South to the Sea part 4 – fracking around

Day 4 Horley to West Hoathly (via Balcombe)

To boost my morale for Day 4, I was joined by my daddy and my best friend!

My dad is quite the walker. Him and my mum have walked the entire South-West Coast Path and are halfway through the Wales Coast Path. In fact, my parents are now so obsessed with rambling that they’ve decreed we need to carry out a 10-mile walk on Christmas Day before we’re allowed to tuck into our turkey.

Papa FrenchMum had warned me that dad gets a bit controlling with the navigating. Apparently the closest they come to marriage breakdown is when the waymarks for the Wales Coast Path say one thing and the map says another.

So when Dad greeted me at Horley and “politely” enquired into the route and which way we were planning on going, I knew that he’d soon be taking over.

I gritted my teeth as he questioned my navigating out of Horley, and I suppressed a smug smile when it turned out I was right.

10 minutes later my smug smile was lost, and I handed the map back to dad when I realised I got it wrong and we were lost. Oops.

We spent the morning walking south from Horley to Balcombe, through lots of nice Sussex woodland.

Like any normal father-daughter stroll, I nodded and smiled while he told me what I should be doing with my life and how the world was coming to ruin because of planners/politicians/press. We clambered over fallen trees and marvelled at the sheer amount of pheasants joining us on our journey.

10 miles later, we arrived in Balcombe and I wanted to see some fracking!

Over lunch, my dad did what he does best and started a conversation with a local about the fracking. The local said that he “and the rest of the village” were fed up with the “rent a protest” group turning up and protesting when actually the frackers had gone home weeks ago. The local suddenly went quiet muttered goodbye and crept out of the pub when a dreadlocked, hippie type guy, walked in.

Pedestrians do not frack!I had less than 15 minutes to get from the pub to the fracking site before my dad’s train arrived. So we didn’t quite make it, but I did get to have my photo taken next to a “Pedestrians don’t frack sign!”

At Balcombe, I said goodbye to my Dad and was joined by my best friend Suzannah. We’ve been playing together in the outdoors since we were 10 and going to Guide camp. I was glad that she was joining me for a day and a half of my adventure.

While Suzannah and I grew up playing in the countryside, we’re still urban kids. This was evident from me confusing a pheasant with a rabbit and Suzannah being stung on the bum by a stinging nettle.

The walk from Balcombe to West Hoathly was some of the nicest on my whole trip. We walked around the idyllic Ardingly Reservoir, picked blackberries and explored a beautiful nature reserve close to the Millennium Seed Bank. Unfortunately, we then had a rather horrible walk up the B2028 – no pavements and lots of traffic for half an hour until we got to our B+B – Stonelands West Lodge.

The B+B owner was a lovely 87-year old lady called Chick who ran the place on her own – wow! She greeted us with a cup of tea and tales of Aung San Suu Kyi. I immediately felt at home.

SuzanneIt was a half an hour ramble through fields and past grand houses to the local pub. Chick was worried we wouldn’t be able to make it back, but after assuring her we’d be ok, and she wouldn’t need to come out in her dressing gown to rescue us, she gave us directions and tips for the pub.

The pub, the Cat, had been gastroified but was still very unique. The barman greeted us by insulting our OS map and then doing an impression of a crazy landlord....at least we think it was an impression.

The whole evening felt like we’d stepped into a pub from Little Britain. At the table next to us was a bizarre posh family where the grown up kids were a bit too touchy-feely with their parents and kept saying rather lewd things to get our attention. We tried our hardest not to give them it.

We were very sleepy for our walk home in the dark. Using our iphone torches, we navigated ourselves home over stiles and through fields with horses. It was only when we stepped on a twig that we screamed like girls.

Day 4 facts and figures

AM: Horley to Balcombe. 11.45 miles, 22.00 minutes per mile, 922 calories burnt
Lunch: Half Moon Inn, paid for by daddy.
PM: Balcome to West Hoathly. 4.41 miles, 23.05 minutes per mile, 363 calories burnt. + 1.4 miles from B+B to pub and back.
Total: 18.66 miles
Best sight: Suzannah being stung by a stinging nettle (I’m cruel I know...)

Anastasia French is the Ramblers campaigns officer. Find out more about her, including her previous posts about walking south to the sea and follow her on twitter @ramblingfrench.