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 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.

Two Houses and a Heath

On 22nd July we met at Hampstead station for a visit to Fenton House on Hampstead Heath. The weather was superb, again, and a short steep climb saw us at the house.

The house is full of harpsichords, virginals, etc. It also has a good art collection, including paintings donated by the late actor Peter Barkworth. After a pleasant hour wandering through the three floors of the house we went into the gardens. Some pretty and interesting plants on the borders led us to a small orchard and with the shade provided by the trees, we decided to have a picnic. Fred and Brian got the short straw and ate in the hot sunshine.

efog hampstead heath 180722 142435We then descended to the house called No. 2 Willow Road by National Trust, but called Goldfinger’s house by us. It is said that Ian Fleming was inspired to use this architect’s name in one of his Bond novels. We missed the guided tour and had to wait an hour to gain access so we walked round part of Hampstead Heath. The photo is of us resting during the walk. The Heath was full, as was the open air swimming pool. Then back to the house.

Goldfinger was a modern architect and the house was his vision of the future. It is a concrete framed house but after objections the concrete was covered by brickwork more sympathetic to the area. The garage had been converted by National Trust into a cinema where we saw an introductory video and then we entered the house. Sliding and folding doors made it a versatile home and the panoramic windows gave fine views. The tools used by an architect in the mid-twentieth century were on display and there was some nice artwork. Many notable people were visitors to the house and visiting artists left some of their work.

Lynne left us to have a swim in the ladies-only pool on the Heath and the rest of us returned to Belsize Park station and home.

Brian U.  22nd July 2018

Circuiting the Chesham Ring

Sometimes what I like about walks, outings, holidays – as well as the walks, outings and holidays – is getting there. Of course that depends on whether my journey is going relatively smoothly, and thus how early or – more particularly – how late I will be.

So, on Saturday July 14th, the day of Ken’s walk around the Chesham Ring – which appropriately enough is around the town of Chesham in Bucks. – I was pleased that I departed from home at my proposed time, caught the intended-and-on-time train at Manor Park, and saw – as arranged – Jinan waiting for me exactly by the doors of my carriage at Stratford Station.

I can’t say that I’d planned or expected us to walk across the platform, off one train and straight on to a Central Line train, but that’s what happened. Similarly, changing from the Central Line to the Bakerloo at Oxford Circus, as we reached the platform an appropriate train came in and in three stops, some stairs and escalators, we were in Marylebone Main Line Station. Oh, and we’d met Lynne walking along the same foot-tunnels that serviced the escalators and stairs.

efog chiltern mound 180714artWith the smoothness of the day, I had time to look at Marylebone Station itself, inside and out, meeting Ken and Fred and Peter B. in the process. I haven’t been to Marylebone before – having lived in London just about all of my life so far – but it’s quite a nice station and I wouldn’t be surprised if John Betjeman hasn’t mentioned it somewhere.

So, onto the intended train, departing on time at 09.27, and – still going smoothly – through the Metropolitan suburbs of London.

It was only when we reached Chalfont and Latimer Station that I received a message from Amina saying she’d missed the train by a door-won’t-open-’cos-it’s-ready-to-depart whisker, and was on the next one. And would we wait? Well, Ken being in charge as well as a gentleman said that we would, so I texted her a positive reply. But, we were only at Chal.&Lat., and our meeting place was 10.15 at Chesham, where others might be. Gallantly – being lady and gentlemen (if that terminology is still acceptable) – Jinan, Peter and I said we’d while away the time talking on the platform at C.&L., whilst the others went for refreshments in Chesham – which is one Metropolitan Line stop away, on a branch line.

In due course, as per the Chiltern Railways’ timetable, the next train arrived and we met a thankful Amina. Then, the four of us had to wait for a branch-line train. Which duly arrived, together with Kathy and Ann and Trevor amongst it’s passengers.

