Photos & Reports for 2008

This is where you'll find photos and reports from members who've been on outdoor activities with the group in 2008. We also have photos and reports from other years:

The log cabin accommodation was in a nice quiet location with a stream running close by; the sound of the running water having a calming effect. The short winter days meant being up at 5.30am to be on the mountains at 8.00am, gving us the full daylight hours available.

Day 1 - Ice-axe self arrest techniques when sliding down ice. Covered feet first, head first (front and back) and tumbling falls. Moving across ice and snow in crampons, covering different techniques for shallow and steep slopes.

Day 2 - Rope work involving pitching, moving together, short roping and abseiling over snow, ice and rock.

Day 3 - Using the ice-axe as an anchor for dropping down sheer faces; ice climbing using front point cramponing and double ice axes.

Day 4 - Using the skills learnt in the previous days, an ascent of the North face of Ben Nevis was undertaken. This involved climbing frozen waterfalls, scaling up steep slopes and final ice climb to summit. Descent was made by dropping off cliff.

Day 4 was also New Year's Eve so we went to the Clachaig Inn to join the festivities. A folk band played to the ever filling pub and by the time midnight struck the place was absolutely packed. Everybody joined in the singin' and dancin' through to the early hours.

New Year's Day became in effect a rest day with a late start. In the afternoon we had a look around Glencoe and visited one of the (two) visitor centres at the glen. On Friday another big walk was attempted along the Aonach Eaghach Ridge. Once onto the ridge, however, it became clear this was extremely dangerous to continue with as every step became a matter of life and death, with sheer drops on both sides. A decision was made to abandon the attempt. The rest of the day was spent walking the flatter and safer West Highland Way between Glencoe and Kinlochleven.

We were blessed with clear blue skies and good visibility throughout the week. The views this gave us were magnificent, at times it was hard to believe we were still in the UK when surrounded by such stunning scenery. The last night we went back to the Clachaig Inn for haggis and traditional Scottish folk music.

Report by Martin J

With a party of HAWOGers already off in Scotland, I was not sure how many people to expect at this year's Yuletide walk, however we were pleasantly surprised when 25 hardy souls turned out on the day. We were greeted by a dry and frosty morn, though the early sunshine had deserted us before we even got started. Initially we headed up from Wendover Dean to join the South Bucks Way, hotly pursued by latecomer Mary, who could be seen puffing up the hill after us, scarlet in hue. Resisting the temptation to hide in the woods, we headed on past Dunsmore and Litton's Wood before rejoining the South Bucks Way and heading up the icy track to Coombe Hill. This provided spectacular views over the Three Hundreds of Aylesbury. On the top is a monument to those who fell in the Boer War, which proved to be a lifesaver for us (along with Mike D's hip flask) as we sheltered from the icy wind that was whistling over this high ground.

From the monument we headed downhill to Wendover, where we elected to continue on walking and have a late lunch a couple of miles further on at the village of Lee Gate, taking a chance on beating the expected 2.00pm curfew for food. Imagine our dismay then, when reaching the pub we found the peeling sign swinging in the wind but no pub! A meeting around the map was urgently convened and saw us speeding across the fields as quick as our legs would take us (which wasn't very quick by then) in the hope of making another inn fairly close by.

Luckily The Swan was still serving food and, though the chef's views when 25 people walked in and ordered food at five-to-two are not recorded, there was a log fire, plenty of seating, and the food was excellent if a little slow in coming. Alas some of the more timorous members of our group, fearing the Chilterns at dusk, bolted before all could complete their luncheon, however most people remained in the pub to partake of steaming hot apple crumble with lashings of custard, before also leaving to wend their way back to the car park.

A special mention at this point should go to Derek and Prem who are great supporters of the Yuletide walk and turn out every year without fail, but rarely make the start, joining us en route instead. Some of the less charitably minded members of the group have noticed that every year they join the walk a little further round. Everyone agreed this year they excelled themselves and did not get mud on their boots until after 3.30pm, whereupon they accompanied us for about twenty minutes of walking before cadging a lift back to their car! We must organise a sweepstake for how far they get next year...

I am sorry to say that during the day there were some dark mutterings as a number of people cast doubt on the estimate of 8 miles for the walk - the word "hoodwinked" even being heard! I can assure everyone that that was not the intention. The final distance did creep up to 9.4 miles, however I would defend myself by saying that most of the difference was the mile or so extra for the unexpected trip to The Swan. Without that we would have been pretty close to the predicted distance.

We would like to thank everyone who came along and were such good company throughout the day. It was good to meet a couple of new members, and also to catch up with a few "Grandees" from the club's past.

Report by Mike and Li-Sha McA

I was pleasantly surprised this morning when seven (yes 7) others arose early and joined me for my Winter Solstice Sunrise and Walk.

Six of us were at the start point early, before 7.45am, and thinking that was it, we headed up the West Wycombe Hill. Half way up a screeching car and a yell announced Emma had arrived and we were to be seven. At the top of the hill we could see a collage of colours: ahead, red sky, blue sky, white cloud, yellow and orange beams, and behind us in the distance, the disappearing dark of the past night. And just before official sunrise (08:07) Steve N arrived, taking us to eight.

We started our walk heading east through Downley village and various woods into High Wycombe for breakfast in the Castle Cafe. A good selection of traditional full English, including two choices for us veggies, meant we were all fed. We discussed the meaning of the day. The Winter Solstice isn't necessarily the shortest day of the year, certainly today (Sun 21st Dec 08) isn't. It's the day when the sun is at the "greatest angular distance on the other side of the equatorial plane from the observer" - at its furthest southern point from us I think. I had thought today was our latest sunrise and earliest sunset for this year but it's not. Our latest sunrise this year is Wed 30 Dec 08 (08:10am) and our earliest sunset this year was on Fri 12 Dec 08 (15:53). So sunrise and sunset don't necessarily mirror each other either. And the word "solstice" is derived from the apparent pause of the sun as it changes from moving north/south, from the Latin sistere, to stand still. Regardless of what the Winter Solstice actually is, it was on a Sunday, which made it ideal for a walk with an early start.

After breakfast we headed north and an ascent towards Hughenden and Naphill. Our paths got distinctly muddy, unfortunately no one landed on their backside, the cameras were ready though! We walked through Naphill Common and west down to Bradenham village. Our route back involved an ascent up to the main path to take us back to West Wycombe Hill just after 1pm. Total distance around 8 miles on a very mild and dry winters day.

Post walk we walked back to my place for teas, mince pies, biscuits, and chocolates - one of a dozen boxes school teacher Emma had received from her pupils as Christmas presents. Said she couldn't eat them all as it would ruin her petite figure. The excuse didn't work for Glyn though. Thanks to Emma, Erika, David H, Glyn, Mark B, Phil and Steve N for joining me.

Report by Steve

9 of us took the scenic Chiltern line out of London on Sunday. Arriving at Seer Green we donned waterproofs as drizzle had started. We first headed to Jordan village (founded by Quakers) including the Mayflower barn and churchyard. We then went south, criss-crossing the railway, A roads and M40 by an intricate series of paths. We found ourselves on a private road with a row of impressive country mansions and stables.

The next point was Hedgerley where the welcoming White Horse Inn drew us in out of the rain. An impressive range of beers and reasonably priced meals were available so we made this an earlier lunch stop. Zhang told us of his new sideline as a travel reporter and guide. We were glad to see that the rain had eased off in the afternoon as we continued the route via Fulmer House and grounds to Fulmer village (another best kept village award on the green). We then made it through the edge of Iver and Black park before the home stretch via New Denham (Kevin told of his training runs around this area for his fell running competition). We arrived back in Uxbridge a little after 4 as dusk arrived.

Our final stop was the first pub we encountered, the Swan and Bottle by the canal, where we enjoyed some warming coffees whilst Jan and Keith reminisced about Double Diamond and the end of rationing.

Report by Brian G

Having found our only choice of transport (via Speedferries catamaran) impounded by Boulogne customs due to their non payment of harbour fees, we had to go to plan B which was a standard roll-on roll-off (RORO) ferry to Dunkirk (via Norfolkline). This was a shame because the ferry terminal in Boulogne turned out to be centrally located and within easy walking distance of both the town centre and the Auberge de Jeunesse (youth hostel). The 1.75 hour ferry crossing was uneventful, with the ship being quite luxurious compared to my previous memories of RORO ferries but meant a half hour drive from the port to the hostel. Booking in at the hostel was simplicity itself since we had pre-booked and were expected. We only had to provide YHA membership eligibility via the group card, and the accommodation was a sumptuous 3 bedded room with ensuite bathroom. A similar sized bedroom in a UK hostel would have had 6 or 8 bunk style beds crammed in to it.

The following morning the pre-walk meal (le petit dejeuner) was an "all you can eat" hostel breakfast consisting of cereal, coffee, tea, baguettes, toast and conserves. Fully replete we then headed out by car to the north-eastern outskirts of Boulogne to start the circular 16 km (10 mile) walk from St. Margarets. The weather was dry and slightly overcast but ideal conditions for walking. Over the duration of the walk we visited two Napoleonic monuments since it was from Boulogne that he planned to invade England. Lunch was in a local bar on the coast in Wimereux having walked through Wimille too early for lunch. After lunch we walked past numerous WWII gun emplacements as we enjoyed part of the GR20 long-distance coastal path.

The walk concluded early afternoon which allowed us time to explore Boulogne old town and visit the museum, bars and do a bit of shopping for provisions for the following days' walk. The evening was spent dining on local delicacies in a phenomenal restaurant in Boulogne town centre where the service and food was of the highest standard. Before retiring for the evening we played pool and imbibed in the hostel bar.

Sunday was plagued with slight on and off drizzle but we arrived early at the chateau d'Hardelot (which is currently being restored to its former glory) to start our circular 14 km walk which was to take in an abundance of different terrains including the local wetlands area, sandy beach, sand dunes and forest... all in the space of a 4 hour walk. We arrived back at the car intent on visiting the chateau only to find it closed for renovation. We thus headed off to Cap Gris Nez via Wissant intent on seeing the White Cliffs of Dover. The cliffs of the Cap are the closest point of France to England - 34 km (20 miles) from their English counterparts at Dover - however the drizzle and mist put paid to that idea.

We thus got our priorities right and first headed off to raid the local wine and beer warehouses to stock up on and taste the various wines and beer on offer. The Majestic wine warehouse offered a staggering 1.3 euros to £1 for sterling cash or cheque purchases. With the car's suspension buckling under the additional weight we then headed to Dunkirk to catch the ferry back to Dover and dear old Blighty.

Thanks to Martin J and Harvinder for contributing to a wonderful weekend. We enjoyed the weekend so much that next year we are contemplating visiting the Ardennes area of Belgium.

Report by Martin S

Having found takers last weekend to replace two people unable to come on my Shropshire Hills weekend, a further four pulled out, and missed out, in the week before.

We stayed at YHA Bridges-Long-Mynd high up in the Shropshire hills. Upon entering we were taken back at least 30 years, the hostel is a converted 19th century school with high ceilings, big fireplaces, wooden floors and a simple lounge with chairs, table and roaring fire. The hostel warden claimed she had not seen TV since the 1970s and the hostel had no TV or internet. She told us that kids in the school parties that visit, often struggle without their mobile fix as reception is poor, and don't understand how to use the phone box. We got the message. The pub round the corner did at least offer adults the option of some 21st century comforts for the evenings. Ignoring the time warp, the real benefit of our location though was the quiet, the panoramic rolling hills and the abundance of footpaths closeby.

On Saturday the eight of us who came - Anneke, Caroline, Claire, Nicky, and David, Jim, Marcellus and me - headed south towards the villages of Wentnor and Asterton and then our first climb up to the summit of Long Mynd (517 metres). Nicky led the walk to the summit. Just before 1pm four departed and headed down and north-west back toward Bridges. The rest of us headed south-east down the other side of the Mynd following the Ashes Hollow stream in a valley to Little Stretton before heading north through woods for a late lunch in Church Stretton about 3pm. Our route home was almost as beautiful, another climb back up the Mynd along valley path with stream, this time the Carding Mill. Our ascent was much quicker than expected; we reached the summit around 4:15pm at the start of dusk, so still plenty of light. And for me at least, the best bit was the dusk walk along the Mynd, distant views of rolling terrain with specks of light from erratic and sparse farms and houses, and the walk back down the other side to Bridges in decreasing light. Around 14 miles in my view, others felt it was 20.

The 1970s experience continued when we ate at the hostel on Saturday evening. The soup tasted like boiled dish water, the main course must have been bounced off the ceiling a few times before being cooked in the washing machine and we had to do our own washing up. I half expected to see Bruce Forsyth and the Generation Game "Alright My Love, Didn't He Do Well" when entering the lounge later on, only there was no TV. Conversation ensued around the fire between us and other hostellers; various topics, loosely connected with one of the previous, and one view that young people are too scared nowadays to go out hill walking because of mad axe murderers, werewolves and Jaws (Caroline). Possibly if they flood the valleys. Need to order those steel reinforced gaiters just in case it takes hold of my lower leg.

David led a 6 mile walk on Sunday from the village of Snailbeach, taking in some disused quarries, a short climb to a ridge of about 300m, lunch and a pleasant descent back to our cars. Half way up he yelled and pointed "There's whales over there". First sharks, now whales and all I could see was a red dragon. I wasn't brave enough to say so though, just in case others thought I was a few bytes (or bites) short too.

Report by Steve

Just two of us (Steve N and myself) braved the elements on Sunday for an 18 mile fairly hilly cycle through the best of Barnet's parkland. Took in Barn Hill (Fryent Country Park), the Welsh Harp where the sailing clubs were out in force, then via Hendon the Dollis Valley/Dollis Brook to Totteridge and Barnet. Some great freewheeling downhill compensated for some strenuous ascents. At the bottom of one such descent we realised we had inadvertently missed a turn and should climb back up...decided to adjust the route instead, stopping for a nice cup of tea at an Italian cafe.

Cycling through many of Barnets original lanes back up to the Ridgeway and Mill Hill Village, had some great views over conservation 'green belt' land, owned mostly by charities (Mill Hill Missionaries/Mill Hill School/Watch Tower/the Order Of The Daughters Of Charity At St Vincent De Paul and the National Institute Medical Research whose building used recently as the asylum in Batman begins!). Checked out the recently renovated St Paul's church, where William Wilberforce (famous for his bill abolishing slavery) was parish priest/vicar. Beautiful building..shame it was locked. Passed the Nicole Almshouses and Mill Hill pond and after another spectacular descent, through Sunny Hill Park to St Mary's Church Hendon, and finally through Hendon Park and back via Welsh Harp to Fryent at about 3pm. Rain was our companion for most of the day, so the good views were probably lost on us but we sure got a good workout. Thanks Steve for coming.

Report by Deirdre

5 souls set out on a overcast morning from Turville Heath: Mike, Mark O, Steve, Clare and myself. A good pace was set from the outset, to warm us up for the first hills. We went uphill, downhill through wood and mud and headed back to Turville Heath from the direction of the picturesque Stoner Park. We had lunch in the woods, cover was found by Mark, his previous army training was put to good use, and we sheltered from the only slightly heavy shower of the day.

