Pub closed, disaster averted

 

Everything looked perfect as pre-ambling drinkers Martin Perkins and Dave Bannister stepped off the bus at 1.15 in glorious sunshine outside the Yew Tree on Reigate Hill on 1 October. Disaster: the pub was shut and no-one answered its phone.  After a brief shot of panic,  the intrepid pair replanned and trudged 20 minutes uphill to the Bridge Hotel.

The thirsty Yew Tree ten - refreshed at the Sportsman

Although the staff offered sympathy, and tried to raise the Yew Tree by phone, they could not provide any real draft beer for the thirsty duo.  They toyed with a bottle of London Pride before Pete Gillman arrived and ferried Dave back down to the Yew Tree to meet the other walkers. Martin, reluctant to give up his hard-won altitude, resolved to meet the group when it passed the cafe at the top of the hill.

Ten walkers eventually set off up Reigate Hill, branched off into a leafy lane and then headed up through woods skirting Gatton Park. Martin had just finished a bacon sarnie when they joined him at the cafe, where the group couldn't resist tucking into ice creams as they enjoyed the vista over Reigate. Now on the North Downs Way, they crossed the ancient cast iron bridge and headed up to Reigate Fort.

View from the top - looking south from downland ridge

After a quick pause on the 19th century ramparts to savour the ever-improving views, they carried on to the monument of two carved oak wing tips, placed in memory of the US airmen lost when a B17 Flying Fortress crashed there in 1945.  When the walkers reached open downland with its dramatic viewpoint, they climbed onto the circular bench in the classically styled Inglis Memorial to test out its excellent acoustics, first discovered by Tony Keel's children many years ago.

The walkers moved off the ridge of the downs to pass through Margery Wood, soon reaching the Sportsman pub, formerly a hunting lodge favoured by Henry VIII. A pint and a few verses of Dona Nobis Pacem refreshed the group for the descent to the foot of the downs. The walkers followed the old route of the Pilgrims Way, gazing up occasionally to the dramatic ridge they had followed on the outward journey.

Ices galore near the start 

The Yew Tree had miraculously reopened by end of the walk, but contingency plans for dinner had already been made and social member Ted Mouat had been dispatched to warn the Feathers in Merstham about our impending arrival. For the second walk in succession everyone tucked into their excellent pies, half-price on Mondays, and reminisced about another sunny and scenic afternoon.

 

 

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