Photos & Reports for 2004

This is where you'll find photos and reports from members who've been on outdoor activities with the group in 2004. We also have photos and reports from other years:

Peter organised the walk and sternly said that it started at 10am PROMPT. However, at 10am there were only four of us in the car park in Burnham. Peter's mobile rang several times and he agreed to wait for others. Just as well, for at 10:30am there were ten of us that started the walk. They were: Peter, Acacia, Gary, Graham, Katia, Jackie, Jonathan, Rosa (with dog Tizzy), Vanessa and Viju.

It seemed like we had only be walking for a few minutes when Peter was soliciting opinions on whether we should stop for lunch when we came across the first pub. We decided not to, and walked on for another hour or so, before finding The Crown; a pub that does a Sunday roast dinner that several members took advantage of. While the rest tucked in, Gary and I nipped off for a bit of geocaching (see Activity of the Month) to try and find a cache he had read about on the website. Much searching proved fruitless so with the aid of mobile phones, we caught up with the others who were briefly lounging by a golf course awaiting us.

After lunch we reached Burnham Beeches itself. This is a real forest that is owned by the prosperous Corporation of London, which probably explains the fact that is kept so well. It is crossed by two roads, but you can get off of these and feel miles from anywhere. It is hard to believe that you are close to places such as Slough!

Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be until
Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill
Shall come against him

Shakespeare describes Burnham Beeches and makes it seem quite a sinister place. On a warm and sunny July day, it was anything but. It is naturally full of beech trees filling the whole wood with a glorious coppery colour. Perhaps we should come back again in the autumn to get a different perspective?

Having skipped dessert earlier and walked off what had been eaten, a cake stop was made at an outdoor stall at the entrance to the Beeches. Despite their simple means, the vendors made a very respectable cup of tea and provided reasonably-priced cake. There wasn't enough room for everyone to sit down but the grass nearby was comfortable and I think all would have stayed a bit longer if it wasn't for Peter's firm hand! We eventually approached the church and car park where we had begun from the other side, and despite a brief delay when Tizzy had a falling out with another off-lead dog on the common, we had made good time.

The walk was billed as 10 miles. It probably was no longer than that, but I, for one was tired and happy to get back to the car and (yes, you guessed it) another drink in the pub at the car park. Thanks to Peter for a great walk!

Report by Graham

By the time I and Dean had arrived Friday night in the pitch black via a diversion along the wrong bank of the River Wye, the locals were getting restless. This guy ran up to the car and started threatening us that he'd have us thrown off the campsite as he was close personal friends with the owner. He said he had kids asleep in the tent. Perfectly understandable, but a bit unexpected. So we put up Dean's tent quietly in the dark and I then went to sleep with the earth-shaker, Kezza (thanks, mate for the sleeping space, much appreciated).

In the morning I woke at 7am to the sound of pots and pans being banged right outside Dean's tent! So I got up to investigate and a couple of minutes later it happened again. This woman purposely stumbled whilst walking past Dean's tent and threw her bag of pots and pans down on the ground. Then proceeded to slam them back in the bag, one by one, as loud as possible. She seemed a little crazy but I felt bold enough to approach. I opened with, "Nice dog you have there". "Get away or he'll rip your hands off", she retorted. Sensing a slight negativity in her attitude towards me, I decided to go for broke. "Sorry if we were a bit noisy last night". This seemed to get her goat. "He's sorry" she shouted sarcastically to her husband half a campsite away. She seemed a bit upset.

"Oh", I thought, "Whatever happened last night to keep them awake, must have been pretty bad". I suppose that we could have been quieter, but we weren't exactly shouting. Maybe in future we should be a little more considerate of other campers, especially those with young families.

Things seemed possibly dodgy as they'd continued their grudge over to the morning and they had targeted Dean, though I'm sure he was one of the quietest of us. So they decided to have us thrown off and by 10am the owner had told us to leave. By 10.30am he'd changed his mind and gave us another chance. This was due to three people from other tents going up to the owner and supporting us, saying that we weren't all that noisy. Phew! There's a lesson here (or two!) If you're going to camp at the same place that you get canoes from, then don't get thrown off the campsite. This is likely to result in you losing all the money you've paid as deposit for the canoeing. Thanks to Mark for brilliantly negotiating us another chance.

