Photos & Reports for 2013

This is where you'll find photos and reports from members who've been on outdoor activities with the group in 2013. We also have photos and reports from other years:

Twelve of us set out across the frosty golf course in the glorious sunshine with not a golfer or golf ball in sight. Pretty Denham village had not yet woken up from last night's festivities - could have gone back a century apart from the modern dress of the twelve of us. After sleepy Denham the canal was a hive of activity with its locks, fishermen and dog walkers. Due to inattention on the part of the walk leader, some of us were well on the way to Birmingham and had to retrace our steps. Cross country across numerous stiles brought us to our lunch stop in a pretty churchyard in south Harefield.

Picking up the Hillingdon Trail with panoramic views led us back to Black Jacks Mill (a lot of déjà vu here) and on across the reservoir with its weird well-tended hedgerows of unknown purpose. Back to Denham with daylight to spare!

Thanks to Brigitta, Claire, Erika, Catherine, Mary, Rodica, Dave H, Mark P, Marin, Mike D and Phil for joining me.

Report by Deirdre

4 of us met at Berkhamsted station for a walk on one of shortest days of the year. We headed off promptly at 9:30am, walking north west along the Grand Union canal for a couple of miles. When we reached Dudswell, we headed south west, crossing the 'old' A41 before heading gently uphill towards the 'new' A41. This was the first time that I'd been on a walk to the west of Berkhamsted rather than to the east, and I wasn't sure exactly how our path would cross this fairly fast road, perhaps a bridge, or more likely a tunnel - it turned out to be neither, instead we had to time our crossing of the carriageways rather carefully.

We carried on towards Cholesbury, turning south east towards Hawridge Common shortly before the village. Heading across the common, the plan was to find a path up on to the ridge at Hawridge, but thanks to me confusing left and right (I blame the distraction of other walkers discussing the merits of a third runway at Heathrow) our route included a detour to Heath End that added around 0.5 miles to the total distance. Eventually getting back on track, we found ourselves on the most exposed part of the route (walking along the ridge) when the only shower of the day caught us - thankfully if didn't last too long. At the end of the ridge, with Chesham in the distance, we headed north east to Ashley Green, where a restored well house served as the ideal lunch stop.

After lunch, we continued in a generally north easterly direction, crossing the 'new' A41 again between Berkhamsted and Bourne End, thankfully this time using a foot tunnel. Heading down to the canal once again for the final couple of miles back to the station, we passed a few pubs and other interesting buildings (and some flying pigs!) along the way, completing the 13.5 miles (including detour) just before 3:00pm.

Thanks to Marin, Pamela and Paul S for joining me on this walk.

Report by Phil

Christmas came earlier from Santa Steve for all who attended my Peak in the Dark weekend! There was a little extra something in everyone's Christmas stockings on my Saturday walk in the Peak District; a 12 mile walk that finished as an 18 mile walk, with the last few miles in the dark. We departed YHA Bretton, which we had exclusively for the whole weekend, just after 9am with my only aim being to make a route up to take us to Hathersage and back. Loads of paths to choose from.

YHA Bretton is the highest youth hostel in the Peak District so guess what, we were generally heading down during the morning, with paths taking in Abney, then Shatton Edge (no obvious jokes please) and a look at Offerton Hall which turned out to be nothing special. We continued north, then west along the River Noe for a mile or so, then north again to the village of Bamford where we stopped for lunch.

Post lunch, just like Larry's evil conscience in Animal House, mine was saying "Go up to Stanage Edge, you'll not get another chance again soon, go on, go on". It wasn't part of the plan - sorry David - but most of us did, and walked along the edge for ten minutes before heading down to Hathersage, taking in the splendid castle at North Lees and then Brookfield Manor on route.

At Hathersage by 4pm, four departed by taxi, Deirdre saying "it was the best £5 I spent" - tired legs rather than not nice walk I might add! The rest of us headed into the dusk, south from Hathersage, following Hightow Brook and then Bretton Clough before ascending Eyam Moor to reach YHA Bretton just after 5.30pm. Martin's GPS came in useful later on as the path disappeared as light faded. So it was a Peak in the Dark and 18 miles.

