Photos & Reports for 2009

This is where you'll find photos and reports from members who've been on outdoor activities with the group in 2009. We also have photos and reports from other years:

Just three of us today for my 18 mile New Years Leaves walk: Ian G, Keith L and me.

Again we were lucky with the weather, not a drop of rain all day and occasional glimpses of sun. And loads of leaves. We departed Cadmore End around 9:15am and headed broadly west following the Chiltern Way footpath through Fingest and Turville to our turning point at Maidensgrove. Then mostly north, again following major paths (Chiltern and Oxfordshire Ways) amongst more rolling hills and woods to Stokenchurch. We stopped for lunch in a bus shelter in North End which had a free copy of the day's Telegraph. Actually it had a name on it, presumably the few residents lucky enough to live somewhere so remote collect their newspapers from the bus shelter. Keith was very tempted to complete the crossword for them. The paper was still there when we finished lunch at 1pm. Untouched. We stopped briefly for refreshments in Stokenchurch before embarking on the final part of our route via Ibstone and back to Cadmore End for 4:15pm. A brisk pace, we all felt our legs at the end. Thanks all for coming.

Report by Steve R

16 fellow Hawogers (and dog Freddie) gathered at a very icy Chalfont and Latimer station to join Dave and me for a post Christmas walk through a cold but at the same time bathed in sunshine countryside. After an altercation with a grave faced, elderly Lady Nordic Walker (and 'A Merry Christmas' to you too) in which a few of us (well, mainly Brian) were almost knocked over, we arrived at a thankfully empty Boot in Sarratt whose staff dealt well with our large group. After lunch some of us considered possible ice skating on a frozen lake... if bricks can do it why not us? Dave, and some usual suspects having speeded up for the second leg of the walk had the rest of us, thankfully near the end, stranded on a football field. But, thanks to the power of mobile communication we were quickly reunited. Thanks to everybody for coming!

Report by Erika

It all started with an early afternoon KLM flight into Schipol airport from Heathrow. Little did I know that the in-flight 'tea' refreshments would be wine and packets of TUC biscuits! No sooner was it served and consumed then we had landed and I was in the Netherlands walking first through customs followed by an interminably long walk to collect the baggage.

The first 3 nights of the trip would be spent in the Stayokay Soest hostel, which was reached by train from Schipol via Utrecht. I was to see a lot of Utrecht this holiday since it is the train station hub for the efficient and comfortable double-decker Dutch railway system.

Soest hostel was a short 500m walk from Soest Zuid station and was most welcoming with a welcome drink from the bar upon arrival and a gift of chocolate cakes laid out in the bedroom and a great forest view from the window with the trees and ground blanketed in snow. All Stayokay hostels have ensuite showers and toilets in their rooms and licensed bars but alas no facilities for self-caterers, however packed lunches can be ordered from reception. The Dutch are definitely more ecologically aware than us and have embraced the new style of windmill / turbine for power generation wholeheartedly, since they are visible all over the country in great numbers.

Christmas Day began with a breakfast buffet followed by a walk in the local forest amongst the sand dunes, which were all capped by snow. The Dutchman who guided the hostel posse for the duration of the 3 hour trek through the snow gave a running commentary on the local flora but it was all Double Dutch to me until I asked a couple of questions whereupon he gave me (the sole non-native) a brief resume of what he had explained to everybody else. I learned about the trees rotting from the ground upwards due to transpiration, the distinct growth patterns equivalent to annual rings of the native pine trees in the forest and the reason for the presence of the numerous sand dunes in the area... amongst other things. Did you know that silver birch trees were planted in rows along the side of horse tracks as 'lanterns' to guide horses in the dark before street lighting! To quote Sir Michael Caine 'Not a lot of people know that!!!!!'

Boxing Day was when my health and safety background bit me in the bum! I was supposed to go on a horse-drawn carriage ride around the tracks and outskirts of Soest but due to the icy tracks the risk assessment taking into account the prevailing conditions made it unsafe for the horses to exit their stables and we had a substitute TRACTOR to pull us through the various trails. Not a lot was open on Boxing Day in Soest only the odd bar so the hostel bar beckoned and extending my line of credit via my bar tab was the best solution.

The last day in Soest was spent following forest trails leading out towards Baarn and visiting the Soest local heritage museum where a retired local octogenarian volunteered to give me a guided tour which culminated in us reminiscing over his working life as a thermonuclear physicist whilst drinking coffee and munching on his wife's home-made biscuits.

Next stop Arnhem and the first part of my cycling adventure. The Stayokay Arnhem hostel is situated on the outskirts of town which necessitated a 10 minute bus journey and 20 minute hike through a forested area with treacherous icy pavements as I neared the residential area. Once I had dropped off my luggage in the room I went for a 15 mile hike through the local forest around Schaarsbergen having passed the local zoo and museum as landmarks prior to entering the forest. As soon as I arrived back, I knew that the hostel bar was to be my main source of entertainment for that and subsequent evenings whilst staying in Arnhem. Fellow hostellers were playing Risk and card games. A family from Eindhoven kindly teaching myself and my drinking companion from Rotterdam, a popular Dutch card game which neither of us mastered properly - but we were very philosophical, after all winning isn't everything...is it????

The next morning I hired a 7-speed bike from the hostel and sped off towards Apeldoorn, enjoying the luxury of sparsely utilized dual carriageway gritted cyclepaths. I took in the local WWII museums and the well-signposted cycle routes to cover a manageable 50km ride. If there were any hills to be found I seemed to find them! The 50km distance was thus enough for my first experience riding what was a 'tank' of a bike - weight wise, compared to the bike I ride at home! These hire bikes I discovered were not ideal for long distance touring but came well equipped with an integral lock, rear luggage rack, bike stand, mudguards and lights, still it certainly helped me burn off the calories I put on after eating the generous buffet-style breakfast and evening meals. I am sure that the Dutch as a nation have hollow legs since I have never seen people consume so much food yet be so fit and healthy!

Day three in Arnhem was a longer 80km cycle ride plus a considerable amount of walking - taking in the De Hoge Veluwe National Park and the Kroller-Muller museum situated within it. The park is a conservation area of over 5000 hectacres of woodland, heathland, grassland and sand drifts. Free white bikes are available to use within the park if you arrive by bus or car since there are cycle paths totaling 40km contained within the park with the local residents being red deer, mouflon and wild boar. The museum has works by Van Gogh (over 90 paintings plus paper works), Cezanne, Picasso and Mondriaan to name just a few artists on display. A sculpture garden of 25 hectares contains 160 sculptures by artists such as Rodin, Moore, Hepworth and Serra. Well worth a visit if you are ever in the area. As you can imagine by the time I got back to the hostel that night (as dusk fell), I felt a considerable amount of achievement bearing in mind all the physical exertions - walking amoungst the sculptures and art work and cycling to, around and back from the National Park.

Next stop was the snow-covered island of Texel (pronounced Tessel) which is situated off the north-west coast of the Netherlands. It is one of the quickest ferry routes I have been on, since no sooner do you finish the tea and cake purchased from the buffet then you are there! Texel is the archetypal flat terrain you expect in the country since you feel that, on a clear day you can see right across the island as you cycle around with the only elevated areas being the dyke walls, which were ideal toboggan runs for the children and 'young at heart' adults.

The initial day in Texel was spent cycling around the snow-covered southern half of the island, taking in the tea shops and museums during the day and going in search of the bars in the evening. When I was cycling around the harbour area I heard loud explosions so went to investigate. What I encountered was the local custom of cannon firing whereby the locals build cannons to fire footballs and other projectiles with the aid of gunpowder - heralding back to when the Dutch were a seafaring nation with a navy comprising of galleons.

Day two (New Years Eve) was spent cycling to the far north of the island where there is a lighthouse and believe it or not, hidden amoungst the sand dunes, a golf course. From the north end of the island you can see right across to the more northerly island of Vlieland. The evening was spent in the hostel bar and outside watching the fireworks being let off with gay abandon by fellow holidaymakers to see in the New Year and the early morning at the disco laid on by the hostel.

New Years Day was the time to plan my departure back to the mainland. What I did not expect was to awaken and find out that a further foot of fresh snow had fallen during the early hours of the morning. Next stop was to be Haarlem, arriving at its art nouveau railway station building built in the early 1900s. The first day in Haarlem was spent walking around the local parks and sightseeing by night. The illuminated late gothic St. Bravo Church with its famous Muller organ dating back to 1738 which was played by Mozart in 1766 and the neo-gothic St Bravo Cathedral which has a three-aisle cruciform basilica with cupola built in the late 19th century. Another illuminated landmark was the Philharmonie concert hall which was also built in the late 19th century.

My final day in the Netherlands was again spent sightseeing around the old historical town of Haarlem, walking along the Spaarne river and taking in sites such as the Guildhall, Town Hall, Windmill de Adriaan and the Dutch Renaissance exhibition hall which was converted from its previous incarnation of being a meat hall. By utilising the walking tour map of the town I was able to take in the majority of the historic landmarks in Haarlem prior to collecting my luggage from the hostel and heading to Schipol for my early evening flight back to the U.K.

A thoroughly enjoyable 11 day trip had come to an end with everlasting memories of friendly locals, superb hostels, great food, great beer, a reliable public transport system, a great abundance of well-signposted cycle paths, and a diverse terrain to cycle and walk through. The Netherlands - a really environmentally friendly country, well worth visiting all year round.

Report by Martin S

Thanks to Nicky for organising a very popular Christmas buffet on Thursday, we had nearly 40 people at the hall including several newer members. The snow fall during the evening gave a very seasonal setting for the event.

The name game was a great idea, Jane guessed very quickly that she was Tiger Woods whereas Helen spent most of the evening trying to discover that that she was Lily Langtry. Derek and Prem helped out with the food preparation and also the secret santa.

Report by Brian G

You'll be shocked to know that eighteen million people didn't attend my walk in the dark on Saturday evening - Christmas Common at Night. The lure of X Factor proved too much. But the four of us who did - Erika, David, Kevin and me - were treated to a sky full of current stars. And maybe future depending on your views on time and space. Watch out Simon Cowell.

The evening was good for a walk in the dark in winter. Temperature fine once moving. We saw the lights of Oxford as we headed down west of Christmas Common. We passed in more ways than one both the pubs in the villages of Britwell Salome and Cuxham. Cuxham was lovely with its Marlbrook stream running alongside the village road and a lively looking traditional pub. The highlight though for me was the last village of the route that I hadn't walked before - Pyrton. We followed the stream a mile and a half from Cuxham to reach it and then walked past one fantastic large mansiony type place after another.

Not sure which, if any, was Pyrton Manor, but all four of us peasants strained to peer over the wall of one place in particular, a high property with large garden, to see the well lit Christmas tree in its garden and an even bigger, brighter one in its huge conservatory. From a distance I thought it was the village church. Maybe if we had sung some Christmas carols they would have invited us in. We could have sung "Ding Dong Merrily On High" as we reminisced about all the hill and mountain summits we achieved this year, "O Come All Ye Faithful" as a subtle plea to get more of you out walking more often, and best of all "Hark the HAWOG Angels Sing" to celebrate our group's record membership a few months ago.

Steve advance estimated distance 7 miles. Actual distance by attendees considered to be more than 7 miles. Erika's text at half past midnight suggested 9.9 miles. So truncate to 9 miles means only 2 miles out. My maths is getting better. We departed just after 8pm and returned about 11:20pm; have to say three miles an hour felt about right. As always highly enjoyable. Thanks all for coming.

Report by Steve R

First thing on Sunday morning the weather did not look too promising. There was steady overnight rain, and a quite heavy shower for about an hour from 8.15am. The sort of day when you feel like "snuggling" under the duvet, and watching Andrew Marr's programme on the BBC. Unfortunately, this was the day I had chosen to organise my first event – so I had to be at the meeting point at Rickmansworth station at 10.30 come hell or high water. When I left the house at 9.30, the rain had stopped, and by the time we arrived at Rickmansworth station, things were looking decidedly better.

It was a bright, crisp December morning – as good a day as one could wish for at this time of year. Fortune favours the brave – so credit to Lydia, Kate, Lee and Humay for turning up on Sunday morning. We took a gentle stroll down to the lakes from the station, needless to say they were at a high water mark with all the recent rain. Little did we realise it, but our walk coincided with the annual "Santa Dash". So we were thrilled to see the sight of two hundred-plus people dressed as Santa having a race around the lakes. Our walk took us around the lakes, and up to the Grand Union Canal, and was punctuated by a stop at the café in the park, where refreshments were taken in the company of around eighty-plus Santa's. Those of you who have a penchant for older men, dressed in red, with roly poly figures, and long white beards (and I know quite a few of you harbour this fetish) really missed a golden opportunity. Other notable sights were the brave souls, water skiing on the lake, sailing their boats, and playing what appeared to be kayak water polo – not seen or heard of that before.

Our return leg continued around the far side of the lakes, we saw plentiful numbers of swans, Canada geese and mallards, and a few weary Santa's making their way home. We did, of course, take the opportunity to let them know we had been good and well-behaved this year, and were consequently expecting a sack full of top quality presents in a few weeks. Hope you fare similarly well, and have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Report by Roger

6 of us set out from Northolt station on this rainy morning. We walked to the Coach and Horses in Ickenham but did not continue by foot because of the rain. We chose to take the train back. The great things about this walk were: (a) the fireplace in the Coach and Horses where we could warm up, dry out and relax; (b) being able to escape to an expanse of local semi-natural outdoor space; (c) having a fun bunch of happy guys to walk with; (d) being able to explore woodland and fields in autumn, watch wildlife, and aclimatise to the weather conditions; (e) seeing aircraft take off at Northolt Aerodrome; (f) looking around an ancient monument. Unfortunately a 10 mile circular walk was not possible today.

Thanks to Brian F, Mark O, Brian G, Derek and Harry for joining me.

Report by Jane

I understand that it was a tad wet in London last weekend. It was a tad wet in Staffordshire last weekend too, very much so under foot with some soggy, boogy footpaths. But no rain at all on Saturday and only 20 minutes of drizzle on Sunday morning. Temperatures mild both days too, light cloud all day Saturday and the sun increasingly shining through from late morning on Sunday with the afternoon sky comprising more blue than white. We were blessed with the weather.

As the forecast for Sunday was not too good we decided to make the most of Saturday by setting off on the better of the two main ideas for routes I had in mind. We departed Rushton Spencer village at 9:30am north along the Staffordshire Way for ten minutes before following the first third of our route, a gentle climb up a valley following the river Dane to a youth hostel I've never stayed at - YHA Gradbach Mill. We made good time reaching the summit ~ 250 metres before midday. We stopped for 30 minutes for lunch then headed into Back Forest and a further climb to our highest point of the day, Roach End (403m). Our route down comprised a mix of footpaths and road to Meerbrook and what my map said was another YHA hostel (possibly Alder Lee?). "Was" being the key word, it had closed since the 1999 date of my map. We continued down to skirt the northern edge of Leek before heading back along the major Staffordshire Way path through dusk. To our right were views of the Rudyard Reservoir and we stopped to look at some mansion-type buildings en route with turrets and arches set alone in the Staffordshire Moorlands. It was just us, them and the tranquility in the darkness. We returned to Rushton Spencer at 5:20pm and the route (my estimate) was about 16 miles - so could be more. A few found the walk challenging and rewarding - thanks for sticking with it guys - just remember the achievement your tired legs made, the views, the feeling.

Saturday evening and Neena, despite her and Renu not being able to attend at the last minute, had kindly prepared a feast of Indian food for us which just required heating up. No, not the sort of Indian cooking rubbish that I attempt and it never quite tastes like the stuff from a restaurant. This stuff tasted really good and authentic. Really appreciated by all Neena - thanks.

Having made the most of Saturday we arose Sunday expecting rain, certainly for the morning. It did rain but only a little. Our route today followed the Staffordshire Way north and west from our village to the local landmark summit called the Cloud (343m) which we reached at around 11:30am. On our final climb to the top the sun started to appear and we spent fifteen minutes at the top admiring the panorama around us. We reached the town of Congleton for lunch and a drink. Our route back followed part of the Cheshire Ring Canal Walk and Jim pointed out some spectacular engineering (19th century?) when the canal was built over the river Dane. Those of you who've been on a few of my weekends before know there's always a possibility of a walk along a disused railway line. And I didn't disappoint. We followed a dismantled railway line (not actually a footpath), unfortunately not all of the final few miles back as we hit a snag in that the old train depot on route now housed a firm and we our route was blocked. We bypassed and returned back by about 4:30pm. An easier route of about 12 miles I reckon.

I'd love to explore more of Staffordshire in the future. Never been before, reminded me of Shropshire with its rolling hills, well they are very close... And was easy to navigate, didn't use the compass once, paths well signed, not just with posts but sometimes telling you the name of the place the path was going. A joy. The icing on our cake though was our accommodation. The farmhouse was lovely, five bedrooms excellently presented. Some even had flat screen TV and DVD player. Coal fire in living room and views out and over the local countryside. With nine of us the price worked out at only £12.50 each per night - a bit of research and you too can get accommodation like this. Really enjoyed the walking and talking with you all and our first time weekend away-ers Paddy and Richard, excellent banter.

Thanks to Claire, Kevin, Jim, Paul, Paddy and Richard (and Neena for food) for joining me on another great weekend away.

Report by Steve R

As we set off up Coombe Hill towards the monument, the bad weather was drawing in. We didn't loiter at the monument as there were no views to be had. As we walked across the fields to Ellesborough the rain started. We all donned waterproofs and climbed up Beacon Hill and walked along the edge of Happy Valley in appalling weather! We decided to stop early for lunch due to the bad weather but my original choice of pub was not suitable, so after a helpful suggestion from Ian we relocated to the Bernard Arms at Great Kimble.

Having dried out and had some food we set off with new-found enthusiasm. As we walked around the edge of the Chequers Estate the sun was shining and things were looking up! After stopping briefly to feed polo mints to a couple of forlorn looking horses we completed the walk comfortably before sunset.

Thankyou to Marin, Richard E, Paddy, Mark B, Ian, Kevin, Mary and Helen for coming along.

Report by Tim

An excellent presentation on Thursday by David from Native Eyes Bushcraft. He started by demonstrating field craft and the safe use of axes and knives to prepare wood for use in the outdoors. He also showed how to make a large spoon from a branch, and in best Blue Peter fashion handed around several he "had made earlier" to show the finished product. Mark O and Peter helped with the next display of a "basha" or tarpaulin with attachments to form a very versatile shelter or improvised tent.

We next learnt about what wild food you can eat and David demonstrated how to prepare nettles for a soup and then handed around samples of some nettle soup from his flask. Full of vitamin C it appears. We then learnt the uses of horse chestnut leaves (soap) and uses of birch bark. He finished by telling how to extract birch sap to make wine, and shared a bottle with the group. We hope to invite David back in the spring for a session on fires and more wild food in the woods on the hill.

Report by Kevin

Sunday turned out to be a beautiful bright day, a calm after the major deluges of Saturday, and perfect for a walk through the autumn woodland. Beautiful colours reflected on a very calm lake to start with, followed by the Thames and Magna Carta Island, the scene of the signing of that illustrious document. The horses in the paddocks next to Wraysbury church made friends with Sharon but managed to despatch my lunch, thanks to Derek(!) so there was nothing for it but a stop off in The Perseverence pub, which had good food and a nice open fire.

Thanks all for coming.

