‘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?