We walked to Friday Street on Remembrance Sunday. The approach from the north was down Hollow Lane which seemed a promising start. A deep cut road through the sandstone overhung with trees leading us into ancient woodlands. On the way we passed congregations remembering the fallen. All around leaves were falling, like memento mori. Luckily the sun was shining and it seemed we were granted a last fantastic dying burst of colour before the winter.
It had rained for days, the ground was sodden, the path was a battlefield, turned over by adrenalin junkies on mountain bikes. We tried to avoid the beaten track and followed a more rocky road that was until recently a stream, the rocks washed by the rain, in places still running with water.
There was a tree here that stopped me in my tracks. It seemed to be leaking sap, but it was dead. It was oozing folds of dark red goo that burst from its bark. This tree was returning to the mud.
We came down to Abinger Bottom and the smell of woodsmoke from cottage chimneys. We met a green boilersuited woodsman with a log as big as himself across his shoulder. Leaves fluttered down like yellow butterflies and bright green moss covered walls and branches. There was a rickety rackety bridge and a newborn stream, sometimes on one side and sometimes on both sides as we approached Friday Street. We stopped for lunch at the Stephan Langton where pheasants grazed in the garden.
Mill Pond lived up to its name. It was as still as its proverbial namesake, the light was perfect, the water was a mirror. Two hundred years ago it was used to power hammers in the local ironworks.
Local produce today is much reduced. It’s left out with an honesty box and watched over by a family of local security guards.
A chain of ponds and weirs descends from Friday Street to Wotton House. We turned off to climb into Bushy Wood with the sun on the water behind us.
Sweet chestnut, beech and larch. Over the hill and across Sheephouse Lane to slip and slide muddily down to Tilling Bourne and a parallel damp valley of weirs and ponds. Here on the left of the path is a landscaped waterfall and on the right, across a field and almost hidden in the trees, a curious and unexplained fountain. Is one a consequence of the other?
At Home Farm we took the path to Henman Base Camp and Warren Farm. The light was fading, the autumnal yellow leaves were luminous and the spongy, mossy Tilling Springs seemed almost phosphorescent.
We followed Whiteberry Road along Broadmoor Bottom and up Snakes Hill to Leith Hill Tower. It was suddenly busy and we were not the only visitors. We found ourselves at a crowded tourist attraction. Leith Hill, like Walbury Hill, is said to be the highest hill in south east England. From here we could see north to London and I could just make out the Shard, but my camera didn’t recognise it. We arrived ten minutes too late to climb Leith Hill Tower. From the top it is said you can see as far as the London Eye and the English Channel. As the sun went down, shining golden through the remaining leaves, we remembered those already fallen, gone before their time, before gravity, before the Fall.
Walk the walk – Friday Street: Fact or Fiction?