Seven of us went to Waddesdon Manor on a cloudy but warm Saturday 13th July. All of us were National Trust members, thank goodness, because the entrance fee is £21 for non-members.
The Manor is a French style chateau once owned by the Rothschild family and built by them in the 1870’s. The timed entry system worked well as we never felt crowded and the sumptuous interior could be enjoyed to the full. It took us more than 90 minutes to get round the house, it being a large property full of Sevres porcelain and furniture reflecting the Rothschilds’ French heritage. We ignored the wine cellar on the assumption that it would just be racks of bottles, although there is a talk there every day. We had a picnic and then went for a walk around the 125 acres of grounds that the National Trust owns.
The aviary is an ornate piece of gilded architecture and the cages were so full of greenery that you wondered how the birds could fly. A Robin-Chat was giving it full voice when we arrived. We walked down to the stables but the buildings retained little trace of their original use, being converted to a gallery and restaurant. Back up to the house to view the impressive parterre and then we walked the three quarters of a mile downhill to our cars, ignoring the efficient bus shuttle service.
Brian U. 15th July 2019
The Viking Trail Adventurers Strike Again!
Not content with last year's pillage along the coast to Broadstairs from Margate, a seven mile trek on one of the sunniest days of the year, the EFOG Vikings added further to their conquest on 30th June by making their way from Ramsgate to Broadstairs - and back again for good measure! Luckily, the really hot day was on the day before, Saturday, so a nice breeze made for an altogether nicer stroll. On the outwards leg we went over the cliff tops passing through the charmingly named Dumpton Gap, where the first telephone cable was laid across the channel by the ship Fencible, which took the cable across to Ostend in 1914. It is marked by a small brick building and a yellow sign saying 'Telephone Line' but not much else for such a vital piece of history!
At Broadstairs, a mere three miles along the coast, our raiders split up to pillage, swim, explore the town and put their feet up for a short break before meeting at the inflatable giraffe to make our way back via the cliff bottom path, accessible because the tide was now low enough to navigate around various bits of the cliffs without getting wet. We passed the Ramsgate Tunnels, the largest of which dates from 1863, when it was opened as a railway tunnel serving Ramsgate Harbour Station. The line closed in 1926, but during the Second World War parts of the tunnels were used as a deep shelter in which some 300 families lived during the war to escape the devastation above. It was time for a paddle!
Along this last stretch of beach before Ramsgate harbour was a final bit of excitement: a small shark - a dogfish, unfortunately deceased but pictured just to prove it. The journey ended with some well earned fish and chips and a drink at a local pub chain, housed in the Royal Pavilion, apparently the largest of its type in southern England. It was fairly large and had very nice views of the harbour from where hundreds of little ships sailed to help save the army stranded on the Dunkirk beaches in 1940. History indeed.
Sue U. 16th July 2019
A visit to Ireland
Five of us left on Friday 15th for a holiday in Ireland from 8th to 15th June 2019. After a miserable journey – wet and traffic choked – we arrived at Holyhead and next morning took the ferry to Dublin. Paying the heavy tolls around Dublin, we drove on to Enniscrone in County Mayo, picking up Ann from Ireland West airport on the way, where a lovely five bedroom house was ours for the week.
The local towns of Ballina and Sligo were explored, then on Monday we went to Knocknarea for an easy walk, said the brochure. Easy! A difficult climb later we reached Maeve’s Cairn. At least the sun was shining! Then we had to steeply descend back to the car.
Tuesday we visited the Jackie Clarke Collection in Ballina then on to Enniscoe for a walk around its garden. Wednesday saw a short walk at Ballycroy then a walk on trails and quiet roads at Crosmolina. The guide lied. Walking for more than a mile along the N59 is not quiet.
Thursday was spent in Belleek Woods, a pleasant area alongside a river with a nice hotel for the essential loo stop. Friday we walked the Foxford Loop, which turned out to be a disappointment, badly signposted and entirely on roads. At least the sun was shining.
On Saturday we visited Knock to see the shrine. It is a large and very impressive site and looked quite new. We then walked around Strokestown Gardens before climbing into the cars and going to Dublin for the ferry back to Holyhead.
Brian U., 23rd June 2019
Cody Dock Summer Event
EFOG members have visited Cody Dock a few times since we discovered it a few years ago, and for those that hadn't yet been the big summer event on June 15th was a good opportunity. As can happen, particularly at this time of year, the event clashed with numerous others, including EFOG's annual trip to Ireland, plus an alternative group event in the form of a walk in Epping Forest.The weather also clashed somewhat, with lots of rain during the preceeding week, and showers forecast for the day.
