North Downs Way - Charing to Chilham

And now, the end is near, just one more leg before we face the final curtain... .  After trundling up hill and down dale, Ken's marathon walk along the North Down's Way reached its penultimate leg on Saturday 23rd July. This stretch, from Charing to Chilham, was a somewhat more strenuous hike than the previous one, following the route to Canterbury like the Pilgrim's of old. Quite a bit of the route shares the path with the Pilgrim's Way and along the shaded paths with their deeply worn tracks its quite easy to pretend you are the Wife of Bath or the Miller, en route to the shrine of Thomas a Becket.  

As usual, Ken's weather provider came good, and we had a sunny day, though the two mile section through King's Wood was most welcome, especially as it was uphill, though without the intervention of any bandits or robbers - apparently a common problem back in the day.  The views across the fields were lovely, it is easy to see why Kent is called the Garden of England.

We ended with a brief visit to the town of Chilham for some refreshment, which would have been longer had we known our train had been cancelled and that we would have to wait an hour for the next one. We then headed off on the slow train back to town to prepare for the final pilgrimage in October.

Sue U.  2nd August 2016

north downs way chilham 160723 952artChilham Castle

north downs way pub 160723 944artRefreshment stop at The Flying Horse



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Update on Cody Dock

A few weeks ago Duncan and I visited Cody Dock, the community project by the River Lea near Canning Town. Some of you will remember a serendipitous visit to the site in May 2014, when we were lucky to meet the founder of the project - Simon Myers - who told us about it and allowed us to walk through the as-yet unopened grounds. (see here).

Since then, both Duncan and I have kept in touch with Simon and the project, and Duncan has certainly been helping out in the garden. Even I have done a bit of weeding!

I find it always a nice place to visit - the whole idea is that it is for the community, and also the plants and animals that live there. The day we visited was a nice, warm and sunny day, just right for having a look at how the flowers are doing, how the project is getting on generally, saying hello to people - and sitting down to have a cup of tea and maybe something to eat.

Cody Dock cafe 20160620 HDRartAnd that latter has come on apace with the recent opening of Cody Dock Cafe. This is being run by Nadia, a lovely lady who cooks wonderful North African cuisine to enjoy in the peaceful surrounds of Cody Dock. There is tea, coffee and other drinks available, and an increasing selection - including ice cream - for those who are beginning to find the place. More and more people from the surrounding light-industry and business park are visiting for their lunch, volunteers at the Dock find the cafe a welcome facility, and it will be a welcome stop for walkers and cyclist using the Lea Valley Way - when it finally opens in these Lower Lea parts!

At present you can walk or cycle down the Lea as far as Cody Dock from - for example - Three Mills. But it is an under-used route as there is a complicated dog-leg at Bromley-by-Bow which necessitates walking alongside the busy Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road so as to access a bridge leading onto the path. That is soon to change - hopefully by September - when a staircase will be opened onto the bridge. At Cody Dock, you can now walk through it every day from the riverside path, as it now remains open during daylight hours. It should be possible to continue through the dock along the riverside towards Canning Town Bridge and Trinity Buoy Wharf, but there is a complication in the access rights along the stretch of riverside south of Cody Dock. The path is there - but so is a barrier! So - at present you can walk through Cody Dock, stop to have a look round, a sit or a snack, then leave by the main gate into an industrial and business park! However, that isn't far from Star Lane DLR Station, so that's a good way of getting back after a visit.

Events are held there from time to time - we went to a wonderful Halloween evening last October - and the next one will be a Harvest Festival on 17th September. The project is keen to celebrate the seasons - particularly the Solstice and the Equinox - so as to try to bring peoples minds more into touch with nature, history, culture and what is around them.

If you haven't been there - or even if you have - I'd say it was worth a visit. Don't take sandwiches, though - use Nadia's cafe!

Paul Ferris, 27th July 2016

A Start to the Rodings Rally

The sun shone as we met by Chingford Golf course to start the checkpoint plotting for this year’s Rally in November. We had hoped to locate the positions for three of the nine checkpoints, but things did not quite turn out as planned...

