A walk from Chinatown to the outer reaches of the Home Galaxy, 6th February 2011
After the Copped Hall evening-walk-and supper the night before, 7am Sunday was bit of a hardship for me, but at least it wasn't as dark.
It was also a bit of a numbers game, because tickets had been booked for a show at Greenwich, and some were walking there (almost) from Westferry near the Isle of Dogs, and some were meeting us at the show-house.
The initial some were 13, and essentially by means of two separate DLR trains we arrived at Westferry (originally known as Chinatown) to depart therefrom on Susan B.'s Sunday Walk. Therefrom isn't a word and is thus underlined in red on my word processor, but I don't care.It was a breezy walk, too – enhanced by the proximity to the Thames; indeed, the River was a major player in this walk. One of our first details of note was a reproduction gate in a purposeless wall beyond which was dock that served the lime house from which the area took its name. You can't actually use the gate – it's a bit like a film set where the camera crew just go round the edge of the scenery whilst the actors go through the door; in this case, we were the film crew. Still – it all looks quite quaint, with the remains of warehouses alongside the dock and mud in it.
Holding onto our hats, (some of us had hats) we walked along the Thames Path until. Inevitably - as is the way with the Thames Path - we were detoured inland, in this case towards number One Canada Square (Canary Wharf Tower - 770ft), which enabled us to look at some traffic lights. If I'd been driving I wouldn't have known what to do; apparently they're some sort of sculptured tourist attraction. Walking away from the river here, though – depending on your take on these things – is something of an experience. The range of architecture and building styles (if these can be separated?) is quite astounding. From the Canary Wharf area developments based on New York through to Victorian terraced housing – and pubs, fire-stations and chapels – these intermingle and change from street to street and view to view. Particularly outstanding, perhaps, was the lovely Italianate chapel, once a Presbyterian Church, now a social centre and café. The last aspect of present usage encouraged a few of our number to grab a hot drink.
We regained the Thames soon after, to view the original timber balks that formed the slipway down which Brunel's ship “The Great Eastern” was launched. I find it strange that a ship was named after a railway company, and am somewhat dubious about the ship having been launched here – sideways or otherwise – because there is a road in the way. Still, to press on – adjacent to the launch site there is the remains of Burrell's Wharf, where the ship was built (I suppose this does add some credence to it). I don't mean remains in the sense of dereliction, because as is common here, new – and expensive – housing has been built and sometimes adapted from older building. The glory of the old here were the somewhat Italianate Gantry House and Mast House buildings and a magnificent octagonal chimney stack.
The sign says that the island's oldest building is the Ferry House Pub in Ferry Street, of 1722 - but there are a couple of mysteries here. Firstly, it doesn't look like something built in 1722 and secondly - even it it were - how comes the other claim that it served the likes of Samuel Pepys when he died in 1703? There is an odd time anomaly here, perhaps something to do with Greenwich being the other side of the river. Nearby is Johnson's Draw Dock which still gives valuable and easy access to the river itself. Some of us took advantage of this by having a paddle until a police launch arrived and Lynne frightened me by saying it was all my fault. The ferry boat of course no longer plies across to Greenwich, and instead a foot tunnel doesn't at present provide an alternative, so we resorted to a one-stop trip across on the DLR. The DLR, by the way, is a very heavily used toy train.
Greenwich is south of the river, so by its very nature is weird. It is quite interesting, though, and still does everything it can to maintain its maritime heritage. It's exactly like the Isle of Dogs in that way, except that on the Isle of Dogs it's housing and docks and in Greenwich it is naval and shops. Greenwich is also uphill, whereas the Island doesn't have any (except at the mudchutes – and they are artificial). Oh – and they also do Time here, as well.
With the latter aspect of our journey probably completely out of mind for most of us - except for what time the show was - we proceeded uphill to the observatory complex, and didn't waste any time doing the usual east-west thing. We were also too early for the show, so we separated into three or more sub-groups for toilets, inside snacks and outside snacks. I chose the outside snack option, complete with starlings. These weren't part of the show but were doing a busking act: singing lustily to encourage the offerings of a sandwich or a cuppa.
