had an amusing story about someone they met along the way – apparently a young horse rider had thought that our sawdust crosses were indications of ritual sacrifices being carried out in the woods!

Verdict:This was a most enjoyable run. The weather was kind to us, especially the sunshine when we were on the airfield. There was little vandalism to disrupt our progress, despite the large number of people out in the woods with dogs and children. And the main pack kept together quite well, apart from Virgil who kept on disappearing into the undergrowth like a wayward Labrador. Thank you Wally and Sparkly for a lovely morning’s entertainment, this was a great way to start the New Year (for those of us who couldn’t get to Yew Tree Farm the week before).

At the Pub: We gathered in the crowded car park and a discussion was held over where to go next. Quite a few of us were up for The Jovial Sailor at Ripley (on the strength of the good-value buckets of chips that they sold last time we were there) with its huge tent covering a large area for outdoor eating and drinking. But someone (Sparkly, I think) did mention bacon butties at the café and Virgil couldn’t get these out of his mind. So, sadly, we separated into two groups with the Dorking Mob staying for the café food and the rest of us heading to Ripley. At The Jovial Sailor they have now added an outdoor bar counter, so it wasn’t even necessary to go inside the pub – although the bar service for real ales did take a long time. We tried the open air and sunshine but eventually decided that it was actually warmer in the shade under the tent (and the seats there were dry, unlike those outside). Wally’s bucket of chips did not disappoint! But an order which included a pot of tea and a pint of TEA did nearly confuse the bar staff – at least this week there were some of us consuming alcohol … !!

Run Report 1947: West Hanger Car Park

The aphrodisiac of power

Scribed by Secret Squirrel

As this was to be the last run of 2021 a fair number of people managed to get out of bed and drag themselves to the top of the North Downs in order to follow Hawkeye’s trail. The car park was pretty full so some ingenuity was required to place all of our vehicles, including 3 of us in the space reserved for the mobile café (which wisely stayed away). The early departures included TIFM, Sorry-John, Robic and Moondance who were all walking wounded, and they were later followed by Sparkly and Call Girl who were just walking. Those hoping to run were Ayrton Senna, Dusty, Virgil, Venus,Uphill Gill, Newish Heather, Trip Advisor, Robin Hood, Wally and your scribe Secret Squirrel. Late starters were Prince Charming and Cinderella. So, the walking group was exactly 50% of the size of the running group, a fact on which to ponder over the festive season.

The briefing was indeed brief, with the good news that the falsies would be quite short and there was to be at least one re-group (although with the cloud down around our ears there was unlikely to be much of a view to be seen there). Dusty wanted to know if it was to be flat and the hare responded to the effect that it was flat except where it was hilly, and then sent us off with a circle at the western exit from the car park (laid especially to annoy me as he knows how much I hate starting a run with a falsie). Dusty was the fall-guy for that first falsie as the correct trail went more to the south than the main North Downs Way track.

The first part of the run entertained us along the top edge of the ridge towards Newlands Corner, making lots of use of newly created mountain biking paths in what used to be untracked woodlands. There were lots of circles which duly tempted each of the front runners to try their luck heading down the slope on our left. Virgil was the first to be caught out this way, soon followed by AS and Dusty. I managed to hold out until we got as far as the path down to Silent Pool before I too was suckered into an unwise descent. Mercifully the hare was as good as his word and the crosses were found before too much altitude had been lost. Now Dusty convinced himself that this trick was to be repeated all the way to Newlands Corner, so he missed the left turn which finally did take us downhill and across the A25 to the back of the old sandpit above Albury. AS led us down here with Virgil and myself in warm pursuit (rapidly cooling in my case).

We now turned decisively to the East along that delightful path between the sandpit and the A25. Dusty soon passed me and left me for dust, though I briefly caught Virgil as he explored a futile falsie near the Sherbourne Catholic Apostolic Church (a building being kept sacred for use only in the Second Coming). As we descended into Shere, Prince Charming overtook me while my thoughts were turning to the inevitable climb back up the Downs which were looming over us in the mist. It was no surprise to take the track near the Shere by-pass but it was a surprise that we didn’t cross that road by the underpass on London Lane, instead we were directed down into the village and along Gomshall Lane, thus postponing the inevitable ascent for a while.

I wonder how many of us nearly missed the sharp left turn where Gomshall Lane joins the A25 as the trail took us across the main road and onto the driveway up to Netley House. I don’t remember ever running (or walking) up this way before and I have to confess to some misgivings over whether we were legitimately using it now. But PC was some way ahead and so I put my best foot forward and set off to follow him with the slope steepening in front of us. As the noise of the traffic on the A25 faded behind me I became aware of the sound of chatter and bright voices. Looking round I saw

Wally surrounded by a harem of ladies (Venus, UG, TA & Newish Heather), all happily talking as they trotted up the slope. I wondered how he does it, thinking it must be the aphrodisiac of power – but then that never seemed to work for me when I was the GM! With these thoughts distracting me from the growing pain in my legs I found that I was managing to catch up with PC. We were together as a notice became clear saying something like “Absolutely no public access” and I began to think of alternative routes should we be challenged and told to get off the land (as happened shortly before Christmas many years ago up in Winterfold Wood) but then a tiny little sign on the fence became visible pointing to a “NT path” and indeed the sawdust trail led us on a short dog-leg to the left before resuming a still steeper ascent between a field and a hedge.

