Recent outings and activities...

Easter trip to Ingleton in the Yorkshire Dales

Ten of us made the trip up to Ingleton in the Yorkshire Dales on a beautiful sunny Good Friday morning. We went by train via East or West coast options and all met up at Bentham to get a taxi (organised in advance by Ian) in two shifts for the final 3 miles to Ingleton. It all worked out beautifully. Nine of us stayed in the YHA which was well located in the centre of the village near to pubs and the fish & chip shop and was very comfortable with a lounge overlooking the park and river and (now disused) viaduct, a really beautiful view. The 10th member had had to book into a B&B due to no more male vacancies at the YHA., but that was close by and he enjoyed the luxury of an ensuite double room with TV.

ingleton efog water 20160326 110755artOn Saturday we all went on the famous Ingleton Waterfalls walk which is a beautiful circular walk following 2 different rivers with waterfalls at both sides of the walk. Obviously with waterfalls go the inevitable steps – there were reputedly 1,000 steps on this walk and although only 4 ½ miles in length it felt like more. The falls were very beautiful and we stopped at an outdoor café half way around for a break. The scenery was stunning, not only the waterfalls themselves (which have been painted by J W Turner) but also the limestone scars along this walk. After the walk some members went for afternoon tea at a café in Ingleton and a couple of us walked up the main road to the White Scar Caves which were certainly worth the visit. The entrance to the caves had been dug out by Cornish tin miners to enable easier access to visitors. There were lovely formations, yet another waterfall and two very low stretches where you had to stoop for quite a distance and a ‘squeeze’ before reaching the final vast chamber with beautiful ‘straws’ and other formations. The walk back was across fields, stepping stones over the river and an old Roman road back into Ingleton.

ingleton efog 1010827artOn Easter Sunday six went off to the Caves (with due warnings about the stoops and squeeze) and four of us went on a 12 mile circular walk up Whernside, which at 736m (or 2,415’ in old money) is the highest of Yorkshire’s Three Peaks. Our nice taxi driver took us up to the famous Ribblehead viaduct for the start of the walk alongside the railway following a good well -made path up to the ridge past a lovely waterfall and stunning scenery. As we neared the top it started to snow… heavily. We had everything weather-wise that day – rain, hail, snow, mist, thunder, lightning and even sunshine. We took a quick summit photo near the trig point and pressed onwards towards Ingleton, following the summit drystone wall and bog trotting when the path deteriorated and became soggy. We finally descended at Twistleton Scar End to where there was a rather unexpected ice cream van on a little track (we gave that a miss). A quick coffee at the Waterfalls café, where we must have looked rather weather-beaten as they spotted we were not the usual waterfalls walkers and told us we would have to pay £6 if we wanted to follow the waterfalls path back to Ingleton… we took the Roman road instead! It was pleasantly sunny now and we dried off nicely on the way back.

On Monday our ‘personal’ taxi driver took us in two shifts back to Bentham Station, where we all travelled back together to London – sounds simple? Think again! Major overhead line damage in the Peterborough area caused by Storm Katie meant that our train, already very delayed, was turned back to go North again, so we jumped onto another train sitting in whatever station it was (I’d lost the will to live by then!) All we knew was that it was allegedly going to King’s Cross. It could have been much worse, we had already been given free drinks and snacks and we even got seats on the next train as well. We eventually arrived at King’s Cross 3 hours late, but at least we got there, at one point we had been discussing the possibility of getting a B&B or something.

All in all it was a very enjoyable and successful trip up to Yorkshire and thanks very much to Ian for organising it.

  Lynne E., 5th April 2016

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Rodings Rally Donation to St. Clare Hospice, Harlow.

Non-members of the Epping Forest Outdoor Group, or those new to the Rodings Rally, may like to read the following information.

St Clare Hospice 2016The Rodings Rally Charity donation handed to St. Clare Hospice

Last November (2015) we held the 59th annual Rodings Rally. The Rally is a type of orienteering contest which takes place once a year in Epping Forest. It starts on Saturday night at High Beach and finishes at 8 a.m. the following morning at High Beach village hall. The rally has two possible routes, one of approximately 10 miles and the other of approximately 5 miles. Competitors have to find tents concealed in the Forest within the 8 hour period.

In addition to the entry fee, competitors pay a 50p contribution towards a charity, which is decided upon at the Group's next AGM. This is made up to £200 by the Epping Forest Outdoor Group, and this year it has been given to the St. Clare Hospice in Harlow.

