I have to say up front that I don't think we take as much advantage of Newlands Forest as we should. It's beautiful! The trees, the paths, the undergrowth, the rocks, the smells, the birds ... all of it is simply stunning. And this first Saturday in April was no exception.
The morning dawned cool and fresh. We expected a large crowd as this run is always popular with newbies wanting to do a recce of the OMTOM short trail. We weren't wrong: there was a record turnout of 46 people, 17 of whom joined us for the first time.
Despite having fallen for an April Fool's prank that had me arriving at the start before dawn to ensure that Trailers didn't get caught up in a fictitious Ryan Sandes run, it was lovely to get there early to meet new faces and discuss the route with the group leaders. Ahem. I hadn't realised that the OMTOM organisers were running it in REVERSE this year! Duly corrected, my maps were studied and we split into our three pace groups.
A good-sized peloton of fasties headed off first with a suggestion that they include a loop to the blockhouse to lengthen the route for the speedsters.
The medium group, ably guided by Geoff, Hein and Theo - who seems to have the web of paths in the forest etched into his brain - trotted into the forest hot on their heels.
The slower group, lead by Nora, followed in our tracks and was true to tradition by managing to lose the trail a few times. Cap'n Pete is adamant that they never got lost though :)
I don't think I can rave about this route enough: it is magical. It always feels to me as if I've landed in the middle of a fairy tale forest. I half expect to bump into Hansel and Gretl, or a Huntsman, or perhaps a Wicked Witch or seven dwarves! (Hold the comments about the Witch!)
There are the ruins of Lady Anne Barnard's estate and the soldiers garrison to inspect, fallen trees to clamber over and under, streams to jump across, and towering pines that draw your eyes upwards and make you feel as small as a child.
Green, shady and cool, the paths criss-cross and wind their way through areas with make-believe names such as The Woodcutter's Trail, Silvertree and Orchards Trails and Avatar Forest. You really do feel as if you are in a dream world.
Exploring the old zoo at the end was a treat. Geoff managed to find a way into the lion's den and we inspected the abandoned cages as well as the external moated area from inside. How sad those poor captive felines must have been.
But less dreaming and on to matters statistical:
Special mentions: Nora Miller completed her 50th sortie and may now wear the coveted green tee-shirt; Tim Bellairs, Jayson Welthagen and Julie Burchell all completed their 10th sortie and will move into the speed-check-in section of the register, and we welcomed back Tissa Fusloch and Dave Buywater who had been AWOL for almost two years.
My phone tells me we covered 9.85km in 1h19 running time, but with all the stops it took us close on two hours to get back to the cars.