We set off at 10:20am and returned at just before 4pm. I hope that everyone enjoyed the burnout and I would like to thank all who came along on the first walk which I've led with HAWOG.

Report by Ian G

It was an all male show for our first Saturday walk for a while.

Five of us (Glyn, Ian, Kevin, me and first timer David) met at West Wycombe for 1pm to sample my home made 8 mile route. A few climbs and woods, nothing strenuous, were part of the course and we reached Wheeler End village around an hour later. The sun revealed itself as the afternoon progressed meaning we didn't need to use our torches. The highlight of our walk - Bottom Wood - presented an ancient valley wood strewn with golden leaves. We reached Ham Farm just before 4pm for the final few miles of our walk and started our last short climb up and then down to Chorley Farm. Our last path arguably afforded us our best views of the day. Ahead of us were the West Wycombe Hill, the church of St Laurence and its Golden Ball. But to our right (west) we had spectacular views of Cockshoots Woods and behind it, the red sky and a golden sunset. We returned on time, a little before 5pm.

Saturday walks, be they whole or part day, are well worth doing, as there are significantly less walkers, certainly less groups, meaning we had most of the paths to ourselves. Thanks all for coming.

Report by Steve

For those who ventured to that far off place called Waltham Abbey (35 minutes drive time from Harrow), they were rewarded with easy, enjoyable walking.

We followed a $ shaped trail along the valley, first going up the S, and returning down the l.

This walk proved to be a good choice at this time of year as it was firm underfoot nearly the entire 8 miles; only two short muddy stetches! It is impressive the amount of variety of walking along this valley: open parkland, woodland, open water, closed water. And it was surprising the amount of wildlife still active at this time of year.

The weather improved steadily after setting off and for a couple of hours we had blue skies and sunshine. Lunch was taken in the beer garden overlooking the Lea at The Crown pub, Broxborne.

After lunch we picked up the towpath along the Lea and followed this all the way back to Waltham Abbey. We arrived there at 4pm and spent the next half hour looking around the medieval abbey ruins, and inspecting King Harold's memorial and grave.

A warm welcome to Tony who came along to the group.

Report by Martin J

Thirteen of us met at Great Missenden station on a damp grey Sunday morning. We set off just after 10:15 and walked past the local parish church where I picked up my halo. We were soon trucking across muddy fields but it was a fairly easy route to follow and well marked for the most part. We passed through the villages of Little Missenden and Beamond End. Our path was completely water logged in a couple of places so we had a few detours and after lunch the route was even blocked by falling branches.

Just before arriving in Penn Street for lunch we walked through Penn Wood, the beautiful autumn colours were a welcome relief from the greyness. At Penn Street, our pub stood on the edge of the village green. About half of us tucked into Sunday lunch and it was hard to drag ourselves away from the sofa by the open fire but we managed.

Leaving Penn Street we continued to the village of Winchmore Hill where their bonfire was already building for the following Wednesday. We walked on to Coleshill and then at a fairly quick pace to Amersham as daylight was fading. A few of us finished up in Seasons Cafe in Old Amersham where they serve an excellent cappuccino and some of the others returned to Great Missenden to pick up their cars.

This is a lovely walk of just under nine miles and it would be great to do again on a brighter day. I think everyone enjoyed the walk. Welcome to Grace and Mark who joined us for their first walk with the group.

Report by Mary

Seventeen (Anneke, Anita, Dave H, Dipa, Erika, Ian S, Jane, Keith, Kevin, Mark B, Mark O, Mary, Mathilde, Michelle, Mick W and Victor) met outside Northwood Hills station at 10:15am for the start of a relaxing 8 mile circular walk around the woodlands of Ruislip.

Firstly we paused on Joel Street opposite the tube station to take in one of the many locations used in the filming of the 1970's BBC series The Good Life. Despite being set in Surbiton it was actually filmed around the local area with houses in nearby Kewferry Road used as the Good's and Leadbetter's homes. In one particular episode Tom and Barbara delight in finally having no money left but Barbara is thwarted when she needs to 'spend a penny' at a public convenience. Fortunately Margo takes pity and provides her with a penny to spend. The toilets were bricked up a few years ago but the Wimpy and John Terry curtain shop seen in the episode are still there.

Passing Northwood Football Club and Haste Hill Golf Course we headed towards Copse Wood pausing briefly to look at a large badger sett and then stopping at a small pond on Poor's Field to see if any dragonflies were still around.

The leaves in the woods were vivid colours and in places fell like snow flakes, sometimes it wasn't obvious where the paths were due to the leaf litter. Mark O came equipped with a book and chart on mushrooms and so became the official walk mycologist as he attempted to answer the recurring question of 'is that one edible?'

In Copse Wood we located the place where the woodsman's cottage once stood. Although long since gone thick evergreen bushes mark the spot where he planted them for privacy.

Crossing Ducks Hill Road we moved into the unusually named Mad Bess Wood. Apparently "Mad Bess was the wife of an 18th Century gamekeeper, a demented old woman who prowled the woods at night looking for poachers. 'Beware Mad Bess' was the poacher's motto". Fruits of sweet chestnut trees lay on the ground and we followed part of the Hillingdon Trail before crossing over North Breakspear Road into Bayhurst Wood Country Park. Here we walked around the outskirts adjacent to the new cycle trail and even managed to bump into a friend of Jane's out walking in the opposite direction with a group.

Returning to Mad Bess Wood we skimmed along the South side passing the former gamekeepers cottage and the area now used by Scouts for camping before stopping at the Scout's open-air chapel made in the shape of a cross; a memorial to Ruislip Scouts who lost their lives in the world wars.

To our South we passed Breakspear crematorium the resting place for a number of famous people including Morris Barry (director of a number of Dr Who episodes), Brian Connolly (lead singer of Sweet), Kenneth Connor (actor, Carry On films, etc), Pat Coombs (actress, Till Death Us Do Part, etc) and Doris Hare (actress, On the buses, etc).

Lunch took place at the Waters Edge pub next to Ruislip Lido where those who had brought packed lunches sat outside drinking tea and beer while others sat in the restaurant and enjoyed the relative warmth. The Lido was built in 1811 as a feeder reservoir for the Grand Junction Canal and in the process a small village called Park Hearn had to be flooded. The Lido has been used in a number of films including Cliff Richard's The Young Ones and A Night to Remember and more recently a Tic Tac commercial.

After lunch we visited the Ruislip Lido Woodlands Centre taking the opportunity to find out more about the area and also warm up. Walking past one of the capped bore holes we headed to the site of the Battle of Britain House hidden amongst the trees in Copse Wood. There we managed to locate a concrete staircase and compare it to a photograph taken in 1953. The American Secret Service trained agents at the house between 1940 - 1945 and on our way to Poor's field passed mounds of earth used as bullet traps. In Poor's field we found the foundations of an old stone cottage and successfully managed to identify a number of mushrooms including Fly Agaric and Parasol. Next we walked around the Lido and some of the more physically fit amongst us tried their hand at the assault course close to Ruislip Lido railway Woody Bay station.

Stopping to feed the swans, geese and ducks we walked past the site of the 1991 sink hole at the Lido and then climbed to the top of Haste Hill through Park Wood where we were greeted with a superb view of the surrounding countryside. Finally we returned to Northwood Hills tube station at 4:10pm.

All in all a very enjoyable day which seemed to pass quickly. Thanks to all who came along including our youngest walker, eight year old Kevin who stayed at the front of the group right until the very end.

Report by Brian F

A small group met on Sunday for the latest mountain biking. Our route took us south from Henley and involved some big descents made more challenging as the blanket of fallen leaves was covering many hazards, no fallers however. We stopped at the Rising Sun near Highmoor for lunch and by then the sun was out so we stayed outside to enjoy the view of the village green. The route continued via a few villages including Bix Manor before the long descent to Henley and the finish at the tea shop.

Report by Brian G

Three of us completed the Watlington to Wallingford Big Walk on Saturday - Emily, Ian and myself. Michael joined us after lunch from Wallingford. The day stayed dry, a touch of cloud at times in the morning and lots of sun in the afternoon. We started at 9:10am and completed our two short ascents within a few hours. Our route, mainly following major paths, was mostly well signed throughout, so easy to navigate, compass not used all day. Plenty of woods and autumn leaves throughout. Wallingford was reached just after 1:30pm, a total of 14 miles (13 route plus 1 into Wallingford) before lunch. We stayed riverside at the Thames until about 2:45pm then headed back another mile to rejoin our route. The sun shone and late afternoon we were walking without sight of anyone else for miles along the brows of low hills with distant views ahead of us. We saw how the other half live in the grand properties on show in Ewelme village. Watlington was reached by 5:45pm and a total post lunch distance of 10 miles (9 route plus 1 from Wallingford) meaning a total walk of 24 miles. Thanks Emily, Ian and Michael for joining me.

Report by Steve

21 of us enjoyed a beautiful autumn day with temperartures rising to 23C. 2 ladies, Audrey and friend, saw us at the station and asked to come along. We were glad they did as Audrey kindly envited us back after for tea and cake.

The canal sparkled with autumn reflections, the rolling hills lit up and the woods were showing their seasonal colours. We stopped for lunch or a drink at the Two Brewers in Chipperfield where they served a fine ale. I showed one of the newer members how to use a compass to take bearings from an OS map and he kindly bought me a beer.

It was interesting to chat with new or prospective members and to catch up with old friends. Great turnout, thanks all for coming.

Report by Paul

16 of us attended the trip, a veritable Indian Summer was in place in the area as sunshine throughout the weekend. The hostel is a Victorian neo-gothic villa a short walk from the walled city area. We lost Colin who was delayed in London. On Friday we explored the old city and found the 2 Sawyers pub hidden down Love Lane and all gathered here eventually. Mark, Steve T and Pete regaled us with tales of the Army museum they had visited on the way. Mark soon grew misty eyed when reminiscing about changing tank engines and marching to Arnhem. We all continued the yarns back at the hostel kitchen till the early hours with Dean explaining once more the theory of Caplinism.

Saturday was a scorcher and we did the 14 mile walk along North Downs way via ridgeway tracks and lots of apple orchards. Dean used his Gandalf staff to dislodge a few Bramleys which were added to the picnic hampers. Dave L led the map reading today and took us via several pubs which we were forced to visit, the best one being Chapter Arms near Chartham with water features in the expansive gardens. The walk finished at Chilham an impossibly picturesque village on the North Downs Way with its' own castle, 17th century town square and 1500 year old yew tree in the churchyard. We had tiffin at the village tea shop where we realised that we had now lost Jeff. Rob and Gina were so worried that they could barely finish their scones. We got the train back to town and discovered Jeff back at the hostel together with Colin.

In the evening Mary led a large group to the newly opened Good Shed restaurant with its' own farmers market. The food was excellent (most had venison and one a lone ranger) plus crabapple gins were popular with all. Afterwards Humay took Debbie, Jan, Carla and Mary to the Cuban bar for salsa lessons and none were seen till morning...

Sunday was the day for touring the city and we took in the 14th century city walls and continued to Greyfriars and the Castle. We then lost Jeff again and found Andy Hamilton (of various TV and radio shows fame) who was doing the same walk. We went on via some more churches and then found Jeff once more at the Rupert Bear museum (Rupert was "born" in Canterbury). Jan then took us to the wonderful Boho cafe where we enjoyed the views of Mona Lisa and various art works while savouring various coffees. The afternoon was taken up with a tour of the 12th century Cathedral. A place of pilgrimage for centuries, the cathedral was packed with historical sights and had a sash team to provide all answers. Other activities later included a boat tour of the town which involved ducking down for each bridge plus the 14th century abbey. Canterbury is definitely worth another visit as so much to see in the town and nearby.

Report by Brian

We met from 10.00am onwards at the Tide Cafe under the arches of Richmond Bridge, before leaving around 10.40am. It was great to have a turnout of 11 and almost an even mix of guys and girls, who were ready to walk in wet weather.

We walked alongside the Thames, and were partly sheltered by trees. With puddles underfoot we soon passed Teddington Lock, reaching Kingston and the White Hart pub for a lunch stop. A 5 and a half mile circular walk in Bushy Park followed. We took in the character of the park, with its deer, birdlife, and other flora and fauna, as well as waterways, and the waterhouse woodland garden and Diana fountain. 2 left at the White Hart and 3 at Kingston at the end of the walk. 6 walked back along the river to Richmond.

Nice to see Clare, Debbie, Enrica (name might be misspelt-apologies), Gina, Brian, Brian, Ian, Kevin, Michael, Rob. Thanks to everyone for making an enjoyable day!

Report by Jane

Penny, Ben, Talia, Zarina and myself made it to our luxurious country cottage on Friday, despite the best efforts of the highways agency. We made straight for the Sexton Arms in nearby Llansadwrn for fantastic meals home-cooked with TLC, and a very warm welcome from a landlord who escaped Acton twenty years ago! As we left he gave us his card and said if we needed anything or had any problems, just call him. Having earlier sampled two pints of the locally brewed ale I thought I might have to take him up on the offer at 2am when I was doubled over in pain with a very "upset tummy"!

Thankfully, after a night in a warm, firm double bed with 27 pillows I felt great by sun-up and we all gorged on Zarina's pancakes and the Welsh Cakes that the landlady had kindly left for us. We headed to Llyn Brianne reservoir in the Cambrian Mountains and some spectacular views beginning with a huge dam with the River Tywi plummeting down a side channel, an RSPB nature reserve and search for a cave which sheltered a one-time outlaw and folk hero, carousels of white water crashing over jagged boulders, a red kite and a memorial garden to a thirteen-year-old boy who loved them, a steep climb perpendicular to eight contour lines and a burial chamber on an ancient drovers road. Having worked up an appetite we sought shelter from the persistent drizzle under a rocky outcrop for sandwiches and hot chocolate.

If the morning was good the afternoon was amazing. More rapids on the Tywi, more contour lines to conquer, vigorous streams cascading through dense conifer forest, which brought us back to the wonderful Llyn Brianne. Even the clouds and the drizzle couldn't dampen the spectacle. The view from atop the dam was awesome, and the wind as we stood on the bridge above the river gushing down the side channel was a great feeling we will never forget.

On Sunday, after a breakfast of Talia's eggy bread we drove through the heart of the Brecon Beacons, stopping to take in the views of the great glacial valleys gorged out in the last ice age, before heading for the well-preserved ruins of Raglan Castle. We said our goodbyes and headed back to the smoke. We all had a great time and are looking forward to our next HAWOG weekender.

Report by Andy

Within a few moments of us all meeting on Friday night, it was pretty clear Mark had got exactly what he asked for - one semi-experienced beginner and four novices who foolishly believed his assurances that only a "moderate" level of fitness would be required (it's true, honest! - Mark).

However it also became pretty clear we were all excellent caver potential, as we downed beer like cordial, wine like beer, and whisky like wine, then toddled off to a bad night's sleep in the dormitories. We were sharing the rustic caving club cottage with our guide, John, and a group of door mice scientists who were kept awake all night by one of our group's drunken coughing. At least, they claimed to be door mice scientists - I can't find any trace of them on the web.

The next morning we were ready to head off by 9am with big breakfasts in our bellies. John began loading us up with gear and we discovered why caving has never inspired a catwalk fashion show, but may have influenced the Teletubbies. We then jumped into various cars wearing our fleecy one-pieces and headed towards our first cave - Goat Church.

