Recent outings and activities...

Five went to Ribblesdale

Horton in Ribblesdale is on the famous Settle to Carlisle Line, so no buses needed to get there by public transport from King's Cross. We stayed in a bunkroom situated behind one of the village's two pubs. Luckily we had one twenty bedded bunkroom to ourselves...

Dales horton station 2015 EFOG 029Sunday promised to be the better day so we thought we'd do Pen Y Ghent that day and on Saturday aimed to stay 'down in the valley' to keep out of the clouds, and planned a walk around the famous Ribblehead Viaduct. Did  I say that we weren't going to need buses? Not so hasty.....it was a weekend of engineering works, so not only could we not actually take the train over the viaduct, but we had to take a bus replacement service to get there! Three of us felt that as Ingleborough was between Ribblehead and Horton, that we might as well walk back that way......The paths are easy going - all well laid out with slabs of stone to minimise footpath erosion. However, soon visibility was limited to the path and a few blades of grass to either side - we were climbing up, and up into a cloud and ferocious rain storm we went. We even lost each other briefly on the summit.... Fortunately it was Yorkshire's equivalent of Clapham Junction and other walkers reported seeing a 'lady in blue'. As we descended the skies cleared and we had a couple of hours of walking towards Horton with amazing limestone pavements to either side of us, and a wonderful view of Pen Y Ghent ahead.

Dales Valley 2015 EFOG 055The evening brought unbroken sunshine and all the summits were clear. Not quite so the next morning - the 'better' day turned out to be not exactly that, but we went up Pen Y Ghent anyway. We had lunch by the side of Hunt Pot - a very very deep crevice in the moor, with a cascading waterfall descending way, way down. Two of us added an extra loop to the way back to Horton - though following the 'Ribble Way' footpath was not exactly straightforward - or rather, some very large cows got rather in the way.

Dales Grikes 2015 EFOG 006The famed Pen Y Ghent cafe provided many hot drinks and a few tales. As we arrived one morning a couple of men were just leaving - they had just spent the night walking the Three Peaks (25 miles encompassing Whernside, Pen Y Ghent and Ingleborough). Not so long ago another couple of men had done the round trip three times in 24 hours. To 'qualify' you have to complete in 12 hours and a single circuit is sufficient! There is a log book held at the cafe which you can sign once you have 'qualified' - that's for another time!



Jenefer S.  31st October 2015

Greenwich to Ladywell

What an interesting and varied walk that was... Pam met us at Stratford – or maybe we met Pam at Stratford – on 10th October, and we took the DLR to Greenwich Cutty Sark where we began the walk.

Not unsurprisingly, the Cutty Sark was viewed on passing, as it is difficult to miss, and we soon entered Greenwich Park. I haven't done hills for a year and more, so it was with great relish that we were soon ascending the heights to Wolfe's Statue by the observatory, and using the opportunity to observe all the tourists observing all that is observable from there.

green london way 151008 06528artIn Maidenstone GroveAfter strolling down an avenue of sweet chestnuts, with foragers busy trying to steal the nuts from the squirrels and indeed in one case feeding the chestnuts to the dog, we exited the park by way of a gate that led to a little lane between grand houses onto an edge of Blackheath. Pam told us how the heath in olden days had been the gathering place of various anti-governmental marches on London: Wat Tyler, William Cade and 40,000 Cornish-men to name two and include another 40,000. More little lanes and grand and small (but all doubtless unaffordable) houses followed, together with a conduit that once helped provide the Royal Naval Hospital with water, and a particular area of lovely Georgian and Victorian cottages around the (to me) intriguingly-named Maidenstone Grove. Sometimes there is something in a name and location which seems that it might say more than is evident, and a little research later showed that at least someone else had thought so too. It was beneath this area that a series of caverns had once been known and used for 'purposes', and nearby Point Hill may even have long ago had a ritual temple atop, maybe even dedicated to the Horned God, Cernunnos.

green london way 151008 06531artPeering at the RavensbourneWe descended – after going up and down a lot (remember, I haven't done hills for a while) – to the valley of the River Ravensbourne. I suppose, pedantically, it shouldn't be the River Ravensbourne – just the Raven's Bourne. Pam told us that the river got its name after Julius Caeser's troops nearly died of thirst when they invaded this far (presumably because they lost their way from the Thames and couldn't find a pub) but luckily one of the army happened to notice a raven going overhead with a bucket of water in its beak which it had got from the bourne and hence they were saved. This seems a bit far-fetched to me, but if Pam says so...

