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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.
There are stars
In the southern sky
Southward as you go
There is moonlight
And moss in the trees
Down the Seven Bridges Road
Sometimes there’s a part of me
Has to turn from here and go
Running like a child from these warm stars
Down the Seven Bridges Road
Eagles – November 1980 (words and music by Steve Young)
A summer’s evening, in spring. It’s a rare gift, and too good to miss.
The late afternoon warmth is still brittle, the low sun still shining through bare trees and fragile blossom. The far edge of an April day.
A January day, and my starting point for today’s 12 miler is the New Inn in Send, beside the River Wey. Our family Sunday pub-lunch is, in reality, a mere carbo-loading exercise, and this pub certainly recommended for the largest, soggiest bowl of sausage and mash in the world.
An hour later, brilliant sunshine is fading into dank drizzle as I explore a new route into town through Riverside Park. Picturesquely named, it proves to offer little more than a patch of green, sandwiched uncomfortably under electricity pylons between the tranquility of the river and the deafening A3 road traffic.
I slither around a few laps of boardwalk laid across the riverside wetlands, my lunch settling better than the weather. The skies evolve steadily through hail and finally pelting rain as twilight approaches over the aptly-named Guildford suburb of Burpham.
And then, deep in the darkness of the woods beside the river, I stumble across a line of old tank traps lurking on the steep bank behind the Spectrum Leisure Centre. This must be another part of the last line of defence south of London, dating from the Second World War, and linking up with pill boxes south of the town near Shalford and high on St Martha’s Hill.