Sunday, we drove south to the plague village of Eyam, a few miles, parked and following a bit of faffing by some to get to the walk start point, we headed anti-clockwise towards Longstone Moor then east along Coombs Dale to Stoney Middleton where we had lunch in the village church. Then a mile back to Eyam before 2pm meaning we could all head home in good time. Distance 6 ish miles.

Apart from twenty minutes of drizzle on Saturday afternoon, it was dry all weekend, mostly cloudy with a touch of sun, and not too cold to stop Paul and me from wearing shorts. A lovely weekend again in my favourite part of the country. YHA Bretton was OK but the kitchen, shower and toilets were a little dated. But the food in the Barrel Inn a few minutes walk away was excellent so no need to cook in.

Thanks to Anna, Carol, Deirdre, Erika, Jane and Mary (girls) and David H, David T, Keith, Martin and Paul for joining me on this weekend.

Report by Steve R

It was an incredible day. We were greeted with a rainbow on the way to the starting point. Do you need a better sign for the things to come? Alas, we were 15 minutes late as we were caught up in a traffic jam caused by an accident just before the exit from the motorway. No excuse - all the others were already there.

The guilt made me lose my renowned map reading skills, so we started with a 1.5 miles bonus / wander in the woods without any idea of the direction, meaning of the compass arrow direction or the reason for carrying a map. On the plus side, we saw a proud deer and his quite numerous harem and we followed a circular path so we ended up near the starting point.

To avoid going in circles until the end of days, I decided to do the walk anti-clockwise this time. Somehow it worked and strangely I followed the proposed route until the end. - with the help of two very good and quietly whispered words of advice from Dave and two detours, so small that I will not even mention them.

The warm sunshine, the endless valleys and hills, the golden and shiny leaves, the green and shiny auburn fields, the blue sky with silky clouds were out of this world - we felt we walked through a magic kingdom, where time had stopped and winter and the cold were kept out. As a result the pace was quicker than usual, so we did 16 miles by 4 o'clock despite starting 15 minutes late.

Thanks to Carol, Erika, Dave, Phil and Steve for waiting for us (lazy so-and-so) and for your companionship in this venture, and Merry Christmas to all!

Report by Marin

15 of us met at Wendover station. This reminded me of the very early days of my own joining of HAWOG when I took the train from Harrow on the Hill to join everyone on rural walks. It was very nice to have such a good turnout today. For me, the most memorable thing about this day was the copper coloured leaf litter on the woodland floor. Beautiful. The walk was a long 14 and a half to 15 miler. Everyone took it well, including those who chose to complete the walk at lunchtime.

The rain came through for a short while after lunch. It was quite nice to have a change as it's been a while since I have walked in the rain. One thing that can be said is that the walk was varied. From woodland, to canal, through a Chiltern town, over a ridge, and finally across fields. We walked until dusk so even had a hint of the night.

Wendover wood is very big, and we left much of it unexplored, so there is an opportunity to return again to explore some of the paths further back, which I would like to do, and to take more time there. The walk gave an experience of countryside walking, and an escape from busy suburbia and London.

Thank you Catherine, Steve, Carol, Phil, Claire, Keith, Anna, Paul, Damian and partner, Deirdre, Dave, Mark and Marin for taking the time to come out walking.

Report by Jane

For our latest Surrey Hills walk we ventured to Godalming for a shortened version of the Bluebell walk that we did in April. Our route took in the Busbridge estate with lakes and manorial house viewed through the forests. We then quickly crossed a golf course before climbing to the panoramic viewpoint at Hydons Ball with its stone memorial bench to Octavia Hill who founded the National Trust and who often walked these hills.

We then descended via several paths through the woods to reach Winkworth Arboretum. We had our lunch in the welcoming tea shop there to shelter from the drizzle. On exiting we were pleased to see the clouds had cleared for the sun to shine on the wonderful autumn colours of the woodlands. All 3 attendees were National Trust members so no extra charges today. We took in the views from the high trail over the valley which was a glorious mix of gold, red and brown colours to the horizon. The lakeside walk also afforded lots of photo opportunities of the autumnal foliage reflecting in the still waters of the lake. We continued north on the Greensand Way and then explored the historic high street and courtyards of Godalming before the train back to London.