The cave had quite a comfortable entrance and the hour or two we spent beyond had us all wide-eyed. John made us take it in turns to lead, while explaining the general ins and outs of caving (i.e. let your eyes adjust for a bit near the entrance, don't fall headfirst down any big holes, and pray that your head torch lasts the distance). Our wellies provided surprisingly grippy footwear. There were a few tricky scrambles but we all came out alive, although already sore and tired.

The next cave was Rods Pot, with a twist. Mark and John wanted to try the passage through to Bath Swallet, which was a new discovery, and had only been dug out quite recently. They assured us that if successful we would be among the first hundred or so people through this passage in the history of the world! But we were also warned the cave was a lot more claustrophobic than the previous one, and right from the squeezy start, this warning proved true. Anna had already decided this style of cave wasn't her thing, but the rest of us made it down to the first cavern, and waited while John looked for the correct passage. There were a few false starts which had my heart racing and my mind envisaging rocks being knocked down to bury me forever and force me to eat my fellow cavers, but we eventually found the right tunnel, and descended down to the stale bowels of the cave.

After much swearing, shuffling, and other strange thumps in the dark, we made it to a tricky chimney down to the clay tunnel to Bath Swallet. John lowered us down one by one using a dubious-looking iron pole wedged into the clay as an anchor for the rope (perfectly safe though - Mark). Mark went first and checked out the tunnel, and his cries drifted back to where we all waited, unsure if he was saying "it goes up" or "help", or "I'm alive". But there was no backing out, and once down the chimney, not much hope of bridging back up the slippery walls. The horizontal tunnel was an elbows and toes job. As we waited for John to abseil down and catch us up, bits of cave started falling on my helmet. Slowly, I gathered from the expression on Mark's face that the cave collapse was not natural. Pretty soon there was an all-out clay fight happening, which turned a bit silly when rocks became accidentally involved, and we called it quits. On the other side of the tunnel was a 22m rock climb. John led the way after a minor glitch involving loose rocks (wow, what a noise when they were cleared to make it safe!), and me claiming to have rope skills I didn't have - oops!. It must have taken nearly an hour and a half for us all to slowly negotiate the climb in our wellies. It was freezing cold at this point, and the rock was mighty sharp, so that a week later my fingertips are still raw. Yet we all made it up, and from there it was an easy, exhausted stumble out of the cave into the afternoon sunlight - but there was still one more cave waiting.

John wanted to give us a taste of a wet cave, Swildon's hole, which Harvinder and Mark had already been into on a previous trip. And boy was it wet! As we walked through the village towards its entrance wearing our mud-coated suits, John's plans were revealed, as a resident called out "looks like you're off for a wash". At the mouth of the cave, a whole river seemed to be squeezing into a narrow hole. And once inside the entrance, I began to calculate how quickly the narrow passage would flood. But the cave was also refreshing, with nicer formations than the others. Sadly we only had limited battery time left for our head torches, so we only stayed for about 45mins or so before turning around to crawl up slick waterfalls back to the entrance. While Swildons hole possibly had the most fun potential of any caves we visited, I was too exhausted to really care by then, and the thought of drowning never quite left my mind. Turns out I needn't have worried though - the cave has a flood protection device at its' entrance (and you can't drown in Swildons's anyway - Mark).

After returning to the cottage and stripping off our wet, muddy gear, we hit the pub. The food was outstanding. The chairs were comfortable for snoozing on. The boys and Anna were perky, but think of running 20 miles, then double it, and you have about the level of fatigue I was at.

The next morning I woke to an empty house, and the door mice people told me everybody had left. In truth, half our group had left by 8am (that's so sick, guys) while Mark, Anna, and I hung around, cleaned up a bit, then went for a stunning, sunny walk through and around the top of Cheddar Gorge, debating whether piles of droppings were from feral goats or mutant rabbits! The jury is still out on this one. I know its impossible to finish a trip report without saying it was a fantastic weekend, so here it is; what an awesome weekend. Thank you Mark for organising it. I think every one of us has an amazing time, and enjoyed discovering our little troglodytes within.

Report by Jacqui

8 of us gathered on yet another glorious Sunday morning in Windsor. Our route took in the main external walls of the castle and the towers. We then did the "Long Walk" in the Great Park, this is a tree lined avenue which was the old ceremonial entrance to the castle. It extends south to a viewpoint by Virginia Water where we enjoyed views across the Thames plain up to the Chilterns. We then explored the town including pubs and teas at the St Andrews Church. We crossed the Thames into Eton village and explored the grounds of the School including the playing fields before returning via riverside paths to the station. Thanks to Colin for planning the route.

Report by Brian

7 of us met on a very sunny morning on Saturday. We decided this year to concentrate on smaller venues within easy walking distance and it paid off as we managed 9 sites during a day. The highlights were probably City Hall, (no queues after 3pm) with its great view along the Thames from the roof gallery and the House of St Barnabas in Soho. This house is a Georgian townhouse with its own herb gardens and chapel. It was a merchants house until the mid-19th century and was then a homeless hostel with a religious order until 2006. It was where Dickens wrote the "Tale of 2 Cities" and is the setting for several chapters. We saw a police riverboat chase by Southwark Bridge and the start of the anti-knife march, with several actors spotted, in Westminster. 4 other members also did a separate route and one was a volunteer at a university for the afternoon.

Report by Brian

8 of us met on a very sunny Sunday morning at Black Park. Andrea and Frank, 2 new members from Hungary, are experienced orienteers and did the hard course. The rest did the medium course and we split the map reading between us, some points were well hidden and it took some searching to discover them. There was a filming site set up for a costume drama, but no crew seen, today just a bored looking security guard. We had a picnic afterwards by the lake, earlier the lake had been the setting for a re-creation of the battle of Actium by local model boat owners. The standout boat was an Edwardian Skiff in which a rower seemed to actually propel the boat along the surface. We then explored Langley House grounds and parkland which has an arboretum featuring trees from around the globe.

We finished the afternoon by the customary visit to Denham Village for the cream teas at the church. As the day was so fine the churchyard was full of visitors including 2 cycle groups. The cakes were as good as ever, the 2 Hungarians had some of Dolly's wonderful upside-down cake for the first time in England.

Report by Brian

Twenty one HAWOG members headed north to the Lincolnshire Fens last weekend. Some headed more north than others - Emma got to Thurlby by Lincoln, only 45 miles further north before realising it was the wrong Thurlby. We were staying at Thurlby by Bourne. Luckily she chose the right Thurlby next, as there is also a Thurlby by Alford. All in the county of Lincolnshire - just to make it extra easy.

We were very impressed with YHA Thurlby, it's newly refurbished with modern decor and furniture, and we had the whole place to ourselves. Saturday morning and our main walk departed the hostel just after 9am. Plan was to follow a disused railway line south-westish to Stamford. Much of the line was obvious and walkable. There were a few stretches where we had to descend/climb verges, under/over barbed wire and fight through brambles/bushes. Great fun. Our biggest challenge though came when we reached a flooded tunnel at Essendine where the disused line goes under the current main railway line. I hadn't brought my bikini and neither had anyone else so we were forced to climb the steep verge and follow the main line north a little where we could see a road bridge over the line. Except when we arrived we couldn't access the road bridge as we were in a yard with warehouses and a high gate. Fabrice might have attempted it in his younger days when he used to do the high jump and managed 2.03 metres. The rest of us valued our meat and two veg and decided to cross the four tracks and ascend the verge on the other side. We reached Stamford and lunch just before 1:30pm.

Our route home was longer but simpler as all on footpaths. From Stamford we headed east along the River Welland for a few miles to Uffington and then north to Wood Farm where we met the Macmillan Way. This was our major footpath which we followed north-east through Greatford and Wilsthorpe villages to half a mile south of Thurlby. The afternoon post lunch walking always exacerbates the difference between the slower and faster walkers and Jim asked whether everyone always got strung out. I suggested, in jest of course, that some of the slackers should be strung up. All returned safely to the hostel between 7:30pm and 8pm, just before dusk. We had been very lucky with the weather; the early morning mist had given way to a warm and sunny afternoon and the flat terrain afforded distant views of the Lincolnshire countryside as the sun set. A total of 12 members - 6 girls, 6 guys - walked the complete 18 miles route, plus a few miles more if you include our walk in/out of Stamford for lunch and our detour to cross the railway line. Well done. Others did shorter routes, walking, cycling, around Rutland Water.

Many tired legs meant the main Sunday walk, 10 miles, only appealed to three of us - Glyn, Fabrice and me - with most others viewing Stamford, Rutland Water and Burghley House - it was the last day of Lincolnshire Open House of course. Weather again fantastic, shorts and tee shirts, our route headed north from Thurlby through Bourne Wood, long lunch at Morton, and south through Bourne and Thurlby before return just before 5pm.

Thanks all for coming.

Report by Steve R

7 of us gathered at Sudbury on Sunday anticipating some rain, but thankfully it stopped after 9am and the rest of day was dry with some sunny spells.

We took in Horsenden Hill and Farm (apples taken from orchard), Perivale village including a stop at St Marys (14th century church now arts centre). Usually closed we saw the door open and managed to gate-crash a rehearsal for a concert with harpist and flautist having a select surprise audience. We stopped at Marvins for the obligatory pancake mountain and maple syrup, Derek wanted to go healthy so asked for ice cream on top. We then did the Brent valley cycle route where we lost Kevin and after explored Hanwell village heritage area before stopping for picnic at Brent Lodge zoo. Next site was the Heritage museum where we all once more "signed the book", and glanced at the motorcycle trike exhibition next door at the LMM.

The pace quickened as we took in some off road routes before climbing Northala Hill. The day had cleared so there was a good view now and we could clearly make out Crystal Palace mast and all the London skyscrapers. We then descended for the village church which we discovered to be enclosed by scaffolding? Luckily Jane led us to the church hall nearby where the cream teas and splendid display of cakes were set out. The vicar and verger were at hand to help out and explained about the church restoration. The route is worth repeating as it links all the many green areas of west London with lots of hidden places of history.

Report by Brian

Well we picked the weather didn't we! Heavy rain and claps of thunder filled the air as Seemas, Cavelle, Pete, Pam, Kim and I met at Pinner Station, later to be joined by Cathy T, who had lost Mike S in the car park….. 15 minutes and 2 telephone calls later, explaining parking was free on Sundays and Mike emerged and our walk began.

Everyone was in excellent spirits as we crossed over Bridge Street at the bridge of the River Pinn, following it all the way as it snaked its way towards Ruislip.

Along the way we stopped to admire Eastcote House and the nearby Coach House which at one time belonged to the Hawtreys, an important local family in the early 1860s and flinging back a set of creaky wrought iron gates we entered a walled up picturesque secret garden, still lovingly cared for and yet retaining its original character.

Throwing all original plans to the rainy wind we decided instead to feed on a little more culture, and on reaching Ruislip veered off to look around Windsor Churchill Hall where the local operatic and musical shows are regularly held, on towards Manor Farm with its impressive mediaeval timber-framed Manor House which luckily for us had been opened to the public, and here we spent an interesting 15 minutes walking around the rooms admiring the pictures and reading about the Manor House and Great Barn. Afterwards we walked around the 13th Century aisled Great Barn, past the remains of a Norman Motte and Bailey (scheduled as an ancient monument and features in the Domesday Book) and around the 16th Century Little Barn.

Getting our walk back on track we cut through Ruislip woods and came out at the miniature railway and man-made sandy beach. Suitably peckish we headed towards the Watersedge Restaurant/Pub for lunch placing ourselves at tables looking out at the many swans and ducks gracing the water.

Leaving Cathy T and Mike behind nursing their drinks we set off once more along the Lido; through the woods; down the centre of Haste Hill Golf Course emerging at Northwood, where we said our goodbyes to Pam and Peter as they left to catch the train back to Harrow on the Hill. Kim, Seemas, Cavelle and I carried on back to Pinner reaching the station at 15:40 enough time for a quick shop at Sainsbury's before eventually saying our goodbyes.

Thank you all for coming, I thoroughly enjoyed the day, and the beauty of it was there was something on offer for everyone.

Report by Kathy C

Sixteen of us met up a Mick's recently restored guest house overlooking Barmouth seafront, affording fine views across the Mawddach Estuary to Cadair Idris and beyond.

On Saturday 14 of us set off to climb the 2930 ft, five peaked massif of Cadair Idris. We were lucky with the weather as the tops were clear of cloud and thus had splendid views across Snowdonia to the North, and over mid-Wales to the South. The two others engaged themselves on local walks in and around Barmouth and the Mawddach Estuary, and exploring the town. On Saturday evening everyone went out to eat, as Barmouth is a lively town with many shops, restaurants and cafes to choose from.

On Sunday four of us hired bikes and met up with another Hawogian who was holidaying in the area to cycle the 10 mile Mawddich Trail to Doggi-loo. First we had to negotiate past an Elvis look-a-like who was manning the toll-booth on the bridge over the estuary. He is still in the building. The other 12 decided to hike said trail but in reverse, and caught the bus to Dogi-loo and hiked back. After the previous day's exertions it was a pleasure to do easy walking through truly beautiful mountain scenery. The cyclists, upon arriving at Doggi-loo, found the tranquil ruins of Cymer Abbey, and spent the next hour soaking up the rays as again we were blessed with another sunny day. After which we went to a teashop which didn't have any scones because it was Sunday and didn't have any apple pie even though they said they did and when we asked for Welsh cakes (as we were in Wales) they took great exception to this and were asked to leave. But fortunately we then found a fantastic teashop in the (ex) town gaol-house which was able to serve us something. That evening most went out on the town for a blinder, getting back in the early hours of Sunday.

After a late start Monday many gathered on the beach to photograph a steam train as it made its' way around the estuary and over a bridge into Barmouth station, hooting and tooting and puffing and panting as it did so - what a sight! Afterwards 11 visited Harlech Castle, which is still almost complete as when built. Barmouth is a great town in a great location and we all thouroughly enjoyed ourselves. Many thanks to Mick for his offer of providing accommodation to the group.

Report by Martin J

3 of us (Mike D, Steve N and me) met at Cholsey station on Sunday morning to do an 18 mile walk along the Thames from Abingdon Bridge to Cholsey. After taking the train to Radley followed by a short bus journey to Abingdon, we started the walk just after 10am, and just as the rain was clearing up. We began at quite a fast pace, and in spite of the path being quite muddy in places, we reached Shillingford, past the half way point, a little after 1pm.

After lunch we carried on downstream, reaching Wallingford at about 3pm. Our pace had slowed somewhat by now (or at least mine had !), and we finally reached Cholsey just after 4pm.

Thanks all for coming.

Report by Phil

Thirteen of us assembled at Chinnor station for a circular walk followed by a trip on the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Steam Railway running a special "cream tea" service, which only happens a few times a year. Clearly a lucky number, as despite rain early that morning and in the evening, we had beautiful sunshine all day.

The walk started in Chinnor with a quick look around the church, followed by the promised steep climb up onto the Chiltern Hills. We took the path through Bledlow Great Wood and Chinnor Hill nature reserve, where we read about Common Rock Rose and Hairy Violet, but unfortunately they were not to be seen. We opted not to take Swan's Way as Brian had not brought the madeleines, but turned along the Icknield way then down into Bledlow.