Sixteen of us then jumped into canoes, or more correctly kayaks, and soon we were soaking wet and had forgotten the morning's stress with a bout of canoe polo. This involved the red boats against the blue boats throwing an elephant-sized tennis ball at the bows (front) of one of the two canoe-instructor's boats. After half an hour or so of getting soaked with splashes and half of everyone capsizing, we were at one with the River Wye. The water became insignificant in the face of the desire for teamwork and scoring a polo goal. Those that capsized found that the river wasn't very deep and most were able to stand up quite easily. Kathy L really got into it with her competitive streak and a huge, ear-splitting grin.

Then the canoe instructors lead us down to the rapids. Whilst waiting, everyone tried to raft up and cling to the bank. Then, we split off in pairs to careen off down this pretty long rapids. The key thing was "don't panic" and then I suppose "don't turn across the flow" as this tended to roll the boat over in a capsize-style fashion. Luckily another three or four people got wet in this way. It's best to capsize and then you don't worry about doing it again. The water wasn't really cold and the sun was sort of out. So after swimming to the bank, you were nicely warmed up. Then a quick up-ending of the boat and the water was drained out.

The next idea was to try and paddle back up the rapids. A bit silly if you ask me. I mean, were they trying to make things difficult for us? So Mark S showed us how to do it and Amanda and the other Mark were close behind zig-zagging their way from one still eddy on one side to the next one up on the other side. Kernackerin'!

After another round of canoe polo, we all showered and chilled for a bit. Mark was soon leading a climbing expedition to Symonds Yat rocks with a bunch of optimists in tow. We scaled a steep windy path to the top of the valley and soon located a cliff face in the woods with a 40ft drop. Mark secured himself and an abseil rope to a tree. "He's done this type of thing before", I kept telling those who were a little nervous of the situation they'd openly walked into. As much as anything I was telling myself! Tom and Harry disappeared down and then climbed up again. Eventually it was Katia's turn and she soon mastered her uncertainty of abseiling. She is like a cat at coming back up, though, and was only gone a few seconds.

That evening, a bunch of us headed for the Monmouth Festival five miles away. There was a good band playing free out in the open in the town square and all the locals were out to see it. It was Eddy and the Hotrods who'd been on the road for the last 25 years. They didn't play anything of their own that I knew, but they were damn fine musicians, especially the drummer and one of the two lead guitars. It rocked. Cool. And the cover versions were great. I went down the front with Dean and the local 15-year-olds. Those staying behind at the campsite went for a nice meal at the nearby pub.

On Sunday morning, a walk and a cycle ride were planned. Some of the guys biked to Monmouth via an old railway track running along the Wye Valley. A group of eight of us walked to a pub along a steep escarpment. At the pub we had lunch and saw a little lizard on a wall. The owner told us about the adders and slow worms he'd found under rocks in the garden as well. On the way back we walked along the river and were lucky enough to see two Peregrine falcons. The young female had been fledged for a month and was being taken out on sorties from the nesting cliff to be shown how to chase pigeons. She wouldn't stop calling to her Mum and it disturbed Brian's nap in the sunshine with all the din!

We rendezvoused with Derek and Prem in a tea shop back near the campsite and Brian got a last taster of his favourite weekend snack before it was time to go home. "Couldn't have packed much more in" they said. "The best weekend since the Easter Snowdonia trip" they added. It was a fantastic healthy outdoory and energetic weekend with loads of relaxing in between. If it comes up next year, GO.

Report by John

We assembled at the Orange Tree pub on the edge of Totteridge village. Patrick, Graham and Brian headed across the common, stopping at the St Andrew's School summer carnival. Patrick tried his hand at the Guess-The-Weight competition and the rest tried some upside-down cakes as made by Dolly. We passed into Totteridge Woods and emerged with expansive views southwards over North London. The fields here are criss-crossed with paths and the compass was required to locate the correct route.

At the southern edge of Totteridge Fields, we came upon Mill Hill village, first passing the 1930s Battersea power station-style medical research establishment, where we encountered a lively animal-rights demonstration being repulsed by a police charge. Next point was the St Vincent de Paul convent with neo-Gothic chapel where we were asked to leave by a semi-friendly nun!

