Cranleigh daily walk: Nick’s lockdown diaries
I imagine we are all aware of the acceptable reasons for leaving home during this lockdown.
I can work from home, and Andy takes care of getting the provisions we need, so my reason for leaving the house is exercise.
It would be comfortable to sit in the lovely garden that Andy has created, a mug of tea in hand and something to read, but we all need to keep fit.
So each day I go for a 4-mile fast walk, to make sure that I remain healthy.
Along the way, there is no escaping the beautiful nature that we have right on our doorstep.
Cranleigh is a lovely place to live, and it takes just a few minutes to walk along the Horsham road away from the village centre.
This road is usually quite busy with traffic, but it is noticeably quieter these days. In the past, 30 or more cars might have driven past me, but today there were just four vehicles.
I reach the outskirts of Cranleigh and see the sign confirming our twinning with two towns, one in France and one in Germany. Cranleigh isn’t a town, of course, it’s a village, the largest in England some claim, but it has a population higher than some small towns but still keeps a village atmosphere.
I cross the road and walk down a narrow tree tunnelled lane opening onto the Vachery estate.
Across this open field and shielded by the trees is a vast estate lake. As an Angler, I fantasize about getting the chance to fish in this lake, there must be some real monster Carp and Tench and who knows what else, in the waters.
The estate has a beautiful road running through it, wooded on both sides and overflowing with Bluebells and other wildflowers. I have no sense of smell, but Andy tells me that the perfume is fantastic.
Less pleasant is the huge compost heap on the adjacent farmland which smells very strong, proving that there are both advantages and disadvantages to not having a sense of smell!
The birdlife on the walk is genuinely fantastic. I have seen and heard so many different species of birds in this area it’s hard to keep count of them.
I reach a bend in the estate road, and here there are some seriously tall Pine trees. If there is a wind blowing, they make a substantial noise which is oddly both soothing and slightly spooky at the same time.
This is where I now need to turn right towards the old railway line. My route up to where the line used to run are some steps alongside the road tunnel.
Like many rural railway lines, this was shut down in the 1960s. There is from time to time some discussion about reintroducing an electric railway line to take commuters from Cranleigh to Guildford, our nearest mainline railway station. I suspect cost will remain a barrier to doing this.
I can now choose to turn right again towards Cranleigh or left towards Baynards, and if I did turn that way and kept going eventually, I would reach the sea at Shoreham.
One summer some years ago Martin and Philip Sullivan and I did precisely that. We walked the 30 miles to Shoreham to raise money for charity.
That was a day I can tell you because it left me unable to sit or stand for six weeks as it aggravated the osteoarthritis in my spine and hip.
I have memories of lying flat out on the office floor, writing financial planning reports.
Pushing those memories to the back of my mind, I turn towards Cranleigh 1 ½ miles away.
The walkers, joggers, cyclists and dog walkers I meet on the way are all prepared to greet their fellow lockdown victims, and social distancing has turned into fine art, all of us finding the space to stand back and let others pass by at a safe distance.
As you can see from the signpost, I could choose to keep going and instead of ending up at the seaside I could climb the North Downs and into the Surrey Hills. We are so lucky to live in such an area of outstanding natural beauty.
I reach a gate at the end of the railway line, and the view opens out to Snoxall Playing Fields home of Cranleigh Football Club and where I spend Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings managing, with the help of my fellow coaches the Cranleigh U9s.
The pitch we use, as you can see, looks perfect at the moment. Unfortunately, we cannot use it at the current time, nor, I suspect, for the foreseeable future.
Frustratingly during January and February, it was so severely flooded that we could hardly use it at all!!
I cross the playing fields and walk through a local housing area that is so quiet it feels like a scene from a Zombie Apocalypse movie! I don’t see another human until I reach the Horsham road and walk the few hundred yards left until I am back home.
I will do the same walk again tomorrow, and the next day and so on, until the lockdown is eased or lifted and even then it has become such a part of my daily routine, I don’t guess I will stop at all.
I wish you could be there with me, socially distanced, of course!