Recent outings and activities...

Cycling on the Cambs/Herts border

The  weekday weather forecast for last Sunday was for heavy rain, so we were relieved to know on the Saturday that sunny intervals would be around for the next day.

At Steeple Morden , Bill and Inger (and Gill Light) were waiting with their bikes.  We were puzzled as there was no sign of their white van.  Had they cycled all the way from Pymoor and were then prepared to go a further 20 miles ?  Er....no.
Lurking in the car park behind us was a new sleek black hatchback, which had a 2-bike rack that could be stored in the boot when not in use.   A useful bit of kit and much admired.

We were soon joined by Cliff , Ann, Duncan and Parviz.   Leaving Steeple Morton we set off in the direction of  "Wrestlingworth". Fearing that the folk there might be violent we continued on to Eyeworth !

Cycling in CambridgeshireThis was a typical village ; old houses nestling alongside new ones, and everywhere there were daffodils ; on verges and in gardens , and some had even been planted alongside one of the deep fen-like ditches. I noticed some early yellow coltsfoot by the road and the white blossom of the blackthorn was starting to show as well.  Where there were trees there was the first green tinge to the branches ; the new shoots displacing the black/brown boughs of winter.

The roads were undulating - no obvious steep hills but there were several long inclines. When cloudy, a stiff cold breeze sprang up and in this headwind even the inclines were a challenge.  However, there were several long downhills on quiet lanes so the sprinters among us could take off and blow away the cobwebs.   This is an area of arable farming and the landscape often lacked trees , hedges and fences ,so fields under cultivation were huge.  It was strange to see nothing but big green mounds of growing crops right up to the horizon.

We cycled through the immaculate villages of Dunton and Edworth,and stopped at Hinxworth, where an unusual war memorial presented itself as a lunch venue.   A central clock tower was flanked by a high wall on either side, complete with wooden seats. Just the place for a group photo as well.

cambs 100328 3192The sun decided to shine and we were glad of the slight warmth as we ate our sandwiches. On the tower a plaque recorded that the restoration of the clock tower in 1997 was funded by Major Robert Clutterbuck , no doubt a descendant of a Vincent Clutterbuck whose name was inscribed on the WW1 Roll of Honour.  We were nearly shot off our seats when the bell in the tower above our heads struck one o'clock !

Apparently Hinxworth was known as 'Haingesteuuorde' in the Domesday Book of 1086: 'enclosure where stallions are kept'. Judging by the number of horseboxes in people's yards as we went around, and Newmarket not a million miles away, the locals are certainly keeping up the tradition !

We continued to the large, vibrant village of Ashwell and then on back to our starting point at Steeple Morden.  Cliff was in good spirits as he had found a lucky dried rabbit's foot before we set out, and Inger had managed to purchase a bunch of leeks on the way round.

We all thanked Inger and Bill for organising the ride (20 and a half miles) and then fell to the task of putting bikes on racks before leaving this interesting corner of Cambridgeshire and North Hertfordshire.

Jill D.

EFOG Spring Clean Up in Bath, 2010

Over the weekend of 13/14th February 2010, 19 members of the EFOG went to Bath for the weekend on our Spring getaway.  Staying in the very convivial Lansdown Grove Hotel, the group had a tourist day on the Saturday and got down to the serious business of walking on the Sunday.

With the weather being unpredictable as it has been this last few weeks, most of the EFOGs decided to join a guided tour of Bath. Who says that nothing is free!!  This tour was funded, I guess, by the local authority.

With added non-Effogers, we were a large group (about 25-30)  and our guide Cheryl was a gem; she was enthusiastic and had a great sense of humour, you could always hear what she said and she held all our attentions for whole 2+ hours that we were with her.

The origins of the bubbling mud and springs which made Bath famous can be traced back to 863 BC to Bladud the son of King Hudibras. Bladud had the misfortune of contacting virulent leprosy and was banished from court to wandering with pigs in the countryside to survive. He discovered that the condition of the pig’s skin improved with wallowing in the mud and waters and wondered then if his own problem would also improve. The rest is history - he recovered and returned to court and on the death of his father become King.

The Romans arrived in 43 A.D. and were similarly impressed with the healing powers of the waters and amongst many things built the famous spa baths which in part are still standing to date.

Bath always remained an important place of business and pleasure and in the Georgian period the town was transformed on a grand scale.  Richard ‘Beau’ Nash set about improving the seedy social habits of the upper classes of the time and improving the lot of the poor and needy.  John Wood, an architect, and in later years his son, designed the famous Royal Crescent and The Circus, the Assembly Rooms and many other buildings which still stand and bear witness to the skills of this well respected man.

