Recent outings and activities...
North Downs Way – Chilham to Canterbury, the final leg
Saturday 15th October saw the final legs of Ken's epic North Downs Way walk – 22 of them, in fact. The 22 legs walked the final leg of the journey which had begun, I believe, at Box Hill on 20th July 2013.
see here). It was an easy, if rather long, journey – with lots of small station-stops the closer we got to Chilham. We were visited a few times on the journey by the train conductor, at first just checking the tickets, then up for a chat. As we approached our stop his on-board announcement of the next station included a greeting and a warning to all of us walkers that whereas we would face rain ahead on our walk, he'd be in Canterbury in a few minutes and totally dry!This stretch began with a group of eleven meeting at Victoria Station for the train to Chilham, where the previous walk had finished on 23rd July (
It had, indeed, begun to cloud over as we'd got closer to our start, but for most of the way the rain held off, or at least only came down relatively lightly. Thus it was that we were able to enjoy a quick look at the attractive village of Chilham, with its quaint houses, castle and 15th C. church, to which we paid a quick visit. Then it was up and then down, and then up and down again in numerous successions – with here and there a levelish patch - as we made our way along the downs.
For a considerable part of the route we were passing through apple-growing areas, at a perfectly good time to do some scrumping if one were that way inclined. Of course, some of the windfalls had already been got-at by wasps and the like, so would have been no good for the supermarket shelves. I am sure that had we tried the good parts, they would have been totally edible and delicious – apart perhaps from the cooking apples. On the large orchard associated with Nickel Farm there was a township of mobile-home type accommodation, specifically for the apple-pickers of whom we saw numbers as we passed through. Shortly after the orchards we stopped for a while at the public house on the edge of Chartham Hatch, then continued through Petty France and a variety of pleasant countryside – including a field with a unicorn posing rear-end-on to us and pretending to be a sheep (or maybe asleep), and another with no white sheep of the family amongst all the black ones. On this stretch too was the Iron Age hill fort of Bigbury Camp – which looked like a hillside rather than a hill fort, as most Iron Age forts do – and an open-to-the-public orchard which looked more like an orchard than the commercial ones do. No Mans Orchard, as it is called, is a rare survival of a traditional Kent apple orchard. We got some apples there, and there was a large snake.
Crossing the A2 (originally a Roman road, I suppose: “A2 Brutus”) we were soon making our way into Canterbury itself. The guide book route into town takes you down London Road, then right into St. Dunstans Street, where we had to wait at a level crossing for two trains to pass. We were in view of the Westgate Towers, said to be England's finest medieval gateway, and where we soon posed for a photograph. Then along the pedestrianised High Street before turning left to the Cathedral Gate. It's funny, but within Canterbury it is difficult to see the Cathedral, and even when we got to the gate an entrance fee tended to make viewing even more difficult. Some of the group elected to pay up and go in, whilst four others walked right around the cathedral by means of the closest roads. Even then, you could only occasionally see the top-most spires. They've got it well hidden.
So, by then the original eleven had split up a bit, and four of us went into a M. & S. tea shop for a cuppa. When we left it was pelting down, but we'd a train in mind and headed fasly and wetly to Canterbury East Station by way of the bus station and the city walls. Gaining those was where we also gained some of the rest of the group, and gaining the station we gained the remainder. So - mostly - we all travelled back together. We had a carriage to ourselves, presumably because the original train conductor had warned all the rest to be on the look-out for us. My O.S. map with its draw-the-route facility made the distance 7.8 miles rather than Ken's guide-book 6, but a grand time was had by all. I think.
I'd not joined in all of the walks that comprised the route from Box Hill to Canterbury, but congratulations to all that did, and to those that did some but not all, and congratulations and thanks to Ken for organising and taking the lead in this most enjoyable venture.
Paul Ferris, 17th October 2016
Thames Walk - Pimlico to Putney and Putney to Richmond
The end is nigh...
The last weekend in September and the first in October saw the anti-penultimate and penultimate legs of the Thames path upstream walk from Slade Green, near Dartford, all the way eventually up to Richmond.
