Leaders grasp the nettle….well occasionally….…..
Scribed by Hawkeye
As I drove to Sidney Wood last weekend, I was reminded of the legend of this great Victorian explorer. Sidney, the discoverer of Chiddingfold and the first woman to complete the tricky solo ascent of the North Face of St Martha’s, and surely her most daring adventure – an expedition to Woking. The woods named in her honour surround another fading (pre-) Victorian memory – remnants of the Wey and Arun Canal.
Twenty-first century intrepid explorers ready to make the trip today included TIFM, Robic, Moondance, Hawkeye, Robin Hood, Lady Chatterley, 3s4d, Scooby Doo and Pis’t’man Pat. That’s right PH3’s most inappropriately apostrophe’ d man was back. You can’t keep a good man down, nor PP. The temperature was brewing to be the hottest day of the year and as the mercury nudged 30o the hare’s briefing spoke of copious mud to cope with. I was already considering wallowing in it. We were also warned of near invisible sawdust, so whilst this was set in PH3 style – in parts it would turn into a GH3 style free for all. Talking of GH3, with the GMs and several other twin-hatters absent, rumours circulated of a pre-freedom day GH3 get away. I always imagine a GH3 trip descending in to farce as the pack scatters in all directions at the first roundabout – never to regroup again. But maybe that’s just me.
Our first five minutes was spent unsuccessfully leaving the car park. The next eighty more successfully out on the trail. For this run, rhythm and flow were an eternal challenge, within the woods the sawdust faded to obscurity, out in the open the temperature rose incredibly – a hard day ensued. We slithered through some early mud looking for ways to exit the treacherous canal towpath. It was good to have SD back in the pack, he may be lacking stamina but the decibel count always increases when he’s in the lead. Which he was for a while as he helped pilot me out of the woods and around some high value housing.
We made a voluntary regroup in an appropriately shaded spot which according to TIFM turned out to be next to a field of scabious. Field of Scabious, the difficult second album by Hamsters are the Master Race. Those familiar with the pre-run briefing were expecting overgrown paths and scratchy legs but only SD had opted for full trousers, the others presuming them to be too hot. And then we arrived at our collective downfall. As places to come a cropper, there could be worse as the pack struggled to find an ongoing trail, with circumstances such as multiple paths and no circle (we had missed the cross), a large trail and no markings (we had missed the cross) and little other choices ( I didn’t like the look of the waist high nettles). Much toing and froing and cursing ensued. Eventually we found the cross that was so obviously placed that it was comical – and decided to grasp the nettle.
The nettles made way for more glutinous mud and led to FRB Moondance going all ‘Zola Budd’ as he carried on whilst one of his shoes didn’t. This path brought us back into the ambit of the old canal, and it shows the level of disorientation that I then spent considerable efforts in trying to turn right when in fact ‘home’ was more of a hard-left direction.
The on in extended somewhat further than I expected and Robic, Moondance and I broke away for a short while in pursuit of a consistent route home. I backed a hunch to cross the old canal and shouted that an immediate right fork was necessary in the verdant surroundings. This message clearly didn’t carry, meaning the next runners either forked right off or were forked right off. We returned in good order to the welcome of two relieved-looking hares. 3s4d went astray somewhere but eventually found his way home ten minutes later.
VERDICT: To the hares’ consternation the pack had covered approximately 7 miles that contradicted with their claim of 6.4 including falsies. I’m no techno-geek but from a quick google it boils down to GPS watches using direct satellite fixing and phone apps using relays via masts etc. and averaging out any errors. When the top tip to get an accurate reading on your phone is “First, try to choose outdoor routes along open, relatively flat areas whenever possible. Dense, overhead foliage, tall buildings and other types of satellite or cellular interference make for greater inaccuracies”, I think you can draw your own conclusions!
But many thanks to the hares Easily Overlooked and Secret Squirrel for their efforts, the trail was generally well marked but sadly the colour of the sawdust and sunshine made it very difficult to follow.
POST RUN CONVERSATION: Cooling down was the first task as we ambled round the shaded but sticky car park. PP was grilled on his new lodgings etc. and even offered to welcome us for a weekend hash at some point. SD was so enlivened by the run that he offered to buy the drinks in the nearby and appropriately named Sun Inn. But with prior commitments or a need for a lie down in the shade, for the majority ‘A run & on their Wey’ was enough excitement for the day. On on.
WEY & ARUN FOOTNOTE: For those interested (perhaps just me!), the roadworks on the bend by the car park are in fact preparatory for a new road bridge (and adjacent footbridge) that will be within the width of the existing highway. When the bridge is completed and the road reopened to traffic, a new canal cut some 200yards long will be excavated below the bridge and will then curve around to re-join the original canal to the west of the old crossing.