Report by Brian

The storm had left its mark as trees and branches had fallen across our route in places, however the words "oh what a beautiful morning" came to mind from the very beginning... 4 of us took advantage of the leisurely 186 route by sitting top deck, admiring the passing scenery and residential styles of North London suburbia. We also discussed cars. Coffees on arrival at Hendon were followed by the prompt and delightful arrival of 4 others. We started our walk on time and walked at the correct pace to arrive at our refreshment stop 1 hour later.

Streets soon became parks and riverside walks, and the autumnal foliage and undergrowth surrounding us cushioned our senses from the noisiest of roads. The Brent River secretly flowed by us, and then we walked alongside Mutton Brook. We chatted. We relaxed. There was laughter of course, and wonderment at a horizon showing the picturesque towers, steeples and spires of London. The highlight of the reconnaissance was Hampstead Garden suburb and the ancient woodlands of Cherry Tree, Highgate and Queens. This time it was the sunlit Parkway, a 2 mile disused railway line, and reservoirs with soft reedbeds catching the afternoon sun, with the Shard just visible in the background. The curiosity of New River and a row of houses located on a particularly steep slope also provoked thought.

Lunch was taken in the beautiful cafe in Queens Wood, and in the beautiful Queens Wood, for a whole hour, and we were on time. One of us chose to drop off at Highgate and a friend met us momentarily and took photos of the group. Another of us left at Finsbury Park.

We avoided the Halloween atmosphere by crossing Stoke Newington cemetery well before nightfall at the end of the walk. A couple of urban problems such as clambering through a gap in a fence when a gate was locked on our route, and wrongfully holding back a train door to avoid the party being broken up on our return home did not have a serious consequence although are not to be repeated by the leader. Next time I might like to slow down in some places instead of rushing so and finishing half an hour earlier. This is because the Capital Ring is a great walk.

Thank you so much to Brigitte, Claire, Efisia, Mary, Brigitta, Dave T and Phil for coming and for your great company. I hope to see you all on a walk again soon.

Report by Jane

We were joined by a latecomer making nine of us for our weekend. Dave, Efisia and myself arrived on the Friday just before 10pm and decided to join the others in the pub. It was about a 10 minute walk mostly in the pitch dark before you hit the main road which took you down to the Queen's Head in the centre of Burley. We met Leo and Mike and they suggested as we were about to leave that they knew a short cut which we thought sounded strange as we had taken a very direct route to the pub. Anyway we followed them and spent some considerable time discovering the byways and woodland paths of Burley before making it back to the hostel to be greeted by Leo who had given up following us sometime earlier.

Saturday dawned a bit grey and Mike's promise of no rain before 4pm seemed a bit hopeful. It was mild though as we started our walk from the hostel through the village to get some supplies, and we were then heading north east to Wood's Corner where we entered the ancient forest and followed a very wide path for a couple of miles. The navigation was difficult because of the abundance of paths even though the route was plotted on a map and we had written instructions. We then had the first of many streams to cross. It was easy terrain so we made good time and had quick stops to admire the fungi which were everywhere. We went by the reptile centre which had an air of abandonment about it. Shortly afterwards we were following Highland Water and stopped nearby for our lunch. The ponies came to greet us straight away and we were surrounded so we didn't stay too long. In the afternoon we took a wrong turning which luckily took us to a main road, a PC and someone who was able to pinpoint our exact location. We then decided to take one main path which would take us back to the outskirts of Burley. This was rough ground, very wet and had yet another ford to cross. This time I was not so lucky, slipped and landed in the stream. Dave came to the rescue and managed to lead us through a tricky part with many turns before we came out on some open ground with Burley just ahead. We had covered about 14 miles, which felt longer for those of us in wet feet, but we had discovered some beautiful forests, open heathland, lots of wildlife and even enjoyed a few rays of sunshine.

On Saturday evening we all returned to the Queen's Head for dinner. The food was very good, I enjoyed the lamb shank, and we had a relaxing evening before finding our way back to the hostel and discovering the wrong turning that we had taken the evening before.