The village is dominated by the Georgian elegance of Mill Hill public school where fees are £20,000 per annum, we were informed by local history expert Graham. We then re-entered the woodlands north of the village as dusk approached, reaching Totteridge lane which led us back to the Orange Tree pub. This area is surprisingly full of woodland and historic buildings hidden away in deepest Barnet.

Report by Brian

One Saturday evening, I'd popped along to the Ealing Jazz Festival to chill out. I bumped into a picnicking group on a rug. One of them, Derek, said to me, we're going windsurfing tomorrow. Wow, I wanted to go, so I got a lift with him, Prem and Katia to Grafham Water, 60 miles straight up the A1(M).

As we travelled up on the Sunday morning, the trees looked still and lifeless. Oh, well, I'd been up the year before with Mark, Katia and Alison and there was almost no wind then, so I knew we could always go cycling around the lake if it was really quiet. When we got there, it still seemed quiet on the wind front. So we sat and had lunch in the cafeteria on the water's edge and watched the Common Terns wheeling about and about 30 windsurfers and dinghies quartering the reservoir. Derek and Prem got out their four flasks for tea and coffee.

Grafham is a wide expanse of exposed water, so if there's any wind to be had, it seems to collect here. A green flag was blowing quite out straight in the wind. "It's a good force 3," I said to Derek. "Oh, yeah?" he replied, "there's hardly any wind at all". So, as Derek used to regularly windsurf on the sea in Ireland and needed a bit more wind for a challenge, he decided to watch and wait in case the wind got up a bit. Katia and Prem got wet-suited up, whilst I got out a small dinghy called a Laser Pico with a yellow hull. It's great wading into the water in walking boots, pushing the boat off the trolley hoping for a challenge.

There was one. The wind got up. It was a good constant force 4, gusting 5, according to one regular. Little white tops to the waves and the flag out at right angles to the flagpole. The yellow dinghy flew along at a steep angle so I had to lean out with all strength, toes under the straps. The body of water is about a mile across so it's a good run zig-zagging back and forth on a reach. I tried out gybing from a run, which is quite dangerous as the boom whips across from stretched out fully one side to the other. As Katia and Prem found it hard to pull up their sails in the wind, they stayed nearer to the launch site and I kept well clear. Over the hour, they gradually ended up being blown further downwind and were picked up by a passing motor launch. Derek soon realised that this was a strong enough wind challenge for him and he donned a suit and harness. I couldn't keep up. Windsurfers at speed are far faster than dinghies. Far less drag. I jousted with another Pico for a while and picked up a few tips by watching her technique.

The wind and waves combined to blow heaps of spray over me every ten seconds. It was really lovely - all that warm water, heated up by the morning's sunshine. And then I came in towards the shore too fast and turned sharpish and I was over the back. Splosh! The life vest bounced on the surface with me in it, and I looked up to see the boat speeding away. Fortunately, it capsized very soon and I was able to swim after the mast and catch up as it blew away in the wind. Then I crawled down the mast and reached the ropes, which are called sheets. Throwing the sheets over the hull I swam round, grabbed hold of the sheets and soon righted the boat and scrambled in. I was laughing out loud. It was really good fun. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants a bit of excitement in their lives. I hope next weekend's kayaking is as good.

Afterwards we had a hot shower and sat in the cafeteria again. A good day out.

Report by John

Saturday afternoon at Stansted airport found nineteen of us eager to leave these shores for a week away in Ireland. Once landed in Dublin with hire cars sorted we began the long drive to Killarney, stopping briefly in Kildare for an evening meal and provisions. The group began arriving at the hostel at 00:15 and by 01:00 we had all arrived. The hostel was impressive, the rooms were large with high ceilings, the facilities great and the staff both friendly and easy on the eye.

