Recent outings and activities...
A Visit to House Mill, Three Mills Island
The last time I had been into the House Mill – apart maybe for a tea in the cafe there – was back in 2014, when I led an EFOG walk from Stratford to Trinity Buoy Wharf, by the Thames. (here)
This return visit was arranged by Eleanor, who works at the Mill as a voluntary guide. So, on a relatively sunny and relatively warm Sunday 17th June we met Eleanor by the House Mill, in the complex known as Three Mills at Bromley-by-Bow. Including Eleanor, there were nine EFOG members, only two of whom had been on the previous visit.
Eleanor began by taking us to an open area between the Lee Navigation and an arm of the River Lee, from where we had a view of Three Mills two remaining mills – House Mill and Clock Mill. It is somewhat uncertain exactly where the third mill was situated, but at one time there would probably been a lot of mills dotted about. Not too far away, indeed, is Pudding Mill Lane, where it is known that a windmill stood – which looked like a pudding…
House Mill and Clock Mill, however, are not windmills but are tide mills. That is to say, the harness the power of the river tides to turn water-wheels to provide power to do all the heavy jobs a mill is designed for. Both mills have been used in the production of gin for London’s prolific gin-drinking times in the 18th and 19th centuries, the House Mill continuing in production until it was bombed in 1941 and Clock Mill up until 1952. Prior to the gin-making, bread was produced and the mills may have even been used in the production of gunpowder at some time in their histories.
Whereas Clock Mill – with its twin conical cowls which were used in the drying process – is now a school, the House Mill is under the care of the House Mill Trust, and is on the National Heritage List for England as a Grade 1 listed building. There is a nice little cafe in an adjacent building – which would have been the miller’s house – and a pleasant garden area at the rear.
Entering the building, by way of the cafe, we began the tour. There are, I believe, three floors, plus an attic area, all of which were used in the milling process. Thus there are numerous stairways to negotiate, plus some narrow and low doorways, and much of the building is of wooden construction. All of these mills, the miller’s house and the adjacent customs-house building, are – remarkably – built on an artificial island. The River Lee here is a complex system of channels – the Bow Back Rivers – and would have been exceptionally marshy. This is a wonderful example of land reclamation, but the Lee – London’s “second” river, as it is sometimes known – has a big tide rise-and-fall here, and so apart from the generally damp condition anyway, is prone to frequent flooding. What with the stairs and doorways, wooden beams and mill-mechanisms, even rotting floorboards presented something of a hazard, but all were negotiated safely, and Eleanor’s information was full of interest.
The group spent about one-and-a-half hours on the tour – more than is usual I understand – but there was no follow-up group to hurry us along so we were able to really appreciate the excellent guide to the wonderful building.
Some of our group had pre-ordered food, so stayed to eat it in the cafe or the garden, whereas Trevor and I, fancying a walk, strolled (or paced) on past Bow Locks and alongside the River Lee to lunch at Cody Dock, about a mile south. (here)
Paul Ferris, 18th June, 2018
Eleanor, Fred, Ken, Lynne, Marilyn, Maz, Paul, Peter, Trevor
Woodberry Wetlands and New River walk - 2nd June 2018
Lynne’s proposed visit to Woodberry Wetlands was one I’d looked forward to, and – particularly as the weather proved fair, if somewhat humid, I joined Lynne and six others at Manor House station for the allotted departure time of 10.30.
A short walk through an estate – with some impressive new tower blocks clad with some exciting new colours – led us to a stretch of the New River. This new river is in reality quite old, and is not a river. It was built in the early 17th C. as an aqueduct to carry fresh water from a spring at Amwell in Hertfordshire the 40-plus miles to London, with waterworks at New River Head, near the Angel.
A footpath alongside this waterway led us to the entrance to the northern-most of the two north London Reservoirs that have now been made accessible to the public and branded as Woodberry Wetlands. The public side of these is run by the London Wildlife Trust, at whose nice cafe, we – perhaps unsurprisingly – stopped for tea, and coffee. From the rooftop vantage point we were able to sit in the sunshine looking out over the reservoirs.
