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Lockdown walking

Chins up during lockdown

The choir walkers have notched up an impressive roster of outings during lockdown, observing the rules throughout.  Following the Banners/Polly walk on May 15, the intrepid duo conducted two more outings in the ensuing three weeks. Then on June 5, the five walkers from the March 23 walk, the last day before lockdown, regathered at Dave's house in Caterham and were joined by regular walker Polly Perkins.

Five of the Sixers stage walking return (photo Banners)

Constituting a group dubbed the Sixers, they set off over Tillingdown, over the A22 bridge and up to the new Tillingdown development. After traversing a quiet valley they descended Gillman’s Hill, crossed the Woldingham Road and followed the track up and around Woldingham School. Storm clouds gathered on the route home though Marden Park and past Paddock Barn, but the sun came out for some refreshing beers on Dave’s patio afterwards.

On June 13, Ralph Osborne replaced fellow bass John Parker on another six-strong outing. This time they left Dave’s house and climbed up Waller Lane, through Queen’s Park and down into the Harestone Valley. After crossing the North Downs Way the group followed a contour between the ridge of the North Downs and  the M25 before Dave dragged them up the third steep hill of the walk on to Caterham Viewpoint.

Sixers on June 13 drinking, not walking - Ted is there too (photo Banners)

There they rendezvoused with social member Ted Mouat and six bottles of beer which Dave had thoughtfully stashed. The group enjoyed the glorious sunshine and extensive views as they took on liquid. The return trip was mostly downhill along tracks, gravel roads and Tupwood Lane before the final descent through White Knobs woods and recreation ground back to Caterham, and more beer at Dave’s...

There was another outing for the Sixers on June 19, taking a train to  Whyteleafe where they and ascended over Kenley Common and across Kenley Aerodrome. They continued through woodland until then paused for a rest sitting outside the deserted Fox pub, the location of many a walk start, half-time stop and dinner in happier times past.

Banners struggles with selfie during ice-cream stop on June 19

The final stretch followed the track at the back of the former Caterham Barracks, through the grounds of the former St Lawrence's Hospital and along the side of Westway Common. They were delighted to find the aptly-named Coffee 'n' Creams cafe was open for takeaway and John Parker led the way inside to order a double scoop of delicious ice cream. Everyone followed his lead and were soon sitting outside enjoying the late spring sunshine. From there it was a short walk though Caterham-on-the-Hill and down Waller Lane back to Dave's for a refreshing beer on his terrace.

On June 24, the hottest day of the year so far, four walkers took on plenty of liquids (some of which were picked up by Phil Willlis from the Golden Ark pub in Selsdon just beforehand) and set off from Phil’s house in Warlingham towards Farleigh Court Golf Club. In scorching heat, the walkers circumnavigated the course before arriving back at Phil’s after 4.5 exhausting miles. Gerry Upjohn had sensibly travelled direct to Phil’s just for the post walk rehydration session and Roger Lee arrived shortly afterward to make up the six.

Meanwhile Dick Jones had convened a group called the T2s, based on the second tenor section, which conducted a series of walks to/from Farthing Downs and the Fox on Coulsdon Common. 

The T2s plus guests socially isolate at Farthing Down on June 16.

There were five outings in all, with walkers including Anthony Padgett, Garry Martin, Brendan Redmond and top tenor Phil Blewett, plus further guests from other sections.   Then Dick organised the first walk to celebrate the partial re-opening of pubs with an outing based at the Fox on July 6, where the walkers drank and ate in strict conformance with the new relaxed lockdown rules.   And on July 14 the T2s undertook a further walk from Farthing Down, this time with new group member and choir veteran John Hills.

Farthing Down walkers look forward to first pub meet-up on July 6

At the same time a third group, known as the Outcasts, undertook a walk from St John’s Parish Church in West Wickham on June 23. Six walkers took part: George Taylor, Andrew and Elaine Dadley, Tony and Katrina Keel, plus Peter. This was originally to have been a six-mile walk , but in view of the intense heat the group modified its itinerary and undertook a walk of approx. three and a half miles instead.  From the church they crossed the Sparrows Den playing fields and struck up through Springpark Woods. They exited via the Kent Gate then headed into Birch Wood, the the long stretch of woodland that runs alongside New Addington.  They then turned back to cross the farmland to St John's.

The Outcasts pause for a break at the top of Birch Wood on June 23

Another major milestone came on July 13, when the walkers organised two parallel groups of six walkers each for an excursion based at the Ramblers’ Rest in Chipstead.  The two groups enjoyed the shade of the woods before emerging onto open fields near Perrott’s Farm and a long straight path down towards Holly Lane. Local expert Dave Hebden (a pal of Big Roger) helped navigate us through his local manor of Banstead until we arrived at the Woodman at Woodmansterne for refreshment.  During conversations Dave was impressed to discover that Peter Gillman had climbed all 283 of the Scottish Munros - even the Inaccessible Pinnacle on Skye, which had defeated Dave himself. The one-way system through the pub and garden challenged some of the group, and two of the party, Polly and Dave the Navigator, were distraught as the pub ran out of beer just before they were served.

Another milestone: two groups of six undertake parallel walks on July 13

Cold fizzy lager had to be consumed amid much muttering.  The return journey was direct and mostly downhill and the groups soon joined social walker Ted back on three separate tables outside at the Ramblers’. Fortunately, plentiful supplies of beer were available to wash down the up-market food.  Then Dave Hebden walked back home to Banstead (again).  Equally impressively, Dick Jones walked a total of 10.7 miles by eschewing any form of public transport to and from his home in Coulsdon - this forming part of his training for his Alzheimer's Society appeal walk in August. (More details to come.)

On July 17, a five-strong Outcasts group returned to St Johns in West Wickham to fulfil their date with destiny by undertaking the full walk originally planned for June 13. It proved a delightful and intriguing outing, following a route south-east out of Coney Hall through farmland and woodland towards Keston, with views of new-born lambs and roistering horses to add interest. 

Crossing farmland on the return to St John's

After striking west south of Keston, they took refreshment at the Layhams Farm shop before continuing to Rowdown Woods, which abut New Addington and merge with Birch Wood to the north.  After navigating a meandering path they emerged onto the farmland that led directly back to St John's. The walk was measured at 6.7 miles and took just over three hours.

Journey's End on July 17 (photo Katrina Keel)

Over a lockdown period of six weeks, the walkers undertook no fewer than sixteen outings.  A total of twenty walkers took part, including two members' wives and one guest, while social member Ted Mouat made frequent appearances.  It all signifies an impressive commitment to group solidarity and the outdoors during such testing times.  More walks will soon follow.


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