Anyway, the Ravensbourne at this point was a bit of a concrete gully, but Sue did spot a Grey Wagtail, so it's better than it looked, and it did look quite nice near downtown Lewisham where it has been landscaped a bit to enhance flow, help alleviate flooding, and look pretty.

green london way 151008 06533artOn Hilly FieldsWe walked up from the river valley through suburban streets to emerge at Hilly Fields, a large open space which Pam told us had been saved from Victorian developers by the campaigner Octavia Hill. One of her newspaper articles was entitled “More Air for London”, which helps sum up things. Being 175 feet ASL, it is no surprise that we then walked down again – albeit the other side – to enter Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries, opened within a month of each other in 1858 as part of the new wave of Victorian cemeteries, once divided by a wall but now comprising a considerable open space. The Brockley part seems to be a lot less managed – although still in use – and the Ladywell end more open and mown. Out of the cemetery, there was still more downhill, passing a house with a plaque which indicates the position of the Ladywell mineral spring. This, presumably, was “Our Lady's Well” from which the area took its name. These mineral springs were purported to offer healing properties, and this one was supposed to help with eye problems. The Ladywell Tavern, nearer to the heart of things, for some reason had a dog's head on its pub sign. I can't think of a connection, but anyway a short way beyond that was Ladywell Station and the connection there was to Charing Cross.

Thanks to Pam for another thrilling instalment of the Green London Way series, and to Amina, Fozi, Fred, Jill, Lynne, and Sue for the company.

Paul Ferris, 10th October 2015

Constable Country Walk

Eleven of us turned up to meet Fritz at the corner cafe in pretty Dedham on a sunny Saturday morning on 22nd August. After a refreshing drink we set out alongside the River Stour, enjoying the sun as the heat soared.

Fritz gave us a potted history of John Constable on the way to the bridge where we stood and admired the view of Flatford Mill that Constable painted. The National Trust owns 400 acres in the area and has an interesting display of Constable’s work, including the miniatures that Constable drew in such detail before embarking on his 6 foot canvasses. We then passed Valley Farm on our way to Willy Lott’s Cottage which is in The Haywain.

Leaving the Stour valley we climbed through paths and fields in the increasing heat to East Bergholt. Thoroughly hot we stopped at a pub to cool down, apply more suntan lotion and have our lunch before moving on to the interesting church in East Bergholt. It has a bellcage which was erected as a temporary measure – in 1531. Constable grew up in East Bergholt but there is little original evidence left of his existence there.

Descending back to Dedham we had cake and tea in the arts centre and then left for home.

Brian U. 23 September 2015



Flatford 20150822 120531c

    The Group near Flatford Mill




Durham long weekend 11-14th September 2015

Nine EFOG members enjoyed a long weekend in Durham in mid-September, organised by Marian.

Some of us met at midday at Kings Cross station for the 3 hour rail journey, some went on other trains. Few of us were seated together as mostly we'd booked our tickets independently! As the train was 40 minutes late arriving, some of us may look forward to a rebate on the ticket price...

It didn't matter that we were late arriving; the journey to our accommodation was by a shuttle-bus that went directly to the Cathedral – about a ten minute journey – and our accommodation was in student's lodgings in St. Chad's College, which is situated in a mediaeval street immediately adjacent to the east end of the cathedral. In fact, those who had rooms at the front of their buildings looked out and across to the great east window. I had a back-facing room which looked out to the college gardens, and perhaps was mercifully saved the all-night bell chimes!