see here), Northern Outfall Sewer this.Thoughts of trekking through Epping Forest with plenty of mud and damp to foot persuaded me to choose the Cody Dock option instead, so - together with Jinan, who I had met at Stratford - we walked through part of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park towards the River Lea. Having known the area when it was mostly unknown - and generally called the 'Bow Back Rivers' - I now have some uncertainty about what route leads to where, so - recognising the 'View Tube' (as much by its colour than its distinctive shape) - we made our way to that, not pausing this time to have an excellent breakfast or pleasant tea or coffee. The View Tube is near Pudding Mill Lane DLR station, and is on that stretch of Bazalgette's Northern Outfall Sewer bank, now known as the Greenway, that heads north towards Victoria Park. So - Southern Outfall Sewer the other week (
The Greenway really was green, and lots of other colours too what with all the wild flowers in bloom, and proves that walking above a sewer can be a delight. We left the Greenway to access the Lee Navigation at the point where there used to be a sign explaining that here was the historic boundary of Saxon England and the Danelaw, and proceeded southwards towards the Three Mills complex and Bow Locks. The navigation bankside was also a glory of flowering plants, with numerous water-birds and their relatively new offspring to add pleasure to the walk. What wasn't - and just isn't - a pleasure is constantly having to move aside for bikes to pass, so I can't really recommend canal (or navigation) walking anywhere around here anymore.
Leaving the navigation at Bow Locks, we walked down the river Lea itself, to arrive at Cody Dock just as the fun day was warming up. In fact, the day had been quite warm, but what with showers and that (that being wind) it didn't always feel that way.
There were lots of events during the afternnon, including market stalls, live music, urban bushcraft workshops, natural crafts and activities for children. There was a food-sharing BBQ option, Nadia's cafe, a bar with cider as the main attraction, a free exhibition and - just generally - fun and a good atmosphere! The live music, as we arrived was being performed by a blues singer and harmonica player, at first unaccompanied and later with a band. He and they were excellent. We also enjoyed a rendereing of sea-shanties by a five-person group called the Hog Eye Men, performed aboard the River Princess. It's always nice to meet others associated with the Cody Dock project, and of course the few EFOG members who we also met there.Cody Dock is open every day, there is usually food and refreshments available at the cafe, and always a nice atmosphere. For group-members who haven't yet visited, maybe give it a try sometime?
Paul Ferris, 16th June 2019
Crossness Pumping Station, and a Thames walk.
Five EFOG members joined Lynne at Cannon Street Station on Sunday 6th May for a visit to Crossness Pumping Station, on the south bank of the Thames, opposite Dagenham.
The pumping station is similar in design and purpose to the one at Abbey Mills, near Stratford, which members of the group may be more familiar with, at least from a distance. Abbey Mills Pumping Station has been called “The Cathedral of Sewage”, because of its ornate design – although to me it looks more like a Turkish mosque than a cathedral. Apparently the style is actually Italian Gothic.
These buildings were designed and built as part of Joseph Bazalgette’s plan to deal with the sewage problems in London during Victorian times. The problem with how London’s sewage was disposed of came to a head in July and August 1858 when the smell from the river was so bad that Victoria and Albert had to forego a pleasure trip on the Thames, and Parliamentary business was affected.
Bazlgette was employed to find a solution to the odiferous problem, which affected health as well as the nose and river trips. And government. His solution was a vast network of sewer tunnels, all of which ultimately fed the materials to the two pumping stations, one on each side of the river.
Arriving at Abbey Wood station, the free bus to Crossness was somewhat indeterminate, both as to where it should depart from and in how long, so we opted for two cabs instead. Entering the complex – which is a working sewage treatment station – we were directed towards the Victorian parts of grounds, walking alongside a narrow-gauge railway line apparently being constructed. This led us to a large and well-fitted workshop, in which the Royal Arsenal Narrow Gauge Railway group (RANG) had laid out some model railway layouts for the public to enjoy and to introduce us to their project to run a 700 metre passenger-carrying railway from the site’s gates to the old pumping station. Quite a project for a local railway-enthusiast group! They even have a working steam locomotive - which they have renamed Bazalgette, and a nice open carriage.
We proceeded to the buildings which house the Victorian aspects of the site, one of which had an exhibition of a variety of pumping engines, and then we paid our £8 per person to enter the main building, meeting with other EFOG members who has made their own way there. This main pump-engine building houses four large, originally steam driven, pumps built by James Watt & Co. to Joseph Bazalgette's designs and specification, and were named Victoria, Prince Consort, Albert Edward and Alexandra. Victoria has been renovated, and was “in steam”, an impressive sight, with sounds too, of course. In fact, for demonstration purposes, the engine is now powered by compressed air.
There are other exhibits, too, in the visitor centre. Perhaps particular fun was the collection of toilet bowls and ancillary equipment and devices; after viewing those we (of course) made our way to the cafeteria, where good value simple snacks were on offer.
We discussed the options for our return journey, and decided that as it was a pleasant day – sunny and warm but with a nicely cooling breeze – we would make our way along the Thames riverside path to the Woolwich Ferry. This is a distance of 4 miles, and we arrived at the Woolwich ferry terminal in just the right time to board one of the two brand new ferries – the Ben Woollacott. The other – I think not yet in service – is named Dame Vera Lynn.
It is a quick crossing (and free) and – disembarking – five of the group caught a bus to Stratford, and I caught a another which conveniently terminates almost at the end of my road.
It was a nice – and varied – day, and thanks to Lynne for organising it and to the others for the company.
Paul Ferris, 4th June 2019
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