efog-blog

Harwich weekend - 25/26th November

One of our newer members, Ian Greer, suggested a weekend at the 1912 Centre Group Hostel in Harwich, and eleven of us went to stay there on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th November, through to the Sunday.

The hostel at HarwichThe 1912 Hostel at HarwichThe 1912 Centre is a 26 bed hostel in the heart of the Harwich Heritage area, and is located in what used to be the Harwich Fire Station. As there were only eleven of us, and we had booked the whole hostel, we had a fair bit of room or rooms to choose from! It turned out to be - as Ian who had stayed there before had stated - a nice hostel with plenty of provisions including a good kitchen, eating area, lounge area and drying room. It had a good accessible wc/shower room for disabled visitors, too - though most of the sleeping accommodation was upstairs and I'm not sure what the downstairs sleeping accommodation was like for accessibility.

My experience of the weekend began with picking Fred up from his home at Hermon Hill, departing at 2.30pm on the Friday and proceeding up the M11 to join the M25 to pick up the A12. Fred and I arrived at the hostel at something like 6.30 - about two hours later than I'd anticipated. We found Val's car-load there already (that included Duncan and Ann - and I didn't mean to refer to them as a load). They had a much better experience with the roads, Val being sensible enough that when she saw the sign "A12 closed after A130" she continued up to the A120 and went across. I'm not so familiar with that, so stuck with the A12 and it's not-very-informative warning to find a diversion before the A130 - with immense tailbacks! Making a quick decision, I opted not to follow the signs and headed for Maldon, which although tortuous was moving. We arrived tired at Harwich and I a bit fed-up 'cos I thought I hadn't played it right - but we hadn't done too bad because Dave's car came in with Jinan and Ian aboard considerably after ours, having left the same time! Considerably later still, but having left later anyway, came Paul - another new member - with Fosie and Susan B.

So that's the travel - it was much easier getting home.

Followed by the herdThey're behind you!As we'd had a bit of a journey we opted to just get fish and chips in the evening, and eat them in-hostel. Saturday morning was bright and even sunny, and those of us that hadn't ventured out the evening before were perhaps surprised to see how close our accommodation was to the sea shore. The view beyond beached yachts and dinghys and a small sandy beach was of the Stour estuary, with Felixstowe on the other side. We made our own breakfasts in the well-equipped kitchen, then got into three of the cars for the short drive to the village of Little Oakley - the starting place for Duncan's planned walk. Off the road, our first footpath was undefined and across an oil-seed rape field. Things got better after that (apart from being chased-up by a herd of herded cattle), because  the way was quite good underfoot, an easy enough terrain, just a little confusion as to the way ahead, and a varied landscape which encompassed villages, a windmill, oak trees growing in the Stour, Brent Geese and a nice big bell in a cage outside of Wrabness Church which most of us were happy enough to ring. This probably annoys the villagers, but we encountered no shotguns.

At Wrabness, Jinan and I caught a convenient train back to Dovercourt as the nearly six miles was enough for Jinan and for my ankle. We had a coffee and hot chocolate in a coffee and hot chocolate (and pastry)-type establishment, then walked down to the sea shore to promenade back to the hostel. That added another mile-plus to our walk, so we didn't do bad with the distance and got to see some of Harwich's sights on the way.

Our meals on Saturday evening was divided into two groups. One group chose the curry option, whilst the other was in a more general restaraunt. Must say that I enjoyed my more-general meal, even though once again I've blown my proposed vegetarianism. (I have just checked and it is a word)

The promenade near HarwichHarwich PromenadeSunday morning was once again bright, but windy. We followed a town-trail this time, with Val navigating, albeit backwards and re-visiting the likes of the treadmill-crane and the low-lighthouse which some of us had seen one way or other the day or days before. It's quite an interesting town, is Harwich, with a considerable amount of old-style buildings, quaint streets and POI's. I quite liked the Ha'penny Pier area, with a magnificent Great Eastern hotel (now apartments) and two light vessels, including (although only temporarily) the Sandettie - which is theSandettie Light Vessel Automatic which you can hear about on the nightly coastal stations reports. The other was LV18 which had been lying deteriorating on a mooring off Harwich for 12 years prior to being restored and permanently berthed here.  It is open to the public and includes exhibits of pirate radio, and indeed was used as the vessel Caroline in the film The Boat that Rocked. Of course, it wasn't open on that day. It was pretty cold in the strong wind, and those of us who had elected not to visit the Napoleonic defense redoubt decided that we'd return to the hostel and make ourselves some hot drinks before departing for home. We were shortly joined by the others.

It was a good couple of days, and the hostel a useful one for the Group to consider booking in the future.

Paul Ferris, 30th November 2011

A Wanstead walk on Sunday 6th November

The beginning of November saw Epping Forest becoming quite muddy in places, so Ian Greer's proposed cycle ride in the Forest was changed to a walk. Not only would this make it a bit easier on those taking part - and their bikes - but it would do just a tiny bit to help the strain on the forest tracks these days!