This year’s Rodings Rally – the 60th – will take place on Saturday 19th - Sunday 20th November. If you would like to enter, make sure that you do not leave your booking to the last minute as we can only take 100 teams and this year we are expecting a big demand.


Peter Gamble, 25th March 2016

Rainham Hall and a Riverside Walk

Duncan organised a visit on Sunday 13th March to Rainham Hall, in Essex.

Rainham Hall is a recently refurbished early 18th Century merchant's house, in the village of Rainham, on the banks of the Ingrebourne River and near to the Thames. It was built in 1729 by Captain John Harle, who – having moved down from South Shields – purchased Rainham Wharf, dredged the Ingrebourne to allow shipping from the Thames and established himself as a ship-owner and trader. The house – so I think we were told – has subsequently had 50 owners, so it couldn't have been very popular.

Rainham Hall exterior 20160313artIn 1949 it was acquired by the National Trust, but has only recently after the refurbishment been open to the public. It's Grade 11* listed, and certainly worth a visit. You can wander round freely, and are encouraged to open doors and cupboards, if they are unlocked. There are also nice grounds – quite formal, but with a quirky corner which has thoughtfully been arranged to give some homes to less obvious wildlife, such as beetles.

Rainham Hall 20160313 114238322artIt's probably worth mentioning that one of the historic outbuildings also acts as a cafeteria, and no surprise that most if not all of EFOG's visitors on the day partook in some form of refreshment, maybe twice.

There were actually quite a number of EFOG visitors - eighteen I think - most arriving by car but at least one sensibly taking the C2C train from West Ham, via Barking. Rainham station is at the limit of the Travelcard Zone, and Oyster Cards are valid, so it's an environmentally friendly way of getting there.

Rainham barges sign 20160313artAfter the aforementioned and inevitable food, 10 of the 18 set out to walk to Purfleet. The day was bright – at least by then because the early morning had been foggy – and when sheltered from a breeze even warm in the sunshine. From Rainham village, to reach the Thames one used to have to trek down Ferry Lane, with marshes to the left and industry to the right, and always with lorries passing. Now, after the C2C (ex LTSR) level crossing crossing, there is a combined foot/cycle path parallel to the road but with reeds rather than roads as an immediate accompaniment. Beyond the A13 flyover, the path turns away from Ferry Lane and into the marshes, and gradually even the A13 loses its impact. Now all the walker has for soundscapes are the gentle song of a dunnock, the trill of a wren or the shrill of a Cetti's Warbler. Oh – and the ding or “whoosh” of a bike.

It feels odd to me – partially brought up with a view across Essex marshes towards a distant river - that this what-should-be-a-similar-view is not. It is not for the reason that the hills ahead aren't in Kent; they are in riverside Essex. The hills are thousands and thousands of tons of dredgings from the Thames and waste from the Town. They are now being landscaped into what will become a park, and already gorse is growing on the slopes and skylarks were singing above them.

Rainham barges 20160313artWe reached the river at the concrete barges. This group of a dozen or so haphazardly arranged craft are abandoned in the mud of the foreshore, some with holes in their sides so that they won't float again. And float they once did (yeh – I know – concrete). These historic barges were built – it is said – to be floated across the Channel to be used in the Normandy Landings, forming what was known as the Mulberry Harbour. There is a debate as to whether this group ever were involved in that, but certainly others that are to be found scattered along the Thames were used in 1953 to try to plug some of the breaches in the sea-wall during the floods.

Rainham sea wall 20160313artThe group got a bit split-up from then on, with a leading group walking on and a trailing group looking at things. There was also an intermediate group but I never found out what they were doing. As integral components of the trailing group, we looked at a few things and listened to a few things. Looking included skylarks, teal, oystercatchers, froghoppers, springtails, ants and spiders. Listening included skylarks and oystercatchers, maybe the “ping” of a springtail – and the waves on the shore.

Rounding Coldharbour Point, the reasoning of its name became more obvious, because we caught a nippy wind that took away a little bit from the previous mostly warm sunshine. Not much, though, and by the time we reached the RSPB reserve's cafeteria near Purfleet, I was certainly warm enough – not quite enough for an ice-cream, but thankful for a cuppa and a cake.

The extra 3/4 mile to Purfleet station was completed in good enough time – even including an abortive stretch of riverside path that didn't have an exit (damn the developers) – that we were all able to purchase our respective single-stop journey tickets back to Rainham station. This, by the way, was with the grateful assistance of a member of the station-staff who fed all our relevant coinage and noteage into the machine in time for everybody to catch the train.