At last the show-time came; we took our seats – preferably near the back as Susan advised - and lay back to enjoy the performance. I was awake through most of it, but that was probably because other members of the group were snoring - and I enjoyed it immensely. We were taken on a journey from Greenwich beyond one of the outer arms of a somewhat insignificant spiral galaxy to a point in space (and time?) where we could view not only our galaxy but quite a few others. On the way we were shown how “the ancients” had devised names for apparent clusters and groupings of stars that really have nothing to do with each other at all (except on a somewhat universal level). The ancients must have had either really very different eye-sights from me, or were vastly more artistic in their interpretations, because – apart from perhaps three exceptions – none of the things like bears, crabs, teapots and umbrellas looked anything like any of those things. Blimey – if a group of stars doesn't even look like an umbrella...!
Anyway – mustn't knock it – nobody came out saying they didn't enjoy the show and it was nice and warm and comfortable and interesting. It wasn't nice and warm and comfortable outside, though. I forgot to mention – and won't play about with moving the paragraphs around – that we had by this time picked up a few more EFOG'ers who had met us at Greenwich, so our numbers had increased by four.
The numbers were not to last long, because people began disappearing into various watering-holes (or noodle-bars), or churches – and one even mysteriously disappeared on visit to a ticket-office! There were horses to be fed and homes to go to, so trains and people came and went, and numbers dropped and then picked up again at Stratford where reunions were made with the lost. Those were soon broken with the arrival of an Epping train, and I was left alone amongst the delayed crowds on Stratford Station until Louise and Ian turned up. The last I saw of Susan's Excellent Sunday EFOG Walk were two of our members heading for Ilford.
Paul Ferris, 6th February 2011
Evening Walk and Fish and Chips at Copped Hall, 5th February 2011
We met at 6 p.m. at Copped Hall for one of the EFOG favourites - a short walk in the dark (a couple of miles or so), finishing with fish and chips in Copped Hall. Peter usually leads these walks. Unfortunately, due to muscle damage in his leg, he was unable to lead it. It was down to me to keep the tradition of our Copped Hall walk going!
Peter and I had worked out the route, trying to avoid what we knew were the most muddy sections of the footpaths round there, and had managed to check some of it out that morning (mostly going from A to B by car because of Peter’s injury). Would I manage to get the Group round without getting lost? Of course - I’m an optimist (although not when it comes to map-reading, and I don’t have much sense of direction!!). I do know the area quite well, so I decided I was confident! It actually looks very different in the dark, though, so I’m not sure how confident I really felt!
Eighteen EFOG and three dogs (Katie, Eddie and Serena) left Copped Hall, where Duncan, Peter, Cliff and David P. were to stay and light a fire for our return. The first part of the walk went quite well, through the forest and field from the entrance gates of Copped Hall, and we didn’t have any problems on the very small section of road we had to go along at Upshire. This also avoided the smelly dead deer Peter and I found near there that morning! Along the wide grass verge we suddenly ended up in quite a bog! I shouted “mind the mud”, but heard the screams behind me as they ended up in it! The intrepid walkers continued, and as they all love to chat, hadn’t noticed I had cut diagonally across a field and they were walking round the edge! I kept an eye on them to see how long it would take them to notice I wasn’t in front of them, and then gathered them all together again. Herding sheep is probably easier!
All was well until we got to the section behind Copped Hall, some of which is private. Where was the footpath sign? We decided to carry on down the road, regardless of the private sign, until we got to another section which was obviously the route we shouldn’t take. I knew the footpath was in the adjacent field - somewhere!! In the dark it was difficult to find, but I knew the direction we had to go, so we plodded on regardless! Over the style at the other side, and a short walk up the small road which leads back to Copped Hall. Luckily, everyone avoided falling in the pond at the side of the road! Relief - I had got everyone back in once piece! This was probably thanks to Jim who was back-marker to make sure we didn’t lose anyone in the dark.
A lovely fire and tea and coffee greeted us in Copped Hall when we got back, and Peter and Parviz went for the fish and chips, which always tastes better at Copped Hall than at home!
Another good outing with EFOG, and a first for me leading, and not losing my way on the walk!!
Stratford to Waterloo Riverside Walk, 23 January 2011
Just got in from Jim's quickly-configured 6-78 (sic) mile walk along the channels and navigations of Stratford and Bow, and the great river of London.
When I say I've just got in, in fact now I've been in about an hour, having slated my aching ankle on gin-and-coke (yes, I know – something to do with tonic – but try it before you knock it, and if you don't like, don't bother to drink it or knock it). I've also slated my hunger – which wasn't extreme – with a cottage pie.
