Recent outings and activities...
A Week on the Norfolk Broads - 29th April to 6th May 2017
There was nobody from either EFOG or the 18 Plus Group already arrived at Potter Heigham when Fozi and I arrived in Chris's car around mid-day on Saturday 29th April. So we checked roughly where the boats Trevor had hired were moored, and went into a quite busy Bridge Stores Riverside Restaurant and Tea Room to eat and await other arrivals.
Those were forthcoming, together, or rather preceded by, a text message that just about got through the less-than-one-bar signal that seemed to be quite prevalent in these wilder and more desolate parts of the British Isles. Thus it was that having met the other eleven members of our holiday complement we boarded the Broads cruisers and having completed a short introductory course, distributed ourselves roughly EFOG on the smaller Corsair Light 2 and 18 Plus on the larger Jewel of Light – at least for the days.
But that was only roughly, and only for the days, for sleeping accommodation had to be more carefully worked out. As always, though, Trevor's meticulous (almost) planning was done in such a way that we all had a cabin to sleep in – apart from those who had to sleep in the wheel-house/lounge. Also, nobody had to share a double bunk, and to my knowledge no-one did, though some had to share a twin cabin, and some slept in somewhat cupboard-like facilities. Trevor – by the end of the holiday, had tried just about all of them – except my on-my-own (sad) double.
Last year, the weather during the day had been mostly warm and beautiful. The nights were beautiful if you like stars – and cold. This year I was nice and cosy in my sleeping bag at nights, and the days were a mix of bright for one half and dull for the other – and with an annoying tendency towards cold. Hence the choice of clothing in the photo to the left.
We travelled down the River Thurne from Potter Heigham, then up the Bure towards Wroxham. At about mid-day, we moored for a while at Salhouse Broad, where five of us took out two Canadian-style canoes, with myself and Eleanor in one and Trevor, Cathy and one of the 18 Plus group in the other. It was a pleasant experience, messing about on the water, getting used to paddling in synchronisation, fighting against a wind on the way back when our time was up, but also just idly watching the water birds doing their things. During the remainder of the journey towards Wroxham we all on the little boat had the opportunity to take a turn at the helm, or to watch other out-of-practice or newbies-to-the-game weaving from side to side or trying to mow down sailing vessels. We had one interesting incident whilst trying to find night-time moorings when both boats went into a potential mooring, only to find it full and with no easy turn around. The big boat behind us got help from a woman on-shore with a broom, whilst Trevor was driving our boat back and forth trying to get into a turning position without bashing other boats until we came up with a cunning plan. We pivoted round on a wet penny – thanking whoever that there were no gongoozlers (or is that only on canals?) and trailed the other boat some ten minutes later to a more appropriate mooring.
On Sunday we cruised from Wroxham by way of the River Ant and across Barton Broad towards Stalham. More driving of the boat was undertaken by those who wished, and we all felt just a little more confident than the day before. Not to say that some of us didn't do any weaving, though, and not to say that anyone other than those more experienced did any of the harder docking procedures. At Stalham we were able to moor easily in the very large boatyard and walk into town to eat at a decent-enough pub – The Swan Inn.
Monday began with Trevor walking into Stalham to visit the supermarket there. It begins with 'T', and has changed Stalham from a market town into a supermarket town. He'd asked if anything was required for the boats or individuals, and a few requests had been given him. Later, apparently just after he'd bought the requests and left the store, a phone call was made requesting some extras. Then Eleanor and I thought it would be nice to have some wine on board, and whilst I was finishing that request, some jam was added. That's when Trevor asked – with a tone to his voice – whether we wanted vanilla jam or ice-cream jam or what? As I'd never heard of these, I suggested Strawberry might be nice. Somehow, I don't think these late requests went down well, but the wine did. The jam never got eaten, so Trevor – probably rightly – claimed it at the end of the trip.
