Fifty shades of grey was the weather for this New Year Walk on the runnersfringes of North London, but with no handcuffs, very little discipline and no rain. It was the biggest turn-out (winter, spring or autumn) that we have ever had, and many thanks to dedicated regulars, much missed returnees and some very welcome new faces.

As instructed in rhyme, most turned up at the park gates at Manor House far too early and were eventually then whisked by mostly above ground Underground to Cockfosters where the final party proved to be 25 in number plus two (regular) dogs. But over 25 in average age.

runners

Then straight out of the station into London suburban parkland swarming with professional looking runners and more dog walkers and a first encounter with what proved to be one of the main features of the whole walk: mud.

The wettest or second wettest year on record had left its mark on the paths we took, and the paths we took left their mark on us as we squelched, slid, sploshed, skidded, splattered and splashed etc for most of the seven miles. startingNobody fell over, or admitted to it. It reminded old timers of the first of these walks six or seven years ago when the destination was rural Essex and our boots were doubled in size and weight after just a few steps in sticky clay. But the mud did not dampen expectations and the expedition rollicked along under the deft direction of Norah and Mark who had gone to the unprecedented lengths of reconnoitring the entire walk a few months early during (one presumes) a rare dry spell in 2012.

Step softly, for your tread on my mud

Their meticulous planning even included the circulation of a lunch menu just when appetites were getting peckish, enabling detailed food requirements to be telephoned ahead to the pub.

The way circumnavigated a remarkable football pitch set on the side of an escarpment. It may not be possible for one goalkeeper to see the other, so precipitous was the slope. Premier League it wasn’t. Maybe they install CCTV to enable both ends of the game to see each other on match days.

The (once rural) Rose and Crown in (once rural) Enfield is an ancient establishment with good beers, slow food (very fashionable nowadays) and nice puddings, as tradition requires. We had arrived there at just after 1pm with two thirds of the journey completed and set out through more parkland for the last two miles of the walk.

We ended up at the seasonally named Turkey Street station and then as is the tendency on these walks, the groupwarning ebbed away in various directions, so the walk ended not with a bang but a slightly poignant vanishing into the dusk. Jolly nice day though, a wonderful start to what in Chinese terms may be the Year of the Hippopotamus (“Glorious Mud”). Basil and Bertie are now almost clean again.

No cases have been reported of Trench Foot.

Text: Peter. Pictures: Annie and Peter

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