Seduced into joining EFOG
Seeing one of our new members' (Dave) recent blog-entries prompted me to recover a reminder of how I first joined the Group.
Some of you will have seen (or heard!) this before, but I thought it was fun when I wrote it, and hope that it is still! It might even act as a warning for any potential new members...
Unless Dave just hasn't mentioned the Rodings Rally, then he got off lightly when HE joined!
The Sirens of Epping Forest
It was the 2005 Forest Festival
And I went along to the EFOG stall;
To see what sort of things they done;
But walking and cycling seemed their idea of fun
At once accosted by a chap
Who told me about this and that.
I said "No - for I know what that entails -
I've done all that walking for miles and miles."
"But now I'm somewhat past all that.
Not age, nor am I none too fat -
Much as I'd like to join you all,
I've got creaking joints - and I tend to stall."
I said "I think I'd better go!"
But two girls came up and they both said "No!"
They grabbed an arm each up my back;
Said "We might provide the things you lack."
"Because we do lots of other things",
"Well, that sounds interesting," I grinned
"But you see, I'm not sociable, at all!"
But they said we don't believe you, and we meet in a local hall.
"We meet there every Thursday night -
And we think that you might be just right.
We really think you ought to come along."
Their talk was sweet - but their grip was strong.
So I found myself on that Thursday evening
Wondering if I'd lost my reasoning.
Wondering if I would be OK,
But the group encouraged me to stay.
That first quiz night was a clever ruse,
Because soon they had me paying dues.
Was I right in doubting what I'd done?
Because the harder stuff was yet to come!
For quite a few weeks what they had to say
Was about the Rodings Rally Day.
But what this was, they didn't quite let on;
Sort of, letting newcomers just tag along.
Then, weekends tracking through the trees
Mostly followed by aching knees;
With a compass, a map and surveyors measure -
This outdoor stuff is hardly leisure.
Checkpoint plotting is what they said
In trackless forest - they're sick in the head
But an indoor evening thinking up clues
Was a bit of a laugh and banished some blues.
And then the big night, in mid November,
The Rodings Rally was a night to remember,
It started quite easy with a tasty meal,
But got harder and harder - and I paid for my fill.
Setting out tables and putting out tents,
Most sane people at other events,
Choose a sunny day in the middle of summer...
This outdoor group just gets rummer and rummer.
The contestants are just as bad,
About three hundred people - and all of them mad.
In holly and bramble and freezing frost,
And all in the hope that they won't get lost.
And what about me, 'cos I went along,
I was one of them - have I got it wrong?
Well, it's too late now - I've been well and truly duped,
By the Sirens of the Epping Forest Outdoor Group.
Paul Ferris January 2006
EFOG's annual camping weekend
Each year, somewhere around the middle of June, we descend on the campsite at Debden House near Loughton, for our traditional local camping weekend. All are welcome, adults, children, cats, dogs - the lot.
The first few hours are spent in total chaos as we all try to pitch the tents and organise things in general for the mass BBQ to be held later that evening.
Around mid-day we are all so worn out that we have to tramp through Epping Forest to the nearest local watering hole for a bite to eat and some liquid refreshment. The round trip takes us some 3-4 hours. We have done this walk many times but never tire of the peace and beauty of the forest.
On return to the campsite we adults then return to our childhood and play Frisbee, rounders, or whatever the chosen game of the weekend is. Of course there is the occasional trip or crash in the process of the games but in general we all survive intact (even if a little exhausted).
Early evening finds us hungry from all our exertions so we set about the BBQ – this process can take the whole evening one way and another as we gather round eating and chatting and swapping tales of various past and present adventures at the club. This is all the more enjoyable when accompanied by a certain members homemade blackberry wine.
Slowly we drift off to our tents for a well-earned nights sleep under the stars.
Tomorrow is another day – Camp breakfast, another walk and then mid afternoon we pack up the tents and make for home which fortunately for most of us is not so far away as the campsite is quite local – one thing about the forest is that once surrounded by it you can in your mind be anywhere that you choose to be.
Canal-side Cycle Ride
Members have been out on their bikes several times this year. There are a few new people that don't like the traffic, so we decided to do an off-road ride along the canals.