Our Monday journey was back down the Ant – as the Ant is a no-through river. Monday was also May Day, and hence the First Day of Summer, come what may. It started well weather-wise, as well. We moored for a while at How Hill, which is a lovely spot with an historic marshman's house called Toad Hall Cottage and, on a knoll fifty feet above the river, the other extreme – How Hill House. From here there were great views of the marshes and waterways and lovely and extremely carefully tended gardens, with rhododendrons, azaleas and manicured hedges. The lovely sunny and warm morning meant that we were also treated to many butterflies and bees. Louise said that it was like something out of Alice in Wonderland, and another visitor commented to us that it was like something out of Alice in Wonderland.
Continuing the boating part of our holiday, we turned left into the Bure near St Benet's Abbey (Remains Of) and bore-right with the Bure where it meets the Thurne near Thurne at a place called Thurne Mouth. Now we were heading south, towards Acle. Here we said fond and sad farewells to members of our EFOG crews, as Cathy, Louise and Fozi had to return home. They got a cab from Acle Bridge, accompanied by Trevor to ensure they got away. We moored for the night there, and had a good meal at a Bure-side restaurant/pub before retiring to our respective boats and bunks. We were still boat-hopping at that stage, and Trevor was beginning to experiment with sleeping in different bunks each night – strangely after the women had vacated them.
Tuesday was still May, but the summer seemed to have gone back to April, at least to start with. We began by some of the dwindling group taking the Corsair Light 2 back to Potter Heigham, and thus saying farewell to Steve and Sammy (18 Plus) and to Chris and to Phil. (EFOG), whose time was up. The rest of us – minus Trevor who had gone back with them to Potter to return the boat – journeyed along the River Bure, which had a distinctly easterly direction to it, as did the wind. The Bure becomes more and more maritime as it nears Great Yarmouth, and we were beginning to see wading birds on the muddier and muddier banks, along with seaweed. It get busy going into Yarmouth Town, where – on account of the wind – everybody had their heads bowed down. But you have to get away from Yarmouth Town, and the wide open spaces of Breydon Water is where you do that. This is like driving at sea, though keeping between markers to indicate the navigable channel. Then into the quieter waters of the Waveney, to moor up at St. Olaves where Trevor was waiting for us, and to have lunch at the pub there.
Later in the day we moored up at Oulton broad, near Lowestoft, having crossed from Norfolk into Suffolk and from the northern Broads to the southern ones. It's a convenient mooring at Oulton, because there are shore facilities such as showers, places where you can draw money, and places where you can spend it. We chose to spend ours at The Waveney, a pub. Last year we'd taken part in a quiz here, came first and won wine and the food was alright. This year there was no quiz and the vegetable portion of our meals was indisputably mean. I told the barman so, and at least one other of our group did, too.
On Wednesday we travelled back along the Waveney as far as Haddiscoe, where we turned left into the New Cut, which is a short-cut-canal to enable vessels from Norwich to access Oulton Broad and thus the sea without looping around Burgh Castle, up by Breydon Water. At the end of the cut, and regaining the Bure, we stopped off for a while at Reedham, where some of us walked around the small village. Although at its highest only a few metres above sea-level, because if the surrounding landscape there is a feeling of height. I like Reedham. It seems like a “real” place without the ostentatiousness of some Broadland water-side communities. But I may be wrong.
We passed the sugar-factory at Cantley, where proper British sugar is produced from proper British crops, and drove towards Norwich. We didn't actually quite get to Norwich, but then we hadn't intended to, but moored instead for the night at the Surlingham Ferry pub near Brundall. The meals we had here were wonderful – all fresh and wholesome and plentiful. We chatted to the lady behind the bar, who'd lived in the area all of her life. She had a lovely boat moored by the pub in which I think she lived, at least during the summer. What a difference the Surlingham Ferry was to The Waveney of the previous evening.
Thursday required a long 18-or-so mile journey back, including crossing Breydon Water, to Stokesby. This was a lovely mooring, right outside The Ferry Inn with – on the opposite bank – just a view of the reeds and no other horizon. We were early enough to go into a cafe for a snack before the pub in the evening where we'd planned to go for a meal. The cafe was delightful, with good and plentiful food and a highly entertaining – if somewhat dry-humoured – cafe owner, whose accent was not at all Norfolk but more, as it turned out, Chadwell Heath. Our pub meal later was good too, but we determined to go back to the cafe in the morning for our breakfast.
