Cycling and walking in Cambridgeshire - 8/9th August 2015

We had a small walking group (Fred, Ken and Fozi) and two cyclists (Lynne and Val) meet up with Bill and Inger in Soham at The Cherrytree Pub for a 10am start on a lovely bright sunny Saturday morning.

The walkers set off for a 6/7 mile walk in the Soham area and the cyclists set off for what turned out to be a 23 mile tour of some beautiful local villages, passing through Isleham, West Row, Mildenhall, Barton Mills, Freckenham, Fordham and back to Soham.

During the cycle ride we had a short stop at West Row in the Judes Ferry Pub grounds, which was on the riverside in a lovely setting, and a lunch break at Barton Mills. In Freckenham we made another short stop at friend’s of Lynne, who’s home just happened to be on route.

Late afternoon found us all back at The Cherrytree Pub in Soham, good and ready for something to eat, and then back to Bill and Ingers home for an overnight stay. Inger always has some good home made cakes etc and and we spent a few hours chatting and catching up on what has been happening at EFOG over this last year.

Sunday morning after a hearty breakfast the walkers went into Ely for a walk along the river and we cyclists set off from Pymoor via Coveney, Wardy Hill, Witcham, Witchford and Ely, where we met up with the walkers mid-afternoon. We had a little light refreshment In the Cathedral Café, after which the walkers left to drive back to London.

We cyclists then cycled back to Pymoor via California and Dunkirk, where we saw two majestic Suffolk Punch horses in a field. The total miles cycled on Sunday was 22 miles, and the total was 55 miles over the weekend, which seemed pretty good to me.

Val, 11th August 2015

Quintessentially Summer - Kent in August

I'm doing this quickly, late, and from memory before it fades – though some images will stay for a long time. I did make a few notes at the time – words and phrases in my 'walking' notebook – but where is it now when I'm in the mood to write? Lost! So - what were those word I jotted down – the 'triggers' for inspiration?

'Quintessential' - I remember that one well – a summing up of Lynne's walk around Sevenoaks in Kent on the 1st day of August this year. We chatted about that word when it 'came' to me – my 'dyslexic tongue' struggling to pronounce it correctly. So, what made it so – so …..... “quintessential?

The weather – bright sunshine with a cooling breeze; dappled light - made by the many, varied trees – appreciated oases from the sun. The silence - no traffic noise (so common in our London walks). The country lanes and pathways – so 'English' – the houses beautifully old (or pretending to be), the pleasant, varied architecture of country life and living – for those with the means to live there – the resources to 'buy or build a dream'.

Waving wheat fields – not rape – almost singing, heavy with seed. Hedgerows, some coming into fruit – most not quite ready yet - but promising a good harvest. A lavender farm – rows cropped into neat mounds with a few flowers still remaining for the bees and butterflies. The horse-tails (ancient plants) – I hope I remembered the name right. A cheeky parson-in-the pulpit thrusting through a mat of green. The copse nearby - with cob nut trees? We didn't see any hops that I remember but there were a few oast houses and at times, a hazy smell of brewing – or was that my imagination?

Then there was that incredible tree in One Tree Wood (or was it One Tree Hill?). In a place full of trees – but perhaps not forever, as evidence of their 'fate' was very clear - when you looked down into the ravine. There a massive tree clutched soil between its roots, helping it hang on to the side – an anchor – stopping the soil itself from being swished down as well – when heavy rain, we saw the evidence clearly, sent rivulets down the side.

The parakeets? Perhaps not 'quintessential' - yet? But there were other birds (none of us were that brilliant at recognising their calls), a few horses and several deer – and of course the unicorn which turned out to be a llama – remember that one Jenny!

Quintessential images hinting at timelessness – or at least scenes which could have been from centuries ago – young stags 'playing' at being 'adults' – other deer grazing quietly in glades or moving in unison away from strangers. Some, of course, at the café, eating from human hands. So much to see on such a glorious day.

Finally – the two “stately homes” of England, Igtham Mote and Knole House (nestled in the deer park through which we walked ) and promised ourselves we would visit one day (we could do both in a day – but would need to have cars). Put this on the next programme, perhaps?

Thanks to Lynne for organising such a dream of a day – and to my other fantastic EFOG companions for their company.