Report by Deirdre

A small group of us met on an overcast but still dry morning at Harrow. We set off via a series of cycle paths and back streets on the 15 mile route. We stopped at Sudbury Heights to admire the large mansions in this area and then climbed up Horsenden Hill for the viewpoint. Our traditional lunch stop was at Marvin's Diner in Perivale where there was a Mod convention of Vespas. David H entertained us with his description of unusual coffees from around the globe as Derek struggled with his pancake mountain.

Our route continued through the Brent river park via woodlands and river paths before we found ourselves once more at the Heritage museum. After this diversion we finished the route by climbing up Northala mounds for a better view as the clouds had now lifted. Erika was confused by the circular ramp which, on a bike, produces an illusory sensation of effort without seeming to climb. Derek just pushed his bike.

All the novice cyclists enjoyed the ride and looked forward to the next tougher cycling event.

Report by Brian G

Will it or won't it rain? We were all prepared for some rain but thankfully it held off for the day and the sun actually appeared, at around lunchtime.

Starting at Wheathampstead, the walk, along the the footpaths that skirted alongside various wooded areas, proved to be peaceful, with pleasant views across the Hertfordshire pastures. Occasionally we would pick up or criss-cross the disused railway tracks that used to link Wheathampstead to its neighbouring towns. All in all, away-from-it-all tranquility. It was not long before we arrived at the village of Ayot St Lawrence, where an outdoor Remembrance Service was in progress just outside the 13th century church. Whilst there, we had a quick look at the home of George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright. For anyone interested, this is usually open for visitors during the summer, closing at the beginning of November.

We continued our journey to Ayot Green where we stopped for lunch. We all had a drink in the local pub. Mary was quite impressed with the French guys running the place but not with their stingy serving of risotto on their lopsided plate. Nouvelle cuisine maybe?

We continued with our final section of the journey, which took us through a rather large golf course in the grounds of Brocket Park. Here we somehow managed to miss the path marker, so trespassing on the golf course, however we were helpfully redirected by one of their members. Phil had his suspicions that we had mucked up! Not for the first time this seems to have occurred directly after the pub stop! We continued along the river Lea walk back to our start at Wheathampstead. Walking parallel with us for a while was the curious site of approximately 200 ducks all waddling along in file around the reed bed area of the river, looking to be in search of the next section of flowing river.

We finished the walk at about 3pm. Many thanks to Mary, Marin and Phil for joining us in a particularly pleasant part of Hertfordshire.

Report by Steve N and Ken

Following utterly horrendous Friday congestion on M25, we finally drove up a dark and decidedly spooky lane to reach Coldblow Farm. Everyone mucked in with decorating the dining area with an assortment of spectral friezes and decorations kindly supplied by attendees. Most people had arrived by 8pm, so our festivities began. Knives in hand, pumpkins were expertly carved into ghostly lanterns, providing an atmospheric backdrop for the rest of our weekend. Special notice goes to Jian for the Owl in the Pumpkin. The merits of a range of apple-bobbing techniques were next discussed, with Martin J confidently, if not effectively, demonstrating the 'dive-in-head-first' apple-bobbing method. Fiery Ginger Ale was later served, keeping our Halloween spirits warm until the early hours. Mark Oz managed to keep the spirits away in the boys' dorm by his snoring lighthouse display, which woke others up with noise and a beam of light crossing the dorm every 5 minutes.

A leisurely start on Saturday morning meant that we began our walk on the North Downs by 10.30, fog and drizzle preventing us from seeing very much. Lunch in Eythorne was a welcome chance for warming chips. Later in the afternoon, the sun came out and we could at last see the beautiful Kent surroundings. Brian made special friends with Reg the goat, at Cobham Manor stables. At first everyone thought he was a she, and pregnant, but the owner soon assured us he was just fat (the goat not Brian). Also visited was Hollingbourne Manor on walk, an Elizabethan manor in the mist.

Afternoon tea was taken in Thurnham, where troubles came thick and fast for Tim and Shakespeare in the shape of lack of cream teas all round, despite having been bought and paid for. Last part of the day sent us up the hill to a ruined castle, where Brian sent Jan and Pete up the wrong side of the castle, in an attempt to find 'a short cut'. They were seen many hours later, battered and bruised, and surprisingly silent. By this time the daylight was fading fast, the moon hung in the sky. As we descended in this eerie twilight we were disturbed by the screech of awakening bats. A few minutes later it was dark and we found our way back, across the downs, by moonlight (and Brian's expert map reading skills plus coal miners torch).

And so it was time for the highlight of the weekend, the Halloween costume dinner. Terrifying and dark characters began to emerge from the bedrooms, their attire demonstrating the fabulous efforts made by all to enter into the ghoulish spirit of the occasion. Peter D was resplendent as the 'Acid Bath Murderer', and Dave H so horribly handsome as 'Nosferatus'; women were offering their throat to the wolf with the red roses. But the eyeball-filled, first-prize Halloween Goblet was justly awarded to Gina as a spectacular 'Bride of Frankenstein'.

Everyone helped with arranging the dinner tables into a huge horseshoe and covered in a horrible orange tablecloth. Candles were lit, as well as our pumpkin lanterns. Guests seated themselves for what by now felt like a Halloween banquet. A festive meal with excellent company was enjoyed by all, with Jian and Helen as superb waitresses and sous-chefs.

Once the tables were cleared the dancing began in earnest. We grooved the night away to spooky Halloween tracks like 'Thriller', as well as to well-known pop/dance tunes. A brief interlude of rock enabled Jan and Brian F/Martin J to entertain us with their pitch-perfect performance of Meatloaf's 'Barely 17'. Later we played Halloween Charades, a game for which Genevieve demonstrated an outstanding aptitude. Again our party kept us from our beds until the early hours.

Sunday morning activity was even slower than the day before. De-costumed, we slowly emerged from our dark slumber to breakfast and clear up before our departure. On the way back to London we made a stop at 'The Friars' at Aylesford Priory to enjoy well-deserved cream teas and a tranquil stroll around this riverside place of pilgrimage. Genevieve and Rob were nowhere to be seen on Sunday, appearing to have vanished into the Black Hole of the rear cabins, but were later found alive and well.

Special thanks to Brian G for organising and leading our walk on Saturday; to Brian F for kindly supplying the 'Giant Jenga' which kept us all riveted for hours on Friday evening; to Erika for a gruesome punch bowl served with dinner; to Genevieve for shopping errands; to Mark O for yet another BBQ; and to Jane/Helen/Jian for all the kitchen services beyond the call of duty!

Thanks to all 22 for coming and making this weekend such good fun!

Report by Emma and Jan

Jane R, Ramji P, Erika W, Dave H, Renu N, Clare N, Keith L, Neena S, Steve N, Kevin V, Ian S and myself arrived for the 10am start at Charing Cross despite one clock on the concourse displaying 11am and another 9am.

Starting from the official centre of London we left Trafalgar Square and dodged the traffic until arriving at Carnaby Street where we played tourists and had our photo taken below one of the street signs. Next came the most difficult part of the whole day which was to get Jane past Liberty's department store without going in.

Heading out through Regent's Park and Hampstead Heath we arrived for lunch in Gladstone park at 1:30pm where we were greeted by Pete D. Jan B phoned to say she was joining us but there was a mix up in directions so Pete kindly went on a rescue mission and before long we were all united.

Neena, Renu and Kevin left at this point and the rest continued on. Pete showed us the location of the bunker / Paddock (alternative cabinet war room) in Dollis Hill and gave a brief talk. The pace picked up for the second half of the day and as the sun began to set we arrived at Harrow on the Hill station exactly on the stroke of 5pm.

A great day, thanks to all for coming.

Report by Brian F

In the publicity for this walk, I had made much of the fact that it was taking place on the last day of British Summer Time. There was, however, nothing of the summer about Saturday morning. Ten of us met under grey skies at Great Missenden and struck out into the damp. Our route followed the upper Misbourne valley before striking off through woods - and skirting a pheasant shoot - to join the Ridgeway. By this stage, it had begun to rain hard and it was fortunate that for much of the next hour we were afforded some shelter by beech woods as we made our way to Coombe Hill. Even on this damp morning, the view from the monument on the hill was a good one and there was plenty of autumn colour to be seen. We descended into Wendover and, after lunch, made our way through the woods to the east of the village, enjoying the turning leaves on the beech trees. We continued to cross a few very muddy fields before rejoining the South Bucks way to return to Great Missenden.

Thanks to all who came out on such an unpromising morning and who maintained high spirits in the face of the British weather. Particular thanks to David who, on two separate occasions, provided some very welcome input with the map.

Report by Stephen C

Today was perfect autumn weather for us to complete another of the 1936 Rambles in Buckinghamshire walks. Eleven attended: Anmare, Clare N, Erika, Monica; David H, Keith, Kevin, Marin, Paul G, Phil, me.

Prompt start about 9:50am from High Wycombe station and we ascended up the valley surrounding the town following the original 1936 path. As we reached the summit near the motorway we detoured as the original path no longer exists. Our challenge was to find our new path to cross the M40 motorway and it proved easier than expected. Once across the motorway we were in open hills and farms with clear paths taking us back onto the original path and on to Little Marlow which we reached well before midday. Too early for our intended lunch stop so we continued to Great Marlow and spent an hour in the sunshine facing the Thames where we had lunch. With such a lovely day the place was full of families, couples and walkers and a very cute small dog with a busy tail who wanted our lunch. He seemed oblivious to his owners calls even though he got no food.

Post lunch and we followed the Thames Path east back to Little Marlow where we headed north through Bloom Wood which was set amongst classic rolling Chiltern Hills with distant views, sunlight and shadows. We found the Hard to Find farm - it wasn't - reached and crossed under the M40 before our descent into High Wycombe. Our path went through another wood, Deangarden Wood, which again was on a slope, before we reached the edge of the large Rye open area taking us into the town centre. Again lots of families taking advantage of a gorgeous afternoon.

Not quite sure if the route was 14 miles although that's what the book says. We reached the station just before 4pm so ahead of schedule. Another enjoyable day for a walk in the countryside.

Thanks all for coming.

Report by Steve

19 of us attended the trip and enjoyed another Indian Summer October break involving the great outdoors and poetry. The hostel was located a few minutes from the train station and a short heritage walk from the historic centre of town. The breakfast was included in the very reasonable rate and many enjoyed a massive buffet fry up both mornings. By tradition we all took over the lounge after the pub and Jan did good with the teapot and buns.

On Saturday Sue and Sammy did a leisurely cycle ride following the "green spaces" route. Roger asked if there was an ironing board in the dorm, not even a Corby. He was attending the nearby Newmarket races and wanted to look his best for the chauffeur who was waiting.

The rest of us did the 13 mile "Rupert Brooke Walk" from Shelford station back to Cambridge via several picturesque hamlets and no climbs. Everyone commented on how easy the walk was; shows how much difference hills and muddy fields make. We reached our proposed lunch stop well ahead of schedule and just as well as the pub looked awful, especially in the charming village of Haslingfield with its manor house and 13th century church. Jeff commented that it was "more suited to Feltham", so we took a break in the garden and admired the 1980s brickwork and bonfire. We sped on and soon came upon the "travelling telescope". This is an early astronomical feature whereby a radio telescope travels along rails for 2 miles. Radio Dave would have been able to extemporise ad infinitum however to everyone's glee he was elsewhere.

The route took in some woods and then we glanced Grantchester, the reason for the walk. "Ah Grantchester! There's peace and holy quiet there". We ambled through the village admiring the half-timbered houses and thatched cottages. We came finally to the Orchard tea rooms, first popularised in 1897 by Brooke and the Neo-Pagans (Woolf, Forster, Russell et al). As the weather was so fine we had our afternoon tea outside under the fruit trees and enjoyed the genteel setting where more famous people have taken tea than anywhere else in the world. Gina remarked that there was indeed "honey still for tea" and we read the poems included in the tea shop history booklet as we savoured the very large scones in the gardens. We then took the river path back to Cambridge passing a historical re-enactment battle of very dubious provenance.

For our evening meal Mary had found an excellent spot by Kings College, the Cambridge Chop house. Pumpkin pie was the seasonal starter here and Mark entertained everyone with some ripping yarns from his "Call Up" book and Jane led everyone on a mystery tour until we realised she had confused Rick Wakeman with Alan Rickman. Peter recounted the tale of the dawn raid in the dorm on his wash bag. He had laid a trap for the felon and looked forward to the result. We walked back via a heritage trail and again took over the lounge. Emma remarked upon the "elderly gent" eating his take-away fish and chips whilst wearing an incongruous dinner jacket, Rob stated that he looked just like "Walter" to which Jan instantly responded "has he been"?

Sunday saw us take a guided punt trip along the Cam. Jane negotiated a good deal and 12 of us took over one punt with 4 following on the next one. The guide expertly propelled us along the "backs" of the colleges where the architecture is at its finest. The sun shone warmly on the ancient stonework of Kings, Trinity and St Johns colleges whilst the guide told us several historical facts and a few tall tales. Sammy ad-libbed his own interjections which the guide worked into the routine seamlessly. We disembarked at Mill Lane and found our way through the market to Aunties tea shop for tiffin. The shop was busy, however its courteous and eager-to-please staff provided all 16 of us with window tables with views across to the impressive city church. The shop had the largest slice of Victoria sponge so far seen and some of us could not resist. We then took various tours of the colleges, Roger led one group around the gardens and courtyards of the colleges. Martin J arranged yet another discounted tour for most of us which took in all the major colleges and churches. Genevieve led the others on a route that included a free ascent of the bell tower for views over the city and a free visit to Kings College chapel by timing their arrival for the afternoon service. We assembled for a final coffee at the market square where Humay pointed out the famous Ostrich burger stall and we took a final view of the historic city.

Report by Brian G

Twelve joined me on the Redbourn Ramble. We set off at just after 11 am across Redbourn Common with the weather in our favour. It wasn't long before we had left Redbourn behind and crossed the M1 into open countryside. In general it was good underfoot conditions apart from one field which had been newly ploughed. We were soon admiring the church in Flamstead when suddenly, after a quick head count, 3 were missing. After a few phone calls, the escapees were soon rounded up and lining up for the group photo taken in front of the church. After our enforced break at Flamstead, we set off again over the fields and through Yew Tree wood which is set up for equestrian jumping events. We stopped for lunch at around 1:30pm. We returned safely to the starting point at 3:30pm. I would like to thank David H, Phil, Steve N, Steve R, Sallyann, Laura, Jean, Lingjie, Lee, Erika, Jane M and Ramji for all coming along and hope to see them all soon on a walk.

Report by Ian

Arrived at Viewpoint car park far too early. With almost 30 minutes to spare and seeing the state of the place, instead of admiring the view, started litter picking. Fast food establishments have a lot of explaining to do. What happened to the old fashioned picnic? The boxes, bottles and serviettes were strewn all over the car park, often next to the many litter bins. Not entirely sure whether it's only people to blame for the mess. Ravens and blackbirds have a tendency to feast on take-away leftovers, picking at and throwing contents out of bins.

Having cleared the patch around my car, the first fellow walker arrived - Sonia, a U3A member, with whom I had gone for a walk last Sunday. Was getting ready for a big crowd, but only 2 new members, Jean and Andrew, and a not so new one, Nicky, made it just in time for the start of the walk.

Bentley Priory covers more than 60 hectares made up of woodland, scrubland and grassland, lakes and streams and is a Nature Reserve.

Despite having walked this route many times, I followed a map, kindly provided by Harrow libraries, and I promptly led us too far up into the woodland, needing to trot along the main road back to the gate across the road forming the entrance to the open space. Trees by the side of the concrete path had been felled and the dry September month had taken its toll on the fauna. Leaves not turning with autumn colours, but rather shrivelling with the lack of water and the grass brown, not quite like a desert, but lacking the usual British lush green and vigour. A caterpillar with its vivid colour on the concrete path brightened up our moods. Many a brown cow-pat on the path and wilting grass told us that livestock must be in the vicinity. And there they were, by a direction sign north of the deer park. A herd of cows, all looking for something to eat, even reaching for the trees to eat the leaves.

At a road with rather posh big houses we consulted the road map to make sure we were heading in the right direction towards Warren Lane. Round the back of Stanmore Cricket Ground and past some lakes we arrived at Stanmore Hill, only to find that the pub where we wanted to have lunch was being renovated. Had to make do with some bushes to answer nature's calls.

Somehow missed the deer park completely, leaving it to our north. Encountered some other Sunday walkers with their dogs, at one stage not sure whether it was a dog or the owner growling at us. Wonderful chats somehow made up for the somewhat lacking scenery at this time of year, making me question the purpose of the walks, is it for exercise, things to see, the company of others, or maybe it all needs to be present in the right quantities in the same way as the combination of ingredients in a recipe to make delicious food. Talking of food, conversations about life in general continued over food and drink in the pub afterwards.

Anyway, thanks all for coming along and excellent company.

Report by Mathilde

Clear blue skies greeted 7 of us at Harpenden railway station and the day felt more like mid summer than autumn. We left the station and headed through the back roads and lanes of Harpenden, passing my old scout hut, slightly tatty looking but I hadn't seen it for 30 years, and soon reached the Lea Valley walk which is the old track bed of the long closed railway running from Luton to Welwyn Garden City.

We stopped briefly in Wheathampstead to buy some snacks, and then continued to Ayot St. Lawrence for a short break by the old ruined church. Here I discovered that Stephen C not only also grew up in Harpenden but had been to the same school as me, although we had missed each other by a margin of about 8 years! So we spent quite a while reminiscing about old teachers and Harpenden in the good old days. We then carried on past Brocket Hall and stopped to look at the huge carp in the lake. Keith told us they had first been introduced to Britain by the Romans. Claire wondered how deep the lake was but as no one volunteered to jump in and find out we continued to the lunch stop at the Crooked Chimney where some enjoyed a roast and a pint while others surreptitiously, or in Mick's case quite openly, ate their packed lunches.

Having done about 2 thirds of the walk the pace slowed after lunch as the afternoon heat and the miles started to take their toll and after a sit down in Sandridge we finally crossed Harpenden common and reached the finish point at 4.30pm. No takers for the Circus which was in town so we all headed for home. Thanks very much to Steve R, Claire A, Stephen C, Mick and Keith for coming with Erika and me and making it such an enjoyable day out.

Report by David H

Two of us, Jayesh and myself, enrolled onto this YHA-run course at Edale Activity Centre.

The first day, Saturday, was spent covering each aspect of leading a rock climb, from familiarising ourselves with the equipment used, to learning how to anchor ourselves after having "topped out" at the finish of a climb. The second day all these skills were brought together and we embarked on several climbs of betwen 15 and 25 metres high. The climbs were taken on Stanage Edge, a 6km long gritstone ridge high up in the Peaks, with great views. It is an exhilarating and adrenaline producing experience when embarking on a climb, and a great feeling when having reached the top.

Climbing is one of the UK's fastest growing sports, with the Peak District being one of the world's top climbing areas. Being only 3 hours from London, this area is easily accessible to HAWOG. This is an activity which Jayesh and myself will try to develop for our members. The YHA are running several beginner's courses in 2010, which I thoroughly recommend if you wish to attend. The quality of the instruction is superb, and we were entirely safe throughout the course. The location is stunning, and the accommodation at Edale YHA good. And the cost of the YHA courses are far cheaper than those run by other course providers.

