Photos and Reports for 2010

This is where you'll find photos and reports from members who've been on outdoor activities with the group in 2010. We also have photos and reports from other years:

"On way down for walk could you give 5 mins" was the message on my mobile from mystery person sent from a landline number, no reply when I called so fifteen minutes after the scheduled start time we set off.

Inspired by the view to the north-west from Harrow on the Hill, Derek couldn't resist the urge to walk all the way back down the hill to pick up his camera from the car. The rest continued, passing Byron's grave and St Mary's church then taking the permissive paths across Harrow playing fields, through Sudbury Hill before finally arriving at the Ballot Box pub. There waiting for us was the mystery person, it was Jeff. Unperturbed by our not waiting for him he had set off on his own, taken a different route and beaten us there. In addition he had bumped into another walking group, the Polytechnic Rambling Club, made friends and was set to join them for their annual Christmas lunch but we managed to persuade him to stay with us. We reserved a table then walked up Horsenden Hill to take in the view from the top before returning to the pub for lunch. Brian G nearly won Helen's £10 bet to finish his super-sized meal but was beaten by the sliced carrots in the end.

On the way back Jane's friend Anna managed to brush up on her Spanish thanks to Merce and Anna, while the rest of us could only speculate at what was being said. Finally we arrived back at Harrow on the Hill Station in the light at 4:15pm. Fourteen joined me on this very enjoyable leisurely stroll mainly in bright winter sunshine, so thanks to Dave Ta, Helen W, Brigitta, Merce, Anna, Mathilde K, Dave W, Brian G, Jane R, Anna, Derek, Prem, Lorna and Jeff.

Report by Brian F

The arrival of Marin and Monica on the Friday morning to join Steve N, Keith, and me for the walk that day was a great effort, having driven from home that morning to join us.

We headed off to Pen Y Fan, only realising as I write this that it is the highest peak in south Wales. At 886 metres (2,907 ft) above sea-level, it is also the highest peak in Britain south of the Snowdonia mountain range. It definitely felt like it during the walk which was a series of false peaks, just like Keith's walk from Ambleside in the Peaks. The walk was made no easier by the snow on the way up which made life a bit more tricky with an ever present slip hazard awaiting every footstep. We reached the top in pretty good time only to be greeted by roaring winds trying to knock you off your feet for kicks and howling with laughter in your ears each time it nearly succeeded. We were doing alright on the injury front until Marin slipped and rolled his ankle on the way off of the second peak of the day then we were all at it, except for Keith who apparently has quite a lot of snow-walking experience from his time in the Peaks. Unfortunately for Marin he continued to roll his ankle a further four times before the end of the walk, I think he took a hit for each of us that day so thanks Marin. In any case we all made it down and back to the car ready, and boy were we ready, for a good meal and some beer at the excellent local. I must confess at this point that after my initial food and beer requirements were met I was more than happy to retire along with Marin and Monica back to the hostel for tea and Strictly. Steve N and Keith were quite happy sitting next to the pub fire drinking fine ale. I think the superbly kept ales, in particular the Reverend James, deserve a mention here.

The hostel we were staying at is YHA Brecon which in itself is a nice hostel with the big benefit of being within a short walk of a pub I can't rate highly enough. Those of you who know me will know how much I like my pubs, and good ones are hard enough to come by, let alone great ones. The pub is the Three Horseshoes in Groessffordd, check it out...

Back to the walking, the second day we were two short because Marin could hardly walk and Monica was in no way able to carry him so they drove home so that Marin could be waited on whilst his ankle healed. My thoughts are he'll probably get used to the attention and drag the recovery out a little. Steve R had joined us Friday night, so we were now four on the walk which started off in Pencelli, just a short drive from the hostel. It proved to be quite a tough walk and to give you an idea Keith was certain that it was eighteen or so miles long and, to be fair, time taken, legs, and chaffing would certainly all point to that but a closer look at the map suggests it was a shockingly short thirteen miles. Some way to go to get in shape for the 2011 calendar of events then! We took the path from the high street to the dam on Talybont Reservoir across open fields with quite nice views of the local countryside and had a quick break. On for a foot-pounding walk along a disused railway track whose only saving grace was the stunning views it provided of the walk to come. The lovely views were a big price to pay for the constant and ultimately leg-burningly monotonous slow and slight climb for several miles to the other end of the reservoir where we were met by the most amazing sight: a picnic table on the edge of the pine forest being bathed in sunshine. I was so pleased to see this and it's where we had our lunch stop. After this we made the short sharp climb to Gwaun Cerrig Llwydion which has been described as "a very dull mountain" on one particular website and was, by this time, quite tough going. After the sun carefully timed its' one and only visit of the day to coincide with the only hard climb of the day we were off into the cloud-covered ridge before the descent started. No worry, this was the last effort required for the day and the rest was downhill back to the car via Pen Y Bryn. Lovely day, apart from the chaffing. Needless to say we stopped off to get supplied up with rum and hot chocolate for the evening after driving all over town in a seemingly desperate attempt to find something comforting. We ate at the hostel that night because the pub was fully booked with Christmas parties. The YHA food was good but the hot chocolate and rum was better and I was soon fast asleep on the sofa in front of the TV. Steve R and Steve N couldn't decide what to watch and Keith was asleep in his room! You can't beat life in the fast lane.

For the Sunday walk the group was down to only three of the original six, Keith, Steve, and myself. After a slight delay at the start point due to parking problems which we managed to sort out with the help of the local farmer, we set off in glorious sunshine on the steady climb up past a trout farm on the river and a frozen lake and along a narrow path which gradually climbed up to a plateau just below the summit of Black Mountain, after a quick look at the map we continued on to the summit and stopped for lunch with views of the surrounding mountains. The walk continued on a level path overlooking the lake and brought us in a circular direction down to the stream at the bottom of the valley with just the stream to cross and we were back at the car park. It was an enjoyable eight hour walk up to the top of Black Mountain at 802 metres and back.

A big thank you to Keith, Steve R, Marin and Monica for joining me and Steve N.

Report by Simon

The trees of Epping Forest didn't disappoint us on Sunday. The morning was freezing as those who waited patiently for my last minute arrival can confirm. Phil and Marin in particular had been tempted to join at least one other of the walking groups which had assembled outside Loughton Station just so they could get moving!

Claire had said I was brave not to have reckkied the walk beforehand; in retrospect I was plain stupid. The first half hour was spent finding the start point - lesson learned! Setting off from The Stubbles in Nursery Lane we walked into open ground past frozen ponds before being amongst the trees. All wintry but lots of leaves still around gave it an autumn feel. Some of the paths still had snow and the pace was brisk in order to get toasty as quickly as possible. This was helped by the lovely - and unexpected - sunshine which was positively warm at times.

Crossing the M25 was the city contrast to the clear views of Hertfordshire - Dave able to point out Waltham Abbey! We all wondered about the cross-ladder stile as with a missing rung it meant for a tricky moment getting up as well as getting down. We walked through more open meadows towards Copped Hall - a building in the process of renovation after a fire in 1917 - by which time the hunger pains were being felt. Lack of anywhere to sit in front of the mansion made us push on a bit further to Warren Wood where we fell on food to boost energy levels and the logs to rest. We were more than halfway round though so it looked like we wouldn't need our torches.

Still enjoying the sunshine we made our way to the Victorian Gothic Church of the Holy Innocents at High Beech (or Beach) where Jane Begley had promised a warm welcome. Greeted by a huge array of cakes, homemade by Jane and her husband, we were not disappointed and spoilt with tea, coffee and even given cake to take with us! Jane told us about the Church (funded by Thomas Baring - of the Baring Brothers' bank family, who lost two children, hence the name of the church) and its Father Willis organ (same person who built the one at Royal Albert Hall). It was Alfred Lord Tennyson who wrote some of his poem 'In Memoriam' sitting in the church yard.

We gleefully split into two groups, one to ascend the stone, spiral staircase to the bell tower, the other to make some headway in eating the cakes. Up towards the spire Jane demonstrated the carillon mechanism for getting a recognisable tune out of the hemispherical bells cast in 1873 at the Whitechapel Foundry. We all had a go - at bell ringing as well as eating - and several versions of 'Morning has Broken', 'All things bright and beautiful' and 'Amazing Grace' were heard.

Leaving the church we made for the home stretch but this took slightly longer than ought to have been the case as in the fading light it became unclear - not for the first time - as to where the start point was... All ended safe and well back at the pre-start point of Loughton Station. Many thanks to Mark B, Dave, Erika, Phil, Brian F, Jane R, Efisia and Marin for making the day so enjoyable with their patience and guidance during my experience of 'leading' a walk!

Report by Helen

Eight brave souls ventured out into a cold and extremely crisp morning to join Jim and I on our walk around Iver and Black park.

The sun shone the sky blue as we set off as planned by 10am. Leaving from West Drayton Station we walked up Beeches Way over the Grand Union canal along the Colne River and Little Britain Lake. The bird life was abundant despite the ice on the surface of the water.

We followed the river until it met the Slough Road at Uxbridge, crossed the M25 and stopped for a short break at Chandlers Hill. Across a field and past Iver Heath where we felt slightly threatened by a ferocious sounding dog. He was secure behind a fence but he was persistent with his growling and barking. This bit of the path was a bit overgrown; I understand why now.

Eventually we went by Pinewood Studios and into Black Park where we wandered through the trees and around the lake, frozen at one end, to our lunch stop at the cafe there.

We left Black Park along Rowley then Galleons Lane, lovely dry crisp leaves and frozen puddles making the going easy. After leaving George Green we went along the south side of Langley Park and had a lovely view of Langley House and read a little about the history before rejoining the Colne Valley Trail trough to Love Green for refreshments. The pub in Iver managed to entice a few of the front walkers for quick refreshment before we crossed back over the M25 along the canal and back to West Drayton Station by 4.30pm.

Thanks to Steve R, Keith, Emma, Mary, Paul, Dave, Jane and Steve N for coming, and making for a great day out.

Report by Claire and Jim

Aim: To succeed where the Duke of York failed i.e. to reach the top of Cassel and enjoy the view of Flanders fields and uninterrupted vistas into Belgium. Those very same views enjoyed by Marshall Foch as he orchestrated his French troops during WWI.

We set out by car tea-time on Friday to board the 8pm ferry from Dover to Dunkirk via DFDS ferries, utilising the value-for-money self-service buffet for dinner. Our weekend's pre-booked accommodation was a 30 Euro a night B&B in Cassel (La Maison des Sources) which required local French guidance in finding, due to the poor directions given by the owners in their literature. Whilst enquiring in a local bar as to where the B&B was precisely located we were given telephone instructions by the owners and an escort by one of the locals, to the B&B owners other premises. It was here where we were to spend the weekend since our accommodation had, unknown to us, been upgraded to the "La Vie en Rose" room in their 4-star hotel (Chatellerie de Schoebeque) - RESULT! This room was a themed room in tribute to Edith Piaf and was phenomenal.

Following a superb continental breakfast whilst seated in a glass atrium and enjoying great views of Flanders fields, we started the first of the two planned walks "Autour de Castellum" (Eastern side). This was a 18km (4� hr) walk taking in the Flemish villages of Oxelaere, St Marie Cappel and Terdegham, and 3 Roman roads. After the only climb of the day we ended up at the top of Cassel, late afternoon, with its panoramic views of the town, Belgium and Flanders. There was also a windmill, ancient tomb, and many floral tributes and memorials to "the fallen" from the many 20th century battles fought by the locals and the British against their many adversaries. These tributes were very touching and made you feel very welcome as a British visitor to this quaint French town. The evening was spent in a local restaurant and upon our return to the hotel we were welcomed with a glass of champagne courtesy of the hotel whilst relaxing in one of their salubrious lounges prior to retiring to our luxurious bedroom.

Sunday morning was a little misty when we awoke so after breakfast and to give the mist time to lift, before attempting the second scheduled walk we visited the local Shoppi supermarket and stocked up on cheap local French wine and beer. At midday we started the "Autour de Castellum" (Western side). This was a 21km (5 hr) walk taking in the Flemish villages of Hardifort, Zermezeele, Zytpeene and Bavinchove as well as the remaining 4 of the 7 Roman roads radiating out from Cassel. Lunch was taken in a local estaminets eating local pate and frites, drinking local beer followed by attempting to play traditional Flemish games which consist of hooks, darts, and anything you can roll, hurl or bowl! The mist had been dispersed by the sun before midday and we "picked our own" potatoes from heaps, left adjacent to some of the ploughed fields we walked past on route back to Cassel and the obligatory final climb of the day since the town is on the top of one of the only hills in the Flanders area!

Having reached the car, parked at the hotel, just as dusk descended, we had utilised all of the available daylight to the max and headed back towards Dunkirk and the 10pm rendezvous with the ferry. This allowed us a brief walk around the town and a visit to a local brasserie prior to boarding the ferry and the drive back to London.

Special thanks to Andrea for volunteering to drive at night on the "wrong side of the road" along French motorways for the first time in years, converse with the locals in their native tongue and being such great company.

Report by Martin S

It being a linear walk, most of us had made our way to the start by train. A few of the women waiting with me were surprised when I took evasive action, running across the forecourt to escape the fumes of another waiting, but smoking, guy. Maybe having a railway station as the start point wasn't such a good idea.

Close to 10, my phone rang - expecting it to be someone with a reputation for being late, I was surprised for that person to appear at that very moment. Had entered people on my list as they arrived and counted 16 on the list. Walking through Rickmansworth towards the Ebury Way, I counted the actual numbers and thought I had lost one person already, not a good start. Turned out that the person who phoned was entered twice, once when she phoned and a second time when she arrived. Panic over, there were 15 in total, including Prem, Derek, Merce, Anna S, David Ta and myself from HAWOG.

Had been meaning to do a reconnaissance, but never got round to it. So, it was the blind leading the blind, just following a leaflet, kindly provided by a local library, along this 4 mile linear traffic-free path for walkers and cyclists along the route of a former railway line linking Rickmansworth and Watford. The line was built by Lord Ebury in 1862, and becoming the Ebury Way after the line finally closed in 1981. Acting as a 'green corridor' for wildlife and well away from the bustle of nearby towns and traffic the route passes through a variety of habitats, including open moor, scrubby wood, wetlands and water. According to the leaflet, the path's surface has been designed to be easy going for all users including wheelchairs. Just as well that none of the HAWOG family walkers with kids and prams came along. It was extremely muddy in places, all the fallen leaves had turned the supposedly gravel path into sludge. Apart from that, the route provided the scenery promised, though we all missed the sculpture supposed to be between 2 of the bridges crossing the River Colne. It had started to rain by then and all we wanted was to find a nice cafe. Close to Watford, one of the bridges across the River Colne was closed, making us deviate from the prescribed route, going along The Dell, coming out at Bushey Arches. About half of the group took the opportunity to take the train from Bushey Station, whereas the rest of us walked on, up to Watford High Street Station with the lovely teashop right next to the station. The food and cakes were delicious, I was told, hot chocolate too.

Thanks all for attending and the excellent company. Also thanks to Prem for taking the photos. My camera had given up the ghost.

Report by Mathilde

Autumn is my favourite season and this walk encompassed many of its best attributes: comfortable temperature, footpaths covered in crunchy golden leaves, and an early evening sunset.

We departed thirty minutes later then intended from Great Missenden Station and headed south-west through woods and fields to the Polecat Inn near Prestwood. Then on towards Bryant's Bottom where we started our turn north; to our left we saw the hills to the east of the Speen Valley. Continuing north we walked through Hampden Common before stopping in Great Hampden for a ten minute break in the sunshine. From here we passed Hampden House where our route veered a little east towards Little Hampden. We managed to avoid the worst of the one ten minute downpour that we had as we were in the woods at Hampden Bottom. Great timing on the part of the walk leader I say!

The village of Dunsmore beckoned so we continued north-east through Little Hampden Common and then Hampdenleaf Wood. You'll have gathered by now that the Hampden name is quite widespread around these parts. From Dunsmore we ascended to the ridge along the east side of what is a long valley and followed its main south-easterly path, mostly through woods, back to Great Missenden. Most of us had brought our torches and these were needed post 6pm. To our right (west) from the open parts of our long ridge walk back we caught glimpses of the sun setting behind intermittent clouds to produce a red sky.

Eight of us ended the evening as planned with a well-deserved Thai meal in a restaurant in Great Missenden. Thanks to (girls) Efisia, Emma, Erika, Ludmila, Merce, Veronica and (guys) David, Karl, Keith, Marin, Mark, Simon and Stephen for joining me on the day.

