Recent outings and activities...

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.

ireland maeve 190610 1307buThe 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.

ireland gore 190613 1232buThursday 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.

cody view 190615 1214artCanary Wharf from the River LeaThoughts 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 (see here), Northern Outfall Sewer this.

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

cody shanty 190615 1441artJinan with (who's the guy in middle?) the Hog Eye Men

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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.

crossness 190602 115833703cThe 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 crossness 190602 114450701cbuildings 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.

Arrivicrossness 190602 120412803cng 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.

crossness 190602 124033533cWe 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.

Tcrossness 190602 125830863chere 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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Camping weekend in Suffolk

Despite the weather forecast five of us turned up at Newbourne Woodland campsite on a Friday in the middle of May. After erecting the tents, three of us went for a walk around Woodbridge nearby, leaving Ian and Louise to prepare the BBQ. Woodbridge has some interesting architecture and the Tide Mill looks well worth a visit. It was closed at the time of our visit.

suffolk efog 190519 mill buartThe BBQ was a success and we relaxed in a cool, dry evening.

On Saturday we drove to Dunwich Heath, a National Trust site, for a six mile walk. The route went through large tracts of heather where we upset some twitchers as we innocently disturbed a rare bird they were watching by walking past it. We ended at the seashore and only Val was brave enough to put her toes in the sea. A quick stroll around the ruins of Greyfriars Abbey and a visit to Dunwich museum ended the day. A nice meal at The Fox inn, Newbourne was had in the evening.

suffolk efog 190519 tree buartBreakfast on Sunday saw the Great Picnic Table Disaster of ’19. Brian was sitting at the table when he slowly started falling backwards, followed by the table which ended up on top of him. Ian said he went through a range of emotions, from concern to laughter, in the time it took for Brian to land on the ground, the table’s contents strewn around him.

We went out for a three mile walk in the morning, initially walking through reed beds and then alongside the beach where an oak tree’s roots were admired.

It started raining as we arrived back at the campsite, just in time to soak Brian’s tent as he packed it. As soon as the tent was in his car the rain stopped. That was the only rain of note the entire weekend, very different from the weather forecast. And so back home with suntans on our faces and hands.

Brian U.  20th May 2019


Sweet Cookies, gin-an-tonic, a warm walk and chilli meal at Three Mills.

An extra May event was added to EFOG’s programme by Eleanor, suggesting a visit to the House Mill at Bromley-by-Bow on 12th May to see the Sweet Cookies, an Essex-based female close harmony group.

housemill 190512 165806136 artJinan and I met at Stratford to walk from there to the Three Mills complex, on a lovely, sunny late Sunday afternoon. Stratford, of course – since the Olympics – has changed and is changing considerably, so the first part of our walk was along the busy Stratford High Street, heading towards the Bow Flyover and en-canyoned somewhat by the high apartment and office buildings. More or less the only pre-Olympic building that is obvious is the Builders Arms pub, on the corner of Lett Road.

However, there is some openness still where the Greenway meets the High Street. The Greenway is the promenade pedestrian and cycle path designed by Bazalgette to top his Northern Outfall Sewer bank, and one can walk or cycle that some 3 miles to Beckton. Shortly beyond the Greenway we left the High Street for the relative quiet of a footpath alongside the Three Mills Wall River. On the west side – in the Sugar House Lane area, more apartments and other-use buildings are being constructed, but on the side we were walking there are just the back gardens of the older terraced houses of Stratford.

Soon, the open area of Three Mills Green is reached, with residential narrowboat moorings in the arm of the river. In the late afternoon light the views through to the Canary Wharf complex were not unattractive, while closer we observed a coot nesting in a convenient motor-vehicle tyre and a black cat being admonished and chased off by a carrion crow. Indeed, we could see its nest in one of the London plane trees further on.

housemill coot 190512 165919771artWe arrived at the venue a bit early, so we continued our walk through the historic Three Mills Conservation area and between the Lea Navigation and the river itself. We passed under the Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness and the Upminster Underground Lines bridges, and went just as far as Twelvetrees Crescent bridge to view Bow Locks and from where we could have continued walking to Limehouse Basin and the Thames via the Limehouse Cut, or to Cody Dock and the Thames via the main River Lea.

However, our plan had been to go to the House Mill for the event, and so we returned the relatively short distance to Three Mills to see the Sweet Cookies, and the House Mill Volunteers.

We arrived as the doors opened at 5.30. The House Mill Volunteers might just sound like a part-time military unit from the Naploleonic Wars, but in fact it refers in this case to those people who manage to keep the wonderful House Mill open to the public on occasions, and even help host events such as this. So we were met very soon by Eleanor – whose idea it was to suggest this – and who is one of those who volunteer here, and our other group-member Marilyn, who is another. They, together with others, had prepared for the evening so that there was a bar available, and hot and cold snacks on the menu.

housemill 190512 192843983artThe Sweet Cookies are a female close harmony group, and were accompanied by a male electric piano player. They entertained us with a wide range of music – from folk and show songs to jazz and modern pop. And very entertaining they were too, leading to a very pleasant couple of hours. As well as Jinan and myself – and of course Eleanor and Marilyn – a couple of other EFOG members joined us: Marian and Karen, together with Karen’s husband.

After the music evening, Jinan and I walked back along the riverside to Stratford High Street, and hence made our ways home.

As well as providing a really nice evening of entertainment for us, the event was also valuable in contributing to the ongoing Restoration Project that is is taking place at the House Mill. The event was free, but contributions afterwards and the sales of food and drink would all help towards this. The goal is to restore the heritage water wheels of what is the largest surviving tide mill in the world to working condition. Once complete, the wheels – powered by the tide – could provide enough energy to power the House Mill, with capacity to provide a regular income from the excess electricity generated. This, of course, is all without the emission of CO2 – which just might contribute something to saving our planet.

As an extra thought, a couple of our members during the evening mentioned that they were unable to participate in any of the group’s walks at weekends, and we thought that maybe we should try to organise something for weekdays. Another walk around the Bow Back Rivers, down the Lea Navigation and river via Three Mills and Cody Dock to the Thames just might be an idea to facilitate this?

Paul Ferris, 14th May 2019