A little birdy has informed that a World Cup is going on? I don't know. What is this madness?
My windows face a little "Latin American Spanish Tapas Brazilian BBQ" place. I've maybe seen a total of 6 people there the past five months. It was quiet and unassuming, someplace I would even go as far to say it might be a front for shadier business, as there was just never anyone eating there, and never any aromas suggesting they might be cooking something. A place I probably wouldn't go to eat based on the fact they seem a little too quiet to be able to buy fresh food. Until this week anyway. 3 for 10 Budweiser and screens showing the games, indoors and out, lines stretching down the block, a DJ spinning frenetic electric piano tracks, and much shouting and reveling long after the last game has ended.
Time for a walk!
This time, an easy 45 minute ride out to Box Hill in Surrey. It's part of the North Downs trail, and also run by the National Trust as its own separate park. It's a short, but intensely steep climb.
A sudden rain squall hit while we were half way up.
It looked like fun, and I swore she went airborne once or twice. A real Mary Poppins in training.
The National Trust could be clubbing baby harp seal pups and dumping industrial waste in pristine rivers for all I know. Yet they make excellent tea and cakes. I will run to them always.
It didn't disappoint.
The thing about the North Downs trail is that you are almost always in ear shot of the highway. It ruins the ambiance slightly for me to be able to hear motorcycles and Italian sports cars echoing from the hills. The trail redeems itself by being mostly in the woods. In contrast, the South Downs is mostly open countryside with very few sections in the trees, but once you are up there, you rarely see or hear highways or roads.
A tower, built by an eccentric wealthy man, whose estate was in the valley below. Now it is bricked up, but a tree has taken root in the center of the tower.
The trail was quiet, as it was early still. There were several very steep, but short, climbs up and down the hills, followed by bird-song filled ambles in the woods and open stretches of high meadows.
Some parts of the trail were incredibly steep. I mean, this doesn't look bad on film, but in reality it took some doing to haul ass up the stairs. They just kept going.
We came to the hamlet of Mickleham, right on the A24.
They had one of the most fantastic country pubs I have found so far- the King William. It was exactly trail-side, cozy and appropriately ye olde inside, but with lovely outdoor gardens with picnic tables. We had lunch and a glass o'something, waxed poetic about the pure loveliness of this place, and walked on- up another steep hill.
I saw this sign and snorted laughter. Maybe cursive was not the best idea for this cottage name?
More hills, more hills, and a hillside covered in wildflowers.
Then one final climb back up Box Hill. How did this get steeper than it was this morning?
We sat, with dozens of other hikers, on the sharp hillside overlooking...what, I don't know, but it felt great to give the dogs a break. It was a nice view though, and despite the initial rain, it had stayed cool and cloudy but dry. Pretty much a perfect hiking day for me.
We skipped back down Box Hill to the "Stepping Stones", a well-worn trail with a car park at the end. At this point, the trail was very steep and very crowded with people doing the climb wearing church shoes, and perhaps breathing alarmingly heavy so it sounded like you were about to crash head-on with a freight train.
Why build a bridge when you can possibly go for a swim?
The trail conquered, we headed back to the rail station for a quick trip back to London to enjoy a bit of salsa music that never quite left our heads during the hike.