Having explored Lord Carrington's wonderfully tranquil Lyde water garden, we enjoyed lunch on the green outside the Lions of Bledlow. The pub was originally two adjoining pubs: the Red Lion and the Blue Lion. When they merged the name changed to 'The Lions', but the two front doors are still to be seen - very confusing after a pint or two...

Then back to Chinnor along The Ridgeway, an ancient route across the Chiltern Hills which has been in use since the Neolithic period 5,000 years ago, pausing on the way to see the cement quarry lakes where the opening hovercraft sequence in the Bond film Die Another Day was filmed.

The day was rounded off with a most enjoyable traditional cream tea served as the steam train made leisurely progress through the countryside.

Report by Jeff

6 of us (Mike D, Deirdre, Sharon, Stephen C, Steve N and me) met at Cholsey station on Sunday morning to do a 15 mile walk along the Thames from Reading Bridge to Cholsey. After taking the train to Reading, we started the walk just after 10am. It took us quite a while to walk to the edge of Reading, passing all the fields that were being prepared for the Reading Festival the following weekend. We reached the very picturesque village of Whitchurch at around noon, and carried on a little further before stopping for lunch. It seemed as though most of the walkers going in the opposite direction along this part of the path were American - perhaps part of a tour group ?

After lunch we carried on upstream, reaching Goring Lock at about 2pm. The local W.I. were setting up a stall selling very reasonably priced tea and cakes, but we were a little early for them, so we waited whilst the water boiled on their camping gas stoves, thereby ensuring a really freshly brewed cuppa ! Suitably fortified, we carried on, reaching Cholsey at around 4:15pm.

Thanks all for coming.

Report by Phil

Six of us turned up on Sunday to go rollerblading around Hyde Park. We hired the skates and got our knee pads, helmet, elbow pads and gloves too - all for a tenner which was great value. Luckily the weather was good and we had the sunshine with us.

After a few shaky starts at Speakers Corner, we made it off through the park. Damian and Kate were the experts so showed us how it was done - thanks for looking after those of us who hadn't done it before!! Brian F showed the most promise and after a wobbly start was zooming along in the end. We went all around the park, had a picnic lunch, over to Kensington Palace, heard the band at the band stand and back to the pub by 5.30 - just as the rain came down!

Thanks to all who came - it was a good event and will put another rollerblading on soon.

Report by Nicky

11 of us went to Hollands Wood campsite, full up so Mark and Steve went to Burley hostel (inexplicably had space). We had to run the gauntlet of gates and questioning on Friday evening, however after several ploys managed to get extra people/tents and vans in without extra cost. Martin J quickly erected his "detached Villa" and Debbie once more took the design award for her Ted Baker tent. Most of us enjoyed a chilli con carne meal cooked on camp stove by Debbie and helpers. Rob led a "tour" of the campsite on Friday evening (or was it that he just got lost on the way back from shower block?).

On Saturday Rob did a puncture repair workshop whilst Ros and Seema collected their hire bikes. Debbie took her group and did a walking tour of Lymington and harbour area. The rest went cycling, taking various tracks towards the abandoned rail line route to Burley. The rain meant the groups split up and some headed back early whilst the rest continued to Burley and returned via a scenic route.

On Sunday the sun returned to dry off the tents and Martin organised a fry up to use up the food. Some did cycling again through the forest. Dean and Brian discovered an excellent riding stables at the Forest Hotel, and had a very fast hack through the forest with Dean being given extra tuition by a Dorian Williams sound alike, "use your thighs" was the main command. On returning to the stables Dean shouted that a "tv star" was in the yard, however on closer examination it was an actor who had appeared in "some episodes of the Bill". Gina discovered the very fine coffee lounge in the hotel and we all gathered there for tiffin and enjoyed the views from the hotel.

Report by Brian

On a grey drizzly day, ten stalwart members set forth for an encounter with the rich and famous (dead and alive) citizens of Chiswick. We managed to meander around Ravenscourt Park, after a slight detour with the map the wrong way. We passed through Young Peter's Square, where a group of noisy revellers led by Brian were enjoying a Sunday afternoon party. After viewing the Greek Runner (not Brian), we followed the path down past the Thames which fortunately had not quite reached flood levels so we could squelch along to the Church. A visit to St Nicholas Church and Hogarth's tomb led us on to Chiswick House and Gardens. Sadly the renowned tea shop was closed and we had to manage on ice creams alone. Observing Sphinxes in their natural habitat was unusual. At this point Derek and Prem decided the rain was enough and abandoned ship. The remainder walked on to Strand on the Green and marched briskly through Gunnersbury Park, to the pub. We thrashed the locals in the Rose and Crown, thanks to new member Ian's extensive football and Play School knowledge. Martin S and Humay showed worrying knowledge of snooker player charity records.

Overall, about 5 miles of easy walking covered and lots of interesting sites explored - a sunny day is strongly recommended for next time though and to wait until the tea shop reopens in 2010!

Report by Jan

16 met on a very sunny evening at the Manor site. We did a tour of the historic parts of Ruislip, including the Great Barn, Manor Farm and Farm Cottages. The site is centred around the old Motte and Bailey where the original castle was built in 1087, the moat is still visible to the south. Afterwards we visited St Martins church (founded 13th century) where a display of campanology was in progress. Kim gave us a tour of the church as she recalled her wedding here a few years before.

We then visited the Church Houses (alms houses from 16th century). Kim then found a shortcut to the Orchard pub where we enjoyed the rest of the warm evening in the garden (some even had the pleasure of Dave explaining the Morse code ad infinitum but that's another story).

Report by Brian

Twelve HAWOG members stayed at Feshiebridge Lodge just south of Aviemore in Scotland for 7 nights. We had the whole place to ourselves, and unlike last year, were blessed with good weather. Unfortunately a few didn't arrive with everything they had left with.

All Martin's luggage had departed his train before he had. Which meant he spent the week wearing a mixture of mens and womens clothes. Good job we weren't camping or staying in a cottage... And Rich now has the thinnest iPod in the world after reversing over his in the dark. I know six hours in a car listening to Mike's incessant one-liners must have been tough Rich, but I can't work out how you could possibly have missed him. Anyway, a case of iPod avie-no-more in Aviemore.

The rest of our week went much more smoothly, with lots of outdoor activity. We ventured into the Monadhliath mountains (Sun) reaching a peak of 807m (Beinn Bhreac Mhor) before returning to Aviemore at 8:40pm. Not the most exciting of peaks, more rolling than sharp. The Cairngorms and Grampian mountain ranges offered more. During our week we climbed various Monroe's including Ben Nevis (1344m), Cairn Gorm (1245m), Sgor Gaoith (1118m), Carn Ban Mor (1052m), and Mullach Clach a Bhlair (1019m).

We had stunning views high from the Cairngorms down into Lochs Einich and Avon. We walked through the Glenfeshie and Abernethy forests, around Lochs An Eileen, Garten and Morlich, and along the rivers Feshie and Spey. A few lower level distance footpaths were followed including (Wed) 17 miles to/from Aviemore to Loch Einich and (Thu) 20+ miles linear south along the Speyside Way from Dalriach to Aviemore. Other activities included cycling the numerous tracks around Feshiebridge, horse riding (Fri) and white water rafting (Sun). Some went to see the Loch Ness monster on a visit to Inverness (Wed). Well done to all for persevering with the climbs, especially Guylaine who climbed Ben Nevis (Thu) for the first time.

On our hottest day (Wed) we made use of the barbecue facilities at the lodge and sat outside late into the night where we witnessed a family of bats flying out from our entrance at dusk. On our last night (Fri) some enjoyed a 5 course meal on the Strathspey Steam train. And Kevin helped himself (Wed) to a yoghurt from a well stocked bothy. So well stocked it had coke, vodka, sleeping bags, backpack… In fact everything except the three bears. Luckily our very own Goldilocks hadn't eaten any porridge or slept in any sleeping bags, and had left payment for the yoghurt taken by mistake.

The 12 of us who attended (Chris, Derek, Guylaine, Jackie, Jun Ma, Kevin, Martin, Mike, Prem, Rich, Steve N, me) all had a great time and plan to come again. The price (£56 each for week) is excellent value for top notch accommodation (2 to a room) and location. Add in the car hire and fuel cost for the 5 of us travelling from Wycombe in a 7 seat MPV (£104 each for week) meant our total travel and accommodation cost was £160 each for the week. Don't pay more elsewhere.

Thanks all for coming.

Report by Steve

9 of us went to Hay for the 2nd camping trip of the year. The weather was good throughout with just a couple of passing showers and plenty of sun during the canoeing and walks. Camping vets Mark S, Brian, Andy and Gina were joined by returnees Debbie and Ros plus newbies Seema and Cavelle. Debbie had a new Ted Baker tent with fish and cats design, Marks had a cat flap and Andys had sound proofing. On Saturday 7 of us took the canoes from Glasbury on a 11 mile trek along the Wye (5 in kayaks and 2 with the supplies in Canadian canoe). We passed several weirs and some rapids without loss and picnicked just outside Hay halfway along. We continued the route in the afternoon enjoying great views of the Wye Valley and the wooded hills in the distance. The current was a lot faster than during our previous visit so we finished in good time and joined the others in Hay for a tour of the town. Hay has a 13th century castle which witnessed many sieges and incidents. It is now the main book shop the town with all the old towers stocked with secondhand books. We explored several other book shops and picked up a few bargains then Gina discovered a top teashop hidden along an alley.

We returned to the campsite for the bbq - Debbie also provided an excellent lemon cake. It was a very clear night and we stayed up to see the full moon rise up slowly over the distant hills around midnight.

On Sunday (after many brews) we decided to do a walk along part of Offa's Dyke path. We climbed Hays Bluff, a steep ascent to a panoramic viewpoint.. As the day was clear we could easily make out Brecon Beacons, Malverns and Radnor Hills in the distance. We then drove along country lanes (surprising an owl which flew ahead along the road leading us for some distance) to Llanthony Priory. This Priory is 13th century and in good condition and now contains a teashop/bar, riding stables, caving bunk house and working farm. The truncated columns of the Nave served as excellent tea tables and we all enjoyed a final tea and cake after exploring the Priory.

Thanks to Mark for arranging the trip once again.

Report by Brian

3 of us (Mike D, Colin and me) met up at Reading Bridge last Sunday morning to do an 18 mile walk along the Thames to Marlow Bridge.

We set off at about 10:10am, passing through Shiplake en route, and reaching the half-way point at Henley shortly after 1:00pm. The tents and stage for the recent Regatta and Festival were still being dismantled. After lunch we carried on downstream, finding an ice cream van at Hambleden Lock at just the right time. By this time Colin had already walked further than he had before, and Mike and I passed our 'personal bests' at Hurley, around 2.5 miles from the end of the walk. By this time our pace was beginning to slacken but we managed to finish the walk at 4:30pm, so we went for a well-deserved cup of tea in Marlow town centre.

Actually, a fourth HAWOG member (no names) also completed the walk on Sunday - he had overslept, but nonetheless managed to start the walk 2 hours after the rest of us, and finished it in good time (but no, he didn't catch us up!)

Thanks all for coming.

Report by Phil

Over 50 of us (including some HAWOG members) met at the Tattershall Castle on a fine, clear Saturday afternoon. 9 teams took part in the competition and all scored high marks. 4 teams ended with 90 marks (out of 100) and the winners just edged it with 91. Mary and Ros' team ended on 90 and came away with a prize - it was quickly shared out on the boat so those who left early missed out. The route took in the palaces of Westminster, Whitehall, St James, Buckingham and Kensington. We had a break at the Dell cafe on the Serpentine to enjoy tea and cakes whilst watching the sunset over the water, plus testing the teams knowledge of British PMs 1945-79 (Eden and Douglas-Home proved to be the difficult ones).

Report by Brian

7 in total, Nora, Phillip, Kate, Cavelle, Seema, Dipa and myself embarked on this short evening walk. With all the rain we had been having lately, we considered ourselves lucky to have the sun smile on us, just a few threatening clouds looming above.

2 prospective members were the first to join me at Kemp Place Car Park, followed by one long-time member and 3 relatively recent members. A repeat of January's walk, but in a different season and with a different crowd. To make it more interesting for myself, I led us all round the the circular walk in the opposite direction to the one taken in January. Up to the High Street, we turned left and across the Grave Yard of St. James Church, down the hill, crossing a stream and up again along a path with hedges and a golf course to our left, crossing Merry Hill Road, off into the wilderness of the lush green fields.

Had taken the wrong path after crossing the road and soon ended up in the direction of the original circular route. A gravel path lead us through some more fields and wooded area. The wide sweeping path through the wood was a carpet of flowering clover. Further along, to our relief, the Hartsbourne stream had dried out and our boots stayed dry. Left the Paddingstone Cairn, a pile of rocks for directional purposes, to our right and made our way to the next stile, taking a shortcut by cutting off a corner of the walk, but heading straight for a heard of cows and maybe a bull. Gave them a wide berth in another direction, effectively cancelling our shortcut. It was only a 4 mile walk anyway, though some of us had walked 10 miles working that day, and others had a bit of a walk from Bushey station.

Later on, across the field appeared a rather large mansion called Haydon Hill House (private) it said on the map, kindly provided by Bushey Library. Many horses acampanied our walk through the next field towards Oxhey. For some reason, on several occasions, everybody headed straight for gates leading out of the park. Maybe we are not country folk at heart. After receiving a text inquiring about how our walk was going, we crossed Merry Hill Road and went along a path parallel Hertshead stream, back the way towards the Grave Yard and Bushey High Street. Apart from the initial loo stop, the Red Lion pub didn't get any business from us that evening. Thanks all for attending and the excellent company.

Report by Mathilde

My walk was attended by 9 of us (myself, Nicky, Mary, Jan, Mark, Tim, Ros, Seema and Paul). Started at 10.45am as arranged in dry but cloudy conditions from Markyate on the circular walk. It was going to be a bit of trial and error as I had taken the route from a walks book but it was detailed and fairly easy to follow. One mistake when it was raining heavily and we ended up crossing a sports field with a football tournament being held which gave some of us a reason to put the wet gear on and make use of the clubs toilets!

Ended up at a pub and a nice soup and coffee lunch for most and a chance to dry out. A couple stayed at the pub and returned by taxi to Markyate and Paul had to head home. The rest of us cut across country and headed back to Markyate with an amendment to the original route but nice to see the sun came out for half an hour before the clouds returned.

Nice countryside and a comfortable pace set by all, all fairly wet by the end but it gave us another reason to finish in the pub at Markyate to dry out before returning home. Thanks for all who attended and assisting in the reading of directions and the amended route agreed by all.

Report by Kim

Despite listening to negative weather reports all week about rain, 17 people turned up at the View Point next to The Case Is Altered for a prompt 7.30 start. Guys included Tahir, Ian S, Mat, Alex, Michael J and Marty. Gals included Rosaria, Denise, Margann, Dipa, Mary, Matilde, Ade, plus us Janice and Evelyn (plus two others whose names I didn't note - sorry).

Bentley Priory covers 87 hectares made up of woodland, scrubland and grassland, lakes and streams and is a Nature Reserve. We managed to walk for approx two hours stopping from time to time to admire the scenery, animals and fauna.

