As tempting as it was to make my excuses and not hash tonight due to the huge distance I'd have to drive (and that it would get me off the hook of scribe duty!) it would have meant missing out on what - on paper - promised to be a good hash: great location; good pub & beer garden with a view probably the best in the Chilterns; experienced hare; and a good weather forecast - better get the car keys!
The Five Horseshoes at Maidensgrove is famed in hashing circles as the pub where our very own Gerry lost the entire hash actually in the car park! A magnificent effort yet to be equalled. Other notable highlights in the area are the nearby duck pond featured in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
A slightly smaller than usual hash gathered to listen to Rob, our hare for the evening, explain that tonight's run was "relatively flat", had some overly-friendly cows and we had to look out for an "F" that indicated the location of a fort (that's just F'ing wrong, we all know F's are for falsies and they should not be skimped on!). Two days earlier Berkshire hash had set a bike bash from the same pub so there was the potential to find the wrong flour and turn a 5½ mile run into a 25½ mile run! Much of the preamble was taken up with a health and safety talk on the correct procedure for crossing a field full of cows with a dog, as a week earlier Rob's wife had been knocked to the ground by cattle and sustained a bad back injury - thank goodness the bovinophobia-suffering Jo wasn't present to hear this, probably best we don't tell her or we'll never get her beyond the car park next hash.
Check it out was eventually called and Gerry disappeared through a hole in the hedge which is exactly what he did the time he lost the hash, so plans were quickly made for the hash to hide, unfortunately this time Gerry was right and had found the trail across Russell's Water Common.
We quickly arrived at our first cattle close encounter where a large herd of young beasts eagerly tried to join the hash, no amount of shooing would get them away and it ended in a mass stampede of hashers, cattle and dogs.
Safely passed the cattle without injury we continued on our way to Nettlebed despite Rob's warning that those had been the friendly cows and we still had the nasty ones to look forward to!!!!! At the junction with Digberry Lane for the second time this evening Gerry disappeared through a hole in the hedge but this time with far more enthusiasm - we had found the "F", and it looked for a while as though Gerry would have to be physically restrained to stop him digging an exploratory trench across the earthworks. (I feel an editor's aside coming on.)
[Ed's aside – various reports state that the "fort" we saw is Palaeolithic (it isn't); Early Iron age (unlikely); Roman; and medieval. Hmmm that covers over 4,000 years! One report said it was probably an enclosure for deer and white cattle, very unlikely as the structure is wrong – and how could they tell the colour of the cows anyway? It is the right size for a Roman Camp (a fort) – and the road down the side of the Farm is proven to be a Roman road heading to Dorchester, which makes a camp sound quite likely BUT the structure has square corners and Romans just didn't build square corners on their forts. Rose & I went back and found a piece of pottery (probably roof tile) in the road's bank which implies Roman, medieval or later. A possibility is that it was designed to keep woodland animals out of the internal area while it was being used to coppice trees - though it is perhaps a little big for that. Identification of the site is thus "work in progress" – which is Hash speak for "haven't a clue".]
At Chears Farm we started to head west, back in the direction of the pub when some frantic phone messages started coming in from shorts who had been acting as an advance expeditionary force searching out cows. The news was not good: hostile cows and calves located stop, do not enter field under any circumstances stop; advise taking alternative route good luck stop, then the line went dead. When the hash finally arrived at the aforementioned field the occupants were indeed hostile, even I, with my reputation as hash cattle wrangler was not going in. Instead, like a bunch of big girl's blouses we all trespassed through the neighbouring field. Safe in the knowledge that there were no more herbivorous hordes to contend with the hash could now relax and enjoy a sweeping downhill run before a killer climb back to the pub, a relatively flat killer climb that is.
We had the Five Horseshoes to ourselves as it is usually closed on a Tuesday and had opened specially but all opted for the beer garden. Rob had arranged for some delicious chips before dashing off to attend to his still suffering wife.