Following Saturday's successful walk in the mild, dry conditions, Mike left to sample the delights of Ringwood before returning home. Keith and Anna went off on a shooting expedition (with their cameras, you will be glad to know) to capture images of the New Forest. Abde, Emma, Mary, Leo, Efisia and Dave set off by car for the short journey to Lyndhurst, from where a 6 mile walk was planned. Having barely left Burley, our convoy of cars screeched to a halt to admire a small group of spotted piglets by the side of the road. This was, according to a passing local on his bike, a very rare sight in these parts.

Resuming the trip to Lyndhurst, we arrived and then set off from the car park in the town, only to be greeted by a heavy rain shower. This quickly passed and the first few miles were walked in very pleasant conditions. A friendly local had left a box of eating apples for passers-by to enjoy, and Leo appeared to stock up for the week. The group clearly had an air of authority about them, as fellow walkers approached us for directions. Fortunately, they were well out of eyesight before we ourselves took a wrong turn! This unfortunately coincided with a sustained heavy rainstorm, and it was our turn to take advice from a local to find out where we were on the map. Having weathered the storm (both physically and metaphorically) we were back on track, having extended the walk by around 45 minutes. In normal circumstances you would think "not bad for an un-reccied walk" and you would be right. However this meant that Keith and Anna were waiting over an hour for the group to arrive at the rendezvous point, the Waterloo Arms. However it is arguable that they suffered too much. When the walkers arrived, having changed out of our saturated clothes in the public conveniences of the car park, Keith and Anna appeared quite happy, having consumed lashings of hot chocolate whilst sitting in the warmth of the country pub.

Mary was a little disappointed that the candles on the table were battery operated, although we all agreed that there was no doubt that the low ceiling would make real candles a fire hazard. Whilst the majority of us tucked into a traditional Sunday roast, Leo worked his way manfully through a huge bowl of oysters. Now well fed and warm, the group said their goodbyes and headed home. Other than Sunday's weather it was a perfect weekend. Thanks to everyone for joining us.

Report by Mary

Autumnal weather it was for the day - exactly what I had hoped for. And mild - shorts and tee shirts were OK for much of the day. Seven of us left West Wycombe for my clockwise route heading east and north of the town centre and following familiar-to-some paths to Hughenden Manor where we stopped for tea before 11am. Then up the other side of the Hughenden Valley and into new territory for me. But the paths were well signed so navigation went well.

Kings Wood near Hazlemere was lovely, a mile and half long in a small valley, we took the path on the left rather than the right as intended; both led to the same point though - out! Then continuing east toward Beacon Hill where I thought we might stop for lunch. Ten minutes out and we did, with views over the rolling hills toward Wooburn Green and beyond. We all noticed the drop in body temperature once we stopped walking though, and other layers were on.

Post lunch and now on the Chiltern Way heading south, across the railway line, A40, M40 and the River Wye in quick succession and into Oak Wood where a guy called out from the wood "have you seen a brown black dog". We hadn't, at that point, but did two minutes later, lead on ground, looking like it had lost its owner. But the guy had gone when we returned with dog, so we left it with some junior school-age children who had seen the guy looking for the dog too. Unless the dog fancied joining us for the remaining half of the walk, we had to move on.

We continued through Bloom Wood where upon exiting we left the Chiltern Way. We were doing good time so stopped at the Harvester pub at around 3pm for a drink before tackling the last 3 miles back. Back across the M40 again we picked up a beautiful path alongside it, tree lined, with yellow and red leaves under foot. It was here we got our only bit of rain for the day, some drizzle really for about 15 minutes.

Five went astray along a road as we entered Booker Common. The walk leader - me - had waited for one of us who was delayed. But when the walk leader got to our next footpath - a turning on the left - the five now in front were not to be seen. We cracked on, receiving a communication or two as walked along the edge of the common. It was shortly afterwards I discovered the auto correct on my prehistoric Nokia 1100 does not have the word 'cretin' in it as I texted back to Emma 'If you cretins are a T junction, turn left'. My idea of a bit of fun. It was the only point they could have got to along the road, unless they took some other path off it. Quite possible, knowing who was there.