Having escaped the potential wrath of an indignant land-owner, I again became concerned about the fast approaching gang of Wally’s harem so, gritting my teeth, I pressed on up the climb. There was a brief respite when we emerged onto a level track, contouring to the right above Netley House, but a 3-blob turn forced us onto a near vertical footpath going straight up a clearing in the woods to a war-memorial where our hare was waiting with mince-pies and good cheer. The effort of staying ahead of PC up this cliff-face left me so breathless that I declined the festive fare, and I watched as the tireless Virgil ran backwards and forwards along the level track while more gasping hashers struggled up to join us. The last one we waited for was RH (sorry about that Cinderella) before we set off again with a cheery send off from the hare of “You’re about half-way up the hill”.

A little bit of gentle downhill along that track brought us to the next climb and eventually to the top half of London Lane, that chalky gully track that took us finally to the crest of the ridge. During this final ascent Newish Heather was observed to pick up the pace (from a trudge to a purposeful walk) as she pulled ahead of the pack (but still well behind AS, V, D and PC), and Uphill Gill was heard to say “I want to resign as Uphill Gill”(no chance Gill, you are stuck with that name for life). Maybe a hash name for Heather is called for here and, channelling thoughts of Mount Everest (of course) I wondered about “Hillary” or maybe “Sherpa” but if anyone has other ideas please send them to Wally.

The top of the hill was of course very wet and muddy, but the trail led us fairly directly back along the North Downs Way. There was some unfortunate vandalism around Hollister Farm, where we found TIFM valiantly working to uncover sawdust blobs and eradicate a misleading trail that our energetic enemies had tried to create. By this time, my bolt was shot, my legs were jelly, and my brain was starved of oxygen, so I was quite content to let Wally and most of his harem continue to lead me home. Unfortunately, we had dropped Venus somewhere on the final climb and she did lose her way for a time at the missing trail, but Virgil went back and rescued her like the knight in shining armour that he is. Last one home was Cinderella, who must have spent a lonely morning in splendid isolation throughout the run (such social distancing was not required).

The only walker that I saw on the trail was TIFM, so the others must have started very early, or walked very fast, or taken some big short cuts, or maybe all three of these possibilities!

Verdict: This was a challenging route with testing hill-climbs. The first section was great fun with lots of circles and tempting falsies; and thereafter, despite the route seeming obvious in hindsight (don’t they all?) we were kept guessing with some unexpected choices. The mince pies were great as well, though it was a better option to wait until the finish before accepting one – Call Girl tried to keep one in her pocket and then had to add a dramatic twist when she fell in order to avoid crushing it! Thank you Hawkeye, your labours were well worthwhile, and you have rounded off a difficult year in some style.

At the pub: Pub? What pub? Was a pub involved at any stage in this affair? I don’t remember any pub. In fact, as views were sounded out about to which hostelry we should adjourn, it became clear that nobody was keen to go to any pub. Everyone seemed to be following Chris Whitty’s advice and prioritizing family Christmas plans over the risks of sharing pub fug with unknown unknowns. After the scare of last week’s potential super-spreader event (which doesn’t seem to have spread anything but comfort and joy – apart from for Factor 30 and Black Cat, sorry guys, hope you are feeling better soon), all anyone could think of was the pleasure of scuttling back home for a hot shower. So, Hawkeye’s mince pies were about the sum total of festive refreshment consumed this time.

I don’t know, we are supposed to be “a drinking club with a running problem” but right now we are more like Fred Karno’s army – “we cannot drink, we cannot run, what bloody use are we?” Let’s hope we can do much, much better in 2022! Happy Christmas everyone!!

Run Report 1942: Friday Street

‘A run and a half in more ways than one!’

Scribed by Secret Squirrel

During the conversation outside the Queen Vic in Shalford on the previous Sunday, some doubt had been cast about whether this run would be worth setting as several FRBs would not be attending.
Fortunately, our GM put out a call on anti-social-media for news of any intending runners and that generated enough support for Virgil & Venus to agree to lay a trail. I think that I may have made a mistake in suggesting Friday Street as a possible venue (but more of that anon). In the end a modest group of 8 hashers assembled in the bright autumnal sunshine (let into the Friday Street car park thanks to quite a lot of tree-felling there lately). Wally, Call Girl, Robin Hood, Cynthia, ITB and Secret Squirrel arrived by car, while Uphill Gill and Trip Advisor jogged up from the hamlet (and announced that they knew where the trail did not go). It looked as though TIFM and Sorry John’s cars were already parked, so we guessed that they were early starters, as were Robic and Moondance. With 12 participants in all it seemed that V & V’s efforts would not be in vain.
There was no sign of the hares (which is often a bad sign as it means a long trail) but they had posted a photo of their car to indicate where the out-trail went – this was not really necessary as it was by the often-used path down towards the lake. I explored the falsie from the usual 1 st circle, thinking that UG & TA must have found no sawdust down the lane to make their earlier comment, but this was foolish as UG & TA literally knew nothing since they both explored falsies at the next 2 circles. So we stumbled our way across the dam and on along the lane curving uphill to the north-east. We soon lost ITB & CG and became a pack of 6 for most of the rest of the morning.
We followed the footpath past Kempslade Farm, for once without vandalism, before exploring at least one long falsie further to the east. But the trail now took a decisive turn to the west and back down into the valley below Friday Street. The circle at the foot of that hill was one of very few that was guessed right first time as we began the slow climb back up to the lane near our starting point.
Now we headed south, climbing steadily, enjoying some glorious sunshine that made spotting the sawdust an extra challenge. A teasing path up a short steep slope led to a tree stump with a smiley face (in sawdust), perfectly placed to draw the eye and distract it from the cross placed on the other side of the path, so that I ran a further 30 yards uphill before giving up and returning to suffer a sense-of-humour failure when I did see that cross! Maybe it was unfortunate that our hares chose to put in an appearance at the very next circle while I was still fuming over that falsie. It was not good to hear Virgil boasting that he had covered more than 9 miles in setting this trail (with Venus setting lots of the falsies for him). We were discouraged from treating this as a re-group and sent on our way – uphill of course.
When we reached Abinger Common Road we explored more falsies before turning north-west and heading downhill. Somewhere along this stretch I met a man who asked about the sawdust and, when I mentioned the word “hashing”, he said he had done that a few times in Singapore. In an effort at recruitment, I showed him the PH3 name on my T-shirt and said we would be drinking in the Abinger Hatch at 12:30 (unaware that we wouldn’t even have finished running at that time, and would be drinking in the Wotton Hatch instead – sorry about that, if you are the man in question reading this later!).

