More hills - and a lot of mud - on the Green London Way.
This was the eighth in Pam's series following the Green London Way, although being winter and the conditions underfoot being as they were, perhaps “green” was not quite the appropriate colour.
We all – all being five of us – met on the Overground train from Whitechapel. That is to say, Pam and Sue were already aboard as it pulled into Whitechapel station and Jill, Fred and I boarded to join them.
Forest Hill station – being the finishing point of the last leg – was the start point of this one, so we proceeded uphill (notice an important part of that term) in much – or, to be precise, exactly – the opposite direction and inclination (or declination?) to that we had taken at the end of last month's section (or leg). This led us to the Horniman Museum, which was conveniently used as a loo stop. I also paid my respects to the walrus and the okapi, quickly.
Through the parklands, which included a farmer's market, then downhill to again use a short stretch of the old railway-line-now-nature-reserve, then across the busy Lordship Lane to pass through a housing-estate passageway and through the gates that lead to Sydenham Hill Woods.
The access to the woods is a slightly uphill pathway between railings and probably only a few hundred metres long – if that. However, it felt somewhat longer as it was muddy. We have most of us experienced the trough between fences which with the passage of humans, dogs and bicycles leads to a trough becoming a slough. There wouldn't really have been enough room for anything other than a particularly well-aimed bomb, and certainly for a summer walk that would not have been at all friendly, but the slough aspect of it had me thinking of John Betjeman.
The path deposits one near a bridge across what seems to be a natural gorge, but this was the route of the the previously mentioned Crystal Palace and South London Junction Railway. There is a notice board on the bridge showing a train in the view back when, and the present aspect is totally unrecognisable. Entrance to Dulwich Woods is through a gate in the railings that surround the woods, as they are private. They are part of the Dulwich Estate, and notices at the entrances make it clear what may or may not be done to or taken in to the woods. Also, it is made clear that pedestrian access is permissive only, and no right of way is to be understood. It is obviously a popular place, for we encountered reasonable number of adults and children enjoying a lovely woodland area, with plenty of mud, to boot.
We used a convenient bench to have a quick refreshment and enjoyed a bit of sunshine and a bit of sleet. But at that time both were brief, the latter so much so that some of the group – and remember there were only five of us – missed it. Shortly after we emerged onto a tarry road, which as Fred pointed out might have been as sticky as the mud if we'd actually gone there on a WARM day. This road is evidentially a private one, and not open normally to vehicle traffic, being part of the Dulwich Estate. At the end of the road – which, by the way, was the top end as all the hills were up ones, we looked at an Italianate pub and an art deco apartment block – or was it a house? There was also a large house where John Logie Baird worked on his experiments with television. This was actually an important aspect of the walk, because we were walking towards the increasingly visible mast of the BBC television transmitter at Crystal Palace.
Now here is a thing, because we went downhill for a way – with the North Downs in the distance – to enter the nicely laid-out Sydenham Wells Park. Whilst Pam read out a short bit about the park and its name deriving from the Epsom-salt laden mineral waters once taken hereabouts, four of us stood or sat and listened in warm sunshine. There were crocuses and snowdrops in flower, and cherry trees quite covered in blossom. There were birds singing and maidens dancing. I diverge into fancy.
Shortly, after an uphill bit, we entered Crystal Palace Park. It probably comes as no surprise to most that the park was named after the famous Crystal Palace, which was relocated here from Hyde Park in 1854. When it was destroyed by fire in 1934 it is said that the glow could be seen from Brighton. Pam said something about being able to smell the sea breeze, too – but I think that was also a fancy. We walked up to the terrace where the palace stood, and peered upwards to view the TV mast. This was somehat reminiscent of peering upwards to view the 60 inch TV screens mounted above the mantle piece in some homes - much to the detriment of necks and mantles.
We walked through the park to the cafeteria for lunch and then on to view the dinosaurs by the Lower Lake. They are actually in the lake, or at least the more aquatic ones are – or on islands. I'm sure when I did this walk too many years ago you could touch them or even climb on them, so they must have moved, or else it's flooding.
Our return was via Crystal Palace station, now a terminus of the Overground system but sometimes considered to be one of the most inaccessible London stations. It is quite a magnificent building – a legacy of it being constructed to cater for visitors to the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace in 1851. It has recently undergone a major renovation to restore the Victorian ticket hall and to provide lift alternatives to the 100 or so steps down to the platforms. For me, it was a fitting end to a grand – if muddy – walk. We used the stairs.