Report by Steve R

Home-made soup and a cup of tea were offered by Kevin and Stephen on my arrival at Streatley YHA. We had a great start to the weekend. David soon arrived.

Saturday's walk started in sunshine. From here to Wallingford, and then back to Goring on the opposite bank, would be quite a distance. Old father Thames was before us, and we had all the time in the world to absorb the scenery today. Whilst approaching one of its locks, we were passed by a team of boatmen who, visible only from the shoulders down, transported their eye-catching kayaks, to the water. Red kites squealed from the air and intermittently, we saw graceful herons sitting motionless, or sweeping their wings to fly up. Later, we reached a boat club, and laughed at flipflops, left Reggie Perrin-style on the bank, while the rowers - ladies from the Oxford team, trained on the river. We had no need to "beware of the bull" today. The "bulls" we saw were cows.

Resting in Cholsey, we then went to Wallingford, where David met his friend. We had a tea break. It drizzled while we had lunch, and then stopped, just as we were leaving. Returning, we rested in the beautiful grounds of an old church, and basked in the almost holy-like light of the day. We passed many fields, and walked through much undergrowth. We passed vernacular buildings. It was almost possible to mistake one lane for another, walked in a previous day out. We watched a hawk, probably a kestrel, behaving territorially and recognised buzzards.

Back in Goring in good time, Kevin found a barn dance advertised at Goring village hall in aid of Crisis. Later, Stephen decided to watch the dancing on TV at the YHA, whilst Kevin, David and I went to the hall for a jig. The country music played and a good time was had by all. There was even a raffle.

The next day, walking a section of the Ridgeway was planned and alternatively, Stephen took to touring the local country house. We set off in the fresh air. As we crossed their course, golfers heard us coming as Kevin tolled the bell. In time the footpath and road turned to chalk underfoot, and we were on the ancient path. Trodden for centuries, we followed its furrowed route all the way to East Ilsley. We ate lunch at a pond. By the afternoon, the Sunday walkers had risen, as well as those having a horse ride, bike ride, motorbike ride, and quad bike ride. The Ridgeway was buzzing. Nearing the end it became a bit tiring and a well-deserved rest was had.

Thank you very much to David T, Kevin V and Stephen who were all such very good company this weekend, and especially thank you to you from me on Sunday when it was tiring.

Report by Jane R

I wasn't too sure how many would turn out as the hike was a bit further off the well-worn HAWOG stomping ground than usual. As it turned out there were 13 of us.

After a week of variable weather, it had turned out (that's 3 turn-outs now!) to be a gloriously sunny day. After a couple of hundred metres through Dorking suburbia, we were straight into the natural beauty of National Trust land on the wooded slopes of the North Downs.

We followed the contour west for a few kilometres then turned left to the valley bottom to begin our southwards trek towards Leith Hill. The route took us through plenty of woods intermingled with fields, some corn which was higher than us, and some very expensive houses. It should have been no surprise then, that the pub where we stopped for our late morning coffee had prices to match. This wouldn't have been so bad if it had been a decent cup of coffee, we weren't made to feel like cheapskate scum for not ordering lunch and Steve didn't have to wait 25 minutes for his tea. I think Phil and Keith got a better deal as they eschewed the pub for a sit next to the beautiful pond.

The walk from Friday Street to Leith Hill was all through the woods. After about 45 minutes the woods opened out to reveal surprisingly, the summit of Leith Hill. Surprising, as although it had been uphill all the way, it was actually a gentle incline, so it didn't feel as if we climbed to 294 metres. We found a suitable grassy slope to sit on to eat our lunch, after which those with good eyesight could spy the Wembley arch in the far distance.

In the afternoon there were plenty more woods to begin with, then pleasant farmland and more expensive but very beautiful old houses at Westcott. A little further on we came to the steepest climb of the day back up the slope of the North Downs, to rejoin the path we had set off on in the morning.

A few wanted to call it a day so headed back towards Dorking. Nine of us wanted to make the most of the day and continued upwards to the top of the Downs at Ranmore Common. The landscape had a very different feel, being flat and more open, however still very beautiful.

After another mile or so it was into the woods again as the light was starting to fade, but only for 10 minutes or so. We came out of the woods into the amber glow of the late afternoon sun over the vineyard below us, with Box Hill rising on the other side of the valley. We headed east down the slope into the vineyard, then picked up the Mole Valley Trail running south all the way through the vineyard, and it was then just a couple of hundred metres walk back to the cars for a 5.05 pm finish. It turned out (4!) to be a lovely day's hiking.

Thanks to Steve R, Keith, David, Erika, Marin, Monica, Claire, Jim, Emma M, Phil, Cliona and Dave W. And also to my mate Richard who cycled the route (the bits that could be cycled) with me for the reccy.

Report by Paul S

16 of us made it to Three Bridges Station on Saturday. The ride was a joint one with Twickenham cyclists and London cyclists. We used Sustrans route 21 which is part of Avenue Verte, the long distance cycle route from London to Paris. The first section was the Worth way to East Grinstead, a disused rail track so no hills. We passed 2 old station buildings on the way before arriving at Sackville College, a splendid Jacobean Almshouse, and explored some of the heritage area of the town. In the afternoon we took another ex rail path, the Forest way, to Eridge where we explored the Spa Valley steam railway. On the way we stopped for high tea at Pooh corner, Hartfield, where A A Milne lived and wrote all the books. By a remarkable coincidence it was Winnie's birthday so we all received free cake to celebrate the day.

Report by Brian G

It is amazing what happens when one stops searching. All the years, acting as publicity officer, I was desperately trying to attract the media's attention with hardly any success. There we were at the car park, me putting my boots on, when David Noble and his colleague from Affinity Radio arrived. They had found the U3A on the web and wanted to interview us on the walk. It being a joint walk I passed on some of our leaflets.

12 in total, including Paul O, Ann, Mercedes, Prem, Derek and myself from HAWOG, were embarking on this short but very enjoyable walk. Following Thursday's New Members Evening we attracted 3 new members. I was the first one to be asked questions for Affinity Radio while leading the group from Kemp Place car park, up to the High Street, turning left and across the graveyard of St. James Church, down the hill and along a path parallel to a stream, crossing Merry Hill Road and into the start of this rural and tranquil area in the middle of a built-up area.

Across the field appeared a rather large mansion called Haydon Hill House, (Private) it said on the map, kindly provided by Bushey Library. David had latched onto someone else by then, leaving me to chat to others at the back of the group. They thought they knew where they were going and got rewarded by having to turn back a few times. A sheep dog and a whistle would have been useful. That said, after making a stop at the Paddingstone Cairn, a pile of rocks for directional purposes, Prem actually used a whistle to call back one sheep gone astray.

My camera refused to work, so Prem was declared the official photographer for the walk, capturing not only wonderful nature scenes, but also an attempted bullfight (with cows).

A few of the walkers went to the Red Lion for lunch or a drink and even fewer visited Bushey Museum afterwards.

I've led this walk many times before and each time has been different and interesting. Thanks all for attending and the excellent company.

Report by Mathilde

15 of us made it to Wiltshire with a spectacular sunset greeting our arrival. We stayed at the Goddard Arms YHA (sole use), the hostel dorms being the back rooms of the pub and the hostel lounge having its own section of the bar. The pub is also the village shop, all run by the irrepressible Libby who drove a hard bargain as we were all to learn. Mark had stopped for his usual Costco hunt and arrived with the biggest Victoria sandwich seen in Wessex since the relief of Mafeking. Gina and Jan were on tea duty and it was well past one when Mark told us his latest revelation which caused Martina to almost choke on her third slice of Victoria.

Saturday saw us hike over the Wiltshire Downs via Windmill Hill (Neolithic causeyard site) to reach the Avebury Henge. Avebury is the centre of the largest Neolithic era (3000-2000 BC) ceremonial site in Europe. It is far larger than Stonehenge and yet is completely free and, as we found, one can explore all areas and even climb up onto the stones. We strolled around the stone circles of Sarsen stones before Mary led us to the National Trust tea shop and pub. After lunch, Martin J and Emma led the trail following the West Kennet Avenue (a mile long trail of Sarsen stones) to Silbury Hill and the long Barrow sites. On the return journey we spied one of the 5 famous white horse figures of Wiltshire high in the distance on the Ridgeway.

In the evening we had an excellent Indian takeaway meal washed down with the contraband supplied by Martina and Liane. We found a vintage game of Trivial Pursuit in the hostel and split into several teams for a very competitive marathon. Kerry, Helen and Liane displayed a very liberal interpretation of the rules. Afterwards we still had Victoria left, and a new revelation from Mick W regarding growing up with an 80s pop star as a neighbour kept us entertained...

Sunday saw Helen, Kerry and Cathy on fry-up duty, Liane feasted on the curry extras and Mick once again had his Findus roast beef dinner for breakfast "a marvel in miniature". Gina led the morning hike up to the iron age hill fort of Barbury castle which was on the high point of the Ridgeway. We then continued to the historic staging post town of Marlborough with its' 17th century colonnaded shopfronts either side of the widest high street in England. As it was such a splendid sunny day Jeff was inspired to lead a short riverside walk which took in yet another of the White Horses and the grounds of Marlborough public school (whose alumni included Betjeman). As we returned, we joined the shoppers for tiffin at Pollys where Martina and Jan debated the merits of "A Sabalterns Love Song" whilst Jeff and Martin C were enchanted by Veronique and Madeleine, two of the finest cakes ever invented.

Report by Brian G

Ten brave souls (Erika, Helen C, Helen W, Monica, Irina, David, Simon, Mark, Kevin and Marin) who did not trust the weather forecast took part in this walk. And we were lucky - apart from a bit of drizzle in the first part, the weather was better than expected.

We looked so enthusiastic in the eyes of a local (with her dog) that she almost joined us. As we were not in a converting mission mood and did not want to perturb the other locals who were anxiously waiting for the shops to open, we proceeded (with the exception of Kevin, who made a gentlemanly gesture in waiting for another (female) walker who was apparently late. Unfortunately she did not turn up, so Kevin took a long shortcut and met us at the pub for the lunch).

The outskirts of Uxbridge proved to be quite green and scenic, despite the overcast sky. Passing by the moated site of Pynchester, we noticed once again that the reality can be less exhilarating than the literary description. I brushed over Mark's attempts to check my knowledge of the local geography and with very little deviation from the planned route we reached the old Harefield Church. John Betjeman considered it to be the most exciting church in Middlesex - knowing his opinion of neighbouring Slough, this means something.

We entered Harefield, where apparently a police cars reunion was held for no apparent reason and decided to have lunch at a pub ingeniously named The Harefield. The food was good and they were even holding a local beer festival. The beers were nice and I appreciated especially the round bought by Simon.

On the long run home along the Union Canal we admired the variety of boats and their sometimes peculiar inhabitants, the large Harefield Marina and the quite lush vegetation.

It was a good walk, but unfortunately an event in a faraway place stopped us having a celebratory pint at the end of it. We will do it next time.

Report by Marin

Seven of us met in West Wycombe at 8pm on an absolutely perfect evening for a walk in the dark.

We had an almost full moon and not a cloud in the sky. We climbed up to the mausoleum to see the lights into High Wycombe and then through the church and graveyard before following the main path along the ridge. A mile later we descended and headed broadly north-west to Green End, Bledlow Ridge and onto Radnage which marked our turn around point. Consensus was to stop for a drink. We had heard a party in the direction we were heading for quite some time and it was from The Three Horse Shoes pub. We walked in, only to be turned away as the whole pub had been hired out for a wedding. Now I had told everyone to wear appropriate clothing for the walk but did they listen...

Luckily there was a second option, The Crown pub, which was only half a mile away. What made us laugh was the landlord of the Three Horse Shoes advising us to go the long way around on the road as he "wouldn't want us to go wrong on the footpath up the steep hill". Obviously he hadn't noticed we were all wearing walking boots and backpacks, had torches, and I had a map and compass. How did he think we'd got there? We thanked him and ignored him and took the much shorter route, which happened to be the intended one. And reached the second pub ten minutes later about 10.30pm. Two drinks later, for a few anyway, and we departed and all noticed how cold it now felt - the pub had been lovely and warm. Six on foot, one by taxi. Slacker! The comment "there won't be a taxi in Nepal" was very funny, that's where the departee will be going in a few weeks for some more serious walking.

Our route back took us through Bottom Wood and then our final climb, from Ham Farm up to Cockshoots Hill and then down to West Wycombe. We arrived back at 1am, later due to our pub stop. Thanks to Cliona, Emma, Keith and Simon (HAWOG), Karen (C2030) and Mike (Berkshire Walkers) for joining me on the walk.

Report by Steve R

12 of us met on the traditional glorious sunny morning for the annual Open House day. We set off after waiting for Kevin who had arrived hotfoot from his morning swim at Hampstead ponds. We first visited the I.E.T. (site of Savoy palace) and then the well-hidden Roman baths. We made our way via alleyways to the Royal Court of Justice where some did a tour of the courts and where Lydia was lost for sometime in the basement cells.

Our next viewing was the temple site and Templar church where Jan entertained us with some yarns from her convent era over lunch. We followed the Thames path, viewing the Orange Lodge parade with its cheerful drum beat (no doubt here to celebrate the papal visit nearby). After a tour of the Jewel tower we negotiated the papal procession route to see St James Palace before our final stop at the 18th century Marlborough House, now the Commonwealth HQ. We had a leisurely tour of the house with a welcome tea stop where Hayley and Jane negotiated free biscuits for all.

With perfect timing Keith then led us to the Mall by Buckingham Palace where we were just in time to see the Pope passing through. Genevieve and Mary, both inspired by the moment, jumped down from the wall to sprint alongside the Popemobile to take some closer photos.

Thanks to Genevieve and Rob for devising the route.

Report by Brian G

16 of us met on a very sunny Sunday morning at Goring, including several on their first walk with the group. The train ride to the start (good group discount ticket) was quite scenic, with the train crossing the Thames on several occasions.

Our 10 mile route took in the Thames path which climbed from Goring to give splendid views down to the Thames below. Steve T pointed out the large riverside house which belonged to Wilfred Bramble in the 70s, cue a double act from Mark and Peter with their Steptoe impressions. We passed several thatched farm houses before entering Whitchurch village and some pubs where we lost some people. We then gained some more as Ann, Paul and David W joined the walk late, not to mention Jeff who had had an altercation with his sat nav which had given him a 5 mile detour. We stopped for our picnic on a wide riverside meadow by Pangbourne. The day was heating up as several canoeists and a ferry passed by. Claire chatted to the new Kiwi, Jane G, and Ann produced her usual hamper to share some home made biscuits.

Our route then went along the less well known north bank, we took a detour via an alpaca-filled paddock before Jane R showed her horse-whispering skills learnt from Ted on a recent walk. We then descended once more to reach Mapledurham, a hidden away village based around the 17th century manor. It was the setting for "The Eagle Has Landed" and has hardly changed since. We visited the church where there is a display of the film sets and then explored the grounds of the estate. The watermill is the oldest working mill on the Thames.

Jeff as usual led us to the tea gardens with its' excellent setting near the river. The homemade cakes were spiffing, declared Peter, as we listened to another timeless yarn from Mark in the sun, whilst watching several boats lazily glide along the Thames.

Report by Brian G

Seven of us, Jackie, Emily (new members), Phil, Tim, Steve, Deirdre and I set off from Great Missenden Station at around 10:15. The walk took us through beautiful fields and woodlands, taking in an abundance of English countryside. The huge mushrooms in one of the fields kept us fascinated for a few minutes. Deirdre photographed these but her camera seemed to go missing later. Were these magic ones? Our highest point was at the Monument at Coombe Hill, the views from here (including Chequers) were breathtaking.

As the walk progressed the countryside continued to be beautiful, taking us through cornfields and more woods. There was a worrying point when Emily and Sharon became separated from the group, however they managed to link up again (thank God for cornfields and mobile phones!). The weather held up well even though it was breezy at times with the occasional shower. We completed the walk at around 16:30 back at the Black Horse pub were some of us had a much deserved pint! Congratulations to Emily and Jackie, who did amazingly well given that this was their first long walk. Thanks to Phil, Tim and Steve for coming along and putting up with us slower walkers. Finally a special thanks to Deirdre for her navigating.

Report by Deirdre and Sharon

17 of us made it to sunny Swanage for 3 days of steam, sea, sand and scones. On Friday most of us stopped at the stupendous Great Dorset Steam Fair, a celebration of British engineering and possibly the largest collection of steam and working vintage equipment in the world. We wandered around the many exhibits of traction engines, musical organs, steam fairground rides and some stayed till dusk when the fair was lit up to become a magical electric city.