We crossed 2 roads in quick succession and headed into Pasture Wood, an area where Virgil seems to find paths unknown to anybody else. If you can see Venus’s route map posted on WhatsApp, (scroll down to view – Ed) this is the stretch around points 3 to 5. I did most of her false trails and quite a lot of Virgil’s (not shown) as well. The very first one of these generated a perfect natural re-group as we explored every possibility before UG found the correct one, heading north. TA complained that there were too many falsies on uphill paths around here, and I began to calculate that I was finding a cross every 5 minutes, as I had visited 9 in the first 45 minutes of the run. We switched back and forth so many times that without the sun we would all have been totally disorientated; as it was, we were merely
totally confused. UG explored a falsie down a very steep slope, forgetting the old PH3 maxim about never running downhill from a circle if you can help it. We encountered the same dog-walkers several times as they pursued a sensible route, unlike us. The Belmont School cross-country course jogged a few memories, none of them helpful. Virgil even found that little bridge where a private drive crosses over the path in a gully beneath.
Finally, at about 12:10 we emerged from the wilderness onto Leith Hill Road, at a big bend. Once I had established that the obvious route towards home was indeed yet another falsie (thanks for hiding that cross behind a laurel bush, Venus), Wally decided that he had had enough. He had been expecting a short trail, because of the uncertainty over whether there would even be a hash, and had a lunch appointment. So it was just the 5 of us who turned south and, led by Cynthia, climbed uphill again past Park House Farm. I don’t remember ever running (or rather trudging) up that way before, and it’s not one I would forget as it did look glorious with a carpet of golden beech leaves covering a deep gully and our path keeping to a ledge on the western side.
At the second opportunity we were led across the road and down into the valley to point 6 on Venus’s map. Fortunately, we were finally allowed to head towards home and were even running downhill on the track along the valley floor. But we came unstuck again at the hamlet charmingly called Abinger Bottom where we met a lane. I found crosses on the route uphill to the left and down the lane towards Friday Street, so it was with heavy hearts and legs that we pulled ourselves up the lane to the right with yet another ridge ahead. We found a circle with a trail that began to go left and downhill, but we lost it quite soon and ended up back at Abinger Bottom. At this point there was universal agreement to mutiny and head for home by the most direct route possible. So it was amusing to pick up the trail just a short way down the valley floor and become “legitimate” once again – we had just missed an off-piste section and done a “long-cut” instead. Apparently Robic & Moondance had the same trouble as us.
I met more walkers just at the edge of Friday Street hamlet, looking puzzled at a sawdust “H” beside an arrow pointing uphill (of course). I explained what it was, and they seemed disappointed as they were hoping it was the work of small animals – well that pretty much described my feelings for V & V at that stage of the day, so I left it at that. A few moments later TA arrived at the same spot and found it difficult to believe that my “On On” calls from above were correct. But there was no escape without a final climb and trek across the deforested landscape back to the car park.
We finished at just after 12:30, having failed to catch up with any of the walkers. Yes, we had walked up lots of the steeper hills, but we had run pretty steadily on all of the rest of the route and still taken more than 90 minutes. I reckon that this was a lot closer to Virgil’s 9 miles than the 5 that he was claiming it to be.

Verdict: The record must show that this trail was generally well marked. With the one exception of the place near the end where nobody seems to have found the correct route, we were easily able to follow the sawdust all the way. It is just that it was rather a long way. Not so much a hash trail as one and a half hash trails. I can only imagine how much sawdust they used, the two hares must have looked like Himalayan Sherpas as they set off carrying enormous bags. So, thank you Virgil & Venus for setting such a stupendous trail, any two-thirds of which would have been quite marvellous, you spoiled us really by giving us so much beauty and confusion!

At the pub: Almost everyone jumped straight into their cars and headed off to the pub while I was still doing my post-run stretches. Clearly, they wanted to make up for lost drinking time. I am afraid that when I got to the junction with the A25 at around 12:55, the draw of a hot shower and a long lie down (to the left) overcame that of a cold beer in a chilly garden (to the right) and so I headed straight for home. I hope someone else can fill in the blanks here with some report of the jollities at the Wotton Hatch?

