Our most recent hike was one of our rather popular walk social ideas. The social aspect of our group is very important to us as we tend to find it helps people to get to know one and other better and improve peoples engagement with the group. One ways of doing that is of course the obligatory pub or tea stop during a walk. However on occasions over these past few years we like to bolt on a optional separate social to the conclusion of a walk. This means we usually have people out who may not necessarily have joined us for a social. We tend to keep the events informal so no tables booked and ensure that the hostelry is suitable for large numbers.
The walk we did this time was a route that was new to myself; a 6 mile linear walk starting from Martin’s Heron railway station and ending up at a pub in the centre of Bracknell. The fast majority of people arrived by train although we were scattered about in small groups throughout the carriages it seemed. Our arrival at just after 1pm we met our walk leader Alex and gathered for the regulatory introductions. It was great to see such a good turnout – eighteen, although that would become nineteen later – with a couple of new faces and another couple of people who were coming back for a second time.
The route took us to Swinley Park which partly makes up Swinley Forest which comprises of over 2,500 acres of woodland across gently undulating hills. It was slightly muddier than I anticipated but the small muddy bits were easily overcome. Many of the footpaths were well made so we made good progress having taken great care along a fairly busy road section. We arrived at Englemere Pond where we stopped to admire the view for a while at a conveniently placed viewing platform. Shortly before we arrived at this point we met another member of the group who had caught us up. Unfortunately they had missed their planned train due to ticketing queues.
We continued on to the rather lovely Lilley Park which is home to many oak and beech trees that were displaying their lovely autumnal colours. Within the park we saw a number of unusual pieces of carvings from the woodland. One or two of us took the opportunity to clamber about while I utilised a perfect opportunity to take a group photo. We also walked past what is supposedly England’s longest picnic benches made out of a single piece of wood. It would certainly have made for a perfect lunch stop if we ever had 100 of us on a walk!
Without further ado we cracked on, stopping again for a water stop at Longhill Park before concluding the lovely afternoon stroll at the pub. We said cheerio to a couple of people at this point but most of us took the opportunity for some refreshments and many staying for dinner and then on into the evening. A cracking afternoon out and lets hope for more of these walk social events as we move into the New Year.