Back at the hostel Martina and Liane showed great initiative by bringing their flasks to the kitchen to thwart the YHA kitchen lock up. They then provided teas for all late into the night to accompany Jan's cakes whilst Kerry and Roger told some ripping yarns.

On Saturday Mike led one walk to Durlstone head and back via the coastal footpath. Jeff led the main walk up the cliffs and onto Old Harry's Rock for great views along the Jurassic coast. We then climbed down to Studland where we found Jack's Cafe for lunch on the beach. Our route then took in the coastal footpath involving a hazardous crossing of the nudist beach where Humay stopped to do some etching. We crossed by ferry for a quick visit to Sandbanks before catching an open top bus for the scenic ride back to Swanage. Jeff then directed us to the famous Eastlights tea shop for its famous giant scone challenge. When the scones were presented to us Gina and Jan both remonstrated "they are not giant scones at all". New managers it transpired had reduced scone size as part of a Dorset-wide anti-obesity drive.

We all dined at various establishments in town where we met several members of another NW London outdoor group, also in Swanage, by complete coincidence. Vic entertained the locals by his vocal talents at the karoake, Peter lost us, found us and then lost us again, and Jiten asked everyone in the pub "does anyone want my muscles/mussels"?

Sunday was another hot sunny day and Jeff took advantage of the sea wind by departing for a day windsurfing in Poole. His return was delayed by hours due to a near collision with the Jersey ferry and a rescue mission by the Poole coastguards. Caroline led a town walk via several sites of interest. Most of us extended the steam theme by jumping aboard the Swanage steam railway for its' spectacular journey through Purbeck. We waved cheerfully at Vic who was camping at a track side site out of town. The train steamed into Corfe allowing us a great panorama of the castle, its walls seeming about to collapse after the civil war bombardment. We toured the castle and the town with its streets full of 17th century stone mansions and found our way to the Enid Blyton museum and shop. Corfe was the setting for the Famous Five stories. When we entered the shop all we could say was Golly, and Peter bought the the mug to prove it. Gina led us to the National Trust tea shop for a final Dorset cream tea in the sun-filled courtyard, where we took bets on when Jeff would arrive and on who would win the Timmy lookalike competition at the art deco Rex cinema later that day.

Report by Brian G

7 of us made it to the campsite high up on the cliffs near Deal on the Friday, and were greeted with stunning views across the English Channel, France clearly visible. We had our BBQ to a dramatic sunset as backdrop. As night fell, a surreal atmosphere endured, owing to the red glow from the French coast reflected down by the clouds; the ferries and cruise ships passing by lit up like Christmas decorations, and the silvery moonlight reflecting up from the sea. We tuned into French radio stations, and our mobile phones connected to French NSPs.

We managed to pitch our tents near to a family of fearless foxes; during the night both Steve and Simon had nocturnal visits from them; waking up to missing shoes, taken by foxes from their tents. The footwear was later recovered from nearby fields, albeit with pieces bitten out!

Saturday activity was walking along the cliff tops to Dover, stopping at St Margaret's bay for tea, and having a look at the lighthouses we passed. Approaching Dover, we looked over the busy docks, admiring the efficient operation of the ferry turn-arounds. In Dover we split up for a late lunch, some of us fortunate to choose Mandy's tearooms before it closed, as we were offered free jacket potatoes and chips in addition to our purchased meals. From Dover we passed through the fortified defences of Dover Western Heights and onto Samphire Hoe, accessed through a steep tunnel cut in the cliffs to sea-level. This is where the 8.5 million cubic metres of spoil from cutting the Channel Tunnel was deposited, now a man-made nature reserve jutting out into the sea.

Saturday night we again fired up the BBQ and firepit, eating and drinking late into the night.

Sunday's main activity was cycling National Cycle Route #1 along the coast; passing the coastal defences at Walmer and Deal; and stopping to look at Deal's Time Ball Tower, the visual signal to ships out at sea by which they set their clocks. We cycled onto "the best preserved medieval town in England" of Sandwich, arriving in time to see the pageant of decorated flotilla on the River Stour. We explored the medieval streets of Sandwich, and refreshed ourselves at tearooms where we were served what Brian claimed as the 'biggest teapot he'd ever seen!' (and Brian has been to a lot of tearooms!). Sunday evening we took it easy and ate out in one of the nearby pubs.

The Bank Holiday Monday was scheduled the main event of the weekend - a visit to the massive and complete Dover Castle. Started by the Romans, and used by the military and civil authorities up until the 1960s, this castle cannot fail to impress. After looking at the Roman lighthouse built 43AD, we embarked on a tour of the wartime tunnels, dug during WWII. Recreated within these tunnels were the command and control centres of wartime naval, air and anti-aircraft operations. Emerging from the tunnels, we had a light lunch at the NAAFI cafe. We then visited the medieval Bailey, where the main rooms have been furnished and decorated as in medieval times, with real fires burning in the hearths. We learnt about the French siege of the late 1200s, when the French landed at Dover and lay siege to the castle, but were unable to breach its walls (although they came close!).

All 7 of us - Brian G, Mary, Simon H, Steve T, Mark O, Emma E and I had a great weekend of camping in an AONB, steeped in English history. Thanks to Mark O for bringing the heavy camping equipment and BBQ.

Report by Martin J

10 of us met on Sunday on a fine sunny morning at the Beeches cafe. We had just set off when hundreds of runners sprinted across our path as the Bucks half marathon was also taking place around the woodlands today. Kerry led the route through the ancient forests passing several of the famous polarised beech and oak trees. We then came upon the moat, cue lots of jokes from Shakespeare about MP expense claims and speculation from Pete as to what was contained within. We then crossed into Egypt (woods), before passing several impressive barn conversions and one detached house which Brian F recognised from a TV property programme.

Our lunch stop was at "Bucks best kept village" of Hedgerley. The pub menu was quite varied with guinea fowl a popular choice. Mike however got out his impressive hamper and huge flask in the pub garden. For some reason the hamper seemed to be full of wotsits, wagon wheels and wine gums, Pete did not mind however, as he tucked in.

Our route then crossed over Stoke Poges and Farnham Common where we visited the much anticipated farm shop where Deirdre found some excellent cheeses. The afternoon was getting sunnier as we found ourselves back in Burnham Beeches so we decided to pay another visit to the cafe for tea and some splendid cakes. As we took in the views of the heathland Kevin entertained us with his tales of hitch-hiking to rugby league ties in Yorkshire, and his lucky escape after one particular episode.

Report by Brian G

Saturday was one of the drier and warmer days of this rather variable late summer and a good chance to explore the countryside beyond Aylesbury. Our route went from the new Aylesbury Vale Parkway Station across open fields until we reached the River Thame at Eynthorpe Park. A pleasant path by the banks of the river took us to the medieval village of Lower Winchendon, where a bench in the beautiful grounds of the church gave us a good stopping place for lunch. We then crossed more fields, followed by a rather frustrating footpath detour which took us down and then back up a hill and finally joined the old drive of Waddesdon Manor into the manor's parkland. The National Trust provided us with very welcome tea before we completed our walk by returning to the station, having covered 14 miles. With so many members in Germany, it was inevitable that this would be a small walk. Thanks, therefore, to Jan for joining me - and for being very tolerant of the fact that, on a route which I had described as flat, there were quite a number of hills!

Report by Stephen C

Twenty of us made their way to Germany on a sunny Saturday morning, some more successfully than others who had trouble with flat tyres (and accessing the spare one) and booking the right ferry journey. Our first day was spent by all walking from our base, the youth hostel in Neuastenberg, to the village of Zueschen, where we found a local neighbourhood gathering taking place and where some forwent their packed lunch for a nice sausage and salad and a few more had a beer and warmed themselves by the barbecue. Did we mention the rain had started by then? It went on to rain for 72 hours and someone apparently spotted a small bearded man building a wooden boat in Winterberg...

Monday was spent in Winterberg for some shopping, imbibing in cake and waffles in a cosy café (hey, it was raining, what were we supposed to do?) and trying out the acoustics of the local Kurgarten concert bowl where, no doubt, Boney M. and David Hasselhoff regularly entertain the masses. In the evening we went for drinks and visited a soggy funfair complete with beer tent and fireworks, while Martin was befriended in the hostel by a nice chap from Duesseldorf who, after finding out we all came from England, pointed at the relentless rain outside the window: 'Why come here? You can have rain all the time at home!' Shortly after, Martin was invited for a visit to Duesseldorf...must be the shorts.

The next day Amy, Kevin and Anita visited Bad Berleburg with its' impressive Schloss, where they were informed by the local guide that a prince and princess still live there. Amy in fact saw him drive his 4x4, sporting a baseball cap. So much for horse-drawn carriages and shiny crowns. The rest of us ventured out for another hike, this time to Silbach where we once again had to rest, this time in a cosy little Schaenke. Some slackers had already fled the scene by bus while seven brave souls then made their way back to the hostel - on foot! Tim, who had boot trouble tried ever new ways of mending them: duct tape, plastic bags, a sock over the boot etc. until we found an abandoned pair in a bin. And no, Tim didn't wear them but the laces came in very handy!

Wednesday morning we all packed into the cars and travelled to Cologne where the weather promptly improved dramatically. Cologne cathedral was climbed, shopping done (Hermes and C&A respectively, oh, and Oz got a metal bit for his tent) and museums visited. Lunch here was in a typical Brauhaus of one of the local breweries, 'Frueh', who produce the ubiquitous Koelsch, which, some complained during the meal was too small (it comes in 0.2 litre glasses, which admittedly is miniscule by German standards) but were told that 'you just have to drink more'. And, sorry, Monica, about the liver sausage, which turned out not to be one. Should have asked me first! The evening was spent at the hostel celebrating Jim's birthday although he did not seem very clear about how old he really was (must be an age thing) but enjoyed himself nonetheless. And where did all the beer come from all of a sudden?

Thursday bright sunshine greeted us and we hiked once more, visiting Boedefeld on the way, which had been visited twice by Mother Theresa and whose apparition could be spotted on occasion. In the sun little villages sparkled in their black and white timbered and slate roofed glory and the mountains and forests looked lush and pretty. And, there was not a cloud in the sky!

Friday a few ventured out once more, this time on the Rothaarsteig, the 154km long trail snaking its way through Hessen and the outer reaches of the Westerwald and where we passed the highest point, the 'Kahler Asten' where we had a wonderful view of surrounding areas. On the path itself we came across interesting features such as a panoramic bridge and a swinging hammock type bench.

Meanwhile Simon and Jeff spent time summer-tobogganing and go-carting (Ferrari have shown an interest, we hear) and buying too much beer, causing contemplation of which fellow traveller to leave behind to accommodate it. The last evening then we ate in a pasta place in town, with a fair few tired out by all the walking, shopping and eating cakes/waffles/ice cream all with whipped cream galore (well me anyway) we'd done over the week. So we headed back early. After all, we had to get up early the next day and travel back home (or to Brussels, Amsterdam, Poland or in Martin's case Duesseldorf).

Thanks Claire, Emma M, Amy, Anita, Rodica, Monica, Irina, Keith, Kevin G, Steve T, Steve R, Martin S, Tim, Simon, Jeff, Jim, Oz and Marin for making it such a lovely trip.

Report by Erika

8 of us met at the manor farm on a sunny warm evening. Our route took in the features of the heritage area, including the Motte site, 14th century timber great barn and the manor farm buildings. We then visited the 15th century church and Kevin met the verger who was arranging the bell ringing for that day. The churchyard area contains several alms houses and monuments. Afterwards Kerry and Cathy led the way through some hidden paths to the Orchard pub where we had some cooling drinks whilst listening to Helen and Vic discuss motorcycle leathers. Gina and Vic meanwhile debated new types of tents whilst Martina commented that the chips were rather splendid.

Report by Brian G

6 of us met at Tring Station. Setting off up the Grand Union Canal towards Bulbourne, where we were met by Zara. Heading through Marsworth to Cooks Wharf for a planned pit-stop at the Waterside Cafe. Then continuing up the canal to Stapton and to the infamous Bridego bridge - location where the Great Train Robbers unloaded £2.6 million from the Glasgow to London mail train - exactly 47 years prior. Following a short stop for a chat about the history of the crime and some photo opportunities, we walked south down the dodgy B488. The group increased quite considerably to a tidy 30 - well at least for 300 yards anyway, as around 20+ calves took pity by escorting us through their field. Heading into Cheddington for a deserved and much needed pit-stop at the Three Horseshoes pub. Meeting up with David W as we left the pub, he couldn't make the first part of the walk and top marks to him for finding us. We continued south to Church Farm where Cliona's dad, Ted, made friends with some beautiful show horses, and explaining some of the areas of the stables while we walked through. Back onto the canal and onto our last pit-stop at the Red Lion pub to prepare for the last and final leg of our journey back to Tring Station, arriving back in time for the 6:15pm train at 6:07.

Huge thanks to Zara, Helen, Jane R, Claire A, Cliona, Ted and David W for making my walk a success.

Report by Mark S

4 of us met at the historic St Marys parish church of Harefield. After a quick tour of the church and the ANZAC cemetery and memorial next door we set off on the trail. This featured fine views of the Colne Valley as we paused on Harefield hill. We crossed several fields before finding the canal. We saw a heron land just in front of us and stop in time for some photos. Our lunch stop was the Coy Carp where new member Barry made himself welcome by buying everyone a drink. We watched several canoes go past the pub gardens, there was a training school by the weir further along the canal. In the afternoon we continued south along the canal before reaching Denham lock. We climbed up from the valley back to Harefield, passing a Jacobean manor on the way back to the church and the end of the walk.

Report by Brian G

Five joined me on Saturday for 10am and a walk taking in some areas a little beyond our normal locations.

Our route headed north through Ashley Hill Forest and then Prosper Hill to the River Thames where we stopped for tea at a riverside cafe in Hurley. We then walked east for half a mile to cross the river before continuing broadly north past Medmenham and into various woods near Marlow Common. Our last stretch before lunch saw us heading west along (mostly) the Chiltern Way which took us to the lovely village of Hambleden.

Post lunch our route was very much south, to Mill End where we crossed back over the river and on to Cockpole Green. No pub there so on half a mile to Crazies Hill where we did find a pub, although it was closed until 6pm, but we stopped for a break anyway. We had one more climb up Bowsey Hill and arguably the most pleasant, but that might have been because of the weather, now sunny and blue sky. We arrived back at the Seven Stars pub about 6:20pm having walked about twenty miles.

I think I've mentioned four hills so far and as we started at Knowl Hill that makes the five. Thanks to Emma, Erika, David, Keith and Paul for joining me.

Report by Steve R

19 of us turned up at Chorleywood Station last Sunday morning. A great turnout despite the holiday season being well underway. We headed off towards Chenies following the Chess Valley for some of the way. In some parts you are right on the river bank and you can see how beautifully clear the water is. We disturbed some cattle along the way and got up close to some horses. We arrived at our lunch stop in Chenies about 12:30. Julius departed at this point as he was having some trouble with his footwear. The pub turned out to be as good as anticipated and about this time the sun broke through. Following lunch we headed back towards the River Chess and Neil left us here to take the quicker route back to Chorleywood.

We headed up towards Church End and Micklefield Green where the combine harvesters competed with the noise of the M25. We had a brief stop in Church End which had a sign saying Sarratt which confused me slightly. I was rumbled when I tried to leave my map behind and we were soon descending past Goldingtons enjoying nice views of the valley. We made our way slowly back towards Chorleywood Common, I blame the tree that blocked our route. We finished up at the Rose and Crown. Perfect day. Thanks to Claire, Jane R, Gus, Isabel, Maria, Jiten, Dave, Julius, Neil, David, Mark, Cliona, Zhang, Lily, Simon H, Kevin, Marin and Brian F.

Report by Mary

16 of us attended the weekend away based in Stow on the Wold. We stayed at the YHA hostel, which is in a very central location, right on the Market Square.

Those of us that had arrived by early evening on Friday decided over to the Queens Head pub, just across the square from the hostel. We were impressed by the quality of the food and local beers, and also noted that the pub welcomed dogs and children (the former were in evidence on both Friday and Saturday evenings, but not the latter). Conversation after dinner included our own version of 'Who Do You Think You Are?', which highlighted the variety of backgrounds of HAWOG members. Some of us who were to have an early start the following day decided to retire early, but unfortunately our efforts were hampered by the disco next door, which continued until midnight.