We all eventually met up and continued north along part two of Booker Common and then Spring Coppice where we heard the applause and groans, mainly the latter, coming from the football ground where Wycombe Wanderers were playing Bury. A final ascent, a lot easier than we thought, took us to Towerage and views over the back of West Wycombe house. We arrived back about 5pm.

A really lovely walk, one I would do again and recommend, possibly a little under 20 miles, and thanks to Carol, Emma, Marin, Paul and Phil (HAWOG) and Ray (Ramblers) for joining me on this walk.

Report by Steve R

A good day to be alive and walking.

Almost perfect weather (the only thing missing was the sunshine), pleasant and sometimes spectacular countryside, an audience responsive to the not necessarily planned changes of the route, happy to see that beautiful windmill for the third time and car park no 3 an unknown number of times, a dashing out from the endless woodland without the help of signs, paths or other such clichéd indications apart of from wobbly compass.

We thank you Steve for your warm company and for not being visibly disappointed that I shortened the walk to a bit less than 15 miles - it was the only way I could keep the "controlled" nagging of the other organiser below an explosive level.

See you next time!

Report by Marin

9 of us travelled to the very scenic north Norfolk coast for another fine and sunny weekend of this great summer. The Deepdale hostel has been used by the group before but has now been extended. It includes an excellent café plus a glamping campsite alongside. Christine stayed in one of the tepees, with a wood burning stove, mattresses and picnic tables outside.

On Saturday we enjoyed the "amazing breakfast baps" served in the café before setting out on the walk. Our route passed the 11th century village church with distinctive round tower (design is almost unique to Norfolk) before crossing the marsh lands which are protected bird sanctuaries. Mick pointed out several unusual birds in the distance as he has lived in the region for sometime. We stopped for an early lunch at the Hero pub (Nelson was born nearby), where Christina, noting it was Pimms o'clock, purchased a jug of Pimms for everyone to enjoy in the beer garden of the timeless village of Burnham Staithes.

Our route then headed onto Holkham beach where we descended from the sand dunes to take in the vast sweep of sand to the horizon. Martina led the group for a paddle in the waves as we headed east under the azure blue skies. A group of horse riders cantered by in the surf before we reached Holkam gap where the route continued via pine tree shaded tracks to reach Wells by the Sea. At Wells we discovered a tip top tiffin stop on the moored sailing ship "Albatross" where the lemon drizzle and chocolate cakes were spiffing as we sat on the quarterdeck listening to Leo point out the mizzen and main masts and taking in the views across the bay.

On return to base we had a great variety of meals at the award-winning White Horse pub near Deepdale before walking on to the Jolly Sailor where Derek introduced himself to locals with his renowned charm. Back at the hostel Christina hosted a late night wine party by her tent. The lack of light pollution and the clear night sky allowed for excellent star gazing as Mark indicated the most well-known constellations. Jan entertained us with soulful versions of "Wig wam bam" and "Song of Hiawatha" before Leo recounted some more timeless yarns as the wine flowed till near dawn.

Sunday saw Martina and Prem cooking sumptuous breakfasts, some (no names) managed to finish two helpings before we set out on another sunny and warm day. We travelled to Blakeney for the seal watching boat trip. The boat rounds the sandbanks of Blakeney Point where we were able to see the hundreds of grey and common seals basking on the sands. Several seals dived in the sea to swim alongside the boat before it headed by the tern colony on the Point. We returned to shore to visit the delightful village of Burnham Market with its wealth of independent shops. Martina, Prem and Jan disappeared for ages inside a milliners before we all met for a late picnic on the village green in the warm afternoon sun in this scenic corner of north Norfolk.

Report by Brian

Four of us, Martina, Catriona, Chris, who are new to the group, myself and my dog Monty set off on a warm September Sunday. We walked through woods and soon reached Munden House, a country estate owned by Lord Knutsford. After a brief stop by the picturesque pond for a photo, we continued on past Netherwylde Farm enjoying views of the gently meandering River Ver.