The walk started at the Group's "headquarters" the ROVSCO scout hut in Snaresbrook where we meet each Thursday. It wasn't a bad day - a bit overcast and with just a slight chill compared to the fairly-recent mildness - so it was a bit of a surprise that only six people joined Ian for his walk. A bit disappointing, too, as Ian is a new member and it is particularly important, I think, to show support for what new members in particular offer the Group.

EFOG walk on November 6th 2011Just a small group set out on the walkNevertheless, the walk proved a most enjoyable one, albeit over familiar territory to most of us, this offered the opportunity to not be under any stress to complete it before nightfall and the known reward of a good snack stop and facilities everywhere for a meal afterwards, if required!

We walked up Hollybush Hill, with Snaresbrook Crown Court to our right, passing some of the grander houses in the area - one of which has some magnificent palm-like plants in the front garden. This wasn't aimed at being a wildlife walk (which as most of you will know is a bit of an interest of mine), but we did stop to wonder at a very large plane tree in one of the front gardens with a particularly huge and gnarled lower trunk. A bit of research on returning home (with a photo to help) proved it to be not the usual London Plane but an Oriental Plane.

Crossing onto the edge of Leyton Flats, we had a look at the Leyton Stone - that from which Leytonstone derives its name. This a little-noticed milestone set at the junction of Hollybush Hill and New Wanstead. The main pillar is somewhat recent, and one can just make out the destination and distance text, indicating the route to Epping to the left and the route to Abridge to the right. The Leyton StoneExamining the Leyton StoneWhy the stone is important is that this newer marker is set upon a Roman milestone. By the side of the road on the grassy verge were a couple of examples of an attractive pink-flowered plant which neither Duncan or I could identify with certainty. It had something of the look of a mallow, and something of a geranium. Again, photographic evidence later proved it to be Musk Mallow, which is rare in these parts. We then traversed the Green Man roundabout system by means of the well-designed underpass, which gives plenty of room for pedestrians, cyclists and horses (and cattle - if there were any) to pass without conflict. The middle of this system is a rather attractive grassy and broomy area which attracts nesting birds in the Spring and is a colourful area for flowers in the summer. Indeed, there were a surprising number in flower, including Chicory and Tufted Vetch.

We reached Bush Wood beyond the Green Man and discussed the age of the wall which surrounds the burial grounds of the Society of Friends. The grounds used to be the practise area of an archery club, and now contains amongst the other headstones one to Elizabeth Fry, the Quaker prison reformer. She is not actually buried here, but the stone was moved from a somewhat insecure position in Barking.

Crossing from Bush Wood into Reservoir Wood, we could not help looking once again at the Repton Oak - a magnificent multi-stemmed oak planted in the style of Humphrey Repton who devised a method by which a tight bundle of sapling were planted together to give the pillared effect seen here. We also looked at the remnants of the east embankment of the reservoir from which the wood we'd passed through gets it's name. One of the many swans on the Shoulder of Mutton Pond was distinctly aggrieved at not getting any offerings from us after it had exited the pond for that reason, but our reason was that we were making for the kiosk in Wanstead park for refreshments.

The Grotto in Wanstead ParkThe Grotto in Wanstead ParkThen we met Ken, coming the other way. He'd got to our meeting point at 10am rather than 11, whether because of all the talk of double summer-time or for whstever reason I don't know - but he'd done his part of the walk, so left us there.

As usual, the kiosk facility in the Park got us refreshed and underway again, together with Wren Group member Kathy, who'd come over to take photographs of a Wren Group practical work task nearby. We also saw our Chairman Jim at the kiosk - evidently having decided that the physical attractions of bramble-bashing were more relevant to his day than a walk in the park. Things do clash - and really, as the site that was being worked on is very much "my patch", I should have been there too.

We walked around the Ornamental Waters as far as the Grotto. This has been stabilised over the last year, so is now much more visible than it had been. Ian, being an Epping Forest Keeper, was able to let us in to the grounds of the Grotto - with appropriate warnings on care and safety - so we had a very privileged access to these historic remains. We then visited another significant building in Wanstead Park - the Temple.The watchman's box in WansteadIan acting as grave-watcher This is open to the public at weekends, and at present has an exhibition on astronomy on its ground floor. Of course, being EFOG, we got as much pleasure out of playing with the old-style wooden toys, hats and hair-pieces as looking at anything historic or of interest.

But, making our way back towards Wanstead Station, we did look at the magnificient Georgian St. Mary's Church, where we saw the floor of the much older previous church in the grounds, as well as the watchman's shelter - a somewhat sentry-box-like structure from which a watchman would keep an eye out for grave-robbers. Our very final historic-interest object was right at the finish, by Wanstead Station, and is a pillar box. It is a very rare example of it's type, though it doesn't perhaps look much different from the norm. Have a look if you don't know it, and see if you can decide what is so unusual.

