A tale of three pubs 

Our late autumn walk from the Old Bell in Oxted on Monday November 6 was preceded by fevered negotiations with a miserable Mine Host, who had to be persuaded to accept a booking for a dozen or so diners in his deserted pub at 5pm. Fortunately former landlord Martin Perkins gave him the guvnors’ masonic handshake and clinched a deal.

Enjoying the late autumn weather

The most excited walker during the negotiations was Phil's German Shepherd Suki, who was trying to herd the group together and get us started. She persuaded us to head off westwards along a short stretch of the A25 then turn into the manicured grassland of Tandridge Golf Club.

First stop was the ancient yew in Tandridge Churchyard, possibly 2000 years old, and a feature of a previous walk – and enabling our choristers to feel positively youthful as they viewed it. After strolling down Jackass Lane, the group continued westwards along a muddy stretch, then descended into a subway under the A22, where the obligatory My Lord was performed in excellent acoustics.

Autumn light and shade

The group then circumnavigated the picturesque ponds around Leigh Mill. We panicked as Suki dived in for a swim, knowing she would soak us all as she shook herself dry. Dave calmed everyone by reminding them of the history of the Elizabethan gunpowder mill and seeing how much was remembered from our previous visits.

Into open countryside

More memories were jogged as we passed the fourteenth century Old Pack House before turning eastwards again on to a particularly scenic stretch of the Greensand Way, with glorious views southwards in the crisp autumnal sunshine. Half time was at the familiar Barley Mow in Tandridge where the group was reinforced by Roger Lee, his partner Faith and their friend Bob from Canada, who were joining us for the return leg. We were much appreciated by the staff whom we serenaded over our beer.

The group now constituted sixteen walkers – a record for any leg of a choir walk. After continuing eastward through Broadham Green, we came to the newly reopened Haycutter pub. It has been expanded into a huge restaurant and was no longer the quaint country hostelry of old. The pub had been famous for its skittle alley and some of the group ventured inside in search of it.  The staff sheepishly pointed out the toy skittles sitting on the corner of the bar counter – all that remained of that particular part of history.

The record-breaking sixteen outside the Barley Mow - second pub of three

The final stretch northward past Oxted Mill took us back to the Old Bell, where there was time for a refreshing beer before dinner was duly served in the (empty) dining room. 


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