New Years Walk - 2013

posted 21 Feb 2013, 23:07 by Graham Morley   [ updated 21 Feb 2013, 23:07 ]
This year’s cobweb blow-out and muscular challenge, usually known as Alan’s Walk, took place on Saturday 12th January. It wasn’t in fact an Alan Jales effort this time, but was instead rather cunningly planned and executed by John Kemp. However Alan did organise the table at the pub. A feature of these walks is that they can be joined and left by quite convenient public transport.

Fourteen members and one guest took part in this three hour walk of about eight miles, beginning at Westhumble railway station and finishing at The Woodman pub and restaurant, Ashtead. The route took in the village of Mickleham, with its rather unusual and pretty church of St Michael and an old village store; the Roman road of Stane Street; and Ashtead Park Nature Reserve.

According to Wikipedia (the entry does have source references!), St Michael’s church has a Norman west tower (the main bell tower seen in the photo), while the east end, presumably including the two turrets, one each side, dates only to a restoration of 1871. I can’t ever remember seeing a church quite like it before, and it was a surprise and a delight to come across it.

The Mickleham village store and Post Office is also quite a gem – and a rarity these days in such prosperous areas – and I made sure to get a photo recording its founding date. It would be nice to visit again in summer and sit outside it with a coffee. Mickleham is one of those good old English villages with the church, pub and shop all within short staggering distance.

Intense muscular challenge was provided by the climb up a steep chalk escarpment above Mickleham to get onto Mickleham Downs. This resulted in a lot of rosy cheeks and puffing! − quite an exertion. The weather was kind, there being very little rain and sleet and only a gentle breeze to cool the walkers.

Along the way, the route traversed mostly either squelchy, muddy paths with uninviting puddles, or good hard North Downs chalk with plenty of flint nodules. It’s quite true that the ground is completely saturated right now, contributing to the current spate of repeat floodings across the country. A few people were attracted to the pair of large bracket fungi on the leaning silver birch, which was right alongside Stane Street, I believe. In Ashtead Park we found the ancient oak tree, pictured with Rob Mayley walking by, who I am assured is rather younger.

The last mile or so proved a bit of a slog, as we were all getting hungry and thirsty. We dropped off a couple of our number at Ashtead station, and then John Kemp disappeared mysteriously, to reappear ten minutes later with a broad grin on his face and riding a conveniently cached bicycle with which to beat us to the pub in relative comfort. I don’t know how he does it. But it’s not a launch trolley, John, and the tyres need pumping up.

Alan had booked a large table for us, handily, because the restaurant area was packed. Some senior members joined us there and chat continued to flow. The pub had à la carte and set menus with quite a variety of food, and a good selection of beers. Was I thirsty? Yes! I had a pint, and somebody noticed that because I’ve never been seen tipping more than a half at Minima. The kitchen struggled with the packed house but the food was good, and the party didn’t finish until after four o’clock.

I’m sure every participant will join me in thanking John and Alan for a well organised and enjoyable event.

Your intrepid roving reporter,
Andy Cuckson

(Group photo by John Metzner. All other photos by the author.)