The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


It seems a lifetime ago when I first met Ruby, over 30 years in fact, this was in the days when St George’s had a rambling group of 20 to 30 strong. Several years after we met I was asking if anyone would like to walk the South Downs Way with me, then Ruby said “I will”. Taken aback as I was not sure of someone who was 78 years old at the time being able to do it, but knowing she was a strong walker I said ok. Next I set about planning the walk fixing up B&B’s at approx 13 mile intervals, so off we went in May, a lovely month to walk the South Downs Way. I need not have worried about Ruby; it was me struggling to keep up with her! Most of the time.

After that first walk, we then walked it a further 10 times reversing direction each time, over those 11 years we got to know each other very well and had become good friends. We both loved the beauty of the downs and walked in them whenever the chance arose. The 32 year age gap between us seemed to vanish as we had many of the same likes and dislikes. We had booked up our B & B’s for the year Ruby was 90, then I was ill, bed ridden for 6 months. Ruby was so cross with me, she made me ring up and cancel the bookings from my sick bed, but I knew it was because she realized that she would never do the walk again and I could understand her feelings. It was the end of an era.

Looking back over those 11 years, it seems we were constantly laughing and enjoyed every day rain or shine, for instance when it rained we wore black bin liners with holes cut in them for our heads to go through, this covered our packs and stopped the rain being driven through the zips of our packs and getting the contents wet. One day in the pouring rain we were laughing and talking so much ‘as we thought we looked like a couple of large black mushrooms with legs’, we missed a right turn and added another 3 to 4 miles to a 15 mile walk, even that did not faze her. Another time after walking in the pouring rain for 5 hours we arrived in Alfriston, going into the pub to warm up and have a pint of shandy and not wanting to get the other seats wet we sat on the bar stools. After walking with a heavy pack for a long time you forget it’s there, leaning back a little the pack then took charge, legs in the air over backwards I went; the people on the table behind received my shandy all over them. Ruby thought this hilarious and then kept reminding me that I couldn’t hold my beer. Ruby was so popular with the landladies, they could not believe that someone her age was walking 94 miles, one was even more amazed that after walking all day, we then walked a mile and a half each way to the Pub for a meal and drink. Another lovely memory of those walks was of being put up for the night at Pat “Ruby’s niece” and Jacks when we were passing Plumpton, the food and company was excellent and there was always something to laugh about.

Ruby and I would always pre walk the walks for St George’s walkers if it was a new walk, if you put in the Bulletin that it was a 5 mile walk with no styles or hills it had to be exactly that not a yard more or we would get our ears bent. So you can see from all of the above we walked many miles together. Who is the young girl in the rambling picture? Next to Ruby?

Our Walsingham Pilgrimages were another story; we took the religious side very seriously but also enjoyed ourselves at the same time. On the procession around the town to the Greek Orthodox Church, Ruby and I would always make sure we were at the very back, then as we went past the Black Lion pub we would peel off into the said abode and then join on at the back again on the procession’s return, this was done without Fr Malcolm ever catching on! It was not unusual for us to be locked out of the accommodation at 10.30pm, we would then get someone in the lounge to open a window and Ruby would then climb in using me as a ladder, usually with a hot dog or burger in her hand. There was also the time she set fire to herself in the Holy House; after we put her out we informed her that God did not require human sacrifices.

She taught me that the important things in life come in two’s, 2-Gin &Tonics, 2-Cups of Tea, 2-pieces of cake etc, when asked if she would like another, she would always say birds cannot fly on one wing.

No matter where I went with Ruby, be it walking the Downs, at Walsingham or our walking trips to Malta we were always laughing and enjoying ourselves.

She was a good companion and my Friend, someone I will never forget.

Christine Culley

Festival Edition 2013

Memories of my Friend Ruby

Start of our first walk of the South Downs Way

Some of St George’s Rambling Group