Pam. 12 August 2015

Thames Path Walk - 5th Leg: Greenwich to Woolwich

July 18th 2015 - a lovely sunny Saturday - saw the Effoggers on the next leg of the Thames Path series of walks.  The last walk left us in front of the Cutty Sark at Greenwich, and for this stretch the walkers assembled in front of Cutty Sark DLR station to continue on the trail - trying not to be confused with a Ramblers walk, the Hawksmoor Church Walk or another group who were all meeting at the same location!.

efog Thames barrier SC 150718 289artGreenwich is all about the river. The Royal Naval College dominates the first stretch of the walk, with the views through to the Queens House and the Royal Observatory up the hill. For those interested in history, our first stop was at a pink obelisk, a monument to Joseph Bellot. His is not a name that is particularly well known, but he died in 1853 on an unsuccessful mission to find out what happened to the Sir John Franklin expedition that aimed to find the north west passage around Canada. This section of the walk has the best architectural views as, after passing through a small paved alley with a row of Victorian terraced houses we stopped to admire the Trinity Hospital almshouses, built in 1616 and still in use as a home for the elderly. Just beyond Greenwich Power Station there is a row of Georgian houses ending in the old Harbour Master's office, beyond which the architecture comes bang up to date. Shiny new flats and endless building sites mark this as an area very literally on the rise.
After about a mile, where the buildings of Canary Wharf and the O2 Arena seem to trade places on opposite banks, we passed the area known as Blackwall Point.  In the 17th century the bodies of hanged pirates were displayed here in cages as a warning to anyone thinking of entering the profession. On the opposite bank is Trinity Buoy Wharf, home at present to a centre for the arts but previously a training centre for lighthouse keepers.
Rounding the O2, we stopped at the Emirates Cable Car cafe for a little light refreshment and to watch the travellers coming aefog Thames barrier 150718 SC 288cnd going overhead in the pods, and doubtless getting a very good view as they crossed the river. The next stretch of the walk started with a flock of small yachts, making the area look very much more like the seaside than a couple of miles from the centre of London. The group took a small but delightful detour around the Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park, a nicely-planted man-made, with lots of wildlife and water lilies making for a pastoral setting. From here the path reverts back to industrial London, albeit not anywhere as busy as in it's heyday although a number of the buildings and sites are still operational. What catches the eye along this stretch is the Thames Barrier, a row of shiny upturned boat shapes that has been keeping London safe from major floods since 1982. Stretching along the length of the tunnel under the barrier is representation of the entire river from start to finish, and on this we were able to see our walks from Hampton Court to this point. The Thames Path technically ends at the barrier but there is now an extension path, the first part of which we followed into Woolwich.
Woolwich has been a dockyard since 1512 and played a big part in the development of the Royal Navy. The docks closed in 1869 as ships grew too large for this section of the river but many of the buildings remain unused and unloved. The path here diverts inland for a while along the untidy and busy Woolwich Road, to emerge back on the river opposite the Tate and Lyle sugar factory. A short way further along is the Woolwich Ferry, still free to usel and transporting pedestrians and vehicles from one side of the river to the other. The path goes around the entrance to the ferry and back onto the riverside before passing a waterfront leisure centre. Shortly thereafter we arrived at the Woolwich Arsenal.  The original home of Arsenal football club, the depot was established in 1671 and became a centre for the research and manufacture of arms, the site growing to 1300 acres during the First World War. The bulk of the land has been sold off by the MoD, and much of it is now converted into flats, but for a short while until it too closes the site houses the Royal Artillery Museum. See it while you can as the exhibits are already earmarked for other sites and the many fine buildings are no doubt due to be turned into flats.
The walk finished at Woolwich DLR station, the starting point for the next, final leg of the Thames Path.
Sue C.  29th July 2015

North Downs Way - Cuxton to Boxley

Saturday 11th July, and as ever on a Ken-organised walk - and despite some cloudy days earlier in the week - Saturday was fine and dry!  It took a little navigation around Woolwich Station to find the right platform for the journey south east but once we reached Cuxton and the Medway Estuary things got going nicely.  