Paul Ferris, 31st January 2016
Paglesham in January
Seven Efogers assembled at The Eagle in Snaresbrook on Sunday 17th January to drive to Paglesham, where we enjoyed a walk in the fresh 'sea-almost' air of coastal Essex. A snow-clouded, dull London sky evolved into sun-streaked brightness by the time we got there. We took advantage of this by 'doing' the walk backwards (not literally but in reverse to what Peter had originally intended).
A well-signed footpath took us through what looked like people's drives and across fields before we 'climbed' up the sea wall. The open-ness and sense of space was great. The land around gave us clear lessons about how the grazing marshes have been made – and how they are maintained. The birds interesting – especially the four giant, penguin-breasted herons. Not too windy, not too muddy – just right. It didn't seem 4 miles before we reached the first hostelry … quick drink (or in one case a 'larverly' fruit crumble) and nibbles – as well as 'the necessary' before heading out again for the last leg – plenty of time to admire the flat expanses of fields getting ready for Spring, fringed with lines of trees showing off their filigree winter tracery against wide, wide sky. Beautiful.
Thanks to Peter for organising this, and to my companionable companions – Lynne, Amina, Marian, Ken and Jenny.
Pam, 17th January 2016
Photos by Peter Gamble
Starting the year outdoors
People usually like to get off to a good start. A New Year has the prospect of a good time to make a new start - hence all the resolutions and revolutions. I don't bother with resolutions, and I am extremely unrevolutionary. I expect that in reality most resolutions will be broken probably at the latest eleven months before another resolution opportunity comes along. Bit like most exercise regimes, perhaps? Real life will intervene.
But getting off to a good start - that's a slightly different matter.
And so it was I resolved - no, I decided - that (at least if the weather proved fair) I should - no, would - attempt to be at the top - more or less - of Pole Hill as 2015 turned into 2016. Pam had suggested the idea, and she had also suggested that she would be there if fair-weather allowed. I collected Marian from Wanstead as I drove to Chingford, because Marian sounded enthusiastic about the idea and wanted a lift. There were a few spots of rain, but hardly enough to warrant a windscreen-wipe. There were numbers of people walking determinedly through South Woodford, some even walking unsteadily and determinedly in clumpy-looking block-soled shoes. Their legs looked funny-shaped as I got the opportunity to have a look whilst stopped at traffic lights. Most of these people - maybe all of these people - did not look as if they intended to go to Pole Hill.
Graham was parked at the end of the last good road in Chingford before Forest View, which is not a good road and is by the golf-course. He said he'd been there for ages and wondered if anybody else would come. Lynne appeared out of the lightness (Marian, Graham and I being stood in the darkness), and then Pam, her son Jody and his friend Magdalena, and Fozi arrived. We switched on head-torches and ascended the heights, amongst trees and mud. Behind us was an orangey, not-quite-full Moon, and above it hung Jupiter. It was a lovely sight, and the stars looked good, too.
With relative ease we found the pole, and the trig-point, and there were a vague number of people already up there, looking across the Walthamstow reservoirs, between Stoke Newington and Hackney, past Shoreditch to the City and beyond to Westminster. On the extreme left the Shard was visible, and to the right the B.T. Tower. Above was a wobbly laser light from Greenwich, and above and behind was Polaris, The Plough and Cassiopeia. Other stars, constellations and the odd galaxy were also visible.
There was no real community event up there, just groups of people some of whom - usefully - did a count-down to midnight. The London Eye was definitely the main attraction in the distance, with distinct palls of smoke deriving therefrom. Jody spotted a UFO which we advised was actually a frightened bird, and after the 10 minutes-plus of fireworks from the Eye (and elsewhere) people began to disappear into the darkness (or "drift away"). Of course, being outdoor people we stopped to have a tea-break which confusingly consisted of mulled wine and wine-wine, plus Christmas cake. A decision was made that we should leave and shortly afterwards we got disorientated on the way down (was it the wine?) and ended up at the end of a road which was not the one we'd set out from. As even those who lived in Chingford didn't know quite where we were, I of course took control (having not drunk very much alcohol) and suggested left was the way we should turn, slip-slod the leading way behind some houses, guessed at a right turn, and hit a road that at first looked right, but then began to give me doubts. But everything is different at night, and especially at 1am night, and I was right after all.
Getting out of my car just before 2am, a Robin was bursting with enthusiasm, and - amazingly - whistling "Auld Lang Syne". Well, no, of course it wasn't; it was more likely enthusiastically complaining about all the bangs. Now that is a good start to a new year.
And so the New Year continues...