Paul Ferris, 14th March 2016

From Crystal Palace to Balham – the Green Way

Eight of us braved the elements on the 28th February (the weather decided not to be too bad – just teasing spits of rain now and then) to walk to Balham – otherwise known as the 'Gateway To The South'. This was the ninth in the series following the Green London Way, and is as far south as these walks go – we checked the compass - before heading west. As we left Crystal Palace, we had time to admire the Sphinxes, the views from the high terraces and to reflect on the Vicar's Oak junction of boundaries.

Streatham St Joseph 160228artMosaics in St.Joseph De La Salle CollegeOn our way to Gipsy Hill we walked through 'Dulwich Wood', a brave little nature reserve created after bombs in World War Two demolished some of the houses there. It wasn't looking at its best this time of the year but it was easy to see what a treasure it is to local residents now. A short detour took us to a house where the Vicar's Wife – otherwise known as Annie Besant - once lived. A plain place for such an amazing lady. After jettisoning the vicar, she became one of those wonderful Victorian philanthropists, with a particular concern for women and children. She supported the striking Bryant & May Match Girls (pun intended), founded a socialist paper – and then moved to India where she eventually became President of the Indian National Congress.

At Gipsy Hill (no prizes for guessing why it was so called) we heard the story of one of their Queens, Margaret Finch, who died aged 108 and had to be burried in a square coffin. To find out why, ask one of the people on the walk. Bet they remember the tale!

Perhaps our most extensive view (and there were several along the route) was from the summit of the hill in Norwood Park. We could even see Epping Forest (just) but it was a bit breezy there so we took advantage of some seats lower down to have a quick(ish) food and comfort break before heading to Streatham.

A plaque in the grounds of The Mansion, just before Streatham Common, recognised the contributions of Stenton Covington in helping ensure that future generations (like us) would still have green spaces to walk through in London despite the avaricious ambitions of developers. Fortunately, he was not the only person – God bless those commoners at that time who burnt gorse and tore down fences, even when sent to prison for doing so.

Streatham Mansion 160228artIn the grounds of the Mansion, near StreathamBefore we left the common we went round The Rookery where we saw one of the three Streatham Common Wells famed for their healing waters in the 17th and 18th centuries. This one was particularly good for 'diseases of the eye and the expulsion of worms' ..... so now you know where to go. There was a handy café as we left the park – not much choice of food but pleasant – to help us refuel etc before the last leg of the walk.

On leaving the common Fred and some of the others accosted some very strange looking men in skin-tight black clothes with VERY big swords (I lie not). I fled (with Val) to find the path I hadn't been able to find the week before …... fortunately we all survived the encounter – and I found Hill Path. This way down into Streatham (and Russell's Path) was one of those quirky routes I would call alleyways on these walks. Dave confirmed what the book said – that there were some impressive houses beyond the high fences. I was more interested in the fact that I was walking in the steps of Lord John Russell, the Whig Cabinet Minister who drafted the 1832 Reform Bill.

Our last leg was across Tooting Bec Common. Here we heard the story of a dastardly local man, a Mr WJ Thompson, who convinced the other locals that he would definitely not enclose the land, if they didn't oppose his purchase. Of course, he did – but, after having his fences torn down several times and having had an injunction taken out to stop him – he agreed to sell the land to the Metropolitan Board Of Works – making a very nice profit of £14,000 – in 1870. Sound familiar?

On the trial walk I took the long way round to Balham High Road because the ground across looked muddy – this time I decided to attempt a crossing (it looked better) – it soon got muddy - and muddier ….. oops. I still thought the walk was worth it though - thanks to all my EFOG companions. Next step April 10th. From Wandsworth to Wimbledon.

Pam, 4th March 2016

Photos by Fred

A walk in the Eildons

During EFOG's break in the Scottish Borders, staying at the Waverley Castle Hotel near Melrose, whilst the rest of the group went on an organised tour Ken and I – together with friends Jenny and Garry – left the hotel to walk towards the Eildon Hills.

These hills form a prominent backdrop to the south of the small town of Melrose on the River Tweed. They consist of three peaks, and are distinctive enough for the Romans to have named their fort at the base of the hills “Trimontium”.

Leaving the hotel we crossed the road and entered the village of Darnick. It is a pretty enough little place, at first reminding me somewhat of some inland Devon villages, with twisting streets and oddly-placed houses. However, there are some nice detached villas on the road towards Melrose itself, and presumably quite costly ones – especially since the new railway line to Edinburgh will have made commuting a practical consideration. Really, Darnick is part of Melrose, and probably will lose something of its own identity as the town expands. It's a shame that we missed seeing Darnick's oldest building: Darnick Tower, which was built around 1425. This looks to be a bit like one of the border area's Peel towers, which were fortified dwellings somewhat necessary in a region which was somewhat lawless!