Run Report 1926: Denbies, Dorking

Dazed and confused …

Scribed by Secret Squirrel

Trying to get ahead of the curve, I had agreed the day before to offer Easily Overlooked a lift to Dorking for Sunday’s hash run, and she had confirmed that she would be there “come rain or shine” – what neither of us recognised was that it would be rain and shine. Sunshine in Shalford soon became a torrential downpour in Abinger Hammer and a small flood on the approach road to Denbies. This, being Britain, did not deter the many people coming to the vineyard for a wide variety of activities and so it was not easy for the PH3 gang to find each other in the car park – especially when the first arrivals ignored the clear instruction to park at the place “furthest from the buildings”. I don’t know if we missed any lost hashers before we even started but the following managed to assemble near the front of the car park: Robin Hood, Factor100, Robic, Wally, Easily Overlooked, Wurzel, Secret Squirrel, Sparkly and Call Girl.

Venus gave us a short briefing, pointing out that there would be mud and hills, no regroup, and marked falsies (though the crosses might be hidden in long grass to minimise the risk of vandalism). There was also something about an impassable path which was marked with a large blob. Virgil grumbled that we had chosen to assemble as far away from the marked start as it was possible to go, and with that we were off.

In the car on the way to Dorking, EO and I had reminisced about a trail set by V & V at Denbies a few years ago which kept us within the bounds of the vineyard for almost half of the run, by means of devious double-backs amongst the vines. So we assumed something similar might happen again and for a while we were not disappointed. EO had also mentioned that she felt she was running more slowly these days but there was no sign of that as she sped off to the south and uphill along the boundary of the estate getting a string of circles right first time. It took Robic and F100 a long time to catch up with her after they had guessed wrong at the very first circle. With a few stages taking us into the western cwm of the vineyard, the pack got reshuffled before a long drag up to a gate finally led us out into the world beyond – which was indeed muddy.

A few more ups and downs took us to a bridge under Ranmore Road and then we found ourselves climbing diagonally up the escarpment and into the clouds. When a brief clearing in the mist allowed us a glimpse of F100 speeding up the slope we managed to call her to wait and effect an unofficial regroup at a spot with a marvellous view across to Leith Hill, and from where we could see the rain showers queueing up to drench us over the next half hour. Wally and Wurzel were able to bring back happy memories of runs between Ranmore and Leith Hill, while F100 probably mused on her forthcoming 100K event for which the slippery mud underfoot was the worst sort of preparation. It was too cold to linger so, as soon as we had all caught up, EO was off again leading us up towards the NT car park and The Spains, where the mists descended once more and it felt as though we were about 12,000 feet up in the alps.

Some brave guessing at a couple of circles misled our front runners and it was more in hope than expectation that I briefly took the lead by turning right as we entered the woods. Emerging onto Ranmore Common Road I encountered The Incredible Furious Man who was dazed and confused by the trail markings there. We hadn’t even known he was out on the hash but I went across to try to decipher what he was shouting about. He got very cross with EO when she tried to explore what eventually turned out to be the correct route and it was only when I managed to show him that the last blob he had found was in fact a cross (in the long grass, he had missed the briefing of course) that he became pacified. We had long since lost Sparkly and Call Girl but now our little group of 7 became a more rounded 8 as we turned east once more and headed along the top of the ridge.

The third phase of this run now began when we turned off the North Downs Way and headed past the Old Vicarage and into Sorry John’s territory on the long track that eventually leads to Bagden Farm. I wondered aloud whether V & V had obtained the necessary permission from SJ to use his area but that was the last intelligent thought I had as the woods and rain clouded my brain for a long time. There were some cunning falsies off this track to the right, all of which were explored at some stage of this descent, culminating in me returning from the correct route because I thought I heard Robic calling me back to another circle. Eventually we emerged onto a lane and turned left towards what looked like a familiar farm house (Bagden ?) so when we headed into the woods on our right but were forced to take a left fork at a circle I became dazed and confused myself, thinking we were heading away from home and into Chapelhill Wood. I did not enjoy the next stretch along what should have felt like a lovely narrow path contouring around the spur that is actually Ashcombe Wood. I only came to my senses when our leaders took what I thought was an insane left turn downhill from a circle to emerge from the trees with a delightful view over Westhumble and Box Hill. Euphoria swept through me as I realised that we were not miles from the start and heading into Great Bookham, but were in fact just a hop, skip and a jump away from Denbies once more!

I am afraid to admit that, being concerned for the hamstring which had only recently recovered from the last outing on Ranmore Common, I decided to run through a cross and take a direct route back into the vineyard, leaving my 7 companions to complete the trail as marked with a short loop via the upper reaches of Westhumble village. It was a relief to find Sparkly and Call Girl already home and waiting with Virgil & Venus to welcome the pack at the end of a long level grassy path by the Denbies buildings.

VERDICT: As promised it was muddy and hilly, but there was no great need to hide the crosses in the long grass as we did not notice any vandalism (or maybe the ploy defeated any would-be-vandals?). I think that we tended to over-think the route and so took many more falsies between us than was strictly necessary, but isn’t that always the way with a hash trail? F100 managed to avoid injury on the slippery surfaces and my hamstring survived intact. The pack was kept together remarkably well, so all in all this was another great run for the PH3, thank you Virgil and Venus for your considerable efforts in laying it.