I didn't sleep well. I didn't have to bother getting up on January 1st as I didn't have to go to work. I never have to go to work. That was in years past. I decided I wouldn't bother getting up as all the day offered was an EFOG walk, which they do every year, so I could do it next year. And then my clock clicked (it doesn't really click - it's a digital one. I live in a digital world in 2016) over to 9am (it actually reads "09.00", but without those little marks either side). I happened to open an eye about then, so I saw it and my brain said something like "This is your Conscience speaking. If you don't go out today it will not bode well for the rest of your life". My unconscious tried to reply "I don't care", but I realised I did, and if I did not hurry I would either have no breakfast or would miss the train. I hurried, had breakfast and didn't miss the train.
The meeting-place for the New Year Day walk was Loughton Station, and Christine joined me on the train at Snaresbrook. I think it was Snaresbrook, but it doesn't really matter. She joined me on the train and it is always nice to see a friendly face. In fact I had already seen two friendly faces, but as most readers of this twaddle won't know them and might know Christine, we'll stick with that. As we got off the train at Loughton, Amina got out of an adjacent carriage and Fritz and his friend out of another. More friendly faces! The year was starting well!
There were lots of "Happy New Year"s and handshakes and hugs handed out as EFOG members and friends assembled and I believe 23 of us followed or walked ahead of Parviz through part of Loughton and into the mud. Into Epping Forest. We slopped as far as Connaught Waters, and around Connaught Waters, and back to Loughton Station, There, some people left to - maybe go home? Others went to Parviz and Frances home nearby, where we took off surprisingly muddy footwear and took up two rooms to partake in a lovely selection of eatables and drinkables provided by Frances. Thank you very much, Frances - lovely.
Then, gradually, we went home or elsewhere. I chose home, where shortly after arriving I fell asleep.
Paul Ferris, 3rd January 2016
Edward Barnard, ELR = East London Runners -
All three of us used to be members of East London Runners, though one now lives in Somerset, and another on the Isle of Grain (Kent). We first entered this event a few years ago, thinking it would be easy – quick run around, only 12 miles, how hard can it be to find a tent, then a few beers before the breakfast tent opened in the morning. I had the beer ready in the back of the car. Needless to say, as many of you will know, it isn’t as easy as that. Picking the correct option for the second checkpoint would have made things a bit quicker… and solving the puzzle question correctly meant we might have found that checkpoint before we realised that we had less than half an hour to cover half the length of Epping Forest back to the end point. Despite running the whole way, we missed it by 3 minutes… We haven’t entered the 10 checkpoint event since, just the 5’s, hunting around (invariably holly) bushes to find invisible tents miles away from where they ‘should be’. Drags us back every year.
We are really pleased finally to have won this, and certainly intend to try and defend it next year; the running club, initially a bit suspicious, now support us and have fielded other teams. We have also put to bed jibes about getting lost on club runs, which might have happened once or twice...
What are our tips? We have been trying to mark the checkpoints on the map accurately before we set off, and we have kept on running between checkpoints. Other than that, I don’t know how we improved on last year, where for the second time we were third, an hour behind the winners. We even fitted in most of a cup of tea at the life saving tea tent; many thanks for those manning the tents, and the start and finish – we hugely appreciate your efforts.
Russell Stebbings, Teams: Carabids of Fire, Dragon Fliers -
Dear All, this is just a quick line to say how much we/I thoroughly enjoy your event! It is very clear to us how much effort goes in to the planning and execution of it and it is very professionally run. We have done this 4 times now and have competed in a large number of road races, orienteering events, trail races, ultras, and a couple of desert races and your event is by far the most enjoyable! It is a highlight of our calendar. Thanks to all connected with it, it is simply brilliant!
Very best wishes to all concerned.
Gavin Jessup, Dartford Scout Tortoises -
Thanks for a great event. Dartford scout tortoises did visit all checkpoints in the correct order. One of the checkpoints did fill in the wrong box on our scorecard.
John Pennifold -
Great event as usual. Did anybody find a pair of thin black gloves out in the forest? Possibly dropped at a checkpoint.
Ian Brazier -
An amazing event! Well done all especially the volunteers.
Ryan Smith, Slack Ops -
Big time thank you to you and all of the Rally organisers and helpers. I had a great time, as did James and my brother. This year we benefited from our previous experience and it also helped that we had another pair of eyes.
My overall feeling about the night was how friendly everyone was and particular praise should go to you and any other soul who braved a tent for the night. Further praise should also go to the gentlemen at the beverages tent. James’ hot dog was a lifesaver.
