Recent outings and activities...
River Wandle Walk - 23rd April 2017
Saturday 23rd April's walk along the River Wandle, was very much a wander along the Wandle, with numerous diversions down streets.
The Wandle is a south London river that derives from springs originating from the North Downs and arises properly in the Croydon area. However, much of the early part of the river's course has been covered over by the development of Croydon – the 'Canary Wharf'' of its time back in the 60's. However, in earlier days the Wandle was described as the most industrial river in Britain, with – at its peak – 90 water-mills operating along its banks. It is a relatively short river, joining the Thames at Wandsworth, but also has a quick descent, so that the waters had the power to turn all of those wheels.
Some of us met up at Liverpool Street, by the statue to the Kinder-transport children, as I'd suggested. What I hadn't known was that at the main entrance to the station, there is another, larger, statue which Fritz and Fozi referred me to whilst we were waiting. Fritz had brought along a Polish-language newspaper cutting showing him photographed in front of that statue, and he was able to tell us about what led up to this whole issue.
We began our walk proper after meeting up with others at East Croydon Station, then walking down the busy main road accompanied by the trams of South London's tramway system. Not much to catch our eye in these early steps, just busy-ness, until we reached Croydon's Minster. This is a rather fine flint-walled church, although it had been substantially re-built after a fire in the 1860's. We went inside for a quick look, and certainly I was impressed with the interior.
It's just a few steps from the church fore-court to the busy Roman Way, which we were able to cross by means of an underpass into quieter residential, streets. A short alleyway took us to another fairly busy road, and then by means of a footbridge over a railway line into the quiet of Wandle Park.
Here we had our first view of the river, emerging from a culvert at a bridge and immediately, in the settings of the park, a quite attractive little stream. There was even a Grey Wagtail at the water's edge for the ten members of our group to spot. And there was even the first drops of rain – which the forecasters had said might 'just' be a possibility – but which encouraged us to don hats, coats or umbrellas. Can you don an umbrella? It is not a large park, and we crossed another bridge back to the bank we'd started from, and out and across the tram-lines into more residential roads. What with the drizzle, and the rather poor 'Wandle Trail' leaflet I was trying to follow, I was not getting a good feel for this initial part of our walk. Crossing Purley Way did not improve my feelings, and the industrial works that lay along Mill Lane didn't help either. But Mill Lane at least had an air of history about it, and soon we reached a lovely spot at Waddon Ponds. Although – surprisingly – our guide leaflet did not take us into the park, we stood and watched a variety of water-birds: Swans on nest, Mallard, Tufted Ducks, Moorhens and something going on between Little Grebes.
Waddon Ponds is now only one pond, and is often taken to be the source of the Wandle, but the Wandle has more than one source. The route onwards was along a vegetation-lined bridleway, with the river to our right. Crossing this, we continued on its north bank, and although accompanied also by some office buildings, was pleasant enough. The rain had all but stopped, and things were looking better.
At some rather nice quiet streets of terraced houses, we reached Beddington Mill, a very large brick building built in 1891, but of nice proportions. This is locally known as the 'Snuff Mill', as at one time it was used to grind tobacco into snuff, but later was used for flour. Almost adjacent to the mill are a short row of lovely single-storey cottages, with a small bridge as means of access across a stream. We were all entranced by Mount Pleasant – though why it's called a mount...
We walked alongside an old, heavily buttressed wall on our left, and the river on our right, at which we stopped for a while watching a duck mallard trying to round up the remains of her brood. There seemed to be only two ducklings left; they often have ten. The water in the river hereabouts is clear, with a gravel bottom – unusual in the London area where it is often muddy-bedded. It is probably the good flow of this river that keeps it nice and clean, and has resulted in watercress beds in the past, with some of the species still remaining in places.
We passed Carew Manor on our left before we entered Beddington Park; this fine Tudor manor was the home of the Carews of Beddington for 500 years. By Beddington Park we had also entered sunshine, and were beginning to getting quite warm. Tea and the like in the pavilion was suggested, and the suggestion went down well with all. After we'd feasted – or at least tea-ed up – we continued across the park, which is extensive and which the Wandle runs through. There are some nice ornamental features, including an ornate river-bridge. Before leaving the park, we were asked by a young lady – Emma – if she might join us. She'd seen us in the cafe, wanted someone to walk with, and she did so for the rest of our walk. We walked alongside a quite busy road, but with a stream running alongside the pavement separating it from the houses. Although we had left our branch of the Wandle behind the houses, we soon joined another branch, which originates at Carshalton Ponds, and the two meet up at a wooded spot – now a nature reserve – called Wilderness Island. Emma had not been there before, although she lived relatively locally – and was keen to revisit it later as she was also interested in the wildlife.