Report by Martin J

7 of us met on the traditional glorious sunny morning for the annual open day tour. This year Peter decided to move the route to Bloomsbury as there were plenty of new venues to see there. Peter arrived with a complex cross-referenced briefing paper which we had to memorise before it self-destructed as always at Cafe Nero. Bloomsbury is a very grand district of 18th century squares and elegant terraces of Georgian mansions. It was an artistic colony from the 19th century till the Bloomsbury group of Woolf, Keynes and others left in the 1930s. The Mary Ward house reflected this tradition - it was named after a novelist turned philanthropist, and the mansion is a rare example of an Arts and Crafts style building. It also served exceedingly good cakes in the shaded gardens. We visited several other sites including Goodenough College where the tour included listening to rehearsals for Die Fledermaus. Rob took in all the blue plaques around and promptly walked into a lamppost to everyone's amusement. Jane was most impressed by the arts workers guild, whilst Kevin's favourite was the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, as he learnt much about the the famous malaria epidemic in West Yorkshire in the 20s. The most original building was the Lumen United Reform Church which had been restored with a spectacular conical intervention in the nave forming a "shaft of light" to the interior.

We finished the day at a wonderfully preserved Victorian pub in Holborn with half-glazed snugs and photos of famous visitors down the years.

Thanks to Peter for arranging the route so well.

Report by Brian G

Michelle, Kate G, Steve R, Mark (designated map reader!) and I started off from Tring station. Michelle was completely organised with 'the book' and the map. But Michelle got completely disorganised about 5 minutes into the walk - 'the book' disappeared! Michelle did go back to see if she could find it but it had truly gone! Despite not having our idiot's guide instructions we managed to get to all the points of interest... luckily lots of people were heading in the same direction that Sunday so Mark (map reader) just asked the way! Very good navigational skills were used!

We stopped for tea and snack...walked a bit...stopped again...walked a bit and we really chatted and laughed for the whole 8 miles! My quote of the day: 'Look at that cross, who died over there?' - it was a signpost! Michelle declared half way through the walk 'I am really glad I came' - we were too, as she was leading the walk with me!

We all decided that we were 'all glad that we came'. It was a fab day out.

Report by Carla

A short note to say thanks to Andrew Zelin for giving his time again for free to our group and enlightening our seven attendees on the issues and tips in planning a walk and reading a map. Attendees this this time were Bernadette, Caroline T, Collette, Gemma, Helen C, Mark B and Ramji.

The morning theory session opened with a discussion about what makes a good/bad walk before covering sources for routes, times, parking, refreshments, issues and promotion. Andrew then finished by discussing maps, scales, grid lines, symbols and contours. The theory session finished with a few words about the main features of the compass and its key relationship with the map.

A working lunch followed and attendees were split into two teams - Bernadette, Caroline and Ramji, and Collette, Gemma, Helen and Mark. The work being for each team to plan a 4-5 mile walk. After lunch both teams went out and walked their routes, one each with Andrew and myself, taking it in turns to navigate with map and compass as appropriate. You'll be pleased to know, all arrived safely back in Holmer Green, Buckinghamshire!

Thanks all for coming.

Report by Steve

Our weekend in barmy Wales was fantastic. 8 of us in all were made very welcome in Mick's home and we all arrived on Friday evening; Jan, Jane, Brian, Emma, Steve, Mark, Jim and Claire and with Mick that made 9.

On Saturday morning we walked the short distance into town and got a local bus to the end of the estuary at a very pretty village of Dolgellau. We had a walk along the river for a while then went up into the hills looking down over the estuary. Beautiful views from the top. We had our lunch in a nice sheltered spot and then walked down toward the estuary again discovering caves from the gold mining past. The rowan trees were stunning with an abundance of red berries. We finally found our way down to the path and walked along the opposite side of the river and over the railway bridge at the mouth of the river Mawddach arriving in Barmouth late in the afternoon. The walk was about 10 miles with one steep climb.

On Saturday evening we all cooked and then had a nice quiet drink at the local pub in the evening.

On Sunday the weather was a bit cloudy but quite warm with rain threatened for late afternoon. Mark, Steve, Emma and Jan hired bikes and took off for a lovely ride inland. The first 8 miles was fairly flat but the climbs that followed were memorable for all concerned. Jan's bike had no brakes and she had to walk down the hills while some of the others had to walk up! The rain came as promised and all the cyclists were drenched to the skin.

The rest of us headed upwards for the most stunning views imaginable along the 'Precipice Walk'. The mixture of yellow gorse and purple heather was amazing as we walked around the side of the hills. It was a good steady walk and we arrived back in Dolgellau for an oggy lunch (pastry filled with minced meat, potatoes and leeks and the size of a dinner plate). We explored the town and got back to Mick's house before the rain set in. After a quick cuppa some of us we went into the lovely town of Barmouth and walked all around the artists' quarter and then the full length of the promenade and back. Not to be outdone we too were drenched. Brian got an exciting game of monopoly going as we all dried our gear but it had to be paused so that dinner could be had. I still don't know who won!

Monday, the weather had cleared and there were a few whitecaps to be seen. Brian, Jane, Jan and Emma all had to leave for home. Mick, Steve, Jim and Claire set off on another adventure and drove to a nearby starting point and climbed and climbed up though beautiful woods, streams, pine forests along a newly refurbished walk called the New Precipice walk. At the top we even found some little frogs on the grass, just about an inch long; so small in a huge landscape. We investigated the old gold mining settlement at the top and then followed the track down again to the car. Oggies all round and a nice mug of tea for a late lunch before we left for home about 4pm. A great weekend, lots of walks and not a boring moment. Thanks Mick for your hospitality.

Report by Claire A

Eighteen of us wandered the heights and breathed the clean air of the Yorkshire Moors around Haworth this August Bank Holiday. We stayed at the recently refurbished Victorian mansion that is YHA Haworth which apart from the self catering kitchen, was lovely.

Saturday saw all of us depart and head south from Haworth following paths along the river and steam railway line to Oxenhope before heading south-west and picking up the Calder Aire Link major path. All enjoyed the added bonus of a climb up the side of the railway embankment when the path I was leading on disappeared in the trees. Ooops, sorry girls and guys! Good exercise though for Martin and Paul who yanked most of the girls up. Those wanting to do a shorter route split at Lane Head and continued south along Crimsworth Dean into Hebden Bridge for lunch and teas before heading home after 10 miles.

The remaining seven of us continued west to the Pack Horse pub in New Laithe Moor for a late lunch circa 1:40pm. Post lunch we headed north-east along the Pennine Way - well mostly well signed and mostly north-east. I say mostly as we somehow ended up on a well trodden south-easterly path that took us onto Shackleton Moor. As I wasn't expecting to be on anything other than the Pennine Way - no other paths on my map - I hadn't been checking direction with the compass. It was only when we still hadn't seen the Withins Ruins (the inspiration for Wuthering Heights) after walking at least the three miles an earlier sign had said, that we knew something wasn't right. David's higher detail map allied with the Grouse Butts along side us revealed our location - heading north-east (now) towards Round Hill - which was a good mile south-east of the Pennine Way. Ooops, sorry girls and guys! Good exercise though for us all as we followed compass in corrective direction and yomped over the squidgy moor land and heather of Wadsworth Moor - sometimes on all fours. Thankfully weather dry and we reached Withins a little later than intended at 5:15pm and returned to the hostel for 7pm after a 20 mile walk. Evening was spent in the splendid Stirrup restaurant that Mary had kindly pre booked.

Sunday's main walk and five of us headed north and west along a route that again offered an opportunity for those wanting something shorter to split. After the split point at Slippery Ford, the footpath for the longer route disappeared after two minutes. So followed compass towards a stone wall that had no break for the (where is it?) path. Headed to high point to get some bearings, and again followed compass, eventually finding trail (maybe our path?) in right direction before seeing a small yellow blob of colour in the distance on edge of wall. Headed to it... yes it was a footpath sign. So headed off Stott Hill Moor and then along to the Pennine Way and south. Mostly clear and well signed and back to hostel after a 15 miler. Others did a variety of tourist activities (Bronte walk) and shorter walks.

Sunday evening saw most of us end up in the Haworth Old Hall pub for their quiz. Two HAWOG teams entered... two prizes on offer... and pleased to say that both our teams won the prizes. "HAWOG's Finest" won the snakes and ladders, which required knowing which questions to answer correctly to ensure you only climbed the ladders to reach the top first. And good judgement as to what the roll of the dice would be. "Steve's Slackers" won the quiz outright answering 21 of 25 questions correctly. Well done to both.

Thanks to (girls) Anita, Bao, Caroline, Clare, Erika, Evelyn, Mary, Neena, Nicky, Penny, Renu and (guys) David, Keith, Kevin, Martin, Paul and Tim for coming.

Report by Steve

With the forecast of a scorcher of a weekend, the South Coast was definitely the place to be to stay cool!

Seven of us made the trip down on the Friday and pitched up. It was a cool evening and the wind off the sea was giving us a slight chill. The campsite rule of open fires allowed only if raised off the ground gave food for thought to Martin J. His scheme of using an upturned dustbin lid supported by a circle of bricks shaped like Stonehenge worked admirably. Emma E supplied the wood and we had the fire roaring. With Derek pitching his tent downwind all the smoke blew into his tent. And then showered with burning embers. Fortunately the only damage was to Prem's fleece as she strove to keep her tent from being burnt. Poor Prem!

Saturday we took off on our bikes and hit the beachfront at East Wittering, a small seaside town with good facilities. We made our westward along the wide, sandy beaches, for a time cycling right upto and through the water's edge across the wet sand. I think sand-cycling must be a first for HAWOG. We stopped for a paddle and photos whilst on the beach before continuing our way to East Spit, a unique sand dune formation at the entrance to Chichester harbour.

From here we picked up the Saltern's Way cycle trail which took us through West Wittering (no doubt twinned with East Wittering!), and across lovely, open fields, all under a beautiful blue sunny sky. We stopped for lunch at Chichester Marina, looking across at the multi-million pound yachts moored in front of us. Anyone have a spare 11,500,000 Euros to buy one? From here we cycled along the Chichester Canal into Chichester itself. Here we split up, some of us going shopping (for camping equipment!), whilst the rest of us took the wall walk around the medieval walls of the town. We all met up again at St Martin's Organic Tea-rooms, where we sat in the garden eating and drinking the superb cakes and teas. We returned to the Campsite by way of the Chichester Canal.

The evening saw us fire up the obligatory BBQ and campfire, the Saturday evening being much warmer than the Friday.

Sunday morning the sun was blazing down, the sun-slap being applied even before breakfast. We striked camp and set off to visit Fishbourne Roman Palace. Discovered in the 1960's, very little remains of this extensive palace except the mosaic floors, some of which are almost 100% complete; and the palace's gardens, which have been laid out again exactly as they were.

By mid-afternoon it was definitely time to cool off! We made our way back to Wittering's beaches for a swim and splash in the sea. Jim W took the opportunity to train for his next triathlon, Emma E bobbed up and down and Martin J splashed around in the surf. Having exhausted ourselves in the water, we sun-bathed on the beach until it was time to go home. A final teashop stop for ice-cream and refreshments was taken at East Wittering, sitting outside in the lovely early evening sunshine.

With the glorious sunny weather, this was camping at its best. Roll on next summer!

Report by Martin J

Sunday was a beautiful summer's day and proved ideal for our walk on the North Downs. Leaving Guildford we followed the River Wey before turning east into the Tillingbourne valley. Our path gave us good views of the Downs and also back towards Guildford, where the Cathedral provided a very distinctive landmark. Having walked for a little distance in the valley, we climbed through woodland onto the Downs themselves from where it was possible to see south over the Surrey countryside to the South Downs in the distance. We enjoyed lunch in the welcome shade of some trees and then descended into an area of woodland and streams which once housed one of the country's largest gunpowder mills. Following the streams we made our way back through the farmland in the valley to reach Guildford and complete this 10 mile walk. Thanks to Ian and Hisayo for joining me.

Report by Stephen C

Ten of us set off in the drizzle on Saturday - if I wasn't leading it I would have stayed in bed!!! Having got lost right at the start trying to find the correct path, we started out on the Ridgeway footpath towards Bledlow and reached the main viewpoint of the walk at about 11.30am at the top of Whiteleaf Hill - which was, to be honest, just grey and cloudy.

We then continued along the Ridgeway towards Cadsden (passing The Plough which was sadly closed at this time) and then, passing Chequers, reached our lunch stop (the Rising Sun pub) at Little Hampden. Having bought our drinks we sat outside to eat before getting told off by the landlord for consuming our own food on the premises. To be honest, if there was a pub full of people all waiting to sit outside and order 3 course meals he would have had a point, but since we were the only people there, and sitting on wet chairs, you'd have thought he would have cut us a bit of slack.................. (note to self never to spend money in there again, not that I'm bitter!!).

In the afternoon, I'm pleased to say it brightened up and became sunny (well, almost!!) as we passed Hampden House on the Chiltern Way which SR reliably informed us was the location for the Hammer House of Horrors. I then managed to go the wrong way as we walked towards Lacey Green but everyone was polite enough to pretend not to notice while I dithered around like a true blonde. Brian then got his GPS out and I quietly decided that if I spent more time looking at the map and less time talking I would have had a better chance of staying on track!! Still, we ended up in Lacey Green about 500 yards further down the road than we should have and then went for a drink at The Whip (no comments please!!).

We finished the 18 mile walk in the sunshine at about 5pm with great views at the top of Bledlow Ridge. Thanks to Steve R, Steve N, Keith, Victor, Brian, Jane, Dave, Erika, and Paul R (Chilterns group) for coming.

Report by Clare N

PS Just for the record, I did pre-walk the route 3 weeks ago although you would never have guessed...

We started the walk at Pangbourne Station travelling down through Pangbourne to the Thames. The Walled Garden was locked so through the village of Whitchurch-on-Thames and onto the Thames path. Soon we travelled along to Goring taking some short breaks. Soon we reached South Stoke noting that along the way there was a lot of fishing and multiple questions were posed such as “Has fishing changed in the last 20 years?” “Why don't they have fish detectors to tell the fisherman where to cast the line?” No real answers were available for these questions.

Well, on to North Stoke where the question of “Why is the sundial under the trees sheltered for the sun?” No answer was available for this. From North Stoke we turned right at Mongewell (Steve R was hoping to go up to Wallingford). The lunch stop was beside the road crossing the Ridgeway at Cart Gap. I did caution Steve R that when I was researching this route a woman walks an Alsatian and it did its business in the area Steve R had picked. We continued with eating our lunch. A few minutes later along comes a very arthritic Alsatian dragging along the old woman. After this surprise and amusement we nearly got trampled by some horse riders.

After lunch we continued along the Ridgeway path and had a break where we were due to turn south towards Stoke Row. Along comes a family looking for a capsule. None of us knew what this was about. They found the capsule and inside was a toy. They replaced it with another toy and showed us a card referring to geocaching.

We pressed on to Stoke Row via a quick footpath (that was a bit disappointing as it was treated like a dump) and stopped for a drink at the Cherry Tree at Stoke Row. Then we tried to reduce the road-walking I had done in the researching of the route. I was hoping to get close to dog lane footpath to Henley-on-Thames but the Unicorn pub magically appeared. I suppose Unicorns' being magical beasts these things happen. No problem – a bit of road walking and we got to Dog Lane on our way back to Henley-on-Thames.

Overall it was a good warm day with sunshine, little mud and many Cuckoo Pints growing along the sides of the paths and lanes. Steve N thought this was a good walk and suggested scheduling this walk for next year.

Thank you to Steve R and Steve N for coming on this walk.

Report by Marcellus

Saturday was hot and sunny, proper summer weather, as Erika and I met up with 8 others for the afternoon walk from the Plume of Feathers pub in Tewin, Herts. Our 6 mile route took us through the village and across the fields to the River Mimram glinting in the sunshine. There we paused to watch some kids playing on a rope swing over the water, but despite some encouragement none of our group was prepared to have a go, although the river looked coolly inviting. Passsing Tewinbury Farm we headed through the wheat fields and along by hedges brimming with free fruit. Several of us tentatively sampled some plums, or were they cherries, without the slightest idea if they were poisonous, but all survived (some a bit sour though). We then passed Burnham Green before heading back to Tewin and met Peter at the pub.

The food was very good, although poor David S had a long wait for his duck, the landlord not liking the look of it at first so cooking it again. David was assured by Debbie that the duck was properly cooked and bravely washed it down with a complimentary Coca Cola. Peter regaled us with tales of his parachuting experience, and Emma countered this with her daring Microlight flight over the Victoria Falls. Maybe some extreme activity HAWOG group is in the offing.

As dusk approached we walked 5 minutes to the badger hide and settled down in anticipation, all trying to keep as quiet as possible despite the presence of a big spider. The bunny rabbits proved to the warm up act and then a muntjac deer nervously approached to feed on the badger's grub. The next visitor was a young fox and finally almost on cue at 9.30pm the headline act arrived. They trooped in from the right with various degrees of caution. At one point 8 were on view but some seemed more wary and quickly scarpered. We watched them munching for about 30 minutes until a loud bang from a firework saw off the last of them. We decided that there wasn't going to be an encore and headed for home. Thank you to those who came along and made the day so enjoyable (Brian F, Jane R, Deirdre, Anna, Keith, Emma, David S, Debbie L, and Peter D).

Report by David H

Although arranged at very short notice eight turned up to enjoy this fine summer's evening.

Emma, Victor, Jane, Brian G and Brian F set off from Northolt station to take in St Mary's church and Northolt Manor site and moat before joining the Grand Union Canal for quarter of a mile and then climbing the highest mound in Northala fields to watch the sunset. With plenty of wild ripe blackberries to eat on route we managed to sustain ourselves until the Crown beckoned later.

The top of the highest mound gives clear views of the North Downs, the gold dome of the Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha temple in Southall, Heathrow control tower, Ruislip woods, Harrow on the Hill, Horsenden Hill, Wembley Stadium, Canary Wharf tower, BT Tower and when darkness fell the London Eye came into view as the lights betrayed it's shape. A glorious full moon, orange in colour slowly appeared above the horizon just at the same time as Pete did.

At the Crown we sat outside in the cooling air discussing Emma's new carpet and Pete's thoughts on changing nappies whereupon Dave and then Jeff joined us. Before we knew it the last bell sounded and because of Dave we all headed home looking skywards for signs of celestial activities.

Report by Brian F

Unlike Saturday, Sunday's weather was glorious. Four of us met up outside Northwood Hills station and took a very leisurely pace through the woods. We did a little practice map reading, identified a lot of trees, collected some elderberries to use for dyeing material (for a science club experiment at school), and stopped for lunch which included the promised scones. We arrived back an hour and a half early, with the sun still shining brightly. A lovely day. Thanks to Mathilde for the lovely photos.

Report by Zarina

Five started and five finished my Thirty Smiles and a Curry walk this Saturday, a joint walk with Chilterns2030s.

Ruth, Veronique (C2030), Ian G, Paul R (C2030) and myself all met at Bicester North train station at 9:42am when the train from London arrived. A grey sky start and a forecast of rain in the afternoon lay ahead of us. We didn't have to wait that long for the wet though. Mid morning and the heavens spoke for an hour and we got our first soaking of the day. Our route though was mostly well signposted so navigation was easy. We reached the village of Brill, our lunch stop, about 10 miles, before 1pm, and sat with views of its windmill and beyond. The rain had ceased an hour earlier so we were mostly dry.