So – now for the walk. My day started with an approach to Manor Park Station, where waiting at the bus stop en-route for Beckton was a long-time-back walking companion. Don't remember her name, but we exchanged the day's walk details briefly, and only after I'd got to the platform for my train thought I ought to mention EFOG to her. She'd probably appreciate that, so I went back, told her about it, but in the short minutes available was unable to write down the details. She no-web-access, me no-business-card.
Stratford had eventually 10 people assembled for set-off, with one more catching us up after a few minutes.
We found our way off the High Street onto the paved footpath towards Three Mills, usefully signposted as things change so much so quickly hereabouts. For those (few) interested I mentioned that a mediaeval bridge used to be visible here, where the Channelsea River passed under the main road from London. This would have been one of the very early “Bow” bridges – but reconstruction work at the very least covered this in, and more probably destroyed it. The pathway is still being developed, but actually runs along the course of the Channelsea. We also passed an early sign of Spring in the form of bright hazel-catkins.
The Channelsea was one of many channels that provided routes through what once had been Stratford Marsh, a wild area which effectively divided the County of Middlesex from the County of Essex. We tend to forget that places like Stratford, Forest Gate – even Wanstead – were very much part of Essex. These channels – more recently called the Bow Back Rivers – are a complex of navigable, un-navigable, overgrown and overbuilt waterways.
Our route chose to take us past a row of very impressive Victorian terraced houses with lovely chimneys, set below the Northern Outfall Sewer and adjacent to the “Cathedral of Sewage” – one of the grandest buildings in London. The whole - the Cathedral and the N.O.S. - was designed by the engineer Joseph Bazalgette to enable sewage from a vast area of London north of the Thames to be collected and dealt with. His idea was that all cesspits should be closed and that house drains should connect to sewers and empty into the Thames downstream of London. The outcome was that the incidents of diseases such as cholera was drastically reduced, and the foundations laid for our present sewage system. From an outdoor point of view, his plan also included that the huge sewage pipes that led to the Thames in the vicinity of Hackney, Stratford and Beckton should be covered over with a walkway to provide a promenade in the open air for the people that lived in the poor and heavily polluted areas that the east of London had become. That walkway – and cycleway – is now known as the Greenway – and is very much that.
Soon we picked up another of the channels – one which as an urchin I was told crocodiles lived in. Now we found that it was a haven for the narrow-boats that had been evicted from their green moorings within the Back-Rivers to make way for big games. Nearby are the two remaining mills of the Three Mills area – House Mill and Clock Mill. Although Clock Mill is the more spectacular of the two, with it's “Oast House” cones, this is listed as a Grade 11 building, whilst House Mill is Grade 1– for it is is one of the most important buildings of the early industrial revolution. This is an impressive grading. Less obvious – except for painful ankles, that is – the very cobbles over which you walk here are Grade 11 listed!
Our walk then took us between two waterways: on the left is the deep channel of the tidal Lea – the waters of which powered the mills – and on the right the gentle hardly-flow of the Lea Navigation. This is the waterway which at one time carried wood one way and paper the other between London and Hertford, on barges towed by steam tugs. Not a narrow-canal, this, but a once-busy, wide and deep water. Bow-locks is the junction of the tidal and the non-tidal navigations, and a great tide-lock still enables passage between the two. At present, the tidal Lea down to the Thames is not accessible for pedestrians, but branching off to the left, the Limehouse Cut now is. I say now is, because now there is a platform walkway passing under the wide road that is the Blackwall Tunnel Approach from Hackney (if you listen to traffic reports, Gillender Street figures highly!). There never was a towpath under here, so even were it possible to walk the Limehouse Cut, to get between it and Bow Locks was somewhat inhibited by the approach-road. The walkway shows what can be done to accommodate walkers, and cyclists.
In my early-walking-years explorations of the London canal systems, I once managed to access the cut from Limehouse Basin. This was before it was opened up to pedestrians, and I had to do this by a long jump down from a hole-in-the-fence to the overgrown towpath. There was no way back up again, so I walked the whole stretch to Bow-locks end in the hope I wouldn't be stranded for ever there. A locked gate was my greeting at Bromley-by-Bow, but I managed to climb over a wall, and hence survived. It is now a popular strolling and cycling route.