Although we were now entering areas where the river would once have been heavily industrialised, this wasn't really evident, and the river was still clear and with lots of plant-life beside and in the water. By Hackbridge we were feeling warm in the sunshine, and I noted that the May was out on the hawthorns. As in the well-known saying “ Cast ne'er a clout 'till May be out” I advised that it was and we were all entitled to take some of our clothes off. Some already had.
We reached what is known as Watercress Park – in honour of the watercress beds that used to be in abundance in these clean, clear waters, and – after 5.5 miles or so – decided that we would finish the walk as I'd intended, there. We trekked up Middleton Road, saying a last farewell to the Wandle until in a few metres we had to do so again as there was another branch, looked at some Hoary Cress by the roadside, and found our 5.5 mile walk was extended by another long mile or so to Mitcham Junction Station. Some got a tram there back to Croydon, the rest of us got a simple train back to Farringdon.
With Emma, there had been eleven of us on the walk – which was a bit disconcerting for me as on Thursday only two had said they were coming. What with the initial streets and the rain and the small print and poor instructions of the route sheet, I didn't find this one of the most rewarding walks, but then that's my fault as I'd not pre-walked it. The company, nevertheless and as always, was good, though, and I didn't hear many complaints.
Paul Ferris, 24th April 2017
p.s. We received this nice email from Emma after the walk:
To everyone in the Epping Forest Outdoor Group,
I really enjoyed meeting you all, and walking with your group on Saturday. Thank you for making me feel so welcome. I had never done that section of the Wandle Trail before but will follow it in the future, and I look forward to visiting Wilderness Island too. It will make a change from spending all my time in Beddington Park! Thank you to the group leader - (I am terrible with names) for pointing out all the interesting nature features along the way.
I hope that I am able to find a nice local group to join. I will let you know how I get on.
Please let me know in you are walking in my locality - (within a 10 mile radius) in the future. Thank you.
I wish you all the best.
Emma - (from Beddington Park river bank)
Saturday 19th / Sunday 20th November
Thank you to everyone who entered this year’s event, our 60th Rally. Who would have thought that it would still be going when they first started, way back in 1956?
Perhaps one person. As a wee nipper of 14, Peter Gamble was about for that first Rally and he is our Chief Marshal now, so a man of enormous faith or a complete glutton for punishment! Peter and Marilyn did have a bit of a break from EFOG when they got married and raised a family, but they came back and without them I very much doubt the club would be in existence.
Time does catch up with us though, and unfortunately three days before the Rally Peter was hospitalised with an infection which caused a major panic as not only is he chief marshal but he knows where everything is! Luckily the route had been planned and marked, but who had what equipment was a bit of a problem. Everything we had we took with us and sorted it out on the hoof, but inevitably there were a few humps in the road, not least with the tea tent, so if you were amongst the unfortunates who arrived there before the milk did, our apologies!
A big thank you also to Duncan, another stalwart, who knows the forest like the back of his hand and who made space in a busy schedule to help out with putting people out, finding markers and generally being a big calm presence, and to our actual Chairman, Brian, who was cruelly snatched from a night in a warm tent to run people around and get marshals out and about and did so with good grace. He did get to go home and spend the night in his own bed, which he wasn't expecting but I am sure made up for missing the tent.
At the village hall the tea time crew sent us off with a last meal in excellent style, and as many of you will have had the benefit of, the breakfast ladies, who get up at 3.30 to come in and start cooking did their usual life saving task of feeding the wet and starving masses. Throughout the night the two Marilyns and Jenny kept the drinks coming and kept you all in check for the fact checkers and our computer man Alan, and made sure all the muddy boots stayed in the doorway. It's a hard task as they are up all night unlike us in the tents as we can nap in the warm, so a big thank you to everyone both there in the village hall and at the start, who stay sane while 300 people come at them for three and a half hours!
Last but not least a big, big thank you to all of you who took part. The cold weather that we had been promised didn't materialise, instead you were all subject to a constant downpour that left everyone looking like drowned rats, and defeated a number of teams who retired out, and I for one don't blame them. It always amazes me how much people enjoy banging about in the forest at night and as you can see from the comments section, some of you really do!!
