Monday, 7 October 2013

London Loop Part 6: Banstead-Kingston a.k.a Where I Get Attacked by Midges near Horrid River

Well, technically this walk started in a remote corner of Zone 6 known as "Belmont."

So remote, in fact, that it does not even have a Sunday train service, and I had to catch no less than two separate trains, a tube and a bus to get to it, then walk for twenty minutes to reach the "official" start of the walk, which then spent half an hour meandering through a golf course trying not to get hit by flying balls and wondering whether I should be holding up a big sign to let everyone know that yes, I am allowed in here, it is a PUBLIC RIGHT OF WAY, before they all start chasing me off the green waving their golf sticks (bats?  Irons?  WHAT ARE THEY EVEN CALLED?) at me threateningly.

By the time I was half an hour in, I had to stop for a cup of tea and a nice bit of Victoria sponge.  After all, it was a lovely day and there was a serious amount of cake calling me from the park I was walking through.  I have absolutely no idea where this park was.  It's like the twilight zone walking the London Loop.  You're basically in some sort of wilderness somewhere in Surrey where Henry VIII used to have a palace (he seems to have had loads of palaces, scattered all over the place) and where there used to be a lot of deer hunting and Downton-esque country house parties, but now they are all gone and all that remains is a board with "Corporation of London" written on it and some vague instructions about how the Earl of Whatnot used to have a country house here and Henry VIII had a palace until it got burned down/fell down/got eaten by wild boar back in the days before they went extinct.  Oh, and did you know that back in the day all this was common land where anyone could come and graze their sheep, except that this tiny slither of common heathland is all there is left anywhere in London because someone came and built houses on the rest of it.

Anyway, lo and behold, at one point I must have been properly in the countryside ooh aarrr me hearties because look what I found.

It may look tiny, but trust me it was a whopper.  So big in fact, I probably would have been arrested for hauling home half the countryside in my backpack had I picked it and surely breaking the country code (which I last saw explained in minute detail in the Brownie Guide Handbook 1990, and which I am sure contained some sort of prohibition of picking mushrooms of any kind).  Also I thought it might have been urinated on by a dog at some point, sitting as it was on the side of a path, and clearly much safer to purchase foodstuffs in supermarket where they have surely been manufactured in some dog-free environment where the soil has been infused with milk and honey and it has rained only manna from heaven upon those mass produced stalks.

However, there are clearly some aspects of the countryside that meet with my approval (see below).

Walking: Up there with gymnastics and caving as the world's best sporting pursuits for those of small stature.  I was so proud of myself for being able to walk through this low tunnel using only my own natural advantages.

However, there was one peril upon this river which no amount of hanging about being short could have prepared me for.


It seems that the curse of having nice weather in October seems to be an apocalyptic profusion of insects buzzing about the place.  On Friday, for example, I had to suffer two hours of Year 9 with the classroom door open trying to get a horrible fly out, which annoyingly kept landing on my head, much to the mirth of those in the front row.  This was nothing compared to the River Hogsmill, a dire place indeed, particularly as dusk fell in Kingston (it was a long walk, and the days are getting shorter) and literally millions of horrible insects hung around the fetid waters in packs, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting passers by wearing vest tops in the unseasonably warm weather.  At times I felt like a beekeeper trying to steal the honey from the hive.  But with midges instead of bees.  And midges are worse, because presumably they don't die when they sting you, so unlike bees, they don't have to carefully weigh up the pros and cons of launching a suicide mission before they pounce.  And also, bees beget honey, which makes their actions largely forgivable, whereas midges beget annoying bites and provide nothing more than a reminder that the river below is probably largely composed of raw sewage.

Eventually, however, all was worthwhile, as there was this view

and more importantly a functioning train station with a Costa Coffee.

And so the summer ends.  Next time I go walking I will probably be complaining about the icicles hanging off my nose and the frostbite that has ravaged my extremities.