A few of us decide on a meal (decent roast for me) in the George, after - of course - we had thanked Ian for such a good and interesting 5.5 mile walk.

 Paul Ferris, 8th November 2011

On the Waterfront - two visits to the Regent's Canal

Taking advantage of some very agreeable autumn weather, EFOG members decided to hit the waterways of London for some history and a nice walk. On 25th September, two groups descended on to the London Canal Museum’s premises for some history and, as it turned out, a bit of unexpected culture!

The museum is housed in an old ice house sited at Battlebridge Basin on the Regent’s canal, so as well as a history of the canals of Britain, the lives of the canal boat people and their particular traditions, the museum also has a brief history of the ice trade and its various customers. Upstairs there is a lot more information about the power tools of the canals – horses and locks and how they worked. The day we visited there was also a very interesting exhibition on the history of the River Lea – our ‘home’ river so to speak!

islington_tunnel

Many of the Efoggers also took the opportunity to show of their artistic skills and add to a tableau of ideas about how the canals would be used in the future. We were in good company, as the event had been started with a drawing from Quentin Blake, the famous illustrator. Various themes developed from bicycle-powered steamboats, solar powered canals boats and even a return to the humble paddle and canoe.

While one group looked around the first half of the party boarded the Tarporley for a trip downstream through the Islington tunnel. Opened in 1820, as our guide explained, the tunnel is ¾ of a mile long and was originally operated by ‘legging’ the boat through the tunnel, there being no towpath for the horses to use. There was then an upgrade to the use of a steam tug to pull several boats at a time, which lasted until 1926. Canal boats nowadays though have engine power. Once through the tunnel we turned in the basin above the lower lock and came back again ready for the next group to board.

 

As we enjoyed the trip so much, a walk was planned of the northern section - the upper seven miles of the Regents Canal, for October 15th. Once again we were very lucky with the weather and 14 members of the group set off up the Mile End Road to pick up the towpath. Unbeknownst to us however, group member number 15 missed us and somehow joined the towpath slightly ahead of the group. She very determinedly completed the whole journey in 3 ½ hours, way ahead of the rest of us!

Before we reached the canal towpath, Paul Ferris gave us a very nice explanation of the Green Bridge,which provides a continuous green route for cyclists and pedestrians between the parklands either side of the Mile End Road, and how this broad green strip linking industrial Limehouse to Victoria Park was originally planned for 18th century workers to provide a relief and a lung from the conditions in which they lived and worked. We reached the towpath, and after admiring a very large heron, we set off. Our first stop was a canal-side café near Hoxton, which we providently came upon after having been forced to detour off the canal because construction work had closed the towpath. The tunnel at Islington also forces a detour, as there is no towpath, so the route took us through Islington’s Chapel Market - following the blue canal-wave dots on the pavement - and past a wedding at the environmental church. We then waved to the canal museum’s Battlebridge Basin on our way to lunch at Camden Lock. The market was in full swing and slowed matters on the towpath quite a bit, but it did prove to be the gateway to the peaceful realms of Regents Park and a sighting of some Jackals in London Zoo. From here it was a straightforward walk up to the next tunnel where we went overland again to link up with the towpath at Little Venice. The day ended with a nice tea stop at the canal boat café and a nap for Katy the EFOG dog!

Sue U., 28 October 2011

Saturday 24 September - EFOG Fungi Hunt

A mild and sunny autumn morning saw a group of us following local naturalist Tricia Moxey into Bury Wood (part of Epping Forest) to look for fungi - a follow-up to her recent Thursday night talk at EFOG.

EFOG Fungi recognitionExamining some parasols - found felled!Skirting the edge of the wood at the start, we admired the dark blue sloes on the blackthorn and some late butterflies as well as a newly-arrived species of the bright yellow-flowered ragwort  - Narrow-leaved Ragwort. Then we were in the wood where, despite the dry weather, Paul quickly found our first fungus beside a hornbeam tree.  We were soon spotting them with ease:  hidden singly or grouped in the long grass, growing in a troop on tree stumps and fallen logs, and even high up on still living trees.  There were puff balls, amethyst deceiver, parasol and bracket fungi, to name just a few - mainly small but in a wide variety of colours and textures.

The picking of fungi is not allowed in Epping Forerst, but we were happy to just look and marvel, leaving them intact for the benefit of the wildlife.  Not only do many fungi enjoy a symbiotic relationship with their chosen tree species, but they also benefit many wild creatures.  Indeed we learnt that at some times of the year fungi are the principal food source for the deer of Epping Forest. However, it is usually possible to find some that have been half-eaten by animals or simply knocked over, so we were able to examine these more closely.