The bad weather was reflected in the times competitors took to get round the course, and experience very much showed. The South London Orienteers, who won a couple of years back took 4 hours and 17 minutes to complete the course, about twenty five minutes slower that last year’s winners. ELR, who won the five-checkpoint event, were bizarrely faster than last year by 16 minutes, much to their excitement – see Edward Barnard’s comments below.
Can anyone beat the Rayleigh Rockets? The 10-checkpoint event Group Trophy, awarded to the Group or club with the three highest placed teams in each event, went again to the Rayleigh Rockets though they clearly had troubles as they found a total between their three teams of 22 checkpoints in 18 hours and 38 minutes. The best five-checkpoint group was a surprise though, certainly to their organiser, Satinder Sohel:
I haven't seen anything on Facebook or the website so I wasn't expecting to see anything relating to a trophy!
What trophy are we in contention for and what do you require on our side?
After doing the Rodings Rally for almost 10 years this is the first time I've got an email about a trophy so just a little shocked!
Upon being told which trophy they had won:
That's great news - something we weren't expecting at all! I only entered 3 teams so I know who to congratulate... I've already spread the good news.
Regardless of the poo weather we always try to participate because it's such good fun every year. Thanks for putting on such an enjoyable event every year.
(Poo weather probably sums it up very politely!)
Trophy winners will be contacted shortly to confirm delivery arrangements if not already received.
As stated on our information sheet, 50p from every entry is donated to a charity nominated each year at our AGM. Those of you who entered the 2015 Rally may be interested to learn that your donations went to the St Clare Hospice. (see here)
This year, the Rockets Under 20 team trophy went to a surprise team (Scouts watch out, your invincibility is hereby challenged!) called Not Duffers. The team consisted of dad, Alex Lovell, his daughter Kaitlin aged 11 and her friend Carys, also 11. The girls were quite damp by checkpoint 4 (my tent) so it was very encouraging to hear dad talking to them, saying that the tea point was coming up, that checkpoint 5 was not far behind and to see how they felt by then. Checkpoint 5, our finance lady Val, reported that by then the girls had perked up and were prepared to go to the end. Alex described the experience for the girls as ‘life changing’. Here is what the girls had to say:
When my dad suggested we might go on a walk through Epping Forest I didn't expect that it would be in the dark, in the middle of the night, in the freezing cold and the pouring rain, looking for things that are almost impossible to find with only a map and a compass to help us! Apart from that, it was an amazing time. Everybody at the checkpoints was really nice and friendly and this helped us a lot to get through the night - as did the people on the tea tent who were also really kind. Some of the checkpoints were really difficult to find - we spent nearly an hour looking for the third tent! But we saw muntjac deer and lots of stars while we were looking. Overall I really enjoyed the rally. I felt a real sense of achievement when I finished and I'm glad that we did it. Overall I would rate the whole experience as a solid 8 out of 10!
- Kaitlin Lovell (age 11)
It was amazing, but very wet! I loved every second of it. It was quite hard, but also totally fabulous. It's incredible how much effort the organisers and volunteers put into running the rally. All the checkpoints were /SO/ well hidden (especially tent no 3). I'm really proud to have made it all the way to the finish line. The ladies at the end were especially nice - thank you so much for the jaffa cakes and the lemon tart.
- Carys Bonnel (age 11)
Yippee! I can't believe that we've done it again! It was so wet and
it was cold, but I don't think we'll ever beat that time - we found
each tent really quickly, something that's never happened before. I
guess experience helps?
I'm so grateful to the volunteers who help run this event, I really
look forward to this each year, and our team is assembled from across
the UK for it (OK, they've moved to Kent and Somerset in the years
since we first competed!).
- Edward Barnard of ELR
Thanks for another enjoyable event.
Great effort by all the volunteers inside & outside, especially in the conditions.
Amazing to think it's been going 60 years.
- Pete Huzan, South London Orienteers
Thank you to you and everyone at EFOG for arranging another excellent event.
It's a pity that the weather forecast seemed to have put off some of the
teams as I don't think it turned as bad as had been predicted. Both
Scansorials teams enjoyed themselves.
The marshals will probably spot that both our teams were at the later
checkpoints at about the same time but this was completely coincidental.