On Saturday morning, 10 of us made an early start and headed off to walk the 23 mile stretch of the Thames Path between Lechlade and the source of the river. We were relieved that the weather cleared up as we approached the start point of the walk, where we met up with Keith, who had travelled down for the day to join us on the walk. We set off at around 8:30am at a good pace, reaching Cricklade (just short of the half-way point) at around noon, in spite of taking a wrong turn at one point - this turned out to be the most difficult part of the entire path to navigate, as for several miles the path was some distance from the river. A conveniently-located Tesco Express allowed us to stock up on provisions for the remainder of the walk.

We carried on, intending to stop a little after half way for lunch. However, within less than half an hour of leaving Cricklade, we took another wrong turn, and when we found our way back to the path, we turned the wrong way onto it - a fairly basic error, you might think, but at this point the Thames Path zigged and zagged on its' way to the Cleveland lakes, so not as obvious as you might think. Once we had realised our mistake, we retraced our footsteps and quickly reached the lakes, where we found a suitable spot for lunch.

As the day went on, the river got narrower and shallower, until the last couple of miles where it was difficult to know where the river would have flowed in winter. We reached the stone which marks the Thames Head just before 5:30pm. From here, a short walk took us to the Thames Head Inn, where the car passengers whilst their drivers were ferried to their cars back in Lechlade. We finally returned to the hostel at about 7:00pm.

Humay led the remainder of the group on an 11 mile walk in the Cotswolds, starting from Bourton-on-the Water and taking in the Windrush Way, Fosse Way (Roman Road) and the medieval village of Lower Hartford.

In the evening, the Thames Path walkers ate at the local Indian restaurant, after we which met with the other walkers in the Queens Head pub.

On Sunday, we made a leisurely start, reaching the start point of our 6 mile walk in the village of Stanton at around 11:00am. Our walk was in the shape of a figure of eight, passing through the picturesque village of Snowshill. We returned to Stanton at around 2:00pm, where we stopped for refreshments before returning home.

Thanks to Caroline F, Emma M, Humay, Jan, Jane C, Jaqui, Karen, Kevin G, Mike D, Paul S, Pete D, Stephen C, Steve N, Steve R and Zara for coming.

Report by Phil

The weather was just lovely for a 17 miler, and the company of Claire, Jaqui, Paul and David was very much appreciated. Their enthusiasm was infectious, especially David who managed to catch us up by running, having arrived at the start point too late.

We talked and walked our way along Herberts Hole, which was once part of the pack horse route from Wendover to Chesham for the shoe trade. Herberts house and Little Hundridge Lane set the scene and signposts showed us the way ahead. Soon we were hopping over stiles and venturing on, and entering Lownde's wood. There were no Red Kites today, however we witnessed numerous butterflies including Red Admirals. The walk overall was quite gentle with few steep slopes to walk up and over, and the pace was not too fast for us all. With a lunch stop overlooking Swan Bottom, we wondered why the footpath was particularly wide at that point and still do. David took a shortcut after lunch, and we met him later near Cholesbury, which was a great surprise.

Passing the smallest shop around, we refrained from carrying eggs back and wished they sold honey. As raspberries were ripe in the hedgerows we did feast on a few and considered home-made jam, and a whole lot of other delicious-sounding recipes were described by Claire and Jaqui. We found a photo stop at the O.S trig point 232, and continued through Lordling wood to The Hale along the Ridgeway. Lovely views were revealed similar in some ways to "A Little House on the Prairie", so Jaqui thought, and we imagined running across fields in the sunshine, just like Laura.

After the winding lanes with high ancient hedgerows, the portcullis, drawbridge and moat at Dundridge Manor offered an unusual contrast. Cholesbury was not far off and we were all keen not to miss a peek at the iron age fort site. A curiosity it was. There was a nice old church there too, which reminded me of a walk in Henley some weekends earlier. The Full Moon was a fine place to stop where we talked ponds, wasps, and animal life. Passing the windmill there was no anticpation of the nettle patch to come, nor of the herd of cows and bullocks. The windmill was so historic and unique. When we found ourselves amidst these other rural splendours it was good to hear Paul assert that the cows were nothing to be scared of, so we continued. The nettle stings were also brushed off in a similar manner. Ostriches were the next suprising sight. "Do foxes eat Ostriches?" asked Jaqui. Then we wended our way back to Chesham. On the way, again, another animal encounter included barking Dobermans, quite mad they were, and a pony, and glad to say, we nipped out of their way quickly enough.

I made a couple of small misjudgements en route, only because of talking, and ostriches, and we all got back safe and sound. At least, I think so. Here's looking forward to another walk like this. Thanks very much to all.

Report by Jane R

6 of us gathered at Park farm campsite for the 5th camping trip of this sweltering summer. The campsite is extensive and has an eclectic clientele ranging from Sarf London geezers to Benneden gels to new age artists. One feature we noticed was the abundance of DIY tree swings and other assault courses being fully used by children with a healthy disregard for any Health and Safety regulations, and without any spoil-sport parents supervising. Liane and Martina were new to the camping crowd and brought along their luxury Vango tent and polka dot mattresses together with lots of new gadgets. The weekend was another scorcher, so barbecue smoke was everywhere on the campsite followed by the campfire glows as dusk fell.

On the Saturday the sun woke us early and we soon started the 7 mile hike up into the High Weald. At Ewhurst we found a cooling 14th century church and then some cold drinks at the Dog. In the hedgerows on the trail Kerry pointed out the different types of bees and butterflies seen. We then came upon Great Dixter Manor and its famous gardens where we had our picnic in the gardens of the tea shop. We made it to the steam railway where we watched the locos steam along the Rother valley. As they were fully booked we began the long walk back but at the Rother Bridge came across the Bodiam Ferry service to rescue us and transport us back along the river towards Bodiam. Jan, Liane and Martina sunbathed on the deck whilst the ferry glided along in the afternoon sun. We alighted in the shadow of the 14th century Bodiam Castle "most romantic castle in England". The exterior is complete and we did a circuit of the wide moat taking in all the views before Cathy suggested we try the cream teas at the castle tea rooms which we did, they were spiffing said Martina as she polished off the spare scone.

Back at the campsite we relaxed in the sun, listening to non-stop 60s on Gold before Kerry and Cathy prepared another barbecue of stupendous proportions. Later around the campfire Jan took Mark's place in spinning some long yarns and Martina proved an expert at toasting marshmallows in the fire.

On Sunday our walk was to the splendidly unspoilt village of Burwash. The route featured the gently rolling countryside of hedgerows, hop fields and oast houses. Burwash has several pubs and the one we stopped at presented us with a panoramic view of the valley and hills looking south from its rear garden. Our hike continued before ending at Batemans the Jacobean Manor which was the home of Kipling for many years. We strolled around the rose gardens and lily pond in the grounds before stopping for some exceedingly good cakes in the tea gardens in the apple orchard. In the afternoon heat we debated the merits of Kipling's poems and celebrated Tiffin as he would have done in the days of Gunga Din and Kim.

Report by Brian G

A small group met at Hever Station on Saturday in sunny North Kent. We set off on the Eden Valley Trail following the signs to Hever Village and its' 15th century moated castle. The preparations were underway for a jousting tournament later in the day. The trail continued through undulating Kent countryside with views of Oast houses and ancient forests in the distance.

We made it to Chiddingstone, a National Trust village with its own castle and 14th century church. We had lunch in the shaded gardens of the Castle Inn opposite the church. Afterwards as the day got warmer we were glad of the shaded woodland route the trail took, with views towards the River Medway to the east.

Our next sight was the splendid village of Penshurst with the original "Leicester Square", a 15th century collection of timber-frame cottages before St John Baptist church. We strolled around the village and church before deciding to try the Kentish cream teas in the sun-filled gardens of Quaintways, which claims to have served teas since the 16th century. Our route north was uphill which afforded a panoramic view of Penshurst Place, one of the best preserved fortified manor houses in England. The trail ended at another picturesque Kent village, Leigh, where we were just in time for the hourly train back to London.

Report by Brian G

The Pennine Way part one, from Edale in the Peak District to Horton-in-Ribblesdale on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales began with an overnight stay in Hathersage. Despite delays and an uncomfortable journey on the train all seven of us, Steve R, Keith, Emma M, Simon H, Chonde, Erika and I all arrived with mixed expectations of what would lie ahead over the next eight days.

We took a short train ride to Edale on the Saturday morning where the Pennine Way officially begins. The sun quickly vanished under low cloud as we started and the rain soon began to lash down making the ascent up Jacob's ladder harder than it really should have been. Almost immediately we took the wrong path and continued for about half a mile until I realized we were heading east and not north. Eventually after retracing our steps we found the way up to Kinder Low and onwards to a very wild and windy lunch stop, huddled behind some rocks. With two exceptions everyone later thought that this day was their least favourite mainly due to the appalling weather but the rain did stop later on and we reached Crowden YHA at about 6.30pm in sunshine having completed 17.5 miles.

Crowden is a modern YHA set in a lonely spot by a reservoir but the food was good, served as it was by the hilarious Lauren, certainly the happiest person we met on the walk. Simon was certainly smitten and her giggling announcement that she was "a cheap night out" promising to be "on the floor in half an hour" only made his eyes widen.

The next day began with a steep climb up to Laddow rocks and then upstream, occasionally vaulting the river as it meandered across bogs to reach Black Hill. The cloud was too low to see far but as we descended into the valley beyond we could see Holmfirth of Last of the Summer Wine fame basking in sunshine. Lunch was a very windy spot by a very welcome snack van on the road and we took advantage of their plastic chairs to have a sit down. Simon chatted to the van owners who surprisingly had never heard of Diggle, our next overnight stay, despite it being only another 6 miles away.

In Diggle we stayed at the New Barn B&B which we had to ourselves and dined at The Diggle Hotel where some of us tucked in to "Jaws" or fish and chips to you and me; certainly a big fish but "not exactly hanging off the plate" according to Emma. The apple crumble was served as nature intended- hot and almost completely immersed in custard.

Day 3 was probably the easiest day, only 12 miles and fairly flat across a high bridge over the M62 and past several rather empty looking reservoirs. The sun shone for the middle of the day and we eventually reached Mankinholes at the foot of Stoodley Pike at about 4.30pm having started early. There was some confusion over the rooms at the B&B but although Steve ended up down the road and missed out on a cooked breakfast he was given the run of the fruit bowl and maybe came off better, certainly healthier than the rest of us.

The fourth day we all later agreed was the hardest. We began with a very steep climb up to Stoodley Pike with its stone monument to the defeat of Napoleon looming large through thick mist. Some of us climbed up the dark interior to discover 150 years of graffiti but a 360 degree view. We descended down into Calderdale and then very steeply up through wet undergrowth in very humid conditions until we reached Aladdin's Cave, a local farm shop where we bought some homemade pies and had coffees and teas. The landscape had changed over the last few days, from the craggy wilderness in Edale, across open moorland and now typical Yorkshire farmland with sheep, cattle and dry-stone walls. After an hour or so we reached the Pack Horse Inn, ate lunch outside, and went in for tea. NO TEA. Simon's conversation with the landlord went as follows:
Simon: Tea?
Landlord: Oh no, we don't do tea, only coffee and hot drinks.
Simon: Tea is a hot drink.
Landlord: Sorry we only do coffee and hot drinks.
Simon: What are the hot drinks?
Landlord: Coffee.

Nursing coffees or nothing in Steve's case we watched through the window as the outside world vanished in a thick cloud and torrential rain and sure enough all the way to Top Withens ruin of Wuthering Heights fame we were given a soaking. Simon, Emma and Keith got within 2 miles of Haworth before the Wuthering Heights pub drew them in and a taxi did the rest. Nearly 18 miles in total, the longest walk of the week.

We had a day's rest in Haworth mostly spent doing crosswords, washing clothes and in Steve's case going for a little walk. Here we said goodbye to Chonde and the rest of us continued on to Earby. Lunch at the church in Ickornshaw was interrupted by an attack of two evil looking sheep. Erika unwisely offered them some chocolate digestives which was a green light to a general free for all. Steve's offer of his orange peel almost resulted in an unpleasant soaking as one of the sheep, overcome by the excitement, lavishly emptied his bowels. Once again we were denied tea, at Lothersdale this time having arrived at 2.01pm to find the kitchen shut.

Our overnight stop was the tiny YHA at Earby, converted from a couple of terraced houses. Three of us took the opportunity to cook for a change, prompted by the lack of restaurants. Most fancied fish and chips but sadly both establishments in the village bizarrely shut at 7pm. The only other guest at the YHA seemed to be an extra from The League of Gentlemen, trapping the volunteer warden in the lounge, and subjecting him to a potted life history.

The penultimate day was the flattest, although nothing is very flat in the Pennines, and the hottest. Following the Leeds-Liverpool canal and later the River Aire to Malham we stopped for tea, and later by the river in Gargrave, where Steve dried his washing in the hot sunshine and we all lay on the grass with our boots off, Keith unfortunate to be bitten by ants in the unkindest places.

Malham YHA was excellent apart from the creaking beds and thin walls. Keith walked up to Malham Cove after dinner to take advantage of the beautiful evening light for photography.

So to our last day which had promised to be the hardest but either because we had become accustomed to carrying our larger packs, or more probably because we were in a walking mindset, it seemed to pass by almost too quickly. Steep steps led us to the top of Malham Cove and then onto Malham Tarn where we had a short break. There were more walkers on the path than we had seen since day one as we ascended Fountains Fell and stopped for lunch surrounded by hidden mineshafts. From here we had a fabulous view of Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough beyond. The climb up the steep end of Pen-y-Ghent was a bit of a slog but although requiring the use of hands here and there only took about twenty minutes. As we descended to reach Horton-in-Ribblesdale we looked back to see the summit we had just climbed to shrouded in cloud and the drizzle began just a few yards from the Golden Lion Hotel where we stayed our last night.

This hotel proved a somewhat anti-climactic end to the week as the place was inundated by competitors for the three peaks challenge, and we "enjoyed" dinner in a neon lit room, luckily finding some space in more traditional bar area later.

Most of us thought the last day the most enjoyable, although surprisingly Steve's favourite day was the leisurely canal/riverside walk of 13 miles on the previous day. We all felt like continuing but sadly we were all back to work on Monday. But the next stage beckons and we're all looking forward to picking up the Pennine Way again soon.

It proved to be a real challenge and there's still another 156 miles of it to go. We met a lot people doing all or a part of it and saw of lot of them were limping. Most of us had aches, pains and blisters at some time or another but everyone just kept going, because on this route there simply isn't a choice. Altogether we covered just over 100 miles and Steve probably a couple more as on one or two occasions he roared off in the wrong direction, Absolute 80s in his earphones drowning out our futile bellowing from behind.

I would like to say a very big thank you to all who came and made it such a great week, and also a grateful nod to ibuprofen without which my knees would never have made it.

Report by David H

Several cyclists met on Wednesday on a very warm evening in Eastcote. Our route took us to West Ruislip before we took the bridleway across the golf course before heading up to Ruislip Lido. We did a circuit of the lido and then turned north via good surfaced tracks to Northwood. We returned via quiet lanes to end at the Case is Altered where we enjoyed some cooling drinks in the pub garden next to the cricket field.

Report by Brian G

Sunday dawned bright and sunny with a fresh breeze to cool us for a 14 mile walk from the village of Lilley, Herts. We were 11 in total and for the first time in a long time the girls just outnumbered the boys. Leaving Lilley we headed north-west and were rewarded with a view across Luton which most people thought smaller than they had imagined. We climbed gradually upwards in a northerly direction with a view that seemed to stretch for miles as the visibility was so good. The wind was blowing through the wheat and barley fields in waves created a shimmering landscape which several of us attempted to photograph. Passing the steep and regular looking gullies of Barton Hill we passed through Barton-le-Clay where Erika's attention was drawn to the bonnet of a parked car which, over the painted on cross of St. George, in gaffer tape was written 'at least we won the war'.

We arrived at the Raven pub for lunch at 12.45pm and some of us tucked into the pub grub. Mary's enormous ploughman's, including 4 whole onions, appeared to have been assembled by a child who had not been allowed to use a knife- one whole tomato, one whole apple, one massive hunk of cheddar etc but she tackled it with gusto and managed all but one of the onions.