Melrose Abbey 20160226Melrose AbbeyThe area doesn't seem very lawless now, in fact it is quiet and the people we met were friendly, which is always a good thing if you are English and in a foreign country. Ken would probably have been OK anyway, as his origins are from this very part of Scotland. Melrose is a nicely situated town, lying in the Tweed valley with pleasant hills nearby – and considering it was February and bright and sunny, apparently an admirable climate. We walked into Melrose proper along a main street with a nice selection of shops, eating places and a pub or two, then turned right towards the Eildons to look at Melrose railway station. This is not the railway station that serves as the junction of the new railway, but a remaining vestige of the old Waverley line route through the Scottish Borders to Edinburgh. It is a Grade A listed building, so ranks very highly.

Returning to the market square – which I noted was not square, but more triangular – we continued down towards the Tweed to view Melrose Abbey, which not surprisingly is also a Grade A listed building. Our path took us alongside the Abbey, then closer to the river as far as the village of Newstead which – according to an information board – is the oldest continually inhabited settlement in Scotland. Crossing under the Melrose bypass and the disused Waverly railway line, we began to make our way slightly uphill towards the Eildons, through gentle sheep-farming country.

Melrose Thomas 20160224Thomas of Erceldoune meets the Fairy QueenOne of the reasons we hadn't headed directly for the hills from Melrose is that I wanted to see the Rhymers Stone. Having read an account by another walker of his being unable to find it, I did not put a lot of effort into searching. As we emerged onto the now defunct old main road – barriered to through-traffic – it was lucky that Jenny looked to the left as we turned right, and spotted a distant road-side artefact. As she pointed it out I knew that it would be the stone, as it appeared to have a nice new tree planted alongside. I suspect that the original one where Thomas the Rhymer met the Fairy Queen back in the 13th century would not have survived. We made our way back to the commemorative stone, and just failed to see the bridge that Thomas had predicted would one day cross the Tweed and be visible from this point.

Nearby was a notice board which gave a fuller story of that chance encounter, and the outcome, with a rather nice pre-Raphaelite-style painting or photograph of the Fairy Queen seducing Thomas from her milk-white steed (or was it a dapple-grey?) by means of flowing hair, pursed lips and a somewhat busy bust-line.

To the hills. Along the road a short way, then along and up and down a farm track, then up a stony path which is possibly a stream at times, and onto the hillside. Already the view looking back was becoming more expansive, and as the route became steeper the predicted bridge came into view. It is not a difficult climb onto the Eildon Hills, but is somewhat strenuous, and underfoot the track is lined with heather and thus gullied in places. There are lots of chance steps, made casually by human feet trying to find the best purchase, but also some slippery slopes and ruts where I found getting a grip or leverage a bit of a problem. I was glad of Jenny's hand on my back a few times as my less-than-muscles and worn-out joints were threatening a downhill trend.

Melrose eildon 20160224A view from the Eildon HillsWe reached the summit of the north hilltop, on which during the Bronze Age was a hill fort but now there is just a cairn. The views are extensive in most directions, with Teviotdale and the Cheviots to the south and south-east, and the Lammermuir Hills to the north. To the north-west, looking across Melrose and beyond Galashiels, are the Moorfoot Hills. We were lucky that – although cold – the weather was clear and sunny.

Descending into the saddle between the north hilltop and the middle hilltop, Jenny and Garry decided that they'd like to reach the summits of the other two hills, whilst Ken and I made our way down. As I'd supposed, in some ways going down was harder that going up, particularly as the way was very slippery. The path was actually less steep and less rugged than the one we'd ascended, but the red earth had just defrosted and so had a combination of icy patches, slidey patches and clingey patches – mostly all at the same time. There were also some wet patches, too. There may have been one dry patch. Coming off the hillside proper, an easy between-the-fields lane led us to a long series of steps which descended into Melrose, where Ken and I searched for a refreshment place. They are not hard to find, but we were concerned about our accompanying mud, and eventually plumped for a small music store/scone and tea shop near the old station. It was a relief to sit down – and even more of a relief to have sat down with having fallen down.

After tea-and-scones we made our way back along pavements (ie the easy way) to the hotel. I was somewhat surprised to find later that we had walked a little over 6 miles, which included 1300 feet of an Eildon hilltop.

Paul Ferris, 29th February 2016