A short walk from the car park - but up hill - had us reaching for the water bottles as the heat built up. Peter split us into three groups to triangulate on the allotted place and off we went, armed with compasses and tape measures. After what seemed an age two groups had managed to get to within 50 metres of each other and the third hadn’t found where they were supposed to start.

We gave up on that one and walked to another location to try measuring locating another one of our proposed checkpoints. Anyone who says Essex is flat hasn’t walked in this part of Epping Forest, and we staggered up the slopes raising quite a heat. More swallowing of water and then we scattered again to come together at the allotted place. This time one group was far away from the others so we gave up again.

We walked back to Bury Road car park and drove to the bikers’ hut near High Beach where we had a snack, admired the new hut and enjoyed the sun. We all agreed we had had a good time and next time we were definitely going to be more accurate.

Brian U. 23rd July 2016

checkpoint 20160717 132206art

Green London Way Walk 9: Of Hustings and Huguenots

Five brave EFOGers walked this leg of the Green London Way on Saturday 25th July, risking the threatened rain – which almost got us towards the end.

The walk effectively straddled the River Wandle, with Wandsworth on one side of the valley and Wimbledon on the other. Bob Gilbert (the author of the book of walks we are using) warned us that this is the most dissected part of this route around London – and so it proved. 'Rescuing' the green paths and spaces came later and was more 'patchy' than in other places but it was still possible to find our way through the “towny” bits in a relatively green way.

The route's more industrial past (and present day legacies) was still evident – but often hidden behind thick greenery or buried beneath lakes which which were former gravel pits, now providing a home for flora and fauna. Much of this history, as is often the case, now only lives on in place names such as Garratt Lane. The election of the 'pretend' Mayor of Garret was a festival that in the 18th Century often attracted crowds in excess of 100,000 people to the place – bringing riot, mayhem, frolics and fun! Eventually banned by the political 'elite' in in 1797 – for fear of the French revolution crossing the Channel and all that. Spoilsports I call them.

Before then we visited the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Wandsworth. This was a poignant reminder of the tragedies history can bring – seen especially (for me) in the caribou carvings on the grave-stones of the soldiers from Newfoundland (647 men from that regiment of 1000 were killed in just half-an-hour at The Somme) and the Huguenot teardrops (shed because they had to leave their homes or face death because of their beliefs) on the Wandsworth coat of arms . This was seen on a rare monument dedicated to the area's civilian casualties of war (most also 'unknown'). Has the world changed at all since then? It sometimes feels not.

On a lighter theme - some of the more modern graves were fantastical – including one with a statue of the queen in comic pose – these touching, even when 'funny', memorials to loved ones remind us that love can demonstrate itself in very different ways.

I had done the 'trial' walk in April and was very pleasantly surprised by how much nicer it seemed in late June. Apart from anything else, the River Wandle was very 'lively' this time – and seemed bigger. It is hard to believe that as late as 1970 it had been declared a sewer. The grasses were more varied and longer, the trees bushier, greener – and there was a lot of to see. Summer flowers added colour. The Wandle Trail still needs working on – but it is clearly a work still being progressed by volunteer enthusiasts keen to see the 'greenness' grow.

Of course, the company of Amina, Lynne, Fozi and Fred also made my walk 'for real' more convivial than way back in April - but don't tell Robbie I said that.

I didn't get to tell the gang about the shenanigans and bad luck of the Spencer and Churchill families – that was when the rain literally stopped the cricket game taking part in a park towards the end of the walk – and sent us scurrying under the trees for shelter. The prospect of tea and cakes before our journey home somehow seemed more important at that point. So we took advantage of a lull in the rain to sup and munch ...... before our journey home from Wimbledon Station – where the next Green London Way Walk starts – on Saturday August 6th. Where to next? I'll tell you later! Thanks gang.

Pam, 27th June 2016

EFOG trip to Rhyl, North Wales

This was an organised holiday called Great Little Train Journeys of Wales, with a company called David Urquhart. It consisted of a coach journey to the Westminster Hotel in Rhyl, and included two steam-train journeys whilst we were there. The coach was comfortable, and was equipped with hot and cold drink facilities - at least when we were stopped.