Post lunch and ahead of schedule, we headed off for part two of our thirty mile walk, and our first navigation challenge. Spent a good ten minutes trying to find our path out of Brill. We started to wonder whether the afternoon rain had arrived early, and the hour of wet in the morning was also, like us now, ahead of schedule. Walking was pleasent and we roamed open fields with little more than sheep and cows intermingled with the occassional small village. Even though it didn't rain, we all got soaked for the second time when walking into a field with our path obstructed by some very high leafly plants that looked menacing. We had no option but to walk through them to continue on our path, no doubt someone's idea of a joke "...let's plant them on the path, ho ho ho...", have to confess I find the idea funny too. We reached our 20 mile point just after 4pm, Haddenham and Thame Parkway station. Paul R departed and Jane M joined us.

The last third of our walk and I got a text from Erika W, asking me whether we were still smiling and informing that she and David were at home, watching Morse, with Horlicks and slippers, nice and warm in front of the fire, the cat was purring and a nice hot meal would be in front of them soon. Almost immediately it started to rain heavily, our path became muddy and we got soaked for the third time. I started to imagine Erika in a witches outfit stirring a pot of wet weather for us and making a loud cackling noise. A little later and we had our second navigation challenge trying to find our next footpath, and wasting ten minutes at Tewersey. After that it was all plain sailing, and with a bit more rain it might well have been. Thankfully the rain stopped soon and we reached our end point, Princes Risborough, just after 7.30pm. No takers for curry though, trains to catch and homes to go to.

I learned two lessons today. First, don't ever take any notice of Erika W, a few months ago she laughed when I wore gaiters when wearing shorts, some remark about 'gimp outfit' I do believe, I wore shorts today, was squelching around all the walk and still drying my boots today, so gimp's fine with me. Second, don't ever believe Ros K when she says "it's always sunny on your events Steve", the only sun we saw today was the distant yellow sunset as we approached our end point. Too late. Hopefully though, the exception that proved the rule...

As always, thanks all for coming, we managed a good pace, had a few laughs on route, thanks to Ruth for opening and sharing your pack of jelly babies on the last few miles - a welcome surprise - and hopefully all feel a sense of achievement at walking 30 miles.

Report by Steve

Ten of us enjoyed a fabulous weekend in the village of Alfriston. Those of us who were lucky to travel Friday morning spent the afternoon in Lewes, shopping, visiting the castle and of course a tea stop.

Saturday we walked 20k along the chalky cliffs of the Seven Sisters with stunning views along the Cuckmere Valley and the coastline. We stopped for a very welcome late lunch in the picturesque village of East Dene. Saturday supper was at the Smugglers Rest in Alfriston village where we all enjoyed a rather late meal (the new fat fryer decided to not work) in the conservatory.

Sunday morning we drove a couple of miles to Litlington Nature Reserve where we walked for approximately 4k around the lake, stopping in one of the bird hides. From the bird pictures around the walls, we tried to see if we could recognise any wildlife from our walk the previous day. We took a welcome rest by the lakeside watching Marty trying to fly his kite (apparently cross winds weren't helping!!!!!!). Sunday lunch was in the ancient Plough and Harrow with desert two minutes away in the tea gardens next door (yummy).

We were really lucky with the weather, sunshine the whole weekend until about 4pm on Sunday just as we were starting our journey home.

A huge thank you to Janice and Marty, Kevin and Anita, Shamani, Michelle, Talia and Steve for making this such a great weekend. A special thanks to Talia for her excellent map reading skills (although she couldn't work out how to get hot water from the shower!!!!!).

Report by Caroline and Evelyn

12 of us made it to Park farm campsite in the Rother Valley. The campsite was another relaxed rural location, however the site is far bigger than the sites we visited in June. It still allows campfires so we had one each evening, Dave and Vic making the Friday fire (wood from camp site). On Saturday the site was so busy that they ran out so Martin improvised with coal obtained from a nearby source, it was a "unique" campfire. Mary upped her green credentials by arriving by train from London, managing to pack tent and all camping gear into a holdall. We discovered the baked potato stall on site, very useful for breakfast butties as well.

On Saturday the sun woke us all early and it became very hot as we began the 7 mile hike up into the weald. At Ewhurst we found a cooling 14th century church for shade and then Mark directed us to the local inn for welcome drinks in the gardens surrounded by hop fields. We made it to Northiam via several orchards and viewpoints. Lunch was taken in the sun-drenched pub garden listening to some ripping yarns from Mark and Steve. We managed to reach the steam railway to catch the Ivor the Engine special back to Bodiam. We alighted in the shadow of the 14th century Bodiam castle, the "most romantic castle in England" in the guides. The exterior is complete and we did a circuit of the wide moat taking in all the views.

Back at the campsite Mark and Steve again prepared an excellent bbq with Prem and Derek furnishing piles of provisions. Jan presented a birthday cake for Mark's celebration (in the shape of a caterpillar for esoteric reasons). As dusk fell the sky was filled with flying magic lanterns set off by other groups and smoke covered the site from all the campfires lit. The sky was clear so Rob was able to indicate the various constellations in the night sky. As bottles were consumed around the fire Genevieve made a profound statement on her status and shoe collection, followed by Mark making a less profound statement on the prospects for GDP growth in the medium to long term.

On Sunday the clouds soon cleared for another sunny day and we saw the Christian motorcycle group prepare for morning service. The croissant girls passed by with their breakfast pastries for sale and we discussed the ongoing police raid on the nearby "yobby group" (Vic's description). Dave and Vic ventured to Rye to take in the historic coastal town. The rest of us journeyed to Great Dixter to visit the magnificent gardens of the 15th century manor house. Mary described them as an "assault on the senses" such were the wondrous high summer displays of the kaleidoscope of colours around the topiary amidst the yew hedges and red tiled timber manoral buildings. The sun was pressing down by now and many visitors were picnicking and taking siestas on the lawns in the heat. We saw scores of painted ladies and bumblebees lazily hovering over the flowers before enjoying a final cream tea in the tea room gardens.

Report by Brian G

With bright eyes and bushy tails, 3 of us woke up, ready and out at the crack of dawn on Sunday. It took us 1 hour 45 minutes to travel from London to Sandbanks, Poole. Nothing can normally get us up that early on Sunday morning but when it comes to water sports, we will be there. We were early enough to be able to leisurely get our 1st cup of cappuccino of the day at the Jazz Café. A view of the Old Harry rocks which are prominent sea stacks of chalk, the youngest Mesozoic rocks exposed on the site, can be spotted from where we were.

We had been monitoring the wind very closely up to the last minute before we left for Poole, and were told that it would be very windy on Sunday and only suitable for experienced windsurfers. It was 17 knots in the morning and that was already too windy for some. Most of our time was spent in the water rather than staying up on the board. Derek waited till afternoon before he finally joined in. By then the wind was picking up again. It was measured at an average of 25 knots and a maximum of 32 knots. Despite extremely strong wind, so many people were out there and having fun windsurfing and kitesurfing. They were jumping 3 - 5 ft into the air. It was 17 C at the water front, sunny and dry most of the day. It was raining for literally 10 minutes at 4 pm. That was when we decided to pack up and go home.

See you soon.

Report by Prem

A small but select group of us, Brian, Graham, Jackie and Penny, met in the car park in Black Park at 11am and ventured forth on our walk. We walked beside the lake and then into the woodlands, spending some time surveying Pinewood Studios with great interest. On two occasions we were within 100 yards or so of deer. Having some trouble locating a bench to sit on for our lunch, we crossed the busy A412 and went into Langley Park, walking through Temple Gardens, eventually finding a bench, and enjoying our lunches. Then back to Black Park and to the café where we had a cup of tea and chat. The walk lasted about 3 hours, was relaxed and enjoyable, the weather stayed mostly sunny.

Report by Penny

Six of us met up at Otford station, (Ian, new member Marin on his 2nd walk, Rodica and Monica on their first walk. with myself and Sharon as walk leaders. Kent is 'the garden of England' and certainly the pretty villages took us all back to a diffferent era (Jane Austen?) but with the sun shining and wonderful company the images of village England were all around. Starting at Otford Palace and village we were back in Henry VIII's era . The rest of the walk took in many beautifuk views interspersed with some really pretty villages. The Darent river and ford with lots of paddling children made a perfect end to the day.

Report by Deirdre

Eleven of us (me, Steve N, Steve R, Mark B, Andy W, Dave H, Erika, Malvi, Helen C, Talia and Caroline) were staying at the youth hostel in Burley set in the beautiful surroundings of the New Forest.

Arrivals were staggered on the Friday with some arriving by car and others by train and bike. Due to a notable lack of mobile phone reception Steve N and I were unable to track down the others. Consequently when we returned from sampling the local ales at 22:55 (hostel locked doors at 23:00) we retired quietly without switching on the lights so as not to disturb the others. I was woken by loud noises and flashing lights - the others were locked outside and Steve N and I had sneaked into an empty room!

On Saturday we were joined by Dave S and Debbie L to undertake a 15 mile walk through the New Forest through fern heathland following a disused railway track (Dr Beeching did a little good whilst decimating the country's rail infrastructure). To cheer us up in the light drizzle Andy performed an impression of a duck (see photos). We then followed the Avon Path, taking in part of the Hampshire Avon, to stop for lunch at the market town of Ringwood. The afternoon saw us on our return journey skirting lakes north of Ringwood and then across fields and down paths and back through further heathland back to Burley.

The last half hour of our walk saw the rain get heavier and this was to continue into the evening, resulting in the cancellation of the planned BBQ. On a brighter note, we spent the evening wining and dining in the Queens Head pub, which provided excellent food for both vegetarians and carnivores.

Sunday's weather was a huge improvement with blue sky, fluffy white clouds and sun.

On Sunday Malvi went horse riding with Mark B and Helen. I have been told that all enjoyed this but that Mark's horse (Archie) had a slight problem with flatulence - this is of course hearsay.

Malvi then joined Talia and Caroline for a coastal walk and ice creams whilst the two Steves, me, Dave and Erika took a further 9 mile walk with of course the obligatory pub stop.

I hope all enjoyed the walk and had safe journeys home and I'd like to say a special thank you to Helen for organising the horse riding.

Report by Keith

While you guys where roasting down south, those of us who went on my Scotland Week were toasting the comfortable temperatures, mountain and forest views, fresh air and quiet, and the longer days in the Cairngorms, near Aviemore.

Local mountains (i.e. Cairngorms) climbed over our week included Ben Macdui (1309m), Cairn Gorm (1244m), Sgor Gaoith (1118m) and Carn Ban Mor (1052m). Also a boggy path around Loch Dubh (Monadth Liath mountains) and Carn Macoul (805m). Further afield, some of us joined Martin J and David L on their parallel Scotland Week in Glencoe on a few days, and climbed Bidean nam Bian (1150m), Stob Coire nan Lochan (1115m), Stob Coire Sgreamhach (1072m) - I think - and ascended the north face of Ben Nevis (1344m) taking in Carn Mor Dearg (1220m) and Carn Dearg Meadhonach (1179) on route. Thanks for organising and inviting us Martin. Many others from our party climbed Ben Nevis too via the western zig zag route - well done to all first timers on reaching the highest point in the country. One of the other highlights - for me at least - was the view down into Loch Einich on the last day.

Lower level walks were completed too. A few of us did a good twenty miler starting on the eastern Cairngorms near Braemar and walking between the highest mountains in the valleys to Aviemore in fantastic sunshine. Fifteen miles of the Speyside Way were walked from Grantown-on-Spey to Aviemore, a lovely trail following the river Spey, a disused railway line, and the Steam Railway. Other lower level walks included the Sculpture Trail, through the Rothiemurhus Forest, Moor of Feshie and around Loch Morlich.

Some took advantage of our proximity to the Loch Insh Watersports Centre and went kayaking and diving. Further afield, trips were made to Loch Ness in the north and Mallaig in the west.

I learnt to always use my compass in misty conditions, after leading the group on an unintended 15 minute circular walk from our lunch stop at Carn Ban Mor to... our lunch stop at Carn Ban Moor. Won't make that mistake again. Misty mountain conditions require different skills to walking in the Chiltern Hills. I now know why my parents gave me Kermit as my middle name.

Accommodation and weather great, we had light until gone 11pm each night, good food, lots of banter, and Radio 2. Our accommodation - Feshiebridge Lodge - is in a tranquil setting with poor reception. So poor that we could only just receive Radio 2, and were grateful for that, we saw no TV for the week. A few dodgy eighties CDs were allowed (in my chalet at least). Fraser played guitar and sang in another chalet. And Rich made pizza for us all one night: we all sat patiently waiting and hungry at 8pm as told, and then spent the next 100 minutes making jokes as we waited and waited. We could see Rich, Jackie and Prem working their butts off in their flat from our chalet, and joked about prodding them with a long broom handle to hasten them. David said it was customary practice to not pay for pizzas delivered late, and joked about phoning to get a pizza delivered to the Lodge. Would have happened too if we weren't beyond their delivery range... Talia made toast whilst waiting and Steve N spent an hour looking longingly at one lonely carrot on his plate. I suggested we had time to go for a climb. All the time we kept listening out for the motorbike we imagined Rich was going to drive around the Lodge delivering his pizzas. A few of us were nearly skeletal before the pizzas finally arrived. And they tasted great, many thanks Rich and crew for your efforts.

As always, the 24 of us attending the week travelled via different modes. The three of us who shared a hire car from Buckinghamshire, got there and back for £106 each, which meant with accommodation costing £61 each sharing a room with one other, the week away cost just £167 each. Don't pay more elsewhere.

Thanks to Jackie, Prem, Rich, Derek, Amy, Talia, Erika, Clare N, David, Steve N, Jenny, Lesley, Pamela, Ria, Catherine, Margaret, Amanda, Nigel, Steve R, Steve C, Fraser, Paul and Mark A - roughly half from HAWOG and Chilterns 20s/30s each - for making the week so enjoyable.

Report by Steve R

The 3 of us drove up to Glen Coe in a record 8 hours drivetime from Harrow. The cottage proprietors greeted us with a bottle of red wine which they left on the table, which we eagerly consumed with our evening meal.

The next day (Sunday) David L and I decided to put our hearts in our mouths and tackle the Aonach Eagach ridge, one of the most challenging ridge walks in the UK. This is an extremely narrow ridge with 1000ft drops either side and with rock pinnacles which need to be scrambled over along most of the way. Our experience of the ridge was enhanced by a chance encounter with a local guide who guided us along the top of the ridge, rather than taking the path which runs along just below the top. It took us over 2 hours to traverse the 3km of ridge at its narrowest section. This is an exhilarating walk which sets the pulse racing. Not for the faint-hearted! Mathilde took it rather easier and spent the day in Glencoe village and its environs.

On Monday the three of us walked the 9 miles of West Highland Way between Glen Coe and Kinlochleven. It gradually became hotter and sunnier as the day wore on and we were pleased to reach the town and buy ice-creams. That evening we cooked a sumptuous meal washed down with plenty of wine. The luxury of having a dishwasher was well appreciated.

Tuesday was another hot one. Steve R and Steve N made the drive over to meet up with David L and myself to do a big walk in Glen Coe. We set off to climb Bidean nam Bian, an imposing and dramatic looking mountain as you view it from the start. As the day wore on, however, the sheer visual drama one experienced as we progressed over the summits of this mountain means that this surely has to go down as one of the most enjoyable and dramatic mountain walks we've done. Five summits including three Munroes were bagged.

On Wednesday the four of us decided to embark on another big walk. This time ascending Ben Nevis by the CMD arete. A long trudge up in the stifling heat was undertaken in order to reach the CIC hut at the foot of the North face. Lunch was taken here as we looked up at the imposing cliffs and buttresses of the North face. It was then straight up onto the CMD ridge, the four of us zig-zagging our way up the extremely steep slopes of Carn Mor Dearg to get onto the ridge. Once on the ridge, we made our way round until we started picking our way along the arete which links Carn Mor Dearg with Ben Nevis. Despite the cloud beginning to swirl around us, the traverse of the arete was, once again, an exhilarating experience as we scrambled our way along the very top of the arete. Nothing, however, prepared us for the final climb up to the summit of Ben Nevis. A scramble across 300m of boulderfield took every drop of remaining energy out of us as we inched our way to the summit. At the summit any views were lost in the low cloud. But hell, did we care?! This was, once again, a very big walk and a real sense of achievement was felt at reaching the summit. The descent was by the long and, in parts, extremely eroded tourist path back to Glen Nevis. Three more Munroes were bagged.

On Thursday the weather broke and thunder and lightning swept across Glen Coe. The rain was extremely heavy, turning the paths into streams, swelling the streams into torrents, and increasing the magnitude of the waterfalls many times. I have to say I was half-way up a mountain when the thunder and lightning hit, and it was as if the thunder was coming from the mountain itself it was so loud! A thunderbolt knocked out the local TV transmitter leaving us without a signal, and the Gondola up the Nevis range took 3 lightning strikes and was closed to the public. David L, however cooked us a lovely meal that evening, with the three of us knowing none of us had to do any washing up as we had the luxury of a dishwasher.

On Friday David and myself went touring in the car to Skye, by driving up to Mallaig and then taking the ferry over. We drove around Skye enjoying the long stretches of traffic-free roads and admiring the stunning scenery, visiting a couple of towns and villages before ending up at Portree. Now this would be a good place for a week's walking, with the Black Coullins offering some challenging munroes. Watch this space for next year! David took the West Highland Line back to Fort William and we returned to our cottage to enjoy a final meal together before returning on the Saturday.

Report by Martin J

The second camping trip in June saw 8 of us meet at Hailes Abbey campsite, another idyllic setting, next door to the 12th century Cistercian abbey with a fruit farm alongside. The site has masses of space and is very little known so we had it to almost to ourselves as we arrived. Just the songbirds singing from Humblebee woods next-door could be heard as we set up camp; these woods were the ones in which Tolkien wandered as he created the "Lord of the Rings".

It was scorchio on both days so the sun block tanker did a delivery on Friday. Mark, Steve and Pete were on a text blizzard on arrival, with MJ jokes. Mark complained that Pete was quicker on the text as his bandaged thumb gave him an unfair advantage. On Saturday we all stocked up for the walk and barbecue at the farm shop before setting off on the 10 mile hike along the Cotswold way. This is a splendid long distance path which follows the Cotswold escarpment affording stunning views over the vale of Evesham and Severn valley. Our route took in several hill forts and Norman churches, which allowed a cooling break from the unrelenting sun. We had picnic break at Snowshill village which had the inevitable teas at the village hall. The Victoria sponge was exceedingly good. From the vantage point of the church Jane sketched the village scene including several horses being ridden into the pub gardens. The pink Valerians made the view perfect as they stood out along the dry stone wall of the church. We ventured on via the timeless village of Stanton, full of 17th century buildings of the mellow honey-coloured Cotswold stone, reflecting the rays of the sun. We caught a few overs of the cricket match on the village green before finding ourselves at the inevitable Hells Angels convention at the village hall, prizes were given out for best sidecar, trike and beard as we enjoyed some cooling drinks of cider waiting while Jeff chatted with the grand vizier about the relative merits of the '56 and '58 Harleys. We continued on in the heat and passed several other hamlets with manors and stopped in the shade of a oak at a high section to enjoy the views over the plain towards the Malvern hills on the horizon.

