Remember Jane Hathaway on the Beverly Hillbillies? The spinster, academic, birdwatching secretary to Mr Drysdale? Who on earth would like to be like her?
Well, apparently us. Matt and I have entered the world of the UK "Ramblers" i.e. people who take meandering walks through the countryside - both on and off trail. Now not one for being a big walker/hiker/adventurer ... (who are we kidding) ... excerciser in Aus I never thought I'd be up for one of these gigs (not mentioning the fact that it sounds daggy).
However, Matt's friend David (and his lovely girlfriend Lisa) are of the rambling type. They even have full on trekking/mountaineering shoes and have been trying to convince us for a while to go with them. Considering my exercise regime of late has been one yoga class a week and sitting on the couch looking for jobs I was a wee bit nervous to say the last.
Matt was well prepared, he'd gone out to buy his walking shoes the day before. He loves them .... apparently they're 'approach' shoes (so he's now decided he can wear them to approach anything - especially the local cafes, golf courses, pubs etc), are blue and grey and even have a cool name (Chameleon Wraps) ... all things very important to Matt. Didn't have the heart to tell him how muddy these walking tracks could be ... he's not big on getting him or his attire dirty.
Anyway, the four of us met up at Clapham Junction station to set off on our walking adventure. I was relieved to see that Lisa and David were not in possession of walking poles (a popular accessory for the rambler). After mentioning this to them, to my dismay, Lisa said she was keen to get some (just as well she has so many other redeeming features and we love her dearly). So with our trusty TimeOut guide to England Walks we headed out to Gumshall (about an hour on the train from London). At this stage, I was uncertain of the distance of the ramble ... concerned it could turn into a 'dragging-feet-and-whinging' (not that I mentioned this to my rambling friends).
After a nervous journey to Gumshall - concerned not only about the walk itself, but whether David and Lisa had binoculars and bird books in their backpacks - to my relief, I found out that our walk was rated only 3 out of 10 for dificulty (no pikes or triple somersaults required) and that it was only 15ks (about 4 hours walking - not counting stops along the way).
I hate to admit it, call me Miss Hathaway if you wish, it was very pleasant. The weather was great, not too hot, but sunny (apparently perfect rambling conditions). The walk, imaginatively titled Gumshall to Guildford, passed through a few villages, a forest, green fields with sheep/cows, local horse properties and along the River Wey (with canal boats, rowers, ducks, weeping willows, etc). We even managed to feed (by hand) some very tame and hungry horses .
We stopped at a tea-house for morning tea, where instead of getting a breakfast tea and fairy cake, I was served a 'breakfast' (the works - Sausages, eggs, bacon, toast, etc.) After the lady at the tea-shop came out to tell David that he'd really ordered a breakfast and kept trying to make him admit it, weird, we set off again. We wandered through some lovely fields and then a forest and happened to stumble upon a village pub for lunch, popular to the local rambler because of its location - midway, on this particular walk. After a neighbourly nod to our fellow ramblers, a lovely lunch, a Pimms and Lemonade and with my confidence brimming as to the ease of the walk we set off on part 2 of our adventure.
Not too long after leaving the pub there was a different path to an old Tower, up a wee hill, which David wanted to explore (slight panic setting in now ....). After a communal decision to explore the Tower ... bugger ... we started on the path to our new destination. Yes, you guessed it, a zig zagging path up a hill (i'm calling it a mountain) .... where every time I turned another corner I hoped (in vain) that the tower could be seen. David and Matt flew up the hill and Lisa took it slow to keep me company (not that she said so directly). Embarrassing when you're trying not to breathe like a crazed stalker, so you try not to breathe at all, which only makes things worse. Red faced I did make it to the top of the hill - where of course, by the time I arrived, the boys were ready to head back down the hill.
We picked up the pace on the way to Guildford until we hit a muddy part of the path ... oh no, Matt's shoes ... I can just imagine the tantrum. I then watched Matt claw and tip-toe his way along a barb-wired fence so his new shoes wouldn't get too muddy. He arrived on the other side with shoes clean, but a nice little scratch on his arm from the barbed-wire, but he thought it was worth it. (Since when does personal injury rank higher than muddy shoes? That boy has issues.)
We ended the walk sipping champagne at a pub on the River Wey and watching canal boats ... now that's more like it.
Apparently, we're up for ramble number 2 this weekend ..... eek ?!?