Spring walks in Farleigh and Richmond

For the first of our two outings, ten walkers, including new bass recruit John Parker, gathered at the Harrow in Farleigh on 13 April. We then discovered we were too large a group for the solitary chef on duty to feed us at 6pm, so social member Ted Mouat was dispatched in his car to find an alternative pub for after our walk. In the meantime, the walkers set off northwards across Farleigh Common. After a few hundred yards the pacemakers were overtaken by a scampering Misty, followed at a more sedate pace by latecomer Nick Hewitt making a welcome return to the walking group.

Springtime in Richmond, with navigator Dick Jones (see report below)

The group passed the familiar St Mary the Virgin Church and joined the scenic path through Farleigh Golf Course and downward through the wood to Featherbed Lane. Dave the Navigator then led onto Hutchinson's Bank, a tranquil local nature reserve lying close beneath the urban bustle of New Addington. This area is known for its varied butterfly population, and Dave pointed out some tagged and protected examples of young Blackthorn shrubs, the only habitat on which the rare Brown Hairstreak butterfly lays its tiny white eggs.

On Farleigh Common

The group ascended the steep side of the reserve, trying not to look at the eyesore of Pear Tree farm, whose romantic name belies the car and lorry breakers yard which scars the view. Another down and up took the group back across Featherbed Lane and onto Chapel Bank. Dave led the group as far as he could through this further nature reserve and the wood beyond before emerging yet again near the top of Featherbed Lane. The final quarter mile to the White Bear refreshment stop was along the narrow and dangerous road, and many donned high visiblity yellow jackets to improve safety, if not style. At the pub, Ted greeted us with the welcome news that he had booked the White Lion for dinner.

The Farleigh ten, plus Misty 

After the obligatory pint the group left the pub and turned right at Fickleshole Farm onto a steep and undulating footpath through the woods and fields towards the Greatpark estate, formerly the site of Warlingham Park Hospital. Nick banged his head on a low hanging branch, but fortunately didn't need the services of the former hospital as we skirted its grounds back to the Harrow. Coincidentally, walker and Head of Apres Drinking Martin Perkins had selected this pub for revels after our Spring Concert the next day, so we knew we'd be back soon as we made the short drive for our slap-up dinner at the White Lion.

A Richmond Record

The decision to postpone our second walk, in Richmond Park, for one week due to forecast wet weather was vindicated as twelve walkers gathered at The Albert pub near Norbiton station on a gloriously sunny spring afternoon April 27. Early arrivals took on board government advice to drink plenty during the mini heatwave as they sat outside in the sun awaiting the others.  All were delighted to welcome Charles Joy back as a guest walker as he had moved away from Croydon some months earlier, and was now a member of Thanet MVC.

The Richmond walkers (photos Brendan Redmond)

Dick Jones, local expert and guest navigator, led the group down Queen's Road and through Kingston Gate into the park, where they were joined by Hazel Willson. Dick led the group upwards past and underneath magnificent old oaks to the gates of the Isabella Planation. This woodland nature reserve, fenced off and protected from the park deer, probably takes its name from "isabel", an old word describing the greyish yellow colour of its soil. Dick had timed the walk so that we could enjoy the riot of colour from the rhododendrons and other exotic species flowering at this time of year.

The group emerged from the plantation and continued towards the centre of the park, crossing the causeway between the Pen Ponds and climbing to some of the highest points and most ancient trees. A pair of red deer was sighted and the group quietly stalked them to get close without causing alarm. The group accelerated as Pembroke Lodge was also sighted, which promised lashings of real ice cream to cool us in the continuing heat. All but one of the party were unable to resist a double scoop crammed into each cone...

The steep, scenic descent behind the lodge took us down to the Petersham Road and a short walk along to the Fox and Duck for further refreshment, this time liquid. Dick then led us to a short stretch along the River Thames, before looping back and into the park. By now the group were tiring but soldiered on along the most direct route back towards Kingston Gate. The final stretch along Queen's Road proved easiest as The Albert could be seen in the distance, and soon the group had collapsed into their familar seats on its sun terrace. We were delighted to be joined for dinner by Dick's partner Jilly and her family as we reminisced about the lovely afternoon's walk. The distance covered was just over 7.6 miles, clearly beating the previous record distance of 7.3 miles.





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