Retracing fateful steps

On September 25, nine walkers gathered at the Whyte Harte Hotel in Bletchingley and set off southwards. They soon were in the area where innumerable on- and off-road ambulances assembled on that fateful winter solstice day in 2015 when Martin Perkins broke his ankle.

The walkers pause for thought

Dave the Navigator pointed out the hill where the accident occurred, mobilising some eight vehicles and 12 members of the emergency services.  The group skirted that infamous mound by following the Greensand Way on the southern slope of the ridge, with extensive views over rolling farmland, then crossing the track of the old London-Newhaven Roman road on Tilburstow Hill. The walkers faced a stiff ascent of the steepest hill on the route, and were rewarded by a long downhill gradient through the woods to the Enterdent, a hamlet where the old A22 crosses Gibbs Brook.

Dave points out the sights

Heading northwards up Church Lane, the group were transfixed by the Old Packhouse, a Grade 2 listed building from the early 15th century. Then came the familiar St Nicholas Church, restored by celebrated Victorian architect Sir George Gilbert Scott. (The group visited St Mary's Chapel and Scott’s adjoining alms houses on the aforementioned 2015 winter solstice walk.) On the stretch past the Bay Pond, Dave reminded the group how this had provided water to power Leigh Mill, owned by George Evelyn, one of three manufacturers licensed by Elizabeth I in 1589 to make gunpowder.

Homage to 'Magnificent Seven' shot

After refreshing ourselves at the Hare and Hounds by Godstone Green, we headed back towards Bletchingley past the old Godstone Windmill site and between the quarry ponds. We followed the new haul road built to service the local sandpits to a point where we reprised the celebrated photo of the magnificent seven walkers emerging from the mist in December 2016. The ascent through the golf course and past Bletchingley Church took us back to the Whyte Harte for dinner.

Half-way point at Godstone

Once seated round our dining table, Peter Gillman  (right in photo above) revealed that this was his fiftieth walk with the group - he being one of its three founders back in the winter of 2012.  Since that time, 53 walks have been accomplished, of which he had missed just three.  He was duly toasted by his fellow walkers. 

Light relief was provided by the waitress who advised us, 25 minutes after ordering, that “the pies were off". Five minutes later, after we had ordered alternatives, the waitress returned to announce that "pies were back on" – and they arrived five minutes later. We later learned that the pies were “off” because someone had ordered all of them – namely us! The group tucked into the delicious pies amidst banter about whether Basil Fawlty ran this hotel...

 

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