Sunday, 14 July 2019

5. My Kilimanjaro Training - 4 Months in... : Hittin' Sussex 26km Balcombe - Horsham


Thanks a bunch for taking an interest in my Kilimanjaro Training and my latest post about how its all going - this time around after my 'gap filling boot time' bi-weekend training trips to my nearest 'hill' around Box Hill, I decided to venture out of county Surrey into Duke Harry and Duchess Meghan's royal turf of Sussex with the Saturday Walkers Club again (but it was on a Sunday forget the namesake). This time, it was going to be a 26km walk from Balcombe to Horsham and the adventure would be a change from my regular trudging ground of Box Hill, however nice and steep it is - still it would be a good opportunity for long-distance endurance walking and break in those new boots of mine that I'm giving the treat of coming to Tanzania with me.

In just three months time!!!     

Yep, thats me there in the red hat, wandering behind through the forest of Sussex...

See the green line from right to left? That's the route we were embarking on - doesn't look that far right? 6 1/2 hours worth. 

I'm now half way through my 6-month gym training which I've become very disciplined in following through in the week and I think part of that is fear driven about not being in shape to take on Kili!

I think I have a work ethic of if I'm going to train for this challenge, its worth training properly for and I will enjoy it so much more.

But its good for me in general and I hope the effort will benefit my fitness on the mountain with my efforts to strengthen my knees and leg stamina. I've got a summer morning routine of sweating it out 3 - 4 times a week there and started boxing classes aswell or 'box-fit' classes as a freebie for my loyal use of membership. Still I'm making consistent progress with it and changing my training strategy up a notch by increasing my times and changing the air valves in my 'sports mask' for higher altitude. I'm not sure if it will help me cope with the altitude sickness but at least I can try and swing the odds in my favour.

But with the training advice I've been given for Kili - so far so good....and my T-shirts suffer. 

But like I have said in my posts before, gym training would not be enough for Kilimanjaro so I'm off the train at Balcombe to meet our 'little group' for a real walk that goes somewhere, and it is a little group - 8 actually. The Saturday Walkers Club isn't actually a organised thing. Its a self led expedition but very informal and the idea is you can start as a group always at a train station and finish at a train station. Of course, being 8 of us we decided to stick together and our self appointed 'leader' Thomas who invited willing walkers on the walk in the first place took charge having not walked the 26km route himself, but someone needs to be a leader.....

So we all set off along the wealds which separate the North and South Downs open and forested country, me trying to linger at the back behind the group heading up through Westsup Farm and family of geese manning the shed. Its quite a curious discovery traipsing around all this new territory you wouldn't know was there and new hill side views with the spring flowers still out. and grazing sheep and cows.

Very much following the leader....or trying to...he had the compass.

So across the meadows and pastures, we head into a good mixture of woodlands and gurgling streams among the lush greenery of Nyman's Estate which is National Trust land 

Still keeping close to the group...

And you also come across some really strange features on the slog - A Hungarian Horntail in the Sussex countryside.... this was for sale y'know on a country lane, nowhere to put it though.

About three hours into the walk, passing through the village of Handcross - it very much had been feeling like a forced march struggling to keep up with the leading cluster of walkers in your eye-line on the horizon. If you stopped for too long, you'd miss which fork they'd taken and have to resort to self navigating to catch them up with walking instructions. A few of us did that, gave up the catch up and took some time out at the fishing lake manned (yes, always by men strangely enough) by optimistic anglers sitting by the lake attempting to catch carp fish. I had come to know that if you notice how fish are caught and then tossed back into the water, the way they swim away can tell you if they have brain damage or not - for the times I had fished in the past, I hadn't conceived it at all what that might have done to the well-being of the fish after the hook and reel, but my conscience took a battering.

Anyhow, here's a video at the half way point by Lake Furnace, getting left behind to picnic next to the anglers.   

Once getting out from the cover of the woodland and going for a tarmac-heavy wander down to the country pub without getting mowed down by the odd oncoming car - we caught up with the rest of the group stopping off at the quirky Wheatsheaf pub enjoying drinks on the shady veranda and found the rumours were true of a free flying parrot overlooking the bar - very much the Scumm Bar out of Monkey Island.

First we thought this was a joke with the plastic parrot figure at the bar but low and behold there was a parrot there giving us the beady watchful eye along with the creepy taxidermy gallery of dead animals.

To be fair, by nature I have a very child-like inner curiosity and love seeing new environments, finding everything fascinating and sensational which the opportunity of joining a walk can do. Myself and fellow walker Stephen, who lugged his pretty swanky Canon - impressive lenses along with him, lost the group again when we entered the woodland as we were struck by the exploding oranges and purples of clustered Rhododendron, a woody plant that made the woods light up to stage the fantastical opening scene of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Catching up with the group again, the bracken and grass becoming knee high and overgrown narrow pathways made it tedious and painful wrestling through thorny overhanging stems and stinging nettles - a machete would have a been very useful not mentioning passing through cattle electric fences as we began entering grassy farmland.

And meeting an impasse of moo-dy ladies....

Entering St Leonards Forest

Making choices at crossroads 

Still heading west towards Horsham, we came out of St Leonards Forest with the route opening up to take us through a line of stile jumping, cattle fields and grassy pastures belonging to Chesworth Farm Riverside Fields which is a small nature reserve running alongside the River Arun. One highlight was acting as animal welfare as Stephen and I managed to coax a stray hungry horse back into its paddock with a juicy apple - always a winner to get a horse to do what you want.

Don't mind us....

Always good to know these things....not to worry you're just needing to walk across a field with a bull in there to reach Horsham.

And so we were going to! I do love a bit of adventure, walking past nonchalant cows and said famous bull.  

The grassy land then broke up by the tarmac slog through Mannings Heath village, finally bringing us out to the outskirts of Horsham. 

Alas! Nearly there! This is where I began feeling the tiredness and the aches nearly 5.5 hours later of walking, but we could see the church spire and the distant chiming of the bells to carry us home.

More keen fishers on the River Arun

Gorgeous spring lambs gracing the greens of the old market town of Horsham

Crossing under the railway bride and my finish is welcomed by the melodic chimes of Sunday evening mass bells as I arrive at the door of Horsham church! 26km done and I'm exhausted but super jazzed I'd managed to get a long distance walk in for my training and I wasn't left wondering lost and confused in the wilds of West Sussex.

Sing the bells of Horsham! 

Arriving in the old market town were left overs of a Spanish-themed street festival so no better way to celebrate the end of the walk with some Churros!

Thanks for reading, see ya next time with my residential training trip to tackle some real hills for practice...the Lake District 

Oh one more thing...if you would like to please help me with a kind donation of whatever you can afford towards 'Action for M.E' to help sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome please be awesome and hop on over to my Kilimanjaro Just Giving Page to help me get up the mountain that little bit more.  

Much gratitude! and see you next time for my next training adventures from the mighty Lakes.....

Training Walk Distance : 26km/27km (16 miles) 

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