Having started twenty minutes later we caught up with them at the tea point
but then went our separate ways - we just kept running into them at the
checkpoints even though we had used different routes to get there. There is
now a good rivalry between the teams, particularly as this year's result
reversed the relative positions from last year.
Hope to see you again next year.
And from our side of the fence:
This was my first Roding Rally experience and although I’ve camped out several times over the years, never in such conditions as Storm Angus.
Luckily, my checkpoint partner had made a recce visit during daylight so once we had parked the car in Gilwell Park, I just had to follow through a small wooded area to find the marker for our pitch. As I had not been involved in the planning process, I had no idea where I was. Storm Angus was brewing, so as well as very strong winds, there was driving rain too.
Our tent (no. 7), was positioned in a very exposed spot on Chingford Plain, just in front of the ridge overlooking the Lee Valley. Once inside, we waited a few hours for the first of the competitors to come our way. Once the runners started to arrive, there was no time to relax as we were busy marking cards. The inclement weather affected the state of the cards, making it difficult to write on them.
Despite the awful conditions, the competitors were all very cheerful and positive. Many said they felt sorry for the markers on the checkpoints, but we were feeling sorry for them in their windswept and bedraggled state.
When morning came, the storm was subsiding and we saw the sun rise over the plain. The ground was very muddy but I felt that all this added to the atmosphere.
Being served breakfast after arriving back at the hall was very much appreciated, as was the meal the previous afternoon. What struck me most among the volunteers, was the camaraderie and willingness to help and offer advice.
In spite of being out all night in the cold, damp and wind, resulting in a stiff and aching body, I look forward to my next Roding Rally experience.
Probably because of the weather there was a great deal of stuff left at the village hall or retrieved en route. If any of the following items belong to you, please let me know so that we can rehome it:
Grey mans scarf
Compass on a yellow string
Black woollen hat and one black glove with dimples on palm
Petzl head torch that looks like a miners lamp!
Map pouch and pencil
Pair of quechua black gaiters
Two Oxford accessories soft cloth tubes for scarf wear or similar
Pair of grey and bright pink laced adidas trainers size 7 ½
Where did you come? Click Here and look for your team’s number in the event down the left hand side in the distance you covered.
Beverley Brook Walk - 5th November 2016
Obviously the allure of a minor river spirit compared to Old Father Thames is somewhat less, although gender may have something to do with it. Nevertheless, seven of us - Bernie, Fozi, Fred, Jinan, Ken and Lynne - met at Waterloo Station on Saturday morning to explore the delights of Beverley Brook.
And delightful she was, on the 7 miles that we accompanied her from where she becomes visible to humanity near New Malden to where she meets her father (or mother) at Barn Elms, near Putney.
From New Malden Station it is a half-mile or so walk through pleasant-enough suburban streets and including crossing a golf course by way of a tree-lined track. There is the A3 to cross, too, by means of subway. Beverley Brook appears from beneath the road confined within a narrow, wall-lined gully, together with some nice mossy vegetation which included the rather-rare-in-London, warmth-and-moisture-loving and rather descriptively-named, Navelwort (a possible connection to the Goddess, here?). We paused just for a moment at the beginning of the water-side route to just mention that the brook had its source about three miles away at Cuddington Recreation Ground near Worcester Park, and flows for about 10 miles to the Thames. The name is derived from the beaver – which although believed extinct in Britain for some 400 years is now breeding again – and the word ley, or meadow. In other words, the beaver’s meadow brook.
The brook has been much abused in times past – as have so many of London’s rivers – and has been considerably channelised, so runs between boarded banks for much of its route. However for a few miles – apart from a few detours where it is not accessible due to housing or the like – we were walking along a nice-enough waterway, often with trees either side, and passing through a nature reserve or two - or past playing fields - on the way. The brook flows along the west edge of Wimbledon Common, where it once marked the boundary between London and Surrey, and the scenery becomes more open. We crossed the A3 again at the busy junction by the Robin Hood Gate and entered Richmond Park just as a stream of horses were leaving. In the park we walked for some way with the brook on our right and the open spaces of the park on our left, with distant views of the deer and closer views of the cyclists.
It was actually quite cold – we’d noticed that when we got off the train. Funny that here in the SW (of London, anyway) it seemed colder than in the traditionally cold east of the country (or London, anyway) where we come from. So we were pleased to reach the cafe facilities hereabouts. There were lots of cyclists here, too, plus lots of Jackdaws and people – all tending to eat and drink. Whilst there we had a call from John Hatto – an ex club-member – who we’d pre-arranged would join us. Which he did.
