The Vanguard Way...well some of it!

Sitting at home on a Thursday night Matt and I started to conjure up a plan to go and do a Microadventure. After a few ideas were thrown about we decided to go and attempt the Vanguard Way (VGW). This is a 66 mile long distance walking trail that goes from Croydon to Newhaven. The original plan was to do a bit of it on Friday night, wild camp and then carry on with the rest on Saturday. However after looking at the weather all day on Friday and seeing that a weather warning was issued and heavy rain was forecast we decided to do the whole thing on Saturday, mainly because I don’t have a tent yet and I didn’t really fancy sleeping in the rain, as great as it sounds.

Arriving at Croydon Station we stocked up on some last minute supplies and the tried to find the start of the VGW. The signs were not great and the instructions must have been written by a cryptic elf, that is the only explanation to their complexity. Anyway we picked up signs every now and then and freestyled with our sense of direction in between. After an hour or so of running the heavens opened…

Three hours of running later we got to Edenbridge and stopped for a hot chocolate and a croissant. I think Matt instantly regretted giving up sugar for November as I tucked into my treats. I felt a tiny bit of guilt but not enough to stop eating my praline and almond croissant, HEAVEN! After chatting to the locals in the coffee shop and getting told about their 50m Guy that they were planning on burning that night for Guy Fawkes I was slightly surprised to see what the town had rallied together to burn. They had slightly exaggerated about the 50m but were incredibly proud that they were in The Guinness Book of Records for their legendary Guys.

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We continued on our route spotting signs every now and then that would lead us into random fields these signs would then instantly disappear and we were left with three possible route options. We had a no turning back rule for the day so we headed onwards through a field of geese and eventually found ourselves at a barbed wire fence which was obviously made to be jumped over. Once over the fence we played the game of get a selfie with a horse and hope he doesn’t chase you afterwards.

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We were now starving and a quick check of Google Maps showed that we were only about a mile from the next village, the plan was to stop there for some lunch. Fool Proof…well we picked up the magical VGW signs again and they sent us down this lovely trail and into the woods. The trail had a gentle decent and was packed full of fallen leaves which felt like we were running on clouds. I could have run on this trail all day long! At the top of the trail we stumbled across some boys skinning a rabbit in the woods, as you do on a Saturday morning. It was great to see some kids getting to one with nature and learning some survival skills but as we ran past them they all giggled and looked at as if we were lost. Of course we weren’t (we were).

 

After a quick look at our map it turned out that our quick 1 mile dash to the next village and more importantly the pub had turned into a 4 mile detour! We quickly jumped a fence as our no turning back policy meant we had to and we couldn’t show the rabbit skinning boys that we had taken a wrong turn. We then had to cross a river which we were convinced had a bomb at the edge of it, we were clearly getting delirious with hunger!

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After the fence jumping and river crossing we found a little pub with a roaring fire, what more could you want after 5 hours after running in the rain? We spent an hour or so eating burgers and drying out by the fire. I hope no-one minded me hanging my filthy wet socks on the fire guard.

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Over lunch we decided that we would ditch our VGW plans and run to Brighton instead. Mainly because we couldn’t follow the VGW signs in daylight and god only knows where that crazy elf would have taken us if we had attempted to follow the signs and directions at night. The darkness quickly surrounded us and the head torches were donned as we ran along stupidly busy A roads towards Brighton. As we carried on towards Brighton signs for Ditchling started to appear and a slight fear appeared in Matts eyes. I have never be to or over Ditchling before but I was about to see what all the fuss was about.

Matt ran off into the distance and I sauntered up the hill as I tucked into my Pain aux Raisin. As I climbed the hill I had to continuously dive into bushes on the side of the road in fear of my life as cars raced down the hill like rally car drivers. To be fair who would expect two crazy runners to be going up that hill in the dark on a Saturday night. Despite the hills, darkness and the rain it was a pretty magical night to run to Brighton as it was Guy Fawkes and as we made our way towards Brighton we could see firework displays going off all around us lighting up the sky and spurring us on towards the sea.

Finally after 58 miles and 9 hours 57 minutes of running we had made it to Brighton Pier! We met a jolly slightly anhebriated couple who thought we were mental and gave us the handy advice that we should have drove…if we had driven we wouldn’t have seen a field of geese, a rabbit skinning or Rapunzel and where is the fun in that?!

Can you spot the detour?

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