Back at the camp Mark prepared the perfect barbecue with farm sausages, salads, and fresh strawberries and cream. Brian F was the fire-maker and we soon had a roaring fire as we watched the sunset. Jane did some fireside sketches and apparently captured Vic's inner demons on the pad; Steve told us some ripping yarns of his adventures in Siam and Mandalay.

On Sunday the sun was again beating down and we had a very leisurely start before setting off. We visited the abbey next door, it was a medieval pilgrimage site as it contained relics brought back by crusaders. Some then hiked to Winchcombe to visit this Saxon wool town with excellent alms houses and hidden courtyard gardens. One of the advantages of this part of the Cotswolds is that it is virtually free of tourist hordes and has mainly hikers and cyclists as visitors. Others went to the Prescott Hill climb, owned by the Bugatti owners club who arrange vintage car races on the estate of the former DPM. We then took the Gloucester and Warwick steam railway for a run along its' route around the Cotswold hills before the final tea stop at the Lady Jane tea rooms in the sun-filled gardens in ancient Winchcombe.

Report by Brian G

Well, seven people were on parade for my 15 mile walk east of Swindon. Me, Clare N, Steve R, Steve N, Steve T, Keith and Rick (guest) headed off at around 10:00am on a tour of Bishopsgate village pond, then south to cross the Ridgeway, then onwards to cross the M4 at Peaks Down. We then headed south-west through woodland to Shapley Bottom through fields of rapeseed, then upwards and north to Liddington Hill and Castle. Good views of Swindon and the now famous Peter D Memorial Hospital (renamed after the near-fatal fieldcraft accident at Uffington 2 weeks ago on the HAWOG camporama weekend). We then doglegged right and headed north to the village of Liddington and stopped at the village inn for refreshment.

The ale was Arkells and not bad, so the HAWOG alcoholic society had 2 pints each to start with. After the pub had run out of beer we decided to leave and head north to Wanborough, where we saw the church with 2 towers which looked very odd by this stage. We then headed north to Lower Wanborough and east to Hinton Parva. The walk was now on road for the last leg, but it was interesting to see all the different types of buildings in the villages.

We finished at Bishopsgate at 4:30pm, footsore but in good order. Thanks for coming along folks, now I have to figure out another walk!

Report by Mark O

Delighted to say that the sun won through on Saturday evening for my Walk Through Sunset. Most of the day had been cloudy and I wasn't confident we'd see the sunset. But by 9pm when the seven of us doing the walk started out, we had the blue sky, the stretching reds, yellows and oranges from the sun, and only a few splodges of clouds. Perfect.

With a south-west-ish route start, the sun was on our right for the first hour or so. We climbed up and through woods, catching intermittent sight of the setting sun before reaching Wheeler End common around 10pm. Still quite light, we put torches on for the first time as we walked along road for 10 minutes until reaching our next footpath. New stiles meant I paused, and pondered our location and route at the farm for our turning, before being joined in a matter of seconds by zillions of sheep who came over making sheep noises and rubbing against us. Sorry to disappoint all, but I'm not the farmer. Thankfully they didn't follow us as we continued on through another new stile, high up and now heading towards the final tendons of light.

At Piddington, our half way point, it was now more dark than light, so some had torches on permanently. Our final climb beckoned, through Ham farm and up behind Cockshoots Wood north-east ish with a few touches of light now only on our left in the very distant. We passed cows, horses and more sheep, all congregating in corners of fields next to our path; few moved much, thankfully none were in our way. Down past Chorley Farm before our final walk along the edge of the woods leading to the church and masoleum at West Wycombe.

We reached our end point bang on 11:30pm and surprised a dozen or so teenagers who were camping up there. Not particularly celebrating the solstice, more the end of college. Very friendly and invited us to camp with them and join in - most had had a few drinks. When I said "could be something we should put on our programme", a few of them thought, for a few seconds, we meant television. Had to disappoint.

Thanks to Debbie, Erika, Katie, David H, David S and Ian G for joining me on this highly enjoyable 6 mile walk.

Report by Steve

Unfortunately Saturday started drizzly and windless, which may have put some people off. In fact the weather was perfectly planned with sunny intervals and light wind early, ideal for getting started, then getting stronger during the morning with perfect conditions for those with a little experience. Those of us who had been before hired boards and headed out into the harbour, meanwhile one of us trying windsurfing for first time had a lesson.

Later, after a very pleasant pub lunch with sea views, the sun really broke through and we had perfect conditions with hot sunshine for the ferry trip over to Brownsea Island. Those who had younger members to push did a short walk, while the rest of us just had time for a walk all the way round the island before the last ferry back. We saw Baden Powell's original camp and some of the original boy scouts, plus remains of a pottery which used to be on the island. Being isolated from the mainland there is some unusual wildlife. Unfortunately we didn't see any red squirrels, but we did see peacocks, giant ants and an oystercatcher.

In the evening there was the opportunity to enjoy a beach barbeque on the sheltered side of Sandbanks. Meanwhile a very strong wind was blowing up on the harbour side giving spectacular conditions for skilled windsurfers and kite surfers in the late afternoon and evening.

Report by Jeff

Many thanks to Clare, Keith and Zhang who accompanied us on this walk. A glorious day, hot yet with a slight breeze to keep us reasonably comfortable, we also had the cover of the trees as a good part of the walk was within woodland.

The walk began at the Boxhill Visitors Centre then via the viewpoint offering some good views across the valley of the river Mole with Dorking in the background. The route passed through Denbies Vineyard and with the weather as it was we could well have been in the South of France. We continued through Rainham Common and stopped briefly for a drink at the remote Tanners Hatch Youth Hostel, an area well away from roads and with an air of complete tranquility. We continued up towards Bookham and into Norbury Park where we stopped for lunch and a cool-down in the shaded picnic area.

We then also stopped at the picturesque village of Mickelham with some interesting old school buildings, and the church with the short spire and ....a pub, so we made a further stop for a much welcome drink prior to our climb back to Boxhill. Both Steve and myself had previously checked out the walk a few weeks ago and were quietly (over-)confident with our directions until we took a wrong turn in the wooded area of Middleham Downs and headed off the A4 copy of my map into unknown territory! Fortunately Steve had the full OS map with him. Everyone assisted with our way back to the start by eventually circumnavigating Boxhill.....not quite as originally planned! We finally rested with drinks and ice cream cornets.

Our thanks to everyone for their help and support and for making this an enjoyable day out.

Report by Ken

6 very enthusiastic walkers set off in what proved to be ideal walking conditions from the banks of the River Thames at Hammersmith. Keith and I were joined by 4 newcomers, Ruth, Salmaan, Vivana and Marianne.

The walk took us through Barnes, Mortlake, Teddington and Twickenham, reaching the halfway and lunch stop at Richmond. What a pleasant experience lunch was with a pint in hand and the world passing by. The river was a sheer delightful experience as the sun shone throughout the day, giving all the walkers a really good feeling that summer had arrived.

The return route took the opposite side of the river, with a detour through Syon Park and the canals leading to Kew, arriving back at 6.00pm at Hammersmith, a little later than planned. The day was ideal for the newcomers.

Report by Victor

A record 22 of us attended the first camping trip of the year. We returned to Britchcombe farm in the Vale. The campsite has a wonderfully relaxed feel to it, with spectacular views of the Ridgeway and masses of space. On the Friday we mostly managed to pitch tents before the drizzle started, Martin J managing to find a tiny space between Jan's and Gina's tents for his own. Mark O set up his gazebo, table and chairs for the debutants to camping, Mary, Jan, Emma, Helen and Jane. Zhang made use of the tables to eat his tasty-looking plate of sushi, showing dexterity with his titanium chopsticks. Dean set the campfire up for the later arrivals and we all looked for Jeff then found Vic instead. Genevieve and Lenka managed to pack lanterns, stoves, campbeds and picnic packs galore, unfortunately no room for tent poles.... Luckily we had a spare tent for Lenka, and Genevieve had the west wing of Deans marquee.

Saturday found all the gas stoves working furiously for the many fry-ups going on; Derek and Prem had their customary perfect spread including tablecloth and coasters. Genevieve cooked the biggest omelette ever seen in Wessex for several others. Mark kindly woke Zhang with his greatest hits of the wurzels and we all assembled for kit inspection.

Mary led the hikers on a 12 mile walk along the Ridgeway, visiting Uffington Castle, the White Horse and Waylands Smithy (unique neolithic burial chamber), before visiting the many picturesque villages and manor houses in the Vale. The rest of us did a long off-road ride along the Ridgeway including many big descents to pick up speed. We included the obligatory tea shop at the ex-YHA hostel near Wantage. By early afternoon the skies had cleared so we were able to enjoy the views north towards the Cotswolds.

Later in the day Mark O celebrated the return of the sun by donning his Hawaii barbecue shirt as he set up the enormous barbecue for for us all. Vic made use of the time by scavenging with his metal detector and succeeded in finding several vintage bottle tops. Genevieve returned with yet more food for the barbecue, and some of us had to finish 4 helpings..... Dean then set up the campfire, and we all gathered around the glow until the early hours. Brian F played several classics on his guitar and Jan led the singsong including Freebird, Stairway to Heaven, and Riding along on the Crest of a Wave. Keith, Mark B and Helen managed to finish all the bottles of wine before Mark O had completed his longest ripping yarn ever heard. Just before 1am Rob and Genevieve returned from A and E with Peter who, earlier in the day, had an accident with Deans chopper. Rob thus kept his 100% record of spending his birthday when camping at a hospital.

Sunday was bright and sunny so all tents could dry whilst we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. Jan and Gina were chief tea makers as we slowly struck camp and planned the day. Most people visited the historic market town of Farringdon and the nearby folly. Others toured the Great Coxwell barn, described by William Morris as "the finest piece of architecture in England". We walked around the farm millpond to view the barn and gazed on the blue dragonflies as they lazily hovered over the lilies in the bright sunshine. Others went horse riding at MGs once more, with several fast canters over the rolling open down land. Most gathered later in the afternoon at the farm for a final cream tea, served in the shaded gardens overlooking the vale.

Report by Brian G

The thunder and lightning which woke us on Sunday morning did not bode well for a large turnout for the walk and sure enough there were only 5 of us brave enough to chance the weather. But fortune favours the brave and those who didn't make it missed out on a mostly very sunny day. The whole morning passed in bright sunshine as we made our way up to Wendover Woods, passing the adventure course with lots of youngsters dangling from wires and whizzing past on aerial runways. We headed through the woods into open meadows to pick up the Ridgeway and reached our lunch stop by Cholesbury Fort. We had a quick peek in the tiny church and then a leisurely picnic on the green by the village hall, lazing in the warm sunshine.

We returned via Dundridge Hall and Hale Wood, once again picking up the Ridgeway, rain falling as we fortuitously entered the shelter of the woods. As we exited the woods again just before Wendover the sun immediately reappeared and the rain stopped. Seeing a sign for teas and home made cakes at St. Mary's Church we headed in for some refreshment. Jane commented that the chocolate cake was worthy of a bishop, and we all agreed. Thanks to Steve R, Ian G and Jane M for joining Erika and me.

Report by David H

Five of us set off from the Crown yesterday in cloudy weather that had threatened to be much more inclement (and indeed it was - later - took a soaking on the way home). The walk took in the towpath and nice scenery of barges on the Grand Union - prompting memories of beery barge trips from years past. We made our way back via Northala Park and the mounds - the top of the mounds offered a limited view of London, the Wembley Arch, and Ian's house. We also took in the benches below in the shapes of snails / fireflies and whales, and the miniature Formula One activity going on on the pathway.

Back in the pub, all enjoyed a hearty meal and conversation turned from forming a social branch of HAWOG, through crap dates, and on to nursing. Luckily there were two nurses in tow had the barman broken my arm as threatened when I pursued him for a coffee "after hours".

Thanks to Martina, Liane, Ian (x2) and Chrissy for coming and being such entertaining company. It was Martina's first walk with HAWOG and Liane's first for a while.

Report by Ian C

10 of us met at Tide Tables on a splendidly hot day by the river. Our route took in the Thames Path and Petersham church before the King Henry viewpoint in Richmond Park. We were glad of the shaded walk through the park and found ourselves at Ham gate with hundreds of cyclists on a sponsored ride from Tower Bridge. We explored Ham village (houses of Cardinal Newman and Goldsmith clan seen) before passing Ham House (Jacobean mansion with connections to Stuarts).

We made it to Ham polo grounds for a picnic by the playing fields. We took in 2 matches (Moscow vs Ham and Dynamite vs Nirvana). The chukkas were played at quite a pace in stages and great dexterity used with the mallet. Mark entertained us all during the picnic with some ripping yarns whilst Rob commented on the vintage cars seen and other sights at the grounds. Suitably refreshed we pressed on through Ham meadows looking out for the lesser seen creatures predicted by Genevieve, however none were seen.

We crossed the Thames by the ferry and explored Orleans House gallery (18th century mansion with Shakespeare exhibition). We finished the walk at Marble Hill House (beautifully proportioned pleasure villa built by George II for his mistress). To Gina's evident relief, the coach house tea rooms were still open and we ordered tiffin. Erika remarked that the Victoria sponge was identical to the one served to the crew on Das Boot and we all nodded in agreement.

Report by Brian G

Fourteen HAWOG and Ramblers members attended my Nineteen Miles and Three Ways walk on a gorgeous sunny day with temperatures in the mid twenties.

Clare N, Glyn, Keith, Phil plus me from HAWOG, plus 2 Metropolitan and 7 Chilterns Rambers attended. We started prompt at 9am following the north-east Chiltern Way and within 5 minutes had views over the valley between our two immediate high points - Stokenchurch and Bledlow Ridge. We headed down, along and then up the valley past St Mary church at Radnage. We crossed Bledlow Ridge and headed down and north towards Chinnor, still on the Chiltern Way. No mishaps so far. Callow Down farm provided a waiting point to allow all to gather as the group had got strung out. We skirted Bledlow Great Wood, partly along the Icknield Way, until we met the Ridgeway and headed south-west.

The Ridgeway was by far the busiest of our paths, partly a disused railway line, but wide and straight meant it was good for cycling, walking and Glyn. We stopped for lunch about half way at the Lambert Arms, a newly refurbished pub/hotel with very cheap drinks. 2pm we headed off, continuing south-west, under the M40, until we met the Oxfordshire Way. Heading south-east, a short climb took us up to Christmas Common and through Queen Wood until we again met the Chiltern Way. We took this path home, skirting various woods, and a short, easy climb up to Ibstone Common. Nearly there, our route now headed north, past and through some woods, and back at Stokenchurch just after 5pm.

Thanks all for coming.

Report by Steve

20 of us attended the Whitsun break in the Lakes. Staying at Patterdale on Ullswater we enjoyed 2 days of brilliant sunshine and 2 days with cloud so arranged the itinerary to suit. Ullswater is a spectacular lake with juniper scrubs covering the lower fells on all sides. On the Friday the early arrivals by train met Keith who kindly drove to Grasmere. 5 of us then did a leisurely 6 mile circuit of Grasmere and Rydal water including a visit to Wordsworth's cottage and the inevitable tea rooms. On returning to Patterdale we met the others and Mark O led the way to the local inn where he and Rob debated the merits of the local brews.

On Saturday most of the group took the lake steamer (in service since the late Victorian era) for a cruise along the lake. 6 disembarked at Hoytown for a 6 mile hike along the lake path (cited in guides as "the loveliest walk in the lakes"). The rest left the steamer at Pooley Bridge for the full 12 mile trek along the lake, including a detour to a viewpoint via a Roman road. The other 5 hired bikes for an off-road circuit taking in bridleways and some steep climbs around Ullswater. The cyclists and walkers met by chance at Hoytown hotel (christened Hoity toity hotel by all). We had the lunch stop here in the landscaped gardens. Jim noted the very posh crust-less triangle sarnies provided by the hotel and Jeff responded "does any other type exist?" Later in the day several stopped at the side farm tea rooms before the final descent to Patterdale. Later many made it to the local hotel for meals and entertainment from the local singing star who crooned until near closing time. Mark made a perfect evening complete by recounting yet more ripping yarns including some new ones.

Sunday was the main climb day and Jeff signalled it was to be a special day by donning his lucky Blur t-shirt. Evelyn took Caroline, Gina and Kevin on a 6 mile walk around Buttermere lake, using her recently-learnt navigation skills well. The rest of us were joined by Fabrice's friend Sophie, and did the classic Helvellyn ascent via Striding edge. The day was perfect for views as we climbed steadily to the start of Striding edge. This is a classic example of an arête, a splendid rocky ridge with big drops on either side. It involves lots of hands and feet scrambling before the summit is gained. We stopped for lunch at the crowded summit and enjoyed the views over the entire Lake District. Then Jeff suggested we bifurcate and Martin led one group on a longer hike including 2 extra summits. The others descended to the Red Tarn for a siesta by the tarn and cooling of feet in the refreshing waters. Both groups met by chance at the final descent to Glenridding where we all found the Greystone coffee house and took over the front courtyard. They served beer as well as beverages so Jan went for the triple whammy of a pot of tea, latte and San Miguel. The lemon drizzle cake was superb; the waiter recounted us with a tale that it was the favourite of the crew of the Calypso who stayed here in the 70s.

As the evening was so warm many stayed for drinks at the Inn on the lake with croquet lawn and yacht marina. It was the setting for the BBC drama "The Lakes" a few years back. Dean demonstrated the art of caplinisation on the lawn and we were joined by Evelyn's group from their day at Buttermere. After meals at the hotel we stayed up until the early hours in the very comfortable upper lounge at the hostel where Dean, Keith and Jim performed a remarkable re-enactment of the Christie case before Ben begged Mark for one more yarn.

Monday was even hotter than Sunday so we took in the cooling Aira Force waterfall walk; shaded by the prettiest of Lakeland pine forest we took in the various falls and looked for the red squirrels which are protected here. After a final tea stop here the groups separated with several stopping at a castle and mill on the way south. Keith and Martin kindly drove with the train group to Penrith for the "Lakes Alive" festival. We arrived in time for the "Castles in the Air" display by the Catalonian acrobats. They formed human castles up to 7 storeys high in the market square. We stayed to watch the other performers and comedians in the brilliant sunshine of the afternoon.

Report by Brian G

Sunday morning started off sunny in Harrow but as we made our way to Oxford it was showery. We had a synchronised arrival at the Thornhill Park and Ride and made our way into town on the shuttle bus. Ten of us met up at our starting point at Oxford railway station and it had stopped raining by then. We followed the Thames Path in a NW direction and were soon gazing across the expanse of Port Meadow in the sunshine. At this point Mike developed some problems with his bladder and while the guys attended to this we were busy watching the rowers in training on the river. We soon reached Godstow Lock which was very well maintained with plants and shrubs and a short distance afterwards were the ruins of Godstow Nunnery. We then walked through Wolvercote village passing the Trout Inn and then we entered Port Meadow for a short time before coming to our lunch stop at the Plough Inn in Wolvercote Green.

After lunch the walk resumed along the Oxford Canal Path, unfortunately the showers also resumed at this point. We left the canal path a couple of miles along to make our way through the streets to eventually join the River Cherwell and its many bridges. We went a bit further out of town than intended at this point but quickly made our way back to wind around the many colleges. It was a unanimous decision at this stage to take the most direct route to our tea stop at The Nosebag. This was well worth a visit and a few were unable to resist the cream tea option. I would definitely recommend a visit to Oxford and a walk along this stretch of the Thames Path. Thanks to everyone for making the journey last Sunday and welcome to Marin who joined us on his first walk.

