The shadow of Cadair Idris has been looming over me all week. Once you’ve climbed a mountain, in three feet of snow, how does one survive a weekend at a mere few feet above sea level? I yearn for the mountains. I have mountainlust.
My answer was the Surrey Hills and a reacquaintance with my old friend, The North Downs Way. It may not have the drama of snow capped peaks, but it is arrestingly beautiful in its own way. My wife and I parked the car in a very snug carpark at the top of the Titsey Trail. I remember riding shotgun in a minibus, along the ridge-like road that runs alongside Titsey, on the way to Bough Beech Reservoir for a school trip. I remember thinking, ‘That’s bloody steep.’ It is bloody steep, but the zigzagging paths, that cut ribbons through the woods, lead you to the bottom without too much strain on the knees. The woods are gorgeous, and the paths are wide and well trodden. We hunted for early signs of spring, and found but a few. From our vantage point at the top we overlooked Titsey House and the surrounding hills. It was hazy but bright as the sun tried its hardest to burn through.
Daffodils have been out since Christmas, so it’s hard to tell what’s new to spring and what’s just confused and trying its luck. Aside from the daffs, we saw whisps of something white known, appropriately, as Old Man’s Beard and a few bright green buds sprouting from tree branches. One or two little yellow primroses poked their heads out from the banks of the path.
Forgetting nature for a moment, can I talk about trekking poles? I was always of the opinion that they looked unnecessary and frankly, a bit stupid. I bought some cheap ones from everyone’s favourite constantly liquidating, constantly 99% off sports retail megachain, and let me tell you, they’re bang on. Hayley gave them the first whirl, finding a balance between a skiing motion and a swinging one. They make a hell of a difference on the hills, and with my 300 mile trek slowly approaching, I’m very glad I’ve found them. We headed back up hill, at break-neck speed. Twas there I saw it, the little white acorn. Everytime I see the acorn, I think of all the times I’ve hauled myself past it, up hills, down hills, through mud and sand. I love that we have this one national symbol, uniting hikers everywhere.
We had lunch in the Botley Hill Farmhouse Inn. If you’re ever in the Surrey Hills and in need of a pub, go here. We fueled up on homemade fishfinger sandwiches and Pilgrim ale, which made me think of the Pilgrim’s Way. ‘I’d like to walk the Pilgrim’s Way,’ I thought. I would actually like to walk all the national trails in the UK in their entirety. If only someone would just pay me to do that and write a guide book or something…
From the Botley, you can see an old Victorian water tower across a ravine of rolling fields. It didn’t look too far so we thought we’d go and see it. The only issue was that we couldn’t see a path. We decided to go as the crow flies, hopping over the beer garden fence. Sorry if we’re not supposed to do that! We yomped across the fields past curious sheep. Once at the bottom of the valley, we began to follow a trail of bones. It led us to a rather gruesome skull, mounted on a fence post. I felt a bit sorry for the sheep who have to look at it all day, but then sheep are idiots and could probably do with being reminded not to skewer themselves on the barbed wire.
We may not have mountains in South London, but we’re only a short drive from the beautiful Surrey Hills and the most excellent North Downs Way. I find it is good to remind myself that adventures can be found so nearby, and need not be life threatening to be fun. Well, not life threatening to me… I can’t say the same for the ill fated sheep.
Follow for more like this.
Find me on Twitter @willpenrose.
Share with someone who likes yomping!