11 November 2013 by Anastasia French
I woke up and wriggled my toes. They hurt. I stretched my legs out. They hurt. I hobbled to the bathroom. It hurt.
I knew that today was a shorter walk, but I didn’t know how I was going to do it. Even going to a nearby cafe for breakfast was tough. I was walking like an 80 year old who’d just had a hip replacement, not a 26 year old who still had another 5 days of walking ahead of her.
Day 3 - Dorking to Horley
After a bacon buttie things were looking a bit better. I rang my dad and to share my woes, his advice was quite militant: “the only way to get rid of the pain is to walk through it.” That makes him sound like an army general. He’s very much not.
When I paid for my bacon buttie the waitress offered me a loyalty card. I refused rather abruptly saying “I won’t be coming back here”. She looked a little alarmed, and I quickly apologised and explained my adventure. I felt like a proper adventurer and travel writer, I was Ted Simon, Paul Theroux or Bill Bryson, except my adventure had started from my front door and had only progressed 40 miles.
My destination that night was Horley. I’d picked it because everyone had told me to avoid Crawley, and although Horley sounded the same, apparently it was a lot nicer.
Today’s challenge was going to be for my navigation skills. I was no longer following a promoted route, I was weaving my own way South (East) following footpaths through fields.
As soon as I began walking things were on the up, the muscles stopped aching and the North Downs were looking pretty stunning.
Once out of Dorking, I followed part of the Greensand Way towards Brockham. I passed a group of Ramblers who I smiled knowingly at. I then turned south, walking through farms and forests towards my lunch spot in Leigh. I must have missed a couple of turns because I realised that I was further south than I intended. The only way to get to my lunch spot was to walk for two miles along busy roads with no pavements, not fun.
Leigh was lovely (or Love-leigh!). It was very quaint, with a nice church, a small village green with a well and a lovely pub. When I emerged from the pub, I walked through Leigh village centre in search of a path leading to the left. I think someone must be going through Surrey and stealing signposts, it’s the only explanation for missing two turnings – I mean it couldn’t have been my navigation skills.
After lunch I was on a bit of a low. Having sat down for an hour my muscles had seized up, I was annoyed for missing two turnings and I was tired. I also think I’d had too much of Eugene’s “isotonic drink” the night before and had a headache.
In Mark Thomas’ book, Extreme Ramblings, he described the feeling as “rude tired”, which was a very apt description, but I was on my own and so had no-one to be rude to but myself (and the imaginary person who’d hidden all of Surrey’s signposts).
When I’ve previously travelled on my own, to cure homesickness and loneliness, I’ve got my friends to request songs for a playlist, so I can listen to the song and it can help me through the tough time. This time I hadn’t made a playlist, I thought that I’d spend all my time listening to birdsong and leaves rustling, I didn’t account for being rude tired. I fished out my iphone, put my headphones in, and had a cheeky little dance in a field to the Gorillaz. It worked - I was relieved of rude tiredness.
And then I got to a really bad bit, where no amount of happy music was going to lift my mood.
Rule number 3 of a good walk – don’t get lost, and if you do, make sure it’s nowhere near a shooting range.
I scraped my knees on bracken on a path that was fenced in and overgrown. Upon clambering through the bracken, then climbed over a stile and grabbed a bush to steady me, immediately realising that the bush was actually stinging nettles. I then tripped over my own feet while walking down a hill. To make things even more ominous, all I could hear was gunshots.
“Come on Anna, you can do this, pull yourself together”. I picked myself up, dusted myself down and crossed over a footbridge into a field. I walked around the field two or three times, crossed back over the footbridge and looked at where the waymark was pointing. I was lost, so I clambered over a fence. I was welcomed by the sign that every lost walker wants to see: Surrey Shooting School Car Park. People present at their own risk.
I now had a grazed knee, stung fingers and was lost in a shooting school. Ugh.
I climbed back over the fence, walked around the field yet again, and realised that I had no option but to risk getting shot. In Surrey. Travelling through Kenya was safer than this. South London on a Saturday night was safer than this.
The gunshots had died down as I warily climbed over the fence. I made a mad dash past a shooting range and through a farm yard, ready to apologise quickly and politely to anyone with a shotgun. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I found myself on a bridleway, safe and unshot. Phew.
The rest of the walk to Horley was less notable. But then, not much can beat a near death experience in Surrey.
Once in Horley, I checked myself into a B+B, watched an episode of Pointless and felt lucky to be alive.
Day 3 Facts and Figures
AM Dorking to Leigh. 6.63 miles, 21.25 minutes a mile, 528 calories burnt
Lunch - Seven Stars, Leigh. Roast Pork Baguette with Chips and a Ginger Beer – £13.95
PM Leigh to Horley. 7.71 miles, 22.57 minutes a mile, 633 calories burnt
Total: 14.34 Miles
Number of Ramblers groups: 1
Number of near death experiences: 1
Number of missing signposts: 6+
Highlight: The view of the North Downs and Brockham Church
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.