Bench Mark

I met my cousin Russell today and we enjoyed a walk in the Surrey countryside not far from where we both grew up. It was fabulous. If we weren't related we probably shouldn't know each other, and that would be a loss inmy life. He is, I think, eight years younger than I am, supplanting me in my position as the youngest of the first cousins on my father's side of the family. His mother, my Aunt Madeleine, was the youngest of the four siblings, and always in my father's eyes young Madeleine.


We had a lot of family chat. Russell is the spit of his father Frank, and his son is spit of Russell, but there are moments when he says or does something, when he stops and looks with his head very slightly lowered, when he is my father to the life. As my Aunt Kath saw my father in gestures and expressions of mine, I am guessing that anyone watching us might have guessed our relationship.


The purpose, or perhaps that should be the stimulus, for the walk was my desire to see the bench Russell was commissioned to make that is installed on the Hurtwood on the Greensand Way. We walked through the morning, then just as my stomach was starting to rumble we reached the Hurtwood. And as we walked the short rise, there it was.

The weather, which up to this point had been kind, and bright enough to make me regret not bringing sunglasses, clouded over and the wind blew cold. I added an extra layer, then another. But the setting was wonderful. We looked out over a valley in the Surrey Hills. Russell produced a paintbrush to dust some if the sand away, and we sat down to eat our respective lunches.
A woman appeared in bright dress, Nordic walking and accompanied by a very lovely Labradoodle. It turned out the Labradoodle, Paddy, was not hers, but borrowed for her Friday walk.
We chatted for a few minutes about what we we doing, and I said Russell had made the bench. She didn't ask for his autograph, but eyes widened and she enthused about the benches (there are five by various artists) said she loved all the ones she had seen, and took one of Russell's cards. It was a Proud Older Cousin Moment.
More pictures while we talked family stuff. I told him about Aunt dying last year. As one of Mother's sisters she was unrelated to Russell.

It's gorgeous; sinuous, sensuous; waves, sand, contours; a wonderful, tactile and useful representation of the landscape and its history.

Look closely and you'll see Russell's name here.

Here he is in front of his work.

Some way further along, we saw another bench. It's beautiful, but not wearing well.



Although it has only been in place for a few months three of the wooden scales are already missing. “Oh they move,” I said, tilting one of the scales. “They're not supposed to,” said Russell. It would be lovely in a private garden, somewhere where the wear and tear would be more limited than in a public path. I fear that should I return in twenty four months much of this beautiful piece will be gone.




A bit dipurther along we saw a third bench. But this one was a commemorative one rather than one of the five commissioned for this part of the Greensand Way. Very lovely, and the blacksmith who made it had included a plaque with all his contact details.


The rain become to come down, But we were suitably clad to deal with it. Back in Godalming we headed for a café and enjoyed some more quality time. I hope it won't be long before we do so again.




14 thoughts on “Bench Mark

  1. It must be wonderful to have such a talent, Russell’s bench is wonderful, I’m so glad you went to see it. I like the others as well. It’s very sad that the wooden one is deteriorating so quickly, if it was twenty years it might be okay but not that short time.

  2. I love the idea of the benches in the park. I am also intrigued by just how how heavy a pack you must carry on these walkabouts – 2 more layers plus rain gear? Not to mention paintbrushes and lunch.

    • One of the extra layers was rain gear! I didn’t wear my waterproof trousers, though I did take them, and my water bottle remained undrunk. Once I had eaten my soup, the pack felt quite a lot lighter. I finished my satsumas on the train home. It’s a 25L bag, but nowhere near full,

  3. I’ve been so looking forward to this post! Beautiful to see the bench in its home, as well as the others. I also loved the detail about the passerby walking with a borrowed dog; I had a friend who used to borrow Reese for jogs.

    • Thanks Steve. I think you can look up Surrey Hills and there’s a site where all five benches are shown. My nephew, who can’t have a dog at the moment, belongs to a site where he is matched to dogs whose owners need reliable people to look after them temporarily. When I get a garden I may join.

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