Report by Mary

7 of us attended the Ickenham evening walk yesterday. The route took in Ickenham green and cricket pitch (match going on). Then Celandine way through Ickenham woods and Swakeleys manor. Jane pointed out the various trees on the way and Ian indicated the hidden moat across the Pinn. We then made our way to Ickenham manor and moat before finding the hidden paths in the twilight. 2 shire horses led us across the meadows where we found the secret entrance to the compass theatre. Wednesday evening is wardrobe open evening, Genevieve tried on several costumes from past times and Brian F found some blazers suitable for a "Prisoner" revival. We then made our way to the pub where some old and new friends were already enjoying drinks in the garden. No yarns from Mark today so Jonny P took over the duties with the able assistance of Genevieve.

Report by Brian G

6 of us met on a very sunny Saturday morning at Guildford. Our route started with a riverside path through the old town taking in "Alice and the rabbit" statues (this is where Lewis Carroll wrote and based his stories). We passed several sights before reaching the castle and remains of the royal palace. The keep dates from the 12th century and is largely intact. We climbed to the top for views over the Wye valley.

We then set off from the city and took the Pilgrims Way due east to eventually meet the North Downs Way. The Way is mostly a ridge walk and there were great views south towards Sussex and the weald. After passing through some bluebell woods we climbed to the first summit, St Marthas on the hill. The church is completely isolated on the hill and has served as a pilgrims refuge since the 14th century. As the day was heating up we decided to stop for a picnic in the churchyard and enjoyed some new yarns from Mark. The Way then continued along the ridge taking in Newlands Corner where Rob recognised the LCC cafe from his road racing competitions.

We then took a detour to the "Silent Pool", a tranquil spot with links to King John. After passing several tank traps and pill boxes we began the descent to Shere. The village cricket green is set at the base of the Downs in a dramatic setting. A match was on and we stayed to watch a few overs. We then explored Shere which is cited as Surrey's prettiest village. The church is 12th century and made a welcome cooling stop out of the heat. Keith somehow passed the several pubs in the village and led us to the Lucky Duck tea rooms. Helen negotiated an extension to the garden opening and we enjoyed a well deserved cream tea in the sun-filled garden whilst Keith recounted his dealings with certain notorious figures from the 80s. Steve N remarked that the scones were fit for a centurion and we all agreed.

Report by Brian G

Around 30 of us spent the bank holiday weekend on the Gower peninsula. As the YHA hostel in Port Eynon is currently being refurbished, we booked the whole of the bunkhouse in the same village. Although described as a bunkhouse, it's actually an activity centre that is owned by Swansea City Council, which can booked through the YHA at weekends (it caters to school parties during the week). Other than a slightly small kitchen, facilities at the hostel were very good, including a TV and PCs with internet access in the lounge. At weekends there are no staff on site, so it was just as well that someone from the council called me shortly before I left home on the Friday morning, to explain how we would gain access to the hostel!

The first of us arrived midway through the afternoon, giving us time to have a look around the village. Some self-catered that evening at the hostel, whilst others made their first outing to the Ship Inn pub, only 30 yards from the hostel. The last to arrive that evening finally reached the hostel at around 2am (the last two arrived the following day).

On Saturday, 21 of us walked along what's probably the most dramatic stretch of Gower coastline, from Port Eynon to Rhossili, a distance of around 7 miles. The walk took us past Worms Head, but we were unable to walk out to it because of the tide. On arrival in Rhossili, some had lunch in the pub, whilst others walked down to the beach to eat their packed lunches there.

After lunch, 3 of us (myself and the two Steves) walked back to Port Eynon, some stayed in Rhossili, and others went for a walk around Rhossili Downs before catching the bus back to Port Eynon later in the afternoon.

Meanwhile Mathilde, Sarah, Ben, Sammy and Sue set off on a 7 mile walk from the hostel, a walk of 2 halves, with the first half being a seaside walk above the cliffs with views to Devon and Lundy, then central plain of the Gower, mainly across fields with views of Rhossili Beacon and beyond. It was a very enjoyable walk through plenty of lovely coconut scented gorse, they also saw a slow worm - they initially thought it was an adder, but Sue researched it on the Internet, and it certainly didn't look like any of the photos that she saw! The boys got tired, so Sarah stayed with them at Pilton Green, while Sue and Mathilde made their way back to Port Eynon, and Sue drove back to collect the remaining crew.

On Sunday, 17 of us went on a 7 mile circular walk along the coast in the opposite direction, stopping briefly at Oxwich Castle before heading down to the beach for an extended lunch break. Here we met Brian and Dean, who were part way through a bike ride that took in Oxwich Castle, Penrice Castle and church, Oxwich Bay all the way to Great Tor, where they clambered up rocks with their bikes for a descent down to Three Cliffs Bay. Brian had bought a Frisbee at one of the beachfront kiosks, but he and I failed to convince anyone else to help us test it out.

After lunch, we made a brief stop for ice cream before starting the walk back to Port Eynon - the first part of the return leg involved walking around Oxwich Point, which turned out to be a little more difficult than anticipated - a steep downhill section was rather slippery, and inevitably a few of us were unable to stay upright (but sadly none of the photographers amongst us seemed able to capture the moment!).

Meanwhile Sue and Sammy left for an early morning ride at Clyne Farm. Sue only booked half an hour as it was a first for Sammy, so they headed off across the moors - and got back only too soon for both their tastes - so this probably won't be their last riding together! On their return, they tried to hire bikes and a trailer - no trailers available though, so they headed back to meet Sarah, Mike and Ben, then went to Mumbles for a quick tour, then off to Afan Forest Park where they hired 3 adult bikes and a trailer for Sammy and Ben, and went on a very enjoyable 9 mile tour, a gently sloping trail following the wide flat route of the old railway lines that once carried passengers and coal the length of the valley. There were many opportunities to stop and enjoy the views, and the boys enjoyed a bit of gossip in the back, encouraging Sue, Mike and Sarah as they took it in turns to pull them along.

On Sunday evening, around 25 of us dined in the Smugglers Haunt restaurant. The portions could have been a bit bigger (for example, chips were reminiscent of McDonalds, in thickness if not in quantity), but, as one of the group put it, it wasn't bad considering that we were at the 'arse end' of Wales! As he was feeling cold, Dean wore Mary's pashmina, which made him look a bit like a boxer entering the ring!

Later, there was a beach bonfire by the old lifeboat house, set up by campers.

We had been very fortunate with the weather on the Saturday and Sunday, but on Monday the sky was rather grey, with a little rain, and most of those of those who didn't head directly home decided to visit Caerphilly Castle, where the £3.60 entrance fee included an exhibition of archery, ballister, pikemen and medieval catering. And around half of those who visited Caerphilly independently came to the conclusion that the best place for lunch would be the cafeteria at Morrisons!

Thanks all for coming.

Report by Phil

A perfect blue sky greeted about 22 of us at the Perivale Woods on Sunday. The woods are an ancient forest owned by the Selbourne Society since 1902 and opened to the public just one day each year. The woods contain many oaks, hazels, rowan and ash trees and an abundance of wildlife in the unspoilt nature reserve. The highlight of the woods is the amazing display of bluebells which form a carpet-like display throughout the oldest parts of the forest, literally in every direction from the path. Someone at the trust has counted up to 4 million bluebells in the woods (so it stated on the nature trail map given out!)

Jane pointed out lots of other flowers and trees, and Genevieve extolled the virtues of certain plants for hair conditioning. Derek, in his best safari suit, struggled through the undergrowth to catch the group as he had arrived late for once. Hayley led the route and found the welcome tea shop at the end. We stopped on the grass outside for lots of home-made cakes in the sunshine.

Jan then led the next stage of the walk up to Horsenden Hill summit before Rob directed us to the Ballot Box pub on the hill. As the day was still so warm we stayed in the pub garden for hours, enjoying some cooling drinks whilst enraptured by yet more ripping yarns from Mark O.

Report by Brian G

The new members walk on Sunday along the Chilterns (especially popular with HAWOGians recently) set off a little after 09.30 - Claire and Debbie setting off with Glyn, Steve R, Steve, Mark O, Erika W, David H, Sue (new member) Helen (nearly-new member) Kevin V, Tahir and Michelle. Not that many new members though, the lovely Helen solicited from Hadrian's Wall (gettum where you can Steve!) joined us as did Sue with the gorgeous Aussie accent! The weather was fantastic and Glyn and Steve set us a good pace as they knew the route - or thought they did!! Claire and Debbie, leading their first walk together (strength in numbers) had to reign them in at one point and correct the route using brilliant map-reading skills!! (well done Claire and Deb). Into the enchanted Hodgemoor Woods to see and smell the lovely Bluebells and then our good pace took us into Chalfont St Peter's for lunch.

Our next stop after lunch was the idyllic Chalfont St Giles, where Milton's cottage had turned into a mini-museum with gorgeous garden, a tea shop and little village pond which served as the local duck-creche, lazing about watching all the chicks and ducks frolicking etc. etc. in the lovely hot sun was wonderful (lots of essential oils which Glyn enjoyed!!).

Tahir did well in his fashion trainers and at around 3.30 we found ourselves back at the beginning nearly. Some of us languishing feet in the river, others drifting off for yet more tea whilst others went straight off home - a lovely walk, lovely company - another cracking HAWOG Sunday!!! Thank you all.

Report by Brian G

After a quick txt from Mathilde informing me she would see me at 11 in Henley, I decided to call her and offer her a lift, so Sammy, Mathilde and I headed off from Harrow just before 10am for an uneventful journey to our starting point. At 11.05, nobody else being around, the 3 of us started our walk from the road-bridge that crosses the Thames. After 500m on the road with quite noisy traffic, we were grateful to turn off through woodland where the bluebells stretched as far as the eye could see. We then crossed a couple of fields before reaching Common Barn. The weather was glorious. We crossed a few more fields before diagonally crossing a field of deer - of which the majority were white (neither Mathilde or I had ever seen white deer before - and when we first spotted them in the distance we couldn't quite figure out what they were... we thought some sort of sheep maybe?) There were a few walkers along the path ahead of us, and Mathilde thought they might be fellow HAWOGians on Mike's 12 mile walk - however I wasn't convinced and stopped Mathilde from frantically waving at them... and was very glad I had curtailed her enthusiasm when we got closer and saw they were a group of youngsters - not OUR old HAWOG lot! - with heavy rucksacks unsure of where they were going - and that would never happend with HAWOG members, right ;)? We then passed Culham Court with its unusual clipped yews besides the river Thames, and, to Mathilde's delight, we came across.... a lake!

Well, not quite a lake after all, but the River Thames, no less - which sent both of us in fits of giggles for 10 minutes while Sammy got quite angry at our cackling...! We were lucky enough to spot some red kites circling above us as we stopped for a quick lunch. From Culham Court we continued along the Thames Path until we reached the Flower Pot Hotel, then turned left, then right across a glorious field of rapeseed, where we took a few more photos, and Sammy took his first one ever - the top of my head is missing, but, hey, I say not bad for a first shot, proud Mum that I am :). There were some very fine views of the Thames Valley to our right, and after crossing a stile at the far edge of a copse, we carried down along a footpath which led us back to the main road and returned to the start, not without first stopping at the pub - at Sammy's request - wherre Mathilde and I just stood at the bar, watching Sammy down his 1/2 pint - of lemonade!

After a quick stop at the children's park - I don't know who enjoyed the swings most, Mathilde or Sammy, I'll let you be the judge of that - we made our way home. Thank you Mathilde for being such lovely company and great fun... I don't remember laughing this much in a while!

Report by Sue

Twelve walkers met for dinner at the excellent Pink and Lily country pub. Ten from HAWOG (Clare L, Erika, Ros, Talia, David H, Fabrice, Glyn, Keith, Steve C, me) and two from Chilterns20s30s (Debbie, Helen). The pub offers waited service, excellent food and more interesting choices for veggies (not a mushroom strogonoff or pasta dish in sight). We were joined later on by two more from Chilterns20s30s (Chris, Gordon) before eight of us departed about 8:45pm on our walk in the dark. Just a distant tinge left of the blue sky we had earlier in the day. We headed east through woods to our first Hampden point of the night, the village of Great Hampden. We lost the path in the woods on route, knew this but a bit of zigzagging and trusting the compass took us out to the road and safely to the village. Wasn't quite sure if the road was going to Great Hampden but pleased when it was. Woods are a bugger in daylight let alone in the dark. From Great Hampden we headed out to the first of our two main points of interest on the route - Hampden House, which is famous as the backdrop for many Hammer House of Horror Films. We could see the grounds of the mansion lighting up the sky so navigation easy. We walked through the church and graveyard before reaching the gothic mansion itself where we paused, setting off some lights. Upon leaving, heading north around the mansion we could see some dogs and people heading towards us from the mansion. I imagined the dogs might have tails with crosses on their ends and red, hungry eyes - I do like horrors. Thankfully I was at the front so prepared my legs for 'run mode' towards the woods just ahead; there were plenty of other more tasty options behind me.

We continued heading north for a few miles through woods and fields until we reached our third Hampden, the village of Little Hampden. I had kind of hoped we would be able to stop for a drink as this was close to our half way point. Unfortunately my intended venue, the Rising Sun, appeared closed and maybe more of someones home than an establishment serving refreshments. The menu on display outside read good - teas, cakes, lunches and beers. A bit quirky? Worth a visit on another walk sometime just to satisfy my curiosity as to what exactly the place is. Our route now started to head west through more woods and round and up to Pulpit Hill before heading south and down through Lower Cadsden village and then our final climb and viewpoint, Whiteleaf where we saw the lights of Princes Risborough and beyond. We knew it was only a few miles back to the Pink and Lily pub and spirits remained high. We returned about 12:35am and Clare's GPS said it was 9.5 miles - so close to my estimate of 9, I must be losing my touch. Weather and temperature ideal for a night walk. Hope all enjoyed, thanks all for coming.

Report by Steve

Nine members (Erika, Ros, Talia, David H, Fabrice, Glyn, Keith, Steve C, me) came out on a gorgeous spring afternoon for my 6 mile walk starting from a high point in the Chilterns and walking along the edges of the Speen Valley. Our high point meant we had views down into the valley and of the rolling hills that make up the Chilterns. We headed down into the valley and up the other side just before Speen before our final climb of the day up into Piggots Wood where we heard music from a very cool hippy barn. The second half of our walk was much flatter taking us through various woods back to our start point of the Pink and Lily pub at Parslows Hillock. We finished early which meant plenty of time for a drink before dinner later in the evening (see Night With A Bite report).

Thanks all for coming.

Report by Steve

Thursday

19 of us travelled up to Greenhead during the day. 5 by car, 14 by train. Those taking the train met up in good time for the departure at 1.00pm. Except Jan, who hadn't read the email properly and arrived with 2 minutes to spare. And David L, who arrived just in time to see the train pull out the platform!

The trains ran to time and connections made. The only difficulty was Jeff R reaching the overhead luggage racks, asking Mary T if he could stand on her! David L travelled up on the next train and we all met up at Greenhead hostel. Jeff R was concerned about a strange, long-haired and bearded man in the room. This turned out to be Jim A, Claire's husband! Supper was at the Greenhead Hotel restaurant, 3 course meal for £12.50.

Good Friday

After a full English breakfast at the hotel, we all caught the Hadrian's Wall bus, no AD122 (the year the wall was built) out to Housesteads Roman Fort and spent the morning looking round the site. This is one of the best preserved in Northern Europe, the No1 attraction being the latrines. (Thank goodness they didn't do it for us!)

In the afternoon we walked the 9 miles back along the wall. The wall follows the scarp which lies across the Northumberland National Park. So being on the high ground we had good views in all directions across the park; the openness and vastness of the area impressing on all of us. A late lunch was taken at a pretty spot overlooking a lough.

We continued along the wall, counting back the milecastles (small forts built every roman mile), and watch towers, every 1/3 mile, getting back to the hostel in the early evening.

For supper some drove out to Hexham for a meal out, some ate at the hotel restaurant, and the others self-catered.

Saturday

This was big walk day. 11 of us embarked on a lively 14 mile hike through the national park. Starting from the hostel we followed the river and crossed the railway lines (at a proper crossing - Steve R please note) to pick up the Wall to the pretty village of Gilsland. We left the Wall path here and walked north along a pretty river valley, crossing the river via stepping stones, arriving at the Gilsland Spa Hotel for elevenses. By now the sun was shining brightly in an almost cloudless sky. From the hotel we walked through the wooded dean, over open fields and entered Watered Forest. Here we followed tracks through the forest, passing Moscow (it's true) and, after crossing another river via stepping stones, had lunch by the river in the lovely sunshine.

Our walk then crossed open fields and onto higher ground. The mountains of the lake district forming a backdrop to the views across the national park. From the map we aimed to pick up the roman road back to Gilsland. It soon became obvious, however, there was no path or track to follow. Kick in navigation using a compass bearing. Following our bearing, we had to cross some bogland, and pass close to Snowdon (honest). Those without a compass soon walked off in the complete wrong direction (you know who you are). We all met up again at Birdoswald Roman Fort for tea and cakes, sitting out in the glorious Northumberland sunshine. We picked up the Wall again and followed it back to Greenhead and the hostel, the sun shining brightly all the way back.

Those not walking visited the Vindolanda, a Roman community living near the wall, still being excavated. Here an archaeologist and team, dressed as Centurions, gave a guided tour of the site. This included a dig to uncover more artefacts, a bottle of champs awarded for any imported find. The museum housing one of the best collection of Roman exhibits in Europe, including stone postcards sent from Rome. From here we visited the Roman Army museum. In the late afternoon we walked up to Thirwell Castle, where they served tea and cakes. Sitting out in the bright sunshine, we consumed a scrumptious farmhouse tea, the scones being worthy of Marcellus.

Jan B and Mick W had a gentler walking day, walking out to Haltwhistle and back along the river.

For supper we ordered in an Indian takeaway, which was delicious, washed down with plenty of wine and beer. Afterwards we all retired to the Greenhead Hotel bar to see the evening out. Look for the pic taken there with us all in.

Sunday

7 bikes were hired and delivered the previous evening. Brian G sloped off early on one, not saying where he was off to. Claire and Jim A joined the other six of us with their road bikes and met up with Brian G later that morning at Haltwhistle. Here Claire suffered the first of her SIX punctures she suffered that day. By now the sun was shining brightly under a blue Northumberland sky. We all sat out in the Centre of Britain (see pic) for elevenses served from La Toot cafe. The owner did not believe in using trays, as each coffee was served to us individually!

Brian G was leading this ride, but was unable to find the start of the the cycleway to Alston. We eventually picked up the cycleway and followed this disused railway line for a couple of miles until Claire A suffered the 2nd of her six punctures! Rob W to the rescue. The pump supplied by the bike hire shop turned out to be little better than useless. So stopping a passing cyclist for help, he turned out to be a ranger for the cycleway! He kindly leant us his pump, and said we could keep it for the day. Brian G and the ranger then ensued in a heated debate about whether the cycleway was adequately signposted at the start!

Claire A decided to take the road to Alston to avoid any further punctures from the cinder track. She still suffered four more! So seven of us carried on along the track under a hot sun beating down, crossing the impressive Lambley viaduct where we stopped for photos. We continued on to Slaggyford, where we left the cycleway (under Brian G's instruction) and road-rided to Alston in order to take the 2.15pm steam train ride.

