Recent outings and activities...

A visit to RAF Hendon

We travelled to NW London to visit RAF Hendon on Saturday 15th September, 2018. A couple of us had been before but the rest were first-timers.

The RAF are celebrating their 100th anniversary and this particular day was also a festival day celebrating the 1930’s and 1940’s. It was a fine day, the entry is free and so we were surprised to note that the car park was not full. Still, more room for us.

efog hendon 180915 135958art

After a cup of tea we started at Hanger 1. This gave the history of the RAF from its formation to the present time. Coming out, we watched a stationery Merlin engine being run up. The noise and vibration were terrific. Brian and Dave have videos if you want to see them. Then on to Hanger 2 which covered the First World War. A surprising time later we realised that it was time for lunch.. After a good - though slightly expensive - lunch, Kathy and Brian went to attend a Swing Dance class while the others went to Hanger 6. We all, apart from Dave, popped out to see a Lancaster flying overhead. Brian has posted a video on Facebook so become his Facebook Friend if you want to see it.

All through the day there were many people in period dress, happy to pose for photos and looking very convincing, even down to seams in the ladies’ stockings.

Finally, we visited Hangars 3,4, and 5 which included a Lancaster, Spitfire, Hurricane and a lot of the other notable aircraft from World War 11. Also there were modern jet bombers. Standing under a Vulcan bomber makes you realise how big the wings are. There also was the chance to sit in a Spitfire for £10. No, we didn’t think it was worth it either.

It was nearly 5pm before we left. A full, surprisingly long, day, very enjoyable. Well done, Ken for organising it.

Brian U., 15th September 2018

Bletchley Park - 25th August 2018

Meeting as usual at The Eagle, Snaresbrook, eight of us set off for Bletchley Park. When arranging this trip Brian had overlooked that it was a Bank Holiday weekend and about two hours later we finally arrived.

bletchley mansion 180825 1437cA gasp at the cost of entry, a quick lunch in the café and we set off around the estate. The mansion where the more senior officers worked is very grand, a good looking building, and Kathy was attracted to the restaurant advertising afternoon tea (£18!). It rained heavily around this time which was a surprise according to the weather forecast. Near the mansion there is a small garage with typical motor cars and bikes of the period, the major donor here being Mick Jagger.

bletchley bombe 180825 150631artThe huts where the routine (if you can call such brainpower routine) work was carried out were basic and must have been cold in Winter. The displays were very similar, a desk or two, a typewriter and a telephone being seen many times. Huts 11 and 11A were different, a model of a bombe (see photo) and interactive displays attracting the crowds. Adjourning to Hut 4 and its café, we suddenly heard the sound of Merlin engines and rushed out to see a Spitfire and a Hurricane flying over the estate. It is amazing how such a simple air display puts a smile on your face as you return to the café and your tea in an enamel mug.

The estate closed all too soon and we left feeling that we had rushed around (we were there more than four hours). We had all obtained annual tickets allowing free return for a year and agreed the place was worth a return visit at a less busy time. Then it was into the cars for the slow slog back to Snaresbrook and home.

Brian U.  26th August 2018

A Hexham weekend - comprising a Wall, 2-Star Romans, Earl Grey Tea, a Confusing Bridge and a (non) Reflective Slug

Ken’s booking of accomodation at The Station Inn in Hexham from Friday to Monday encouraged 15 EFOG members to travel to Northumberland from 10th-13th August, 2018

I travelled with Kathy and Brian by car, together with Jinan and Fozi, and thus met the others, who had either gone by train or by car, when we arrived in the late afternoon. We all ate together – save Phil who was staying in separate accommodation – in the 2-Star hotel.

The evening meal, I thought, was fine, and the room adequate – if a bit loose on electrical fittings and with a blind that wouldn’t go either up nor down from its halfway position, and itself in a position overlooking a quite busy road. The accomodation was a little basic, but at the price was quite acceptable, the staff were pleasant and helpful and the food was good. It is very close to the railway station, near bus-stops, near to the town centre attractions, and there is car-parking nearby.

hexham hadswall 180811 1126artHadrian's Wall from HousesteadsAfter a decent breakfast, with a variety of choice from or with cereal through to full-Northumbrian, most of us elected to travel by the AD122 bus route to the Roman fort at Housesteads. The AD122 – although a local service-bus route, also serves as a hop-on-hop-off route for destinations along a route which follows that of Hadrian’s Wall. As a normal service bus, English National bus-passes were accepted – a free bonus to those that had them.

