Back to the beginning.
The school playing field, on a Saturday, was a place I never knew. The only time I saw it, as substitute at hockey. we won 3-1, but the hockey coach refused to bring me on. I wasn’t picked again.
Now, thirty years later, I’m on the playing field again. I’ve picked up my number from the teachers in the gym, and ticked my name off on the list. And this time I’m ready, more or less.
There are a few of those long-nosed and lanky-legged running club runners you so often see in a local race – I can see them warming up around the track. But there are many more nervous housewives and out-of-training Dads, sipping anxiously on their water bottles. Revenge for a school career of sporting failures lies tantalisingly within my reach.
This site has moved to a new dedicated domain at http://roadsofstone.com
– so please update your RSS feeds and outgoing links accordingly.
Re-directs are in place and everything else remains the same.
Meanwhile, there is more writing on the way … so thanks for reading.
1. Chicago 1, London 3
48. Chaucer’s April
134. Before the mast: Pewley Down, Guildford
13. A winter night’s fartlek – Guildford town and track
121. Hot in the city – Billy Idol at Guilfest
It was a perfect winter’s morning as I headed across the hills from Guildford towards Newlands Corner yesterday. The weather was just perfect for running, even if the combination of sun on frosted Chalk downland proved a tricky one.
The cinematographer duly went for a purler, very shortly after filming this clip. Fortunately, both plodder and camera emerged unscathed, if distinctly muddier.
58. Running in the North Downs
112. Forests of fire and iron – Surrey Hills 1
83. Seven Bridges Road – the Wey floodplain
113. The Pilgrim’s Progress – Surrey Hills 2
123. Bridge on the River Wey
I love Pewley Down.
It’s a wonderfully scenic and beautiful piece of landscape, right next to the heart of Guildford.
The land was given to the town by the Friary Brewery after World War I, so that the hillside could be protected from development and enjoyed by local people in perpetuity.
I strolled up here one lunchtime soon after starting a new job in 1995, and the outlook which greeted me that day is certainly the reason I moved to Guildford a few years later. I’ve enjoyed walking and running here ever since. With time, this place has become a part of me, and even of who I am.
The views from here, both over the Weald Basin and the Surrey Hills to the south and towards London to the north, are outstanding, as is the green prospect of the Chalk ridgeline from the fields and countryside around the town.
And so it’s disappointing to recount that Orange has long been intent on erecting a massive telephone mast high on Pewley Down.
I’ve run along the Wey towpath a thousand times. The river passes through Guildford not far below my house, and close to where I used to work.
From Guildford, I can head north or south to link with other paths and tracks on routes from 3 miles to 22. Some of my earliest, shortest and most faltering runs played out along the river bank, and some of my longest and hardest pre-marathon tests as well.
I’ve run there in lunchtimes, mornings and evenings, from the office and at weekends, in spring, summer and autumn, and in dry winters, too.
And although the riverbank lies almost on my doorstep, it’s still one of the most beautiful places I know to run, just about anywhere.
It’s hot here at night, lonely, black and quiet
On a hot summer night
Billy Idol – July 1982
The changes to our weather patterns over the last few years have been gradual, but they really don’t seem that subtle any more. More than anything, there’s a certainty about our summers now which belies all those clichés about the weather in this country.
You only have to look at those once green lawns and fields, all uniformly browned and bleached for weeks now, to realise that southern England has become just another segment of the Mediterranean for a month or two every year.