We took a stroll down a narrow lane adjacent to the college refectory, and down a series of stone stairs to the River Wear. The old town of Durham is situated on a great rocky peninsula which the river bounds on three sides. At its peak is the cathedral and castle. Friday evening was beginning to take off in the town as we ascended from the quietness and cannabis of the riverside onto a busy but traffic-free bridge, and as we ascended the old streets, through the market square and back to the cathedral and our lodgings, the girls were beginning to totter out – and in some cases looked as if they were about fall out.

Beamish0430cThe train from Kings CrossThe evening meal was at Bill's, amongst the many eating, drinking and clubbing places in the old town. Bill's, apparently, is an expanding chain, so watch out. There was a slight misunderstanding – as I understand it – with our assembly time for a meal and hence one of our group was waiting for us after we'd left. Usual problem on Group trips: trying to phone someone who is missing. There are only about four reliable keep-their-phone-on people in the whole group, by my reckoning. This is actually a point to consider when on group trips. Anyway, as the late-comer ordered a starter on arrival (which none of the rest of us had), together with a new waitress trying to serve our meals all together, and probably kitchen troubles to boot, resulted in a wait of an hour-and-a-half for our main meals. Or was it more? Whatever, we complained and got a considerable amount taken off our total bill. So that was alright.

We'd booked bed and breakfast, and the breakfast was provided from 8am in the refectory, which is a grand, high, chandeliered building set out with long tables for dining and a plentiful supply of cereals, fruit juices and fruit. Supplies of tea and coffee were brought to our tables, and the available breakfasts consisted of just about anything you'd expect.

We took a bus from the town to Beamish Open Air Museum on Saturday, which wasn't spoilt but might have been better if it hadn't been a bit drizzly. Beamish is well worth a visit – not just a reproduction early 20th Century town, but chapel, colliery-workers cottages, colliery, a fairground and a steam railway amongst the attractions and all served by old buses and a circular tram-system. The colliery was fascinating, listening to a guide who had actually worked there describing and demonstrating the intricacies of the system and a walk down into a coal-face to be shown and told about the working conditions. There is a fine fish and chip shop, cooked and served in traditional manner (although the newspaper for the cones were fakes!), and Jackie and I treated ourselves to a sugar-mouse each from the sweet-shop. Can't say that I really enjoyed it, but then I've aged a bit since I last ate one. Those of us that went to the dentist's nearby were intrigued – and maybe horrified – by what we learnt there! I suspect sugar-mice were more prevalent in those days.

We'd asked the friendly bus driver where the local Wetherspoons was - coincidentally right opposite the bus station, so that was where we had our evening meal. It was absolutely crowded in the main bar area, but remarkably we got our food order in quickly at the bar and even found a relatively out-of-the-way eating area. Unlike the previous evening, our meals arrived together and quickly.

Beamish0429cIt was a bit drizzly inside the observation car at BeamishSunday was Durham's Open-house day, and after a look round the modern museum building in the cathedral/castle square, we took advantage of the free-entry and non-guided access to the castle. This is now college buildings as Durham doesn't seem to be so threatened by the Scots these days. It – like the cathedral – has many Norman aspects including a wonderful Norman arch, so well preserved because it is an interior one. We then walked just to the edge of the town to visit Crook Hall and gardens. Crook Hall is a Grade 1 listed manor house, with a 14th Century hall. It is the family home of the Cassell family who have allowed visitors to roam freely through much of their home. The 4 acres of gardens are lovely, and maintained in the English country style. 

In the evening some of us went to a Thai restaurant whilst others went to Pizza Express. I chose the latter – not being so keen on Thai food and because Madeleine had a voucher for 40% of the total bill, including drinks. So that was alright.

We'd all booked different trains except Madeleine and I who travelled together together and Fred, who was in a different carriage. This gave some of us time on Monday morning to have a good look around and inside the cathedral before getting the shuttle-bus to the station. The cathedral really is magnificent and – to my mind – feels a lot more comfortable than an increasing number of such buildings where you are guided past ticket offices and security guards to ensure that everybody pays the “suggested” entry donations. Durham has boxes, of course, where you can donate as you wish. The staff in the cathedral seemed genuinely friendly and willing to talk about aspects of it. This seems to reflect just about all the people that we met there, a real friendliness and joy of chatting.