Housesteads is a Roman Fort (auxiliary fort, actually) built in AD124 – thus just two years after the bus route was established. Apparently the only Roman there now are possibly Italian visitors. Most of the group paid their money or showed their National Trust cards to visit the remains, but I have been there before and wanted to ensure that I had enough time and energy to walk near the wall itself and visit Sycamore Gap. Eleanor and Marilyn decided to come with me, but found the going tough and turned back in a short while, so I continued alone. The day was just about perfect for walking, neither too hot or cold, too windy or wet, and there is some choice of path, either right next to the wall, which is rather undulating, or slightly away following the somewhat more sensible and easier track, well established by those early Romans and well trodden probably ever since.

hexham sycgap 180811 1251artSycamore GapI looked back occasionally to see if the large and fast EFOG group was catching me up, but never a sign. There were, however, plenty of other walkers, either going in the same or the opposite direction, so it wasn’t lonely. In fact I chatted to a family-and-friends group about their accompanying dog, and they invited me to walk along with them. Very nice people, and a good dog, too. We were all going to Sycamore Gap, but the dog probably didn’t care. It is a lovely walk, with grand and sometimes dramatic views ahead, behind, towards Scotland and into Northumberland.

At Sycamore Gap, I waited for the others. And waited, and waited. Then, a lone Kathy appeared – by herself – so we sat watching the tree, other walkers, a couple of horse-riders, an annoyed cattle, and a bloke who spoilt the view because he was fat and was on a mobile phone. Pacing – like what people do when they are on mobile phones in an iconic place or a railway station. After quite a few Roman numerals time, Lynne appeared, then – distantly- and somewhat pronely, Madeleine, then a gradual descending of other EFOG members.

hexham vindola 180811 1546artVindolandaEventually assembled, we made our way a bit further along the ridge and then down to the Sill Visitor Centre. This was about 3.5 miles walking distance from Housesteads. Even though I trogged around all the car parks, I couldn’t find those other group members who had gone to Vindolanda and explained by phone that were there just as we arrived. However, in my tiredness I hadn’t cottoned on that the Sill and Vindolanda are two separate places. Still…

Having refreshed ourselves at the (expensive) cafe, we caught the AD122 one stop to Vindolanda, paid our entrance fees or showed our passes and went in. The other group had left there by that time, by the way. Vindolanda, despite its confusing name, is another Roman auxiliary fort and village, comprising extensive and still-to-be-uncovered remains and a museum. There is a lot to see, both the remains themselves and in the excellent museum. There is also a delightful glen, complete with a reconstruction of a temple dedicated to nymphs. We didn’t see any of those, however.

hexham temple 180811 16344artThe Nymph's Glen and TempleAnd so back on the last AD122 of the day, to Hexham, and straight away to a somewhat (or at least I thought) depressing ex-cinema Wetherspoons for a meal.

During the night it rained continually, and Sunday was much more overcast and potentially drizzly than Saturday had been. After a joint visit to the visitor centre part of lovely Hexham Abbey, and then to the interesting Hexham Gaol, groups and individuals decided to do differing things, and Jinan and I had decided that a bus-ride to Newcastle might be in order. We were joined by Madeleine and Eleanor and Marilyn. It is about an hour and a quarter journey on the Tyne Valley Ten bus, passing through pleasant countryside and villages, and an enjoyable ride.