AT THE CAR PARK: I had hoped to buy a tray of Shere Drop from the Surrey Hills Brewery, which now trades from the back of the Denbies building, but they do not open on a Sunday. Having assembled at the front of the car park, our group seemed to feel inhibited from setting up camp and enjoying a full social gathering, as we might have done over on the other side near the place where Virgil intended us to start. So there was some amiable chat, standing up, but not a lot more than that. In an attempt to bolster our credentials as a drinking club, EO and I donned face masks and went into the Denbies shop where we purchased more wine than we intended (damn the discount if you buy 6 bottles, but the girl did let us split one batch of 6 between us). And when we came out with our purchases everyone from the PH3 had gone home. I think we are going to have to work on our drinking to get it back up to scratch, especially now we are to be without Pistman Pat, roll on the full re-opening of the pubs!

Run Report 1916 Downside Common, Cobham

“Past Master” or a master who is past it?

Scribed by Secret Squirrel

For the fourth week in a row the sun was shining as a dozen bold hashers headed towards Cobham in eager anticipation of following a trail set by Hawkeye, a past master of this art. Not everyone had read the small print just beneath the formal directions that had been added to the pod details email to “park around the Green and NOT in the pub car park”, so there was some initial sport in watching at least 2 of our number experience the panic of driving into an empty car park and wondering where all the Pistoffen were. Their desperate search for the rest of us was then complicated by the presence of a group of ramblers who had chosen the same start point and time for their own outing, and who had occupied most of the nearby parking spaces.

A short briefing by the hare assured us that the trail was not a long one and then Pod 1 set off to the east, gathering a late arriving Easily Overlooked (who performed the classic Le Mans start in reverse with a screech of brakes and a leap out of the car). Gently jogging along were Robin Hood, Wurzel, Wally, Sparkly, your current scribe, and now EO. It all seemed delightfully simple, if a little chilly in a cold wind, as we found the first circle at the far side of the Green. Sparkly led us straight ahead down an interesting looking footpath, only to find a cross a long way down there. Back at the circle we split with half looking along the road one way, and half the other. Finding no sawdust to the north we all headed south, and almost all ran past the cross which was a long, long way down that road – it was temporary back-marker Wurzel who finally spotted it. Back to the Green we went and now tried the north again, but this time on the grass, and eventually found the 2nd circle. This quickly led us to 2 further crosses (on mercifully short falsies) so that the only viable route was further round the Green. We had been running quite hard for 10 minutes and we were still in sight of Hawkeye and the assembling members of Pod 2! What we didn’t know until later was that all our failures had been observed by Robic and Moondance sitting in their car near EO’s, so they knew exactly where not to go when their turn came. The other members of Pod 2 were Venus, Uphill Gill, Paul Newman and Trip Advisor.

When we were finally able to escape that blasted “Green” we headed off along Cobham Park Road and things began to feel like a TIFM run with plenty of tarmac under our feet. In Pod 1, at least, the discipline was good as generally we all kept together and faithfully followed whoever was leading down each and every falsie – including another extremely long one on the main road towards Cobham. Sparkly and RH led us across a bare field with a very large and distinctive newly-built house dominating the view – was it a house, a hotel, or a care-home? Before we found out, we had to solve another circle with Sparkly guessing wrong and taking another long falsie to the west, while RH led us back south-east to an encounter with Hawkeye and Call Girl who just happened to be loitering at the next circle. We were gently pointed along the drive to Pondtail Farm and the answer to the mystery of the ugly building, it is indeed a private house! With a fussy owner as evidenced by all the “Keep off the grass” signs along the bridleway that uses their drive. Some re-routing of the bridleway followed, with a path between blue ropes up the middle of a meadow, where Wally remarked to me that we had been running for half an hour, had covered 2.45 miles and yet were still only a few hundred yards from our starting point – sometimes the Garmin data can be rather depressing!

I was worrying about the fleet-footed pack of Pod 2, who were probably catching-up with us, but RH was doing a great job leading us towards the M25 and then over it on the Plough Lane bridge. Then, just as things were looking up, we fell for another Hawkeye trap. I have to confess that it was largely my fault as I led us down an inviting-looking path to the left, but the whole pod ran past the cross this time. This was forgivable because the cross was well hidden, under one log and behind another, and even Sorry-John never saw it when he had walked that way earlier. A series of small farms were crossed, the main crop seemed to be horses but with hard lumpy ground threatening to break ankles at every step we had to concentrate on our footing rather than the scenery. At May’s Green we spotted the weird tableau of shop mannequins under a tree which our hare had mentioned in his briefing and this reassured us that we were still on the right track.

Now EO led us on a sharp turn to the east and some pleasant open fields. Luckily, there was still no sign of the pursuing Pod 2 and, with some route-finding success, the black thoughts of how we might seek revenge on our tormenting hare began to recede. The rough fields gave way to a smoother track, the wind became less chilly, and the hum of the motorway indicated we were getting closer to home again. That hum was useful at the next circle when I worked out that the straight-on track would eventually become that path with the hidden cross, and therefore the right-turn had to be correct route – although it was a bit extreme for the hare to have broken-off the finger-post arm that pointed to the way we needed to go as an extra deception. As I toiled up a small incline my oxygen-deprived brain came up with a memory of emerging into that area from a bridge over the M25 on a run in these parts many years ago, and so I confidently assured EO that we would find that bridge just at the top of the rise. But no, it was just old fence and brambles! We did find the bridge a hundred yards further on and thankfully recrossed the motorway. At last, we found the overgrown footpath, which had been another detail in the briefing, safely followed the field edge and crossed the barbed-wire fence before emerging onto the Horsley Road for a final push to the finish.

