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!