However did we manage before Wikipedia?
Thanks to that mighty oracle, I can share with you some interesting
facts about what is now Denbies Wine Estate that they (perhaps
understandably) omit to mention on their own website.
In the mid-18th century, it was owned by a gentleman named Jonathan
Tyers, also owner of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, and if you know
your history, you will know that the latter was the venue for all
manner of things that would shock the good burghers of Dorking. His
Denbies garden was rather different, though, and offers a surprising
synchronicity with our Halloween theme.
It bore the perhaps slightly worrying title of "The Valley of
the Shadow of Death", and here are some of the highlights of
which Wikipedia tells...
Just outside the entrance to the wood was a small
hermitage known as The Temple of Death.
[A sculpture] depicted an angel blowing the last trump, causing a
stone pyramid to crumble and revealing the corpse within to be
rising from the dead.
Visitors were met at the entrance to the wood by the Latin
inscription Procul este, profani, which translates as
"Away, all you who are unhallowed". The iron entrance gate was
mounted between two upended stone coffins supporting the portico,
each one topped by a human skull, one male, one female.
Two life-sized pictures by Francis Hayman, depicting a Christian
and an Unbeliever as they died, [were] set into compartments in
So obviously, then, the perfect place to take the whole family for
some healthy exercise.
We have a 2k Fun Run for the kids, and a 10k for the adults. They
all start together and the kids are well in the lead as they come up
Dressing up is de rigueur, and Amanda has chosen a shiny Red
Devil outfit. While her wings are, it is true, more aerodynamically
sound than your average Raphaelesque cherub, that is not a high bar
to clear and it is unlikely that they will give her any speed
So I asked this chap beforehand if he's something like Sweeney
Todd's brother, the Demon Baker of Fleet Street, but no, he's
actually channelling Ratatouille, and beside him is his rat
- although she's wearing more of a mouse outfit I think. I'm not
quite clear how this relates to Halloween, but I guess we must
accept some artistic licence.
And a refugee from Bacchus?
This race is in fact organised by the same people who took over
Bacchus after Nicky shut up shop at ETL, so although this is an
altogether different event, we're definitely curious as to how well
they run it. They've already lost one star for not having a route
map available, so I'm going to have to try and work out where to
re-cross the runners' path by observation and guesswork.
Hopefully they won't totally disappear in the distance, so
I'll have some idea of where they'll come out next.
Ah, right, after a bit of a loop, they're back down the start/finish
straight in the opposite direction. My understanding is that the 2k
will finish at the bottom while the 10k runners carry on, with the
idea that family groups can keep together even if they're ultimately
doing different distances.
Not that the young lad at the front seems interested in hanging
around for any adults!
Remember the name: Number 244. Ok, that's probably not his name.
Now I've seen a few of the 10k front-runners also come through, so
Amanda should be here before too long...
But hang on, I'm sure these people are slower than her and should be
No, that's not her after an accident...
And as for this one, does she want to kiss me or eat me?!
This is weird though. I can't have missed Amanda, can I? But
I don't see an ambulance rushing off and I don't get a phone call to
say "Help, I'm injured", so I'm really not sure what's happening.
We saw some route markers on the way in, so I know that there's a
loop around the other side of the vineyard and I walk over that way
to see if I can find her. No joy. I recognise several people even in
the distance by their distinctive costumes, and there is absolutely
no way Amanda should not be ahead of them. I reckon my best bet now
is to slowly make my way back to the top of the first hill, in sight
of the finish line which would be the obvious rendezvous point if
she has come unstuck somehow.
There's a marshal point here with a good view in most directions,
and as I peer out over the hills I tell the marshal that I appear to
have lost my wife, which is a bit careless of me.
And there in the distance I see her! She's a long way off but seems
to be overtaking slower people.
She's behind these two!
At last! It seems there has been an earlier marshalling error and
she's ended up going the wrong way, along with the lady just ahead
of her and a number of others.
She now does two sides of a triangle while I take the direct route
back to the marshall point and tell the chap there that I've now
found my wife and the reason why. Fortunately, he quickly realises
that the misdirected people have taken what would have been the
final loop prematurely, and if they simply turn right and run down
the hill to the finish, they will have completed the correct
distance in the end!
Now, of course, I have the problem that I'm the same distance from
the finish line as Amanda, and though she's run about 9.5km more
than me, I'm not sure I can beat her. I do at first, and perhaps if
I wasn't carrying all my gear I'd be able to keep up enough speed,
but I start to run out of puff and slow down and she passes me.
Note the timing clock on the right-hand edge of the picture. Yes,
the one that doesn't appear to be showing any time. Even if you zoom
in on the high-resolution original you will not see a time.
We're now going to see a point on the course where there are a few
ghosts... On the way, we pass some runners who've not yet finished
but I've seen a lot more times than Amanda.
Not all that obvious in the picture, but their eyes glow red when
you shake them. They also make strange wailing sounds, but then you
wouldn't see that even in a clearer picture. When Amanda came
through here, she was with somebody else who ducked and didn't touch
them at all, but Amanda did and they both almost jumped out of their
skins at the unexpected noise behind them. I think that was the
A change of scene: nearby on Ranmore Common, a flock of young Belted
Galloway cattle. They have nothing to do with the race, of course,
but we just haven't seen any Belted Galloways for a while, so we
thought we'd go on a post-race cow hunt.
And one of them is even named after me!
So, getting back to the race. Verdict? Well, undeniably a bit
lacking in organisation, but everyone seemed to have fun. We presume
that it has to be an aberration because there is simply no way in
the universe that they could run Bacchus like that! We'll give them
the benefit of the doubt for now.
Love to all,