A swan and her signet on Summerhouse Lake glided towards us as if they wanted to join our group. We made our way towards the Deer Park where we saw plenty of fallow deer camouflaged among the trees, fallen branches etc. Making our way back we saw cows and rabbits. It was almost as if all the animals knew we were coming by that evening and came to say hello. At one point through a gap in the trees we could see the new Wembley Stadium arch in the far distance, almost like a picture.

We ended up back at The Case Is Altered for a drink, a perfect end to a lovely balmy (dry) summers evening.

Thank you to everyone who came along and a big thank you to Marty for his guidance.

Report by Janice and Evelyn

9 of us attended the first camping trip of the year. The weather was great for the entire weekend and lots of people had to borrow my sunblock once again. The campsite has a wonderfully relaxed feel to it, with spectacular views over the vale and masses of space. It is one of the few campsites allowing camp fires; the firewood is delivered by Marcella, the farm manager, who drives around in her Land Rover stopping to chat to all campers and suggesting local places to visit. We quickly erected the tents and Dean took over as camp fire manager. This year ridge tents outnumbered the domes for a retro comeback.

Saturday was the cycling day, we climbed the tracks up to the White Horse itself. It is dated to 100BC and is a mysteriously abstract figure with unknown origins. We then reached Uffington Castle, an iron age hill fort and then joined the Ridgeway. This section of the trail is a broad chalk track perfect for cycling or horse riding. We stopped for a picnic on the highest section enjoying the panoramic views north as far as Oxford and the Cotswolds. We visited Waylands Smithy (neolithic burial chambers and Norse legend) and continued along the Ridgeway with several big descents to pick up speed. We found the ex YHA hostel still open, now as an independent hostel and tea shop where we stopped for some shade and cakes. A long descent to Wantage and views of Alms houses followed. We picked up the BBQ stuff and managed to fit it all on the bikes. Gina's bike had to carry the overlarge disposal BBQ (all others sold out) but managed it easily for the long ride back to camp.

Dean once again made the camp fire. We finished the evening with spuds cooked in the fire followed by a midnight toasting of marshmallows in the fire.

Sunday was very leisurely, after many cups of tea we visited Great Coxwell for the 13th century Stone Barn (built by Cistercian monks) and some more Oxford villages. 2 of us did a horse ride nearby - led by the redoubtable MG - with excellent canters across the rolling open downland. We all returned to the farm for a final cream tea, served in the shaded gardens overlooking the vale. The campsite is recommended as just 90 minutes from London and with so much to see nearby.

Report by Brian

Seven ladies met at Moor Park tube Station at 16:00 (Seena, Cavelle, Ros, Mathilde, Audrey and Kate - later Kim joined at the half-way point, the Pavilion Playing Fields). Moor Park is a mile from the start, so we made our way promptly, stopping briefly at a service station for some energy bars. The woods were muddy and more hilly than most expected. The weather allowed the ladies to be ladies, no sweating, and it made for some picturesque views during the walk. It remained a less strenuous gradient for most of the walk, which made it enjoyable, and a chance to get to know each other. At the end of part one we had refreshments and a meal at the Pavilion as it was supper time for most of us at 17:15. The weather did not permit fun and games on the green as the clouds loomed over us. So after the meal and some natter, the humble 'ladies circle', now including Kim, made its' way back to Moor Park station. The walk ended at about 19:00 hours after 5 miles of serious walking. Thanks ladies for your support, it was great meeting you.

Report by Audrey

Ten of us made it to the beautiful "Devil's Punchbowl" in Surrey, Zarina, Debbie, Ella, Mark, Humay, Phil, Andy, Ben, James and myself. The hostel is located at the heart of the Punchbowl, though not immediately appreciable due to the surrounding forrest. We could have been in the Lake District or Scotland or Norway or a country with lots of trees, such was the serenity of the place...

On Saturday we set out on a 12 mile circular route with the intention of ending at the top of the Punchbowl and fine views for miles around. The weather cleared up after a damp start and we enjoyed a varied terrain, including open meadow, dense woodland and the occasional challenging stretch of nettles! Alas, the weather closed in toward the end of the walk so we missed the views. On returning to the hostel the weather made a miraculous recovery! (oh, we got a bit lost in the woods, but Zarina came to the rescue, cheers).

Saturday evening saw Mark spring into action as our BBQ expert, many thanks Mark. I think all had a very enjoyable evening eating and drinking the night away beneath the stars and to the sound of mellow jazz, n i c e...

Not to be robbed of those fine views we had another try on Sunday, with blue skies and a light breeze we walked a circular route around part of the Punchbowl. This time it was well worth the effort.

We all met up at the National Trust car park and cafe for tea then departed back to the hustle and bustle...

I can thoroughly recommend this place, mainly for the location, lots of character and quality scenery! Thanks to all who came.

Report by Mike D

It made a change to visit Alfriston during the summer, where the village's Dickens-themed events were replaced by flower-filled beer gardens and hanging baskets. It looked very pretty, any match to a Cotswolds village, and better still without loads of tourists!

Nine of us went - Nicky, Yogi, Elaine, Evelyn, Mark O, Elen, Ashok, Caroline and I, and enjoyed the good weather, combining cliff and forest walks with sightseeing. On the Saturday, we went on a 12 - 14 mile walk along the Seven Sisters cliffs, spent some time on the beach, imbibed in drinks on the village green in the quintessentially English hamlet, East Dene, before wandering through the forest en route back to Alfriston.

On the Sunday, bearing in mind the less-than-favourable weather forecast, we decided to visit the historic town of Lewes, which houses an imposing Norman castle, which offered wonderful views of the Downs and town from its ramparts. We perused the Barbican Museum, thus refreshing and broadening our knowledge of history, learning a lot about the significant role Lewes has played throught history. Time was also spent pottering around the fascinating antique and craft shops, ending with tea and cake in one of its quality tea shops.

Despite the uncertain weather forecast, the weather was mostly sunny; the company congenial and the range of choices of things to do in a region about which I knew little wide and varied - definitely a place we should return to! Thanks to all for making it a fantastic weekend!

Report by Fiona

8 of us did the trek. 2 Steves, 2 Kens, Brian, Zhang, Mary and Clare. The Cumbrian way is the 72 mile long distance path from Ulverston on Morecambe bay and which goes through the Lake District ending at Carlisle on Solway Forth.

We arrived at Ulverston via the coastal railway which crosses several estuaries and affords great views of the coast and villages. There was a short stop at Carnforth for the brief encounter cafe. 3 got mislaid in Leeds, long story...... We all met at Ulverstons famous Chinese restaurant (just round the corner from the Laurel and Hardy museum) to discuss the route and compare pack sizes.

On Sunday we began the trek from the market cross and headed north through the gently rolling hills of Cumberland. It was some time before we could see Lake Coniston which glimmered in the haze ahead. The route climbed then dropped to follow the wooded shoreline path by the lake. We spotted dragonflies and red squirrels along the route plus an irresistible tree swing by the lake.

The next day was another scorcher and took us uphill away from Coniston to Tarn Haws "most photographed place in Lakes". We stopped on a crag for the views over the Tarn and some of the 10p Belgian buns purchased in Coniston Co-op when the price cutter lady did her tour. We climbed on as the day got hotter and then came across an unexpected tea shop at Park How; this one had expansive views over the valley from its garden and freshly baked scones. Several hikers joined us here and we had a lengthy unscheduled stop. We continued past the waterfalls at Colwith and the very scenic Elter Water lake. At Elterwater village Ken discovered an ice cream shop and the village green tree under which we slowly savoured the ice creams and watched hurried hikers march by as ever. Before we reached Great langdale and our barn there was still time to try out another tree swing, this one involved a dismount into the warm waters of the river and very wet boots - soon drying in the unrelenting sun. Most fields had the traditional Lakeland sheep, Herdwick. These are "hefted" i.e. they stay to fields they were born in allowing the farmers to not have long searches over the fells. Steve also realised that the Sherpa van had not picked up the sleeping bags and that they might now be with a school group in Manchester. The camping barn was warm enough however and blankets were borrowed. The Milbank B and B was noted as providing the biggest and best full English breakfast in Lakeland and 2 of us (no names) can vouch for that.

The next day saw us climb out of Langdale up to Snake Pass. This was a steep climb up the trail where helicopters had just dropped 100s of boulders for strengthening the path. We were dive bombed by several groups of veteran fighter planes which use the valley for low flying practice. At the top of Snake Pass the views took in all Langdale Pikes, Skiddaw, Gables and Scafell to the south. The trial headed downhill now into Borrowdale valley and its collection of hamlets, each with its own tea shop we were soon to discover. Lashings of tea drove us on to Derwentwater Lake and views of the yachts and canoes crossing the waters.

The next day saw the landscape change to windswept moorland with heather covered slopes. We passed Skiddaw YHA, completely isolated in the hills and climbed up several becks before the final peak of High Pike. This was the highest point on the entire way and afforded views to Scottish hills across Solway Forth. Caldbeck was the penultimate overnight stop, some at a camping barn (sleeping bags found their way their via Sherpa) and some at the very welcoming Oddfellows Arms. We all dined at the inn and most had the huge lamb Jennings special - which had enough for the packed lunch the next day.

The final day saw the trail folow the meandering river Caldew through fields and meadows. There was time for a visit to Rose Castle, the 16th century palace residence of the Bishop of Carlisle. We all made it to Carlisle market cross and signed our names at the log book at the tourist office. Just 2 short rain showers for the week, otherwise sunny all the way. We said our farewells before some boarded the trains south and some stayed overnight in Carlisle. The trail was very scenic and we all made it with just a few blisters.. Next year we will look at completing another long distance trail.

Report by Brian

4 unsuspecting cavers (Ian and Chrissie, Rowena and Yogi) and myself set off on a glorious Friday evening for Cheddar gorge, for the caving group cottage, little did these intrepid novices know what they were to put themselves thorough the next day! Chrissie in particular was extremely nervous, but pushed herself to go anyway.

On Saturday we all got kitted up and set of for 'Goatchurch Cavern' a good beginners cave as it has many different ways of getting to the same place, some easier than others so you can tailor the caving trip to suit the groups ability easily. After about 10 minutes we had our first casualty ever, Yogi unfortunately did not feel too good being in such a confined area and thought it prudent to request that he return to the surface before he got too deep into the cave and maybe suffer an anxiety attack or similar. John the instructor duly returned him forthwith and the rest of us waited for his return.

After that we continued to the bottom of the cave where we went through the famous 'tube' or 'wormhole'. I did not have the heart to tell them as they struggled through that they had to turn around and go back through it to get out, lol!! Everyone managed to survive though and made it back to the surface in good spirits, if not a little worse for wear!!

In the late afternoon, Chrissie, myself and John (instructor) went off to cave in 'Waterwheel' cavern, a deep vertical 'wet' cave, that at the bottom has 3 water chambers that you have to crawl through with only your head above water, which is very, very cold!!! We did this with delight, though it did take your breath away!! The suits keep you very warm through this, but it was painfully cold on the hands. Sadly I could not get photos as I cannot take the camera into deep water, maybe next time.

Report by Mark H

We arrived at Tring station around 10:15 with no idea of how many other people would be there. We were pleasantly surprised to find six other enthusiastic walkers, Phil, Brian, Ian, Claire, Yogi and Mark. After a slight hiccup (when we almost took the wrong road at the beginning) we set off along our route at about 10:30. The weather was just right for walking, we had an early ascent that took in fantastic views of the countryside. The ascent was too tame for some (Ian and Phil) who ascended via the steeper alternative! (See photo lone figure (Phil) midway up hill). We arrived at Ivinghoe Beacon at about midday (too early for our planned packed lunch), had a quick snack and continued walking down through meadows, a crossroads and through a couple of villages. At the first pub Mark and Ian stopped off for a quick pint. The rest of us continued on to find a suitable picnic spot and had lunch along the bank of the canal (where they later joined us). Sharon's homemade Trinidadian sweetbread made a good desert for all. After lunch we carried on along the canal and all stopped at a pub for much deserved refreshments (and toilets). Picturesque barges, a variety of birds and interesting plays of light on the water contrasted with the earlier views from the beacon. Arrived back at Tring at about 16:00. A good time was had by all.

Report by Deirdre and Sharon

The day started dark, grey and heavy with a persistent downpour.

Tom and I had visions of dragging a small tired group of Hawogers around in the soaking rain..., stopping for soggy sandwiches.. miles away from the sunny spring saunter I had in mind. Not surprisingly, a few people sent texts and rang to cancel. We would have as well, if we weren't the organisers. Nevertheless we made our way to Virginia Water Rail Station in case people did turn up. It was a no show and we thought we'd just turn back and head straight for the dry comfort of home, when we noticed that everywhere looked particularly leafy and green in the drizzle! The relentless downpour had stopped!

So it was that we had our saunter around the lake and the gardens after all. Because of the rain and the cloud cover, the lake and the surrounding woodland were particularly magical with a misty feel. Purple reflections of the rhododendrons were mirrored quietly in the lake while in the gardens everything seemed more alive in the fresh morning rain. Later the sun came out and the temperature soared. Who would have thought!! Or perhaps, living in England, we should know better by now.

Report by Anthea

On Saturday the main walk was led by Phil (Charmouth to Beer - 12.5 miles). A smaller group went from Chideock to Beer, a 16 mile walk. The start of the walk was hampered by coastal landslip so a detour had to be taken. On returning to the main path, it was mutually agreed that a slower group would prefer to enjoy the delights of Lyme Regis before returning to Beer! The coastal path proved challenging as there were numerous ups and downs in the form of steps which peppered the route. As well as this there was an encasement/covering of undergrowth which proved somewhat oppressive - when there were breaks (few and far between), the coastal views were excellent. On arrival in Seaton the local hostelry was sought by many! Although there was a short journey to Beer left, a few sought taxis to complete the journey - is this in the spirit of the group, surely not!!?!

Activities were multifarious on Sunday, including a walk led by Phil (Steve R, Steve N, Zhang, Martin S, Mary, Nisha and Kavita). From Beer the group headed inland to Branscombe and then Street, at this point the two Steves carried on to Sidmouth and became film stars (extras in a German nature film to be precise!). The other 6 headed on to the coastal path from Street, lunch on a deserted beach just after Branscombe Mouth then carrying on around Beer Head, returning just in time for tea. For the 6 this was a 6-7 mile walk.

A group of ten did a 5 mile circular walk from Sidmouth. The first part (coastal) provided good views of the Napoli wreck as well as a visit to an observatory on the way back. One visited Pecoland to see a vintage steam rally and Shambles the clown!? One visited Lyme Regis for browsing through bookshops and persuing their muse! 5 also visited Lyme Regis on a gloriously sunny day to peruse the delights of the town including fossils, books, pasties, beer, ice cream and art (7th heaven for the author!)

On Monday 5 went fossil hunting on Charmouth beach - ammonite was found after 30 minutes of light rain and winds. 5 did a 4 mile circular walk from Abbotsbury including Tithe Barn (14th Century), remains of a Benedictine Abbey and St. Catherines Chapel on a hillside with great views of the medieval town layout and Chesil Beach and open door art exhibition. Cream tea was had in an old school house in Abbotsbury. Phil, Rhiann, Mike and I went to Lulworth Cove and were joined at various points in time by Kim and Kate, and Ken and Steve N to witness spectacular geological coastal formations before headig back to the old smoke!

