It’s been a long November. I’ve had a valiant stab at Nanowrimo, but as I’m currently sitting just under 25k, it isn’t going to happen this year. That said, I only wrote 2022 words altogether in October, so I’m still seeing this as a small triumph. It’s report writing season, and the sense that something indefinable is very wrong with my workload and/or time management in my day job has just continued to grow. Despite all of that, it’s also been a beautiful November. I’ve been watching the beeches outside my classroom window gradually turn, and it wasn’t until this week’s cold snap that most of the leaves came down. Between Nano, workload, bad weather, and the muscle I pulled in my calf last month, I haven’t had a chance to get outside and enjoy the autumn. This weekend, though, I finally decided that I needed fresh air more than an impossible wordcount goal, and spent Saturday afternoon outside.
I walked across part of Frensham Common, starting from the bus stop in the village, and then meandered past various villages and landmarks until I got back to Farnham. It was perfect walking weather, mild enough that I didn’t need my coat, and with clear skies. This part of the world is full of beechwoods, clinging to steep slopes, and heathland where the paths are sandy underfoot. Parts of it have been claimed for forestry, and conifers go soaring up on either side of the path. Through it all runs the River Wey and its feeder streams, splitting, curling around meadows, and occasionally across your path, sliding under low bridges or brushing against ancient walls. It’s hard to walk anywhere around here without touching on the banks of some branch of the Wey, and it kept me company for most of my walk.
The initial path across the common. A lot of my local walking is on paths like these.
There’s a high narrow ridge between to path in my last picture and Frensham Little Pond. Here’s the view from the top, looking north. The River Wey is somewhere down in that valley, and Farnham itself is behind the next ridge, only a few miles away.
The ridge is only a few metres wide. I’m standing on the edge of it here, looking across its entire width. There’s a viewpoint up there with a couple of benches which make a perfect place to stop for lunch (which is why I climbed up there in the first place).
And this is the view from that lunch stop, looking south over the corner of Frensham Little Pond. The two ponds are manmade, created in the Middle Ages by the Bishop of Winchester to supply him with fish. They’re now a Site of Special Scientific Interest and run by the National Trust.
Back down on the bridleway, one of the Wey’s feeder streams pools across the path. It’s shallow enough that horses and bikes can go right through, but there’s a narrow wooden bridge bridge for walkers. In the summer, it can dry up entirely.
There are still farms in Surrey, as well as country homes for stockbrokers. And, yes, those fields are very muddy and the pigs seem very happy in them.
The path through the pig farm eventually comes out on the riverbank. It was still early afternoon, but despite the deceptive warmth of the day, it is only a few weeks from the shortest day and every hike is a race against the light.
With the sun at your back, though, the woods still glow.
A long dim climb out of the village of Tilford and a descent through eerie pine woods eventually brings you back to the river. Here it is on the path from the road to the ruins of Waverley Abbey. The sun was beginning to slip below the treeline, and this was the last burst of bright light.
The abbey was the first Cistercian foundation in England. Only a few ruinous walls survive.
The river swings around the abbey’s site, running very close to the walls in places. As the evening set in, mist was just starting to rise off the water. The ruins on either side were once side chapels of the huge abbey church.
I still had a few miles to go, so I left the abbey to sleep and headed along the Moor Park Trail. This is a little hidden gem of Farnham’s: a heritage path across the grounds of Moor Park, where Jonathan Swift once worked as Sir William Temple’s secretary. It was here that Swift met ‘Stella’ and the entrance to the path is still along the drive of ‘Stella Lodge.’ The path runs past this witch’s cave, now gated off as it houses rare bats, above an alder swamp, and past various WW2 defences. It’s a favourite of mine because it links Farnham (and its public transport) with many potential walks.
You can look out across the grounds from the path, and I watched the mist steadily spill outwards from the river.
Beyond Moor Park, the lane continues along the top of Farnham water meadows.
My walk ended soon afterwards, as the lane crept under bridges to the middle of the Shepherd and Flock roundabout. This is a daily hassle for many local drivers, and it always amuses me to wonder how many of them know what is only a few minutes walk from their commute.
And, to finish off, another drabble-length glimpse of how the Dragon Wars got started. I actually wrote this one before Nano got started, but forgot to post it. Here, Tarnamell shares the news of the war with his brother Halsarr (200 words exactly)
Unlike his brothers, Halsarr did not live in a mountain fastness. Halsarrsthwaite was a small half-timbered town, the colleges of the medical school scattered among the steep streets. Halsarr himself preferred to wear his human guise and live among his hoard, and he took some finding. By the time Tarnamell tracked him down to a small hospice by the market square, he was sure Halsarr was avoiding him deliberately.
“Busy,” Halsarr said, not looking up from the child with a grazed knee he was tending. “Come back later.”
“Halsarr, I am summoning—”
“Hal,” his brother corrected. “I decline your invitation.”
“The Shadow has risen in Eyr. I have come to call your hoard to war.”
Halsarr finally looked up, pursing his lips. “I’m a pacifist, idiot.”
“Under the circumstances, perhaps you—”
“If I desert my principles at the first challenge, there is little point in having them. Goodbye, brother.”
Tarnamell took a slow breath, counted to twenty, and reminded himself that he loved his brother. “We need you.”
This time he counted to fifty. “We can’t stop it without a fight. We will need chirurgeons.”
That, Halsarr considered, his face stern. At last, he said, reluctantly, “Maybe.”