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
A visit to the Geffrye Museum
Japanese Moon Celebration
The Group met this Thursday evening to celibrate the autumn moon, Japanese-style. The Mid-Autumn Festival is named Tsukimi (月見) or Otsukimi (literally means moon-viewing) in Japan. Celebrations of the festival take place on the 15th day of the eight month of the traditional Japanese calendar, which equates to September in the modern Solar calender, so maybe we were just a little early. It was a full moon, though, and we did do the moon-viewing.
We ate sushi, drank green tea, stood and gazed at the full moon and some of us even dressed for the occasion, too. It was all very civilised.
We will be running the 2016 Roding's Rally in a few months time. Some of us will be camped out in Epping Forest waiting for the 200 hundred-plus competitors to find our check points. All very different, but the moon will be just as beautiful and the company just as good.
Cliff Hendon, 19th August 2016
Navigating the Lea
but not by boat...
The sun was already beating down from an almost if not totally cloudless sky as we assembled at Stratford Station for a walk along the River Lea.
EFOG members were joined by three members of the 18-plus group from Goodmayes, two of whom Fozie and I recognised from our Norfolk Broads voyage earlier in the year, when EFOG members joined their holiday. Our next task was to find Ken, who'd said he'd be coming, but hadn't arrived by the 10am start-time. Phone calls failing, we went across the bridge to the Westfield complex to collect Louise, who was waiting for us outside a well-known store. Except that she wasn't there – or at least she wasn't where we were. This time the phone call worked, and she, plus Ken, both waiting at us at the level below, joined the already-eleven of us to get underway.
Of course Westfield's open-air concourses were already busy, so it was a relief to leave that and the crowds heading towards that tower thing in the Q.E. Olympic Park to take a quieter route through the 'wild' area. It isn't really wild – it was all planted in exchange for the natural wilderness that had been in these parts pre-2012 – but it is pretty and full of flowers and insects.
We joined the riverside path – again nothing like what it was (if it was) – but easy-going, and in spite of Hackney and the A12 and other roads passing over and past, increasingly more rural-feeling as we strode northwards. The trees by the river – rather than the navigation – gave us some shelter from a hot sun, but it was still hot. At the Essex Filter Beds near Lea Bridge Road we joined the River Lea Navigation – that part of the Lea that has been converted into a canal for boats, with locks to maintain water levels.
It was still relatively early, so the Princess of Wales pub by the waterside was quiet, and so too was the relatively new west-bank pathway alongside the navigation. But the cyclists numbers were building up and we were always pleased when – particularly from behind – a bell was rung to announce their presence. I'd walked – at least on the Essex bank – this water numerous times in the past, but not recently enough to have experienced the almost continuous blocks of new – and probably expensive – dwelling places. Nor had I experienced the numbers of narrow-boats and other craft moored often on both banks of the river. Things have changed enormously around here.
Our objective was Stonebridge Lock, which is situated between the Lockwood Reservoir on the Walthamstow side and Tottenham Marshes on the Tottenham side. It is about level - northwards - with Highams Park in Chingford. However, it is a fair little walk from Stratford to there, and as we weren't on a major hike it was nice to sit and have a drink and a snack at the little cafe opposite Springfield Marina.
Continuing towards Stonebridge Lock, the moored craft were almost continuous all the way. Many, I noted, were not the prettily-painted and well-kept narrow-boats or fine cruisers that one usually encounters on the canal system, but rather decrepit-looking craft, and sometimes covered in – what to me – appeared to be rubbish. It is evident that many are being used not for the pleasure of living on the canals, or using them, but as a cheap form of accommodation. I suspect that many were unlicensed.
As we approached Stonebridge lock – after an almost 6 mile walk – we could see lock-keeper Jim and club-member Lee waving to us from the lock-bridge.
There is another cafe at the lock, and there we met other club-members, Val and Lynne and Jill - who had cycled there - and there was opportunity for another drink or whatever before Jim demonstrated - courtesy of a conveniently passing-through narrow-boat – the operation of the lock. There are a pair of lock at Stonebridge, one mechanically operated by way of a key enabling button-controlled servers to operate, and the other manually operated in the more traditional manner. The second of these didn't look as if it had been operated for a while, and that may well have been due to the presence – when available – of volunteer lock-keepers such as Jim. He explained that as well as operating the lock, he was also helping to make the lock look more attractive by general tidying-up, renewing paintwork and some gardening.
We spent a while with Jim then, ready to return home, some of the group got on their bikes whilst others walked to a nearby bus-route. The return walking group was thus not quite as numerous as on the outward journey, and – apart from a delay caused by a red-eared terrapin – we made a faster journey back - not stopping for refreshments, either. We did loose a couple more walkers en-route, preferring to take convenient alternative transport rather than return to Stratford, so the final number that endured the almost shadeless hot sun, the increasing cyclists, noisy boats, riverside cafes and other amusements as we got closer to the Olympic Park, was seven. Our most difficult navigation exercise was possibly the final approach to Stratford Station through the crowds in the Q.E. Park, and I certainly felt that I'd done a hefty walk. My head was leaking.
The total distance was 11 miles, and although that was all on surfaced trackway, and an almost imperceptible incline and decline (the river and the navigation does flow downhill, after all) the heat - and at least for me – some of the cyclists, made it feel all of that distance. Good walk though, and thanks to Sue for organising and leading it and to Jim for showing us his lock.
Paul Ferris 16th August 2016