The first of these two legs, on 21st September and between Pimlico and Putney Bridge, had a record turnout of eighteen walkers, including Ros from up near Blackpool, who has been visiting us for a while. A perfect day for a walk, sunny but breezy, not too hot and a not too long a walk to boot. Starting on the north bank to avoid the chaos of building work that is Nine Elms, we crossed the river at Chelsea Bridge, stopping first to admire the handiwork of Joseph Bazalgette and another of those lovely Victorian sewage works buildings that dot the riverside. Opposite the park one of London's lost rivers - the Westbourne, which we had walked in November 2013 (here) - makes its appearances, still gamely clinging on to its existence, as does the Lots Road Power station building, also on the north bank. This power station used to supply all of the power to the London Underground, but has long since been decommissioned and is now, as is the way, being made into luxury apartments that no one can afford. Battersea Park provided us with a comfort stop before we swung inland for a brief detour around the heliport and another huge building being squeezed into a tiny site, and then onwards to Wandsworth Park for a lunch break by the mini golf course. After that it was a short stroll up to Putney Bridge to admire the World War Two machine gun post built almost onto the platforms - part of the defence line of London, protecting the railway from any attack from the river.
Returning to this very same spot the following Saturday, on 1st October, the weather was quite different. We're we deterred? - well a few people must have been as we were reduced to a coven of thirteen and suffered a bit of a delayed start caused by engineering works and the glacial service in a cafe. Shortly after setting off along the south bank we crossed another of London's little-known rivers - the Beverley Brook. Although looking a bit decrepit as it met the Thames, at least this one does have a guided walk attached, which perhaps we should try one day. Usually this stretch is a straight line up the south bank, but again we were foiled, this time by work taking place on the riverbank at Hammersmith. Not to be outdone though, we simply crossed the river and carried on through some very charming houses on the other side. At this point nature struck a double blow, it started to rain and one of the group took it into his head to wander off in search of a wee, and then promptly got lost.
We decided on an early lunch break to dry off, and crossed the river back to the south side on Barnes Railway bridge to recuperate at the White Hart (another pub with some really excellent and attractive bathrooms) whilst directing the lost sheep back into the fold by means of several plaintive telephone calls.
Moving to the north bank had added extra mileage to the route, so it was decided at this point to cut short the journey and only go as far as Kew, but the sun came out and something in the water clearly boosted morale as we positively sped along the next section, past the old Truman brewery, still in operation by by a different company, and the Harrods Depository and arrived at Kew in record time, so much so that we decided to be brave and finish the route properly. That last three miles shot by and then it was time for tea to celebrate in a delightful cafe built into one of the arches under Richmond Bridge.
One more leg to go voyagers!
Sue C., 17th October 2016
Photos by Peter G.
Camping in Suffolk
Nine members of EFOG enjoyed a lovely few days camping at Newbourne Woodland Campsite near Woodbridge in Suffolk, from 14th to 16th September. The site has good facilities, and comes complete with elephants hiding in the undergrowth - not quite life-sized, but big enough to look reasonably realistic! Well, in the dark, anyway! Wehoped there were no lions in the jungle, but the most ferocious creatures we saw were a squirrel and a large black beetle! The first evening we relaxed with a barbecue, having spent some time finding the appropriate places for our tents, putting them up, and getting organised. The following day, Ian took us on a walk. It was an amazingly hot day - more like the middle of summer than September. At lunchtime we stopped to eat at the "Maybush" pub, and in the afternoon we went on a 2-hour boat trip to Bawdsey and back, with a refreshing breeze on the water which kept us cool. That evening, we had an enjoyable meal at the "Coach & Horses" at Melton.
The following morning we packed up our tents, and went our separate ways. We gave Marian a lift, and she had never been to Sutton Hoo, which has an ancient 7th century royal burial site - and a good café/restaurant! We stopped there on our way home, and spent an enjoyable few hours looking at the exhibition, walking in the grounds, and drinking coffee in the dry when it started to rain, although Marian defied the rain and walked to the house which is open to the public. Tranmer House was the home of Mrs. Edith Pretty, the landowner who instigated the archaeological digs at Sutton Hoo in the 1930s. Peter and I had been over the house on our previous visit, and as Peter had absolutely no clothes for wet weather, we gave it a miss.
Another really enjoyable trip with EFOG, and many thanks to Ian S. and Louise for organising it.
Maz & Peter. 30th September 2016
A Wet Tring...