We had a brief team chat about doing the 10 clues next year and personally I’d love to do it, but I’ll wait to see how we all feel next year.
Thanks again and hopefully we will see you again next year. Best regards.
Cockney Nimrods 3 -
Many thanks for yet another great event on Sat night. I haven’t caught up with the other of our teams but we certainly enjoyed it.
Where did you come? Click Here and look for your team’s number in the event down the left hand side in the distance you covered.
Skegness in December; bracing or what!?
Louise organised this one, based on an experience last year, apparently. By train and by car E-folkers travelled north and east to that strange county of Lincolnshire.
It's a new one on me, really – apart from passing through (do you ever really need to pass through Lincolnshire – except maybe on a train?), and a few days in Boston once long ago. But never Skegness – and never, ever, Butlin's.
I was by car, kindly hosted by Ian and accompanied by Louise and Madeleine. We spent hours and hours and hours (well not really – but it felt like it) wishing there was a hill or slight rise anywhere to be seen. But just seemingly endless fens, black fens, fen fens, a few windswept wayside trees and a horizon that stretched so far out of sight that it wasn't really there. Boston was at least alive, though mainly stumpy, and our first views of Skeggy were mainly of mobility shops and traffic jams of the resultant scooters. Oh – and chalets, and caravans, and caravans, and caravans. Then, just as I felt we'd escaped and could go back to hilly Essex via the Lincolnshire Wolds or some way other than fens, we were manoeuvred into position and up to the border crossing and the security guards. My mind was thrown back to hitch-hiking days on the borders of Albania, and of crossing in – and luckily out – of Bulgaria, before those borders were moved over here. I tried to hunker down in the back of the car, but know this to be useless. When I peeked out Louise was discussing terms and security passes and I was surprised to see a rather attractive blond female guard with a smile on her face. Ok, I know - they can smile but you can't hide.
It's a strange place, Butlin's. The cells are all arranged in blocks just like real Stalags but given friendly names like Ocean Point and Lagoon Bay. Louise and Ian were in the former, and Madeleine and I in the latter. Apparently we were going to be allowed to associate at least with some of the other prisoners, so we crept into number 15 Ocean Point, to try to at least have a last cup of tea together. I was afraid I'd never see Louise or Ian again. Then, in a reflection from the window of a cell across the way, I saw Dave, and then others of the crew, followed up by Val. Things were looking up. At least we would all be incarcerated together. I realised that this wasn't quite a Stalag, more a Gulag. Further east, see.
Madeleine and I met Pam in our own cell down the road in Lagoon Bay. It's not a bay at all, but a group of cells below the sea wall, which is itself surmounted by a security fence, There was a guard-post just a way along, and we learnt later that we would be allowed out onto the miles of sand at certain times. You have to show a wrist-band to get in or out, though not so much on the out for some reason. I expect it's because there are security cameras everywhere, and that the wrist-bands are actually tracking devices, and even if you get out, there's nowhere to go except the sand or Skegness. I suspect that the sand is patrolled for escapees by great big balloon things that sort of roll and bounce and herd you back in. They'll have appropriate names like “Rover”.
Anyway, I diverge. Which isn't surprising after the trauma of the weekend. The event was the Great British Folk Festival. The venue – as you now know – was Butlin's. Weird, Eh? There is an 'introducing stage' where the lesser performers do their best to become next-years bigger performers – and two other venues called Centre Stage and Reds. There is a psychological plot in place whereby big-name folk artists or bands play in one of the two venues at the same time. For example the main artists of the Friday were evening Billy Bragg performing in Reds and Eliza Carthy at the same time in Centre Stage. I chose Eliza, as Billy is a bit too political for me. As it happened, the very first band of the evening was 'False Lights' featuring Jim Moray and Sam Carter. What a start! I don't know either of those people, but I was very soon glad I'd risked a prison camp to see them.
On Saturday morning we were allowed out of the camp, and herded onto a Number 1 bus to Skegness. I know we were nominally in Skegness, but there are thousand of caravans and herds of mobility scooters between the Gulag and the main town. It' s too far to walk, especially as we were experiencing gale-force winds heading up the coast from the south. And Skegness is south of the camp. Skegness is a bit sea-sidey, with shops and that. We met a lot more of our e-folks and had a hearty meal in a hapartment store. Well, I say hearty, but it was more the tea and buns sort of place. Nice, though. We – or at least a few of us – walked to the beach. I went for a paddle (shoes included, of course), and we visited the Lincolnshire Poacher, which is the local lifeboat. My suggestion of being blown back to the prison camp by a following wind along the sea-shore was hooted at. Outdoor Group my a….