Afterwards we continued our walk by means of a stretch of the New River footpath, passing the southern reservoir, which is used for sailing and similar water activities. This length of footpath was particularly notable for the colour and variety of wildflowers that grew here. We left the water-side near an impressive castle-like building, which was built in the early 19th C. as a pumping station.
A bit of pavement walking led us to Clissold Park, a 55 acre open space – similar in style to Valentines Park, so very pleasant to walk through. The land was originally the estate of Jonathan Hoare a City merchant, Quaker, philanthropist and anti-slavery campaigner, and his house - originally Paradise Hall - is a Grade 11 listed building now used as a venue and for refreshments.
Emerging from the park, the New River has been piped underground, but we were able to follow its route by mean of an urban lane between houses and and with a linear allotment. The next stretch was down the middle of a road, but because of the subterranean river, the central reservation is now a public footpath with trees, grass and flowers. The houses here are quite grand, although mostly terraced, so the whole aspect was pleasurable.
After another short road stretch – passing Canonbury station – we entered a park-like section of the New River, here above ground and beautifully landscaped, with trees, shrubs, nesting birds and imported rocks to add flavour – plus an old watchman’s building, built like one of the beehive dwellings where monks used to spend their holidays on remote Scottish and Irish rocks. The idea was stop illicit fishing from the river, and skinny-dipping in it, I suppose. We had time for neither, even though the building is probably only used for garden-tool storage now, and proceeded south towards down-town Islington.
The last stretch was probably the most built-up and busy, with a saving in the grand facade of the old Carlton Cinema, in all its 1930s Tutankhamun-inspired glory. We dropped away from the busy-ness of Essex Road, down towards the much more refined Duncan Terrace, where the gardens – again describing the route of the New River – provided us with a shady and pleasant spot to have a short rest-break before the final stretch.
Well, I never completed the final stretch of half-a-mile or so, as when we reached the Regents Canal Trevor and I decided that we would have a go at walking back to Mile End via yet another waterway. We never got to Mile End either, because at the junction with the Hertford Union Canal we took that, and then joining the Lee Navigation we continued south as far as the Bow Flyover.
From there we stuck to one of the Bow Back Rivers as much as private development allows, and thus reached Stratford Station.
Lynne’s walk from Woodberry Wetlands to New River Head at Islington was 5 miles. Trevor and I completed 10 miles.
Thanks very much, Lynne for such a pleasant visit to the wetlands combined with an interesting and delightful New River walk. And the company, as well.
Paul Ferris, 3rd June 2018
Photos by Paul Ferris, Lynne E. and Peter G.
A Timely visit to Meantime Brewery
Sunday 27th May saw six EFOG members gathering at Caesar’s Palace, in Wanstead, for brunch.
Burping slightly, we then travelled to Cutty Sark station on the DLR and started walking towards the Blackwall Tunnel. What seemed a long time later we arrived at Meantime Brewing, a craft brewery in Greenwich. Suitably thirsty, we were told that there was a 30 minute wait for the guided tour. Just time for a quick half, then.
A very entertaining tour was provided by Buddy, a hungover tour leader at Meantime Brewery. After touring the site Buddy settled us down to sample the various brews, starting with a lager and ending with a stout. After that it seemed churlish to leave without sampling another drink, this time at the bar. After all, it was a hot day. A quick pose in front of the beer barrels was fitted in.
We then had another long walk in not the most salubrious part of London, passing an upside down electricity pylon (!) on the way and skirting the O2 to get to North Greenwich station on the DLR.
Arriving back in Wanstead, we had an afternoon meal at The George, and then off home.
Article and photos by Brian U., 29th May 2018
A walk in the River Chelmer area. Saturday 26th May
The group have been on several walks over the years in the picturesque Danbury area. Our latest started from the Paper Mill Bridge that crosses the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation, a stretch of water that has many narrow boats up by the lock.
When the eleven of us set out, the day was starting to get sunny as we followed the paths across the fields, gently going up hill towards Fairfields Farm, then descending to a stream which we walked beside, with many damselflies to catch the eye. The stream crossed the road as a ford into Nounsley village where I thought there was a pub.
