London Outer Orbital Path (Sections 3-5)   8 comments

Jackie brought an upper respiratory infection with her from the States which finally took hold last Thursday and left her weak as a kitten and utterly miserable throughout the end-of-May Bank Holiday weekend. My case of it struck Tuesday morning as I awoke for my Birthday Run, this final leg of the London Outer Orbital Path, Sections 3-5. Awesome.











The plan was to arrive in Petts Wood close to 9:30 with the assumption that the Wetherspoons, like most do, would be serving at the bar from 9. I could get a hearty breakfast and something substantial to drink, that way, and also spread the pub visits out a bit more across the entire journey. That seemed the most prudent way to knock out 6 stops over 23-24 miles while not taxing my failing health too bad, but the bar didn’t serve alcohol until 10. I moved on hoping that the Change of Horses, my next planned stop, would be open by the time I got there. The timing was truly all fucked up, though.


But, so was my sense of direction and sometime after admiring the four-cylinder engine in the wood, I ran off the edge of my maps and had to find my way back by dead reckoning but without any sunlight (heavily overcast) to guide me. I really should start carrying a compass, again.




I found Locksbottom on the edge of one of my Ordnance Survey printouts and made it to the Change of Horses at 10:30 to find the doors open and the landlord singing to himself somewhere in the depths. “Are you open?” I asked when he emerged.




“No, sadly, not till 11.”
“Oh, damn the luck. I’ll be miles away by then.”
“Yes, but lost more often than not.”
“Where are you trying to go?”
“Pub, mostly. Oh, I see what you mean. I have a map.” I showed him the pile of A4 sheets with various fragments of the LOOP on them.
“Bad map? Or, just bad at reading it?” he asked, smiling.
“Yes,” I answered. We had a brief conversation about folk music (they have a folk music society that meets in the pub) then I headed on my way, still thirsty and starting to get a bit hungry.




Part of the path then slips through St Giles the Abbot Church where several volunteers were tidying the cemetery and pavements. S.G. the A. has a charter for its fair that goes back to the early 13th century but the cemetery is easily worth a visit even without the annual fete. For instance, this bronze has such detail that you would think the flesh was warm and soft.




Not much farther along and you have Bogey Road which is little more than a bridleway. I considered obvious jokes about boogers or the Treasure of the Sierra Madre but this simple and elegant piece of vandalism to a sign on the road made me smile and I decided that would be enough for this segment:





Moving along the ridge near a manor house, I spotted some foxgloves with the remains of a magnificent oak in the background. It turned out to be “The Wilberforce Oak” named for that early proponent of handheld smart devices I wrote about during the Hull trip.




Wilberforce was also a close pal of William Pitt the Younger and it is claimed that he decided, whilst talking it over with the then Prime Minister Pitt beneath the shade of this tree, to introduce legislation to end the slave trade.




You can’t get to the commemorative bench from the plebe side of the fence, but the house and gardens are occasionally open to visitors.




Having had no luck with the planned pubs (nor any of the 6 others I skirted past), I finally emerged in the village of Keston where there were two very good ones on the green (the Fox, which is more of a gastro pub, and the Greyhound which was the local CAMRA branch’s pub of the year).




More hilly trail followed and another chance to get lost before I found pub number 3 of my original plan, the Goat. Of course, it was closed despite its published hours so I went off plan a bit and actually followed trail (more-or-less) until I reached the Sandrock where I probably should have eaten (really beautiful pizzas were emerging from the wood burning ovens) but I had my mind set on the Steak Day at the Sir Julian Huxley a little further along.




Somewhere along the way, I passed the Greenwich Meridian and left the Eastern for the Western Hemisphere. I can’t be completely sure of the order of things since my mental notes got hazier as the day wore on (despite the nutrition afforded by my late lunch); I think this was mostly down to my deteriorating health — as I write this at lunchtime the day after, I have a fever, congestion, fatigue and a sore throat all as bad as anything I’ve developed in the last 10 years.




Anyway, the hills got steeper (I’m reasonably sure of that) and at one point it was hard to slow down barreling down toward a railroad crossing. The grade leveled slightly before some stairs, then after the crossing a more reasonable descent followed by another climb (again, with stairs for a large part of it — fuck me). Looking back toward the rail crossing, the steep decent was just to the right of the clay cliffs.




Also near here, there was the Wattenden Arms in a shadowy little village on the edge of an RAF base now used mostly for private small aircraft. They launch gliders from there and a few were circling like buzzards on this trip. About a mile later (and about a mile short of the finish, Coulsdon South Station where I would close the LOOP), there was another pub to hit: the Tudor Rose in Old Coulsdon.




Everything was downhill from there (literally and figuratively and for the next week with respect to health) except that I ran past the turn-off to the station and had to turn around and climb back a bit.

Of course.





Posted May 31, 2017 by Drunken Bunny in Running, Tourism

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