What do you do with a nice evening after work? The normal person’s answer might be to sit in the garden with a glass of wine, find a nice beer garden or some such. What did I do? I decided to see what the South-East has that passes for hills..
A few years ago, I realised after walking a section of the North Downs Way that I had passed a hill (of sorts) that is classed as a Marilyn, i.e. a hill of more than 150m with a drop and reascent of 150m to a higher hill. I had literally been about 200 yards from the trig point and not done anything about it. To be honest, I hadn’t realised that the South-East had any classified hills. So off I had pottered on the North Downs Way leaving the thing unticked.
I had been working in the Redhill office of my firm that day and finished what I was doing a bit early; Stuart was stuck at work, so I thought I’d go for a short walk. I had possibly the most unsuitable walking gear I had ever done a walk in, namely the smart dress I had worn to the office and a pair of silver (!) trainers that for whatever reason were randomly in the car. I then looked at the Internet to find out what Botley Hill was all about. Well, it is the highest point within the M25, so I had some hopes of half decent views of London. However, the Internet also told me that the trig point is no longer counted as the summit following a resurvey, the actual summit is under a water tower about a mile away.
I parked up at a viewpoint car park on a minor road which actually had decent views of the M25, if there is such a thing, and towards the South – plus it was clear the M25 was jammed so my daft bagging detour would probably help me get home earlier than I would have otherwise. Bunged my trainers on and wandered off along a path which ran parallel to the road, then up a metalled track towards the water tower which is supposed to be the highest point – at which point it became obvious that I could have actually driven up to the thing. Indeed as I was about to leave a car actually did drive up so I could have bagged the thing in my smart work shoes!
The top, according to the ‘hill bagging’ website is at the access gate, though could really be anywhere – there is higher ground in the water tower enclosure but is presumably artificial and therefore doesn’t count. What was more annoying was that any views of London were not really visible because the blooming water tower was in the way! I wandered back to the car, then drove about a mile down the road and parked up at a car park near the trig point then wandered to it.. the trig looks very bizarre plonked in a basically flat field, and is not actually accessible from the road unless you climb a bramble-infested barbed wire fence. In any case it does look to be lower than the tower. On the way back to the car a local looked at me as though I was a bit cracked and I couldn’t help thinking she might have had a point. Drove home and ended up in the bizarre situation of having a post walk drink in my local.
This little escapade taught me a couple of things. One is that hills further North are definitely superior (there may be some interesting hills in the South of England, but Botley Hill was not one of them). The other is that I am definitely not bagging Marilyns, although anyone who has the tenacity to get through a list that has stuff like this all the way through to Ben Nevis and the St Kilda sea stacks has my admiration. But the hill itself contained none of the things that made me take up hill walking; no decent view, not really much in the way of exercise, it was just a ‘tick’. Another to add to my hill logger (in an app on my phone) but that was about it. So bagging isn’t, for me, the be all and end all; whether views, waterfalls, lakes/ lochans, some sort of historical interest or whatever, there has to be something more.