A big thanks to Phil.

Report by Humay

Seven of us (Clare, Marcellus, Sharon, Deirdre, Florian, Lesley and me) met on a sunny day. The walk started a little late due to the car park being full. We climbed up 100m to the viewpoint on Boxhill. While admiring the green hill and identifying the towns in the distance, we got our breath back. We then walked along Pilgrim's way and some countryside fields to our lunch stop. After lunch we had a drink outside a pub. Sharon and Deirdre went into the church and sneaked up to the tower, luckily they had a lesson of bell ringing from the warden. In the afternoon we started walking along Greensand way, through woodland and parks, and past allotments. Then we climbed another 100m on a steep hill to Ranmore Common, this time the climbing didn't seem too difficult. Then we just crossed woodland with a gentle descent back to Westhumble station. We finished at the planned time. It was a nice day with nice people, good weather and fine views. Thanks to all for coming.

Report by Jun

6 HAWOG members (Steve N, Mike D, Clare, Ben, Mark O and me) met up with 2 Backabush members (Brian and Zoe) at Marlow Bridge last Sunday morning to do a 15 mile walk along the Thames to Windsor Bridge.

We set off at about 10:20am, initially crossing the route of the Marlow road race, which had made the town somewhat busier than usual for a Sunday morning. The route took us past Bourne End and through Cookham, where we briefly left the riverbank as the river splits into 4 channels for a short distance. We rejoined the riverbank opposite the Cliveden estate, and the House was visible from a little further down the river. We reached Maidenhead, the halfway point, at around 12:45pm, where we stopped for lunch.

After lunch, we carried on downstream, finally reaching Windsor Bridge at around 3:45pm, although unfortunately the pace and the heat of the day meant that 2 of us completed the walk in a more leisurely fashion.

Thanks all for coming.

Report by Phil

My first HAWOG event was a stunning weekend in the New Forest. We were 12 altogether, Sue and Sammy (aged 4), Sarah and Ben (aged 3), Ashok with Ana and Anoushka, Elodie and Simon, April and Fred and me! Burley is a typically beautiful New Forest village just off the A31 at the bottom of the M27 - about 2.5 hours from Harrow (on a Friday night). Whilst Burley itself may be easy to find, the Burley Youth Hostel wasn't!! Extremely well hidden in the Burley forest, the 2* youth hostel was absolutely adequate, kitchen and beds clean and they served a good breakfast, a very good packed lunch and were extremely friendly.

We headed off on Saturday morning, baby-buggies and all, for our first New Forest walk. Acres Down - Highland Water walk - our 7 mile circular walk took us through the terrain of the New Forest which has an oddly barren look, probably because of all the Gorse Bushes. These spiky large bushes are all over and we learned from Sue, that the small yellow flowers, which are in full bloom, really do smell of coconut!! The New Forest abounds with New Forest ponies roaming free and we were greeted early on to a very boisterous foal frolicking and cantering backwards and forwards in front of us - gorgeous. We crossed streams and bogs and Fred fell and got rather muddy in the process. There was a fair amount of debris around from past storms which helped in some cases. Being a mum certainly has its challenges, and one of them has to be pulling, pushing, shoving, lifting and tugging the buggies through the forest with children in them!! With help from the chaps, Sue and Sarah did a great job. Not surprisingly, if you love trees this is the place to come. Many different types of conifer can be seen: huge and beautiful Oak trees, Beech Trees and Holly Trees all lush and spring green. We found a huge, sprawling, twisting Oak tree to lunch in.

We got lost a little bit which was part of the adventure, back-tracked on ourselves and finally made our way back to the hostel at around 5.30. All hands to the pump to make supper (except me and Ashok - we chose the pub instead of the kitchen, in exchange for being the washer-uppers!!) and we all sat down for wonderful quorn curry with couscous and harissa sauce, followed by ice cream and strawberries.

Ashok, Ana and Anoushka, as well as Sarah and Ben departed in the morning which left seven of us for the cycle day - and what a fantastic day it was. Forest Leisure Cycling in Burley provided excellent bikes, cycle hats, gel seats and the trailer for Sammy, and we decided to go for the Linwood Loop. It was a bike ride to be proud of, 20 miles up and down the hills, through bluebell-carpeted woodland, New Forest moors and stopping for a peaceful lunch lying in woodland on pine cones and pine needles in the brilliant sunshine. Sue did an amazing job pulling Sammy in the trailer behind her bike - don't know how she got up those hills!! After stopping for a lovely cool refreshing drink at the Red Shoot Inn, we started the cycle home reaching Burley for a lovely ice cream at 4.30 in the afternoon. WOW! Thanks Sue for organising a great weekend and putting in the order for such fantastic weather - a stunning weekend and one of many in the New Forest for me!

Report by Debbie

6 intrepid cavers made their way down to the Mendips last weekend for one of the advanced caving weekends. We all arrived in time on Friday evening, and were treated to a spectacular lightning show over the Bristol sound for over an hour on the journey as well.

On arrival we settled in and met up with John, our instructor and guide. We decided we wanted to do a challenging cave, so weather permitting we were to do 'Eastwater' cave, a nice less used and challenging cave.

Saturday morning dawned nice and sunny, with no rain so it was safe to cave in Eastwater. We all had hearty breakfasts and got kitted up ready to go, only one problem......where was Steve?

He had informed us he was travelling down early Sat morn, but no sign of him. Just at the last minute as we were about to leave, Steve arrived, muttering something about poor directions and that he had been driving up and down the road for 15 mins.....hmmmmmm this is from an accomplished map-reader...........allegedly...ha-ha!

We then set off for Eastwater cave. The entrance is normally through a waterfall, so a thorough soaking was anticipated, but luckily for us the stream was dry which made the following 6 1/2 hours of caving a lot more comfortable. After descending the streamway we angled off to the 'upper traverse' a daunting section of cave known to reduce grown men to jelly! This is a 45 degree angled crevasse about 30 feet across that you have to slide across on your back, but it is only about 9" to 12" wide at the top and if you slide down it gets narrower and you WILL get stuck! so you have to wedge yourself against the roof. We all managed this apart from one person who got a little stuck (no names, ha-ha!)

The descent then included a 30 foot roped descent and another 30 foot wire ladder descent as highlights, until we got to a point where we needed to turn towards the surface. Coming back up we climbed the '13 pots' which is an old streamway that has eroded 13 'bowls' into the rock, these are up to about 8 feet high and totally smooth, so much merriment was had watching people trying to climb them into the small holes at the top, legs and bums wiggling everywhere!

Eventually we got back to the surface, via the traverse again, where Steve nearly lost his welly! and emerged back into the sunlight.

After cleaning up the kit and ourselves, it was off to the local pub/restaurant for a well earned cold beer or 3 and a huge meal, alas we were so tired we did not make it till closing time!! so we headed back to the cottage and collapsed into our bunks.

Next morning we had a show off competition to see who had the biggest bruises on elbows or knees (it was a tough cave) and after another hearty breakfast we all headed off home in the glorious sunshine.

Report by Mark H

19 adults and 3 children turned up at Perivale station at 2pm on Sunday, a cloudy but warm, humid afternoon.

We made our way to the entrance of Perivale nature reserve which was a hive of activity. There was a marked route around the reserve which we followed at a very leisurely, mellow pace. The bluebells were slightly past their best (due to a very cold early spring and global warming) but still looked very pretty and colourful.

Various flora and fauna was well labelled along the way which made for a very informative walk. Most spent around an hour to an hour and a half along the route and finished off with tea and cake at the refreshments hut. All in all a very relaxing, interesting walk which was well attended.

Thanks to all the new and old members who came along, I hope you all enjoyed it.

Report by Harpreet

16 of us made the trip to Ingleton, a welcome return to this very scenic area. We had (including Friday) 3 days of constant sunshine and 1 day of rain (morning only), pretty good for the area! The hostel was ideally situated with pubs, shops, takeaways and tea shops all nearby plus all walks went direct from the hostel.

The 3 of us who journeyed by train arrived early and spent Friday on the waterfalls walk. This is an easy 5 mile trek passing 5 waterfalls with viewpoints along the whole route. Others arrived later including some who had done an unprecedented anti-clockwise circumnavigation of Ikea (twice) - see Jeff for highlights.

Saturday was the main hiking day and we climbed Ingleborough from the hostel. We met Geoff and some of the BB group on the summit. Excellent views in all directions from the summit towards the other 2 peaks and to Morecambe Bay and the Lake District on the horizon. We descended southwards with stops at Gaping Gill (crater with cave entrance) and the Ingleborough caves. We had a guided tour of the cave which had spectacular stalactites, stalagmites and pillars. The hike ended at Clapham village with some enjoying teas and some the local brew at the riverside pub. We also met Steve who had done Pen y Ghent after Ingleborough - a 20 mile trek in very quick time. We all enjoyed a free cooked breakfast today due to some obscure fault with the boiler (not really noticed), even Steve who usually has his breakfast in the hostel bed (it's a long story).

On Sunday the rain came as predicted, as did all the trek mountain bikes. Delivered to the hostel by a local hire centre the bikes were very high quality. Most of the group did the cycle ride to Ribblehead with a stop at the viaduct pub to get out of the rain. The afternoon was drier and we enjoyed great views of the famous rail viaduct. Our route continued through bridleways and tracks up onto peatland where the going was very tough. All the group managed the ride; very well done to Jane and Hayley who had never cycled in these conditions before. We ended with a vertiginous descent down to the valley and the hostel. Steve did the Whernside climb today to complete all the 3 peaks (not such good views). Gina did the waterfalls walk today, Paul and family visited Newby Hall and Gardens.

On Monday most of us travelled to Skipton to visit the castle and historic town centre. Dean visited the famous museum of folk music and a few did a canal walk. Jan discovered another good tea and cake spot at the parish church refectory together with an antiques sale (see Jan for treasures purchased).

The Yorkshire Dales are well worth a visit and the hostel is one of the best visited.

Report by Brian

A group of 14 walkers turned up at St Albans Abbey station on Sunday morning, including 7 new members. We set off towards Childwick Green at a steady pace and made good time until the sky clouded over and we had to take cover from a heavy shower. After a short break we continued on towards Sandridge and onward up into the woods, the rain was stopping by now and we reached the lunch stop at the Queens Head in Sandridge at about 12.45 pm.

After refreshments we continued on the route to Harpenden Common and then Redbournbury water mill where we stopped for a 10 minute break. After setting off again we were informed that three of the group had gone in a different direction, after a quick phone call the group was soon reunited and we made our way back along the Ver Valley to Verulamium Park and the end of the walk. 16 miles covered by about 4.30 pm.

Thanks to everyone for coming - Mary, Clare, Cathy, Lisi, Noreen, Anita, Andrea, Phil, Steve, Pete, Mike, Rod and Ian.

Report by Steve N

10 of us met at Richmond on Saturday for the navigation day. We were lucky with the weather as it was fine all day. After an initial review of map reading (and waiting for Derek's call) we set off on the riverpath to Petersham gate, and once in Richmond Park the group set off to find the first checkpoint. It was discovered near the viewpoint mound, where there is a free telescope set up (direct view of St Pauls).

Afterwards we found the remaining checkpoints before reaching Pen ponds, the traditinal picnic spot. We then visited the Isabella Plantation (named after the 19th century botanist Isabella Plantation) to see the Azaleas and Camillias which were in vibrant colour. We then hiked over the park, viewing the large herds of fallow and red deer, on the way to Turners viewpoints and another newly discovered tea shop within the gardens.

Report by Brian

Nine of us started off from Greenford station at around 10.30am, the weather was not at its' best, carried on towards the Paradise Fields to get to the Grand Union Canal, first making a quick stop at Westway Shopping Centre (McDonalds). We made our way towards our first view-point at Horsenden Hill, unfortunately not much of a view because of the clouds and mist. We carried on from there towards Harrow on the Hill, much of it was main and side roads - not very scenic. Very nice around Harrow on the Hill, the school and playing fields. We passed Northwick Park Hospital heading towards South Kenton where six of the group had decided to stop as it was half-way, and three of us carried on at a faster pace - I think we were doing at least three miles an hour.

We made our way to Barn Hill and sat down for a bite to eat and from there we could see Wembley Stadium clearly. After taking in the view (by this time it was warm and sunny - briefly), we got down to Fryent Country Park, again hilly, and on to the view point (Gotfords Hill) from where we made our way towards Welsh Harp open space (Brent Reservoir) again through main and side roads. We went past the 12th century St Andrews Church, where we noticed the graveyard was a complete mess and seemed no-one had bothered looking after it, very disrespectful I think. From there on towards Hendon Park at the finishing point at 3.00pm. Phil and I caught the bus and Lisi caught the train back home.

Thank you to the new members - Yogi and his son Kiran, Anjana, Maxine and Lisi - and Phil, Zarina and Steve. Thank you all for coming.

Report by Ashok

Aidan led a small group on his first off-road ride of the year. The route took in very scenic sections of the North Downs between Headley and Reigate. The route was one of the best as it combined great views and long challenging descents, and seemed not to involve much climbing - I assume that we did it without noticing.

There was a midway stop at the very welcome CTC cafe for Aidan's favourite sticky buns. We finished the afternoon section in sunshine; this took us along part of the Roman road to Chichester (Stane Street) and a final viewpoint from Colley Hill from which the line of the North Downs to Box Hill was visible. We finished with a few lemonades in the garden of the Bell Pub.

Report by Brian

A couple of us started badly with a run in with the station jobsworth, clipboard and all, taking car numbers of non railway users and threatening fines if we parked in Wendover station car park (ON A SUNDAY!), so we parked in town. Well, just over 20 brave souls were on parade at 10.30. I was a little surprised so many turned out for my first walk.

We started uphill to the South African war memorial on top of Coombe Hill (260m the high point), with good views including Chequers. We then moved south through woodland to Dunsmore and on to Little Hampden. We met the local Vicar of Dibley and parishoners in the tiny 13th century church - this had cool medieval murals too.

The walk now headed east to the Lee and lunch. We stopped at a public house that is still open (3 out of 5 on this walk were now closed). I had a nice couple of pints of real ale - VERY TASTY! We then moved north on the Ridgeway, survived an April shower on the way to Lee Gate, then on to Concord House, Boswells Farm then to finish at Wendover.

Everyone finished the walk at approx 16.00, it was just over 9 miles. Brian later led an assault on the Wendover Tea House; the cake stand took heavy casualties - I heard none survived!

