151. Our secret space – Epsom and Ashtead Common

When the worrying starts to hurt
And the world feels like graves of dirt
Just close your eyes until
You can imagine this place – yeah
Our secret space, at will
Snow Patrol – May 2006

New job. New town. New colleagues. New commute.

Less time to write. More time to worry.

It’s a sunny week in early June, when Epsom hosts the Derby. The biggest event in the flat-racing calendar. The original article, the horse race founded by Lord Derby, after which so many imitations are named, all around the globe.

A few weeks have passed, and it may be summer at last, but here in Epsom a new and unfamiliar mould is pressing all around me. The sun is high outside, and today I need to escape the stuffy office, the grim shopping mall and the choking traffic, and to remind myself of who I am. Just for an hour, I need to run.

On this day, of all days, I turn my back on the ladies in posh hats and the dusty punters with their champagne-soaked shoes and shredded betting tickets. I head out of Epsom the other way.

And unexpectedly, I find that secret space. That place of natural beauty and freedom which I crave to find.Just a mile from the town centre, I pass a pond and pub beside a village green and trudge up along twisting paths towards Ashtead Common.

And here, I find lush grass to tread amidst ancient trees. I look out from darkest woodland onto ripening cornfields under open skies.

I run happily for half an hour in looping backtracks and then, around the corner of a clearing, a deer darts into the forest right in front of me.

I lose myself, far too literally, and it’s not an hour, but ninety minutes which detain me from my desk. It’s three miles more than an easy five which bring me tired and muddy back to Epsom.

I feel flush and flustered, and the office air stands tense and still and unforgiving in the early summer heat. I ponder that there’s no commendation, surely, for any newly-hired explorer who can’t find a mid-sized suburban town in broad daylight, and from point blank range.

But it doesn’t matter. Because now I know. Just a mile from where I sit in darkest suburbia, lies a hidden place where blue skies stretch forth untroubled above a canopy of deepest summer green.

New job. New town.  New place to run.

Here, not twenty miles from Tower Bridge, I’ve discovered my secret space. And more than that, I’ve found a home.

Related articles:
58. Running in the North Downs
119. Schönbrunn, Vienna
61. Summer Hash
97. Only scars carved into stone – a summer 20 miles
76. A year of running, rainily


9 responses to “151. Our secret space – Epsom and Ashtead Common

  1. Oh, how I love this entry, Roads! (it helps, of course, that I’m a Snow Patrol fan)

    I’m delighted you found your secret space…your home.

  2. Thank you, Jonas. It takes a while to adapt to any new environment, and getting to know the lie of the land roundabouts is always a good way to settle in.

    The trick, though, is probably to do this without contriving too many two hour lunch breaks in those early weeks.

    So I’ll definitely be taking a bag of breadcrumbs with me into the forest, next time.

  3. I can empathise with your need for natural beauty, Roads. I would now hate to be confined to a city without easy access to the country!

  4. Many thanks, Sarah, and congratulations on your promoarts site, too. It looks great and there is some marvellous art there, as well.

    And what a pleasure it must be to have a vignoble as sponsor ! That’s a really excellent move – just can’t imagine why I didn’t think of it before …

  5. Roads – that was lovely. I know exactly how you feel and can imagine how difficult it must be to be cooped up in some stuffy office.

    I am very fortunate in that I am able to walk to work (it takes me 35 minutes ) and my journey takes me through a park full of cheeky red squirrels and along the banks of the Isère (foot and cycle paths – no traffic). Just listening to the water lapping and the birds singing put me in a wonderful mood for the rest of the day and gives me strength…

  6. Hello: this time it’s Diane not Sarah! I read your editorials and found the peace and serenity needed before a long day’s work.

    Epsom – childhood memories far far away….but your writing brought them back with a wave of images and perfumes long forgotten.

    We can’t live without peace and beauty either – it’s like water and air – just wither away without them!


  7. Gigi
    Many thanks. You’re very lucky to walk to work, and it’s amazing to think of that water in your River Isere flowing down to you in Grenoble all the way from the reservoir at Tignes-les-Brevieres, and all those beautiful mountain streams and glaciers far above.

    Diane – Mme la Presidente
    Many thanks for your kind note, and a very warm welcome to this site.

    It’s more than high time for an artistic soul to raise the tone around here, so I hope you’ll stay a while.

    Meanwhile, I’m impressed with your paintings – this post especially caught my eye.

    Many thanks again to both of you, and enjoy that wonderful French summer …

  8. Hi again:

    The three paintings on that post were sold for Cancer Research….they were the three I liked the most, becoz when you give a present – it should be what you love the most!

    Like all artists I so happy to know you like what I do, and actually en ce moment I’m working like a madwoman – just feel inspired…….

    I love your blog – its like a lovely wander down a cool lane when your are tired and fed up at the end of the day, you just click on to your roads of stone…..and you feel all relaxed. It’s beautifully written to, so please excuse my appaling english.

    Sarah and I are getting on our horses again to organise an evening for sick children – so if you could give us a mail contact we would write to you and tell you all as we go along. For the time being I’ll be mainly bashing down people’s door to get funding…..ouuuups

  9. Thanks again, Diane. You did really well to donate your favourite works to charity – it must have hurt, so very well done.

    Cancer Research is a cause which is very close to my own heart, as well. Bonne chance with raising your funds for sick children, too.

    In the meantime, you can find e-mail details here, on my contact page, so do just fire away …

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