Friday morning broke as one of the sunniest of the whole week, with a beautiful blue sky and a glorious Sun illuminating the pretty village. Our breakfast was just as good as we'd hoped and set us up for the penultimate day of our holiday, heading for a mooring at Ranworth Broad. Ranworth is not actually on the way to Potter Heigham, but necessitated a return travel up the Bure, turning left at Thurne Mouth, passing the remains of St. Benet's Abbey again, passing the little River Ant which we'd taken on our second day, and pulling in to moor stern-on at Ranworth Staithe on Malthouse Broad. This is another favoured mooring, and I remember it well from last year. There is a conveniently close shop for basics and trivia, the Maltsters pub a few hundred yards or metres away, public conveniences, and loads of attentive wildfowl mooching about in gangs. In that respect it's a bit like St. Ives with its rogue seagulls. Here, the gangs wander about on the roof of your boat in the early hours of the morning. Nice enough is Ranworth, although a bit classy and doesn't have the same feel of reality as did – for example – Reedham.
Trevor and I wandered off to look at the Norfolk Wildlife Trust nature reserve at Ranworth Broad, which is a lovely and an interesting place, managed to show different aspects of the Broads environment from woodland through carr, to reed-bed and water. Or maybe the other way round. We had our annual ice-cream in the visitor centre and then visited St. Helen's Church – known as the Cathedral of the Broads. It is possible to climb to the church tower from whence there is a magnificent view, but we didn't do that. The church also has one of – if not the – finest rood screens in the country. Returning to the boat, just as we got there we heard a cry of “She's fallen in the water!” We assumed it was a dog, and dog's do that. They commonly happily swim out and shake themselves dry with a waggy tail, or get one their owners to do it with a soggy towel, whilst the other owner extricates him/her self from the water after attempting a totally unnecessary rescue. However, in this case it was the young child on the boat next to ours that had gone in, with – rightly – her dad immediately after her. This could have been nasty, particularly as it was at the stern of the boats which are together, and against the bank. Dad offered up the child to one of our crew, Francesca, who of course offered it over to its mum. Mum and child were distraught and dad was wet. Nobody was drowned, and Francesca was congratulated on her assistance, and rightly so. Later in the evening, when mum and child had calmed down and were smiling, I suggested that we should play Kate and Anna Mcgarrigle's 'Swimming Song' to them: “Last summer I went swimming, last summer I might have drowned...” but they said I was evil, and we didn't.
Trevor was still trying out different cabins and he spent the night in one of the smallest (which Eleanor had occupied originally and another of the group had found claustrophobic). I stayed where I was and after a good meal at the Maltsters, spent my last night aboard in my usual cabin, only banging my shins once and getting cramp as I walked across the walls and cupboards to get out of bed.
It was an early (7.30) start the following morning (Saturday), as we needed to get the boat back to Herbert Woods Boatyard at Potter Heigham and catch a bus to Great Yarmouth, to catch a train to Norwich, to catch a train to Stratford, to get home. The bus arrived promptly at 10.20, and the rest of the journey was uneventful. It was over.
During our trip we had been accompanied daily by the sounds of Reed Warblers and Cetti's Warblers. We'd also been privileged to hear Grasshopper Warblers, and see a few Kingfishers. One Cuckoo was heard, on May 1st, and we saw our first Swallows - but they didn't necessarily herald a summer any more than May Day did. We didn't see any seals or otters as last year, but lots of Marsh Harriers were a constant reminder of how valuable these reed-beds, rivers and broads are to England's generally diminished wildlife. It's a pleasure to note that we'd seen lots more Harriers on the northern parts of the Broads than last year, which may indicate an increase in their numbers. Of course, not everybody is interested in these aspects of where we were, and are happy just to cruise along in a peaceful landscape or to have the opportunity to learn just a little about the handling of a river-craft. It's a nice holiday, and I have to give thanks and congratulations to Trevor for organising so well a complex procedure – especially with people not being able to stay the full time and finding ways to get them to a convenient railway station. Also thanks to the 18 Plus Group, for inviting EFOG members to join them once again.
To compare this year's Broads Adventure with last year's, see here.
Photos and article by Paul Ferris, 9th May 2017
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)
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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