Sunday: Having collected Dublin resident Simon from Killarney coach station we all proceeded to head to the Dingle peninsula area. Kim, Jackie, Katherine and Jenny stopped at Castle Gregory and walked six miles along the beach. Jonathan, Barry, Richard and Russell made their way to Brandon, undertook a walk and then headed to the south of the peninsula via Conor Pass. Steve, Julian, Simon and Martin spent the day walking to the summit of Brandon mountain, whilst Patrick, Kerry, Abde, Sadia, Jeff, Mick and myself began the walk to the summit before deciding to turn back to spend some time on the beach. Those who turned back (except Abde and Sadia) met with a local couple called Aiden and Sheila Mulcahy who invited us to their home for tea. We arrived at a lovely bungalow, the rear of which looked out over Brandon bay. It transpired that Sheila had written a book titled, 'A Gallant Barque - The story of the Port Yarrock'. The Port Yarrock was a ship that met a grisly end in Brandon Bay on 19th January 1894. If you want to read more about this event click here. After drinking tea and chatting for over an hour we had to leave as Abde and Sadia would be worried about us (apologies to you both). Once back in Killarney, appetites sated, we sat up chatting to the early hours as tends to happen on HAWOG trips.

Monday: The day consisted of walks and a cycle trip. Julian, Mick and Simon cycled around the bottom of Loch Léin before heading up and down the Gap of Dunloe and then returning to the hostel in time for Simon to leave for home. Patrick, Abde, Sadia, Kerry and myself decided to reach the summit of the highest point in Ireland, namely Carrauntoohil at 1039 metres. The remainder began a walk from the hostel to the Gap of Dunloe and then on to Loch Léin. At the loch Kim, Jonathan, Barry, Jeff, Martin, Jenny and Richard boarded a boat across, before walking to Muckross House where most took a pony and trap to Killarney centre to watch the England v Croatia game. Those who decided against the boat trip continued to walk along Kerry Way, missing the football game before reaching the town centre and getting a lift back to the hostel. All were pleased to be back, particularly Katherine whose feet had blistered due to new walking boots.

Tuesday: The rains came and did not let up all day! Jeff and Richard spent the day in Dingle and Tralee, finishing at the aquadome for a swim. Julian, Kerry and myself took the car to Sneem, stopping on route so that Julian could buy a flat peaked hat made with brightly coloured squares of material. Sneem is a small town with many brightly coloured buildings, and even more brightly coloured Americans alighting from coaches that seem to clog up the roads. Maybe it was just the miserable weather getting to me but these Americans managed to annoy me with their incessant rambling about how Irish they were or how Irish coffee was their new favourite drink!

Most of the others also decided to stay dry and drive around the Ring of Kerry. Steve, Patrick, Abde and Sadia decided to walk, finally being picked up near the Gap of Dunloe. The rain had taken its toll, Patrick's mobile phone stopped working when it became waterlogged, Sadia's boots fell apart and Abde somehow managed to drown his waterproof watch! In the evening Kim and Jackie cooked for the group, a chicken roast and pasta option followed by apple pie and custard. When everyone retired to the lounge the practical jokes began and things got so frisky, Kim's knickers ended up covered in Steve's custard (she was not wearing them at the time I hasten to add).

Wednesday: This was the day we had to leave Killarney and head for Cork. We took different routes, some direct, others deciding to drive along the coast visiting places like Mizen Head, Skibbereen, and Cobh. Cobh is a small town famous for its connections with HMS Titanic and the Lusitania.

Thursday: Again the group undertook a variety of activities, many centred around the Kinsale area. Patrick, Julian, Kerry and Martin cycled in Kinsale, Richard went horse riding nearby and Pauline and Jonathan took a ferry ride from Kinsale harbour. Abde, Sadia, Steve, Jackie and I went for a short walk near Glengariff before driving to Skibbereen to watch England v Portugal (which depressed us all).

Friday: Since there was a festival taking place in Killarney, many of us decided to revisit this town. The exceptions were Abde and Sadia who decided to see Cork city centre. Eight left Cork early, headed for Blarney castle to kiss the stone before driving on to Killarney. Nine of us headed for Reen Pier near Union Hall where we had a three-hour kayaking session booked with Atlantic Sea Kayaking. We explored a little of the area but were unable to head too far out to sea because of the conditions. After the session had ended we raced to Killarney since Kim, Martin and Richard were to meet with some others who had tickets to see Bryan Adams and Simple Minds in concert. Those not attending the concert visited local restaurants or pubs which had traditional Irish music playing live.

Saturday: Our holiday was near an end. We packed and left Cork hostel making our way to Dublin, many of us stopping at Kildare for a meal. Once at the airport Steve and Pauline left us to continue their Ireland adventure for a few more days. The rest of us relaxed or spent our remaining euros before boarding the plane bound for Stansted. For some of us this was our first trip to Ireland and I think I can speak for all when I say we had a great time. Thanks must go to Steve for organising the trip.

