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Walk report 2023 Dec 18

Solstice four honour Polly

The choir walkers undertook their most celebrated annual outing on December 18, namely the Polly Ankle Memorial Winter Solstice Walk.  It marks the fabled day in December 2016 when choir stalwart Martin “Polly” Perkins slipped and fractured an ankle on the Greensand Way near Bletchingley. 

The fab solstice four

A multi-function rescue task force was dispatched to rescue Martin and transport him to hospital, but at the same time leaving him sitting waiting for so long  that he contracted hypothermia.

Martin duly recovered, of course, and that day has been commemorated ever since in the choir walking group annals.   A gallant four turned up to start the walk at the White Lion in Warlingham – a number that was sadly depleted by an outbreak of Covid in the choir, whose victims included none other than walk group founder (and second-oldest member) Pete Gillman.

DIck Jones, ahead of John Marshall, pauses on the second major ascent

Undaunted, the four were soon under way, heading west in balmy winter weather, with the difficult crossing of the A22 in prospect. First came the crux of this section of the route, the daunting 85-step ascent to the crest of the downs, which the walkers accomplished without undue difficulty.  They were nonetheless grateful for the scheduled halfway stop for R&R at the Wattenden Arms.  Once on the return leg, they still had to overcome a further 52 steps, where this time even super-fit octogenarian Dick Jones and to pause several times to catch his breath.

It is worthy of note that both sets of steps were constructed by none other than walk navigator Dave "Banners" Bannister. There was a detectable catch in his voice as he proudly related  how he and a team of friends completed this notable construction project, so beneficial to enjoyment of the wild places close to the nation's capital.

Polly honoured with Eton Mess (photos: Banners)

Once back at the White Lion, the walkers went all in on their early supper, which included  full-on Eton Mess.  There was a moment of sadness when the walkers realised that the absentees included none other than Polly himself.  He was originally expected to attend his memorial nosh-up, but instead diverted to Plumpton Races, where the going was Good to Soft, and Polly has yet to reveal whether he finished the day up or (more likely) down.  For the record, the four solstice heroes were Dave "Banners" Bannister, John Marshall, Roger Parkinson and Dick Jones.

Meanwhile, back in his sick bed, Pete Gillman discovered he had a loyalty card that would have saved the walkers 30% on their meal deal.  Too late, the walrus cried!


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