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!!

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