A week on the Norfolk Broads - 30th April to 7th May
Well, that was a good trip. And it was almost all good weather. Even the day that was forecast to be wet (Monday) was little more than overcast. The little more was a few specks of rain. And it got hotter as the week went on – building up the nose-tan bit by bit.
Trevor as been organising this annual Norfolk Broads cruising holiday for the 18+ Group for many a year, apparently – and like last year, EFOG members were invited to join them. So, apart from Trevor who is a member of both groups, four of us travelled to Potter Heigham on Saturday 30th April and boarded two Norfolk hire-boats.
Trevor runs a tight ship – or boat, more precisely - as far as control of the vessel is concerned; he ensured that we all took care with our handling and manoeuvring - at least of the boats. We were fortunate that all of the 18+ members had greater or lesser degrees of experience in such things, and were able to help us new-crew get things more-or-less right. Outside of the controls of the moving or mooring of the boats, maybe the ship was a little less tight, so a grand time was had by all.
I'm OK with narrow boats and canals, but fibreglass cruisers and tidal waters are another matter. They've got steering wheels, too – not proper tillers – though I do prefer my cars with the former. Hence although I was fine with the general steering of the boat, the intricacies of dealing with sailing boats cutting across our bows or mooring stern-on in a narrow gap between other boats were more than my experience was comfortable with – so others did the moorings.
Our cruising on Saturday from Potter Heigham took us first of all down the Thurne. Or maybe it was up – I was often unsure with the Broads rivers as it is quite confusing where they are from or going to and are tidal. Anyway, we joined the Bure, passing the iconic remains of St. Benet's Abbey, then went up the Ant, mooring for our first overnight stay at Stalham. After a nice pub meal, making our way back to the boat, the night was clear and cold, and the stars were glorious.
Mentioning that the night was cold leads to the fact that our first night on board the boats was cold. Cold cold. Apparently -1°C. cold. And probably that cold inside as well as outside. The supplied duvets were see-through, and a number of purchases of extra duvets were made in Stalham's awful-but-convenient superstore the following morning.
Back down the Ant the following day, and onto the Bure again, towards Wroxham and an overnight mooring at Salhouse Broad. We hired two Canadian-style canoes here in the late afternoon, and six of us went exploring, coming across wrecked wherries, pirate-laden Broads-cruisers, overhanging willow branches and eventually a lot of mud.
The following day – Monday 2nd May - we made our way back down the Bure and then the Thurne towards Ludham. The country around the River Bure between Wroxham - including Salhouse Broad where we had moored - is pretty and well-wooded, but as it meets the River Ant coming in from the north becomes much more open, reed-edged with big skys. We moored for the night at Ludham.
On Tuesday we had to travel back to Potter Heigham to return one of the boats and allow Chris, Fozi and Jacqueline to return home. We said our goodbyes, and I transferred to the other boat to continue the holiday. We then headed south again on the long trek towards Great Yarmouth and Breydon Water. At one point on this journey I spotted the wake of a creature crossing our bow some way ahead. I called the others jst in time that we all could see the head of an otter heading towards the shore, and then the glorious sight of a gleaming black body emerging onto the bank as we passed.
Breydon Water is a large expanse of tidal water and mud flats, an outlet for several of the Broads rivers into the sea through Great Yarmouth. It is very exposed and really requires some experience to cross safely. We had that, and did so, turning into the River Waveney past Burgh Castle and down past St. Olaves and Somerleyton. The southern Broads aren't so busy as the northern sections, a bit wilder, and with plenty of wildlife. There was almost continually an accompaniment sound of Sedge or Reed Warblers and Reed Buntings, and often the sight of Marsh Harriers – or harsh marriers, as one boat-wit termed them. We moored for the night at Oulton Broad near Lowestoft, went for a pub meal as usual, took part in the pub quiz, won two bottles of wine, and went to bed on board.
Wednesday was a return up the Waveney to Haddiscoe, and then through the New Cut, which is a long straight section somewhat like a canal rather than river. Along here I spotted a sheep in dire distress – legs in the air and crows-a-pecking. Not much to be done until we reached Reedham where I tried various options to get a report to the sheep-farmer before a boatyard managed to phone the message through. From Reedham we proceeded upstream along the Yare, past the sugar-factory at Cantley, heading west and inland towards Norwich. It was just past Cantley and hence about 10 miles (as the crow flies) from the nearest sea, where we ha wonderful view of a seal – who pursued us with intent for a short way.