Honesty compels me to admit that Wally won the final sprint, though I feel it was unsporting of him to overtake me after I had waited to help all the other members of Pod 1 to cross Horsley Road (because the view was partially obscured and it was quite busy with traffic). Luckily, I didn’t realise that Robic was also sprinting to catch us, and she did manage to overtake a couple of the Pod 1 runners. However, this also compels me to comment on how the discipline of Pod 2 had broken down as it was quite a few minutes before the rest of that group came in, so she had broken the instruction to “stay in the pods”!

Verdict:  Knowing that I was going to write this report, my brain was exploring all sorts of vitriol during the first half of this run, but somehow during the second half I began to enjoy myself and so eventually I must come down on the side of forgiveness. I have to say that our former Grand Master was no longer on his “Past Master” form, possibly a bit past his best (or is that too unkind?), with so much tarmac on this trail. But it was a devious hash, largely set in a suburban area between Cobham and the M25, and that limited his options. In his own defence, at the briefing, he had made a point of stressing that the core trail was quite short and thus necessitated very long falsies to make up the distance – thus getting his retaliation in first, so to speak! You can decide for yourselves whether I can do any better next week.

On the Green: The “Rule of Six” (or “Ruler Sicks” as used in memorable Steve Bell cartoon) was seen more in the breach than the observance as the lure of wonderful sticky flapjacks made by Uphill Gill was too strong to resist. No deckchairs were used as it seemed best to get right down on the ground to escape that chilly wind. TIFM and Sorry John were on hand after their personal rambles in the area and Call Girl looked extremely cool in her dark shades (protecting her eyes after more cataract work last week). Hawkeye reminded us that the inviting-looking pub across the Green is in fact anything but welcoming, in pre-Covid days he had been refused service at the bar because he was not also buying a substantial meal (and he was not talking about scotch-eggs here) so it isn’t really a “pub” at all. And so, one more week closer to the day when we can all run together in a full pack again but not a lot closer to when we will be able to buy draft beer in a proper pub afterwards, we reluctantly headed off to do battle with the cyclists and Sunday shoppers trying to impede our journey home.

Run Report 1904 – Littleford Lane Car Park, Blackheath

A comprehensive and thorough exploration of Blackheath

Scribed by Secret Squirrel

I seem to remember Hawkeye warning us to be careful of venues like the main Blackheath carpark during these difficult times because of potential criticism from other people over our numbers and the Rule of Six.  So, Robin Hood chose to use the smaller carpark on Littleford Lane for this run, but there were still plenty of others with the same idea (and giant SUVs) so there wasn’t much space for our vehicles this week.  Being in Pod1 was an advantage because we could bag the last few spots and leave those in later pods to park out on the road.

Sparkly has since noted (after her grumble in the previous report that she and Wally couldn’t organize a rock to fall off a cliff – a new metaphor to me, that one) that this was the first time since the pod system began that everyone turned up on time and ran in the pod to which they had been assigned.  Maybe we are learning something, at last!  So Pod1 included Call Girl, Flappy Paddle, Venus, Sparkly, Pistman Pat, and Secret Squirrel. Pod2 had Wurzel, Cinderella, Prince Charming, Uphill Gill, Paul Newman and TIFM.  And Pod3 was made up of Robic, Virgil, Hawkeye, Easily Overlooked, Wally and Ayrton Senna.  Walkers included Sorry John and Hipless.

Readers of this report who did not attend this week should take a look at the route map before reading on as it will help them to understand some of the challenges that we faced on this particular trail.  What that map does not show is the huge number of circles that RH had laid, so we were kept in a state of perpetual uncertainty throughout the morning.  In Pod1 we were advised that AS would be trying hard to catch us up and this acted as a spur to press on as fast as possible.  But we quickly lost CG and FP who were more part of the walking group than our pod, and Venus was carrying an injury, so it was down to just 3 of us to break the trail.  Luckily RH chose to join us after about 40 minutes and he made sure that we were not deterred or diverted by vandalism (and he kept us from giving up and short-cutting all the way home).

The first loop was particularly intricate with multiple turnings and so it took us exactly 15 minutes to get to the point (at the top of a steep climb) where the trail passed within view of the start, ie exactly the time that Pod2 were setting out.  We stopped calling “on-on” for a while in the hope that we wouldn’t give away that part of the route to our pursuers.  Pod1 got more spread out until we passed a short distance to the east of the start, where Virgil was lurking (possibly trying to recce the trail?).  He spotted me turning back from a cross just up the hill, encouraged PP to short-cut to my position, and claimed to be “looking for the toilet”!  PP and I waited for Sparkly to complete that small loop and then we continued together as far as the War Memorial.

At the next circle PP headed north, which was wrong, but he kept going anyway.  In my head I was still trying to work out a route to complete the trail without crossing our earlier tracks and it seemed just possible by heading down to Chilworth and back via Blackheath village, so I explored every path offered that fitted with that plan.  Of course, RH had other ideas and so I was frequently disappointed.  Sparkly kept with me and we passed SJ around this time.  We then met up with RH and he told us that he had helped Venus with a shortcut and so she was now ahead of us, as was PP whose earlier mistake had become another shortcut.  As we turned to the east I asked RH how we were going to get home as we would have to cross the earlier trail and he couldn’t alter that until Pod3 had passed that point, all I got was an airy reply to the effect that it would be OK in the end.