Leaving the park by way of the Roehampton Gate, we walked down an alleyway alongside the park walls, for a short while away from the brook, but which we soon rejoined. Whilst we’d been in Richmond Park we had read notices which told of work being done to improve the ecology of the brook and also help with flood prevention. All the channelisation and abuse over past generations as had adverse effect here as elsewhere, as people are now beginning to realise. Now the intention is wherever possible to remove constricting artificial edging, allowing gravel-banks and eddies to form, and perhaps even a little meandering.
Around East Sheen we were forced away from the water and along roads for a bit, but between some decent allotments with - in places - some rather exotic overhanging vegetation. When we reached the only pub on route – the Halfway House near Barnes Common – we didn’t go in but stood on the adjacent Priests Bridge over the once-troubled water and John told us something about local efforts for the stream's regeneration.
here) a few weeks ago.We crossed two railway level-crossings and then part of Barnes Common, with Chestnut and Sycamore trees in glorious autumn colour, then through a playing field to cross the brook again and walk alongside Barn Elms Playing Fields, once the site of the old Manor House of Barnes. The final stretch is again along a tree-lined track alongside the brook, and then suddenly there is a barrage across the stream – forming probably what is a balancing lagoon and muck-stopping arrangement, but filled with reeds – then another barrage to control water flow, and then out onto the Thames-side track where we had first sighted Beverley Brook on our Putney to Richmond walk (
Then there was just the walk along the Thames past all of the boating-facilities and across Putney Bridge to the station of the same name, and then home. Beverley Brook, I found, had a very pleasant character about her. Thanks to the other pleasant characters who accompanied me on this exploratory walk – and we didn’t get lost at all.
Paul Ferris, 6th November 2016
7.7 miles, 8 walkers
The Last Leg of The Thames Path in London
All good things come to an end, and so our journey both down and up the London section of the Thames Path reached its climax on a bright day, nursing potential rain clouds that held on to their cargo and kept us dry. It could also be labelled a 'Great Trees of London' walk as we had the good fortune to come across - amongst many others - not one but two really wonderful specimens, one at each end of the path.
We travelled to Richmond Station by train from Waterloo, on 22nd October, 2016. After the train, and walking through the bustle of Richmond shoppers, the riverfront runs past a throng of restaurants in the midst of which is an enormously tall London Plane, gracefully occupying its spot for hundreds of years judging by the girth of the trunk. You can only but admire something so lovely and ancient if only for having managed to stay there as London sprawls further and further. The path breaks almost straight out into 'country' passing Ham House, a 17th century house now a National Trust property open to visitors. In the middle of the river at this point is Eel Pie Island, best remembered as a music venue in the 1960 where The Rolling Stones and The Who performed.
Shortly after we approach Teddington Lock, the largest lock complex on the Thames and the point at which the Thames turns from tidal to non-tidal. It also has a very convenient toilet facility, so we were able to stop for a short while whilest some of the walkers took advantage. The Thames here turns from being home to rowing crews to sailing ones, with lots of small boats out and about on the calmer waters.
As we approached Kingston, there is also another little surprise. Just before you reach the latest incarnation of a bridge that has crossed the Thames continuously since the 12th century, in the basement of John Lewis are a pier from the the original bridge and a barrel vaulted cellar from a 14th century merchants house, preserved very nicely behind glass. By way of a thank you to John Lewis for this keeping of history, we stopped there for a lunch break before crossing the bridge for the final stretch to Hampton Court. It doesn't take very long before we come across the grounds of the palace, even though we are still a couple of miles downriver from the building itself. The Roman Catholic Church of St Raphael glows on the south bank, Italian Renaissance in style but only built in the mid 1800s after Catholic emancipation in England, and a number of small aits or eyots as you prefer, both Middle English for 'little island'.
The path-side is joined by a brick wall, part of the grounds proper of Hampton Court, and it is here that you can find the other wonderful tree. There is a gate in the wall, up a few steps, to an enclosure for the casual visitors to admire the grounds and the views, fronted by a large and lovely Stone Pine, known as the Maids of Honour Stone Pine, that makes a beautiful frame for views of the palace. It is to here that we head and to the cafe to celebrate the end of our trek to and from Crayford Ness, some fifty miles away.
One adventure ends, others begin - the path along the Thames westwards into the country beckons...
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