Report by Gary

To celebrate National Camping Week, HAWOG decided to spend the first weekend in June at a cider farm under canvas. People began turning up at the site around lunchtime and most had arrived by the evening. Kerry decided to hang his large Cross of St. George flag from a tree so we could be easily found and then he and many others purchased large containers of cider (sweet and dry) from the farm owner.

On Saturday morning Steve and Kathy turned up, raising the attendance to over twenty. Some members had brought their cycles and once some others had hired theirs a large group began a cycle ride along the nearby canal. As is tradition, a stop for cream teas was made before returning late in the day to the campsite for a well earned jug of cider. Dean returned looking like a lobster, perhaps he should have borrowed some of Brian's factor 60 sun cream.

The others chose to visit some tourist attractions in the area, amongst them Wookey Hole caves, Cheddar Gorge and Glastonbury.

By the end of a very hot day everyone was glad to get back to the cider farm, some deciding to have a barbecue, organised mainly by Derek and Prem, others took the option to follow another HAWOG tradition by visiting the local curry house.

Later in the evening a few members went for an evening walk, a few more decided to go to a pub to see a live blues band, but the majority stayed at the site and relaxed. Rob was unable to relax since his hand was swollen after being bitten earlier in the day. Kim rushed him to hospital, and he returned later with his arm in a sling, carrying antibiotics. He cheered up when Gina presented him with a chocolate birthday cake, complete with candle.

Sunday morning began in dramatic fashion with John P and Andy squaring up for a fight. Glyn was the only one to intervene, pulling them apart. The rest of us seemed to want to see how far things would go and Dean was too busy taping the whole incident on his camcorder. Once breakfast was over and tents had been packed, the majority of us headed for the beach at Burnham-on-Sea for a few hours of volleyball.

Finally it was time to leave so we all said our goodbyes, returning home with memories of a fun weekend. Thanks to Kerry for organising the event!

Report by Gary and Jackie

I must have been mad agreeing to be taken by two strange men all the way to the Lake District, but found myself in just that situation thanks to John. I travelled to Keswick with caffeine-swilling Gordon is his oh-so-comfortable Jag with Martin in the back. The journey was tortuous thanks to horrendous traffic delays and we didn't arrive at the Youth Hostel until 2am, with a gallant John having stayed up and acting as the welcoming committee.

At 7am the delightful smell of bacon wafted into my solitary dorm and after a hasty wash in primitive conditions I joined the throngs at breakfast - I knew that Brian had a large appetite but nothing prepared me for the quantities consumed that morning. I naively thought that a walking holiday would mean meandering along the banks of the lakes in the sunshine - how wrong I was! Having been driven to a clearing, all 10 of us gamely started to walk, or climb as it turned out, and although I have forgotten the name of the range we climbed - I am sure someone can fill you in on that bit - the incline was steep, the mist and drizzle obscured any views, and I was truly glad of the 12 Mars bars I had brought with me.

On and on we climbed - Derek and Prem wisely opted for a slower pace but I decided not to let myself down and forced myself to keep up with everyone else. We walked and climbed for three hours with the weather slowly deteriorating, until we reached a crag and lunchtime was declared. After a hasty sarnie and another Mars bar I stood up to find that I was cold, sodden and my joints were protesting loudly. As John P was feeling under par, we decided to take an alternative route down a disused slate mine, had a botanical lecture on the way, and after a number of miles found ourselves ensconced in a local hostelry downing whiskeys on the balcony overlooking a river and admiring the wildlife - far more civilized that finishing the walk.

Having missed the hourly bus we hitched a lift with some students from Leeds uni who entertained us all the way back to the hostel. Upon my weary return, I found that I had been chucked out of my dorm and ended up sharing a dorm with the nine blokes in the group. We decided the best strategy was to pretend I wasn't there and it worked perfectly well.