It clouded over a bit after lunch as we climbed to the top of Deacon Hill where we found a lot of transmitters had been erected. Emma was despatched to find out what they were up to and as she strode towards the boffins the rest of us speculated whether all the complex looking aerials where little more than a honey trap. Apparently they were involved in a Europe wide long range communications competition.

Having led the walk entirely from memory so far it was inevitable that it would fail me at one point and sure enough we did take a slight detour towards the end which resulted in a half mile short-cut. So we arrived back at the start point at 4.30ish. A very enjoyable day out and thanks to all who came for making it so- Phil, Keith, Marin, Simon, Emma M, Erika, Mary, Amy, Jane C, and Jaqui S.

Report by David H

Arriving at Chesham Station at midday on Saturday, I met Pamela attending her first event with HAWOG. We set off on the walk at 12.15, sure by then that we were not going to be joined by anyone else. Having stocked up on supplies in Greggs bakers we left the town and soon found ourselves walking along the narrow lanes of a traffic-free Pednor. Having located the bridleway we needed to take we set off along Blind Lane eventually leaving the shade of the tree cover to great views of Great Hundridge Manor house. Having decided to give the detour to see the earthworks of a 12th century manorial settlement a miss Pamela encountered her first ever squeezer gate which was quickly followed by a few more. This brought us out near Pednor House, now a private house but in the 1940's a maternity hospital. After a few more climbs and descents we exited onto the Chartridge Road near the Bell pub. Having decided to forego an alcoholic drink we then walked aongside a house with a large vegetable patch with huge rhubarb and we stopped and picked some raspberries. At this point the owner came around the corner but glad to say it was not an angry farmer with a shotgun but an old lady who was surprised that we managed to find any as her grandchildren had spent the morning picking them. It transpired that she had lived in Chartridge all her life having been born in the Bell pub which had previously been run by her parents and grandparents before that. She was a real piece of living history! Continuing on our walk we saw our first red kites of the day. We then entered Captains Wood behind a couple who were clearly looking for a quiet place on their own and who found themselves trying to shake off two intrepid HAWOG members. At this point we decided to go off the official route to walk a further half a mile or so to see the ostriches at Portobello farm. Returning off road to Chesham town a mile's walk away we arrived at 4.30 pm, just as the market and cafes were closing. Fortunately we were able to sit down and refresh ourselves in Nero's coffee shop before going our own ways. We both enjoyed the walk and each other's company. A very enjoyable afternoon.

Report by David S

A superb weekend thanks to Mark, Jane, Kate, Kevin, Martin, Emma, Martin, Kerry, Cath, Lee, Lydia and Grace. Barbie meister Oz fired up the barbecue Friday night and with copious amounts of wood to burn we soon had a roaring campfire. A hungry water vole kept visiting but was prevented from helping itself to food by sentry Martin. The only substantial rain to fall for the best part of a month arrived when all were sleeping but unfortunately for Kerry and Cath this coincided with their late arrival and tent set-up.

Saturday turned into a glorious day, with Martin and Emma swinging through the Alice Holt canopy at GoApe while the rest explored the forest at ground level. Another barbecue followed on Saturday night with exotic roast vegetables. Kate did her best to hide the large split that had appeared in her trousers and Kevin's constant puns set the tone for the evening. The cloudless sky revealed a mass of stars and what could have been a very bright International Space Station passing over at one point. The evening was much colder than Friday but to the relief of some Lee had driven back to Harrow during the day to pick up forgotten sleeping bags.

On Sunday, Kevin and Jane returned to nature with an early morning swim in the nearby stream while Lydia loosened up with yoga. After a leisurely morning we headed off to Winkworth Arboretum and spent the afternoon walking the winding paths. In all a great location to camp, and James the farm owner made us all feel welcome. The area is definitely worth a visit and I for one look forward to returning.

Report by Brian F

Seven of us braved the hot weather and avoided football frenzy to undertake the 9 mile circular route from Henley last Sunday - Jackie T, Jaqui S, Caroline T, David (PNM), Jane R, Amy T and me.

The beginning of the walk took us along the river bank, where the participants for the Henley Regatta (starting 30th June) were frantically practising, disturbing geese and ducks in the process. Despite the heat, we were lucky to have a gentle breeze along the river. We crossed Hambleden Lock and spent lunch lazing in a field in the quintissentially English village of Hambleden, where we also had drinks in the local pub. The latter half of the walk took us throught the Great Forest and open fields, adding some variety and also welcome shade during the hottest time of the day.

There were some interesting sights to see en route - some old churches, a folly, an old well and pretty little villages. We intended to end the walk with tea in a traditional cafe, but due to Sunday early closing times, had to contend with Starbucks in Henley, but were rejuvenated by their efficient air conditioning and frappes, so didn't complain!

We were well guided by the Timeout internet walks and would recommend these - free on the internet and very clearly written, right down to the markings on stones and disused stiles! Everyone chipped in with navigation, which was much appreciated, as was the cheerful company!

Thanks for coming - it was a fun day.

Report by Fiona

Eight plus me were outside Islip Station on Saturday morning for my Thirty Smiles and a Curry Walk.

Weather fine and mild, we headed west to the edge of Kidlington and then broadly north close to the Oxford Canal until lunch at Pigeon Lock. We were greeted by a sign to a post office, hotel and pub, and David joked that it might be "two miles away". Two miles later and it was - in Kirtlington. Luckily a village further along our route. So we stopped for lunch for thirty minutes on the village green at the ten mile point. Our route post lunch followed the Oxfordshire Way. Mostly well signed, I lost part of it just outside Weston-on-the-Green meaning a half-mile detour along the A34 to join it again.

A few parts of the route don't appear to have been walked much, of note where it crosses the railway line a mile and half north of Islip. We saw a sign for the path but no evidence of the path, eventually returning to the point to pick it up and cross the railway line. On the other side we walked diagonally across a field of crops, initially following what looked like a path but petered out. And our diagonal of course didn't quite follow the correct path. Sorry Mr Farmer but if you reinstate the path after planting then we wouldn't have to guess the angle! We returned to Islip and the first 17 miles about 4.15pm.

Chonde was waiting for us at Islip for the 13 miler. Six departed, meaning three of us cracked on with the second loop of the walk. Heading south-eastish we encountered some high rapeseed on route to some incredibly plush beautiful villages, of note Beckley. We reached the edge of Oxford and had a bit of a search trying to find access out of our field onto the A40, which we had to cross. We decided against going over the various barbed wire options, eventually finding a good route under one. We then walked through Headington and noticed that all the roads were subject to parking restrictions; and we were a good 2+ miles from the city centre. Curry ensued, we got a takeaway and sat in one of the parks in the city centre.

The temperature was dropping so extra layers were worn. Post curry, we headed off around 8:15pm for the final part of the walk, about 5 miles. We headed north out of the city, past all the colleges and lots of beautiful, well groomed (and heeled) people on a lovely, chilly summer's evening. The plan was to follow a cycle path out of the city; of course there are lots of cycle paths and guess who didn't notice the number of ours? In part a result of too much talk and text and too little focus on task in hand! So a slight detour to get our bearings and back on intended path.

Once into the countryside we followed a clear path north but couldn't find either of the branches east to take us over the River Cherwell and our final path back to Islip. We were walking amongst high crops meaning the river couldn't be seen along with (presumably) the desired paths. So we headed north on the Kidlington circular path, past Water Eaton, until reaching a signed path to Islip. With light fading we could see the lit-up church tower of Islip getting closer ahead. Excellent. Then right at the edge of Islip at 10:20pm we were faced with something unexpected - a ford.

No not an old Capri, but a clear sign "bridleway" and arrow pointing across the River Cherwell. And none of us had remembered to bring the horses! Or the raft, rubber rings or swim suits that I'd suggested all should bring in my email last week. We walked ahead a little to see if any better option to cross existed. Funnily enough, none did, not close anyway; a few miles back to a footbridge and then back again one way, or path, road and along railway line the other way. So we returned to the ford, waded into the water and with long stick, gauged the depth of the water ahead. I can reveal to you all now that it was knee height at its deepest.

Chonde and Keith learnt two valuable lessons this evening, "grasshopper". First, that one of the benefits of wearing shorts is that the bottom of your trousers don't get wet when crossing rivers at fords. I was wearing shorts! Second, to not go on any of my longer walks again as you often get something extra. Keith though is a glutton for punishment as he keeps coming back for more.

Great fun - definitely my idea of a day and evening out. We returned to our cars about 10:45pm. Thanks to (girls) Chonde, Emma, Erika, Jane, Ruth and (guys) David, Keith (who did the whole 30ish smiles), Marin and Simon for joining me for some or all of the walk. Next year I'll try and arrange an assault course at the end...

Report by Steve R

A really good turnout of 20 members which included 4 or 5 new members. The weather was fine and sunny, ideal for the day's walk ahead. Starting from Chesham we headed along what's known as Herberts Hole, a mini valley with the backdrop of farmland either side filled with crops and flowering poppies, and vultures ... I mean kites flying overhead. The route was also shared by a youth group undertaking their D of E awards somewhat loaded up with their rucksacks. We were going along quite well until we missed the route near South Heath which resulted in a bit of backtracking via a nearby wood. This usually occurs after our pub stop! After that we continued our way through various fields and wooded areas with sheep, horses and cattle for company.

We stopped for lunch about 1pm in Little Missenden's Red Lion pub garden for a well-earned break. The garden was complete with its own mini lake with ducks, rather large fish and a black swan ... obviously lost but enjoyed a pint. Time stopped still for a while in this relaxed atmosphere, just chatting and sitting in the sunshine. Eventually we had to move on and it was a reasonably leisurely finish to Chesham via Hyde Heath, and not even getting lost after the pub stop.

Even though some of us had some difficulties in walking (including myself) the walk worked well with Steve at the front and me at the back. A big thanks to everyone who attended, it was good to see the new members there.

Report by Ken

4 of us did the Downs Link ride on Saturday. 3 from HAWOG and 1 from Twickenham cyclists. The day was fine as we set off on the canal path from Guildford, passing several canoeing groups and rowers on the way. We then climbed onto the Downs Link at Bramley and from there it was the link all the way to Horsham. The Downs Link is an excellent bike route and can be taken as far as Shoreham on the coast. It is also a bridleway and several horse riders passed by on our route. As the day was heating up we decided to stop at the secluded Robert Fortune Tea Hut just before the end. This is a wonderfully tranquil spot next to the mansion owned by Robert Fortune (Victorian pioneer of the tea trade). Tiffin is served in the shaded arboretum with its many trees brought over from China and India. We plan to do the whole Link at a future time and combine it with a South Downs cycle tour.

Report by Brian G

Six made it for this pleasant evening stroll. Brian G caused a feeding frenzy in one of the fish ponds by feeding the fish his chicken sandwiches. Then, passing a guide to using a staircase, we headed east along the canal, past families of coots and a heron before ending up at Lake Farm Country park. Here we thought about trying the fitness assault course but instead chose to look at the relics from the Thorn EMI radar testing facilities, and watch the action on the BMX track, then while recounting his childhood memories of the area Mark O found God! Returning to Stockley Park we bumped into Lee and Lydia before finally standing on the highest point at sunset, taking in the lovely views. Thanks to Mark O, Brian G, Neena, Lee and Lydia for coming along.

Report by Brian F

With heavy showers forecast, I expected only a few to join me on this walk. I was overwhelmed by the sheer numbers trickling in. Work was being done at Hatch End Station, leaving us short of parking spaces and a person texted to say she was going to be late. 15 in total, Martina, Mary B, Tanya, Mary C, Lorna, Michelle, Zara, Jian, Katie, Fiona, Efisia, Prem, Derek, David W and myself finally set off only half an hour late. Everyone thought the route was going through a pub on the Uxbridge Road, not really, it was just the last chance of attending to our human needs before heading off into the wilderness. Just round the corner, along Grimsdyke Road, stopping for someone to catch up, we were asked by a passer-by whether we were waiting for a bus. 'Just a bloke' was my reply.

Walking through an area of expensive houses, we got to the start of the circular walk at Shaftesbury Playing Field. Not having walked this stretch before, I almost led us out by the wrong exit. Never mind, it just added another few metres crossing the field diagonally. A lovely footpath through a wooded area awaited us at the end until we got closer to Pinnerwood Farm, for me familiar territory, and no longer worried about leading people astray. A kissing gate at the farm was stuck, sporty me climbed over the fence, only for the big farm gate next to it to be opened by a smart one in the group. Several horses accompanied us to the top of the field. Was going to turn right there, but did not like the animals so close. Off through another kissing gate and more green lush undergrowth towards Little Oxhey Lane added another corner to the stated walk provided on a leaflet by the library. A garden centre on the left meant a further convenience before crossing the main road and along the edge of Grimsdyke Golf Course. We continued along Ass House Lane, then around Grimsdyke House through thick vegetation of rhododendron, oak and pine trees to get to our lunch stop at the garden centre. Everybody was hungry by then, and so were the mosquitoes by the waterside. We were eaten alive.

Sat around tables out in the garden of Shoots garden centre. It was busy, with the 'The Case is Altered' pub shut. It was hard to get going again, the humidity was getting to some of us. Just as well that we had done two thirds of the walk before lunch. Went along the main road to avoid more bites until crossing the golf course, exiting by the club house. Apparently the golfers did not appreciate us using the footpath, on the map clearly leading straight across the course. We turned left, then right into Royston Park Road. This pleasant residential street typifies Harrow's low density suburbs with mainly detached houses built around the turn of the century. Down The Avenue, then we were all homeward bound. For me it was another mile's walk home.

Thanks for all, new and old members, joining me on this maybe a bit longer than intended walk. Almost forgot to mention that it was absolutely fabulous not to have had any smokers amongst us. It made my day.

Report by Mathilde

Six of us attended my Breakfast and Walk fast... ish 20 mile walk on one of the hottest days of the year so far.

Jane, Emma, Erika, Keith and Simon were outside Gerrards Cross Station at 9am. We departed prompt via the posh streets of the town that, if the claims are to be believed, "has more millionaires than anywhere else in the country", "dictates more pounds per sq ft" and "there are 500 millionaires in Gerrards Cross". So we were in similar company then! None of the riff raff on today's walk.

We headed north through Chalfont St Peter (not quite as posh) and up to the Dumb Bell pub for breakfast at 10.15. Now, I'd confirmed in advance that some of us were vegetarian and that the pub would do a suitable breakfast. I'm pleased to say that not only the veggies were impressed. We were each served with a wide screen plate loaded with cooked breakfast. And all for a fiver. And four of us couldn't finish our plates. The only issue was finding the energy to stand up and walk an hour later. And squeezing through narrow stiles.

We continued our route past the Chiltern Open Air Museum and then west along the Chiltern Way to Chalfont St Giles, where we stopped briefly before gradually turning south to our lunch stop at Seer Green just after 2pm ish. We'd done a good pace. An hour or so stop in the Three Horseshoes pub ensued, mainly for a refill of liquids. Hardly any lunch was eaten.

Post our late lunch we continued south past YHA Jordans and crossed the railway line and A40 before heading over the M40 to Hedgerley Green. It was at this point that Emma revealed her interest in tractors and then, surprisingly, Jane her fetish for combine harvesters. Brands and preferences were even mentioned. First time we've had a few girls with these sort of cravings...

We were now only a few miles from Gerrards Cross so headed east to what I thought would be the highlight of our walk: an old fort at Bulstrode Camp. Those of you who've been on my walks before know that I always like to bring a bit of culture to them. Well the old fort was more like an old fart. We read the plaque at the entrance, went in and... a field of grass encircled by houses, walls and trees was in front of us. We couldn't quite see much from pre-Roman times. Could have been a playing field.

We reached Gerrards Cross around 6:30pm for our journeys home. Thanks all for coming.

Report by Steve R

We once again travelled to Hailes Abbey campsite for a weekend of camping in glorious weather in an idyllic Cotswold setting next to a 12th century Cistercian Abbey with fruit farm next door. 16 of us made it there, and Mark once again supplied all the ex-BAOR equipment including barbecues and the gazebo. Martin and Emma provided stacks of wood for the camp fire and Jan did Gin slims for all. On Saturday we all stocked up for the walk at the farm shop before setting off on the 10 mile hike along the Costwold Way. This is a splendid long-distance path which follows the Cotswold escarpment, affording stunning views over the Vale of Evesham. Our route took in several manors and Norman churches which allowed a cooling break from the unrelenting sun. We had a picnic break at Snowshill village with its pink Valerians and 13th century church opposite the pub. A team of horse riders rode into the pub gardens and grabbed the tables next to ours. Across at the church a society wedding straight out of Richard Curtis land was in progress at the church, Jan rushed back at this stage as she had waited, with half the village, for the bride's arrival. She gave a breathless account of the dresses to Emma, Genevieve and the horse riders before ordering ice cream for all to cool down.

