After weeks of sodden rain, and a forecast indicating the same, it was expected that our venture into Surrey on Sunday, was to be a washout. However, come Sunday morning, everything was turned on its head, the forecast had greatly improved, and we came out in droves, in fact, to be rewarded with some warm sunshine at times! In all 36 GOCs attended, a mixture of London and Surrey members (with a few hybrids with their loyalties in both camps!), 3 very welcomed newbies, and even a GOC cyclist. I led the day's walk. We learnt lots about the history of the Basingstoke Canal, and walked 8 miles from West Byfleet, along its tranquil towpath, entertained by lots of chat, herons, ducks and flourescent kingfishers flashing about, and competing with cyclists and joggers. The Canal has many locks, and brief stops were made at a couple to recharge batteries and let stragglers catch up. A much needed lunch break was at our destination, the massive Brookwood Cemetery, some 240 acres of Victorian extravagance, filled with massive Redwood trees, burial plots from all and sundry, including London parishes, ethnic and religious groups, military, a real patchwork of sections. We had an excellent 2 hour tour by members of the Brookwood Cemetery Society covering the history of the cemetery, and then a tour of a small part of the Anglican section, pointing out various important resident's tombs - such as the wife of the captain of the Titanic who later went on to drive racing cars and fly aeroplanes, and the great grandmother of Guy Ritchie - he could have spent a few pennies cleaning up her tomb - and a bevy of many others. Most excitingly we were allowed a look into rarely opened mausoleums. Following this we went on to visit a small Greek Orthodox Church in the cemetery, the Church of Saint Edward the Martyr, the second King of England, and great grandson of Alfred the Great, and who was murdered at the age of 17 in 978AD, allegedly by his stepmother wanting her own son, Ethelred, on the throne. Edward's body was surrounded by miracles and was eventually canonized in 1008. His remains were excavated in 1933, and since 1982 have been protected by the Orthodox Church at Brookwood, most importantly by the small band of monks in the attached monestery there. Father Niphon, one of the very delightful monks, invited us into the beautiful small church, the walls adorned with icons, and he told us about the history of the church, and of the adjacent buildings, and about the saint whom it is dedicated to. By this time it was late afternoon, exhausted we said our goodbyes to Fr Niphon and to our Surrey cousins (alas no traditional fine teas and cakes to ply them with as is the Surrey style! And too tired to hit the local pub!) and took the train back to London. Lots of good chat accompanied our journey including by a certain lad who did the naked bike ride last June in central London and suggested we do it as a GOC event next June! I know I am desperate for Event Leads and ideas for events..........so we shall see!
Some pictures of the day, taken by myself, unless stated otherwise, and consent given by Fr Niphon for his picture to be included: