|11 Nov 2012||Brian||Kathy|
Well, what a terrific hash we had today. The weather was unseasonably kind with a piercingly blue sky that never wavered (where were you when we needed you at Ironbridge??), the turnout was good, and the trails neither too arduous nor too precarious underfoot, but instead managed to surprise and delight us with plenty of variety at every turn, so that we were mostly able to look up and appreciate, rather than worry where we placed our feet… perfick! Well done, Brian, and very many thanks from both the walkers and runners.
I’m told the latter reached the top of iconic Liddington Hill with ease, and appreciated anew the giddy panorama below them (plenty of time to linger as the trail was only a modest 3 ½ miles today – “thank you, thank you!”). However, the walkers were not short-changed either, and their trail comprised a combination of pretty countryside, historic buildings and grounds, and a series of characterful cottages and grand detached villas, including a magnificent family home occupying an envious hillside location, with not one but two über modern verandahs overlooking sweeping scenery – but “don’t mention the M4, Basil”!
At one point the open landscape had an unexpectedly remote feel to it as we picked our way up a steep, rutted hillside, and I concluded we must have been on the edge of a glacial valley (a spur of the deep, meandering one just beyond Wroughton, perhaps). At the summit we were engaged by the rare sight of a hawk circling above, surrounded by several smaller birds, and GOM astonished us later by saying that the hawk had actually swooped down and tamely perched on his shoulder after the walkers had trudged ahead. Amazing.
Boredom was never an option because no sooner had we traversed this tricky slope, appreciating the lush green views and autumnal colours spreading towards Swindon and beyond, than we noticed the sturdy, reassuring tower of Chiseldon’s Church of the Holy Cross, an imposing grade I listed building. Within minutes we respectfully entered the ancient graveyard at the rear of this beautiful place of worship, and were delighted to encounter a happy congregation of mainly boy scouts and Army representatives who had just emerged from the traditional 11.11.11 annual Remembrance Service. I couldn’t help but admire the svelte, perfectly curved figure of a lithe young lady in full, immaculate Army uniform…. but was assured it was a very tight fit!
Any moments of quiet reflection in the grounds of this holy place were soon disturbed, however, by hordes of hooligans in sweaty shorts and trainers descending upon us from the banks surrounding the churchyard, who all but leapfrogged over us hapless walkers… Oh, no… I soon recognised some faces (and some unique figures)… they were “our” overwrought (overexcited?) runners!
Beyond the church our GOM greeted us all like a friendly, conscientious shepherd and took plenty of photos, including some of Annie and me outside an exquisite gate at the entrance to a delightful property on the corner of the High Street and Butts Lane. GOM remarked that he was very lucky to have caught the end of the Remembrance Service, enjoying both ‘I Vow to Thee My Country’ and ‘Jerusalem’ – the lyrics and melodies of both hymns guaranteed to lift even the most hardened of hearts.
Back at The Baker’s Arms we all lingered over a truly relaxing and languid après, several of us enjoying the traditional Sunday roast which looked superb. The bar staff were sweet-natured and efficient, and delighted the coffee drinkers by serving it in individual cafétières accompanied by little biscuits… small details that make all the difference.
Alas Des (who was able to run the actual hash) was unable to stay long afterwards – but he was smoothly replaced by the ever-amiable Colin, who wasn’t able to hash (bell ringing) but was able to spare the time for a pint or two later with Maurice – far more important*. We were also briefly joined by a local North Wilts hasher who informed us, self-effacingly, that his hash nickname is “rubber” (to his friends)…. “used rubber” to his enemies. Don’t even go there!!
The general chit chat touched on the forthcoming 400th hash in January and how to mark the occasion, and what to wear at the traditional Boxing Day fancy dress hash, consensus for the latter being animal-themed costumes (hear hear). One of the alternative themes mentioned was Shakespeare, which led me to reflect on one of my favourite quotes from the Bard “Sleep that knits the ravelled sleeve of care”. Observing all the contented, relaxed faces, the many genuine friendships, and the genial, unhurried hubbub and companionship that hallmark a successful hash – not to mention an inspirational trail – I mused that if Shakespeare had been able to witness the scene today, his testament might simply have been: “hashing heals”.
* P.S. A note from Des: Maurice was apparently lamenting how the Baker’s and many other pubs lately seem to have stopped selling Guinness. Des reminded him just how it feels to be a real ale drinker visiting Ireland where there isn’t a single pint of bitter in the land, and he said he now understood how Des felt… although he did carry on muttering for a good while afterwards! On on!