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Keeping the spirit alive

Choir walkers have been keeping the wandering spirit alive during the lockdown.   On Thursday 14 May, Peter Gillman and Phil Willis undertook a relay walk from the old West Wickham parish church, St John’s, which sits on the hill to the south of the former village.  

The bridge over the stream in Spring Park Wood

Peter went first, setting off down the hill towards the expanse of Sparrows Den and heading into the delightful Spring Park Wood, with its well-marked pathways steering through banks of bluebells and birdsong overhead.  After skirting Woodland Way he turned downhill again and made his way to the stream that courses into the pastureland between the wood and Addington Road.  From there he walked to Kent Gate and headed diagonally over farmland fields for the return to St John’s. (The choir walkers had previously covered part of this route during an outing way back in 2013.)

Crossing farmland below St John's parish church

Meanwhile Phil was evaluating the prospect from the St John’s graveyard as Peter approached.  After exchanging greetings, Phil and Jenny in fact decided on a variant on Peter's route, following a circuit through the woods at the back of Fieldway instead. The main incident of note came when a large lady was pulled off her feet by her dog as she crossed a stile.  Once back at the church, Phil and Jenny refreshed themselves with coffee and ginger cake as they sat in the sun and looked back over the fields. 

Looking back across the fields from St John's (photo: Phil)

The very next day, 15 May, Dave Bannister and Martin "Polly" Perkins took advantage of the changes to the lockdown rules and embarked on a glorious walk through the Marden Park valley, complying of course wtih the two- metre social distancing requirement.

Location of earlier Gillman fall

Dave walked the first 1.5 miles solo from his home in Caterham to meet Polly at Woldingham Station. On the way he passed the spot of the Gillman fall on a previous walk, but this time of course the path was dry and much easier to navigate.

Polly and Dave left Woldingham Station and headed up west side the valley past the site of Marden Park farm southwards towards the back of Woldingham School. The footpath led round the south side and onto the road through the school, deserted under lockdown.

Martin surveys the Weald

They turned onto a gently climbing path up onto the east side of the valley, with dramatic views across the valley and southwards over the Weald through the gap in the North Downs. After contouring the hillside, they turned northwards into a grassy meadow to be greeted by friendly cattle and ponies. The straight path led to a dogleg round the less-than-attractive Paddock Barn depot and then on down an old enclosure road to the new Tillingdown Farm housing development.

From there it was a direct descent across Caterham by-pass to Crescent Road and Timber Hill Park. Dave popped into his house for some much needed refreshment while Polly settled onto a park bench and table. The pair enjoyed a chat and a couple of beers (two metres apart of course) for the first time in many weeks.

Journey's end for Martin and Banners

These two experiments in making the most of the new lockdown rules, so far as they can be understood, are likely to be followed by other walkers determined to show that the group remains defiant and unbowed by the current crisis.