newcstle grey 180812 1411artMonument to Earl Grey, NewcastleI don’t know Newcastle, only having glimpsed it from a train and a plane, so after checking return bus times I had to orientate myself for the walk from Eldon Square bus station to the Quays, which are by the river. Eldon Square is sort of the centre of things, with some fine buildings and a monument to the inventor of the tea – Earl Grey himself. I am not keen on the stuff, but it’s nice that the Romans put that great big monument there in his honour. There was an interesting looking arcade nearby, and Eleanor and I went in to look whilst the others went on ahead. The Central Arcade is (as it says in Wikipedia) 'an elegant Edwardian shopping arcade built in 1906 and designed by Oswald and Son, of Newcastle'. It really was attractive, although – being Sunday – just about empty of all life except for ourselves and a chap playing the Northumbrian pipes - except that I realised afterwards that they weren't Northumbrian pipe, but Scottish Small Pipes. I had a chat with the chap (interrupting his playing – but then he didn’t need to blow into the bag like someone playing the Scottish big pipes would), and finished by giving him a few pennies and asking if he could play “Bonny at Morn”, which he couldn’t. Maybe that was because it is a Northumbrian tune and he had the wrong pipes?...

newcstle arcade 180812 1415artThe Central Arcade, NewcastleThe others had re-joined us, and Eleanor had been directed to some fine tiling in Central Station. That wasn’t quite on my planned route, and a little way from where we were, but we went. I have to say, although the station is big and impressive enough, it didn’t quite do it or anything for me, and the tiles – although quite artistic – were rather poorly situated in a bar, dimly-lit and with football or something on a giant screen.

We ploughed past the cathedral, as time was getting on and hunger was threatening, and arrived at the Quays, where an outdoor market was established for the day. But food was more important at that time so we did the usual group thing of walking up and down with typical likes and dislikes until we ended up in a Greggs. Of course, you can’t go to Newcastle and not see the bridges, and there they were, in an appropriate place crossing the river that is just across the road from Greggs.

newcstle sage 180812 1542artThe Sage Music Venue, GatesheadWe half-crossed the Gateshead Millenium one, which lifts up in a confusing way to allow for the passage of ships, and then turned back because the route up to the Gateshead-side-of-the-Tyne reflective-slug sort of building over there looked a bit steep. Then we walked by the riverside, passing under a few bridges until we reached a very nice looking Wetherspoons, into which we didn’t go.

newcstle bridge 180812 1608artNewcastle Prom, with bridge and traditional palm treeJinan said she’d like to visit the slug, so we crossed an old swing bridge into Gateshead, watched the Millenium bridge lifting in the distance, then trudged uphill to the slug (sorry – the Sage). The Sage is a concert venue, and we were just in time to find the bar had closed and the whole place would be closing in an hour, at 6pm. So we descended from the other end, crossed the Millenium Bridge fully this time, and – because of the impending time and bus-journey – I suggested that it might be in order to catch the 5.52 Route 10 bus back to Hexham. That entailed some fast uphill walking, but we made it with four minutes to spare. Madeleine had left us early, so arriving back at Hexham the four of us ate in the County Hotel.

Fozi had caught an early train on Monday, so after breakfast Kathy, Brian, Jinan and myself left for Brian’s drive back to London. We broke the journey near Newark to visit the Workhouse at Southwell which, built in 1824, influenced similar institutions across the country. These workhouses comprised of a strict and harsh regime for those that inhabited them, but this was designed so as to act as a deterrent to all but those most in need of taking advantage of the system. This may be construed as analogous to that of benefit payments now, perhaps?

Thanks to Ken for organising another good break.

Paul Ferris, 14th August 2018

Photo-bombing, Tett Towers and a Strangulation

(AKA another typical EFOG walk)

With the majority of the group being away on Ken’s weekend at Hexham, Ann volunteered to lead a walk on Saturday 11th August for those left at home. So it was that Ann, Cathy, Sue S. and I gathered at Upminster station on a pleasantly warm morning. Cathy decided to use the photo-booth at the station to sit in whilst putting on her boots. However, a loud scream, or possibly two, signalled that the some-one was already using the booth; I don’t know who was the more surprised!

efog 180811 667artMaking a swift exit from the station we turned right, as instructed by Ann, but upon checking the directions found we should have turned left. Not going too well so far! A trip to Costa’s for refreshment was called for. Having orientated ourselves, we set off visiting Upminster thing. Rumour has it that it is a windmill, but it’s been covered in plastic for years and could be anything, so will remain Upminster thing until revealed.