Saturday evening was a no-other-choicer for me. I warned them. (Them being all those e-folk that went to see The Unthanks). I went to see Sharon Shannon and Alan Connor, and whereas the Unthankers were all made miserable I was uplifted. Most of you will know that is rare with me, so she must be good. Pam and I rolled home (home is where the cell is) at about 2am, and obviously woke Madeleine, who had retired early. I retired years ago. We didn't want to wake Madeleine, but you could not move in the cell-block for creaks. (Creaks are small creatures that live in desolate parts of the east coast of nowhere. They are particularly common around Butlin's in Skegness.)
I don't remember much of Sunday, because it was windy and I'd had to sleep two nights with a coat over my head because the Gulag's security lights were blinding me all night. (I had another flippin' double-bed to myself again, by the way). Also, I kept thinking “Tonight's the night when I shall see Maddy Prior”. The other reason, now my memory is coming back a bit, is that we started the folk sessions early in the afternoon, with a set of renditions from 'The Band from County Hell'. They were from Lincolnshire. Good, though - and followed by 'Blazin' Fiddles' - who are good good and from Scotland and Orkney and Shetland. A quick eat, then Pam and I went to start a queue for the Reds venue, so as to get a good position. There are no booked seats; you takes your chances or barge people out of the way. I'm no good at the latter, never having been a bargee and not liking an argy-bargy. At 6.15, the queue had already started, but we were near the front. Val joined us, Louise, Ian, Phil and Dave were close behind. Susan W. and Ian joined us nearer the front. We grabbed some stray chairs that had blown in for the wait. Luckily it wasn't quite as windy as the similar but not-so-long wait I'd had the evening before. 'Twas cold, though, standing in the darkness of a Lincolnshire Gulag in December. The doors opened, and after the security checks (sniffer dogs, and beeping things and searches and that – or am I imagining all that?) we were in. I'd given precise instructions as to what to do to get tables, but nevertheless I ended up seeing only two-thirds of the stage from behind Jacky. Sod! I'd wanted to video Maddy Prior! I couldn't lean the camera anywhere so my lifetime chance was ruined. Oh well, enjoy the music.
The first band was 'Clutching at Straws'. They were awful. If Billy had been bragging and the Unthanks had been closer to the undead, this must've been worse. I don't go to a Gulag or even to a Butlin's to deliberately immerse myself in starving children. Sorry about that, kids – but there's enough suffering in the world. Go on, read this and be all righteous, but I bet I'm not the only one that walked out. The really great thing was – and this sounds a bit like a paul-tale – as I walked back to our prison cell for a welcome break before Steeleye, in the all but deserted main pavilion a song was playing. Bert Jansch singing 'Needle of Death'. You wouldn't think you could be cheered up by something like that, but after that other lot...
After a relaxing half hour or so I, together with Madeleine – who very sensibly had not bothered with the queuing and had thus not endured the Phillipines – wandered back to see Steeleye Span. You'd think at this point I'd waffle on like the rest of this article and describe how good the band was and what a pleasure it was for me to see them, but I ain't gonna. But they were and it was.
I should like to have seen Fotheringay in the other venue, but in loife you has t' make a choice, and the final band of the weekend, where we were, was an unknown to me. The DJ – Sue Marchant of BBC Local Radio, and very good she was too – said they were going to be uplifting, and they were. 'FolkLaw', a bloody good band – and I told them so as we happened to see them packing as we were escaping the camp on Monday morning. It had been a great start on Friday to a great weekend of entertainment, and that was a great finish.
We were allowed to leave on Monday morning - after the now-familiar checks at the border - and Ian drove the four of us back from E-folk-land to Efog-land.
Thanks, Louise, thanks Ian, thanks Pam and Madeleine and the others, thanks Butlins, for another great efog-away.
(I have exaggerated the prison camp theme a bit; it was really quite OK and the guards were very nice – especially the blond one.)
Article by Paul Ferris (Steeleye Span and Maddy Prior fan, but I also like Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny. There are others I could mention, including Bert Jansch, and the Incredible String Band has a lot going for it if you like pigs and hedgehogs. I like both but tend to only eat the former, and then I feel guilty. I think we should all feel guilty about hedgepigs) 7th December 2015
The festival was The Great British Folk Festival, held annually at Butlin's, Skegness, since 2010.
(Skegness is a town in Lincolnshire, and Lincolnshire is a well-known poaching county in England. As England is still British, it is right and proper to hold a Great British Folk Festival there, or indeed anywhere. Still a bit odd, though.)