I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

What on earth am I walking about?

The apocalypse hit yesterday. About 10 minutes after I left my Dad's place in Morden the skies opened and fuck me did it tip it down. Shame really 'cos I was going to go for a walk. Mind you I did anyway, just not a really long one. Jumped on a tube to get somewhere dry and got off at London Bridge, from where a slow-ish trot was taken along the south of the Thames to Waterloo Bridge, then along the Strand at Aldwych, Fleet Street -- complete with diversion to Dr Johnson's House -- to Ludgate circus, then back across the Thames at Blackfriars Bridge and back to London Bridge. Even in the variably cold and wet weather London's skyline is amazing. I should go up town on my days off/weekends more often. Maybe.
old signs
Where shall I go?

That's about 3.5 miles all told, I think. Just under a quarter of the distance I did today. *cough* Didn't have a plan, I didn't even decide which direction to turn at the end of my road until I got there. I chose left. The first few miles were pretty boring, but then they would be I guess. Same as a lot of walks. Variation only comes in when uncharted territory is reached, which started today with the footpath linking the A3 and Woodies. Quite useful that. From there it was a trip along South Lane, then under the A3 and onto ... South Lane. Odd road. That ends up in what I thought was Motspur Park, but now know is Old Malden.

Heading there had sort of forced my hand into a Worcester Park/North Cheam route, thoughts of Nonsuch Park entering my mind. But some really old signs pointed in one direction to Surbiton, Epsom and Ewell, and I thought one of the latter two would be a nice trip.

It's on that road, Church Road, that the border between Kingston (a Royal and London borough) and Surrey is. But for crying out loud, we're still in outer London. North of the big road the 406 and 418 go along. Yes, it's deep south, but not out in the sticks. Those are the thoughts I was occupied with as I stumbled along the edges of a pavementless tree-lined road with no mirrors on the blind corners and muddy puddles all over the place. Grr! It wasn't the longest road in the world but still, I was expecting to end up in Stoneleigh really.
Auriol Park

That road doesn't end up in Stoneleigh. It ends up on that road where the buses go, but I turned off it before then. I was in a really residential area I didn't recognise, and frankly with the turns Church Road had taken I wasn't quite sure what direction was right. But a footpath through a park is always right, and that was the choice I took. Auroli park had a map of Epsom and Ewell's other parks too... and I couldn't see Nonsuch Park. That put paid to that plan for good. And in fact the map wasn't right useful really, 'cos it had no roads in it, just council wards and parks. Not to worry, the road the exit I chose came out on looked big enough so I headed along that and hey presto, I knew where I was again. On that big road.

From that big road I knew where I was going. There's something to be said for that, but it's also a bit boring. Nonetheless I picked the 406 route to Ewell, which ended up being a good choice 'cos I got to see a lot of cool autumn colours and stuff at the river/pond in the village. And it's at Ewell Village that I took my next random choice, not really knowing where I was going and relying again on signs... until picking a random footpath just because it was called Mongers Lane. Heh. Carried up on that until again I was in known territory and I followed the main road to Epsom town centre.
pond life

I don't like Epsom. There are a couple of OK pubs but a lot of bad ones, including an enormous Wetherspoons with expansive and astonishing toilets. Besides, I was only 8 miles in and it was only 1pm. But I didn't really know where to go. I thought about walking to Epsom racecourse, and Tattenham Corner, but couldn't remember how to get to the path that goes that way, so instead I thought I'd walk to Ashtead, and/or perhaps Leatherhead.