Back to the walk, and we walked through Upminster Park to bring us out at the River Ingrebourne, which was to be our companion for rest of the walk (and was probably the only one amongst us with any sense of direction!). A very pleasant walk ensued with plenty of wildlife including Egrets, Buzzards and small Blue Butterflies.

efog 180811 668artArriving at Hornchurch Country Park, there was an outdoor gym where we worked out on the equipment in what looked like a practice session for the Gladiators TV show. After lunch at the Essex Wildlife Trust visitor centre, we continued through the park, which was a former World War II airfield. Many of the old defences still remain, such as pill boxes and tett turrets, which were basically reinforced lids to cover snipers hidden in small holes in the ground (think mole with attitude and machine gun).

Anyway, we continued, and as is the fashion now, there were a number of exercise stations along the route, where those so inclined can pretend to be Mr Motivator or whoever. We eventually passed a sit-up bench (which I can do), so to impress the ladies I decided to demonstrate my sporting prowess. Unfortunately my camera case strap, which was hanging casually from my neck, caught on the bench, so that instead of looking like a sporting legend, I almost ended up strangling myself, causing much hilarity (and very little sympathy, I noticed) amongst the ladies.

The rest of the walk was very nice if uneventful and we took a break at Stillwell lake, named after Squadron Leader Stillwell, who we speculated was always referred to as “Stillers” by the chaps. We made our way to Rainham station to complete the walk, passing the surprisingly attractive village of Rainham (at least that’s what it says in the guide). A delightful 5 mile walk, and well done and thanks to Ann for organising her maiden walk.

Trev Eley, 13th August 2018

From Margate to Broadstairs

Where might a good walk for the members of EFOG be on one of the warmest days of the summer? By the seaside of course, and it so happens that a certain newspapers travel section had published this walk so on the 21st July, a sunny summer morning, a group of 17 keen souls set off from Stratford International station to the seaside town of Margate, on the Kent coast. The trouble was, that it was also the first weekend of the school holidays and one of the warmest days of the summer heatwave, so half of the population of London must have jammed its way onto the same train with us, resulting in a marathon stint of standing all the way to Whitstable before the train finally emptied out. Luckily Margate Station has obliging facilities and a coffee shop, so we were able to gather our strength before setting out along the Viking Trail coastal path.

efog botany bayBotany BayMargate was crammed with holiday makers, and it was nice to see lots of children playing on the beaches as opposed to being at computer screens. We headed around the Turner Art Museum and along the coastal path, complete with some very entertaining graffiti, past the old Lido, all the time on the lower coastal path. It was only once we began to approach Botany Bay that the group had to climb a short but steep ramp to the top of the cliffs and were subject to the full glare of the midday sun. With the exceptional heat in mind, a refreshment stop was quickly voted on at the Botany Bay pub hotel, and a very nice rest stop was had by all. This turned out to be a good thing, as the originally-planned stop at Joss Bay ice cream hut was foiled by the fact that the shop wasn't open! The trail swung inland at the North Foreland Lighthouse, but the group stayed on the cliff-top path until we had to circumnavigate Kingsgate Bay Castle, originally built as a stables for the horses belonging to Lord Holland. This Victorian Gothic creation is now in private hands but provides a charming backdrop to the view of the cliffs.

Down a flight of steps in a narrow alley, we made seashore once again by a parade of delightful beach huts and an obliging flat and sandy beach. Once again the walk plan was rapidly reconfigured to allow for a spot of paddling and even a full on swim by one brave Effoger who had forwar-thinkingly brought her swimsuit! It took quite a bit of encouragement to prise people from this particular perch to make the last mile or so into Broadstairs, but make it they did, hot and tired and eager to take advantage of Broadstairs' many hostelries and food outlets - after all what is better than fish and chips by the sea? Well done to those who made the 6.3 mile journey on a very hot day, including newcomers Anne, Dave and Janet, who assure us that they will be back again for another walk at some point!

Sue C., 10th August 2018

photo by Lynne E.