Our overnight stop on Wednesday was at Surlingham, moored right next to a lovely pub for our meal and within sound – we think – of Norwich Cathedral bells, probably practising.
It was a long trek back from Surlingham along the Yare, and we made an excursion into the little River Chet towards Loddon. Along this narrow meandering river we were accompanied for some way by a Cuckoo, who quickly became known as Kevin. We were also preceded by Sally the Sandpiper, but I realised after – when things got silly – that Colin the Cow didn't make a lot of sense. Our destination of Loddon was an important one, for there was a particular hostelry that the others were keen to visit. This wasn't a pub, but Rosy Lee's tiny tea-room, with the most welcoming owner. She recognised the crew (but not me) from previous years, and supplies a fine breakfast or other delights. After leaving the Chet and crossing Breydon Water and out of Suffolk back into Norfolk, we travelled along the Bure again, and moored overnight at Stokesby.
The following day we were passing places that I recognised from the outward journey, including St. Benet's Abbey where we moored for lunch and visited the ruins. Then on to Ranworth, where Trevor and I visited the nature reserve. They seemed surprised that we'd only seen one otter because apparently otters play around the visitor centre. The heat of the day meant that at least Trevor and I had to have two ice creams.
Ranworth was a nice overnight mooring – convenient for ice-creams, an evening pub meal and public conveniences. It was also an easy departure for an early getaway. At 7.30 we pulled away, as we needed to get the boat back to Potter Heigham by 9.30. We did that on another beautiful sunny and warm day – indeed temperatures in East Anglia got up to 25°C that day. After returning the boat - Caribbean Light 2 - to its owners we went by car, kindly provided by crewman Steve, from Potter Heigham to Acle Station, thence to get the Wherry Line train to to Norwich and from there the Greater Anglia service to Stratford.
Thanks to Trevor for organising this trip. It takes a lot of organising to hire two boats for different lengths of time, to plan a route which enabled us to see so much of the Broads and with moorings every night with such good provisions. It also takes a lot of patience to deal with the numbers of people involved - nine in all, with three leaving earlier than the others, and from two different groups. There were also those of us that were inexperienced with the Broads and the cruisers, and the instructions from Trevor - and others - was invaluable. Thanks too to the rest of the 18+ Group who invited EFOG members to join them on their annual Norfolk Broads holiday.
Paul Ferris, 10th May 2016
A May Day walk in Epping Forest
Seven of us met at High Beach visitor centre at 2 pm. The weather was brilliant but numbers were low; several members were away on a holiday on the Norfolk Broads. The weather meant that it was a struggle to park but we managed.
Off we went along the Up and Down Ride and then through a slightly muddy patch to see us stopping at High Beach parish church for a very pleasant tea and cake, consumed in the grounds under a large copper beech tree.
Out to the forest again and Fred promptly did his impression of The Hound of the Baskervilles by sinking in a mud patch up to his knees. He refused to stay there while we took photos so there is no record for us to laugh at. On to Pepper Alley where a hard surface deteriorated into a muddy mess, requiring some nifty footwork. We all watched carefully but Fred avoided all our suggested routes.
After this it seemed only reasonable to stop at The Owl pub for some refreshment. We then walked across Fairmead Bottom, over Epping New Road and up to an unnamed oak which stood alone in a glade with bluebells all around. Very pretty. Up the Green Ride past Strawberry Hills pond and Earls Path pond and on to Loughton Camp. We had been dawdling and the distance was mounting so a quick show of hands decided that we would not walk round Loughton Camp but would stay on Green Ride. We didn’t even detour to the Lost Pond but that is at its best later this month and in June.
Back across Epping New Road and to the visitor centre by 6 pm where the car owners looked slightly shocked as some very muddy boots and trousers (Fred!) spread their contents over the seats and carpets. A pleasant afternoon.