Our train journey, including the London stretch, was easy enough. A most enjoyable weekend and thanks to Marian for arranging it and the others for the company.

Paul Ferris, 16th September 2015

Marian, Dave, Fozi, Fred, Jackie, Ken, Madeleine, Paul, Phil

River Thames Walk - The Last Leg

For those of you who have been following our progress, this is, sadly the final episode.  In the manner of all good television shows though, we went out with a 'blinder'!  What looked to be a slightly drizzly day - Saturday 12th September - turned into a lovely sunny one and the wildlife came out en masse for the hardy who were prepared to make the long trek to Slade's Green.

Thames 5 seal 0445artNo sooner had we reached the riverside at Woolwich than Trevor, who now has the Native American name of Seal Spotter, noticed a little fellow on top of one of the old bridge supports.  Poor chap had obviously gone up there on the high tide and got stuck till the next tide was due but he provided a perfect viewing moment or several for the group.  It took a while to drag ourselves away, because although there have been many reports of seals on the river, none of us had ever seen one.

Moving on from the beautiful old buildings of the Woolwich Arsenal and on to the Thamesmead Estate, distinctly different architecturally,  the path here also changes to gravelled rather than paved and becomes wilder.  We passed Tripcock Ness, mooring site of the prison hulks that Dickens' character Magwitch from Great Expectations escaped from.  It is also the scene of the worst ever peacetime disaster, when 600 of 900 passengers on the paddle steamer Princess Alice died after it was hit by a coal steamer.  Many of the passengers were suffocated rather than drowned after swallowing the polluted water from industrial waste and sewage.

Shortly after this, on the opposite bank is the Barking Relief Barrier at the mouth of the River Roding, another monument to engineering in the name of flood protection.  On the south bank we also encountered another protector of London, a small concrete machine gun bunker left over from World War II.  All the while along, thanks to Tim the bird man's expertise, we were able to identify the various birds that were on parade.  They were particularly numerous at Crossness, a Victorian pumping station that still has steam days for devotees of this Victorian art.  Typically decorative as a building, it's quite a contrast to the sewage treatment plant next door that deals with some of London's current waste, as you can tell by the fragrant air!

The views of the other side of the river are of London as an industrial city.  The Dagenham car plant and the Tate and Lyle factory dominate a long stretch of the river, followed suitably by a large green hill, which far from being rural is actually a vast landfill site covered over to disguise it's true nature.  It's a landmark for the townspeople of Erith, our only stop on the route.  Erith has a pier, used by fishermen these days, which makes an excellent spot for a picnic lunch in the sunshine.

Thames 5 group 0448artAfter Erith, we had to move inland for a short while, past some light industrial sites until the yacht club comes into view.  Here we were able to turn back to the river and along a raised earth bank sea wall that took us into the Erith marshes.  Jim gave us a quick run down of some more military history at Crayford Ness, describing the anti aircraft sites and the remains of the bunkers that are still visible in a field behind the sea wall.  At Erith Saltings, the last remaining fragment of salt marsh in south London, Seal Spotter was on target again.  On the edge of the water a group of five black dots on closer inspection turned out to be a group of seals, possibly a mother and kids, playing happily at the waters edge!

As we turned off of the Thames into Dartford Creek, we passed another tidal barrier and headed along a country lane.  The fields provided us with some egrets to watch, gracefully flapping away as they spotted us spotting them.  Not to be outdone, the very last part of the walk took us back to the age of the Normans, with the ruined moated Manor House, Howbury Moat, once home to Bishop Odo of Bayeux, half brother to William the Conqueror.

Slade Green station should have been our way back to Woolwich, but the trains were not running, so we took the bus, passing much of the scenery we had viewed on our way from Woolwich.

If you missed any of the sections of the walk, it has already been the subject of discussion to repeat the walk, this time in reverse order, from Slade Green to Hampton Court.  Watch this space in 2016!

Sue U. 24th September 2015