The next part of the route was an extremely thorough exploration of all the little paths along the northern boundary of the heath.  Time and again we were sent down gullies and ditches only to have to climb back up to the main level again.  This is how we were made to complete 116m of elevation gain on what most people think of as a flat area!  I suffered from an excess of knowledge; I knew exactly where I was almost all of the time and so I knew that we were heading further and further away from the finish.  Once again, I kept choosing paths that should lead towards home only to be turned back by pesky crosses! We were at least working as a good team by this stage, and Venus seemed to have recovered enough to take the lead from time to time.  RH kept popping up beside us and, to be fair, he did help whoever was at the back with some winks and whistles to indicate the correct trail but only when at least one of us was already trying it out.  PP took more shortcuts although these sometimes proved to be longer than the correct trail, and on one occasion even I refused to return from a falsie but carried on to rejoin the trail a little further on.

It seemed like forever while we were staggering along, but now I can see on the Sparkly-o-meter map that we finally turned towards home after 68 minutes.  Even then there were a few more twists and turns on the return leg before we did indeed cross the earlier trail at a circle less than 100 yards from the carpark.  During that final stretch I expected AS to come charging past at any moment; we had taken so long and were going so slowly that surely he had been able to catch up on our 30 minute advantage.  What I didn’t know was that he had already run from home to Blackheath and so was not as fresh at the start as I imagined.  It was still a relief to get home before anyone caught us from the later pods.  In fact, most of Pod2 came in about 5-10 minutes after the 4 of us from Pod1, and AS, Hawkeye and Robic came in close together around 15 minutes after us, so they had only taken 15 minutes off our time.  A little later CG and FP came wandering in from the lane so I imagine that they had enjoyed a pleasant walk.

Verdict:   This was a pretty humungous trail that Robin Hood set for us.  I have tried to count the circles from my memory and I can recall at least 46 of them, so I guess that there were more than 50 in all. Mercifully, the falsies were generally quite short, I reckon I did about 20 of them myself, and on one occasion had only taken about 4 paces from the circle when I saw the cross, so that wasn’t too bad. There was no part of the area known as Blackheath that we did not visit.  So, many thanks are due to Robin Hood for what must have been a huge effort to lay such a comprehensive trail and then to accompany us for quite a big part of it as well.

However, I think a couple of words of advice for future hares may be in order here. When planning your route please think about where the different pods will get to at key times in order to avoid one giving away the route to another.  As mentioned above, Pod1 was coming round a corner after just 15 minutes and so could have been in full view of Pod2 just a few yards away and thus, at the very least, indicated to them how to judge about 10 circles to get back to that point. And I guess that something similar could have happened between Pods 2 and 3.  Another point would be to note that when running in our pods of 6 there is a lot more route-finding being done than when we run as a single pack.  This is great in many ways as more people have the fun of solving the circles, but it also means that we take longer to complete the trail, so please consider the overall distance quite carefully.  Robin Hood claimed that this route was 5½ miles, excluding falsies, but Sparkly covered 6.62 miles without doing too many extra yards in the wrong direction, and even our fastest runners took 75 minutes to complete the trail.

Those comments should not be taken as a criticism, because this was a magnificent hash route.  Had we been running as a single group of 18 some might have completed it in just over the hour, and we would have been full of praise for it.  As it was for me, it felt just a bit too long and too complicated (rather like this run report), although maybe that is just me being a grumpy old man!

At the Picnic: Good discipline was maintained as most of us stayed for a drink, setting up picnic chairs along a fire break beside the carpark.  As social distancing was observed I have no idea about the conversations in other groups but, being in the same pod as PP, I was entertained as much as in former times.  One part of his talk was about how, on his way to the “Rock against Racism” march and concert back in the 1970’s, he found himself using the poles for his banner as weapons against a gang of black youths who had somehow taken exception to him despite his good intentions!  Another involved a photo on his phone of a half-naked barman which wasn’t the picture he was trying to show me, space doesn’t allow me to narrate his explanation for this mix-up!  Thus, refreshed in body by Hogs Back “Gardeners’ Tipple”, and in spirit by good company and humour, I headed off home for a hot shower and a very long lie-down on the sofa.

Run Report Hash 1899: East Horsley Village Hall

 “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”

Scribed by Secret Squirrel

Driving to East Horsley on Sunday morning I had mixed feelings of excitement and apprehension. Last week, on my first hash in over 6 months, I had bailed out with a short-cut and this week it was my intention to try to complete the full trail. But I had a nagging memory of a run set in this area by Cynthia a while ago which I abandoned because it was too long and too difficult to follow. Would my aging body, battered by nearly 7 weeks of radio-therapy, be up to the challenge? There was only one way to find out.

The car park was alarmingly full, because of a soccer match on the adjacent pitch, and at first there was no sign of any PH3 people, so there was a moment of fear that I had got the wrong place, but then Sparkly appeared and reassured me. Pod 1 was assembling behind Wally’s car at the extreme end of the carpark, with Sparkly, Call-Girl, Pis’t’man Pat and myself from the original allocation, plus Flappy Paddle and Wally to make up the numbers because of late-comers. We set off promptly but soon swapped Robin Hood for Wally, and much later we were joined by Kelinchi who had somehow managed to catch us up but made us 7 in number – I guess that in the future we will have to hold a “balloon debate” to decide which one of us had got to be thrown overboard or eaten in order to keep to the Rule of Six, for now we just got on with it.