We continued on the trail and passed through the timeless village of Stanton. Rob noticed a housemartin nest in one of the gables. We made a detour after passing Stanway Manor, as the GWR 175th anniversary steam rail festival was in progress. Our route took us alongside the restored track as we watched several locos steam past with vintage Pullman carriages, Jeff noting the numbers in his book once more. Back at the campsite we were greeted by young Peter, Jane and Freddie, ex-members who live nearby and were camping here for the first time. Mark prepared a great barbecue once more while Martin set up the campfire. We finished the barbecue with strawberries and cream whilst Genevieve put together a birthday cake and presented it to Rob which inspired Vic to launch into a James Brown medley in the campfire heat to everyones acclaim.

Sunday was culture day. Some explored Hailes Abbey whilst others visited the famous gravity fountain at Stanway. Most of us visited Winchcombe and wandered around the fine church next door to the site of its 12th century Benedictine abbey. Afterwards Kerry led us on a hike to the 16th century Sudeley castle with its' extensive rose and herb gardens. Afterwards we all gathered at the courtyard cafe with its fine views of the Cotswold hills and Belas Knap looming in the distance. We enjoyed a final cream tea next to the honey-coloured castle walls reflecting the rays of the sun, and listened to some more timeless yarns from Mark and Kerry.

Report by Brian G

We met as ever at the Tide tables cafe by the river, 17 of us today including 5 new members on their first event. After listening in rapt attention to Derek's yarns about his exploits in Thailand we set off on the riverside path. Mark B showed his navigation skills were still in place by not losing the Thames, even when the rest of us turned off to Petersham.

We made our way to the viewpoint at King Henrys mound, Jane pointing out the different trees to be seen on the way. Mark B's lost gang found the main group in Ham as we crossed the common and viewed Ham House.

We then made our way to the Polo park where we discovered that it was open day and free to all visitors. We had our picnic in the sun whilst watching the first match, Cavaliers vs Las Avisas. We were then invited by several horse riders to come to the club house as guests so Jan and Derek led the way and we found a table to watch the rest of the matches, Prem and Valerie getting the Pimms from the bar.

After the Polo we crossed the Thames by the ferry and Lofty (the local guide) led us to Orleans house art gallery and the secret York House gardens. We began to worry that we would not have enough time for tiffin so Lofty upped the pace to arrive at Marble Hill house just in time to order lashings of cake and tea in the elegant coach house gardens. Ann and Mark O led a very illuminating debate on gender reorientation techniques followed by a revelation from Kevin, whilst the rest of us enjoyed the scenery.

Report by Brian G

A very soggy Saturday was had by five of us - myself, Dave, Erika, and two brave newbies - Karen and Jacqui.

We started out from Tring Station along the Ridgeway where the rain was kindly holding off. Most sensible walkers had stayed away so we only encountered one lone Munjack deer wandering across our woodland path as we headed onwards and upwards to Ivinghoe Beacon.

After a cloudy but still impressive view, we travelled down through the sheep fields (some very shorn sheep shivering there) and continued on the Icknield way towards Ringshall, through more woods and farmland, eventually reaching the village of Little Gaddesden as the rain came down. No chance of a picnic, but we did have a nice warm pub and were greeted by a friendly dog with a keen interest in our packed lunches. After some hot drinks and a good thaw out, we continued our merry (alright - cold, windy and wet) way through the pretty, but blustery, Golden Valley. Somehow Karen's umbrella stayed in one piece, but my glasses fogged up completely so special thanks to Dave for getting us back on track towards Aldbury!

Happily en route back, we spotted some more deer, helped a few lost- looking school kids and wound up the day with a well-deserved drink at the Valiant Trooper in Aldbury before the last leg to Tring. Despite the weather, it proved a lovely, varied walk through one of the nicest parts of Hertfordshire. Well worth recycling for a sunnier day.

Thanks to everyone for coming, and remaining stoically cheerful to the end!

Report by Talia

12 of us spent the Whitsun bank holiday weekend exploring Exmoor and the Somerset coast, using Minehead as a base. We stayed at the YHA hostel, which is in a secluded spot on the edge of Alcombe (so secluded, in fact, that we needed to use torches to find our way back to the hostel after dark).

Those of us that had arrived by early on Friday evening decided to go to the local pub, the Britannia Inn, for dinner and drinks. The pub offered a good selection of beers, which was just as well, as we had the opportunity to try one or two whilst we waited over an hour for the main course to be served. It was worth the wait, although Martin would most likely beg to differ - his 'rare' steak was actually well done, but thankfully it didn't take too long to replace it.

On Saturday, 7 of us walked about 10 miles along the coast from Porlock Weir to Minehead. We chose to follow the 'Alternative Rugged' coastal path, rather than the 'standard' path, which turned out to be a bit more demanding than anticipated (more ascents and descents than the 'standard' path), and also a bit 'scary' in parts (a narrow path with a steep drop down to the sea). The weather was rather variable, so we had to stop several times to put on / take off waterproofs. We finished in Minehead with a well-deserved stop in one of the many tea rooms. Pete and I were both surprised to receive double portions of chocolate fudge cake, but we were convinced that it couldn't have been a mistake, as surely they wouldn't have made the same mistake twice, and Mike D had tried to point out the error of their ways, but thankfully they ignored him!

5 of us did a somewhat longer walk, heading south west through woods away from the hostel taking in Wootton Common. Then across Codsend Moors for the high point of the route, the cairn at Dunkery Beacon (519m). Lunch was still an hour or so away and further north at Horner and a tea shop. The final third of the route headed north close to Alterford and a climb up to Salworthy Beacon and then east along the South West Coast Path to Minehead and back to the hostel, a total of 18 miles.

On Saturday evening, we all ate at the local Indian restaurant, the Alcombe Tandoori. As well as serving good food, the restaurant had the advantage of being the only one which didn't require us to walk all the way in to the centre of Minehead, as well as being only a few minutes' walk from the pub.

On Sunday, the group split into three: 8 of us drove to Wheddon Cross, the highest village on Exmoor, from where we did a circular walk, whose high point (in both senses of the word) was lunch on Dunkery Beacon, from where we had excellent views in all directions, including across to south Wales. This was followed shortly afterwards by the 'low' point of the walk, when a path failed to materialise in the expected location (in spite of double-checking our position using Pete's GPS receiver). This meant that 2 'bonus' miles were added to the walk, making a total of around 10 miles. On the way back to the hostel, we stopped in the picturesque village of Dunster for tea and cakes. Humay and Jiten were particularly impressed with their pot of 'Darjeeling Earl Grey' tea.

3 of us did a 20 mile walk from the hostel. The route headed east to Dunster and its castle and cemetery, then mainly south through various woods and over Croydon Hill and out to Druid's Combe around midday. From there three miles along a country road following Washford River through two villages to our lunch stop and half way point, Washford. The route home finished heading north and the coast to Watchet and then the coast path north-west, some along sandy beaches, to Minehead. The final stretch was then south and two miles back to the hostel.

On the recommendation of hostel manager Andrew, Martin S joined up with the local Minehead cycle club outside the rugby club. They split into two groups - the fast cyclists and the tea shop cyclists. Needless to say having seen the calibre of the fast group with their lightweight racing bikes with minimal luggage, let alone body fat, Martin opted for the tea shop cyclists group, with all his excess weight of a saddlebag / tools for all eventualities and him being on a heavier touring bike! To say that the fast group were fast was an understatement since they blitzed up the first hill so fast that a latecomer (only 30 seconds late departing after them) returned 2 minutes later to join our group having given up the chase to join the back of the peloton! First stop (after numerous undulating hill ascents) for the tea shop cyclists group (which included Andrew, the hostel manager) was a tea shop in Watchet, which was Martin's first breath of the bracing fresh sea air. Their arrival also coincided with the town crier spreading the word about the imminent Morris dancing exhibition taking place. Needless to say they preferred the tea and cake! After tea, the group fragmented further into a male and female group and started cycling in earnest up and over the numerous hills in the area. If anyone ever tells you that Somerset is flat - they lied! The afternoon ride took in reservoirs, lakes and a lot of spectacular views of rolling hills, more hills and yet more hills to pedal up. Fortunately for every hill you climb there is one to freewheel down the other side - but there never seem to be enough of them or last long enough for some strange reason! Great panoramic views of Wimbleball lake and Clatworthy reservoir in blazing sunshine were had along with the backsides of Martin's fellow male cyclists behind whom he was always cycling and with whom he was playing catch up for nigh on 55 miles.

On Sunday evening, we were rather surprised to find that the Britannia Inn didn't serve food, so a few of us returned to the Indian restaurant, whilst others ordered from the local Chinese takeaway, or walked into Minehead to try a Chinese restaurant. Some adjourned to the pub later in the evening.

On Monday, some of the group headed home in the morning, whilst 5 of us decided to do one final walk, taking advantage of the glorious weather prior to a late departure, thus hopefully avoiding the bank holiday travel carnage on the roads. We parked up overlooking Wimbleball Lake and descended for a brief walk along the shoreline with paddling opportunities a plenty! Then it was into the forest via an uphill track towards our lunchtime destination of Dulverton. As we climbed the track we heard a lot of switchblade action which we assumed was due to the cutting down of the trees in the forest by chainsaws. How wrong we were! We had inadvertently walked into an Exmoor motocross club enduro event. They were not chainsaws we had heard but scrambling bikes hurtling around and amongst the trail we were following. Vigilance thus became the "buzz" word as we passed deer scrambling up embankments, bikes going here, there and everywhere, an ambulance trying to locate a competitor who had broken his leg and our very own all-action photographer in the group, risking life and limb to get those all important adrenaline-filled close-up action shots. We now all saw Jeff in a completely new light! Having eventually got to the periphery of the enduro event and given the race organisers a brief map-reading lesson so that they could give the ambulance the correct grid reference to aid the retrieval of the injured rider, we descended down into Dulverston for lunch. The pub we selected (the only one with a beer garden) was a hotbed of activity, with Morris dancers plying their trade outside and folk musicians "jamming" inside. The food and drink went down very well and when it came to resume the walk two of our group decided to spend the rest of the afternoon easing their aches and pains with copious amounts of alcoholic anaesthetic. The remaining three of us then proceeded to finish the walk, encountering a little-used track following a riverbank which was adjacent to a deserted animal compound / sanctuary which had had all its gates opened / destroyed with the added bonus of a decaying equine carcass to negotiate - not a pleasant sight nor one we expected to come across! We eventually escaped the clutches of the overgrown river bank which had proved to be a slow, energy sapping and inhospitable environment in which to walk/scramble and found a tranquil refuge on a bench adjacent to a ford. It was then a steady climb up Haddon Hill back to the car park and the end of the walk. A thoroughly exhilarating walk had ended with the thought "if you hadn't have been there - you would never have believed it!" P.S. We picked up our two sozzled pub dwellers en route back to London.

Thanks to Steve R, Mike D, Humay, Amy, Emma M, Jeff, Simon H, Pete D, Jiten, Martin S and Jane C for coming.

Report by Phil (with contributions from Steve R and Martin S)

Thanks to Keith, Emma, Chonde, Simon, Mary, Phil, and Steve for joining Jim and me on our varied walk around Iver and Iver Heath.

We left West Drayton Station and followed the waterways and canal over the biggest climb, crossing the M25 bridge into Iver. We then walked a few lanes, fields and woods into Love Green where we stopped for refreshments. The path then wound on and finally into the wooded area of Langley park and the colourful rhododrenra. This area of the park had a stunning display and did cause us to change direction a little to take advantage.

On into Black Park and past the Pinewood studios and we eventually got to the scheduled lunch stop to find that the pub we had chosen did not do lunches on Sundays! (that's because we did the reccy on a Saturday!) Oops that was a bit of a surprise but luckily there was a local shop with some lunch goodies and we all enjoyed a pint in the pub nevertheless.

After lunch we followed the track past some very cute piglets, a scary dog, a few dangerous branches until we met up with the M25 and followed it around, crossed the bridge and back among the beautiful woods and waterways of West Drayton; not before having to skirt widely around a whole field of cow families - cows, calves and bulls!

I had estimated the walk at 11.8 miles but as we made such good time I thought it wise to check and on re-calculating it turned out to be 10.5 miles. Never mind, it was an enjoyable walk, shortened a little by the rhododendron display but it was worth it. Next year look out for a revised walk in the area. It will be named as "Iver bit longer walk".

Report by Claire and Jim

A small group met on a sunny Saturday in Guildford. Our route took in the historic centre of the town with a detour to the 14th century castle for the viewpoint over the Wey valley. We then found our way on to the North Downs Way, gently climbing out of the valley. Today seemed to be Duke of Edinburgh day as we passed about 100 hikers in several small groups, some looking more competent than others.

We reached the lunch stop at Watts gallery. After checking out their lemon drizzle we ventured on to the Watts Chapel, one of the hidden gems of the Surrey Hills. It is a unique fusion of Art Nouveau, Celtic, Romanesque and Egyptian influences. We then headed east, passing several manors coated with purple wisteria reflecting the afternoon sun. We arrived at Loseley Park, an Elizabethan mansion setting for many period dramas. We explored the walled garden containing fountains, topiary, herbaceous plants and ancient wisteria around the old tennis court. As the day was heating up we took advantage of the dairy shop selling tubs of the celebrated Loseley ice cream and stayed awhile in the shade of the Lebanon Cedar overlooking the moat of the mansion and the North Downs in the distance. We returned to Guildford via the Wey river path passing various sculptures on the way back to the station.

Report by Brian G

6 of us attended the Ickenham evening walk yesterday. The 3 mile route took in Ickenham green and cricket pitch, where we saw local cadets display the use of a Bashia (where were you Mark?). Then we followed the Celandine way through Ickenham woods and Swakeleys manor. We passed the hidden moat across the River Pinn. We then made our way to Ickenham manor and moat before finding the hidden paths in the twilight.

We made a short stop at the Compass Theatre for the fancy dress shop where Jan tried on a Carmen Miranda outfit and hat from "That night in Rio". Finally we made it to the pub where Jeff and Jonny did their impersonation of Dave and Nick to great acclaim.

Report by Brian G

If the lunch at Polesden Lacey wasn't enough, the wine stop at Denbies Vineyard more than made up for the day's rainy weather. The same could be said for the scenery. Beautiful swathes of bluebells were on show beneath the fresh green canopy of the beech woodlands surrounding the Polesden Lacey estate.

We made a quick start over Effingham common, cutting across rough grassy tussocks, and then took in a long stretch of walk leading up to Greatlee Wood. This is a lovely wood for anyone to enjoy and is a good place to stop and take in the scenery. It was very nice to have the company of 10. Thankyou to Emma, Erika, Brian, Brian, John, Chonde, Martin, Keith, Dave and Mark for coming.

Chonde and Mark suggested that we take care crossing the A246 and have drinks and a rest, which we did. We stopped in an open area by a farm, before walking uphill to a viewing area, where Brian F made a point of stopping to show everyone the view to London. We did see golfers on the course and also communicated to them by waving that we were aware of them. Dave and Erika bought catfood at the estate shop and a sweet puppy called Harry greeted us after we'd had our photos taken by friendly passers-by. Further highlights such as the view to Polesden Lacey were shrouded in cloud.

Although we all walked straight past it the first time, we later found Tanners Hatch hostel, which was worth the visit because we went inside and listened to folk music on a fiddle and guitar.

The view to Dorking from Denbies hillside was as enchanting as ever. It was interesting to learn from John about the changing underlying geology, from one side of Mole valley to the other, from sandy/acidic to chalk, and so we looked out at ancient oak woodlands.

After the vineyard it was time to return home. Thankyou to Brian F for sharing his leadership skills.

Report by Jane

20 of us made it to Conwy for the early May Day bank holiday. Our hostel was recently converted and features a roof terrace, bar with garden and an observation lounge giving breathtaking views over the Conwy estuary and Snowdonia mountains. We had 4 days of dry sunny weather in the national park.

Conwy is a world heritage site due to its' unique castle and complete town walls. All date from the 13th century and are fully accessible. The early arrivals on Friday took advantage of the warm sunny evening to walk along the medieval walls to the harbour before stopping for fish and chips on the harbour front. The setting sun reflected against the yachts in the estuary and the castle walls. After a long session at the Albion (together with its identical twin bar staff and lots of confusion), we all gathered back at the hostel for a viewing from the observation lounge of the lit-up valley and Llandudno in the distance.

