Run Report 1510: The Swan, Ash Vale

Out of the valley of ash jogged the PH3………
Scribed by Hawkeye

Class can be a sensitive subject a bit like admitting to having a crush on Cherie Blair or suggesting that the next pope should be a thirty something bisexual woman. But I reckon if you looked reasonably closely you’d see that the PH3 social demographic would be skewed more towards the A’s than the C’s, more toward Gold Blend than Mellow Birds if you know what I mean. Therefore, it was a brave choice of venue for a hare, who was lucky not to suffer from the equivalent of the sociological bends, freshly returned as he was from a week yachting in the British Virgin Islands.

I travelled across country to reach the venue through territory that’s great for caravan repairs and storing your out of season circus equipment. The sort of place where you can get a knocked down price on some remnant carpet or an even better price on some knocked off tarmac or a rheumy piebald pony…with a worried look on its face. But on my Sunday morning cultural adventure I also noted two boarded up pubs, The Duke of Cambridge and The Standard of England. Times as they say are hard, really hard. In fact, given recent events, if I were a horse I’d be afraid, I’d be very afraid.

Our venue looked very hospitable as did the suntanned hare on hand to shepherd us to a private car park where his glistening motor was parked. Choosing to make this Ash Sunday not Wednesday were Babe Ruth, Florence (on a rare visit), Secret Squirrel, El Caudello, Belisha, Diego, Tom Tom, Sparkly, Tally, Wally, Sorry John, Cinderella, Pis’t’man Pat, TIFM and Babe Ruth (again). The pre-run briefing was of Homeric proportions and covered the eventuality of death by numerous means, water, electricity, water and electricity, Cyclops, mud, gunfire, you name it. We chose to try our hand at water first off and set off at some length along the Basingstoke Canal. Suez, Panama, Guadalcanal it is not, but for this section with the bright morning sun it was pleasing to the eye. Even more so when it expanded into large lake sections populated by wild fowl and even wilder fisherman.

Breaking away from the canal was a difficult but necessary severance and one that by turns brought us back into contact with the hare observing affairs close to The Potters. The lack of choice occasioned by the canal was now unrestrained and used to full effect as an always delighted Belisha and Diego welcomed the sight of a reassembling pack at several circles. This was going to be one of those runs were no one stole a march and everyone took the lead, a good’un.

We had been warned about a mountain bike race but not the mountain bike race warden and so after some delightful diversions amongst the woods, sweeping up Tally and SJ along the way, we encountered the hazard tape used to mark out some of the aforementioned MTB course. Now I come out running to enjoy the tranquillity of the countryside, the comradeship with fellow runners and the polite banter. All that was overridden by an overbearing volunteer warden with a voice like a klaxon and a Hitler fixation. To be fair there was a full blown, full speed peloton of mamils tooled up with enough magnesium and aluminium to run a scrap yard for a week and the odd innocent bystander…….but call me radical as I’ve always had a policy of ignoring authority, particularly authority that works on the premise of repetition and increasing volume. Well I did until that incident on the Metropolitan Line, but the scars have healed and that’s long forgotten. Actually now I think about it Little Hitler might have had a point as the confluence of bikes and runners was right upon a switchback spaghetti junction section of track. Thank heavens for those fluorescent running tops again.

This being an unfamiliar locale, I for one was caught out by a couple of vistas whose beauty could not be dampened by the bike ride shenanigans with subsequent analysis determining them to be St Michaels Abbey, Farnborough. This was apparently built by the Empress Eugénie who was devastated by the death of her husband Napoleon III followed shortly thereafter by the death of her son in the Zulu War. Co-op funerals were obviously not up to the job.

But what of the run, well there’s not much to say in so much as this was a run that threw circle upon circle, backmarker upon front marker and hence made it unremarkable by being bang on the money. So much so that PP was eulogising that this was the best run in years, but with his short-term memory issues that’s no accolade. Our straight run out along the canal was mirrored by an equally restricted route immediately after the regroup. That this was alongside a live firing range with the sound of gunfire growing louder, may have made us run faster, it certainly ensured we stuck to the path.

The on in happened all of a sudden as we rounded one of the lakes we’d passed earlier. Not before SS managed to recall me and others having missed yet another cross. I honestly can’t remember who took line honours Sparkly?, Cinderella perhaps? In truth they belonged to Secret Squirrel or the hare for a top quality trail.

VERDICT: We covered the ground in little over an hour and I suspect were largely if not totally disorientated for our 6½ miles. With the exception of a single and unavoidable puddle, we also managed to keep our feet dry – a first for many a week. But what made the run were the circles and variety that kept a variable pack in close company. Bravo BG. I suspect like the swan he was serene as we arrived, but paddling like stink to get the trail laid in time.

AT THE PUB: Chef & Brewer are like chalk and cheese to beer and quality but on this occasion there was a good selection; Ringwood and TEA, so no complaints there. Apart from TIFM agitating over a short measure. As befits the hare, BG bought the chips and we rather bravely/foolishly sat outside in the weak sunshine. It was wonderful to be joined by Hipless who popped by before a short break in Cyprus which revealed climatic conditions I was unaware of (a skiing season) and the fact that Sparkly & Wally once lived there. Who knew. We hope she will pop along from time to time. The chattering was mainly of teeth but I did learned from Diego that you should never show photos to friends on your mobile….especially if you can’t remember what standout features are on the preceding photo. Suitably educated we headed for the car and a warm up on the way home.


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