After a very over-spiced curry and much downing of fluids, it was time for bed and then back to the 7am bacon and porridge brigade. Most of the group decided to embark on an even longer walk/climb which I declined in favour of accompanying Prem and Derek on a boat and steam train tour round Windermere, some retail therapy and generally chilling out! The rest of the group had a fantastic day with better weather conditions and fantastic views and the evening found some of us eating at the local pizzeria where Brian was more intrigued to know if the owners were gay than whether the pizzas were edible. Others ate at "The George" hotel where the rest of us joined them for pud. Gordon seemed obsessed with a waitress whom he likened to Cameron Diaz much to her disgust!

Monday dawned and after another one of those breakfasts, it was time to pack and re-form. I travelled with Gordon and Martin to Coniston Water - the boys went on a boat trip but I decided to do some hiking in the locality and chat to some of the locals. one 83-year-old had lived there all of his life and had matchmade the local Major General's daughter with her now husband. We then had lunch at Coniston and on to a wood that promised 100 sculptures. Interesting as they were, and I defy anyone to find all 100, the most bizarre was of furniture carved out of the trees and there was an armchair, television and standard lamp - a very surreal find.

The journey back was less fraught although much singing along to 10CC helped us back home. The experience has not put me off trying it all again and the company was extremely friendly and down to earth - thank you all who were there and my only sorrow is that none of my photos came out as the disc in my camera was corrupted, so if anyone has photos to add to this it would be great.

Report by Louise

This May bank holiday weekend found 40 of us in Tremadog, just north of Portmadog, on the sunny Cambrian Coast within Snowdonia National Park. The Snowdon Lodge Hostel was excellent, run by Carl and Anja, who kept the bar open on Friday night until 2 am, for late arrivals. The town had 2 pubs, a restaurant, a tea shop and a corner shop.

On Friday, quite a few arrived early. Tom and Deano discovered a woodland path leading from the hostel to the Tremadog Rocks and started some scrambling up the rock face. Some of the others went on local walks. The group included 2 Deans (Dean S and Dean H, "Deano"), 2 Kathys (Kathy L and Kathy T) and 2 Mikes (Mike D and Mike S). The hostel was the birthplace of TE Laurence (of Arabia); one of the lounges was filled with such memorabilia.

On Saturday, we all gathered for an excellent breakfast served by Anja (wonderfully bright eyed at 7.30am, despite serving in the bar until 2 am the night before). We departed in brilliant sunshine, to pursue a variety of activities:

White Water Rafting: The raft river was supplied by water from a reservoir sluice and we had to leave painfully early at 7.45 am so as to fit in with when the sluice was open. After some "Oops Upside Your Head" training in the boat, we took 4 runs down. It was really exhilarating and you never knew what to expect with lots of sudden drops, eddy currents and hidden rocks. Patrick and also the instructor(!) fell in. Other than these scares, we all felt invigorated from the experience.

Glyn and Mike D did the hazardous 'Horseshoe Ridge' climb in great weather. They completed the long ascent, nimbly traversing the vertiginous Crib Goch ridge. In the afternoon Kerry led his walking party to Beddgelert, climbing several hills and finishing with a tour of the lake and pub stops.

I led cycle group 'A'. Although the 7 of us tried to join the train at Portmadog, a 'busybody' railguard refused to budge from the '2 cycles only' rule. We therefore set across the Cob - a manmade link across the estuary - to the hills of Southern Snowdonia. We kept climbing, stopping for tiffin at a luxury hotel, before descending a long stony bridleway south to Harlech and its Cliffside castle. Three people toured the battlements and the others sunbathed and swam at the expanse of beach. Kathy, Mike S and Sadia were in cycle group 'B'. They did a leisurely ride south along the coast, finishing at the Black Rock Sands for sunbathing and yet more swimming.

Meanwhile, the 'train trippers' took the Ffestiniog steam train up the valley towards Blaenau Ffestiniog, where some people toured museums or went shopping before the return journey. Everyone met up for the Saturday evening BBQ, prepared once again by Carl and Anja. Lashings of burgers, spuds and salad were supplied (it took some people 3 visits to get through it). This was followed by luxurious desserts, all consumed in the warm twilight of the hostel gardens.

Sunday saw Gary lead 6 intrepid explorers up Tryfan, an 'exhilarating' experience, from which many of them spent 2 nights recovering!