Meanwhile, back at the start, Pod 2 should have been assembling … but 3s4d and Lady Chatterley were late, and Flappy Paddle had already departed with Pod 1, so Wurzel, Trip Advisor and Too Bright were feeling a bit lonely. They were joined by Wally, Uphill Gill, Paul Newman, Virgil and Venus to make an illegal pod of 8 which set off about 10 minutes late. Subsequently, Hawkeye ran in from Guildford to make a small Pod 3 with 3s4d and LC. I hope you are keeping up with all of this because there will be a test later (although it won’t count as we will go with teacher assessments in the end anyway). Incidentally, 3s4d’s excuse for their late arrival sounded suspiciously like the infamous “Hamster ate my homework” of former times!

Out on the trail, Pod 1 was having a good time, mostly. PP had invented an elaborate scheme for us to mark the circles as we solved them, in a way that Call-Girl could follow without giving the game away for the later pods. As it turned out CG was able to keep up with us for most of the run and PP’s scheme proved too subtle to be any use. At one point, in the meadows approaching The Sheepleas, I was moved to ask CG as the current leader if she would please mark the circles for the rest of us! This is an indication that the trail was so well laid that everyone in Pod 1 had a turn in the lead at some stage. We only got badly stuck at one place, the 2nd circle after the church by the A246, where we explored at least 7 wrong paths, some of them more than once, before CG called us on into the meadows and up the hill. At the highest point of the run we met Tea Cosy who, strangely, was wearing wellington boots (not good for running and unnecessary as there was no mud to be found for miles). PP was the first to reach him and, with my brain short of oxygen as I trudged up that steep slope, from a distance I thought he was holding a charity collecting tin and asking PP for a donation – but when I finally reached him I discovered it was a box of Celebrations Chocolates and he was offering them to us!

We held an impromptu (and presumably illegal) re-group with TC before setting off to try to find the onward trail. It was Kelinchi who guessed right and started us off on a lovely descent through the woods that eventually brought us out onto Shere Road where we continued the descent to the Bell and Colvill roundabout – at some points during this it got difficult to distinguish the flour blobs from crushed chalk so it was a relief to find a clear blob on top of a post and then a circle appropriately placed by the roundabout. PP and I both over-thought this and headed straight on and left, whereas Sparkly remembered the little footpath that skirts around Cranmore School and so led us to the right. I believe that one of the later pods was drawn into conversation with some residents on Shere Road who admitted that they had been hashers in Malawi in the past, I hope we will be seeing them in one of our pods in the near future.

Thereafter the route did a series of left and right turns across grassy fields that all looked similar. At one stage I nearly refused to follow the correct path because I was convinced that it was a falsie I had run in the first half of the trail, needless to say it wasn’t, and then a few moments later I did start to use a path that would have met up with that falsie only I was called back in the nick of time because RH had found some markings elsewhere. Confused? Yes, I was indeed. But so was PP who threw away a winning lead at the last circle by inexplicably turning left towards West Horsley along the railway line.

Back at East Horsley we met up with Sorry-John and Hipless who had been walking some of the route (they avoided crossing the A246 and managed to find the in-bound trail quite soon, so saved themselves the climb up to The Sheepleas). In due course Pods 2 and 3 followed us in, so there was no catching-up or mixing once the pods had set off.

Verdict: My fears before the start had proved completely groundless, this trail was well set and perfectly possible to follow. It was never easy, mind you, as whoever was leading each pod really had to keep their wits about them and their eyes peeled, but not many circles were guessed correctly by the first one to arrive there. And what more can one ask of a hash trail? I suspect that ITB had played a decisive role in the planning and execution of this route but our thanks are due to both him and Cynthia for an excellent morning’s entertainment.

At the Picnic: For the last time (until who knows when) we were able to set up our chairs and rugs in a big circle at the back of the Recreation Ground on lovely soft grass. Various produce was offered around the ring, firstly Cynthia’s carrot cake (which RH declared to be the best he had ever eaten, it was very good but I suspect that 6 miles of hard running had left him unusually open to the sugar-rush that it brought) and there were two bags of nearly ripe pears being shared as well.

Sparkly invited us to discuss the way we should handle the next few runs in the light of the new Covid-19 restrictions, in particular the “Rule of Six”. We have to remember that Wally and Sparkly, as the organisers of our “events”, could be exposed to a very large fine if things go badly. So, from next week onwards, we will need still better pod discipline, especially over arriving and starting in our allocated slots. And after the run we will need to demonstrate much more social distancing between the different pod groups as we consume our beers and goodies. How this will work when the weather gets colder and wetter remains to be seen, we will be even less welcome inside pubs than we have been in the past, though we might be prepared to sit outside in their gardens (but still in separate sixes). Hawkeye pointed out that hares will need to give considerable thought to their choice of venue, as popular carparks (like Blackheath) may be prone to the curse of busybodies all too ready to summon the police (the experience of Pod 3 last week at Chinthurst Hill is a warning of this).

But, having noted all of that, I just want to say that my experience of being unable to hash for the last 6 months (for a variety of different reasons at different times) has made me appreciate all the more just what a good thing we have in the PH3. The joy of finding I can still run a bit, in glorious countryside, following a trail that someone has taken the trouble to plan and lay, in the company of like-minded people, is all something that I find hard to express adequately. Hence my choice of Joni Mitchell’s lyrics as the headline for this report, as a reminder to all of us of what we stand to lose if our behaviour over the next few Sundays causes the weight of the authorities to be brought down upon our heads. Sadly, I don’t think that the defence of something being only a “specific and limited breach” of the law will work for the likes of us.