We missed some of the impressive and historic buildings around Limehouse, and the Basin itself, but went directly to the Thames Path. From the canals to the Thames is a sudden jump in scale, and certainly Pam would not believe that the wide waterway before us was the Ching Brook. But the Thames Path is also a bit of a lie, because much of it isn't and that that is is often locked to protect the inhabitants of the apartments that line the river. This is obviously vital, for here was the notorious Ratcliff Highway – easily the most most violent and murderous region in London. Here poor dwellings of dock-workers and Thames boatmen were situated just streets away from the elegant houses of merchants and sea-captains – and the press-gangs recruited some of their finest seafarers. Many of these elegant houses, and some of the poorer terraces, still remain just off the Highway or Wapping High Street, along which we continued. Here too is the remains of one of Hawksmoor's great churches: St. Georges in the East. We'd passed another at Limehouse: St Anne's. These are two of just twelve in London, and it is Hawksmoor's design that gives us our traditional “wedding cake” design.
By this time, there seemed to be a trend in the walk to reach toilet facilities, so the cobbles were traversed at a sprightly pace until we reached St. Katherine's Dock. Along Wapping High Street are two very well known historic pubs, the Prospect of Whitby and the Town of Ramsgate. They may well have been given their names to encourage seamen on the coastal trade route from the north of England and fishermen from Ramsgate coming into London to feel a contact with home; a bit of clever early marketing. An interesting collection of boats are berthed at St. Katherine's Dock, with millionaire cruisers and yachts cheek-by-bow (or whatever the maritime expression may be) with sailing-barges out of Maldon and Harwich. Also here is a pub which has a quirky history. The Dickens Inn looks like some modern re-creation of something traditional, but is actually something traditional re-created. In 1972 a warehouse was being demolished when within its brickwork was discovered an 18th Century timber building. This was cleaned-up, and the old frame was moved on rollers to its present position and re-established as a modern version of an ale-house. Re-opened in 1976, it is already a listed building.
Half the group had a coffee/hot chocolate break and lunch whilst the other went off to foray for toilets. They were gone a long time, and on returning, they required lunch whilst others required a toilet break. So there was another break, near to the Tower which – for those who didn't require the loo, turned out to be somewhat chilly.
We reached the south bank of the Thames by way of Tower Bridge and again picked up pace along the easy riverside walk. Considering what has been done by means of the platform walkway at Bromley-by-Bow, it is a shame that some means could not be found to at least allow access under London Bridge rather than up the stairs and across the busy road to pass behind Southwark Cathedral. The Thames walk still has a lot of off-Thames parts to it, even though there may have been opportunities when more recent developments were and are undertaken. Still, it's vastly different to what it was.
Suddenly we were at Waterloo Bridge, and Jim told us that was it and I went back on the Jubilee Line from Waterloo Station with Fred and Ann.
Now, my aching is telling me we did 6.5 miles, but working it out more accurately I find that it was actually 7.45 miles.
(Sorry - didn't take any pics. but have put some archive ones in to brighten things up - all views we may have had)
Paul Ferris, 23 January 2011
First taste of the Rodings Rally
Before the rally my feelings about volunteering to be a check point checker went up and down; one moment congratulating myself on taking on a new challenge and assuring myself it must be fun – otherwise why would people do it more than once - the next, letting the nagging voice of panicked reality persuade me I must be mad. My friend Sofia might be right – don't sleep anywhere without a socket, especially in winter!
The week of the 2010 rally brought new concerns. The weather forecast was dire. Not rain this year, but snow threatened - skyfull's of it, even in London – and the temperature was dipping drastically. I kept remembering my Dad telling me how I had become a Southern Softie since moving down here, and thinking maybe he was right.
However, I had seen where Eileen and I would be camping. There were lots of trees to protect from the elements and even soft looking bracken – perhaps a bed for the tent? The leaves were thick on the ground and we were really very near the road and the site had a good few night time loo options. Experienced EFOGers had persuaded me that I wouldn't be bored (I still took reading and writing stuff just in case) because the Number 5 check point would be busy.
The day began very well. I found the hall relatively easily (only one phone call to Peter – and that was just to check) and had a pleasant time helping out a bit, but mainly chatting with other EFOG folk. I met Bill and Inger for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed the meal they cooked. The choice of desserts was incredible, the atmosphere jolly.
I discovered that over a hundred competitors were expected but I doubted they would all turn up – it was freezing outside! I was wrong -more than 200 took part and most, it seemed, enjoyed it.
Paul had brought a choice of under bedding and I borrowed the biggest pack (the best for warmth). Thank goodness we had trusty EFOG sherpas to help us trek to the tent site and put it up in the dark. I had made a flask of green tea before I went, made sure I had a hat or two, scarves, nibbles and two pair of warm socks. I even had time to make a hot water bottle for my feet. I wasn't the only one – so did Val and Prue I was told.
