It was the first time I have had ever woken up in a half tester bed ……..
What a difference a day can make. It was a very old fashioned room, full of a mixture of brown furniture and books with faded covers. The twin beds had never been twinned. Keith’s was very old but did not have the curtained grandeur of mine! One of the great joys of these journeys is where you end up each day and this stop proved to be exceptional.
Our hosts were from a different era. Alexine was an author. Warren definitely ex army with a handshake that crushed your hand so hard it brought tears to the eyes and you hoped he did not notice you wince. The house from the outside was large in a faded glory sort of 20’s design. The lights were suspended on brown cords. The walls in the dining room were covered with portraits of distant ancestors. Gentle folk. There was no sign of an ‘en suite’ but there was an old fashioned bath room down the panelled corridor, but, we were told, ‘you have a hand basin in your room’ ……. For the wash down with a flannel?!
They were charming. Sadly Warren was very deaf but he appeared at breakfast in a very dapper orange cravat. Alexine’s white hair was just about caught in a bun, she was tall and slim but slightly stooped and had the most amazing smile. We assessed that she was probably close to ninety. Besides serving breakfasts to passing guests (there were two other couples beside us on the morning we were then) she is working on a new volume, this time about the civil war and goes to The British Library once a month for research.
Amazing! After we had bought her book, a historical novel based in Farnham, she showed us to a hole in the hedge (the house was in a sort of clearing on a tree covered plateau above Farnham). This led to a private, muddy and slightly overgrown steps, that took us down to a lane and then to a footpath that led to the North Downs Way. We had turned east. We were en route to Canterbury. The route immediately feels very grown up and ordered. Our route sign now is an acorn. It is very well signposted.
It was raining from the start of the day but it was a gentle rain and because the route often took us through woodland so we hardly noticed. As Keith says, there is no such thing as bad weather it is just that you are wearing the wrong clothing……. I was duly ‘kagooled’ and gaitered and the weather didn’t intrude on what was a lovely walk. What was noticeable was that the earth had become quite sandy. It was quite springy under foot and we had returned to blue bell country. It was mainly an agricultural landscape interspersed with woodland and a couple of really sandy ‘heaths’. It was a very gentle day’s walking with no major climbs or descents – there was a feeling that we hadn’t yet got to the ‘downs’ aspect of the journey. We saw very few houses on this leg of the route but there were lots of wild flowers and hedgerows busy with birds twittering. It was a lovely walk.
We passed through one small village, with small cottages and busy front gardens. The pub – the Good Intent – was in a state of refurbishment, but notices assured us that it was ‘Business as Usual’. After crossing a very busy road, our route took us to a very busy art gallery and studio complex. This was bristling with retired ladies lunching in the noisy tea room. What it did have was an exhibition that we could not resist – paintings of the Silk Road. The artist had, we found, painted in Uzbekistan and we recognised aspects of Samarkand and the surrounding areas that we new. The paintings were interesting and very expensive. Fascinating that they should appear at the end of a woody footpath in Surrey………
Enough of civilisation. Back to the walk. Our way moved up from a slightly odorous pond beside the gallery (I am not sure that their eco friendly loos were quite up to snuff) and followed the leafy path to a farm on the Losely Estate (think ice cream). We were nearly at the end of the days walking. However, the day was not to be without its ornithological excitements. There to our left in a fallow field was a bird of prey. It’s hooked bill and beady eye surveyed the area with the superior attitude that seems to exude from these creatures and showed a total disregard for the two excited humans staring over the fence at it. What confidence! It glided off a bit but then settled in the grass again. What was it watching or guarding? Who knows
We meandered off, soon to arrive at Ye Olde Ship Inn where we were to leave the path for our hotel. Regrettably this proved to be a mile off. A long descent to the edge of Guildford and an equally long ascent two roads away that rendered us determined not to retrace our steps even to eat. The ‘hotel’ was a very efficient basic hostel for travelling salesmen. Very clinical and clean but pretty characterless. A night for washing put clothes and not much else.