Reaching Chesham, our next step was to find the refreshmenteers, and a phone call ascertained that they were in a Black Cafe, but in Italian. Walking towards that appuntamento (that’s rendezvous in English French), some of us spotted Peter G. and Parviz looking for a car-park, so we informed them of our cafe destination and joined the pioneers. Teas, coffees and buns duly drunk or noshed and Peter and Parviz having found us, the then 12 eventually set-walk through Saturday car-free Chesham High Street, beginning our circuitous foot journey around the town.

efog chiltern black horse 180714artI have decided because it is 23.32 not to go into too much detail about the walk. Briefly, it is a nice one, with some up-hills and some down-hills, quite a lot of (not particularly well sign-posted for the Chesham Ring) footpaths, a bit of road-edge walking, one or two slight wrong ways, one leader and some self-appointed deputies, three maps (one usefully G.P.S.’d), only one buried compass amongst the twelve of us (not counting the possibly unreliable Smartphone one), quite a lot of heat and sunshine, one pub where we had to be surreptitious about eating our own lunches – even having bought our pints and that – quite a lot of Red Kites, no Partridges, at least one Pheasant, one Marbled White, and some other things.

The 7.5 mile circuit got us back to Chesham at 17.10, a train left at 17.27, so – leaving nine people in a cafe – Jinan, Lynne, Amina and myself bought ice-creams and caught the 17.27.

So – a nice walk was had by all, I think. I think it was a nice walk, and thanks to Ken – and to Clive for pre-walking (most of) it with Ken – and thanks to the rest of the pleasant company during the day.

It is now 23.42. The article is about a day out. It was to enable a walk around Chesham, but I decided I’d write about something other than the walk itself. After all, there’s more to a journey than just the walking bit. And one of the photos shows some of us walking.

Paul Ferris, 15th July 2018

A Visit to House Mill, Three Mills Island

The last time I had been into the House Mill – apart maybe for a tea in the cafe there – was back in 2014, when I led an EFOG walk from Stratford to Trinity Buoy Wharf, by the Thames. (here)

This return visit was arranged by Eleanor, who works at the Mill as a voluntary guide. So, on a relatively sunny and relatively warm Sunday 17th June we met Eleanor by the House Mill, in the complex known as Three Mills at Bromley-by-Bow. Including Eleanor, there were nine EFOG members, only two of whom had been on the previous visit.

efog house mill mills 180617 00930cEleanor began by taking us to an open area between the Lee Navigation and an arm of the River Lea, from where we had a view of Three Mills two remaining mills – House Mill and Clock Mill. It is somewhat uncertain exactly where the third mill was situated, but at one time there would probably been a lot of mills dotted about. Not too far away, indeed, is Pudding Mill Lane, where it is known that a windmill stood – which looked like a pudding…

House Mill and Clock Mill, however, are not windmills but are tide mills. That is to say, they harness the power of the river tides to turn water-wheels to provide power to do all the heavy jobs a mill is designed for. Both mills have been used in the production of gin for London’s prolific gin-drinking times in the 18th and 19th centuries, the House Mill continuing in production until it was bombed in 1941 and Clock Mill up until 1952. Prior to the gin-making, bread was produced and the mills may have even been used in the production of gunpowder at some time in their histories.

efog house mill inside 180617 00941cWhereas Clock Mill – with its twin conical cowls which were used in the drying process – is now a school, the House Mill is under the care of the House Mill Trust, and is on the National Heritage List for England as a Grade 1 listed building. There is a nice little cafe in an adjacent building – which would have been the miller’s house – and a pleasant garden area at the rear.

efog house mill stone 180617 00943cEntering the building by way of the cafe, we began the tour. There are, I believe, three floors, plus an attic area, all of which were used in the milling process. Thus there are numerous stairways to negotiate, plus some narrow and low doorways, and much of the building is of wooden construction. All of these mills, the miller’s house and the adjacent customs-house building, are – remarkably – built on an artificial island. The River Lea here is a complex system of channels – the Bow Back Rivers – and would have been exceptionally marshy. This is a wonderful example of land reclamation, but the Lea – London’s “second” river, as it is sometimes known – has a big tide rise-and-fall here, and so apart from the generally damp condition anyway, is prone to frequent flooding. What with the stairs and doorways, wooden beams and mill-mechanisms, even rotting floorboards presented something of a hazard, but all were negotiated safely, and Eleanor’s information was full of interest.

The group spent about one-and-a-half hours on the tour – more than is usual I understand – but there was no follow-up group to hurry us along so we were able to really appreciate the excellent guide to the wonderful building.