...Or a damp circular walk from Tring station...five and a half miles or so, on Saturday 10th September 2016, led by Jenefer.
Five of us met at Euston Station – plunged into a state of semi-electronic failure so you could only use cash to get your tickets, but that was alright for us and we caught the 9.24 to Tring.
It had been raining at Euston, and it was raining at Tring, though not heavily, so undeterred by such trivialities we accessed the towpath of the Grand Union and walked through the dank and wet cutting, sampling occasional blackberries as we went. We reached Cowroast Lock where, Jenefer told us, they never did roast cows but they did REST them, en route from distant pastures via the drove roads to the London markets. Where we ate them.
Leaving the canal, but gaining more rain, we angled upwards towards the hillier parts, along quiet roads and then through the woods adjacent to Northchurch Common. From something like 400ft. ASL at Tring, we were now at about 650ft, although the slopes were generally not steep and it was easy-enough going. We dropped down more sharply through the wood, then steeply down part of the Chiltern Way, into the pretty village of Aldbury where, apparently, much filming has been done because it looks quaint and they have stocks and things.
We didn't make use of the stocks and things, but we did make use of the pub, where a sit-down and a bit of a dry-off and some liquid refreshment went down well. Leaving the pub, we walked up the street to the pond, where we stood and ate our sandwiches. It was still sort of raining.
It wasn't really very far from there along some mainly well-surfaced footpaths back to Tring Station, where a train was soon found that returned us to Euston.
Thanks to Jenefer for arranging and leading the walk, and to Jill V., Lynne and Fred for joining in a nice enough, though bit wet, walk.
Paul Ferris, 13th September 2016
A week in Sunny Scarborough
A week in Sunny Scarborough, from Saturday 27th August to Saturday 3rd September. Bung the word 'sunny' in front of a British place name and it sounds somewhat exaggerated or, at the very least, hopeful. But it was – a sunny week, that is. And not only sunny, but warm if not hot, too. Except for the Saturdays travelling up and back, where it was a little, or a little more, overcast and wet, and a bit showery at times on the Sunday.
I travelled by car with Lynne, viewing the gannets from Bempton Cliffs on the way and watching an amazing performing weasel on the cliff-edge, and meeting Eileen, Val, Fozi, Jinan and Dave at Eileen's brother's house in Scarborough.
On Sunday 28th we had a look round Scarborough with Fozi, Jinan, Lynne, Dave and myself negotiating the High Street (and charity shops) on the way to the sea front and the South Bay with its amusement arcades, gift-tat shops, open-top buses, beach and harbour. The harbour, particularly, for me was a joy. A proper harbour, with a goodly number of fishing boats as well as yachts, rib-boats, speedboats, pleasure boats and trips-round-the-bay boats. We walked up to the beginning of the headland-esplanade leading to the North Bay, then back along the front heading towards the outstanding Grand Hotel. And it really is outstanding, occupying a prime cliff-top site and visible from almost everywhere on that bay. It was beginning to rain a bit as we walked up the steep cliff-side path to the hotel, so going inside for a coffee and sit-down was a welcome opportunity. When it was completed in 1867 it was one of the largest hotels in the world. It has an interesting interior design concept: there are 12 floors, 52 chimneys and originally there were 365 bedrooms. Work that one out.
On Monday 29th the Sun was out and we set-car for the North Yorkshire Moors, to negotiate the Hole of Horcum. A gloriously hot day – if you like it so – and beginning with an easy-enough tramp around part of the rim of a once-volcano. Nicely moorland, but easy underfoot along an ancient cart-track for a couple of miles until we reached the top of the scarp above Newton Dale. There the track dropped sharply for 200 or so feet, and the way was narrow and rutted, and not easy. As things levelled out we walked parallel to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, and sat and snacked overlooking the line until a steam train went past, because we wanted to wave. Then upwards again, and again, to reach Levisham village where the pub provided welcome liquid refreshment. On, and then down, with the footpath paralleling a dark and narrow tree-lined gorge which dropped away from us until we regained it to cross over for the final leg. We had been warned – Eileen and Val had walked this way before – and as we were now in Horcum Hole rather than above it (where the car park is), this necessitated a long and arduous – albeit well-surfaced – track up. And up, and up. The ice cream van at the car park was welcome after our 8.5 mile walk.