Report by Mark O

Great weekend with two castles, three churches, one cathedral, several pubs and Belinda's magnificent cream teas. A fine bevy of HAWOG beauties arrived over the day at Littlehampton YHA. Jeff was most disappointed to notice that the town was not full of blue rinsed brigade lovelies, but was more like Chavsville-on-sea. Despite a promise of breakfast and full café service, the hostel was sadly lacking in provisions and a trip to the local Sainsbury's was required.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny. Eleven members sprang into action to capture the 9.10 train to Amberley, although Jeff sadly missed out on the reduced train ticket due to not being around for the headcount, and it being too early for Jan to count properly. A similar group of 11 members armed with children in buggies had a convoy around a 7mile route over the south downs, starting at a more civilised 10am. The Amberley route took in some stunning scenery and lasted about ten miles, ending at Arundel Castle - the planned route was originally 11.7miles but Brian used his joker card and without consultation bypassed the lunchtime pub break on the grounds that he didn't like the sound of the pub. He made up for his dictate by taking us to a lovely pub which served Badger (ale) by the river. A similarly delicious cream tea was provided by Belinda's, and Damien enjoyed initiation into the ritual of stuffing yourself silly with clotted cream. After a root around the castle, we pelted for the last train back to the hostel (Jeff arriving insouciant at the last minute) and to prepare for the Turkish Meal. To celebrate Pete D's birthday, eleven of us visited the Silk Road restaurant. We were treated by the sight of Pete showing an internationally renowned belly dancer how a real belly dance should be (twice). General cavorting took place afterwards to the sounds of the seventies all night long.

Sunday greeted us with Christmas come again, and inches of snow. Most members took a leisurely drive home. A few brave souls made it to Chichester cathedral before the sun broke through again to lighten the day. Mathilde realised that she had liked the hostel so much that she'd taken the room key home as a momento. Thanks to Sue for arranging the other Saturday walk and Mathilde for the photos, and for everyone for their participation. Especially Pete's belly.

Report by Jan

The walk went ahead in glorious sunshine and blue skies. 15 of us set off from Amersham station, including two newcomers Maeve and Tom, and Carol who joined us as her group had already left on their walk.

The morning route evenutally saw us leave the residential area of Amersham and soon we were in typical Chiltern countryside, skirting alongside a golf course and eventually joining the South Bucks Way. We arrived just before 1pm in Chalfont St Giles having completed over half the route. The afternoon walk saw us return by some farmland and mostly downhill to Amersham Old Town by about 3.30 pm. Brian found us a nice stream to wash our boots in and 8 of us went for tea with the remainder of the group doing the final climb to make their way back to Amersham station.

Thanks to all for coming along, I think the weather definitely made it worthwhile.

Report by Mary

A small group of us took the train down to deepest Kent on Good Friday. Alighted at Chilham, very attractive town just West of Canterbury. Chilham has the remains of a Norman castle, 13th century church and original town square - plus tea shop and Elizabethan mansion. We cycled along the North Downs bridleway and then onto the Pilgrims trail when the ND became a footpath. Stopped at other villages - Charing, Lentham and Hollingbourne - manors at each of them. We then headed north to Chatham YHA just in time for the evening meal - very welcome as by now rain had become heavy to add to the fierce head wind (constant since Chilham).

On Saturday after a very good hostel breakfast we cycled through Chatham to Rochester. The castle keep is one of the best in England, afterwards we toured ther Norman Cathedral and the obligatory tea shop. We then headed back to SE London via Eltham palace and Blackheath - hail stone blizzard forced us inside another church. After we cycled through Greenwich to join the Thames path back.

Will arrange more trips to North Downs area this year as so much to see.

Report by Brian

22 of us arrived safely Thursday evening at Treyarnon Bay Youth Hostel at varying times; leaving behind the rain which we had travelled down in, and the forecast of snow and sleet in London for the bank holiday weekend. Some of us went into St Merryn, a village 2 miles away for our evening meal in the Cornish Arms pub. We were served very tasty home baked dishes.

On Friday at 10 am Tom led 18 of us on a 10 mile walk along the coast to the south of the hostel. We had blue skies and gusty winds and breathtaking views of the crashing waves and spray of the sea bubbling up into the sky and falling like foam or snow drops. Lots of stops along the way to take photos, I've never seen so many members taking photos of the sea, sandy bays and rocks, but it was spectacular. We were extremely lucky with the weather, as we could see dark clouds inland. It remained dry, sunny but very cold winds, we had to be careful not to go to near the cliff edge and get blown over, unfortunately a member of the public did and a Sea Air Rescue helicopter and ambulance were required. We stopped at the National Trust Visitors Centre around 1pm for lunch and a welcome hot drink and cream teas and warm food. Some of the group walked down to the beach whilst the tide was out to explore. Tom did a head count - only 17! Had we lost someone on the way? He then realised he hadn't counted himself. We headed back along the coastal path, breaking into 3 smaller groups, walking back to the hostel, the black clouds looming our way and the tide coming in. Arriving back at around 5.30pm, it started to rain heavily and we were all glad to be back inside. Everyone enjoyed the walk, a comfortable pace for a big group. We all had a healthy glow. Well done to all.

The remaining four (Steve R, Mark O, Steve T, Mick W) tackled Friday's main walk which started from Herodsfoot and followed the West Looe river south in a tree-lined valley for 5 miles. They stopped at Looe for lunch, with the wind more prevalent as they were now along the coast. Post lunch they picked up the South West Coast path by heading west out to Talland Bay. Then inland to Barcelona, unfortunately not the big one in Spain, this one had an "ooh arr" accent, and then Pelynt and their departure from civilisation back to rural settings. They climbed Trefanny Hill before heading back into Pendruffle Wood and meeting the West River Looe again to take them back to Herodsfoot. Total distance around 15 miles.

On Friday evening, Rich, Jackie, Steve R, Kate, Caroline and Fiona ate in the hostel, Tom, Anthea and Mark O braved the kitchen and cooked, and others went in to Padstow for a meal at Rick Stein Fish and Chip Shop or to the pub.

Late on Saturday morning Jackie, Nikki, Richie, Caroline and Fiona had a lazy day in Padstow, looking at the quaint art and antique shops and boutiques around the harbour, stopping in the café for a cup of tea and cake. Rich had the patience of a saint and was surprised how much time ladies could spend and shop! We saw Rick Stein in his Gourmet Food Shop book signing! And to our surprise the Queen as well! No corgis though. Jeff, Anthea and Tom went to look at an exhibition and museums in Padstow.

Ten went to Tintagel (Steve, Marcellus, Damian, Lenka, Colin, Diego, Rabia, Elen, Kate and Zhang) on Saturday morning to see the castle; not much viewing due to wind, and then walked to Boscastle. They followed a route east from Tintagel to Halgabron and then a path through woods following another river to a waterfall. Their path veered north over a curving landscape towards and past a number of farms until they reached Boscastle for a late lunch. They found the Wellington Hotel very hospitable, in particular Lenka was impressed at how real the fish she was served for lunch was, it took them a while to convince her to eat all of the head, apparently in the Czech Republic they serve fish headless as well as legless in pubs. Their route back to Tintagel was along the coast, the sign read 4.5 miles and they arrived back amongst the wind and sun in around 2 hours.

In the afternoon 5 of us drove down to Tintagel but were unable to view the castle ruins and cross the steep bridge path due to the high winds. The castle was still very impressive and we were able to walk along some of the coastal pathway to visit the 14th century church which was beautiful inside and a welcome refuge from the cold wind. The visitors centre and gift shop were still open so we walked down and we watched the film on "Searching for Arthur". We met Steve back in the Tintagel castle car park, he was first to finish the walk. We drove back into Padstow for a meal at the Harbour Inn. Parking was not for the faint hearted. No barriers or wall by the harbour, just a drop down into the sea, Rich and Steve both commented that they must have lost a few cars and drivers in their time.

On Saturday evening back at the hostel Anthea produced a surprise chocolate birthday cake for Tom. We all joined in singing Happy Birthday and tucked into cake.

On Sunday the weather wasn't looking too good and we had wind and drizzly rain, so themajority decided to drive down to St Ives (about 50 miles away) and visit the Tate Gallery and exhibition, look around the shops, and walk along the beach and along the coast. Very good cornish pasties, both in meat and fruit varieties and lots of little cafes for cream teas. Well worth the visit and the weather cleared but still very gusty winds. Kate, Colin, Diego and Rabia spent the day in Newquay.

A beautiful sunset was looming on the horizon back at the hostel, quiet a few of us snapped away to capture the sight.

Sunday evening we gave Tom his surprise birthday card signed by the group. We played a pub quiz game, very competitive, and a bit of cheating going on, "no names mentioned". It brought a few memories back with the girls giving a soulful version of Watership Down's "Bright Eyes" theme tune. It was an enjoyable and fun way to end the evening. The sea and fresh air must have improved Richie's lungs as he is known for his loud snoring, Steve R managed to get 3 nights good night sleep even with ear plugs!!!, I heard others were not so lucky!

On Monday we had to be out by 10am from the hostel, still drizzly rain and rough looking sea, most of us had the buffet breakfast, very good value and it set us up for the day. Jackie, Rich, Ellen and Nikki went in to Exeter Quays, lovely walk way along the canal, antique shops and pubs and cafes, we dropped off Nikki en route. Marcellus, Zhang, Lenka, Damian and Andy also visited Exeter en route home. Fiona, Caroline, Tom, Jeff, Anthea and Mick went into Boscastle and on to a pub which took a long time to serve the food! Others headed straight back to London, missing some of the traffic.

Thanks all for coming and glad that you all found it a beautiful and worthwhile place to visit.

Report by Jackie

Six brave souls ventured out on Sunday, the weather was pretty bad! Wet, cold and mud like treacle... (in summer this will be a good walk). We set a blistering pace and arrived back at the cars at 2.30ish and went for a lovely cup of tea. Phil kindly pointed out a basic rule of map reading, "you need to be looking at it the right way up"... Anyway we only went astray once.

Thanks to all that made a big effort to come along.

Report by Mike D

The misty start and a less than appetising weather forecast on Saturday morning meant only two of us showed for my Thame to Stone Big Walk. Clare being the other person who got out of bed early enough. We started walking just after 9am and before long were in t-shirts as the sun started breaking through. Temperature very mild. We passed cottages with straw roofs in Haddenham village and St Tiggywinkles Wildlfie Hospital, which Clare pointed out was the venue for a TV animal programme. Ford village was reached by mid morning (10:40) and its unusual pub - the Dinton Hermit - which looks like it's worth a visit, maybe as part of a summer walk in the dark. Wasn't open this early in the morning though so no tea option.

We reached our intended lunch stop, Stone, by 11:30, too early, and decided to crack on north-west of Stone following the Swans Way and Midshires Way major paths. We stopped at 1pm for lunch in an old Church at Upper Winchendon. Post lunch and the views really started to show. Field after field of sheep, rolling hills, quiet, and no people. More Peaks than Chilterns.

The drizzle started at Asherdon village and we followed our path south toward Crendon. We lost 10 minutes at Chilton Grounds looking for a footpath. Long Crendon again showed some lovely thatched cottages, in particular a pink one no doubt with lots of digits. We reached Thame and our cars just after 4:30pm. Probably about 20 miles. Thanks for coming.

Report by Steve R

8 people attended advanced indoor climbing at the Westway climbing wall on Saturday. Three new climbers took the registration test. Steve N passed the test and became a registered Westway climber. Afterwards we went for a meal together in Chinatown.

Report by Zhang

Having discovered that my telephone was dead the day before my walk, I was extremely relieved to find five friendly faces waiting to join me for the walk - Cathy T, Mike S, Zarina, Martin S, and Marcellus.

We set off from Denham Station at 10:30 on a crisp sunny day. The first half of our walk took us around the lush green lawns of Buckinghamshire Golf Course towards Denham Court Mansion and on through Denham Country Park towards the Union Canal and rivers Colne and Misbourne. Crossing over the River Colne our path led us to the Grand Union Canal running north-south through the Colne Valley.

We joined the towpath with several large barges moored to the side, one of which appeared to be doing a roaring trade selling pots of honey. Cathy fell in love with the idea of a barge holiday and started planning who in the group to invite according to suitability for getting on. After about ¾ mile a diversion had to be made due to the towpath being blocked for 'maintenance'. Quite by chance another group of walkers (about 30) training in readiness for a 75 miles walk over 3 days, for The London Hospice later in the year, arrived shortly after us and directed us around the sectioned off towpath and brought us out on at Denham lock about ½ a mile further on.

As we approached the Coy Carp near Coppermill Lock we were met by Chris on his bicycle. His timing was brilliant as we were only five minutes away from a rest stop. Seven of us sat in the pub gardens for lunch. The food was excellent and plenty of it which was appreciated as the weather was turning colder, or perhaps it was because we had sat there too long!

With renewed energy we made our way towards Pynesfield Lake, following a path leading to private fishing grounds and we took the raised path between the lakes. After crossing a public bridleway we continued up a gently rising slope to Old Shire Lane and another path down and under the M25.

Crossing Denham Lane we followed the edge of a lake with Chalfont Park House on our left and eventually reached Chalfont St. Peter village and our destination. Sadly the village church was locked so we sat down inside the Poachers Pub for a well deserved respite before returning an hour later the way we had come.

The six of us maintained a good pace throughout the day, covering 16 miles. Speaking with Mike this morning he is sporting two blisters which he attributes to the walk, get well soon Mike.

It was a shame it also happened to be 'Mothers Day' as I think we might otherwise have seen a few more faces. Thank you though to those who walked with me, I couldn't have done it without you.

Report by Kathy C

Thirteen Hawogers (Marty and Janice, Mike, Sarah and Ben, Martin, Michelle, Zhang, Jolandi, Kelly, Jenny, Jane, Heather and Catherine) joined Tom and I for this leisurely wander through the streets of London on a pleasantly sunny February morning.

We set off at Old Street tube station, and weaved through the quiet streets of the financial district, taking in the Nat West Building, the Gherkin, the Royal Exchange, the Lloyds Building which was oddly situated right next to the lovely Victorian Leadenhall Market. It was there where I foolishly mistook the City of London Dragon for a Welsh dragon. I know, unforgiveable really! But Marty quickly corrected me.

We broke up for lunch after crossing London Bridge and re-assembled by the Golden Hinde. Then it was simply a stroll down the South Bank, going by the Globe Theatre, popping into Tate Modern to ponder over the Colombian artist, Doris Salicedo's artwork - a crack running over the length of Turbine Hall. It was here where Tom and Catherine did the forbidden. They dipped their feet into the crack to see if anything would happen much like lots of children there. Nothing did, much to their disappointment. Little Ben wasn't so interested in the crack and took to running up and down the slope of Turbine Hall. Come to think of it, I would too if I were a little kid. The crack was supposedly about racial divide or something...hmm. Tom felt that a crack through the middle of concrete was more representative of the shoddy workmanship you see in the construction industry these days.

The highlight of the day for some, was perhaps the Fair Trade Fair, where people scattered in all directions to sample free bananas, oranges, different flavoured ice-cream, coffee, tea, wine and chocolate!! No one told me they were giving out chocolate and how did I miss that? Free chocolate!! Never mind the free goody bags, I wanted the chocolate!

The tour ended with Tom, Jolandi and I stopping at Blackfriars Pub for a pint to rest our feet a little before going home. Thanks to all who came.

Report by Anthea

We arrived on Friday evening for the briefing by the instructor and to meet the other group members. Eight of us attended, Carmel and Ken from Chorley in Lancs, Paul (2) from Cambrigeshire, Jim and Paul (1) from Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth, Mike from Loughborough, Graham and myself (Ken) from HAWOG. Our instructor was Kevin who was steady and very good-humoured.