Some of our group had pre-ordered food, so stayed to eat it in the cafe or the garden, whereas Trevor and I, fancying a walk, strolled (or paced) on past Bow Locks, leaving the Lee Navigation to channel through to Limehouse Basin, and alongside the River Lea to lunch at Cody Dock, about a mile south. (here)

Paul Ferris, 18th June, 2018

Eleanor, Fred, Ken, Lynne, Marilyn, Maz, Paul, Peter, Trevor


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Woodberry Wetlands and New River walk - 2nd June 2018

Lynne’s proposed visit to Woodberry Wetlands was one I’d looked forward to, and – particularly as the weather proved fair, if somewhat humid, I joined Lynne and six others at Manor House station for the allotted departure time of 10.30.

A short walk through an estate – with some impressive new tower blocks clad with some exciting new colours – led us to a stretch of the New River. This new river is in reality quite old, and is not a river. It was built in the early 17th C. as an aqueduct to carry fresh water from a spring at Amwell in Hertfordshire the 40-plus miles to London, with waterworks at New River Head, near the Angel.

efog woodberry 180602 110016351 HDRcA footpath alongside this waterway led us to the entrance to the northern-most of the two north London Reservoirs that have now been made accessible to the public and branded as Woodberry Wetlands. The public side of these is run by the London Wildlife Trust, at whose nice cafe, we – perhaps unsurprisingly – stopped for tea, and coffee. From the rooftop vantage point we were able to sit in the sunshine looking out over the reservoirs.

Afterwards we continued our walk by means of a stretch of the New River footpath, passing the southern reservoir, which is used for sailing and similar water activities. This length of footpath was particularly notable for the colour and variety of wildflowers that grew here. We left the water-side near an impressive castle-like building, which was built in the early 19th C. as a pumping station.

A bit of pavement walking led us to Clissold Park, a 55 acre open space – similar in style to Valentines Park, so very pleasant to walk through. The land was originally the estate of Jonathan Hoare a City merchant, Quaker, philanthropist and anti-slavery campaigner, and his house - originally Paradise Hall - is a Grade 11 listed building now used as a venue and for refreshments.

Emerging from the park, the New River has been piped underground, but we were able to follow its route by mean of an urban lane between houses and and with a linear allotment. The next stretch was down the middle of a road, but because of the subterranean river, the central reservation is now a public footpath with trees, grass and flowers. The houses here are quite grand, although mostly terraced, so the whole aspect was pleasurable.

efog woodberry 180602 122901082 HDRcAfter another short road stretch – passing Canonbury station – we entered a park-like section of the New River, here above ground and beautifully landscaped, with trees, shrubs, nesting birds and imported rocks to add flavour – plus an old watchman’s building, built like one of the beehive dwellings where monks used to spend their holidays on remote Scottish and Irish rocks. The idea was stop illicit fishing from the river, and skinny-dipping in it, I suppose. We had time for neither, even though the building is probably only used for garden-tool storage now, and proceeded south towards down-town Islington.

The last stretch was probably the most built-up and busy, with a saving in the grand facade of the old Carlton Cinema, in all its 1930s Tutankhamun-inspired glory. We dropped away from the busy-ness of Essex Road, down towards the much more refined Duncan Terrace, where the gardens – again describing the route of the New River – provided us with a shady and pleasant spot to have a short rest-break before the final stretch.

Well, I never completed the final stretch of half-a-mile or so, as when we reached the Regents Canal Trevor and I decided that we would have a go at walking back to Mile End via yet another waterway. We never got to Mile End either, because at the junction with the Hertford Union Canal we took that, and then joining the Lee Navigation we continued south as far as the Bow Flyover.

From there we stuck to one of the Bow Back Rivers as much as private development allows, and thus reached Stratford Station.

Lynne’s walk from Woodberry Wetlands to New River Head at Islington was 5 miles. Trevor and I completed 10 miles.

Thanks very much, Lynne for such a pleasant visit to the wetlands combined with an interesting and delightful New River walk. And the company, as well.

Paul Ferris, 3rd June 2018

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Photos by Paul Ferris, Lynne E. and Peter G.