Pulteney Bridge, BathPulteney Bridge, Bath

Many famous people have lived in the Royal Crescent and The Circus: The Duke of York, Sir Isaac Pitman (who invented shorthand), William Pitt the elder, the artist Gainsborough, David Livingstone and Clive of India to name just a few.

After being hit with such a massive input of historical facts and figures we were all understandably thirsty and in need of the local waters and refreshments, in particular Sally Lunn’s Bath buns, which we all pursued with animated enthusiasm.

As a side trip, a couple of the Efoggers also made it to Bristol, about 12 miles down river with a particular destination in mind – the waterfront with its converted warehouses and the restored SS Great Britain.  An iron-hulled steamship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and launched in 1843, the Great Britain also had six masts, and was as fast under sail as the Cutty Sark.  The Great Britain sailed around the world 32 times and continued sailing until 1886.  She was finally abandoned in 1937 off of the coast of the Falkland Islands.  In 1970, the historic ship was raised, towed back to Bristol and has now been restored as an impressive museum which the visitor can go in, round, and under!

After all of that history, Sunday was for the serious business of walking.  The group took the train to the pretty town of Burham on Avon, about 9 miles outside of Bath, and after a brief look around the town’s historic attractions and a refreshment stop at The Bridge Victorian tea room,  walked back to town along the towpath of the Kennet and Avon Canal.  The canal was built by John Rennie and opened in 1723.  To solve the problem of the change in gradient along this section, the canal was built criss-crossing the River Avon using two dramatic aqueducts at Avoncliff and Dundas.  It’s a very popular spot for both walkers and cyclists – for the very keen you can walk the entire way to London using the canal path and other linking waterway paths, around 250 miles!   Another trip for EFOG perhaps!

After a wash and brush up, we reconvened at the dining table for a last get together before dispersing the next morning by bus, train and car back to London and parts surrounding.  Many thanks to Ken and Susan for their organisation of another very enjoyable weekend.

Val and Sue

Greenwich Walk -- London Meal

It's a great group this; at short notice I offered to lead a walk that had been programmed to be in the Greenwich area, so that's where I aimed for.

On February 27th, ten of us met at Stratford station at 10.30 to catch the DLR via Canary Wharf to Mudchute, pointing out important historical landmarks such as where I went to school and where I lived on the way.  At the station before Mudchute I decided to get off so as to approach the walk from a slightly different angle to that which I had planned an hour or two before.  There had been a certain excitement from Val who had remembered a certain drinking establishment favoured when she had worked on the Isle of Dogs, and more excitement from Maz when she realized we would be seeing (she hoped) the animals at the city farm she remembered from when she too had worked there.  Perversely I ensured that before that we had walked a circuitous route around the Mudchute area, taking in some mud, some snowdrops and some weird ducks.  Unfortunately we encountered the cafeteria en route and a slight rebellion occurred when coffee, chocolate, and various cakes were demanded.

Eventually the walk continued - at last taking in the animals - after which we made our way to the river-front at Island Gardens.  One of the things about our group when we are out walking - as opposed for example to a Ramblers' group - is that we don't maintain the sensible rule of not walking ahead of the leader.  Thus it was that a couple of members dived into the foot-tunnel access while my intention was to show the group one of the finest views in London.  This is across the river towards the Royal Naval College buildings and beyond to the Observatory buildings on the hills of Greenwich.

View from Greenwich ObservatoryView from Greenwich ObservatoryWe made our way through the foot tunnel emerging to where the Cutty Sark used to be (or where it still is, but under wraps). We had perhaps expected rain, but in fact there was some blue sky and white clouds as well as some quite grey ones.  In other words there were quite dramatic views along the Thames.  Passing between the buildings of the Royal Naval College, crossing the road and passing the National Maritime Museum, we walked the well-used path up to Greenwich Observatory, taking care not to tread on tourists.  The usual throng of visitors were there - some in the eastern hemisphere and some in the western, and some with their legs apart in both.  And there we had our second rebellion, when two of our members disappeared into the building complex.  The rest of us, perhaps not too reluctantly, eventually followed and this was followed by a gradual wandering of everybody in different directions.  Quite unreasonably at this the home of time, time seemed to have become meaningless, so it was only after some sort of reassembly that we realized that we had misplaced one of our newer members.  Now if this had been one of our long-term members perhaps I would not have been so concerned - after all most of us had each other's telephone numbers and anyway we are all adults and used to getting lost and split up.  After some heroic down-and-up-hill effort by Prue (who in reality was trying to exercise off some excess cake) we re-established contact with Tina and continued our walk across Greenwich Park.

