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This report is taken from PN Review 167, Volume 32 Number 3, January - February 2006.

The View from the Hill Neil Powell

According to the pre-metric 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey map Sheet TQ 25 (price 4s 6d net), it's 450 feet or so from the foot of Colley Hill to the top. The last time I climbed it can't have been more recently than 1964, the year my parents sold our house in Colley Lane and we moved to Kent, and in the meantime it's quite obviously grown steeper. At least, I don't remember having to stop three times during the ascent, heart pounding and head spinning, with an abrupt turn to sit on the slope and thus narrowly prevent myself from toppling backwards and breaking my neck. Even the rabbits look mildly amused, though perhaps that's their usual expression; one does its trick of freezing in mid-munch, an ear flopped over in the breeze, to stare at me. Of course, back in 1964 I'd have known that there are more sensible ways - diagonal or zig-zag tracks - to do this than the chalky footholds which, naturally, bear no relation to the shape of a foot or the length of a stride. When I reach the top and collapse on a bench, there are unruffled people strolling about with dogs: how on earth did they get here? From the other side, evidently, no doubt having left their four-wheel-drives in some car park edged with little posts and litter bins and messages from the National Trust. I may be breathless but I feel insufferably virtuous.

Two things I'd forgotten about ...


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