Sunday, 1 April 2012

Magnificent Menagerie

What a wonderful run tonight, wonderful in so many ways, in one way because I was back on my old friend the North Downs Way, another I was with my good friend Rob and because we aimed to get to the Strangest Pub in Kent which allowed us to hear the funniest comment ever from one of the inhabitants there!

The run out
The run was basically an out and back 8 miles (13 km) out and the same (hopefully) back, the halfway point being the pub.....the start being at a pub as well, right I think you get the idea :-)

We started off at about 7.20pm from Knockholt Pound and took a strong pace from the start, the general consensus was to enjoy the light while we had it and then drop down to a comfortable pace that the light and terrain would allow us, this is not an easy run as it comprises 1760 feet (540 m) of climb, in the dark over very uneven trail, it was runs like this that I was pleased to have experience with me as Rob knew this trail well and confident in his skills.

Time soon required headtorches to be donned when we had descended and ascended the most difficult section to join very rooted paths and conversation soon directed us to the topic of "The Pub" but first we had to negotiate a field of ungulates. By coincidence both of us were wearing the same headtorch, the Petzl Tikka XP, whilst heavier than the newer version, a very versatile piece of kit both switched to fresnel to dilate the light. This option removes depth to the beam and we were soon startled by a thunderous movement when 6 horses stampeded away from us...I have to admit we thought it was a bull at first.

We turned around and then retraced our steps to get to "The Pub", I was laughing at Rob's incredulous remark that this dark, unlit place  could possibly not be a pub until we approached the door to open it and were met by a cacophony and pandemonium behind it as a dog started to bark and growl. Squeezing through I was met by a witch the landlady who now had a Jack Russell in her arms.

Two pints and a box full of kittens please
Beers purchased, we settled down to take in the smell of cat & dog wee, ancient cigarette smoke and to look at the land lady who had a witch-like look today, black hair with a wisp of white through the middle. As we chatted I felt a padding to my leg and looked down to see a cat who immediately jumped up and padded across my legs to cuddle up and purr, a squawk from a parrot in the cage by the cold fireplace. I decided that the cat was just a little too friendly and walked around to the landlady who was now on the sofa under a blanket who pointed to a box to let me see a mother cat with 4 kittens only 2 days old.....a night of the menagerie indeed.

The two of us now totally taken in by this wonderful, most beautiful of places wanted to stay but alas it was time to go, we were getting too comfortable. Time for Buffs and headtorches, to clear our glasses and to leave but as we said our goodbyes to the witch landlady, the parrot had the last word


Never in history had I heard a parrot say miaow....I reckon it was under a spell. I am not sure if it was the beer, the endorphins from the run or the overpowering smell of cat wee but we burst out laughing, that wonderful free laugh, straight from the gut that was just joyous...brilliant.

The way home
Rob, ever incredible, had already run 15 miles that day but was running strong but everso often we would shout "MIAOW" to the other and it would gee us along. We ducked down onto the NDW and heard a thump and in our torchlight saw a Roe deer jump over the surrounding bushes only feet away, an owl to our right calling.

And so, as soon as it started, it ended, a gloriously tough run that let us see or hear:

  • 6 horses
  • 1 dog
  • 6 cats
  • 1 Roe deer
  • 1 owl
  • 2 runners (us)
  • 1 witch?
A menagerie indeed but a brilliant run


  1. magnificent blog for a mega run. I now have another couple of hearty souls who will be joining us for the next round of Downs NRG.


  2. You couldn't stay away from that place could you?