Finding the check point was more difficult than expected. How many metres in was easy – the directions to follow weren't- but thanks to Fred's experience and persistence ( I think I would have given up and put the tent down before we found the right spot) we eventually got there.
Thus began one of the toughest nights of my life! It was getting late so we had to hurry to put up the tent. The spot would have been great if we had remembered that our heads would be at the open end. That slight slope down made all the difference to me. Poor Eileen had to put up with my constant moving around, wriggling and experiments (it seemed like all night) trying to raise my head above my feet to stop my head aching and my neck cricking.
I was amazed how noisy the forest was. A few times (I must have dozed now and then despite my conviction that I didn't sleep a wink) I thought I was taking a nap in a motorway service station or even an airport. Do the planes fly lower at night? Perhaps they were UFOs? Where was the mystic silence of a forest, the soft call of owls, the gentle snuffling of forest creatures around the tent? I had been warned, but was still surprised.
And the competitors! They did come. We had at least 25 hands thrust through the cold draughty gap – some joking, a few a little despairing. “You've missed check point 2 and 3,” said Eileen to one, scoring through their board. “I know,” replied the voice in a tone that made me think, I bet this is far as they go – and it wasn't even midnight. Most though seemed eager to continue. None suggested swapping places.
What I want to know is how they knew how to time their visits just at that point when I thought I might finally drop off to sleep for a few minutes. I began to understand the torture of sleep deprivation. At times I wanted to shine my torch to help them find us (and then go away). I hope that John, Robert, Vicky and other “lost” competitors were found by their team mates whose shouts and torch beams pierced the starry night sky looking for them.
Most of the time (on what was the coldest Rodings Night ever) I was warm as long as I retrieved my ever slipping hat and accepted that I should keep my head inside the sleeping bag (I will get a balaclava next time, Steve) but eventually the least efficient circulatory part of my anatomy began to feel the cold – more wriggling to try and wrap my additional blanket around my bum. In vain.
My top half and feet were so warm in comparison that I dreamed of asking my sister in Ireland to make me a pair of double fleece lined (ideally Jack Wolfskin) knickers, long ones, down to the knees! Very sexy!
Our last caller came some time after 5 am and I think I went to sleep at last for a bit – until Eileen shouted me awake at almost 8am and we packed up in a rush. But by then the magic had begun to seep back into my bones. The forest seemed quieter, breathing deeply in the what seemed relatively mild and still morning air. The earthy smell from the leaf carpet was homely, the surrounding trees seemed welcoming and beneficent. Even the ice we shook off the inner tent had beauty.
By the time Katy padded along the track to help us get back to a great breakfast with cool friends (Maz and Peter following of course) I was already listing the lessons learned for next time – do the walk in at night beforehand, take less baggage and above all – check and choose the tent site beforehand. Forget the hot water bottle. Remember the fleecy knickers. Next time! Next time! What am I saying? Am I mad?
Pamela Fleisch, December 2010
Rodings Rally 2010
Half a league, half a league
Half a league onward
Into the forest dark
Ventured more than one hundred.
‘Forward’ EFOGers said
While the new maps were read
Guides for their forest treads
For more than one hundred.
‘Journey the plotted way
Let not one soul dismay
Not tho’ the snow might lay
No-one has blundered.
We will the clues supply
They’ll make the time fly by
There’ll be no hue and cry
Deep in the forest dark
By more than one hundred.’
Trees to the right of them
Trees to the left of them
Trees to the front of them
Bushes and brambles
Grabbed at by thorn and briar
Ducking low, stretching higher
Into the forest dark
Went more than one hundred.
Flashed all their torches bright
Fireflies in dead of night
Ensuring they got it right
Asking no mercy
Trudging on and onward
Searching for passage through, while
Will all the tents be found
Will checkers sleep too sound
To tick the boxes right
Deep in the dead of night
For more than one hundred?
Trees to the right of them
Trees to the left of them
Trees to the front of them
Bushes and brambles
Grabbed at by thorn and briar
To succeed - their desire.
Know that they fought right well
Came thro’ the muds of hell
Back from the savage dell
All that was left of them
Left of more than one hundred.
When will their glory fade?
O the brave trek they made
All Epping wondered.
Honour the challenge faced
Moon time deep forest paced
By more than one hundred.
(with acknowledgement and thanks to Alfred Lord Tennyson)
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