We missed this train. Unbeknown to us, five had walked from the hostel to Alston and were on the platform waiting for us. The others had driven over and so 17 of us met up at Alston. We booked ourselves onto the 3.15 train, and went into Alston for lunch. Some went for a takeaway, after which Rob W chucked his on the ground. Some went to a tea shop, the scones being worthy of Marcellus. And some went to a lovely pub, sitting outside in the beautiful sunshine (shame they did not do food before 3.00pm!)

We took the 2ft narrow-gauge stream train out to the end of the line, about 3 miles. Here the non-cyclists alighted and walked back along the trackside path to Alston. The cyclists took the train back to Alston and spent the next hour looking around the village,before stopping at a teashop for another round of tea and cakes, the scones being worthy of Marcellus.

We left Alston at 5.30pm, the gradient being downhill back to Haltwhistle. The cyclists caught up with the walkers just before the Lambley viaduct, where they finished their 15 mile walk, and were picked up by Keith L in his car. Brian G had to return the lent pump to the ranger, which meant a slight detour through the grounds of his house.

The cyclists arrived back at the hostel at 8.00pm, the cloudless skies meaning dusk fell late.

Steve R and David L opted for a big walk along the wall, walking out to Crosby, just outside of Carlisle, and returning on the AD122 bus.

Later that evening we went over to the Greenhead Hoted bar for drinks, where Rob W and Genevieve engaged in long chats about life, the universe and everything into the early hours of Monday morning.

Easter Monday

A cloudy start to the day. But by the time we travelled back to Newcastle to spend the day there before returning home, we had another blue sky full of glorious Northumberland sunshine. We had lunch sitting out on the banks of the Tyne, looking out at Newcastle's famous vista of its bridges over the Tyne.

Newcastle, famous for its bridges, meant the subject of bridge construction and opening had to be explained to Genevieve, the pleasure of which fell to Rob W! We visited the Baltic Centre for contemporary art. Several exhibitions were on show. My favourite was the surround-sound stairwell. Very disorientating! Brian G inadvertently re-arranged one of the exhibits of Susan Sze, by kicking several pieces over. Well, they were all over the floor.

We spent the next hour or so again soaking up the glorious Northumberland sunshine, either looking round the sculpture park or having one final tea-shop visit, where the scones were worthy of Marcellus.

We all met up at Newcastle train station to catch the 17.20 down to London. Except for David L, who for the second time, missed the train, thinking we were catching the 17.30!

I must say this was a superb trip, each day was full on with different options for everybody to choose from. We were blessed with blue skies and glorious sunshine everyday, except for Good Friday which was overcast and bit rainy.

Thanks go to David L for sharing the benefit of his subscription to WalkingWorld.com by providing routes in the area, and to Keith L, for patiently driving us around and fetching the Indian takeaway on the Saturday.

Report by Martin J

Gosh, with fifteen - Mark O, Mark B, Mary and her sister Dolores, Steve R, Claire, Debbie, Stephen, Keith, Victor, Ben, Phil and Peter, (sadly dog Timmy didn't show) on a hike together, a wonderful day out in 1930s Britain just whizzed by.

Starting off at Saunderton station we headed off into jolly green countryside and with very few automobiles in sight, arrived at Whiteleaf Hill for a pre-lunch rest, splendid views over Princes Risborough and to watch young Peter take some photographic images of grass. We then spent a relaxing hour in the super, thatched cottage-lined village of Whiteleaf for savoury rolls and lashings of funnily-named ales. This is where the adventure really started (David, the old stick, had not pre-tested this part of the route). Making our way through Princes Risborough with new-fangled shops and, no doubt, thieves and villains (but also more old cottages) we emerged unharmed back into the wilderness and reached our destination of Saunderton once more at 15.45 to be invited to Steve's for lashings of ginger cake and piping hot tea (hoorah!) and where the conversation quickly turned to banana stickers, speed bumps and Arthur Miller. We are a clever and exciting lot at HAWOG (and available for pub quizzes in the Greater Harrow area). Thanks a bunch everybody!

Report by Erika

9 in total, Avril, Jill, Sue, Sam, Evelyn, Sarah Jane, Ben, Michelle and I embarked on this gentle, short walk. No new members this time. They must have all gone for the alternative, active 12 mile walk.

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, into the start of the path towards Oxhey. A herd of horses did not like the look of us and galloped away, but not before being caught with the zoom lens.

We were lucky that the little people in the group didn't spot the playground and managed to carry on through a gap in the fence, passing Haydon Hill House. Through a kissing gate, walking on, deep in conversation, I almost led us out of the green and pleasant land, hence added another 1/2 km to the walk. The kids wanted a rest and I wrongly told them there was a bench not far away. Had to get out of the wilderness of dense bushes before we eventually stopped using a few tree stumps as make-do seats.

Dogs were trying to pinch Sam's sandwich, but suitably fortified, and with Avril and Jill eager to carry on (one of them needed to get back early), we marched on towards the muddy patch along the Heartsbourn stream. Asking some other walkers, we then found the path that avoided the muddy stretch. Third time lucky. Paddingstone Cairn, a pile of rocks for directional purposes was left to our right.

On the second leg of the circular walk, Sue didn't believe me when I told her where the next bench was, and had a look at the map herself, while Sam made use of a patch of grass to rest. Further along, stopping at the viewpoint bench, in vain everybody tried to find the magnificent panoramic views, which are supposed to let one see as far as Windsor.

Back at the churchyard, the 2 sisters headed off, I meant to go for a drink in the pub, but joined the pick-nickers in the graveyard instead. Sorry Evelyn.

This was the third time that I've led this walk and each time has been different and interesting. Thanks all for attending and excellent company.

Report by Mathilde

6 of us met at Mortimer station for the Roman trek. 2 new members on their first event recognised us as we were the only people to alight from the train! As we waited for late arrivals the day brightened considerably and it was a perfect blue sky as we set off. Our route went by St Mary's at Mortimer, the timeless viewpoint from the rectory pond took in the church and the cherry trees in blossom reflecting in the still waters. The route followed a river path before entering meadows bordered by blackthorn hedges, the white blossom of the blackthorn continuing in the distance. We rounded a copse and then came upon Calleva amphitheatre. This was created in 50 AD and was large enough to host 10000 spectators. Rob practised his voice projections and we imagined the works of Homer (not Simpson) being performed here. On Palm Sunday (the day after our visit) the amphitheatre would be the setting for the parish church service with a procession from Silvchester led by Sophie the donkey.

We next explored Silchester parish church which dates from 1125 and was built with lots of Roman bricks recycled from the Roman city. After a quick tour we continued south to reach Calleva itself. The Roman town walls extend for about 3 km in a quadrangle and were completed in 260 AD. The footpath continues along much of the wall on the ridge of the ramparts and affords views across the flat landscape towards Kennet valley. We had a picnic here and recalled Lurcios prologues at the forum "No honestly missus".

As the day was warming up we stopped for a cooling half at the Calleva arms. In the pub garden Genevieve recounted many tales from the land of learning and explained how schools had enjoyed "the years of plenty" since 97. Our afternoon route took in the gorse covered heathlands of Padworth common. We also had to clamber under and over some fences as our route (in both the guide and OS map) was blocked by newly dug gravel pits. We reached the Kennet valley and crossed several brooks before reaching the Kennet canal and the end of the walk. We managed by great planning to enter to canal centre tea shop with 5 minutes to spare and enjoyed a well earned tea stop in the canal side gardens.

Report by Brian G

A small group met at Walton on the Hill on a bright morning on Sunday. Dean led the route via Epsom Downs (race course just visible) and then along Stane Street, a Roman road which stretches from London to Chichester. This section is ideal as it is dead straight and has plenty of descents to build up speed. We stopped at the CTC tea shop by Headley for the usual pasties and scones. The route then took us up onto the North Downs way with great views south and west. There are several tricky descents on this section and it is popular with horse riders and hikers, so the bells came in useful to warn of our approach. At Juniper hill we headed north and our route was across heathland and via a golf course back to Walton on Hill and the welcome pub stop.

Report by Brian G

When I get to Warwick Avenue meet me by the entrance of the tube... We can talk things over a little time, promise me you won't stay outta line... When I get to Warwick Avenue... lalalalalalalala!!!!!

Was absolutely delighted to see everyone for my first HAWOG walk. There were sixteen of us in all (Sue and Sam, Sarah and Ben, Mike S, Cathy T, Jane, Brian, Norell, Mathilde, Michelle, Phil, Graham, Andy, Marcellus and moi!). We set off with the sun just beginning to warm up the chilly start to the morning and walked along the canal in Little Venice towards Regents Park which gave us a little peek at how the other half live, in the very grand Regency homes along the canal. We then cut through into Regents Park and walked around the boating pond getting some wonderful views of Herons nesting and in flight.

In the park we went into the Queen Marys gardens to a lookout point over the ornamental Japanese waterfall and all the blossom trees in bloom. After SUCH a long walk(!) we decided it was time to get to our lunch / picnic area and sit down and chill out in the sun. We of course needed to build up the energy to carry on to Primrose Hill! Sue, Sarah and boys left us at this point as the boys were ready to head back home after running around for a good few hours.

We continued to the top of Primrose Hill to look at the amazing panoramic view of London. I did suffer altitude sickness after the strenuous climb so Phil kindly took over the map reading in order to get us back to base camp. Fortunately no one got lost and we ended up in a very welcoming pub in Maida Vale.

Had a fab time and lots of laughs. Thanks for joining me on my inaugural walk.

Report by Carla

Wasn't sure how many people would turn up given that the weather early on Saturday morning didn't look all that promising. There were eight of us - Michelle, Ian, Andy, Jim, Bernie, Sophie, Graham and myself.

When in the car park, there was an elderly couple getting kitted up for a walk. Graham initially thought they might have been joining our walk and asked if they belonged to HAWOG. Sophie said she thought she saw something dodgy going on in a car.

We set off across Harrow Weald common, eventually reaching the Bentley Priory open space. Walking from Bentley Priory to Stanmore Common, the route took us down Priory Drive, which is obviously one of the wealthy parts of the area. We had to walk on the road there as there no hard pavements and signs saying keep off the grass. I particularly liked one which said "Beware the furious gardener."

Taking our lives in our hands crossing Stanmore Hill, we reached Stanmore Common, returning to Bentley Priory and walking through the open space to a path which led from Old Priory Farm to Clamp HIll. From there, we went to Brookshill and through to Copse Farm, where Ian left us.

It was then back to Old Redding, where Michelle and Sophie departed, the remainder of us adjourned to the Case is Altered, next to the view point, for lunch.

Report by Simon

A trip to Holland and a dodgy hip meant that two of the four from HAWOG entered in the South Wales Gold Three Peaks Trial weren't at the start point.

Only Glyn and I from HAWOG were in Abergavenny around 7:30am for what proved to be a harder slog than we both thought in advance. And we were surprised there was no checking of any items we had been told to bring or we would not be allowed to start - whistle, map, compass, torch etc. Some people were even starting in jeans and trainers. We followed the masses, a few hundred walkers, at about 8am, again no formal start given.

Within 30 minutes we were ascending the first peak, Blorenge (559m) and it was about an hour of steep up heading south-west. There were opportunities to over take but we, along with most, just followed the backside in front, which thankfully was rather slow, and large enough to provide some break from the wind - if we had been heading north. Top was reached about 10.30am. Very windy - maybe Blorenge means Blow Range in English? Then followed the descent, all of ten minutes, and north-west-ish past Govilon village, along the River Clydach, past Gilwern and north towards Glangrwyney and our next checkpoint. There was no requirement to follow a specific route, only to get our cards stamped at certain points.

From Glangrwyney we headed north-east towards our second peak, Sugar Loaf (596m). Mostly ok, about an hour of reasonable up and then 20 minutes where the hearts and legs were working. We reached summit around 1:15pm and just as we were ready to start lunch it hailstoned and got very windy so headed south-east-ish and down for food. We could clearly see our third peak, Ysgyryd Fawr (486m). Sharp up one side, ridge heading down on the other. As too lazy to look at the grid reference for the next checkpoint, we assumed we would ascend via the ridge. We were wrong. The next two checkpoints took us to the sharp end. And as we approached it looked very hard. Again we were wrong. Took about 20 minutes to ascend following hidden path around the back, guy heading up the steep said took him 7-8 minutes. Summit reached around 3pm (we think) and then followed that enjoyable bit, the positives of that statement "it's all down hill from now on". At the car park at the main road back to the start point (an hours plus walk) we saw people waiting to 'meet' walkers on the Challenge, presumably to transport them back to town. Now why didn't we think of that.

We were surprised how much road walking there was. But of course it was 3 peaks AND 20 miles. Returned to start point around 4:40pm, finishing somewhere in middle, half those who started had still to return, we thought we were slow. Very little, or no, real navigation required providing you can see others in front, which was possible most of the time. Personally these felt harder than anything I have done for quite a few years, in fact I'm not sure I ever remember ups quite as hard as these. The steep ascents of the peaks felt harder than any of the Cairngorm mountains we climbed last summer. Maybe it's because there's been a lot of fuss about Gold in the past few days. No, I wasn't wearing any spandex and I don't have much of a belly. Can't speak for others though...

Report by Steve

Sunday started as a beautiful sunny spring day. Blue skies, bright sunshine but with a crisp wind blowing. 9 adults (Darren, Marty, Janice, Kevin, Ken, Jill, Avril, myself and my 77-year-old-mum), a 25 month old toddler (my son Ruben) and my 9 month old baby girl (Amber). Does this qualify as the widest age range on a HAWOG walk yet?? We set off at 10:30am on the walk around Denham Country Park and the Colne Valley Trail.

Darren braved the walk even though he was feeling rather poorly (a bad case of man flu) on the premise that a bit of fresh air would do him good. Unfortunately, soon after starting the walk we experienced a punctured tyre on our all-terrain double buggy, which meant that pushing a very heavy toddler and baby quickly became hard work. We walked along the Colne Valley trail along Harefield Marina and the Grand Union Canal, past Denham deep lock and along the South Bucks Way to Denham Country Park.

The walk was at a leisurely pace and the scenery was most picturesque. We stopped at Denham Country park Visitors Centre for light refreshments and a chat. We then made our way back to the station through the pretty village of Denham, past the graveyard where Sir John Mills is buried and past Cilla Black's house! We arrived back at the car park at 1:30pm in good time, just before dark clouds and heavy rain descended. A lovely walk was had by all.

Thank you all for coming.

Report by Harpreet

Eight of us set off from the car park opposite Cranbourne Gate at 11am. We walked to the village, past a pond and the Post Office that doubles up as a general store, then veered off towards the Queen Elizabeth Statue, where we stopped for lunch with views of Windsor Castle in the distance beyond the millstone. We then crossed the deer park to reach the Copper Horse, where we took another short break, much to the delight of the young members of the party who miraculously recovered their waning energy to climb up the rocks surrounding the statue. At the foot of the statue is the Long Walk, which stretches 3 miles through the soft meadows of the Home Park to the South. The figure of George III then points the way back, following a woodland path, through the deer park gate and to the car park.

Thank you all for a lovely day out!

Report by Sue

Rich and I arrived at around 6pm on Friday evening, thanks to his faithful TomTom. The Stour Valley Bunkhouse is set on a working farm and we had exclusive use. The entrance had a decked area with chairs and tables and picnic benches for a BBQ in an enclosed fenced garden. We were met by the warden, providing us with a lot of useful information and warning us not to be afraid if we encountered big burly farmers walking past the window in the mornings. The local supermarket in Brantham was a 5 minute drive; the Bull pub was within walking distance and served good food, which those who arrived later took advantage of. The hostel/converted bunkhouse was only a year old, and had been fitted with facilities for the disabled, very modern with a huge kitchen, dining area and a large chiller cabinet ideal for a large group, and cable TV. Rich was well chuffed as he was able to watch an unseen episode of Deep Space 9. The arrival times for the rest of the group varied as they tackled traffic and an accident on the M25 and difficulty finding the entrance to the road leading down to the hostel at night.

On Saturday 9 of our party - Beverley, Caroline, Carrie, Coral, Talia, Andrew, Keith, Martin, Steve - completed a 15 mile walk from our hostel. The route headed west to Manningtree and then along the Essex Way to the pretty village of Dedham and its' old village buildings and shop fronts and a pause for 20 minutes and tea at midday. The intended lunch stop, Stratford St Mary, was disappointing - quiet, a few empty pubs and little else. Post lunch (2pm+) the route east again became more interesting with a visit to Old Hall (nunnery, friary, now household of 60 hippies) on the outskirts of East Bergholt village and then Flatford Mill (John Constable paintings etc). Afternoon tea followed before the final push back to the hostel just before 6pm. Blue skies and flat terrain made for an easy, enjoyable walk for all.

Ashok, Malvi, Penny, Andy, Galia and Ellen completed a 12 mile walk along the River Stour led by Zarina and were back around 5pm. Sue and Sammy went on a shorter 6 mile walk, stopping to see the chickens and ponies on route on the farm.

Unfortunately I was unable to do any walking due to a broken ankle, so using an air cast and crutches, Rich and I headed towards Kesgrave in Ipswich, 10 miles drive, to visit family and the area and headed back to the hostel at around 6pm.

On Saturday evening Sue cooked a marvellous Moroccan stew and couscous for 16 of us with help from the group with preparation and washing up. Sammy was playing with his toy figure 'Harry', Rich and Steve tried to convince Sammy that they knew the Green Goblin and other superheroes. Most of the group retired to bed at around 9pm. Five (Caroline, Carrie, Ellen, Galia, Steve) stayed up playing Topix until gone midnight. The aim of the game is to list as many words starting with a given letter related to a topic; the topic and letter are from a pre-defined list. Despite being out cheated 4:1, Steve somehow managed to win the game, along the way persuading the girls that Kangaroo Juice, Kilimanjaro Sweat and Kiewjzick Bien Bier, amongst others, were all famous drinks starting with a K. An unexpected benefit of the global market. I was feeling really exhausted by the evening and needed to rest but would have liked to have stayed up and joined in with the card game - it sounded fun and I could hear the joyous laughter and loud talking in the background.

On the Sunday, there was an early start by all, although we didn't have to be out of the hostel until midday. Some took advantage of the sunny morning and completed shorter walks before heading off on their journey home. Alton Water was only 5 minutes drive, where you could hire bikes and walk around the reservoir. Talia led a walk with Malvi, Ashok, Keith and Penny around the same walk that Sue had done on the Saturday, which was very good. They finished at the Boot for Sunday lunch.

Sammy and Sue set off for Alton Water and hired a bike and trailer. Sue gave Sammy the option of the tag-a-long but after Saturday's 6 mile walk, he was more than happy to take it easy and let Mum do all the hard work. There were 2 routes you could follow, route A is probably a couple of miles longer than route B, but it is easier as it is mostly on the road with relatively small inclines whereas route B is more challenging due to hilly off-road terrain. Sue mixed and matched, doing the first half of B around the reservoir, then the second half on the road - the hillier parts! Sue didn't mind cycling uphill but when she was pulling 30kg+, it does get quite hard! They stopped off on a couple of occasions to take in the scenery and look at the swans, then Sammy fell asleep and Sue cycled the rest of the route without stopping. Sue completed the tour within a couple of hours and returned the bike. They then went to the Boot, where they had stopped for drinks on the previous day and had a lovely lunch before heading back to London. The timing was just perfect, it was warm and sunny throughout the cycle ride, still lovely at the pub, but within 10 minutes of being in the car, the clouds started to gather and it began to rain - so heavily in fact that they were down to 40mph on the A12 on the way home on a couple of occasions.

