St Hilary’s Day walk

In honour of St Hilary, I went for a walk today. Was up at 7 to check the weather, which was glorious: Glorious and very crisp. Left home into the frost and cold with the puppies for company. This was the first walk they have accompanied me on and I was hoping they’d last a bit longer than when we walked home from Serendipity!

We headed first for the wooded area that runs by Shottermill cemetery where we met an Ewok disguised as a dog with big eyes and shrill yap dragging a South African woman. Her nationality was obvious when she let out a bleat of amazement after I told her the puppies were poodles. Typical! Maybe we SHOULD get them dyed pink and have bobbles attached to their tails.

Through Hammer and on up the hill to the pine forest. The sun, although weak was very bright, spilling through the close trees, highlighting the winter frost on the ground. A large swathe has been cut through the pines. This is done regularly to rejuvenate the land. The timber is used for coppicing – fixing the fences.

Although covered in leaves, the ground is still very muddy in parts. These parts are very easy to find, however, as they are parts most favoured by Carmen & Day-z. Eventually, having sludged through a few miles of scunge, we reached the Sussex Border Path near an area called ‘The Ridge’. As usual with big paths, this one is well marked with its distinctive little blue badges.

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It had been a long, continuous climb to the path but now it levelled off and we enjoyed an easy stretch to Marley Common. I let them off in turns as this means I can keep a bit of control over them! Even so, they still manage to run off every opportunity they get.

Marley’s Common is a stretch of National Trust land to the south of Camelsdale. Obviously a regular walking spot as we ran into a gang of about 15 dogs and 5 humans. All but one of the dogs were loose and very interested in the poodles who were, naturally, firmly in harness. It freaked Carmen out a bit – so many dogs! Sort of the puppy equivalent of Christmas in Farnham High Street. We picked up the pace a bit and managed to put some distance between us and the pack.

The other side of the common becomes Marley Wood and descends, steeply to Bell Road which is really part of the A286 to Midhurst and therefore revoltingly busy!

Fortunately we only had a short walk along Bell Road before we came to Fernden Lane. At this stage I’d been lulled into a false sense of security and ignored the signs of danger. Thrice I was struck down as thrice I attempted to walk across the black ice of Fernden Lane. Luckily no-one saw me – the puppies managed NOT to laugh.

We left the Sussex Border path at the weir near Stedland’s Farm. It was such a lovely spot I decided we’d stop for a drink. An almost frozen lake with frosty white banks, ducks calling in the background. Almost perfect, it was. I say almost because of the road not two feet behind us which, although just a dirt road, seemed ridiculously busy.

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Stedland’s is in a valley so it was a long, steep climb up again, along a seemingly impassable bridle path upon which we saw two horses managing to pass ok. There followed an idyllic stretch of path next to playing fields and tennis courts, sparkling in the winter sun, before we once more started heading down into Haslemere.

As we came down from the sporting fields, there were wonderful views looking out for miles across open countryside. Unfortunately the right hand side of the path had a two metre fence providing privacy to the very big houses. The lane was so sunken that the only way to see this spectacular view was by planting my boot firmly against the base of the fence and hauling myself up a bit. Then I’d wobble and fall back down. No chance of a photo!

The puppies were a bit jittery as we were suddenly subjected to the busy traffic and pedestrians of Haslemere on a Saturday morning. We stopped at the Granary to buy some lunch – the first time they’ve ever been tied to a lamp post outside a shop and they were very good, even when the old man fell over across the road and was immediately surrounded by dozens of good Samaritans, no doubt suffocating him with kindness. Not even then did they make a peep. Actually I think they were both too scared of all the noise and big feet.

Not that keen on the busy town, we once more hit the back streets, heading out towards the start of the Greensand Way, a national trail that runs from Haslemere for 105 miles to Hamstreet near Ashford, Kent.

We finally stopped in the lovely little churchyard of St Bartholemew’s, where we enjoyed our lunch. Actually, I enjoyed my lunch while the puppies wandered round, eager to keep moving. It’s a sweet little church which boasts a pre-Raphaelite stained glass window dedicated to Tennyson, but because of the puppies, I couldn’t check it out and, instead, after a half hour rest, we moved on.

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We were still following the Greensand Way, climbing more hills and sludging through more mud. Eventually we left the GSW and headed down a very steep hill towards Sandy Lane. The trees down this slope grow very close together, giving a Tulgey Wood feel to everything. It was also a lot colder under the leafy canopy and I was forced into my gloves and put my jacket back on.

At the bottom of the hill there’s a cottage and outside the cottage were 5 little snowdrops. Easily the first of the year! After admiring them and making sure the puppies didn’t admire them to death, we headed for Polecat.

This is a small National Trust area of wooded hill. It is also a well disguised entrance to the Twilight Zone. For, it is written, no matter how you walk around Polecat, you always end up at the same place – back at the beginning. I was going mad which, I’m sure, inspired my decision to allow Carmen to take over the navigation. This proved foolhardy in the extremem as she led us to a sheer drop onto a busy road. We managed to quickly backtrack and ended up…back where we started. It all seems so straight forward on the map.

Eventually, in utter desperation, we just ploughed through the trees, ignoring anything that even remotely looked like a path, following our ears towards the traffic noise. We came out on a steep driveway which led us down to the A287 a bit further south than we had originally aimed for but, hey, at least we made it. I had visions of us wandering Polecat for centuries and becoming the ghosts of Polecat Hill.

Anyway, from the driveway it was an easy walk back home after stopping for this photo, of course!

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We walked in the door at 2 – a 5 hour walk! Amazing! And the dogs lasted the entire way. I think I was worse off than them!

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