The first part of the walk up the hill in a spiral from Cuxton Station was quite different from what was just ahead.  The Medway bridges - which cross the M2 motorway, the river itself and the HS1 railway line - gave us a good idea of just what an important route the river forms out to the Thames estuary. Apart from being very noisy, the road bridge across the river is quite safe and provides terrific views along the river valley. The HS1, or Channel Tunnel line as it is better known, inspired a game of 'spot the train' coming out of tunnels. However promising the idea of a photo of this was, the trains themselves are so quick you would be lucky to get more than just a blur as they thunder past on their way to Dover.

Once past all of this modern life though, the scenery really goes backwards in time. Behind us as we ascended the hill from the railway line sits the town of Borstal, made infamous as the location of a young offenders institute since 1908. The prison has undergone a name change in recent times but the association hasn't really gone away. The path took on the familiar chalk look of the Downs and we had a much more peaceful walk on our way up to the lunch stop at Bluebell Hill, sitting on the edge of a ridge with views right across the estuary: miles of open space!

north downs 150711 5480artDown the hill a short distance and nipping through a gap in the hedge, we came across Kit's Coty House - a rectangular stone chamber that once formed the opening to an ancient burial mound, constructed around 5,000 years ago.  A this point the North Downs Way joins with the Pilgrims Way, the ancient route to Canterbury. The path was mostly under an arch of greenery and deeply engraved into the chalk of the Downs by hundreds of pairs of feet. It didn't take much of a leap of the imagination to see ourselves as fellow foot-travellers making our way along this ancient route, just as the pilgrims had before us.

The advice of fellow travellers should always be heeded, and when we turned off the track by a very interesting carving of a sleeping man, a man going in the opposite direction said - with more than a hint of warning - "Oh you are going up the steps....".  Yes we were, and how right he was; a long steep climb up many steps did indeed follow! Luckily once we were up we were up and stayed there for the next couple of miles. What we didn't expect at the end though was the path to disappear and to have to take the road down the hill. Exercising great caution and with Trevor on traffic monitoring duties up front (also having tried and had to abort a path labelled as a bridle path but which an athletic mouse might have had trouble negotiating) we eventually made it down the hill and into Boxley and the pub for a reviver. From here it was a bus ride into Maidstone where again we had some help from a very nice lady in the village who - no doubt charmed by Ken and Fred's good manners - brought us a bus timetable from her house. We didn't have to wait too long for our transport back towards the station and the end of this leg of the journey.

Sue C. 3rd August 2015

Thames Path Walk - The Fourth Leg: Westminster to Greenwich.


efog west green 13062015 0233art

On Saturday 13th June the Effoggers could be found once again pounding the pavements on our way along the Thames path.  This latest leg saw us back at Westminster amongst the seas of tourists, and it took a bit of careful herding to get everyone on the path in the right direction!  This section is probably the most well known, with the history of London laid out along the river in front of us.  We made our way slowly along the path, passing the Temple buildings, St Paul's, the National Theatre and the Tate Modern and the variety of bridges along this stretch of the river.  Close to Cannon Street railway bridge, the front part of the group, while waiting for the tail end to catch up, was lucky enough to have sometime to watch the only working wharf in the City of London in operation.  Barges take rubbish away from the City and the pathway is closed by a set of level crossing barriers, necessitating a small diversion away from the river. 


efog west green 13062015 0236artWe were also diverted at the Tower of London as the riverfront had been closed to allow for the firing of the guns in tribute to the Queen for the Trooping of the Colour, something we had all forgotten about until we crossed over Tower Bridge and heard the guns booming behind us!

Beyond Tower Bridge the path opened up and we were able to make much quicker progress along to the Surrey Docks City Farm, where a surprise awaited us.  New club member Graham was sitting waiting for us, having missed us at the start.  Graham had navigated his way along the path after missing the start due to a mix up on the tubes, and somehow must have passed us en route, arriving at the farm some half an hour before the rest of the group.  Good navigating skills and guesswork, Graham!

efog west green 13062015 0232artAfter lunch at the farm, we made our way along the final stretch through Deptford and the old Navy victualling and administrative yards, passing a statue of the giant Russian Tsar, Peter the Great (six feet eight inches tall) and then along the newly opened section of the path into Greenwich via the waterfront rather than the town, a much nicer approach.  Everyone was able to spend the rest of a sunny afternoon in Greenwich, where the next leg begins in front of the Cutty Sark in July!

Sue C. 15th June 2015