Searching for Agatha

Yesterday I thought I’d go for another walk. My day in Highgate was so lovely, I thought I’d try another one. I decided to go to Newlands Corner, near Guildford and potter about in the countryside for a while.

The area is linked to Agatha Christie’s ‘death’ because this is where thousands of people met up to scour the area looking for her body. Her husband had apparently told her one day that he was off to spend the weekend with their nanny! (There’s bound to be a lot more to it than that, but anyway, that’s what we know.) She flipped, obviously. In the middle of the night she got in the car, leaving the dog and baby at home, and sped away into the night. Her car was found at Chalk Pit, a little further down from where I started my walk but Agatha was nowhere to be seen. Stories covered every newspaper. The husband came under scrutiny and became the murder suspect. People searched the countryside and woods for her body. Ten days later she was found, chilling in a little B&B in Harrogate. As you do.

Anyway, yesterday I thought I’d go on a little Agatha search of my own through the woods. It started near a beautiful organic vineyard…

….and my path followed it along it’s edge until I passed another spot with some mysterious history.

The Silent Pool is strangely silent, as the name suggests. The water is totally still and clear. You’d expect, if water was that still, that it would be stagnant, or growing a bit of algae. But this water is clear.

You can see where the water line is, from the reflection of the stick, but the grass and ground underneath are still really visible.

Anyway, the story goes like this. A girl and her brother were bathing in the Silent Pool when King John rode past on his horse. He decided to take the girl with him, but she was not so easily captured. Her and the brother fought against him, waded too far and drowned together. Since then, a ghostly white figure is seen at night bathing in the moonlight. *cue scary X-Files music*

As it was the daytime, I saw no bathing ghosts and kept on my walk, which became a huge steep hill within minutes. I pretended not to be panting like mad and powered on up, every minute wondering when it would stop rising. It finally levelled out and I was deep in a thick forest.

It started raining very lightly but I just ignored it. The forest walk went on for a good hour or so, lovely dense trees and one little windy path through them that I followed unquestioningly. I wish I had questioned it more, actually, because not knowing where I was became a bit of a theme for the day…! But in going slightly off route, I stumbled across some amazing little things. Like this statue of a man with a hook for an arm and his dog…

… some chickens, some grand houses that were all but hidden in the foliage until you passed directly in front of the gate and a quiet little pub, where it became impossible to ignore the rain, which had by now made me a little damp and cold all over. I also realised that I was in Gomshall, which is not Shere, where I was supposed to be. It was Gomshall. The wrong place. Gomshall wasn’t even on my Newland’s Corner map. And I hadn’t gone under the A25 like I was supposed to have. I pretended all was fine and I sat in the warmth of the country pub, munching away on a freshly baked baguette which may be the best bread I’ve ever eaten. It was still warm and so soft.

As I gazed forlornly out of the window, watching the rain get heavier, the man behind the bar warned me, “You’re no good waiting for it to get better, it won’t. This is it for the day now.”

“Really?”

“Yup. Where are you trying to get to?”

“Shere.”

“It’s the second on your left, about a half an hour walk away.”

I finally admitted it was raining and took my waterproof jacket out of my bag. Like a wearied soldier heading back to the battlefield, I donned my jacket, shouldered my rucksack and headed into the rain to Shere. I was thankful for the waterproof but maybe the jeans weren’t helping matters. It wasn’t a long way to Shere but I figured I should stop for another cup of tea when I got there or I might drown! So I looked…

…and looked….

Well, at least the museum will have something, I guessed. That’s what I’d come into Shere for anyway. I had done my research, I knew the museum was open on a Thursday. Making my way there under the shelter of overhanging trees, I arrived at the door to see this …

… It was 4.30pm…

So I figured it was time to head back to my starting point to finish the walk and head home to dry off. On my way, there was loads of bunting around. Some looked to be leftover Jubilee stuff and some said London 2012 on it. It turns out that next week, the Olympic torch is coming through the area. I’ll just say this, they’d better be bloody open then! I won’t say ‘I hope it doesn’t rain’ because I don’t want to jinx it.

Anyway, the walk back to the beginning/end point was quite pretty, even though the rain fell harder and harder….!

And not once did I see Agatha Christie…. O wait, she was in Harrogate, wasn’t she…?

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7 responses to this post.

  1. One of my favourite authors, “The Lady Vanishes” was quite a story as it did happen, I wonder where she went.

    The walk looks cool it’s been many years since i was last in Guilford which reminds me i need to walk more, might as well make the most of the summer(insert sarcasm)

    Reply

  2. Fancy that – no cup of tea! Shere bad luck I call it….haha

    Reply

  3. The Observer newspaper carried an article (2006) which claimed that writer Andrew Norman had solved (or near enough solved) the reason for her disappearance: a “fugue state” or more precisely a “psychogenic trance”. It fits more of the symptoms better than other explanations he reckons. She was found in Harrogate, as LLM says, but curiously living under an assumed name. The condition is apparently brought on by trauma or depression and more recently (1995) Stephen Fry suffered similarly when he up and disappeared without a word to anyone; he was later found in Bruges. So now you know.

    Reply

  4. More like this please. Absolutely loved it – the woods, the statue, the crystal water, the legend of King John – brought all my English past back…
    If you’re walking again, you might like to explore Waggoners Wells between Liphook and Hindhead. My first husband proposed there under the trees beside the lakes.
    Hope it’s still as beautiful as it was fifty years ago!!!!

    Reply

    • What a lovely story! I’ll get my maps out and plan a walk for where you have suggested. I try and do one long walk a week, on my day off so will be posting when I do another. I did one in Highgate the week before, following a Coleridge history walk, which you might enjoy?

      Reply

  5. […] Mountain with a wisdom stick – “As we pottered along, admiring the views….” 13.7.12 – Searching For Agatha – “…and potter about in the countryside for a while.” I like that expression “to potter” […]

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