Tuesday 30th was a return visit to the moors, for we went to Pickering to catch the N.Y.M. Railway to Whitby. This is one of the greatest of Britain's preserved railway lines, and has been featured in television series and films for its 50's and 60's flavour. Thus it was we used our return tickets to get off first at Levisham just to amble around the quiet country station, then at Goathland to wallow in visitors to Aidensfield, and then Grosmont, where we took in a bit more of the railway itself, with the locomotive depot and probably the world's oldest railway tunnel – which we walked through. Finally, Whitby.
We had plenty of time at Whitby – thronging with Bank-Holiday visitors – for some of us to climb the 199 steps to the abbey (I made it 198), and to have a meal at The Magpie -a well-known fishandchip restaurant. Some of us walked to the end of the jetty, one of us paddled, and we all met up at the station for the last train to Pickering.
On Wednesday, Lynne, Val and Fozi had to leave, so we spent the day around Scarborough in preparation for Ken to arrive. Highlight of the day, perhaps was a voyage on the pirate-ship Hispaniola – more under-engine than under-sail, but a fun trip “round the bay” nevertheless. Another good fish and chip meal at a really good price in a cafe/restaurant overlooking the beach and sea, and all in all a good sea-sidey flavour to the day.
Thursday 1st September, and to celebrate the new month and to give Ken something to do, Eileen organised a walk from our accomodation to Filey. Once we'd descended the cliffs by means of the cliff railway, the walk was just about all by the coast and mostly along a cliff-top path. Not particularly hard going, but we had to drop down into one or two bays – and then drop up again, of course. Mind you, dropping down to a convenient beach cafe with the usual good Yorkshire tea – and equivalent coffee, I hope – and snacks available at reasonable prices instead of take-on ones, and hula-hoops to play with and buckets and spades to buy, that is not a bay too far. We had a lovely tea in a pretty Victorian-style tea-shop in Filey before catching a bus back to Scarborough. That walk was our longest, at 9.5 miles.
On our last full day, Friday 2nd, Eileen and Ken decided to walk part of the “Cinder Trail” - the route of the old Scarborough to Whitby Railway and now a cycle/pedestrian path. Jinan, Dave and myself wanted a slightly shorter walk, and to look at Scarborough's North Bay. We began the walk all together for a couple of miles along the track, and then left it, all together, just before Newby.
Ken and Eileen had decided to join us. The North Bay is quieter than the south – a long sandy beach with rock pools and lovely views including Scarborough Castle on the headland that separates the two bays. There is a 2ft gauge miniature railway that runs along the coast for nearly a mile here, and we watched a couple of the trains go past as we stopped for a drink at a beach-side cafe. The sun was still shining as we entered the award-winning Peasholm Park, which has a Japanese theme, complete with a pagoda on an island, with dragon boats patrolling – pedalled by visitors.
It is a mile-long walk around the headland to get back to the busy part of Scarborough, and on the way we encountered the sculpture 'Freddie Gilmore and the Belsen Stragglers'. This larger-than-life figure of Freddie sits on a sea-front bench, looking downcast and sad. Freddie was a retired miner who was one of the first soldiers to relieve the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the end of World War II. The memory of it never left him. On the bench a plaque reads:
'They said for king and country
we should do as we were bid,
They said old soldiers never die
but plenty young ones did.’
Regaining the hustle of the South Bay, we revisited the very-good-value fish and chip cafe, with still a walk back to our accomodation to complete, so our “shorter walk” turned into a 7 mile one. That was offset by a nice meal at a pub/hotel in the evening – again at remarkably low prices for a carvery meal.
Just as on the day we had travelled up, Saturday was rainy – but more so – for the return journey. Eileen was staying on, Ken going by train, and myself and Jinan travelling in Dave's car. Such a shame that on the last day of a wonderful week the car broke down twice on the way back. This meant an 11 hour journey, including a couple of 30 minutes in-the-rain roadside waits for assistance.
That aside, I can confidentally say that I – and I suspect everyone else, had a grand time.
Thanks to Eileen for organising the holiday, and to her and Lynne, Jinan, Val, Fozi, Dave and Ken for the company.
Paul Ferris, 4th September 2016
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