On Saturday, one group led by Simon did a 17 mile coastal trek up to and over the Great Orme. This is one of the highest points on the coast and afforded fine views across Anglesey and as far north as Isle of Man (about 45 miles away). All then had a go on the cresta run toboggan at the summit, Martin S proving the fastest on the final round. The group stopped for tea at one of the late Victorian grand hotels along the promenade before returning to Conwy via forest trails.

The other group walked the city walls before touring the castle and its' many towers and battlements. After a coffee break at the famous café contained within one of the towers, we did the estuary walk and the Great Orme ascent before visiting Llandudno and its Victorian pier.

Most of the group ate at the Raj restaurant in town, "finest curry on the coast" in the guide book. It even met Jeff's high expectations. We were entertained late into the night at the hostel by music in the lounge and various requests from Mike S and Cathy T.

On Sunday, we enjoyed an extra hobbit-style second breakfast due to over-ordering by the hostel. Mary was especially pleased at her second full English and stated, "it was a feast worthy of Cicero". It came in handy as one group did the climb of Snowdon today. Simon, Emma and Mary did the Pyg track (all debutants at Snowdon). Martin J and Mike McA succeeded in traversing the very challenging Crib Goch route. All had spectacular views on a clear blue day, seeing as far as Cader Idris to the far south. The descent was by the Miners track after refuelling at the new summit cafe, much improved on the previous hut. Another group went to Bets Y Coed where Gina led a forest walk to the Swallow Falls, Cathy just managing to stop herself from toppling into the waters. Dean led Paul and Brian on a mountain biking challenge on the Marin trail. This is an exhilarating course with hairpin bends and rocky descents through the Gwydir forest.

Afterwards all met Debbie and Francis (ex-members now living in Snowdonia). After the inevitable café stop, Debbie and Dean took us on a scenic route across to Bedgellert for the Welsh Highland steam railway. This line has just extended its' route south towards Portmadog. We enjoyed excellent views through the spectacular Pass of Aberglaslyn, the looming mountains and river looking more like the Rockies than North Wales. Jeff discussed locomotives with the train crew during the ride. Back in town we had the best cream tea of the trip at the ever-fabulous Lynns tearooms and thanked Debbie for the drive by buying her and Francis the biggest knickerbocker glories in North Wales.

Nina and Lauren meanwhile took in a horse-riding hack across the bridleways south of Caernarfon, with views of Anglesea. Afterwards they visited the well-advertised Welsh Highland Zoo, featuring an eclectic mix of sheep, goats and cattle. Bev, Olly and Archie spent the day by the beach at Llandudno with a visit to the heritage steam fair and Victorian pageant on the promenade. 2 others (no names) ventured afar to watch football on a big screen. Plus one other ex-member, who was in town by coincidence, did a tough ascent of Tryfan and hitch-hiked back to the hostel.

Most of the group later had an Italian meal in town where Emma also celebrated her birthday.

On Monday, most of us did a leisurely walk around the beautiful Bodnant gardens nearby. The azaleas and rhododendra were in full colour, and dominated the first section of the trail. We were given a rousing rendition of "Men of Harlech" by the Welsh mens choir who were performing by the Italianate temple with a verdant mountainous backdrop. Afterwards several of us retired to the tea rooms overlooking the terraces and enjoyed a cooling ice cream whilst reflecting on another great visit to Snowdonia and the abundance of activities and historic places in the national park.

Report by Brian G

After an overcast morning the clouds cleared for our annual visit to Perivale Woods. Blue skies greeted 14 of us at the station where we waited in vain for Derek to arrive late once more.

The woods are an ancient forest owned by the Selbourne Society since 1902 and opened to the public just 1 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!)

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.

We then climbed to the summit of Horsenden Hill for the viewpoint. Mike then offered to buy everyone a round so we descended northwards to the Ballot Box pub. We enjoyed some cooling drinks in the garden listening to some new ripping yarns from Mark O.

Report by Brian G

10 of us met at Hurst Green in Surrey on a hot, sunny Saturday morning. We set off and soon began climbing up to the Greensand Way hills through woodlands of hazel and beech trees. We passed several impressive farmhouses, some with riding stables and jumps in the next paddock. As we crossed into Kent we noticed some Oast houses come into view and the landscape generally was different to that in the Chiltern hills.

After some more climbs and descents we made it to Chartwell, the manor house lived in by Churchill from 1924 to 1965. We toured some of the gardens and lakes within the grounds before finding a perfect picnic spot with glorious views over the Weald of Kent. Afterwards we passed Toys Hill with its curious clock house and then climbed to the secluded upland village of Ide Hill.

From here our route we took a gently descending route, passing the National Trust gardens at Emmets Green, towards the valley which divides the Greensand Hills from the North Downs. We reached the attractive town of Westerham where we enjoyed a cooling drink by the village green overlooked by the statue of General Wolfe, the town's most famous past resident.

Report by Brian G

Some of us HAWOGians extended the Durham trip by travelling slightly further north to tackle the 84 mile length of the Hadrian's Wall path - it seemed like a good idea at the time! I hope that I speak for all eight of us when I say that actually it did prove to be a good idea.

After a brief stop at Gateshead to view the Angel of the North we started our walk, ironically at Wallsend. The first day started under the shadow of the cranes of the Swann Hunter shipyard. I was pleased to see Dave had brought along a plastic gladius for the trip - at least someone was taking this seriously. We travelled westwards; following the River Tyne, into the heart of Newcastle where we crossed the Millennium (Blinking Eye) Bridge took a cultural break at the Baltic Gallery. Here occurred our first odd experience as who was sitting there but Dave L who was visiting with another social group!!!!! Most of this first day was pavement walking but we finished with a few of miles of a more countrified area with a fairly steep uphill rise to Heddon and our first nights stopover. It was here that we discovered that Richard, who had booked accommodation himself, had arranged to sleep with the girls - whilst I admired his inventiveness, Erika and Emma seemed less taken by the arrangement so the lads had him move into our room. Dining at the local pub we were entertained by Paddy and Richard with their constant banter covering diverse topics such as whether the most important ingredient in a tin of Heinz Beans was the bean or the sauce to whether Shaggy from Scooby Doo had the surname Doo! This night also gave us our catch phrase for the week - when Richard received his pork belly dinner he saw it was twice the size of Paddy's meal, and he raised his hands in the air and loudly declared himself as the "WINNER!!!!!"

Our second day had us follow the trail along the military road from Heddon to Chollerford. The road was built by General Wade who built the road in the 18th century to move troops to ward off incursions by Bonnie Prince Charlies Scots. Of course he made full use of the wall and built his road right on top of it. It now forms the B6318 - our constant companion for the day. Despite the path following close to the road it proved an interesting and pleasant walk and gave rise to our second weird experience when we discovered a field scattered with loads of stuffed Scooby Doo's! Steve R ran about like a mad man gathering them up for a photo for proof.

Day three was a shorter walk from Chollerford to Once Brewed - this gave us some rest and allowed us time to admire the scenery which was getting better by the day. Paddy said a prayer at the temple of Mithras (a sun god) and it seemed to work as we did not have a spot of rain whilst walking for the whole journey. Some also took the opportunity to explore Housesteads Fort which is still in remarkably good condition - as with our trip last year the Roman toilet block seemed to generate the most interest (a bloke thing I think). Back up on the wall the RAF seemed to put on a special display just for us - particularly when a Harrier Jump Jet roared over our heads just 30 or 40 feet above us - thrilling! That night in the pub entertainment was down to me and I laid on a impromptu pub quiz where I was shocked to find out how competitive Emma was - I fear what would've happened if she lost - she didn't however partly because Paddy seemed to think the answer to everything was bacon sandwich! He insists this was an attempt to involve Steve N - to be fair the one question their team got right was as a result of Steve correcting the answer when Paddy put the pen down.

Unfortunately Dave had picked up an injury and was unable to complete the rest of the walk but he did manage to meet us at various stopping points, help out ferrying baggage (mainly Paddy's and Richard's copious food supplies), visit various places of interest and get chatting to all the little old ladies in the area. The rest of us continued our journey beyond the halfway point to Gilsland. This took us up over crags, past quarries and some of the most complete sections of the wall. The day ended at our farmhouse accommodation for the night - twin rooms, flat-screen TV's, wet rooms, a selection of 10 types of tea and fizzy things to relax the feet - heaven!

The day 5 leg of our journey was to take us to Carlisle. This was an 18 mile journey mainly crossing open flat land and skirting the river. I have to confess to exaggerating the mileage - having got a bit of a hard time from Erika for underestimating on a previous day I thought this may be a better tactic - as when it proved to be less mileage it would seem better. To my surprise this seemed to work and, unlike our chairman, I shall now overestimate all my walk distances by at least 2 miles.

The final day of the walk took us from Carlisle to Bowness on Solway. This was a very different environment - following the river out of Carlisle crossing farm land and a very flat 2 mile dead straight, dead flat walk across river floodplain, a few further miles following the river along the estuary our journey's end was within spitting distance. The girls held Steve R down so that he couldn't march off and finish the walk on his own, thus allowing the back markers to catch up so we finished together - being congratulated by the local residents on our triumphant arrival at the small Roman style structure (complete with mosaic floor) that has been erected to mark the start / finish of the path. We were to be greeted by Dave - bottle of bubbly in hand.

On our last night we had a celebration meal and then drinks - some celebrated a little too much and Emma, Steve N and someone else - OK, me - got locked out of the hotel and had to phone Erika at 2 in the morning to let us in (I am still grovelling over this one!)

As a bonus Steve N and R, me, Dave, Erika and Emma stopped off in the Lake District on the homeward journey - Dave, Erika and Emma climbed Souther Fell whilst the two Steves and I scaled Blencathra via Sharp Edge - it was here I had my moment of triumph - I found that whilst the two Steves have always been able to easily out-walk me I could scamper up the rocky edge far faster than them - as a consequence I was able to have a leisurely rest until Steve R caught up and I could say what I have waited one and a half years for "hey Steve - Slacker!!!"

I really learnt that the best of walks are significantly down to the people involved and so would like to finish by thanking Erika, Emma, Dave, Steve N, Steve R, Paddy and Richard for attending and making me laugh from Wallsend to Bowness on Solway and making the week so enjoyable.

Report by Keith

4 of us met at Mortimer Station for the Roman trek. 1 other person (no names) joined us 2 miles into the walk, not by using mobiles or a map (he had neither), but by guesswork and asking locals.

As we waited for late arrivals the day brightened and sunblock was applied by some. Our route went by St Mary's at Mortimer, the timeless viewpoint from the rectory pond took in the church 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.

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 we passed the Calleva Arms a shower started so we ventured inside. Genevieve questioned some of the nominations in the recent Henrys but was reminded of the strict impartiality of the scrutiny panel. Our afternoon route took in the gorse-covered heathlands of Padworth Common. We also had some shocking experiences with an electric fence with no warning sign as we descended from the Georgian mansion that is Padworth College. We then crossed several bridges to reach the Kennet canal and the end of the walk. We managed by great planning to arrive at the station a few minutes ahead of the hourly train for the scenic return to London, crossing the Thames at several points.

Report by Brian G

Twenty two of us spent four nights at YHA Durham over Easter.

We were blessed with mostly dry weather, only a few drizzles, and a glowing sunset on our arrival on Thursday evening, the evening of Saturday and for spells of our Sunday walk. Our hostel was St Chad's college which is normally used to house the students at the university and we each had our own room and breakfast for £22 a night. St Chad's is only a few minutes walk from the city centre and nestled amongst many historic buildings and directly opposite the Cathedral. Many made full use of our proximity to the centre with late night visits to the bars.

On Friday all except one started our main walk, a 22-ish miler triangular starting 16 miles away in Wolsingham. We followed the path from the steam railway station across the moor for about 90 minutes before it disappeared. Compass was then set (south west) and followed until we crossed a clear track where we paused to ponder our position in the mist. Was that mound to our right Five Peaks (478m) and the one to our left Pawlaw Pike (488m)? David and I decided they were and after following the clear track northish for a bit to its' end and over the brow, we then headed back along the direction our compass said. And about 10 minutes later we found a path again and it was heading in the right direction too. Result. We reached our lunch stop in good time before heading into the woods south of Hamsterely Common and following the Bedburn Beck clearly east. Worked well until the split in the river, which was right on the edge of my map, and I didn't notice. Forty minutes later and all was not well. We should have been out of the woods but instead we had started heading west along the river. An unintended exploration of the woods ensued, compounding the uncertainy as it was never ending and my map said we should only be a few minutes from the edge. Eventually we found a reference point and a local and all was explained - we were off my map. A little later and all became clear, I had followed the beck at the split south and off my map rather than continue east. A lesson to learn. So we completed the distance, probably a bit more, but not quite the intended route, and returned to Wolsingham around 7pm.

On Saturday, the main walk followed a disused railway line, now a cycle path, north-west from the city centre. Eight of us reached Lanchester for lunch just after midday. Post lunch and we started trying to follow a Roman road, the Dere Street. And it proved difficult. Hardly any of it remained and it took us a good two hours to cover probably 3-4 miles maximum. We reached Esh Winning where some departed to take the shorter route home. The rest of us continued on, heading south over some hills and fields to Willington. Navigation became easier from here as we followed the Weardale Way east (checked my compass this time!) which followed the River Wear to just south of Durham. And a lovely sunset upon our arrival back for 8pm. Total distance probably a good 25-27 miles.

Sunday, and I had something lighter for everyone. Only 19 miles today! No, an easy 11 miles walk along the best bit of the coast, from Seaham to Crimdon. Overall the best weather of the Easter weekend and an early finish, we returned to St Chad's by about 4pm.

Thanks again to all who came, hope you enjoyed it, thanks to Mary and Talia for booking meals for most of us on the evenings, and to all who drove. I'm looking forward to my next trip away.

Report by Steve R

Many thanks to the nine HAWOG members for turning out on Sunday morning, with less sleep than usual... To the new lady in HAWOG who tried to join us, but was an hour late, please come along to my next Chilterns outing, it will be worth the effort!

We set out with a brisk breeze to quicken the step, however the ankle-deep mud soon slowed us down. Had the walk organiser planned the route off the main bridleways, we may not have encountered so much mud... However, it was not long before we were climbing a number of small hills with fine views overlooking the Oxfordshire countryside and the magnificent Didcot power station in the distance. There was a sense of spring about to burst forth, with daffodils present all along the route and occasional groups of Chaffinches zipping over the hedgerows.

The focal point of the walk failed to materialise, the Young Offenders Institution at the halfway point was nowhere to be seen. It was hoped that they may have a well-stocked canteen, but as few of us were young enough to wander in without arousing suspicion we didn't bother!

Overall a good walk, perhaps lacking in variety, it could have had more hilly bits, but as I pointed out, we were on the North edge of the Chilterns and the hills do begin to flatten out. We finished quite a bit earlier than I anticipated, at about 3.00. Well done team for a good effort. A number of us retired to the nearest pub for a well-earned lemonade.

Watlington seems to be a haven for Red Kites, I counted ten flying over the car park in the morning and we saw a much larger group when resting in the pub. We came to the conclusion that someone must have been feeding them or perhaps one of the locals had died in a field.

Report by Mike D

8 of us met at St Albans Station on Saturday. Cyclists from Spokes and HAWOG were on the joint ride.

Our route took us along the disused rail line to Hatfield, now a well-maintained and scenic Sustrans cycleway. We arrived at Hatfield House, a majestic Tudor palace, and decided to have a tea stop at the cafe whilst Claire and Ann caught up (they had taken an unscheduled detour on another bridleway).

We then climbed up to the highest point of the ride (not much of a climb) above Sandridge, where we enjoyed the views back over Hatfield. We stopped for lunch at Sandridge, taking over the smokers den, no smokers today but great for storing the bikes as we sheltered from one of the several showers of the day.

Mary Ann (of Spokes) then kindly led the route via lots of quiet rural lanes to reach Chedwick and Stanley Kubrick's mansion. We had a debate on who could list all his films and we got up to 10 after a struggle. We then descended a long private road passing farms and riding stables before entering Gorhambury park. This is the private estate of Gorhambury House, originally the home of the Elizabethan academic Sir Francis Bacon. The ride afforded us a grand view of St Albans Abbey in the distance, looming over the flat landscape with the tree-lined River Ver slowly flowing by. We viewed the Roman theatre and walls on the way back to the station before catching the Abbey flyer back to Watford.

