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Choir walk 2024 Feb 26

Be prepared for mud

“Be prepared for mud” warned navigator Dave in his pre-outing text for the walk on 26 February.  So it proved.  The valiant six (all blokes) who set out from the Red Lion in Bletchingley encountered the worst conditions underfoot any could remember for a very long time.

Navigator Dave, watched by Neil, searches for a route past the mud

The group first headed north towards Brewer Street, at first along paths and across reasonably firm fields and passing the gatehouse of the former Bletchingley Palace. After crossing the M25 it met the first hitch of the day when the pathway heading east was blocked by Diversion signs and a man with a van who indicated that we should find another route. 

We headed north up White HIll then switched back into Hextalls Lane on an eastward path, eventually recrossing the M25. We paused by the Orpheus Centre where John Marshall remembered singing shortly after its foundation by Richard Stilgoe in 1998, and Neil Pontin remembered doing likewise more recently with the shanty crew. 


Contemplating more mud

We encountered some muddy stretches but nothing as bad as was to come. After an enjoyable sojourn at the Hare and Hounds in Godstone, the fun began. South of the appropriately named Waterhouse Farm, a succession of fields had been churned up by tractors and cattle and where the going was also uphill it was hard work. 

The culminating moment came when we approached a gateway that was both deep in mud and occupied by several cows with their calves. Mindful of the statistic which says that two walkers a year are killed by cows protecting their young, we came to a halt.  Then our valiant navigator edged forward as some of the cows and calves moved away. 

Walkers negotiate mud and cow looking out for her calf

One recalcitrant calf remained obstinately in position, even after Dave gave it a light tap with his walking stick.   Finally the mother arrived to escort the calf away and the rest of the group followed Dave through the mud and over the stile.

Muddy walkers at halfway pit-stop - the worst was yet to come

There were more muddy stretches to cross but none had quite the drama of the cow encounter.  Disorientation from the mud and the low setting sun flummoxed Navigator Dave for a while, even though he had run this route many times in his younger days. He recovered his sense of direction and we soon reached the Red Lion at sundown where four of the group remained for a tasty and impressively fast (and large) meal.  Walk group founder Pete Gillman was especially hungry, having completed his first choir walk in three months.



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