The official start time for the hash came and drifted by dreamily with not a soul noticing its passing. Five minutes ticked away. "It must be about time to go" said Hawkeye, before returning to his earnest concentration on nothing in particular. "Isn't that Roger running away?" asked another hasher, but nobody seemed to care much and the present continued to slip gently into the past.
On his return from nowhere in particular Roger launched into…. no, not the start of the hash but another quiet conversation. Then, at the exact second of sometime later we set off, or rather three of us set off checking while the gentle hum of conversation hung lazily over the rest of the hash.
There were rumours of a fairly flat and short hash (just 4.5 miles for the longs). But then, there are always rumours.
Reality first broke through after just 100 paces as we turned left and headed up (with the emphasis on UP) to Spurgrove Lane and Freith before commencing the long, but everso gentle climb through and around Mouselle's Wood to Little Freith and the other end of Spurgrove Lane.
Whipping Boy was sure we would head down the little footpath with the wonderful views, after all "We always do when we get here". With much sage nodding from the more experienced members of the Hash it was naturally called in another direction and we headed straight for the bright lights of downtown Freith.
"At least we know the way we are going at the end, left then right across Hayles Field" said one hasher – who will remain anonymous as I don't want to own up to it – especially as we actually went right then straight on before coming to the other end of the footpath that we hadn't gone down five minutes earlier.
More beautiful views (this really is one of the very best areas for hashing) as we crossed the long and gently downward field to Hills Wood. Conversation turned to the highly complex subject of a training shoe's grip with Andy's technically limited comment of "Well mine have got dirty great globs of rubber sticking out," which seemed to sum the matter up. Hare Steve, with pure malice of forethought, took us nearly to the top of the wood, straight down to the bottom of the wood then straight back up to the top again along the path past St Katherine's at Parmoor, (the wartime home of the deliciously named King Zog of Albania).
As Pacha was among the walking wounded by this point Mary, her mother, decided to go long for the first time in her, admittedly short, hashing career. I think she enjoyed it and certainly ran well.
A left and right turn at the top took us through the farm and down the long and pleasant (in this direction anyway) field parallel to, and eventually into the ancient, Moorend Wood - with its rare late spring orchids and even rarer rare Purple Emperor butterfly. Contemplation takes me to the conclusion that I am not surprised the Purple Emperor is rare unless, of course, it is butterflies, not butterfly.
I remember thinking that the run seemed vaguely familiar until I remembered I had set a very similar route long ago based on the Chiltern Society's Round Frieth (Walk 6) guide. Right now I'm having amnesia and Déjà vu at the same time. I think I've forgotten this route before.
Soon we were well into the fifth, but sadly not last, mile of the "4.5 mile" run. We transversed Moor Common and into Moor Copse – which is a nearly appropriate name as it was once the scene of the infamous 777 Hash murder. Heading on through the woods an on-back was called based largely on the fact that someone had kicked out the circle and made it look a bit like the number three! Together with the next on-back it was incredibly long back-check as the short cutters were enjoyable immersed in colloquy and confabulation, which caused them to delay a trifle more than normal.
At last we arrived at the Long/Short split, with the Shorts returning along the Lane End to Freith Road and the rest powering on to Ditchfield Common, where we nearly lost Hells Bells when she missed a sneaky arrow to the left towards the dingles and dells of Fining Wood. Soon, however, we were heading back to the pub across two last fields and one last wood.
The novel hashing symbol of a heart confounded the hash for a while, but eventually Hare Steve admitted to setting the hash with his wife. Who says romance is dead? A last short downhill to the on-inn and we were back at the pub. Cute, tiny and a tad crowded by the Hash's presence, we were treated to lashings of chips, the obligatory speechifyings from the GM and a warm round of applause for yet another great trail!
Dan's last hash before the demise of his bachelorhood by committing marriage was duly celebrated and we dispersed into the night leaving just memories, footprints and a little blood (where I snagged a bramble) to mark our passing.