The problem with walking to Ashtead was that I didn't know the way there either. I took a guess at the bottom of Epsom High Street, went up West Hill, and came across a sign to Ashtead. Hurrah! Got a little bit lost in some residential roads, then found the train line which had a footpath going down the side of it. Instead of that though I crossed the bridge and got lost again in some more residential roads. About 2 seconds after telling Chris how lost I was in a text message I spotted a big road and went to explore. Turned left until about 10 yards later I looked back and saw the sign said Ashtead was in the opposite direction, oops.
Ashtead Common

The road I now found myself on was the A24. It's a big road that goes all the way to Morden and beyond, northbound. In my head the southbound route turns into Ashtead high street. It doesn't. A while down it there was a sign about Ashtead Common, one entrance of which I found myself at, and the right-hand turn had two little gate things flanking it saying "welcome to Ashtead". The high street was that way, I figured, so along I went. For ages. Until I got to some shops I didn't recognise (despite having been to Ashtead before) and the station.

Fuck it. I'd done enough walking. Time to get a train back. Oh, damn it, there goes a train. Shit. And it's a Sunday so there'll not be another one for ages. But what's this? A big common with a map on a sign and some clearly marked footpaths? Don't mind if I do!

This morning, on IRC, Chris and I had had this exchange:

* dsf doesn't really care if it rains
<chris> you might if it really fucks it down and you are miles from shelter!
-me <dsf> yeah but that's unlikely
-me <dsf> i've not walked over fields and shit yet
* dsf has stuck to easy to escape from routes
* chris nods
-me <dsf> and given recent weather, if i do go out i'm sticking to Concrete
It barely rained all day until I was in the middle of either Ashtead or Epsom Common (they kinda merge). With no shelter to talk of. I got fucking soaked. Damn stormbringer that I am. Unfortunately I couldn't tell Chris this because for the past 45 minutes, and for the next 45, my phone said "inactive SIM" on it. I had no coverage. Stupid Orange. I get that at home sometimes too. Orange's north Surrey coverage is fucking awful.

Anyway. The clearly marked paths aren't massively clear. Well I guess they're clear enough, but they're numbered, and I didn't know what number meant what. I'd already had to make a random choice at the start when confronted with a fork, then I diverted onto a different one that looked less muddy, and then at a crossing I changed direction. I thought I was roughly going the right way until I reached the edge of the common and it wasn't a road, but some fields. Erk. Thankfully another path went along the edge, I carried on along that and just basically kept walking. Eventually I came across some other people (which meant my singing along with XFM had to be calmed), a clearing, a pond with some people fishing, a car park, and a road. I had escaped the common.

XFM interlude. I think I do like it, really. Perhaps the variation on Sunday is just enough for it to not piss me off, 'cos I still heard most of the songs Laverne plays every morning but since I was listening to it for 5 hours in total that's not too bad. And I do like that Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. song. I was going to call this blog entry "Get Shoes. Wear Shoes. Walk", or "Walk Of The Worlds", in its honour. But I didn't. Nor did I call it "Nice walk if you can get it", that'll have to wait for another time.

So. I'd not come out of Epsom Common at the corner I'd expected. I didn't really know where I was, just traipsing along an unknown road with nothing but common and fields next to it. Grr. But there was a roundabout sign up ahead and with roundabouts come road signs. Aha! Epsom! Actually it was a roundabout I'd been to before, near the edge of Horton Country Park and on the road towards Chessington. Didn't want to walk through HCP though and couldn't remember the roads, so Epsom it was. The route ended up actually taking me back down West Hill, the road I'd taken out of Epsom on the way out.

In the town centre I thought I'd get a bus back to Surbiton, but after getting some drinks I checked and there was no service for a while. So I walked to Ewell, a slightly different route (guided by cycle signs) which took me through an industrial park. Doesn't sound too pleasant but it meant I got to do one of my favourite things: happen across a great sunset. Love it. And my timing was perfect for the bus too, as I'd picked a walk that got me to the stop just as the bus was timetabled to arrive.

So here's the full route, 15.6 miles. Bloody hell. What a way to spend a Sunday. And I even got back in time for Man Utd vs Chelsea on the box.

1 comment:

Clare Griffiths said...

Coo, you must have walked past Nikki and Tim's house (on South Lane).