Kerry, meanwhile, led an assault on Snowdon, whilst other groups embarked on more cycling, sightseeing and a trek to the magical Italianate village of Portmeirion. The village, set on its own beautiful estuary, is surrounded by magnificent sub-tropical botanical woodland gardens. After following the coastal path, this group explored a miniature metal lighthouse and ghost garden, before stopping at a lake to share their picnic.

After drinks at 'The Golden Fleece', the evening was filled with a mixture of games, story telling, watching films, quiet meditation and endless cups of coffee, much of which was captured on Dean's camcorder.

On Monday, Kim did very well to organise 2 teams for the thrilling rope course.

With another early start, the high ropes and death slide indeed proved to take at least an hour. Most of us were able to work our way around wobbly logs, cables, a medium sized jump and a mesh of ropes, harnessed some 30 feet or so above the ground. All did the death slide and then 'The Swing'. The looks on people's faces were hilarious: JP froze, Gordon grinned and the girls screamed like alley cats. Other activities included a trip to the Slate Mines and Caernarfon, rock climbing and abseiling, plus a visit to the Centre for Alternative Technology.

Everyone departed for the journey home in the late afternoon. This was probably one of the best tips I have organised, with a great mix of people and wonderful location. Thanks to everyone for organising the various activities and especially to Carl and Anja, our excellent hosts.

Report by Brian G

Thirteen of us piled into a 17 seat transit early on the Thursday morning. Two people had cancelled, Kerry due to a knee injury and Vanessa due to illness. Five others had made their own way to Scotland. We finally arrived at Ratagan hostel sometime after 11pm, too late to appreciate the view from this stunning lochside location. Zhang, Dave and myself awoke before 7am and decided to take a drive to the Kyle of Lochalsh to buy supplies for breakfasts and packed lunches.

Once all were fed everyone agreed that they wished to attempt a tough walk on the first day, so we parked in a layby on the A87 and began the steep climb for the walk known as 'The Five Sisters of Kintail'. It soon became evident that the different levels of experience within the group meant that this walk was not going to be completed. Once the whole party had made it to the ridge somewhere between the summits of Bealach an L�pain and Beinn Odhar we stopped for a snack and the chance to lob a few snowballs at each other. It was agreed at this point that some would turn back whilst the remainder would continue. Those of us who went on completed the summit of Sg�rr nan Spainteach before deciding to abandon the remainder of the walk and head down a gulley back to the road. The descent was an adventure, many of us finding the quickest way down was to slide on our backside. Once back at the hostel we tried to wash and dry our clothes, showered and changed and then went for a meal at the local pub, The Kintail Lodge Hotel.

It was decided that Saturday would be the day we would all visit the Isle of Skye. We dropped off 5 members at Broadford who hired bicycles from a B&B operator who also happened to be the local registrar. The bikes were cheap but not in great condition. The cyclists lunched at Torrie, debated with cafe staff the correct pronunciation of scones and gave great consideration to Gordon's idea of a nude swimming event in the Loch. The remainder of us decided to drive to Kyleakin to visit an otter hide. Sure enough we were able to spot otters at play as well as porpoise. Our next destination was Sligachan where we spent a long lunch stop, soaking up the views and the fantastic weather (Saturday turned out to be the sunniest day of the holiday). We met up with the cyclists at 5pm and began the drive back across the road bridge back to the mainland.

Once back on the mainland most of us visited the leisure centre in Kyle where we had booked an hour all to ourselves. The hour was spent in the small pool, the jacuzzi, the sauna and the steam room. It was a perfect way to relax aching muscles. Those that decided not to visit the leisure centre were kind enough to shop for ingredients for the evening meal. We arrived back at the hostel to find that the area had recently had a power cut. Luckily the hotplates ran on gas and so Jackie, Fiona and Gordon began cooking, ably assisted by other members of the party wearing head torches. After our meal we retired to the lounge for a few games of 'Werewolf'. The only time the wolves were not detected was when Patrick and myself fooled them, Patrick using the 'keep quiet and don't draw attention to myself' tactic whilst I convinced the others to kill off anyone who looked like rumbling us and generally lied through my teeth.

Sunday we all decided to walk from Morvich to the Falls of Glomach and back, a distance of approximately 10 miles. Since this walk did not really involve any ascent all were able to complete it, though the fresh air (and possibly alcohol) did induce a heavy sleep early in the evening for one of our number.