Exiting the park by one of the corner gates we negotiated some busy roads to investigate Blackheath.  The heath got off to a pretty good start with muddy paths and gorse, but the majority of it was dire; boring  short grass with almost no shrubs or trees to add interest, only the more distant views and the fun of seeing land yachts and kite-boarders to break the monotony.  We entered the park again and inevitably made our way to the pavilion.  More tea, coffee and cakes - the latter perhaps a mistake - for after that we were soon back in Greenwich Town where we had intended to eat.  It was slightly too early for that anyway so we made a group decision to take a riverboat trip to London so as to be able to eat at a group-favoured restaurant near the Strand.

Yes, it's a great group, this; we had taken on what had intended to be a walk in the Greenwich area - led at short notice - which we had accomplished without losing anybody, and had ended up dining in London.  This isn't necessarily typical of the group, but then the group isn't necessarily typical.

Paul Ferris, 28th February 2010


If February 20 is here, can Spring be far behind.... ?

Winter....an opportunity to walk some of the local walks which, in Summer, tend to be sacrificed for walks farther afield.

Today’s walk starting at New Farm Drive in Abridge, was one such walk.  Only about 7.5-8 miles but full of variety and interest for the ten intrepid EFOG walkers.

Our first point of note was the small airfield at Stapleford, with plenty of private flying activity on this bright Saturday morning. The ground is surprisingly high here above the River Roding, with a distant view of, but thankfully little noise from, the M25. In chasing a hare, Katie, the Greyhound, found why she’d never made it to racing dog! Thankfully the hare won!

Tea break/elevenses at Stapleford Church (with outside seats as a bonus!) and still beautiful bright clear weather with blue skies. On to Curtismill Green then to our lunch stop on a convenient wooden bridge, where by now our boots were so covered in yellowed grass stuck to the mud that they looked like traditional ‘thatched boots’. Onward to cross the B175 at Stapleford Abbotts. from where we had to contend with some more awful mud before reaching the Lambourne End /Stapleford Abbotts road at Crown Park Farm.

A three-quarter mile road plod into Lambourne End was soon over, and we set off down a bridleway to the pretty Lambourne Church, through the woods, and finally back into New Farm Drive, leaving a couple of hundred yards back to the cars. We just made it in time for ‘tea and a bun’ at the Log Cabin Cafe.

A super day, if you didn’t go you missed a treat!

Duncan, 25 February 2010

A Simple Night Walk?

It started out at programme planning with me suggesting a night walk, and at the end of the walk, having fish and chips in Copped Hall, a Georgian mansion near Epping, which is being restored after a fire in 1917 and subsequent neglect.

Towards the date an e-mail was sent by Cliff to members listing the varieties of fish and food which were available. The responses started to come in and in and in.

In the past when I’ve organised these walks we have had about fifteen to twenty members turning out to enjoy trampling about in the mud of Epping Forest. By Thursday we were up to thirty-two, and then Peter B. asked if he could bring some of his Scouts and parents, which of course he could, bringing the numbers up to forty-two.

I had a route in mind using horse rides in the forest, but what with the recently melted snow it proved to be too wet to get to the rides with so many people. I had a route we’d used before that was only a couple of miles long, circumnavigating the land of Copped Hall. On the Saturday morning the dogs and I proved we wouldn’t need a wet suit and snorkel to walk the route that night, and with the fish and food order confirmed, all was ready.

We arrived at the Hall to open up and I left Maz there to collect the money whilst I returned to the gate, ticking the group off as they arrived. Needless to say I blundered by not noticing that Lynne hadn’t turned up when I went back to the Hall. Oops! Thanks to mobile telephones that was sorted.

Eventually we were all ready to go. Duncan was staying behind to light the fire in the room where we were going to eat.

The Scouts were great looking after the dogs, Katie and Eddie, on the walk. The weather was a bit misty, but as far as I was concerned OK, as I didn’t get lost in the dark and got back to the gate in time to go and collect the food. To get forty plus people around the course in the dark without losing anybody is quite a feat, and that was down to Jim, as tail-end-charlie. Well done. I hope everybody enjoyed the mini-adventure and the food that followed.

Peter G.