Luckily for me, I checked the website to see where tonight’s run was to meet and found that there had been a last minute change of pub in Cadmore End. If you were unfortunate enough to have not seen the change and had headed elsewhere and failed to find the hash you would have missed us gathered and shivering in the rain under a dripping tree in the corner of the car park of The Tree, Cadmore End.
Three of our number were dressed up as though this was a fancy dress run but I learnt that this is a weird HWH3 tradition (perhaps newly started) for leavers. The three were adorned with plentiful coloured light bands and each of us was to get one of these – most hashers, typically, opted for poofty pink as their choice of band. The Hare, Whipping Boy, advised that the trail was very wet underfoot and suggested that we also take care on the nasty main road adjacent to the pub where lunatic drivers were just waiting for us to put a toe on the road so that they could come racing around the corner and send us to Hash Valhalla – OK he said the road was dangerous and to take care!
The hare walked us out of the pub car park and northwards along said dangerous road for about 50 metres before turning us west across the road and into a field over a wonky and slippery stile – we were to find out that just about every stile on the run was wet and slippery – after all it was tipping down and most of us were soon drenched to the skin. Another stile loomed out of the dark and then it was a long haul around the edge of a large field skirting the boundary of Chequers Manor Farm. This was where we met the first of what was to turn out to be umpteen check backs – the way to the back of the pack seemed to be miles due to the stiles drawing out the line of hashers. An early regroup was called as we dropped down onto the lane heading down to Fingest. There was a choice of four run lengths at this point – I don’t recall the various lengths but noted the short haul hashers all rapidly disappearing downwards towards Fingest leaving the long runners to grind their way up the hill and turn left on the long and ill-defined footpath leading to Penley Wood.
At the edge of the wood the front runners missed the gap in the fence and headed too far to the west and the Hare then had to point out the opening to the back markers with a warning to watch our footing. We then proceeded down a sloping, slithery and slippery path which soon had several of the pack on their collective backsides. Somewhere down this path Roger sidled and slithered up to me and challenged me to write the Trash this week. Through laboured breath I politely declined but later rescinded that decision once I had a pint in my hand in the pub, paid for by Roger. Bribery, what bribery?!
The slippery slope eventually flattened out and we ended up at a check in a green clearing in the wood with paths radiating in all directions. Sam soon called On-On along the path to the south. It was at this point that the shigginess of last week’s run started to pale into insignificance as we paddled for miles through more or less continuous mud and water. Just when we thought it was possible to run and started to gather speed another shoe sucking quagmire would bring us to a soggy halt. Niffer’s whoops were even more frequent that those of last week. This was to be repeated, more or less, all the way to the on-inn. Just to add to our misery this particular section of the trail went on for more than one and half miles, the only good thing being that it was generally downhill. The Hare, realising that the pack would be stretched out along this section, had continued to lay frequent back checks along the trail.
Arriving back at the lane to Fingest again, the Hare turned us down towards the Village but after a few yards we came to another check at which the SCBs of the longs, if you know what I mean, were offered a shortcut continuing south along the lane. A small group took this opportunity whilst the rest of us turned east and came face to face with a “ ‘kin’ell “ requiring us to climb 100 metres in about 0.35 miles up into Hanger Wood. In this section I was passed by Helen & Sam repeatedly as they dealt with a sequence of check backs. Oh to have their energy as I puffed my way up the slope.
However luck turned my way as we stalled at a check and I was the one to find the correct way forward down a narrow and steep defile of a path which levelled out as we neared the valley bottom and the lit up Fingest church tower glittering in the rain. 2 checks were seen at the stile, where two paths intersected, with the on trail leading out into the road by the church. Here a check was already pre-marked for us to head back the way we had come but taking the other of the two paths back up the hill. All and more of the altitude we had lost, coming down from Hangar Wood, was to be regained over a long and torturous ascent up a slippery chalk track which did spread the pack over a considerable distance.
A regroup of sorts at the highest point had several front runners heading for Cadmore End village whilst the correct on was to the left and up and then down a muddy farm track to another check where we turned right up a grassy slope providing some relief from the muddiness of all that had gone before. Emerging onto that dangerous main road again we turned left and jogged back to the pub.
The very well laid trail had a core length was about 6 miles – well done to the Hare (and his hound) especially so given the weather conditions.