The hotel was well placed on the promenade, overlooking the sea and conveniently situated for early morning and evening walks by the group. The hotel fared well, with good service, en suite bedrooms, 3 course breakfasts and dinners, and a bar. Lounge entertainment was fun, with the first night being a comedian/vocalist, rendering popular UK/United States and mostly 1960's hits. The second night there was a keyboard player as well as a vocalist, delivering 60s,70s and 80s hits. Both entertainments encouraged singing, dancing, hand jiving and much laughter. Entertainment had been dropped on the third night due to a certain Welsh football match! Fortunately a bottle of wine, nibbles and table games had come with us to enjoy in our room, with a deal of hilarity, until 11pm.

Following a before-breakfast walk that some of us EFOGers did and then breakfast, our first full-day trip started at 9.30am. The destination was Porthmadog Harbour Station. Several shipyards were built on the quayside in the 1870's, and these were to bring prosperity to the little town. It was estimated that over a thousand vessels used the harbour in any one year, and at its peak in 1873 over 116,000 tons of Blaenau slate left the harbour to be carried to all parts of the world. The present town is not yet 200 years old but stands commemoratively to William Madocks, born in 1773, who envisaged the reclamation of marshland which made this possible.

The station – which was originally opened to passengers in 1805 – has undergone the recent construction of a second platform which makes it possible for Welsh Highland Railway and Ffestiniog Railway trains to be in the station at the same time. We boarded a Ffestiniog train in an observation carriage with comfortable chairs for our 13 mile journey, with panoramic views as the line twist and turns, passing close to remote cottages, waterfalls, beautiful woodland, splendid views across the valleys and the sites of an industrial nature linked to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Our coach awaited us at Blaenau Ffestiniog Station for our onward journey through the stunning Snowdonia National Park to Betws-y-Coed. The town is built almost entirely of stone quarried from the Hafod Las and Rhiwddolion slate quarries. A shortish break allowed an hour or so for sight-seeing. Some of us went to the artists' colony and the old railway station, which included carriages converted to partisan businesses and a museum as well as a small train journey into woodland. Others sampled some Welsh cooking, with warm bara brith and a Welsh brew, and some slate souvenirs. There was not enough time for the others to walk back the 2 miles to Swallow Falls, but they reached the Pont-y-Pair bridge (Bridge of the Cauldron), built in 1468 and straddling the rapids of the river Llugwy.

Our second full day excursion - following a walk before breakfast - started at 9.30 am. We were taken to the Llanberis, in the beautiful Snowdonia National Park, through breathtaking and inspiring scenery. The steam train journey on the Llanberis Lake Railway fell short of expectation as it only goes along one side of the lake, then stops and returns the same way. It is not as 'grand' as the previous day's train. However, we were able to visit the interesting slate museum near to Elidir - the 'Electric Mountain'.

Our last day was fancy-free travel. Four of us took a train to Bangor, where on arrival we walked into the town for a coffee break and sight-seeing. We then went to the bus stop to catch the ONLY, hourly-timed No.85 bus going to the Electric Mountain – the Dinorwig Power Station. Despite our obvious behaviour in trying to attract the bus...it sailed on by. Thankfully, we had picked up a local cab card and our very amiable driver drove us to and returned us from the power station – a one hour journey. A 70 metre long station building is situated on the west shore of Tan-y-Grisiau, deep into Elidir Mountain. It is constructed to a depth of 35 metres to accommodate massive generating and pumping units. 142,000 tonnes of rock were excavated to build the power station, which is designed with four underground levels: the generator/motor floor, the turbine floor, the pump floor and the pump basement. One third of the complex is above ground and the rest is below ground. We were ferried around this extraordinary labyrinth of shafts, tunnels and pipe lines by a a pre- booked mini bus with a guide, experiencing high security throughout. We had sat eating our lunch in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, within the Eryri Special Area of Conservation and adjacent to Llyn Padarn Site of Special Scientific Interest. It was hard to believe what was beneath us on this UK fault line. Since being built, an ongoing environmental programme has ensured that the power station blends sympathetically with its landscape. This remarkable hydro-electric scheme is a miracle of engineering and a testament to human skill and ingenuity, and we were so pleased to have experienced it.

The weather during our stay in North Wales was a mix of lightening, downpours and beautiful blue sunny skies - but was not cold.....normal!

Jacky, 22nd June 2016