As I went to open the door, a man in the car park asked what I wanted, only to be told it was now a residence - oops! If we had arrived at the Sportsmans Arms before 2013 the group might have had use of the facilities. In my defence they had left the door unlatched, the pub name on the end wall, and it still had its pub sign up. I wonder how many more unwanted visitors they will get wandering into their house?
It is a very easy, pleasant eight mile walk, not too hilly, the fields with views, blossoms and insects to enjoy, shady woods, and finally, the walk back beside the River Chelmer to the Paper Mill Bridge. Just past the bridge by the lock, we had a late lunch at a very nice café.
Article and photos by Peter G.
Some images from EFOG's visit to Goring on Thames, from Jenny:
The tree was amazing! The roots looked as if they had erupted, and made a good place for a snap.
The walk had been quite muddy and hard going, and when I saw the polar bear it made me smile, as the caption " Are we nearly there yet?" must have been going through a few minds. It was a good holiday, however, and we all enjoyed it.
Jenny, 6th April 2018
The Mudlark Survivors
(Otherwide known as the Goring Easter Weekend Report)
30th March to 2nd April 2018
It was with considerable trepidation that those of us due to go eyed the weather forecast. It was pretty poor. We hoped however that some of the worst might go elsewhere. Lynne, Val Jenny and Jinan were due to go by car. The remainder – Amina, Jill, Dave, Fred and Ken by train. Both journeys went well - though we did hear later that Phil Turney, travelling separately in his own car, had a difficult time getting out of London. For those of us arriving by train our lodgings were only a ten minute walk from the station. However in lashing rain it seemed a lot further.
Room allocation proceeded smoothly probably because the ladies arriving first by car had it all sorted out by the time the rest of us got there. Everyone seemed to enloy their evening meal at the John Barcleycorn pub just along the road. Most opted appropriately for the fish and chips . Those walking to and from the pub again got rather wet.
As we keep telling ourselves “We are a walking and outdoor group” So after a wholesome and satisfying breakfast we set off in good spirits' The plan was to walk part of the Ridgeway/Thames Path between Goring and Wallingford. It should have been a stroll in the park. Lynne and Val had planned to walk a short way with us but being not yet fit for difficult conditions turned back when the going got very muddy and slippery. Although we had in fact only a little light rain at times the conditions under foot were awful for most of the way. Almost every step had to be taken with care to avoid huge puddles, sodden waterlogged vegetation and slippery mudflats. At one point the path lay under 18 inches of water and we had to find a way round. Evitably we had a few slips and falls. We all got muddy - some got very wet and muddy!
Eventually we reached the streets leading into the centre of Wallingford, an ancient market town. On the way we passed the house where Agatha Christie had spent the last years of her life. Some I think doubted there would be a bus to take us back to Goring on a soggy Easter Saturday afternoon but a little hopper 134 bus turned up on schedule. There was free time for all whilst we waited for the bus - to visit a cafe, to shop or to look around the old market square. Never had the locals seen so many passengers for the15.38 bus - but everyone got on.
For supper on Saturday we split into two groups. Four went again to the John Barleycorn and six to the Masoom Indian restaurant. Both groups enjoyed their meal and had a convivial evening.
Sunday dawned a bit damp but with no rain. We planned to walk the Thames Path in the oppposite direction - to Pangbourne. Initially we followed the path along a lane until we passed under the Goring to Pangbourne railway line. The next low lying stretch was again extremely wet and muddy such that detours were necessary. Soon however the river was running swiftly through the Goring Gap a narrow defile where it has cut a bed through the chalk downs. Garments were shed as we clambered up and down an undulating path which hugged the lower slopes of the escarpment. The air was drier now and we climbed away from the river towards Coombe Park Farm. We were now walking easily on firm, dry ground. All too soon we were approaching the village of Whitchurch on Thames. Still on the Oxfordshire side of the river but about to cross a very old toll bridge (still operating) into the market town of Pangbourne. We saw a sign for a memorial to the fallen of the Falklands War in the chapel at Pangbourne College but were unable to visit. We had hoped to meet up withLynne and Val but the timings did not work out. Brian Unwin had also hoped to meet up with us on the Sunday but was unable to make it.
Despite the generally unfavourable weather and the consequent difficult walking conditions I believe we all enjoyed our weekend away.
Ken., 8th April 2018
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