Friday, June 29, 2007

The Big One - Day 3 - Stonelands to Keymer

Distance: 13.8 Miles

The Ardingly Inn - Ardingly, The Red Lion - Lindfield, The Fox and Hounds - Sandrocks, The Greyhound - Keymer

Walkers: Timmeh, Matty, Moo

Terrain: Rainforest ;), Field, Road

Weather: Rainy and warm, sunny spells

Notes: Never ever bloody ever walk long distances on road, with a heavy pack, blah blah.

1 comment:

Timmeh! said...

Breakfast at the Stonelands West Lodge is a vast improvement on the previous day. This is the stuff: proper tea, sausage, egg, bacon, mushrooms, decent toast, and beans or the devil's fruit for those that want it; all served up by a very nice and slightly eccentric landlady. This is what British B&Bs are all about. I rebuild my feet with the tools supplied yesterday by Chris and take some pain-killers. It's chucking it down, so it's full waterproofs today, and off we go.

Leg 3.1
I've decided walking along busy roads with no path or verge is shitty. Especially in the shitty rain with shitty hurting feet. We get off the road as soon as there is an available public footpath. It leads over some pretty slippy mud-slimed sandstone with water running down it, zig-zagging backwards and forwards down a very steep bank. I cope by wedging the poles in ridges and resting on them but the other guys are having to take it very slowly and hold onto the flora for support. Half way down Matty gets a phone call from Yola who's in distress over the seating plan for their upcoming wedding reception. Matty bravely risks death on two counts by trying to explain how easy it will be to sort out after he's back and not to worry, while continuing to descend the slippery rocks.
Once at the bottom (Matty's still on the phone!) it's like a rainforest down here. Direct rainfall is kept off us by the tree-canopy, it's boiling hot in the waterproofs and the whole place is misty and wet. I take my jacket off and stand there literally steaming for a little while to cool down. Meanwhile, a little old lady appears from nowhere walking a yappy dog, and tries to engage Marcus in a conversation about some flowers he's taking pictures of; apparently it's unusual for them to flower at this time of year :/.
So we trudge off through the undergrowth on a track that gets extremely muddy in places. Actually, this is pretty cool, it's a lot of fun. Some types of mild adversity just seem to make it feel a bit more like an adventure, and this is one of those moments. The terrain opens out a bit further along and we walk along the edge of a wood for a while, past a field where the swallows are doing that great NOE flying thing they do and other aerobatics. Then back into the woods to climb out of the valley and walk down the road to Ardingly.
There's a sign outside the local newsagent with a headline that reads "Local kids fed up with dog mess". Which can't be hygienic, and surely something with a high fat content would be more effective. We thought this was funny till we got the Ardingly Inn, to discover that the beer garden was full of dog shit. It's still a bit drizzly, we've a long way to go today, and the difficult terrain made that last bit slow going, so we drink up quick (the beer, K&B's Sussex, was good at least) and move on.

Leg 3.2
Quite a nice bit countryside walking this, a bit drizzly to enjoy it though really. Inside the woodland and along the disused railway was pretty cool though. Also, walking through long grass in drizzle reveals the inadequacy of the waterproofing spray that both Marcus and I had used on our boots. Eventually arrive in Lindfield to find the pub I had planned because it was on the CAMRA Ale Trail (The Stand Up Inn) wasn't doing food, so we went to the Red Lion; it's an Ember Inn, so it's good, though without being novel or welcoming. Interestingly, the menu is subtly different here to that of The Sussex Cricketer in Hove (also an Ember Inn obviously). I take the boots off to vainly try to allow my socks to dry out a bit before we move on. We realise here we've got a long way to go, and not enough time to do it. We do some hasty replanning to take a more direct route which unfortunately has less pubs and countryside, and more roads. I think it was here that we re-distributed our packs; Marcus (AKA two-pack) took his own and Matty's, these being the lightest individually but heavier than mine together, and Matty took mine. There was just no way I could make the pace required with a pack on.
Buy more blister-plasters at the pharmacy, having already used both packs Chris bought me yesterday, and head off.

Leg 3.3
This bit is fucking miserable. It's just slogging uphill on roads in the pissing, driving rain. Matty sets a good pace that I struggle to keep up with, but it's necessary so we just get on with it. After what seems like hours we arrive at the Fox and Hounds on Fox Hill (or possibly Sandrocks, different maps have different names :/ ). It's another Ember Inn (the menu here is identical to the Red Lion). The rain has let off a bit and we're roasting from boil-in-the-bag effect of slogging along in the waterproofs, so we sit outside with our hasty pints. Last bit coming up, but it's a doozie.

Leg 3.4
This bit starts out with some countryside, which is nice. Quite early on we arrive at the grounds of Lunce's Hall, where the owner clearly likes to take care of the walkers. All the public byways here are wide manicured avenues, the fences and kissing gates are wrought ironwork, although clearly only designed for thin people without packs, so some minor gymnastics are required for us lot to get through. I've seen golf courses with worse maintained greens than the grass on these paths. Whoever you are mate, we salute you.
Then one of my walking poles breaks; this is not good news as I've been really relying on them. In all fairness they've taken a bit of punishment above and beyond because I've been trying to take the weight off my feet with them for about 10 miles now. One stick helps, but it's nowhere near as good as two.
Then we hit the outskirts of Burgess Hill. I wasn't aware that Buggers Hole had any nice bits, but there's some quite posh houses here and it's relatively pleasant. All of them have names that follow a pattern: [Woodland or tree reference][Building type] e.g. grove lodge, birch cottage. It gets a bit tedious after a while. And then we hit the Keymer Road and the word tedious takes on new meaning. Two miles of walking down a road, often with no path or verge to stand on so we have to keep stopping and pressing ourselves into the foliage to let the cars past. It's just painful, annoying and quite dangerous. Then we spot the spire for the church in Keymer, which gives some hope, but it seems like we are not getting any closer to it no matter how far we walk. Eventually we do arrive in Keymer and try to find the campsite. We're all starting to lose our sense of humour a bit now. Chicken and Chris both turn up in their vehicles and do a bit of scouting around for us; Chris eventually finds the site and directs us to it. It's a race to get the tents, which Chicken had kindly brought up for us, pitched so we can get to the pub before they stop selling food.

The Evening
Arrive at the pub where Chicken and Chris are waiting with pints of Harvey's Olympia golden ale. We love Chicken and Chris. The other Timmeh also joins us for the evening. The Greyhound in Keymer is excellent. Everyone loves the food, which is served in hearty portions. The lamb shank is unfeasibly huge. I realise I've left my Ale-Trail passport back in the tent (arse!), but console myself with further beerage and a game of bar-billiards.
Back at the tent I take my socks off for the first time today to discover that these blister plasters turn to a gelatinous mess when they get wet. hmmm, nice.