The Saturday began with a steep climb to near the top of Helvellyn, with compass and navigation exercises on the way up and also being made aware of changing weather conditions. It was a typical summer day (his words) with winds at 30mph and heavy rain with visibility down to 60 yards and about 6 degrees C. Our final destination was to be near a ski lift/shelter, where luckily there was a patch of snow on a slope which was large enough for us to practice on. We carried out ice axe arrest exercises which involved sliding down the snow slope, on your front, back and upside down and using the ice axe (pointed end) to stop your fall. This proved to be great fun for all. Somehow I managed to get this wrong by panicking on the way down and jamming in the handle end of the axe which flipped me over...ouch! Some learn the hard way. We also practised walking methods in the snow and using the spiky foot crampons. We had talks in the evening which covered avalanches and testing for avalanche conditions, and also on hypothermia.

The Sunday morning began with rain again, but thankfully cleared later for some good pictures. The day included rope instruction, knots and rope use. This was followed by a walk/scramble up Blencathra via Halls Fell. http://www.lakedistrictwalks.com/hall1q.html. This web site details the walk exactly - http://www.lakedistrictwalks.com/blenhf.html. Graham and Paul (2) were roped together and also Jim and Mike in pairs, whilst the others walking the main path which was a strenuous route. In addition to the rope work - tying on, belaying and walking whilst roped: a short improvised abseil was carried out which was interesting and all good fun.

All of the group and the instructor were friendly and very supportive which was greatly appreciated. The accommodation at the hostel was a good standard and with good food, there was even a woman playing the guitar singing 'Ruby Tuesday' in the shower Room, which was...different! Many thanks to Martin for arranging the weekend and also to Graham for his support...when I am struggling up the slopes!

Report by Ken

8 of us (Ashok, Kate, Kavita, Kevin, Krishna, Michelle, Phil, Nisha) plus 3 (Katherine, Zarena and Natalie) new members completed the Uxbridge to Moor Park walk on a crisp sunny Sunday.

The walk began at the market town of Uxbridge, with a prompt 10 am start which left one member catching up and joining us further along the walk. We joined the Grand Union Canal and walked along it to Uxbridge Lock, where a diversion had to be made due to the bridleway being blocked for 'maintenance'. This gave Kate ample time to catch up with us as she had taken the more sensible route on the opposite side of the canal that was not blocked. The diversion led us across part of Denham Country Park and back on route to Denham lock, the deepest lock on the whole canal.

Past another lock and towards our lunch spot at the Coy Carp, a converted Copper Mill where St. Paul's dome was apparently built.

Good timing meant that we crossed paths with the HAWOG cycle group before heading off for the afternoon. We made our way across Park Wood and Bishops Country Park where the sun provided some guidance, and over and across various stiles and meadows and under a couple of pylons, completing the walk of just over 10 miles early at Moor Park station.

Thank you to all who joined the walk!

Report by Nisha

Six of us - Brian, Jeff, Malcolm, Nicky and Steve - met at Ruislip station on a brilliantly sunny February morning.

After some impromptu bicycle maintenance to remove an unwanted hawthorn, we set off for Harefield via the back roads of Ruislip. Passing one of the lovely original Ruislip farmhouses, now incongruously in the middle of a housing estate, and on through New Years Green Lane, which was still icy in the shadows despite the sunshine.

We broke the hard climb up Harefield hill to visit the ANZAC cemetery, and then, having arrived just as the Sunday service was finishing, we were able to have a tour of the church, a rare opportunity as it is normally locked. I had certainly never seen inside, despite having worked in Harefield.

Pausing at the top of Park Lane to admire a fabulous view down to the lakes in the misty sunlight, then the steep descent to the Coy Carp where we stopped for lunch.

Thanks to some brilliant planning by our event organiser, we met up with the HAWOG walk taking place the same day and were all able to chat over lunch. Although this turned out to be not quite so brilliant when we found the walking group had eaten all the butternut squash lasagne before we arrived.

We then carried on to Rickmansworth along the canal tow-path, the surface of which was somewhat lacking in places.

Then we headed back up to Batchworth Heath via Moor Park golf course and Mansion. And then the long coast back down hill to Ruislip.

Pace was gentle, lots to see and I think we all had a good time - apart from one rather alarming moment for Nicky...

Be seeing you.

Report by Jeff

A second consecutive weekend of blue skies meant the only cloud we saw on our Peak District weekend was Thorpe Cloud which a few of us climbed on Sunday morning.

Fourteen of us (6 girls and 8 guys) stayed at YHA Ilam Hall, which is in the south Peaks near Ashbourne. A gothic mansion with lots of rooms, big open fireplaces, wooden beams, and first hand experience of the servants quarters in the members kitchen in the basement. Just to make sure the peasants amongst us felt at home.

On Saturday we followed a bespoke, mainly flat route along footpaths, a road track, the river Hamps and a disused railway line, with only a few short ascents/descents. The route was a few miles longer than the 15 miles I had estimated, probably nearer 18 miles. And like the blue skies and fresh air, those extra 3 miles were free too. How kind. Not so nice was the clear view we had of the bottom of the river Hamps - most of it had no water. By mid morning Glyn and I had got a good 10 minutes ahead of everyone else and stopped for a tea along route. Our mistake was to only half heartedly hide when the others finally appeared; we were thinking of letting them go by (rather than go buy) and then catching up. Zhang saw us, everyone headed over, and it was 20 minutes before we were walking again. For lunch we sat outside at a pub in Waterhouses. Post lunch our route took us along a disused railway line: disused by walkers too judging by the height of the weeds and wild plants. We passed through Bottom House, Ford and Grindon before arriving back at Ilam Hall just after 6:30pm in moonlight.

The big walk on Sunday was only 10 miles and attracted, Glyn, Fabrice and myself. We climbed Thorpe Cloud (short and sharp), before heading north high from Dovedale to Shining Tor and west into Milldale. Post lunch we took the lesser and higher routes west of Dovedale to Ilam Rock, through Dovedale and Bunster Hills before descending to the car park at Thorpe just before 3pm. Others enjoyed the 'tourist' route along the east of Dovedale, and the 'stepping stones' and Lovers Leap.

As always, well done to all for completing the 18 miles on Saturday, challenging for some of you I know, but we all did it and made the most of a beautiful spring day. Thanks all for coming.

Report by Steve R

10 of us enjoyed a lovely day out at Wisley Gardens. There was a scented shrub/flower trail with shrubs such as Lonicera (honeysuckle) also Daphne and Wolbachia in flower. For me, the highlight was the new greenhouse, half surrounded by a lake, with beautiful orchids inside, a waterfall, an arid zone and an interactive zone showing how roots grow and what goes on underground. The children enjoyed this.

Thanks all for coming.

Report by Paul

The following eighteen walkers joined Brian and myself for the Hillingdon Trail walk: Andrew, Shane, Janice, Martin, Diego, Mark O, Zhang, Steve N, Martin, Kevin, Mary, Phil, Mike K, Damien, Michele, Jenny, Anneke, and Izunia.

We started just after 10:00 am from Ickenham station down Glebe Avenue and onto Austin's Lane. This was better than last year as some broken tiles had been put down but became slightly muddy into Ickenham Marsh. Stopped at the vandalised information sign and re-grouped looking for great crested newts. Then we continued on to cross the A40 next to the canal feeder. We went across the playing fields and down behind the houses into Cutthroat wood then into Gutteridge wood. Gutteridge wood is supposed to be oak but appears now to be relict hazel. It is being restored by coppicing.

Following the path we continued to the Ten Acre field. Brian was asked how large the field was. Crossing through the field and back onto the footpath to Ten Acre Wood, a 19th century plantation of oak over hazel coppice. After ten acre wood we transferred to the Dog Rose Ramble past the West London Shooting Grounds. Being Sunday there was no shooting so there was no excitement at this point.

After the Shooting grounds we surveyed the Downs Barnes Moat but the exploration was curtailed by the secured gate. We continued down to the Lime Trees Golf centre where the massive excavations made the footpath very messy. We skirted round into the estate and then continued on the footbridge back over the A40. Then down to the Target Roundabout some members took a McDonald's break and then continued into the new Northala Fields park. We visited the viewpoint which was the furthest mound with a spiral footpath giving a gentle climb up to the top. The wind chill was noticeable but the visibility clear enough to see the BT Tower, the Wembley Stadium Arch, Harrow on the hill and someone claimed to see Southall Gas Works..

From Northala Fields we went down under the A40 past Belvue Park and St Mary's Church. (They do not sell tea and cakes in the winter according to Brian.) Then on to the Crown Pub where the walk finished about 1:30 pm. After a good meal and refreshment some people caught buses back to Harrow or took the train from Northolt station.

Everyone enjoyed the walk with the sunny dry weather and a moderate pace was maintained.

Report by Marcellus

Eleven members joined Caroline and I on the Cookham walk on Sunday - Cathy T, Shakespeare (aka Mike), Steve, Marcellus, Claire, Zhang (aka Official Photographer), Damien, Kate, Mark and Steve R.

Despite the occasional drizzle, it was an enjoyable circular walk, through woodlands, Bisham, a glimpse of the sports training centre, taking in a waterlogged view of the Thames from Winter Hill on the way back. We had hoped to have lunch in the recommended Bull pub in Bisham, only to be turned away in disgrace, because of our muddy boots! We were prepared to eat/drink outside, but this was not tolerated, much to our dismay and surprise, considering the elaborate declaration displayed on the side of the building, boasting the pub's reputation for providing hospitality towards 'royalty and commoners alike'. Our impression of a frosty reception was confirmed by a couple of local we met on Winter Hill, who stated that the pub was pretentious, consequently, an establishment they avoid at all costs! This pub has now been boycotted by HAWOG! We were fortunate that several members had brought provisions and shared them out, so we didn't starve, and were able to make up for it in the more homely Crown pub in Cookham.

The end of the walk took us down along the Thames, which was slightly misty, peaceful and atmospheric in the soft winter light. We were surprised too at the level of flooding along the banks of the Thames and had first hand experience of being marooned, as we found ourselves stranded on a strip of patches of soggy land surrounded by water! Couragious Steve took the plunge and took a giant long jump from one 'island' to the other, whilst the rest of us dithered in his wake, especially when Mark tested the depth with his walking stick and we realised it was over a metre deep!!!! Caroline (using ingenuity), discovered some discrete clumps of grass along the edge and found that, if trod on carefully, one could pass through with minimal drenching, and with relief, we followed suit. Kate ventured forth, only to be knocked off balance by an exhuberant labrador, and sank spectacularly into the water!!! Fortunately, this happened at the end of the walk and she had a spare set of clothes, so she was able to dry off quickly.

Despite the mishaps, it was a fun day. We learnt some lessons:

1. Never presume pubs will serve walkers, and always have a back-up supply of rations
2. Make sure you have dry clothes, even on a gentle day walk (i.e.: not just mountains and snowy peaks!)
3. Cookham's tea shop has closed (but the Crown serves hot drinks)

Thanks to all for the craic and conviviality (there you go, Kate!). Thanks to Zhang for the photos, and Brian for providing the guide.

Report by Fiona and Caroline

Many thanks to those who attended what proved to be an enjoyable walk, passing through a variety of countryside, woodland, farmland, river meadows and past a few posh dwellings. We were quite fortunate with the weather, which was overcast with just the threat of rain to keep us on our toes to stay dry and warm.

The walk took us though the pleasant villages of Latimer, Flaunden and Chenies. There were a couple of steep climbs, the main one being soon after the start through the long wood after Latimer which did make it seem a ........ long wood. Everyone coped very well with this even though it was made quite difficult by the wet and very muddy conditions. Soon after this we encountered what appeared to be a small river along the path, which was in fact a series of giant puddles. These were negotiated with some amusement, stepping from side to side with a hop and a jump and a splash.

We stopped for lunch at Sarratt, which had two pubs, which was fortunate as the first one, The Cricketers, had been taken over by Blubeckers and although welcoming was just slightly out of our price range! So it was to be the second pub which offered a good selection of beers, food and a friendly atmosphere. I quite liked Pete's idea of wearing the Sainsbury's bags as slippers!

The walk back seemed a bit easier and took in a picturesque stretch alongside the Chess river, as good as anywhere else in the country and right on our doorstep. We managed to be back at the start before sunset, so the walk was timed just right for the day.

Once again many thanks to Pete, Phil, Paul, Sharon, Zhang, Marcellus, Deirdre and Kate for coming, and thanks in particular to new members Michelle, Elen, Jane, Heather, Alex, Claire and Damien for giving it a go. Also special thanks to Steve N for leading the walk.

Report by Ken

My mince pie buster walk revealed at least 10 people who ate a few more pies than they should have over the festive period.

4 girls (Clare, Mary, Nisha, Phyl) and 6 guys (Glyn, Harvinder, Mark O, Mike D, Phil J, me) arrived promptly meaning we started walking at 9:15am. Our 15 mile route was bespoke and we were walking it cold; I had not checked it out prior. Surprisingly despite our route being 'cold' and our paths and roads being icy, the temperature was not. Also surprisingly, I never got lost! Apart from checking out a few points along the way we always remained along the intended route. Only taken me how many years to do that?

Our departure saw us head west from Lane End on a beautiful winter's morning with clear blue sky and no wind. Throughout the day we enjoyed views and climbs of many of the vertical curves of the Chiltern Hills. Unfortunately a few more after lunch when for some the pace was a little harder going. But well done to all for completing the route. Lunch was later than intended at Northend village, around 1:30pm, by which time we had done about 10 miles of our route having been through Fingest, Turville, Stonor and Russells Water villages. No pub in Northend meant the village bus shelter became the hub of activity for our lunch; someone had even left a newspaper. Post lunch we had our hardest climb of the day up to Ibstone common before reaching Cadmore End. We all returned to our cars during dusk by 4:30pm. Thanks all for coming and think of the views when those legs ache a little over the next few days.

Report by Steve

8 in total, Adrian E, Anneke D, Claire A, Evelyn G, Jane R, Mark S, Michelle, and myself were slipping and sliding around this short but muddy walk. Following Thursday's New Members Evening we attracted 5 new members, 2 of which joined HAWOG right there. Walking from Kemp Place car park, up to the High Street we turned left and across the graveyard of St. James Church, down the hill and along a path parallel to a stream, crossing Merry Hill Road and into the start of the muddy path towards Oxhey, through a gap in the fence, even boggier, and then being greeted by a horse, or was it Mark who did the horse whispering.

Across the field appeared a rather large mansion called Haydon Hill House (private) it said on the map, kindly provided by Bushey Library. Taking a detour to avoid the mud around Oxhey Brook, a gravel path led us through some more fields and a wooded area. After the Jubilee Bridge a dog was after Anneke's sandwich and insisted on walking with us for a while instead of its owners. Everybody's boots got tested for water resistance when walking along the Hartsbourne stream, followed yet by another muddy path up to the Paddingstone Cairne, a pile of rocks for directional purpose. Mark gave us all lessons on how to use a compass. In vain everybody tried to find these glorious views, which are supposed to let one see as far as Windsor. On the second leg of the circular walk, with all the mud getting to people, somebody said "are we there yet'. This was a family walk for big kids. Mark, just back from his skiing trip, thought nothing of the sliding around in the mud, and for me it was practice for my forthcoming skiing event in Austria. This being the first walk I have led I didn't lose anybody, and only one person saw the mud from a little closer than the rest of us.

Report by Mathilde