It turned out to be a very enjoyable morning from which we all came back a little more knowledgeable than before.  Many thanks Tricia!

Susan B., October 2011

 

As was mentioned above, we looked at a few aspects of wildlife other than fungi. The Narrow-leaved Ragwort supplements the two other common species of ragwort in the area: Common Ragwort, which is native and Oxford Ragwort which originates from the slopes of Mount Etna. The "new" one comes from southern Africa, and in 1997 was known only from one site in Kent. We also looked at some duckweed whilst Tricia was telling us about the horse-trough by Bury Wood! The butterflies that we saw were Meadow Brown, Small Copper, Red Admiral and Speckled Wood.

Paul Ferris, October 2011

Tricia has sent us a list of the fungi which we found:

List of fungi noticed during EFOG walk on 24 September 2011 Bury Wood Chingford. These are listed in order of observation.

 

English name

Latin name

Comments

Oak mildew

Erysiphe alphitoides

White powdery covering on oak leaves – noticed, but not mentioned to walkers

Brown Roll Rim

Paxillus involutus

Under Hornbeam tree – symbiotic fungus – not edible

Puff ball

Lycoperdon pyriforme

Small puff balls scattered on the ground

Ochre Brittle Gill

Russula ochruleuca

Symbiotic toadstools associated with broad leaved trees

Purple Brittle Gill

Russula atropurpurea

ditto

Amethyst Deceiver

Laccaria amethystina

Small lilac coloured edible toadstool in leaf litter

Fairy Bonnet

Mycena inclinata

Clustered on dead wood – slightly woolly at base of stipe

Candle Snuff

Xylaria hypoxylon

Black fingers sticking up on dead wood

Sulphur Tuft

Hypholoma fasciculare

Yellow troops of toadstools on rotting wood

Blushing Bracket

Daedaleopsis confragosa

Bracket on dead wood which turns pink when squashed

Orange Moss Cap

Rickenella fibula

Very small orange toadstool amongst moss on rotting log

Zoned Polypore

Trametes versicolor

Small overlapping brackets on dead wood with concentric rings of different colours

Deceiver

Lacaria laccata

Small brown toadstool in leaf litter

Puff Ball

Lycoperdon perlatum

On rotting wood, white at first covered with warts which fall off as it matures

Charcoal Brittle Gill

Russula cyanoxantha

Dark grey

Big Jim Spectacular Rustgill

Gymnopilus junonius

Parasitic tufted fungus on roots of broadleaved trees – large orange toadstools

Shaggy Bracket

Inonotus hispidus

Large bracket on Ash tree , which causes internal decay in trunk

 

There were probably many more to be found, but I guess that was sufficient to the session! We could have spent longer searching, but the dry conditions not to mention the general scuffing of the ground does make finding any toadstools a bit of a challenge!

In addition we looked at a couple of lichens, which I think were Hypogymnia physodes clustered on twig and the other more dangly foliose one was Evernia prunastri

Tricia Moxey, October 2011

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EFOG members vist the 2011 Edinburgh Festival

Train-wise Efoggies met at Kings Cross Station for our trip to Edinburgh to sample the delights of the annual festival. Canny Ken Kennedy had arranged 1st Class tickets to Edinburgh with breakfast included both ways for £50 each; to say we all enjoyed this level of service was an understatement...

Upon arrival we made our way to university student accommodation which included a kitchen and common room. We spent Friday exploring the city and checking out what was on offer. There was a great deal as it turned out - the choice of shows comedy, theatre, and music was bewildering. The city was packed with revellers and our evening meal - a curry - took some finding: all restaurants were full.

A bright sunny Saturday saw the gang delving into the National Museum of Scotland, followed by an impressive Shakespeare (sort of) production which we all enjoyed. More comedy shows followed, both on the free fringe - which were a trifle bizarre - and paid-for shows which were on a professional level.

Lovely day on Sunday and we climbed to Arthurs' Seat and listened to a flute-player at the summit. After an excellent brunch we hit the free fringe again for more comedy followed by “NewsRevue”, a show depicting the news from this year in the form of comic sketch's, dancing, and amusing songs. My favourite was the “World of One”, with the Queen giving dearest Kate a bit of a drubbing! Din-dins was a Weatherspoon pub with the rudest waitress on the planet (ask Ken, who had the temerity to ask her to order some food!) Nevertheless, we enjoyed some tasty pub-grub before we became night owls and proceeded to a nearby comedy club to be entertained by Paul Sinha, an ex-junior doctor and lately – a stand-up comedian. His material was drawn heavily on his sexuality, ethnicity, and much-bullied school days. Ho hum.

Another fine day on Monday (I couldn't believe it was Scotland!) saw us boarding the train back to London to be plied with endless refreshments including wine for a restful return home.

As Arnie would say, "I'll be back".

Dave T.