We met at 10am in the café at Lea Bridge Road Nature Reserve. There is always a bit of a delay while everyone gets their bikes ready, buys cups of tea and catches up with friends, but we managed to get underway by about 10.30. We rode through the Lea Valley Park and joined the canal going towards Bow. This green and pleasant finger that extends from Ware right down to the Thames always amazes people.
We turned right at the Hertford Union Canal and rode to Victoria Park and then on to Broadway Market. This is a good place to get street food, buy organic produce, or just get a cup of tea. As soon as we were all reassembled at the canal we headed off down the Regents Canal towards Limehouse Basin to survey one of the riverside ale houses and sample the beer. Some of us sat outside in the sun to sup our pints and eat the food we had bought at the market; the rest had a pub lunch.
Back on the bikes we rode along the Limehouse Cut to Three Mills Island. The mill and café were closed, unfortunately, so we didn’t stop. There is no towpath under the Bow flyover but this was the only part of the ride that was not off road. The final leg took us back past the 2012 Olympic site to our final destination at the café at Lea Bridge Road Nature Reserve where we had started. Good ride, good food, good beer, and good weather; what more could anyone want?
The next canal ride will head for Camden Lock and Little Venice via the Regents Canal ...
A new member's notes on his first few months with the Group...
I joined EFOG in September 2009 after accidentally coming across the website on an internet search for evening classes.
Knew this would be for me - walking, cycling and camping are several of my interests and, as I discovered upon attending subsequent meetings, I wasn't wrong!
Quiz night set by Trevor, four teams playing "Battleships" with a twist: if you got the question right you chose another team to hit and described the co-ordinates to possibly sink a ship. Totally good fun, I even answered a question or two correctly. 'Rubber Ducks' came second, but we survived with some of our ships still afloat.
Cycling weekend at Bill and Inger's in Pymoor, Cambs. Truly a superb weekend blessed with two days of unbroken sunshine, very warm welcome from our hosts. Hit the road round the fens taking in a wild life centre on the way. Lunch stop by the river was very relaxing and the conversation lively. Cycling wasn't hard being Cambridge, which is very flat, but allowed us to pick out landmarks along the way. As usual, everyone was on top form with many amusing stories from Duncan and local history from Inger and Bill. In the evening a quiz had been arranged in the cricket club next door to the house and we all had a fine time wrangling with the series of questions followed by some delicious food prepared by Inger.
I'd opted for camping in their back garden which was cosy in my so called two man tent just enough room as it turned out. It was definately "scramble chaps" in the morning as we all indulged in a hearty breakfast courtesy of our ever patient hosts.
Saddled up for Sunday's ride when we headed into the city of Ely with it's impressive cathedral which we had a good look round. Last outpost of Hereward the Wake, he and his followers held out against William the Conquerer for several years before being overwhelmed in 1071. Pedalled on to the finest tea rooms in the county next to the River Great Ouse, a charming spot with the hum of water craft and pleasant riverside walks. After an extremely tasty repast it was on to view a magnificent antiques centre but we had no time to browse, time to burn off some calories on our return ride to Pymooor.
Once returned to the house, it was time to raid the kitchen for Inger's homemade jam famed throughout the folk of EFOG. After making our farewells it was time to return to London. Many thanks to our wonderful hosts Bill and Inger.
Sunday swimming arranged by our chairman Cliff. We duly arrived at Loughton Pool at 9am and took the plunge, I think we were in double figures but can't be sure. Loughton Pool is quite new and is a fine facility together with a gym upstairs. Seniors like me go free which is an added incentive to make swimming a regular habit. After an hour of swimming and conversation it was time to make a re-fuelling stop at the cafe opposite the pool. It was a fine sunny day so we all elected to sit outside for our breakfast where the conversation continued and we all got to know each other a little better. A very enjoyable morning event very well hosted by Cliff.
January 2 2010
Night out to see 'Mother Goose' at the Greenwich Theatre; good turnout from the EFOG's, even my sixteen year old daughter Holly came along and was given a warm welcome from everyone.
