Ten of us travelled from Waterloo Station into ever thickening fog and wondered how this might affect our renowned map reading skills but the luck of Ockendon Road held and we arrived at Gomshall in brilliant sunshine which stayed with us all day.
A leisurely walk led us through groomed horse country, sunken ways, woods and along river banks – little sign of the mud threatened in our Time Out walk book. There were even two pubs right on the road. The first was only just resisted for elevenses and the second was our lunch stop. ‘The Villagers’provided a good lunch and a landlord with a line in jovial sarcasm. We sat in the garden – some of us protected by sunhats and suncream while a small group cowered from the burning rays under an umbrella.
Annie Wingate had hoped to pick blackberries all the way but the harvest was disappointing. We only managed a few for pud in the afternoon. Though there were no major houses to visit, we passed some fine buildings and a wonderful Tithe barn. We also came across several of those oddities that make a walk so British.
The pretty village of Shere with its upmarket’ village stores’ and duck feeding families has a darker side – a modern pillory, a former prison and the remains of a 14th century cell in the church where a girl was walled up for being a too free with her favours. She was fed by the villagers and released after a few years, but – not having learnt the error of her ways – was re-imprisoned. The note on the wall doesn’t finish the story.
An almost life- size flowerpot Bill and Ben and a scary scarecrow (remember that Dr Who episode anyone?) saw us on our way out of Shere. We went through long stretches of peaceful countryside before joining the River Wey where the water was so still the reflections were almost perfect. At a bend in the river we came across a group of Highland cattle cooling off. An artistic set piece if ever there was one.
As we approached Guildford the banks and river became ever more crowded – walkers, cyclists, pushchairs, picnickers, rowing boats and several four-man sculls with rowers of varying ability and age. They avoided tangling with surprising (and disappointing) skill.
As a Guildford finale we were just in time to see bags of blue plastic ducks being emptied into the river for a duck race. Music and stalls welcomed us and we fought our way through to a quiet cup of tea at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. Heading for the station we considered how water reflections and sunshine can improve even the grimmest 1960s(?) townscape.
Test: Tessa, Photos: Annie