|25 July 2021||Pete & Karol||Kathy|
Well, I anticipated a depressing afternoon ahead of me. I faced the sad prospect of curling up on my comfy recliner, feet resting on my squidgy footstool, my favourite Sunday paper on my lap, scoffing a delicious Waitrose fresh cream chocolate éclair, washed down with a perfect mug of coffee. But – luckily for me – I was rescued from imminent misery when our new leader singled me out to write the hash mag! I couldn’t say ‘yes’ fast enough – what a star he was to see through my false reticence! So, coffee cooling beside me, I got cracking with the mag before my memories of the day got even cooler.
Firstly, a very warm welcome to our hugely popular, seldom-perturbed and always sanguine new GOM, Kevin. I’m sure you’ll all agree that we’re in very capable and conscientious hands as he begins to navigate the much-loved hash into ever choppier, panic-stricken, pandemic-pinging, unchartered waters (phew, I had to stop there for a big glug of caffeine). Thank goodness Kevin said yes!
Secondly, it’s great that two more Shin Splint members had a bash at laying a hash, and Karol & Pete did both themselves and us proud today, with plenty of very bold arrows and many eye-catching double flour blobs to keep us on the right paths. In fact, some of their flour peaks looked so sparklingly white and moreish that they reminded me of the home-made coconut-ice domes we used to smuggle into school all those years ago to help us endure double Chemistry lessons! But I digress.
I tried hard to pay attention when Pete kept referring to a Ghost Train during his intro, and thought he was referring to a local pub (which is in Purton confusingly), but it turns out he was alluding to spooky locomotive sightings along the former railway track which runs from Old Town to Wichelstowe, and which now forms a very pleasant pedestrian and cycle track. This is where our hares directed us a short distance into our journey, when we left the scenic and charming canal towpath (how on earth DO people mow those steep rear gardens?!) and climbed up to join the many dog walkers, ramblers and cyclists who frequent this byway to admire the clear views across town and beyond. Usually you can spot a heron and several swans with their cygnets down along the canal banks, but perhaps today they decided – like the sun – to stay hidden (though after the recent heatwave I’m certainly not complaining).
The walkers split up fairly early on, with just Henry, Hilary and Adam joining me on the short intended three miles route (actually 3.6 miles as it turned out). However, apart from needlessly worrying that the others had gone the wrong way rather than choosing simply to walk the long route instead, we really enjoyed ourselves. There was only one moment of mild angst at the junction behind the former John Lewis store where we could only find one flour dot in either direction beyond the flour circle.
Exploring the possible way forward, Henry gallantly escorted me across a very wide mucky puddle (I was wearing sensible white sandals). His assistance comprised a sturdy staff and a steadying hand, but I’m sure he’d have laid out his cloak too if push had come to shove. (He didn’t actually need to on this occasion, but the point is I’m sure he would have!). Anyway, we soon picked up the correct trail notwithstanding some confusion with flour next to various ‘Footpath Closed’ signs – see photo (and puddle fording not necessary after all). This was a pleasant, flat and easy to navigate dry footpath running parallel to the main railway line across wide open and, as yet, unspoiled green open spaces. However, in the distance to our left we could make out the various building sites which signal the further new developments spreading out from Waitrose, to be known as West Wichel. Where and when will it ever end?
At several points along this trail the Tiggerish Hilary had to be gently reined back as she was convinced we were not going the right way and was compellingly drawn, as though by invisible magnets, towards familiar landmarks off piste. However, I had to put my foot down firmly to persuade her to rejoin us, stressing that if I was going to have to write this mag, then it was definitely going to be about a trail marked by generous double dots and arrows, and not one mapped solely by intuition! I think Hilary was glad she stuck with us after all because towards the end I was able to show her the Scheduled Ancient Monument ‘Bowl Barrow’ discovered several years ago at Rushy Platt (see photo).
Once we got used to the lay of the land, we really began to appreciate the less familiar outlook from the far side of Wichelstowe. It was fairly misty at one point but we took in the David Murray John tower in the town centre and behind us the smooth sweep up the hill beyond Wroughton towards the Science Museum. We even glimpsed a rabbit before it swiftly disappeared into the undergrowth. Or rather it was its little pristine white tail we noticed first, the word for which is a ‘scut’ Hilary knowledgeably informed us (a frequently asked crossword clue apparently).
We soon got our bearings when we curved towards H&W and picked up the canal trail again, having been overtaken by several of our runners (always a reassuring sight). Keith – back running again – seemed to come out of nowhere just before the tow path and looked like he still had bags of energy left. He even boasted that he wasn’t even one of the last this time, having left young Mike way behind. We said we were very pleased for him and tried not to show our surprise, but we later discovered – when Mike eventually caught up with us, limping rather noticeably – that his lack of form was due to post knee surgery complications. Let’s hope this is just a temporary setback, as we do enjoy having younger hashers around!
The apres at the Runner was very pleasant and relaxed, and felt almost like old times with seats and banter swiftly being swapped. We had a reassuringly good turn out today at our first non-restricted hash for sixteen months, and fortunately there was a large airy space set aside for us inside the pub, so we didn’t feel crowded. The friendly staff coped very efficiently in taking our orders, and served the meals promptly. A few of us drank and ate outside, but joined the others as Kevin delivered his first speech as GOM, with all the aplomb of an old pro. It all went rather well. Karol & Pete were thanked warmly for laying such clear markings and, were enthusiastically applauded for successfully laying their first KVH3 trails. The lengths were spot on, and the day felt good. On on!