Three kingfishers were spotted along the way as the bright turquoise colour of their chest was seen flashing down the river. My dog Monty amused us with his dashing in and out of the river having to dodge the water drops as he shook himself dry. We chatted all the way along as we passed lakes and a mobile home park. One of the homes was quirky and had a dummy of a man standing by a bus-stop hailing a bus by the river! I put Monty on his lead to prevent him chasing some sheep. As we talked, time passed quickly and we were soon at St Albans, enjoying the views over the lake and the site of Verulamium. The Catuvellauni tribe, in the Ver valley, were defeated by Julius Caesar in 54BC. Boadicea destroyed Verulamium in 61AD, while the Roman legions were busy in north Wales (good old Boadicea!)

We enjoyed a relaxing drink at "The Fighting Cocks" and saw the area where the birds used to fight. We then continued around the lake to view the mosaic floors of a Roman villa, preserved in a building. Thanks to Martina, Catriona and Chris for coming. I very much enjoyed the interesting chats with you and hope to see you again soon.

Report by Paul G

The walk started very well, as 3 new walkers - Diana, Catriona and Aine - were welcomed. All set to go, David T, Mathilde, Efisia, and Dave S made a group of 8.

The walk, a section of the 75 mile Capital Ring, began with the interesting topography and character of Harrow on the Hill. On climbing the hill we saw the view over residential Harrow to the Weald beyond, which contrasted with the shaded graveyard and Byron's poetic memorial. We stopped to read and take pictures and hoped the grey skies might clear. We passed St Mary's Church with its distinctive spire, and wondered at the architecture of Harrow School and the sight of pupils in their traditional boaters. We proceeded downhill and headed towards Kenton across the schoolgrounds and Northwick Park. The historic view of Harrow on the Hill would be seen again from Fryent Country Park. This section of the Capital Ring is so well waymarked it is impossible to lose ones' way. I recommend any member to consider leading a section of the Ring so that as a group we walk the whole 75 miles around London. You can find information (audio and visual) on the web.

We proceeded swiftly to Preston Road, and as everyone had bought their refreshments and were well equipped to keep up the pace, we didn't have any need to shop for snacks, and walked on to Fryent Country Park. This was found by street walking past some pretty suburban houses and gardens to a grassy snicket which leads to this almost hidden gem. We walked across the grasslands and climbed up through woodland to the top of Barn Hill and found a nicely sitiuated lunch stop by 18th century landscape designer Humphrey Repton's pond.

Our timing was really good, and once refreshed and with a quick look at the view of Wembley Stadium from the trigpoint, we left to head downhill through woodland, then onwards to cross an ancient footpath and a main road before entering more fields and hedges. This area can be a little confusing as the hedges are tall and have a maze type effect. However we worked together and did not lose our way! We all agreed that the view from the top of the hill was great and Aine kindly took a group photo. Rejoining the undulating and curving streets, we were now nearing the cafe and stopped again for refreshments. The next highpoint was Brent Reservoir. The sailing boats were out which was a lovely sight. Mathilde left us at West Hendon and we finished the section at Hendon Park, before catching the bus back to Harrow.

Thanks to everyone for coming. An extra special well done and thanks to Diana for whom this was a first time walk, and a special thank you and very well done to Catriona who came on a HAWOG walk for the first time, and to her friend Aine. You were both so well equipped as was Diana!

Report by Jane

7 of us met in Wantage last weekend, to walk the second part of the Ridgeway. We stayed at a guest house close to the centre of town. Our first choice of venue for dinner on Friday evening was fully booked, and our second choice turned out to be unlicensed, so after making our excuses, 5 of us ate at an Indian restaurant, and 2 later arrivals ate at a Chinese restaurant.

On Saturday, after breakfast and a car shuffle (necessitated by the linear walk), we started our walk from near Fox Hill at around 9:30am. After around an hour or so of walking, we reached Wayland's Smithy, a Neolithic long barrow and chamber tomb site, where we stopped for our first break and a few photos. Out next stop was at the Uffington White Horse, just one mile further along the path. Here we took another break while some of the group descended the hill in order to try and get a better view (only to discover that the best views can only be had from the air).

