Christmas Walk & Lunch, 14 December 2008

A personal memoir.

Pink and LilyIt was 8:50 as I turned into the Pink & Lily car park and already there were some eight to ten cars with their boots and doors open as people got kitted up for the walk. It was grey and cold – only three degrees – and a lurid orange strip above the southern horizon was the only indication of the sun we’d get all day. General greetings and “Merry Christmas”es were exchanged. I got my boots on, and gaiters today; it was going to be muddy after all the rain yesterday. More cars arrived, more people milled around, and not a single Santa hat or reindeer antlers in sight. Then suddenly, hey, we were off.


One of the great things about a social walk, when someone else is leading, is that you don’t have to know where you’re going. Some people follow their map. Others (me for instance) don’t. Put me down in my bit of the Chilterns and I don’t need a map anyway, but around Princes Risborough, Wendover, or Great Missenden I’m happy just to follow. So where we went and how we got there I don’t know, except that I do remember we passed Hampden House fairly early on. Someone (the ever-erudite Clive, I think) explained it was the home of the John Hampden, the Parliamentarian who resisted Charles I’s imposition of the Ship Money tax and earned himself the title of “The Patriot”. More recently it was the HQ of Hammer Horror Films, and now it’s owned by a financial services company. A steady decline, then.

At Hampden HouseWithout too much persuading, the whole group of about 20 posed by the ha-ha for a group photo with the house in the background. After three attempts with my camera and increasingly scornful comments from my fellow walkers I concluded the batteries had packed up. It had been working a few minutes earlier, honest. Pat, resourceful and lateral-thinking as befits her Chairman’s role, whipped out her mobile phone and took the picture herself.

The other great thing about social walks compared to solo walking is that you have other people to talk to (though I understand the LDWA’s line on this at National level is that it’s not compulsory). It’s the variety that intrigues and delights me – the Tour de Trigs and next year’s 100; replacing boilers and balancing central heating systems; Oxford University admissions procedures; The Incredible String Band and Captain Beefheart (kids, ask your Grandad), to pick out just a few. There just isn’t time to get bored, and the miles slip by without you noticing.

The walk can fairly be summed up as muddy. Paths came in three varieties: Type 1 – muddy paths through woods; Type 2 – muddy paths across fields, of which 2a – ploughed, and 2b – At Coombe Hill monumentMuddy field - the group on a Type 2b pathunploughed; and Type 3 – tarmac roads with large puddles. We splashed, squelched and slithered our way for about 11 miles, passing the only other memorable landmark – the beacon on Coombe Hill above Wendover – and arriving back at the Pink & Lily at about ten past one, where we held the traditional ceremony of Getting Changed in the Car Park.

Inside the pub we found the walkers and family members who hadn’t come on the walk, and about 30 sat down to Christmas lunch. Once again the individual place-mats-cum-menu-choice cards prepared by Pat neatly solved the problems of “Where shall I sit?” and “What on earth did I order?” Crackers were pulled, awful jokes exchanged, paper hats worn, and small bits of plastic assembled into peculiar games and puzzles. A modest amount of beer and wine was drunk. Turkey and Christmas pudding were eaten [other menu choices are available – the Manager, Pink & Lily]. All in all another very successful Christmas walk and lunch, so thanks to Ivan for leading the walk and Martin for doing all the organising, and let’s do it again next year!

Merry Christmas, everyone, and have a good year’s walking in 2009.

Tony Turton.