Rich and I left after midday after doing checks and picking up lost property. We drove down to Felixstowe; Rich pushed me in a wheelchair, down and back up a very steep, winding road to the seafront and pier, I was glad he didn't have any Frank Spencer moments as it was quite a scary experience as the brakes did not feel very safe. It was cold and windy but still nice in the sun. We stopped at Ruby's Cafe for homemade cake, chunky chips and a cup of tea looking over the sea. We headed back along the A12 and like Sue also encountered black clouds and heavy showers driving back.

Just to say thank you for making this a great weekend, this was new member Maliv's and potential members Galia and Ellen's first weekend away. We were all very impressed with the hostel/bunkhouse, a very peaceful place to stay, set in countryside on the working farm and its' modern facilities; the weather was kind and the group were able to organise themselves with walks and other activities. Thanks to all for adding their notes to this report and sending photos to the website.

Report by Jackie

Dave and I were very pleased to see 12 faces (Mathilde, Phil, Jane R, Ian G, Jane M, Victor, his ex stepson Nick and girlfriend Jess, Keith, Brian F, Glyn and new member Sophie) on a quite chilly Sunday morning at our starting point at the Bridgewater Monument at Ashridge Estate. Marcellus, unfortunately couldn't find us, although not far away! Although at first a little hazy (the weather, not our map reading skills!) the sun soon peeked out and we were awarded with fine views from the Ridgeway and Aldbury Nowers.

After Phil's entanglement with a dodgy stile (watch out for rusty nails and loose ponies) we made a lunch stop at Aldbury's very fine Valiant Trooper. While we munched on our sandwiches, Glyn had to wait somewhat longer for his meal...his wooden spoon marked No. 4 didn't look so good upon realisation that meals No. 22 and then 29 had just been served! Making our way back through Ashridge Estate we arrived at the tearooms at around 15:30, to be greeted by a long queue of tea and cake lovers, and dispensed with a rest.

Thanks everybody for coming!

Report by Erika

A convoy of 14 HAWOGers arrived gradually on the Friday night to sample the delights of the Georgian Italianate style mansion which formed the YHA. We were greeted by a gaggle of hen parties dressed in various Superbeing outfits which proved very popular with the male contingent. After testing the roughest pub in Somerset, Mark and Mark engaged in a private cheese and wine part in their dorm, which regrettably involved not enough cheese.

After an unsavourly early breakfast to avoid the American school party of 57 students, we took a gentle stroll up hills, rivers and down dales, leading from Bath to Bradford-on-Avon for a total of 9 miles cross-country. A suitably early stop at a lovely pub ensured that Pete ate enough cheese in his ploughman's to qualify for membership of the Ploughman's league. In the afternoon we entertained the locals with our inferior map-reading skills as we negotiated the maze of bungalows built over the footpath. A suitably irate owner was forced to abandon Saturday Sport to send us in the right direction. After a cream tea in Bradford, Martin J managed to barter with the train conductor to secure a 30% price reduction in tickets back to Bath, although Cathy and Shakespeare had to pretend to be children to get a family discount.

Saturday night saw the group diverge into people willing to spend money on fine dining versus people who wanted the hottest curry Bath could provide. Derek and Prem managed to lead the group to the best Indian outside of Rajpur.

The next day we visited the John Wood-designed Circle and Royal Crescent parade of superb houses. Some took in the Roman Baths whilst others disappeared to take the thermal waters for real. Emma showed off her water-baby skills in the rooftop swimming pool overlooking Bath town, and Mary showed fantastic skill with a woggle (plastic float...) when the jaccuzzi set off bubbling. Mick managed his second full English breakfast of the day in the Jazz café and Tim and Humay explored the Victorian Gardens on their own when the group ran off without them.

My heartfelt thanks to everyone for such a lovely time. A special thanks to Pete for help with route planning, and Mary and Martin J with reading the directions and maps. Spiffing good fun but no Mr Darcy in wet shirt for us Jane Austen fans. We will have to return.

Report by Jan

Twelve friendly faces greeted Cathy T and me at Denham station, for the Denham to Chalfont St. Peters walk. Mary, Mike S, Marcellus, Michelle, Erika, Dave, Sim, Derek, Prem, Colin, Claire, Carla and of course Cathy and me were there, making a respectable 14 in number. Cathy T entertained us with her 'star wars' jacket which zipped up over her face, transforming her into an alien complete with large black eyes which stood out against the white of the jacket.

The weather was crisp but sunny as we set off from Denham station at 10:30. The first part of the walk led us around the lawns of Buckinghamshire Golf Course and on through Denham Country Park. Crossing over the River Colne, our path took us to the Grand Union Canal running north-south through the Colne Valley, where we came across a number of large barges moored at the side of the towpath; a number were being refurbished in time for the warmer weather while others were clearly inhabited, and as we moved along the towpath we breathed in the lovely woody smell of burning wood escaping from the barges' chimneys.

Lunch was had at the Coy Carp, those who had brought sandwiches ate them outside, while the rest of the group enjoyed the hospitality of the pub and the excellent, substantial food served to us at tables overlooking the water. We spent a leisurely 1.5 hours, maybe a bit longer at the pub before getting back on track. Unfortunately, Prem and Derek had to leave us at that point, as Derek was experiencing a great deal of pain in his leg.

With renewed energy the rest of us set off again passing Pynesfield Lake and onto a public bridleway which led us upwards to Old Shire Lane and back down again, taking us under the M25.

Following the outline of yet another lake we stopped for group photos taken by Marcellus. Somehow afterwards we took the wrong path veering slightly off course and adding an additional mile and a half to our walk. Eventually though we reached Chalfont St. Peter village at 3pm but, because of time constraints, we stopped only briefly for cups of piping hot coffee provided by Mike, and a toilet stop, before heading back at 3:30pm and the return journey. Keeping firmly to our directions and upping the pace, we managed to make up a lot of time, the last 40 minutes were walked in the dark, thankfully it didn't dampen anyone's spirit though.

We estimate that instead of the intended 16 mile walk we had actually completed 18 miles. All I can say is thank you all for coming, I thoroughly enjoyed the day and listening to the chatter and laughter during the walk I think it's safe to say that my companions did too.

Report by Kathy C

12 members braved the biting wind and the low temperatures on Sunday, led by that intrepid, mud-loving leader, Marty. We walked across snow and ice, from the new Chiltern Gateway Visitors Centre, passing a couple of dare-devil hang-gliders, around the Saxon burial mounds to our first, of many, challenges, a very steep icy slope (toboggans being the order of the day!).

Having negotiated this obstacle, we all headed up the Icknield Way and along Drovers Lane, ankle deep in boggy mud. This kind of terrain seemed to be the mainstay of the walk, as we crossed fields, bridle paths and lanes, all well churned by passing tractors and horses' hooves! We passed through the small village of Tottenhoe, crossed stiles and walked along bridle ways, arriving in the picturesque village of Eaton Bray. Here we stopped for lunch on the Green, enjoyed refreshments in the White Horse.

We continued out of Eaton Bray, along muddy, icy bridle paths and lanes, crossed over a couple of roads, passing a gliding airfield and arriving at the bottom of Dunstable Downs. Here we climbed a very steep and narrow track, arriving back at the top close to the Chiltern Gateway Visitors Centre. Tea and cake with an hour of kite-flying followed, finishing a most enjoyable, if not muddy, day.

Report by Marty

Wasn't quite sure how many people fancied a Date With The Dark following our recent cold weather. My previous walks in the dark had attracted between two and eleven attendees. So I was very pleasantly surprised when ten others turned up to join me for what turned out to be a fabulous mild evening for a walk.

We departed Bledlow Ridge around 8:15pm, walking to our start point, the west bound Chiltern Way path off the main Chinnor Road. We quickly descended to Radnage, getting westerly views of the Chiltern hills and reaching St Mary church and graveyard. That was about as close we would get to any form of life for quite a while as our route from now on bowed north with a muddy climb up to Chinnor Hill and through Bledlow Great Wood. We stopped at the view point looking north over Aylesbury Vale before heading down another muddy track to Bledlow. A short cut into Bledlow village, with signpost, turned out to be an unwanted plod through a ploughed field towards a field boundary I thought had a road behind it. It didn't, we hadn't found the path and had stopped at a field boundary. And we were eight, not eleven, the others had taken the easier route by road. With no easy points of reference - it was dark after all - we followed the field boundaries back to where the path started and then the road to Bledlow were we met the others. I thought, was Date with the dark going to become Late with the dark?

Our refreshment stop, the Lions pub in Bledlow, was open and surprisingly empty. The Lions is one of those old country pubs, tiled floor, big fireplaces, probably a stable a few centuries ago. We were served quickly. One of our new members, Priya, said her knee felt a bit dodgy as we approached the pub. Unfortunately I wasn't carrying any spare parts in my bag, we'd missed an opportunity to get spares at St Mary in Radnage, and my only other thoughts both involved a large stick. Wisely, Priya opted to stay at the pub and somehow managed to arrange to stay with the landlady until Keith, who was driving, would return after finishing our walk to collect her. At about 1am. I still think Priya really wanted to see one of the late Saturday evening films - most likely Girl Interrupted which was on Five US - starting just after 11pm. About the time we started the second half of our walk... She has said, though, that she will back and wants to do a 20 miler, famous last words, I might just know someone who does those sort of distances too.

Our route back took us past the Holy Trinity church in Bledlow and then east to Saunderton and a walk through the grounds of our fourth church, St Mary and St Nicholas, which had a graveyard with a lovely stream running through it. We started heading south, twice crossing the Chiltern railway line, before a final ascent back up to Bledlow Ridge. We discovered that natural alarms are all the go in the countryside, we lost count of the number of times dogs started barking, some from quite a distance, the joy of course is hopefully they woke their owners up too!

First time I have navigated in the dark without having walked the route in advance, only one detour of note, and definitely benefited from good signposting at most key points. All enjoyed I think, plenty of laughter, especially from Keith and Victor who were like two old women. Apologies to anyone of more senior years reading this! Return just after 1am, as always a few extra miles, probably 9-10 in total. Thanks to Clare L, Clare N, Keith, Marcellus, Martin S, Phil, Pritin, Priya, Ros and Victor for coming.

Report by Steve

A tidy group of 11 turned up promptly at Hatch End on a cold fresh Sunday morning. The group included an old face, Coral, and somebody new, a young lady whose name escapes me!

The first part of the walk was comprised of arguably too much road although viewing the properties on the left hand side of Oxhey Lane prompted a certain amount of comment- this was the cue that Mark O had been waiting for - "the current state of the nation" debate had started, and maintained the interest for a good part of the walk! On entering the Grims Dyke golf course there was an utterance of "this is more like it!". There was a great deal of substance to this comment, as not only the view was splendid but we were walking in a winter wonderland! From here we proceeded past the Grimsdyke Lake into Harrow Weald common and onto the next great view by the Case is Altered. From this point I had to pursuade the group that we had to cross the road to enter the woods opposite instead of heading onwards where the the Loop signs indicated. We thought that the post had been turned the wrong way. We must have missed a right turning in the Harrow Weald Common woods because we scabbled around before finding our next woodland entrance when crossing Common Road. It was at this point that we lost 2 of our group, "we'll knock those city girls into shape soon enough"! The indomitable 9 then carried on to Bentley Priory Open Space which afforded more splendid views of the hill and beyond. Our lunch stop was equally delightful as we sat down alongside one of the Stanmore Common ponds, now frozen over and quite a sight with the sun now at full force! We carried on alongside the Aldenham resevoir and across the fields of the park. Clare had decided to forge ahead in order to get in some training for greater challenges coming up! After crossing Watling Street the final leg was was across Elstree Golf Course then onto Elstree for the finish.

Despite two longish road sections and some of the way markers perhaps needing updating/improving, the walk passed over a variety of terrain and offered excellent views and points of interest, and the snow made the relatively easy walking more challenging, as well as adding to the visuals!

Report by Humay

Eleven members attended our Walk Leader Training and Refresher day in Holmer Green, Buckinghamshire for a credit crunch busting price of £5 each that included unlimited tea and biscuits.

The day commenced at about 10:30am with a discussion about what makes a good walk. Key points were * having a map so that attendees can follow to know where they have gone * having advance notice of the route * coming back alive * keeping to preplanned distance (1-2 miles extra ok) * having indication of pace in advance * attendees being aware of required pace * having stops to see views/attractions * having right clothing/equipment for weather/terrain * not having to go back because wrong path taken * having points of interest on walk * having phone number of walk leader.

We then had a discussion about the barriers to leading a walk. Key points were * no idea of what to do * fear of getting it wrong * negative thoughts (disaster - pub not on route - reputation at stake) * logistics of getting there * how to research * starting first time on your own * knowing how long a distance takes to walk * lack of confidence.

Following the discussions, three presentations followed. First, The Process of Planning Walks, then Reading an OS Map, and last Using a Map and Compass. All presentions continued to be informal and interactive, with the last presentation being practical. The morning theory sessions finished about 1pm leaving an hour for a working lunch with attendees splitting into three groups and using maps to plan a route of about 5 miles to lead and walk in the afternoon.

The walks started about 2pm and all groups returned between 4:30pm and 5pm. My group did a route heading north to Little Missenden then east along the River Misborne, before we headed west and a climb up to Mop End and our return to Holmer Green. Whilst an OS map was used as the main navigation aid, use of the compass was encouraged. The reason is that turning the map to face the path you think you're on does not mean that it is the path you're actually on. The map can be turned to face any path you want! The compass of course confirms the true direction of the path ahead, and can be compared with the direction of the path on the map. If the two differ, then you're probably not on the path you think you are. In which case you need to look back at the map and your surroundings to see where you are now (or might be), and maybe how you've got here (find that wrong turning).

Of course, even if the map and compass directions match, you could still be on another path heading in the same direction. But providing your other clues, mainly visual, all match, then you're probably ok. Visual clues being buildings, signs, shape of terrain (hills), woods, roads, other paths etc on your recent route and in front of you now. And the map and compass can be done apart if need be (some found holding map and compass together whilst rotating direction of arrow difficult). To conclude, whilst a map alone is fine for much rural/countryside navigation, there will be times of uncertainty and a compass will then confirm actual directions of paths and/or travel. In more monotone terrain and locations, when visual information is less differential, the compass becomes much more important.

Thanks to Steve N and Glyn for each taking a group out in the afternoon and to (girls) Carrie, Claire A, Clare L, Erika, Mary and (guys) David H, Fabrice, Keith, Marcellus, Steve C and Yogi for attending. Our afternoon walks were in snow covered hills and fields with blue sky and sun, a bonus. Thanks all for coming.

Report by Steve

I was pleased that 13 walkers (Mary, Emma, Erika, Jane, Claire, Keith and Mick (the rest of the Stones could not make it), Steve T, Dave, Brian, Steve N, Ben and I) found the start point at Cowleaze Woods and were on parade on time! On a cold sunny Sunday morning, after Saturday evening's downpour and flooding, the weather stayed good all day not a drop of the wet stuff.

We started down a very muddy hill along a valley under the M40 in a circular route to Stokenchurch, through woodland up hills on muddy footpaths and bridleways finally arriving in Stokenchurch from the north.

We found all 4 pubs but had a lunch stop at the Fleur de Lis, the sandwich munchers including myself ate outside but got inside quickly as it was cold when you stopped moving. Being a SOS, I had plastic shopping bags to put over my muddy boots (a Pete D innovation - another SOS) everyone else had to remove muddy boots so as not to trash the pub carpet. Some had nice cold boots to put on when we eventually left. The Flowers was okay but a Rebellion was much better, but I only had one of those. The food seemed good and the plates were American size so I think the diners were happy.

A slight mistake in my pathfinding on leaving the pub nearly led to a mass suicidal crossing attempt of the M40 but I soon rectified this and we headed under it using the tunnel. Up more hills and through wintry woods and more mud back to Cowleaze Woods car park. Some decided to walk the sculpture trail in the woods at the end, others departed homeward. Thanks for turning up, guys, and not being cyberspace walkers.

Report by Mark O

Winter Sun

Nine members of our group spent this weekend at YHA Youlgreave in the heart of the Peak District and were blessed with two days of blue skies and sun. All week prior the weather forecast symbol for Youlgreave had been black cloud and two rain drops - heavy rain to you and me. Friday afternoon the forecast had improved - cloud, sun and one rain drop. So we were surprised when we opened the curtains on Saturday morning to see the moon in a clear sky overlooking the hills surrounding Youlgreave.

The sun wasn't the only bright spot. We also had most of the 9 room hostel to ourselves. And it's a lovely hostel, modern inside, very warm, but retaining many characteristics of its past as the village Coop store. The dining room/lounge is what was the main store and contains many displays of original goods the Coop used to sell (food, drink, furniture, electrical etc). The bedrooms were all on the upper floors and they too related to the building's past. We were in rooms named Furniture, Hardware, Haber Dasher and... Ladies Underwear... which spurred a few (obvious) jokes as 3 of the guys were in that room. We all ate at the hostel on Saturday evening and had excellent food, cooked and served very well by the hostel warden (Debbie).

All started the main walk on Saturday, which involved heading north and west out of the village on the River Lathkill which was in a valley. At the village of Monyash we headed north to Deep Dale (~315m) along a path in a fantastic high valley, then east into Great Shacklow Wood to Ashford on the Water for lunch. The faster pace required post lunch (we were behind schedule, some legs were tiring, and it would be dark by 5pm) meant a few took a bus to shorten the route home. Five of us completed the full route (~16 miles), heading east to the main town of Bakewell and then south along various paths and roads to reach Youlgreave comfortably before dark at 5pm.

Everyone finished the shorter route (~10 miles) on Sunday. We followed the River Bradford out to the major Limestone Way path south-east to Winster village, which involved a number of climbs in beautiful hills with views to die for on a day with a clear sky and low sun. We stopped for teas at Darley Bridge before heading north and our main climb of the weekend up to Stanton in Peak (~250m) and lunch around 2pm. Whilst it wasn't our highest point of the weekend or indeed the day, it felt like it as we started our climb quite low down. From Stanton we headed broadly west along paths and empty country roads to Alport village where we picked up the River Bradford again to take us back to Youlgreave around 3:30pm.

Thanks all for coming.

Report by Steve

14 of us met at Ealing on a very cold but bright morning. After the usual delay text from Derek we set off, led by Rob on a scenic mystery ride.

We quickly sped through Hanwell Village and along the Brent valley cycle path, before stopping at Northala for the ascent of the hill and viewpoint. We then used back lanes to reach Down Barns Manor (12th century remains).

Our route then diverted as the off-road track was unsuitable for the road bikes, and we rejoined Sharville Lane in Yeading for the visit to Hillingdon's secret zoo. This was started some 30 years ago by a local volunteer and is still going strong. We headed towards the RAF site via a woodland route and then found ourselves by Uxbridge Lido (reopening this summer) and Ickenham Woods.

We exited the woods and cycled by Swakeleys Manor (in better view now as in summer it is hidden by trees on all sides). The manor moat was iced over and some tested the edge ice on foot but did not venture further as it began to crack. Our final historic site was the third manor of the day, Ickenham Manor, with its own moat and football pitch (not contemporary).

As it was still bitterly cold the unanimous decision was taken to return via cycle paths to the Black Horse in Greenford for a late lunch and end of the ride.

Report by Brian G