Report by Brian G

I arrived at Grafham Water, parking in the Marlow car park. As I was paying the three pounds parking fee for the day, a car parked up alongside me. It was John C, a fairly new HAWOG member who e-mailed me the previous week, with his Dalmatian dog, Mitch.

As the time passed the 10.30 start time, we set off in an anti-clockwise direction around Grafham Water, taking in the views of the sailing on the lake and the low-flying birds in the warm sunny morning. The only thing you had to look out for was the odd cycle whizzing past you as it was firm underfoot.

On approaching the turn off for Kimbolton where we were planning to have lunch, John noticed that Mitch was limping. On discovering that it was cut, we started to head back towards the lake. We stopped outside the waterside cafe at West Perry to see how Mitch was and to have a break. As we were having lunch, there was a banging on the window - cafe food only, I think she said, so we moved down to the lower level, out of sight, to carry on.

On returning to the car park, Mitch was happy to see the car. Thanks to John for coming along.

Report by Pete D

A small group met at Epsom Station on a fine sunny spring morning. We set off southwards, climbing up to the racecourse where we stopped for the expansive views over the course and the Epsom Downs. We then took Stane Street, a Roman road now bridleway, on a undulating route towards Box Hill. We had one vertiginous descent from Mickleham Downs before stopping at the ever-welcome CTC cafe at Headley for pasties, teas and rock cakes.

In the afternoon we did a steady climb up to the North Downs Way and followed the ridge, with panoramic views to the South as far as the South Downs in the distance. No mishaps or punctures today as we headed north via Walton on the Hill back to Epsom and a pub stop by the town square whilst waiting for the trains back to Harrow.

Report by Brian G

We set off from Sudbury Hill on a crisp but very bright and sunny morning - Mark O, Martha, Simon, Sue, Michelle, Lorna, Jackie, Chonde, Zhang, Emma - all so very confident in their leader's map reading skills!

We managed to negotiate the busy traffic on Whitten Avenue and then headed into rural Horsenden Hill, going through mud and forest, spotting the wildlife along the way, an amazing heron. We got to the summit with no injuries or altitude sickness, and in brilliant sunshine admired the promised view of the surrounding counties.

We then got onto the canal path and headed towards Willow Tree Marina - so lucky to have decided to take the route this particular week as we discovered that in a couple of Saturdays the canal route was to be closed for repairs! We set a good pace and chatted loads along the way. One tech stop and onwards we went, everyone building up an appetite for lunch and perhaps a drink or two!

We got to the marina, which is truly a hidden gem behind the busy roads of Yeading, where we had lunch and some of us definitely put the world to right. We stayed and chatted for a good hour or so before heading back.

Just reverse the above and you will get the route! We arrived back at the station and finished off in a little cafe for a cuppa which rounded off the day perfectly.

Just to say thanks to all of you for joining my walk. I had a fab day out, great company and a good laugh. See you soon.

Report by Carla

A small group met at Harrow on Sunday for the joint ride with Harrow Cycle group (the local LCC group). As the rain had not eased off we agreed to do a shortened route taking in various canal paths and hidden cycle ways. We discovered an excellent route through Brent and stopped at the Ace Cafe again (this time it was full of Aston Villa supporters down for the League cup final). The rain had almost stopped by now so we continued along the canal towards Brentford before heading North via Brent valley park. Our route was just over 20 miles. We finished at the Black Horse pub by tradition and planned some more joint rides, to be announced.

Report by Brian G

Nine members met this morning at 10am outside a grey-skied Princes Risborough Station for my Late For Your Date walk.

The walking comprised three main stages. The first was the route from Princes Risborough towards Thame where we followed a disused railway line, now the Phoenix Trail for cyclists, to the lovely village of Towersey. This marked the start of stage two and our passing through a number of quaint villages. We stopped at about 11.30 for tea at St Nicolas church in Kingsey where the vicar asked if we wanted to see the church as he would leave it open for us. We declined as we had muddy boots, instead having tea outside. We then reached the lovely old village of Haddenham, full of houses with thatched roofs and far too many pubs, quite a few still doing business. Some of us (not me) managed to visit two pubs and eat lunch in the hour and a bit we stayed there for lunch. We started by sitting outside the duck pond and eating lunch in front of the 13th century church of St Mary's the Virgin which is in the oldest part of the village. Whilst others were in the pubs, the rest of us did a circular walk around the village.

After lunch we headed out past St Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital and on to the village of Ford where on route we were accosted by some very friendly sheep and a pony. From Ford we embarked on the third stage of our walk, mostly following the major Aylesbury Ring path to Smokey Row, pausing mid-afternoon for tea at Kimble Wick. Our legs certainly got a good working along this path as much of it was through muddy fields. In the distance ahead we could see some of the Chiltern Hills which we gradually approached over the next few hours. We reached Princes Risborough Station at about 5:15pm.

The sky remained cloudly virtually all day, a few glimpses of sun but only a few drops of rain too. As promised there was no ascent, the 15 mile ish route really was very flat. Thanks to (girls) Emma, Erika and (guys) David H, Paddy, Paul S, Simon H, Stephen C, Steve N for joining me.

Report by Steve R

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
We had a walk,
Which was successful too.

Sunday morning was a little damp and grey and with some spots of rain, but it did not deter Arthur, Mary, Phil, Jan and Jane, a potential new member who only found out about HAWOG on the day before my walk. We left at about 10:45, waiting for Derek and Prem who were running late. Under instruction from Derek, we departed, and both of them would meet up with us in Sarratt.

Being Valentine's Day, all my lady walkers received a red rose from me! It begs the question what the "late for your date" walk did? From Watford Met Station we made our way to Cassiobury Park, through the woods and eventually came out by Chandlers Cross, followed the footpath out, which went parallel to the M25, then we crossed the M25 and headed towards Sarratt, being not far away.

In the meantime Prem had reserved a table for us in the Boot pub, by the log fire. Jane, Prem, Derek and I ordered food and drink. We were joined shortly afterwards by Mary, Phil, Arthur, and Jan, after they had finished their sandwiches, sitting in the cold on the green. The pub (The Boot) was not very crowded, and those who brought sandwiches wished they had ordered hot food, as it was very good.

Derek and Prem joined us on the return walk to Rickmansworth. We picked up the Chiltern Way out of Sarratt, which led us to the Chess River valley. Then we followed the River Chess path back to Rickmansworth, once again crossing the M25, walking through Loudwater, with Prem making alternative route suggestions! With a rest stop we re-evaluated the remaining route and all continued on the course which I had set. We all made it to Rickmansworth, some of us feeling a little tired - I was going to walk the last leg of the route back to Watford but in the end I decided to catch the train back with the others. I had to take Derek and Prem back to their car in Sarratt, where we revisited the Boot pub for a cup of tea.

The day was a pleasant 9 mile leisurely walk with no major navigation issues, varied scenery, meeting many other people. I was greeted by a enthusiastic friendly dog, which was then told off by its' owner and put back on its' lead! I would like to thank all who attended making a thoroughly enjoyable day.

Report by Dave T

Seventeen attended our first training event of the year, the Talk Then Walk: Top Tips For Organisers.

We held the day at a different venue from those in recent years, the Memorial Hall in the lovely traditional village of Aldbury which came recommended from another group. The venue comprised a few quirky rooms each with fire places and a main hall with high ceiling and stage.

The content for the day was revised from our previous training days to cover our group-specific event organising protocol rather than just how to lead a walk. So we started by discussing the Submit An Event information on our website (our event forms, two programmes each year, locations, activities, accommodation, promotion, monies etc). Then expert Rambler Andrew Z came in and led a discussion about considerations in planning a walk followed by how to read a map. At lunch we agreed four groups each of which planned a 5 mile ish walk from Aldbury, each roughly heading in one of the quarters around the village. All departed the hall by 2pm and returned just after 4.30pm. At the end of the day attendees chose a number between 1 and 14 to select a location from which they would submit and lead a walk for our group's summer programme. The locations are all good places to lead walks from in the Chilterns, Thames Valley and Surrey Hills. As some attendees would pair up with others to lead their first walk the following seven locations were chosen: Aldbury, Cookham, Bourne End (Herts), Ivinghoe, Marlow, Penn, Wendover.

Thanks to (girls) Anna, Chonde, Daveena, Emma, Lisa, Neena, Ngaire, Renu, Zermeen and (guys) Ashok, Mark, Paul, Simon for attending and hopefully taking your first steps to being able to plan a route, navigate in the countryside and contribute to our group's outdoor activities programme. And best of luck to our four teenage attendees with your Duke of Edinburgh award - hope the day was of value and you pass.

Finally, a big thanks also to Andrew Z for again giving his time and sharing his knowledge of walk planning and maps with everyone and to Bob S and Mark O for each taking a group out and more importantly, ensuring they got back!

Report by Steve R

It looked a fairly low turnout as we arrived at Berkhamsted Station and I wondered if the walk's title had put people off coming until I decided to check the other side of the station and was delighted to discover that we would be 15 altogether. A murky misty morning put paid to some of the views I had promised but as we began with a series of short climbs and descents most of us were looking downwards trying to avoid the deepest muddy parts of the path. We kept up a fairly brisk pace which resulted in me nearly losing two but only for a minute or so. Reunited we stopped in the tiny village of Great Gaddesden for a hot cuppa. We then crossed the shallow River Gade and headed up towards Jockey End passing two large houses, Gaddesden Place and Golden Parsonage.

Not having pre-walked the route added to the interest for me although walking at the back, or getting too deeply distracted in conversation nearly caused a couple of detours. At one point the path across 2 small fields offered an 'easier' route. At first we thought it merely avoided a couple of stiles but the ferocious looking goats with big horns glaring at us may have been the reason.

We reached our lunch stop in Studham just after 1pm where quite a few wanted to know how far we had walked and more importantly how much further it would be. I was a little unsure at the time but can reveal, having checked later, that we had covered 9 miles and therefore the second half would be only 6. Lunch proved to be a freezing affair for nearly all, especially Mark B whose soup had gone stone cold in the flask. Only Emma ate in the nearby Red Lion. Mark O held out for 45 minutes and then had to be restrained from entering with the promise of a tipple at the end of the walk.

After lunch the sun came out (for all of 5 minutes) but we quickly warmed up on the way back to Berkhamsted via Little Gaddesden and the Ashridge Estate. We finished just after 4pm despite some uncertainty on my part while negotiating the woods. Rule number one while leading a walk - never admit you're lost, it only causes anxiety.

Lots of laughs and good banter from all, some not suitable for publication! Thank you to Steve R, Steve N, Emma M, Phil, Mark B, Helen, Mark O, Marin, Claire A, Richard, Paddy, Keith, and Clare N for joining Erika and me.

Report by David H

As a result of the indoor climbing time being changed to suit Brunel Climbing Wall's new rule, unfortunately a few people could not make it. Four people turned up for my indoor climbing event: Lee, Lingjie, Lily and me. The climbing wall was almost empty. We had enough space and time to practice tying a figure-of-eight knot, putting on the harness properly and setting up the belay device. Lee and Linjie enjoyed climbing and completed a grade 4 climbing route. Lee really surprised me, he even tried and completed a grade 5 climbing route with his trainer. That's almost unbelievable for a beginner. Lily did very well with the belay. After climbing we had a nice drink and a Chinese meal in Uxbridge. We had a great time.

Because of Brunel climbing wall's new procedure, beginners have to monitored on a one-to-one basis by experienced climbers, so I called my friend Lenka to support us. I would like to take this opportunity to thank her.

Report by Zhang

Twenty one members turned up to join me on the new members walk. It was a chilly morning with the temperature recorded as low as -4. There was a bit of delay to the start of the walk, one carload decided to go sightseeing round Ibstone. Anyway, the troops were getting cold so we set of briskly heading into Cowleaze wood. We emerged shortly into the bright morning sunshine and the first photo opportunity of the morning. We then headed through woodland to Beacon hill where we skirted round the edge of it, at this point I decided to detour and add a bit extra onto the walk. Some people commented about being lost but I'm sticking to my story. When back on track again we picked up the Ridgeway and had a few minutes break at the village of Lewknor. Shortly afterwards we stopped for lunch with the sun being kind to us in the corner of a field next to a very nice private garden. After lunch the route took us onto the Oxfordshire Way toward Pyrton where a group photograph was taken in front of the church, much to the amusement of passing cars wondering who had invaded their village. The final part of the walk took us uphill where a few photographs were taken of a spread out field of walkers.

I think it was a great day's walking and hope everyone enjoyed the easy pace I set, and I hope to see both the new members and existing members that came along on a walk in the near future.

I would like to thank all who turned up: Clare N, Brian F, Phil, Steve R, Richard E, Renu, Paul S, Erika, Dave H, Chonde, Emma M, Paddy, Mayur, Mary, Simon, Jane, John, Arthur R, Mark S, Marin and last but not least Keith.

Report by Ian

Sixteen attended my West Wycombe, 1936 and Back walk today. Weather looked positive in the morning, quite mild, light cloud and a touch of sun. We started with a climb and into woods heading south west to Lane End, then Frieth where we stopped for tea before lunch at Fingest.

Some went into the Chequers Inn for lunch, a bit too literally for Pete who sat on a dainty looking bench next to their entrance and went crashing through. Thankfully ample padding meant no damage to the foundations of the inn. Those of us with packed lunches ate in the village and some of us (John, Paul and me) walked up to the windmill overlooking Turville for its' views over some Chiltern hills.

After lunch we started our northern push through Bolter End and Wheeler End and the heading east into the woods and criss crossing our path out. Renu and Paul headed back for a short cut back to West Wycombe while the rest of us contined on through Booker Common and the outskirts of High Wycombe.

We flirted with the edge of the town, only teasing mind, before heading back onto countryside paths and our final climb up Towerage and then back to West Wycombe during dusk. We arrived back just before 5pm. Distance about 13 ish miles. The afternoon weather was absolutely superb for a winter countryside walk. We had blue skies, a dash of clouds, and a lovely sunset with stretches of red and yellow.

Tea and cake followed for those who wanted at my place. We discussed all sorts of things - alternative names for our group, why men with squeaky voices don't walk very well, stalking and walking, and one of us being banned and on the run from another outdoor activities group... Must have been something Erika added to the cake she brought along.

Thanks to Clare, Erika, Mary, Renu; Bob, David, Keith, Paul, Paddy, Pete, Phil, Richard, Simon E, Simon H and Steve N for joining me. I'm looking forward to the next one.

Report by Steve R

A record 33 cyclists met on a very cold but bright Sunday morning at Ealing. We had riders from ECC, HAWOG, Spokes, and Twickenham Cyclists. Steve N kindly volunteered to act as back marker and did a fine job at keeping the peloton together. Our route was a mixture of quiet back roads, cycle paths, and riverside and canal paths.

After viewing the site of the Guinness Brewery we found the hidden entrance to Twyford Abbey, a neglected 18th century neo-Gothic palace glimpsed through the fencing, incongruous amidst new housing developments. We took the canal through Park Royal before deciding to stop for a warming coffee break at the famous Ace Cafe. We took over one section of it (surrounded by bikers) and viewed the many photos inside from its glory days in the 1950s. We then continued through the Brent River parklands to find ourselves at the Neasden Mandir Hindu temple, a masterpiece of marble carvings and sculptures. We managed to get a free guided tour from a friendly guide who explained some of the symbolism of the art works. We then headed north to reach Wembley Stadium via its hidden riverside approach. We took in the famous arch before continuing the route North West before heading south to Greenford Green and the Black Horse pub. We enjoyed a late lunch in the pub and were joined by a few cyclists who had not made the start time.

Report by Brian G

Ten of us struggled out of our cosy beds on a bitterly cold Sunday morning, wondering if it would be worth the effort. Well it certainly was, as it turned out to be a glorious sunny day.

We started our 8 mile journey at Chesham with a nice big hill to warm us all up (and a nice big lie from me that it was the only one - sorry!) Strolling through the frosted fields across the Chiltern plateau - originally a complete quagmire on my previous recce but thankfully frozen over (mostly), we passed some wooly llamas, made our way down to the Chess valley, past Latimer House, and finally along the river towards our very welcome pub in Chorleywood. A few brave souls ate their sandwiches outside, while four of us pigged out at the pub with a leg of lamb each. Steve R popped in for a cuppa and then we wandered down to Chorleywood Station to make our way home.

Thanks to everyone who came - newbies and not-quite-so-newbies - for making my first venture so enjoyable. It was a really lovely start to the year!

Report by Talia