The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Oct 28, 2012

Box Hill

It has been a week since the boy's mid-term break started. He has another week to go. I have been planning various outings with him and the wife. None of them have come to pass. There have been excuses - 'it is misty' or 'it is gloomy' or 'I slept badly'. After twelve years of marriage, none of these excuses are new, really, but they continue to have the same force as they always have. I give in constantly.

Yesterday, though, dawned bright and sunny. How about that trip to Rye? said the wife. Some plotting on the National Rail website revealed that it would take nearly two-and-a-half hours to get there. By the time people had their breakfast and their coffee and read the news and stretched, it made no sense to head there. How about a National Trust property, then? said the wife, as though all the delay had been of my doing. The few in London that we hadn't visited were either closed or too boring for Saturday.

Well, how about Box Hill? said the wife in some exasperation. All right, I said, and - taking a brief look at the possible walks that we could do there with the boy - we rushed for the train.

The National Trust website provides some information and walking trails for the region. It said that the starting point for the walks was ½ mile from Box Hill and Westhumble station. We trudged along the side of a highway behind a band of merry Italians who seemed to know where they were going.

We arrived at the Stepping Stones parking lot and picked up a trail map there. The starting point appeared to be as distant as ever.

Ooh, said the boy, can we go on the stepping stones? Sure, I said heartily, and we headed thither.

The river Mole burbled swiftly before us. We looked to the other shore, a scant ten or so metres away. There were some people in waterproofs and wellingtons watching us.

The boy and I stepped from stone to stone. The water was at least two inches above the stones and our shoes were promptly soaked. We squelched over to the other side and turned around to see the wife livid with rage and simultaneously pale with the cold. What the hell, she said, what the bloody hell?

I felt like a bit of a numpty.

Across the Stepping Stones, River Mole, Surrey.

The Italians were nowhere to be seen, but another couple who had crossed right after us and had equally soaked feet were beside themselves with outrage. They stood around commiserating with the wife. It seems there is a foot-bridge over the Mole, they said to her. She nearly had apoplexy.

This is why you should plan these things better, she said to me. Why do we always have to rush off unprepared?

To be fair, said the couple, we have a guide-book and we didn't know where the bridge is.


By now the sun had disappeared behind a cloud or two and a brisk wind began to blow. Before us were a series of steps cut into the hill. They disappeared into the heights.

Squelch, squelch went our shoes. We were (unlike the boy in Quebec) quite friz.

The boy wanted to put on his Scream mask. We had bought one on our way to the station in the morning. Hallowe'en and all that, don't you know.


My word, said the boy, it is cold.

My word, said the boy a little later. What a wonderful scenery.

Hmph, said his mother.

Views of Surrey Hills

I tried to jolly her along, but was met with paralysing hauteur.

We kept climbing, and it steadily grew colder.

My word, said the boy. Is this hiking?

View of Surrey Hills

We met some people coming the other way. Is it far to the National Trust centre? I said.

No, they said. But you have to keep climbing. There are lots of steps.

Lots of steps, they added as they passed us by, and their words hung in the air, adding to the gloom.

Presently we came upon a look-out point. We can have lunch here, I said brightly.

Salomon's Lookout

It is too windy, said the wife.

We trudged along some more. Dogs ran past us, as did kids, all wonderfully dry and pleased with themselves.

I can't believe we got soaked right at the start, said the wife.

A while later, we had lunch beneath a tree. Then we staggered to the cafe to have tea. The boy said his toes were hurting. After he had a bit of cake, he stopped moaning.

National Trust centre, Box Hill

Should we take a walk to the fort? I said in the sort of tentative tone that one associates with supplicants to Genghis Khan.

You go if you want, said the wife. I'm not budging out.

The boy and I walked around a bit. We made a short film. We looked at the Surrey Hills. We took some pictures. We froze some more. Our feet were still not dry. We came back to the cafe. We called a cab. The cabby asked us if we had been to the top of the hill. Well, we had been to the top of a hill. He stopped talking to us.

We caught a train back home.


Anonymous said...

Too many things to say. Much too many. You might not like any of it. So shall just smile to myself instead.

Fëanor said...

Smug smile to self? Sounds ominous.

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