Thames Chase - a bat talk and a stroll

The Sun rose, as it has been doing for a very long time – and thus not unexpectedly – helping to modify a day which, because of the time of year and atmospheric conditions, was almost bound to be a warm one. And it already was, when Trevor, Fred and myself met Ann at Goodmayes station on Saturday 20th April, for a relatively short journey to the Thames Chase Forest Visitor Centre, near Upminster.

Well, it is a relatively short journey if, as we were, one is travelling in a car, but it would have felt a considerably longer one if one had not a car and was required to visit by public transport. There is probably a slightly closer bus-stop, but even then it would have been a long foot-haul up Pikes Lane to the visitor centre. That might well be my one reservation for a future no-car visit, because the centre really is a nice place to be Since my long-time-ago visit only once before, in addition to the farmhouse and lovely barn that were present then, a new visitor centre has been added, providing educational facilities, toilets, a good-value-for money cafe with indoor and outdoor seating, things to buy and, separately, even bicycles for hire.

Ann had arranged our visit primarily to attend a talk on bats by Ella, a member of the Essex Bat Group, which gave us a good introduction to bats as creatures, their life-styles and the work done by the bat group in trying to provide for these little animals, such as erecting bat-boxes, helping bats that have been injured, and encouraging a public interest in the creatures. We had close up looks at two of Ella’s Pipistelles, which she had provided with a home as they could not fly.

Following the talk, we retired to the cafe for lunch, after which we set off on a walk around a small part of the Thames Chase near to the visitor centre. Thames Chase is a community forest comprising some 40 square miles located in 47 sites in London and Essex. Ann volunteers in the visitor centre, and has led EFOG on a couple of walks around other parts of the area in the past.

efog thames chase 190420 1327cThis walk followed part of that designated as Walk 1 in the series of leaflets obtainable at the visitor centre. It was a warm and sunny day, and we were content to stroll along well made paths, looking at some of the information boards on the way, and casually observing and listening to the birds, butterflies and other creatures and plants that we passed, or passed us. There are a number of constructions on the route that we followed, probably intended primarily for children, but quite accessible to adults too, if they are so inclined or fit enough. The first was a somewhat tent-like building, made of wood and with climbing-holds and foot-rests in convenient places on the outside to allow access to circular holes which provided entry into the interior. Trevor and Lynne made some use of these whilst the rest of us sat in the sunshine.

efog thames chase 190420 1321cA very slight diversion off the main track led us to a woodland seating area, wooden blocks and logs variously and simply shaped to provide seating before a slightly more elaborate, almost throne-like seat. This was presumably for the story-teller to sit in, so we had a go at that and the group was treated to that wonderful story of the rabbit fu-fu (or fufu, or whatever), which some of the EFOG group may have heard before. After all, it was around Easter-time, so rabbits are in season. (see my seasonal poem below)

Another construction later on in our stroll is named “The Trusty Oak”, which although sounding a biy like a pub is actually a tower-like structure, wooden of course, and vaguely massively oak-shaped, which again provided climbing possibilities for our little group. Last of these buildings was the “Discovery Hut”, with walkways and wooden plaques showing various leaves and common birds that may be found in the area. Educational, and fun, too.

We made our way back to the Forest Centre cafeteria for tea, coffee, ice cream and the like before leaving after a very pleasant day.

Thank you Ann, and Lynne, Trevor and Fred, for a nice day out.

Paul Ferris, 24th April 2019

Seasonal Poem

Happy Easter;

Eat a bunny...

People say “Aaaah!”,

but I think it’s funny.

And they taste nice.

(Paul Ferris)