After climbing back up the hill, we carried on, stopping for lunch just after the half-way point for the day, shortly after Sparsholt Firs. Stops after lunch included Segsbury Castle hill fort, and the monument to Baron Wantage. After a walk of around 18.5 miles, we reached the end point of the day's walk at Bury Down at 4:30pm. In the evening, we ate at a busy Thai restaurant.

On Sunday, we resumed our walk along the Ridgeway at Bury Down at around 10:00am, covering the 9 miles to Goring in around 3 hours. We stopped for lunch by the Thames, before starting our last car shuffle of the weekend, and then headed home.

Thanks to Anna, Emma, Karen, Keith, Marin and Paul S for joining me.

Report by Phil

Thirteen of us set out in the sunshine into the first village of the walk - Barnes, with its unique shops and grade II listed church with sundial and tower, the oldest building in Barnes. Next up was a trek across the village green (alas too early for the cricket, much to Marin's disappointment) to our second grade II listed church of the day, St Annes of Kew Green. Some of us were impressed with the stunning interior of the church while others failed to locate Thomas Gainsborough's grave in the adjoining graveyard, a grave disappointment for all! Winding our way via the Thames path on to Richmond with stunning views of the river at low tide the sunshine finally gave way to torrential freezing rain, just in time for lunch. Most of us ate lunch in the shelter of some convenient trees, quickly making our way to the tea shop to warm up.

Luckily the rain stopped as we headed to Petersham and Ham House with its polo match (no takers for the match this time). As we arrived at Hammertons ferry stop, the ferry was just pulling in (lets face it, it would never be out of sight on this very short crossing). And yes as we headed up towards St Margarets, at last, there was a cricket match in full swing on the green. Marin was so excited! Thanks to everyone for joining me on this very special walk - Anna, Keith, Erika, David H, Brian G, Steve R, Phil, Mark P, Marin, Rodica, Nekane and prospective new member Jihane. Your really good company was much appreciated on a walk which seemed a fitting way to remember Sharon. Thanks also to all of you who sent messages although you couldn't make it.

Report by Deirdre

Steam (Friday)

Those who had been to Beer continued their sojourn to Swanage via the Great Dorset Steam Fair and were already ensconced at the hostel by mid afternoon. Three of us headed to the Fair in order to catch the dying embers of the day. What a splendid event this is/was: what an incredible variety of steam vehicles were on display alongside a traditional fairground, as well as eateries, beer tents amongst other stalls. We (Brian, Hayley and myself) decided that a ride on the big wheel would afford us an overview: this proved to be the case especially as dark had descended and the whole showcase had been spectacularly lit up. So much to snap (digitally) and collate - if I don't recreate something on canvas I will cut my ear off!

We continued to the hostel and quickly settled in and headed to one of the local hostelries to join the rest of the group. Mutiny ensued: "Do this don't do that, go there not there!". I stood resolute and maintained my stance "The 11 miler it is!"

Sun and Sand (Saturday)

What a beautiful day, all 9 of us headed to the south east coastal path. The first of 2 climbs took us out of Swanage, whereupon we came across a series of points of interest including Mike coming across his namesake (the bard) embedded in stone! This was followed by man made reminders / overviews of our Jurassic heritage before coming to the Globe on Durlston Head where there was a neo-Gothic Castle. Italianate architecture was present as was an Italianate vibe, as most of the group decided on an expresso break! 3 of us - Martina, Liane and myself - decided this was too lax too early, so we went on ahead. Fortunately both factions had a group leader. We continued along the coast taking in splendid views, whether it was the sea, the rugged coastline or the surrounding nature. I had never seen so many varieties of butterfly. A distinct highlight was Dancing Ledge Swimming Pool. At Seacombe Cliffs we headed inland up the second climb before reaching our lunch stop at the Square and Compass, no wonder the other 2 were keen to get ahead! The rest of the group caught up eventually, and it seemed as if new member Leo had bonded with the lesser spotted Hayley, was it the B&H or the callesthenics? Either way a legend! We continued our walk from the picture postcard village of Worth Mattravers through a greater variety of landscape including valley, woodland some parts undercover as well as open fields before being regaled by biplanes, Wellington bombers and Typhoons (the Dorset Airshow) heading into Corfe with its dramatic ruins in front of us. Some of us (but not Jeff!) returned to Swanage by the Dorset steam railway.