We all enjoyed a very amusing evening and the cast certainly went "over the top" as only panto performers are allowed to do! I'd suggested a noodle bar for supper after the show which went down well with the gang, just over £5 per head. Thanks to Maz for arranging this fun night out.
January 17 2010
The day dawned bright and sunny for the EFOG walk from the George pub in Wanstead to Valentines Park in Ilford, a round trip of over 6 miles going "off-road" using a new stretch of the Roding Valley Way for some of the route. Paul, our guide, made the walk interesting by pointing out natural features along the way. We made a stop for refreshments at the pavillion in Valentines Park and later at the "posh" cafe where we celebrated two birthdays - Paul's and Jill's - with a delicious cake made by Sue U. On the return walk we passed through Wanstead Park and its lakes, where we took another short break before returning to the George public house for a well earned drink and - for some - a very reasonably priced lunch. Many thanks to Jill for suggesting the walk and to Paul for making it a very interesting walk with his background knowledge of the area.
Twenty Years in the Woods with the Rayleigh Rockets
The Rayleigh Rockets began competing as a team in the Rodings Rally in 1989, although one of us can remember running from bullocks (shrieking mock -hysterically) in a close on the forest fringe on a Rodings night as early as 1978. Those were the days when one used to receive YHA stamps at the end of the rally to add to one’s collection. Ah, the innocent days of one’s youth....
The Rockets were named after a long-defunct speedway club in Rayleigh, Essex, and are a loose grouping of ‘lads’ (now pushing 50 years of age) from the Rochford/Rayleigh/Leigh area of south-east Essex who mis-spent their youths gaming and hanging out together at sixth-form college, and who have been firm friends since.
The original three have been joined over the past twenty years by other friends, and in turn, their friends (at university or work) from places as far away as North Norfolk, Leicester and Kent. Some have dropped away, but others have stayed, and a new generation of sons and daughters have been ‘blooded’ and, we hope, will continue to renew the ageing Rayleigh Rockets ‘brand’.
We are not runners, and do not belong to orienteering clubs, and were, to begin with, happy just to find all the checkpoints and return to the youth hostel before the eight hours were up. In those days, we were younger, and rather relished late starts, and tired teams often saw the cold, grey light of dawn before they arrived, muddied (and sometimes, bloodied) from head to foot at journey’s end. It wasn’t long, however, before we began to achieve top-ten or even top-five placings, and by fissuring to lead separate teams, have several times challenged for, and occasionally, won, the group trophy. Our traditional rivalry in this with The Alchemists (previously known as the Cockney Nimrods) has been fierce, but latterly our results have been mixed, and we have been eclipsed by a dramatic improvement in their times (some secret weapon, or foreign players, we suspect) and by recent incomers, the Cam Racers. Naturally, we are not complaining, but we have noticed an increase in the incidence of lycra moving at speed around the forest on Rally nights!
Above all, we want to be in the forest at night, soaking up the atmosphere, hearing the owls call, snuffing the tang of wet leaves, and trying (and often failing) to avoid the slap of holly branches in our eyes. We revel in the coded calls around the checkpoints (occasionally, in the attempt to confuse other teams with one’s own fake calls), and in the sheer, joyous juvenility of being abroad in the deep, dark woods when sensible folks are long abed.
Of course, we also crave the competition, the excitement of chasing down other teams, the fear of being caught by them, the exhilaration of finding that tent dead on your bearing, and even the despair of wandering fruitlessly around the checkpoint area as other teams arrive and depart.
Competing against other teams is important. However, what we really live for on a Rodings night is the opportunity to achieve bragging rights over the other Rayleigh Rocket teams. The most consistently quick performers have been Colin Smith and his crew, and the chance to get one over them and be the top Rayleigh Rockets team is the drive that forces the rest of us through the Rodings mud. Last year was a particular triumph for a sons and dads team, finishing in a respectable tenth place, just twelve minutes faster than Colin’s team, but this year Colin reasserted his hegemony.
So, ‘thank you’ to the organising committee and to all the volunteers on the night (though this year, we did not bother those in checkpoint nine) and for all those of the past twenty years. The Rally is not only a consummately well-organised and exciting sporting event; it is also a fixture on our social calendars, as immutable as Christmas and far more enjoyable. Long may it continue!