March 28, 2006

Abingworth Hall Walking Holiday

To celebrate Carrie's retirement and Kris's birthday, we set off on a HF (Holiday Fellowship) "Classic Walking Holiday" based at the lovely Abingworth Hall in West Sussex. We arrived at Pulborough Station late Friday and learned Lesson #1 - always book a taxi well in advance when arriving in small stations, especially on rainy Friday evenings. We missed dinner but did get to meet our fellow hikers and leaders. We opted for the "medium" hike because the "easy" was not offered.

The next morning, we enjoyed a hearty cooked English breakfast. We then packed our lunches from a huge spread of sandwiches, cookies, trail mix, fruits, snacks - anything you could want. Our group (aka "Slackers") were dropped off in Arundel where we eventually returned - 9 miles and 30+ stiles later. We did get a short break at a pub where we enjoyed a drink and our picnic lunch. The countryside was beautiful but it rained quite hard in the afternoon. Arundel Castle does not open until April and we want to return to see it and other sites such as a RSPB (Royal Society for Protection of Birds) park, Arundel Wildlife and Wetlands Centre, and Wakehurst. We returned to the inn in time for tea, a nap, and a tasty dinner. After documenting our preference for an "easy" walk, despite that not being an option, we went to bed early.

The next morning, we thought we had "plenty of time" until we realised we had forgotten about Daylight Savings Time and were one hour behind schedule. We did manage to pack our lunch and eat breakfast and pick up our gear from the drying room. Our fellow travelers were serious walkers and we learned about all kinds of things we can buy for rambling in the English weather - mud guards, knapsack covers, seats, and more. We were pleased to learn that there had been a mutiny the night before and that the hike was reduced to 6 miles. For such a short walk, I decided to leave my walking stick and camera behind - much to my regret. This walk was up and down through the mud, with almost as many stiles as the day before. I really missed my camera when we saw a mother licking her newly born lamb who then struggled to its feet for the very first time. We stopped at a pub for a drink and visited an 11th century Norman church, replete with stockyard and whipping post out front. We returned in time for a "proper cream tea" (only cakes had been served the day before), a nap, and another fine dinner. Despite the tough hikes, we suspect we did not burn up more calories than consumed.

All in all, this holiday was a great way to celebrate a retirement and a birthday.

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