|18 Aug 2019||Keith||Kathy|
Some of us arrived ridiculously early, and some in the nick of time (even John & Margaret just about beat the clock today), but no matter – a pleasing mix of long-standing hashers and newer members took part (including Dennis & Sue and the intrepid Henry who, having been introduced to KVH3 earlier this year, keep coming back for more punishment…. So we must be doing something right!).
I must point out at the start that Jeremy – one of our most faithful hashers and one of our very few original members – ran entirely alone today (well, that’s if you discount Noodle, his dog), and I noticed how totally relaxed and laid-back he was afterwards, with nothing whatsoever untoward to report. So could this be the new way of hashing – running solo in a ‘mindful’ manner, guaranteed to return the runner cheerful and refreshed? I don’t think I’ll try it as a walker, though… if ever I don’t see a group of recognizable anoraks a short way ahead of me, I soon start to panic!
During our pep talk, I couldn’t understand why Keith kept muttering a line from the musical ‘Oliver’ singing “all winds and all weathers ain’t good for fancy clothes”, until I realized it was his subtle way of pointing out that bejewelled open-toed sandals may not be entirely appropriate for today’s muddy trails. How right he was! He also took great care to stress that today’s 2.8 mile walk would definitely seem longer due to its hilly nature…. how right he was again, but I’m sure everyone felt that today’s trek amid quintessential, pastoral Gloucestershire scenery was wholly worthwhile. We undertook some brisk exercise in near-perfect hash weather (if a tad breezy), but we were mostly in the shade for which we were very grateful, and at least we weren’t hindered by endless stiles. Eternally youthful Mike, equipped with two new knees, even managed to run more than a third of the trail (moral support provided by Brian) without any repercussions – way to go, Mike!
During the après the latter kept saying that today’s hash was “different”. Different how, Keith and I wondered? Perhaps it was the lack of obstacles, angry landowners and frisky animals for a change. Certainly Siccaridge Wood – gingerly navigated near the end of our hash – had an ethereal quality with stretches of a deep, abandoned ravine-like canal appearing suddenly to our left and numerous green-rimmed, murky pools of water glimpsed to our right, both overshadowed by dense, feathery branches. A few steps either side could have been quite dangerous if we weren’t concentrating: less a fairy grotto, more a tantalising lair. This dappled lowland (adjacent to the limestone grasslands of Daneway Banks, a region very familiar to long-standing hashers), is, of course, part of the great Bathurst Estate “a magnificent ancient woodland rising steeply from the rich wetlands of the Sapperton Valley”. Thank you, Keith, for reminding us of this splendid, special place.
Soon after the start we jauntily crossed a railway which I later discovered was the Paddington to Cheltenham line where, just a few years ago, a local businessman tragically was killed when his Land Rover was hit by an express train a little further down the line (despite, astonishingly, having just checked with a signalman that it was safe to cross) – so in hindsight that perkily recited chant ‘look left, look right, look left again and, if it’s all clear, cross quickly’, drummed into us at junior school, has sombre merit.
We then passed a delightful scene involving several small white horses frolicking in a field – some wearing black & white coats which made them resemble out-of-place zebras – but as we began our initial sharp ascent, however, I was reminded of the atmospheric 1975 film “Picnic at Hanging Rock” in which several Edwardian schoolgirls failed to return from a school trip when they wandered ‘off-piste’ atop a remote hillside. So I loosened my stays, and used my parasol as a handy staff to negotiate the mud, tree roots and steep slopes…. but, dear reader, I DID return!
Another thing that was different was the growing, uncanny realization that two amongst us – although appearing like regular homo sapiens (as GOM pointed out) – may, in fact, be otherworldly beings in hash disguise…. Have you noticed that they always get back long before everybody else (despite always choosing the long trail – today’s being a challenging and undulating 4.6 miles) and never ever break into a sweat? And between them always know the right answer to even the most obscure quiz questions, no matter how off-the-wall? Kevin & Julie, you know who you are!
Keith had promised us at the top of the initial steep climb that “it was all down-hill from now on”. Such sweet, reassuring words. But oh – dear reader – he lied to us! Just as we reached the home stretch there was yet another hill to climb, and poor Sue was looking quite discombobulated (I really enjoy that word) as she had wrongly imagined that three large glasses of ice-cold Pepsi were just within reach but, thankfully, this lovely old Cotswold inn suddenly appeared around the corner, just as we started to run out of steam.
We all sat outside with our refreshments as usual and braving the wind, and raising his voice to be heard, Mike spoke for us all when he thanked Keith very much for yet another very enjoyable and well-researched trail, this time from a new and attractive hash venue.
Eight of us had booked for their Sunday lunch and we all agreed it was a fabulous, generous and very tasty meal, and virtually licked our plates clean. Not cheap, but totally worth every penny. Well done, The Crown. Very well done, Keith.