Brian Unwin, 1st May 2016
Rochford and the Roach Valley Way
On Sunday 10th April a group of eleven EFOG members made the most of a lovely sunny day on an 8 mile walk that started in the small market town of Rochford, so called after Sir Guy Rochefort who was Lord of the manor way back in 1257.
Having made our way through the tiny town centre and across a number of fields we were soon walking along the raised grassy riverbank path of the River Roach.
On our left side we could see in the distance the Saxon Tower of a church at Great Stambridge (which we visited later in the walk), and on the right side the mudflats of the peninsula of Bartonhall Creek which are a popular feasting ground for a number of migrating birds, not much action today but lovely to look at just the same.
We passed some very ancient Essex barns and then proceeded to negotiate two stiles to cross the land of some stables with several paddocks grazing some rather large horses - which we did very respectfully. Not a problem really, but they seem so big up close and you felt that you were intruding in their space.
From here we made our way along the road towards Stambridge, where we made a brief detour to see St Mary and All Saints Church which had the Saxon tower we had seen in the distance earlier on in the walk. We were hoping to go inside and see a renowned memorial stained glass window, placed in the church by the descendants of local resident John Winthrope who sailed to America in 1630 and became the first Governor of Boston.
Unfortunately the church was closed as is the case so often these days.
By now it was time for lunch and we quickly found The Royal Oak where we happily tucked in EFOG style to lunch and liquid refreshment.
Duly fortified, a further 2 miles or so took us across fields back to Rochford.
I think we were very lucky with the weather and although windy in places it was bright and sunny all the way.
Thanks to Eileen for organising a great walk.
Article by Val S., 10th April 2016
Photo by Brian U.
A circular walk in the Rochford area.
Eleven of us met at Rochford on Sunday 10th April 2016 to go on a walk arranged by Eileen. It was a sunny day but the wind bit into you and we were all wrapped up.
A walk through fields led us to the dyke on the River Roach. We followed the dyke, noticing scenes which would look beautiful in a photo album, perhaps in black and white, but were briefly noticed as we cowered from the wind. The tide was out and the usual detritus was visible on the river edges.
A turn to the left put the wind on our backs – much more comfortable – and we progressed on to the Royal Oak pub in Stambridge where we stopped for a bite and drink. The service was excellent despite the fact that they were fully booked for Sunday lunch. Most of us sat outside but some managed to blag a table inside.
Then on through more fields, including a couple occupied by horses that were quite inquisitive. Lynne was in her element here. Then on to an old church with a Saxon tower in Great Stambridge but it was closed so we occupied ourselves looking at the gravestones. Back down the road to the Cherry Tree pub for a warming drink and then on to our cars in Rochford.
Article and photo by Brian U., 10th April 2016
A Sunday stroll by the Lea
Seven of us met at Fishers Green car park on Sunday 3rd April to begin a walk organised and led by Jenny.
Almost immediately as we left the car park we were greeted by the sound of a chiffchaff, presumably recently arrived from Africa, followed by the more tuneful song of a blackcap – perhaps another long-distance arrival although maybe one that had decided to stay on after overwintering? Anyway, it was to distinct sounds of Spring that we began the walk.
Much of the walk to Broxbourne was along the Lea Navigation towpath, so we were treated to the traditional sounds of bicycle bells (or not) coming from behind, and sometimes accompanied by that well-known cry “bike” and sometimes “Oi – slow down”. The latter – it should be clear – was not aimed at us, but more usually by us at them.
At one point on our walk, we could not fail to see two craft moored to the bank. Most peculiar, they were, of orange colour and a somewhat unflattering shape which reminded me very much of that craft which was discovered at Hobbs Lane underground station. You'll doubtless remember that (or not)... the Central Line was being extended and the excavations at the station revealed what at first was thought to be an unexploded World War 11 device. Turned out – of course – to be a Martian spacecraft which over the millennia had unleashed all manner of psychological horrors on the local inhabitants (some of whom were – or had been - Neanderthals).
Well, to get back to the walk. We moved on from the spacecraft moored on the Lea and eventually reached Broxbourne where we stopped at a busy little cafe for refreshments and a bit of a laugh at some youths who hadn't worked out that if you both paddle on the same side of the boat you go round in circles – or bash into the bank, in this case. Their girl-friends in the other boat got the hang of it a lot quicker.
