Sunday, 4 April 2010

To the church in Godstone, via Gangers Hill and a bit of mud

After yesterday's depressing non-starter of a day, we were up and ready at Warlingham Green this morning and looking forward to a trip to the church, St Nicholas's of Godstone (pictured below). Like yesterday, there was rain, plenty of it, and by the time we crossed the A22 and then the A25 we were wet, but it was well worth it. The covered gateway to the church was a million times better than the Tatsfield Bus Stop and the view far more picturesque.

It was, of course, Easter Sunday and there were a few people up early and wearing their Sunday Best passing through the churchyard. Whether they'd attended a service or not was unclear, but they were all togged out and smart-looking so we assumed they were doing something church-like. Across the road was Church House and an alleyway running down its right hand side which, had we followed it, would have taken us past Bay Pond, a seemingly large pond, en route to Godstone Village proper.

This morning we tackled the big 'why are we here?' sort of questions and that whole issue of what contains space and what contains the container that contains space? I said that eventually, pondering such high brow stuff must drive you crazy. so we moved on to religion and the whole thing about it being a form of social control. We got on to the subject of being a member of the clergy and how, instead of a company car, you get a company house (the vicarage).
Not bad, especially if you're Church of England as that means you're not banned from shagging, thanks to good old Henry VIII, who had six wives.

What was rather odd was a war memorial (pictured left) in the churchyard. It said the Great War was 1914 to 1919 and not 1918 so whether, all those years ago, somebody made an irreparable mistake on on the monument or all the history books have got it wrong, I don't know and nor does anybody else. One friendly couple stopped to pass some time with us. The man asked what had happened to mudguards as he noticed how wet and muddy we were. I pointed out that Andy's bike did have mudguards and that mine was how I'd bought it – without mudguards. What's a bit of rain and mud among friends, I thought? My bike would look naff with mudguards, it's a dirt jumper.

Everybody that passed us said hello or good morning or made some comment on the weather, this was a friendly sort of place, but after two cups of tea and a cereal bar, we had to be on our way, back up the hill. The rain had stopped but it was a bit wet. Jon had called as we were sipping our tea: he was at home, sipping tea in the warmth while we were out in the open air, wet and muddy and preparing to tackle the hill.

Andy had been dying to try out some of the off-road paths but I had been reluctant because of the rain. I knew that it would be thick mud and we'd end up walking and sure enough, that's just what happened. We took a track off of Flower Lane, just inside the M25 and within yards we were pushing our bikes up a fairly steep and muddy incline, emerging on Gangers Hill at Hanging Wood Farm. Andy found some more off-road tracks, but I stayed on the tarmac and we met up at Marden Wood where there was a map that sketched out what looked like a complete off-road wooded circuit. We resolved to have a go tomorrow (Bank Holiday Monday) and then cycled home along the Northdown Road, through Woldingham and parting company at the top of Slines Oak Road.

Things to bear in mind for future trips down Gangers Hill

1. Bay Pond. On the map it looks huge, it's down the alley from Church House opposite St Nicholas' Church in Godstone and would bring us out in down town Godstone.
2. Another route. There is another track on the other side of the churchyard which, if followed, leads us down to three large lakes and a wood. The path continues under the A22 and then through open country towards Tandridge where we could pick up Jackass Lane, cycle east for a short while on the A25 and then hang a left up Tandridge Hill Lane, over the M25 and then rejoin Gangers Hill.
3. To Hurst Green and on towards Westerham. There is a route, similar to 2. but instead of turning left up Tandridge Lane and left into Jackass Lane,  we continue off-road and end up in Hurst Green. In fact, there is a way of travelling through woodland and along off-road tracks all the way to Westerham where there are clearly defined – and probably quite decent tracks – through extensive woodland, bringing us out in Central Westerham where we could go back our conventional way. Quite a hike, but I reckon it'd be worthwhile.

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