Most of us had our evening meal at Cluanie Inn, a 20 minute drive away, before returning to the hostel for more banter and biscuits.

Monday morning 8 of us decided to get up early with the aim of completing at least one major hike before returning to London. Peter kindly got up early and drove Abde, Sadia, Rob, Steve, Mike, Fiona, Patrick and myself to the start of a walk known as 'The South Glen Shiel Ridge'. The walk is approximately 15 miles and involves reaching the summit of 7 different mountains all above 3000 ft. The rest of the members spent the day sightseeing, many visiting Eilean Donan castle.

Brian went pony trekking on Connemara ponies, cantering over hillsides and the sand banks of Loch Dornie. The 8 of us on the walk had reached the summit of the 7th and last summit by about 6pm. We then split into 2 groups, 4 deciding to follow their line of sight to the road below and the rest of us deciding to take the route on the map down to the road. After seeing what good progress the first 4 seemed to be making we decided to ignore the map and follow suit and descend to the road. Due to tired limbs and failing light we were making slow progress, stopping too often to discuss our options. The initial 4 finally arrived at the road at 8:30pm by which time Mike, Patrick, Fiona and myself still had some way to go. Once darkness had arrived progress became even slower as the light from Patrick's head torch did not allow us all to see where we were placing our feet. By this time word had got back to the remainder of the party that 4 of us were stuck on the mountain and the concern was so evident that some struggled to enjoy their pub grub and pints of beer. The 4 who had already got down were waiting in the transit, cold and wet, when David arrived on the scene. He opened the sliding side door and proceeded to tell the occupants all about his drive to John O'Groats earlier that day. Needless to say the worry amongst everyone meant that they were not particularly interested in having such a conversation with David at the time so he returned to his vehicle, only to return a minute later to ask for help in getting his car out of the ditch it had become lodged in! At last the final party of 4 reached the roadside at 11:15pm, soaked to the skin and covered in mud. Once back at the hostel Mike's wife kindly prepared food for us all while we explained what had happened. Eventually we all went to sleep, knowing that we had a long drive back the following day.

Tuesday morning we left the hostel and began the long journey home, taking a detour through the Peak District because of a paint spill on the motorway. Finally we arrived in Harrow a little after 11pm, said our goodbyes and went our separate ways, no doubt nursing a few more aches and pains than we had when we started.

I'd like to say a special thank you to everyone for making the trip so enjoyable, but special mentions must go to Glyn (for sharing the driving with me), Peter (for waiting for hours at the roadside on Monday evening) and Jackie, Fiona and Gordon (for cooking the meal on Saturday night).

Report by Gary

11 of us set off from Gatwick for a week in the snow - with our fingers crossed for lots of snow, as we were taking a bit of a chance leaving it so late in the season. After a short flight and bus ride we arrived at our hotel. Set just outside the town and perched on the top of a hill we had great views of the mountains. The hotel was extremely comfortable and had the most important feature, a bar: Kerry was instantly happy! There were also a sauna and jacuzzi (although the bar seem to win every time).

The first morning was spent sorting out skis/boots/lift passes and then we were off. Eammon, being the novice in the group, sensibly opted for a week in the ski school. To our delight there was loads of snow so off we went to find our ski legs. While we were taking is easy and seeing how much we could remember from last year, Eammon was getting familiar with his skis and, of course, all the young girlies in his ski school!

Within a couple of days it was all coming back to us and we were soon shooting down those runs (Franz Klammer eat your heart out). Although the runs were mainly intermediate, we did find a few blacks to keep the boys entertained. Mark was his usual sporty self and found no problem getting those blacks, whilst Tom and John were close behind. Kerry and I did manage the runs but decided to take it at a more leisurely pace and included a few stops on the piste for that all important beer or two - well, we were on holiday!

After a couple of days in the resort it was time to check out the night life. So it was off with the ski boots and on with dancing shoes, or rather the drinking hats! Sauze town is quaint with a very pretty old part. There are loads of great restaurants and bars. We managed to sample a variety of bars, listen to some bands, did a bit of dancing and entered the local pub quiz. Apart from being reasonable skiers, there were a few brains in the group; we entered two teams and managed to finish 1st and 3rd respectively.

Thank you to Mark and Graham for sorting out the holiday and to everyone for making it such a good week.

Report by Kathy L