On the return journey we stopped at the spacecraft again and spoke to its owner. He wasn't a Martian at all, but simply a chap who'd bought a life-boat from an oil-rig and converted it for on board living, rather than space-travel or simply survival. That cleared THAT up.
So there we have it, a good six-mile walk (being three miles there and the equivalent back) Quite an easy pace where we stopped to look at things a few time and listen a couple, and a nice time was had by all.
It appears there is no imminent threat of an invasion by things that look like locusts - even aquatic ones let alone those that reside in pits - and Quatermass wasn't involved in any way.
Paul Ferris, 5th April 2016
Easter trip to Ingleton in the Yorkshire Dales
Ten of us made the trip up to Ingleton in the Yorkshire Dales on a beautiful sunny Good Friday morning. We went by train via East or West coast options and all met up at Bentham to get a taxi (organised in advance by Ian) in two shifts for the final 3 miles to Ingleton. It all worked out beautifully. Nine of us stayed in the YHA which was well located in the centre of the village near to pubs and the fish & chip shop and was very comfortable with a lounge overlooking the park and river and (now disused) viaduct, a really beautiful view. The 10th member had had to book into a B&B due to no more male vacancies at the YHA., but that was close by and he enjoyed the luxury of an ensuite double room with TV.
On Saturday we all went on the famous Ingleton Waterfalls walk which is a beautiful circular walk following 2 different rivers with waterfalls at both sides of the walk. Obviously with waterfalls go the inevitable steps – there were reputedly 1,000 steps on this walk and although only 4 ½ miles in length it felt like more. The falls were very beautiful and we stopped at an outdoor café half way around for a break. The scenery was stunning, not only the waterfalls themselves (which have been painted by J W Turner) but also the limestone scars along this walk. After the walk some members went for afternoon tea at a café in Ingleton and a couple of us walked up the main road to the White Scar Caves which were certainly worth the visit. The entrance to the caves had been dug out by Cornish tin miners to enable easier access to visitors. There were lovely formations, yet another waterfall and two very low stretches where you had to stoop for quite a distance and a ‘squeeze’ before reaching the final vast chamber with beautiful ‘straws’ and other formations. The walk back was across fields, stepping stones over the river and an old Roman road back into Ingleton.
On Easter Sunday six went off to the Caves (with due warnings about the stoops and squeeze) and four of us went on a 12 mile circular walk up Whernside, which at 736m (or 2,415’ in old money) is the highest of Yorkshire’s Three Peaks. Our nice taxi driver took us up to the famous Ribblehead viaduct for the start of the walk alongside the railway following a good well -made path up to the ridge past a lovely waterfall and stunning scenery. As we neared the top it started to snow… heavily. We had everything weather-wise that day – rain, hail, snow, mist, thunder, lightning and even sunshine. We took a quick summit photo near the trig point and pressed onwards towards Ingleton, following the summit drystone wall and bog trotting when the path deteriorated and became soggy. We finally descended at Twistleton Scar End to where there was a rather unexpected ice cream van on a little track (we gave that a miss). A quick coffee at the Waterfalls café, where we must have looked rather weather-beaten as they spotted we were not the usual waterfalls walkers and told us we would have to pay £6 if we wanted to follow the waterfalls path back to Ingleton… we took the Roman road instead! It was pleasantly sunny now and we dried off nicely on the way back.
On Monday our ‘personal’ taxi driver took us in two shifts back to Bentham Station, where we all travelled back together to London – sounds simple? Think again! Major overhead line damage in the Peterborough area caused by Storm Katie meant that our train, already very delayed, was turned back to go North again, so we jumped onto another train sitting in whatever station it was (I’d lost the will to live by then!) All we knew was that it was allegedly going to King’s Cross. It could have been much worse, we had already been given free drinks and snacks and we even got seats on the next train as well. We eventually arrived at King’s Cross 3 hours late, but at least we got there, at one point we had been discussing the possibility of getting a B&B or something.
All in all it was a very enjoyable and successful trip up to Yorkshire and thanks very much to Ian for organising it.
Lynne E., 5th April 2016