A quick wash and brush up before an excellent hostel meal and a return to the Square and Compass for some great Diddley Dee live music to end the evening.

Sea (Sunday)

Liane headed west whereas the rest of us drove to Poole to take a return boat trip to Brownsea Island. This was a relaxing stroll through this National Trust property, on another beautiful day, and although we didn't see any red squirrel or deer it led us to a scone festival (Brians Nirvana!). We all headed back on the boat with some gems regarding the island and the environment. We all headed home to the big smoke.

I would like to thank Liane, Jan, Leo, Hayley, Martina, Jeff, Brian, Mike (S) for being such great company. Jeff again thanks for doing all the nitty gritty organising, Brian again for the photos.

Report by Humay

A great time was had by all in Beer in East Devon near to the border of Dorset, 8 of us in the hostel, with 5 others camping. The weather was again glorious for the whole weekend and allowed great views along the coast. The excellent Jurassic coastal bus (double decker) allows linear walks along the whole of coast with views the entire journey.

On Saturday Liane led the 10 mile walk from Sidmouth along the stunning coastal path back to Beer. The clear skies allowed great views west towards Torbay and east to Portland. We stopped for our picnic at one viewpoint where Kerry pointed out the many examples of butterflies seen fluttering around the heather covered cliff tops whilst Jan explained the geology of the Jurassic coast. After several climbs we descended to Branscombe village for a rather spiffing cream tea in the sunny gardens of the old Bakery. We continued east to reach Beer where we stopped for several cooling beers at the quayside inn. Back at base Mark and Ian prepared a sumptuous barbecue on the hostel lawn. We strolled back to the harbour later for a moonlit walk on the beach.

On Sunday Martina led the 6 mile walk from Seatown to Charmouth on the coastal path. This featured one strenuous climb to the Golden Cap summit and viewpoint. After a picnic stop further along we descended slowly to the picturesque village of Charmouth with its welcoming beach café. Mike and Jeff then led us to the fossil beach where after some beachcombing Keith succeeded in discovering an ammonite fossil. Jeff visited the vintage car show at Seaton where his own was hijacked by Ian, Mark and Steve who had just returned from a tough walk from Lyme Regis through the thick vegetation of the undercliffs. In the evening we returned to Beer to have a lovely meal at Gina's Pizzeria. At the Dolphin just before closing time Cathy met a Donny Osmond impersonator before Liane led a night time photography class on Beer beach (display at the hall later this year).

Monday was another scorchio, we had a ride on the Seaton tramway. The system has several examples of heritage trams from the Edwardian era, all in a multitude of colours. The route passes a protected nature reserve; Kerry indicated some rarely spotted birds as the tram headed north along the Axe estuary. We continued to Lyme Regis for a town walk around the historic harbour old town. Later we enjoyed some locally caught fish at a harbour café with views across the Cob in the sunshine as we celebrated another great trip to Devon.

Report by Brian

Steve and I met a slow worm on the warm pavement on the way down Chorley Road to the garden centre. Unfortunately, it was the only reptile of the day (although, thinking about it, coming across an adder in the undergrowth might not have been such a good thing).

At the garden centre were waiting Keith, Anna, David, Erika, Mary and Catherine. After the mystery of Catherine's car relocating across the car park during the time she spent buying some lunch, we set off in pleasant weather. On reaching Bottom Wood we looked at some Violet Helleborine orchids surrounded by wired metal cages, but they were worse for wear after a week of bad weather and probably on their last legs.

After a short stop for refreshments in the ancient woodland, we continued through quiet Radnage and then up to Bledlow Ridge. After passing The Boot pub, we turned onto the Chiltern Way and embraced the foliage of August (brambles and nettles). Lunch was had on a field with a view across the valley to Loosley Row, where the windmill was spotted. Further on we swapped the Chiltern Way for the Ridgeway going back in the opposite direction, I enjoyed the hare bells on Lodge Hill, although then we again encountered the August foliage on a disused footpath and had to retrace slightly before finding a bridleway and the path back past a disused cigarette factory near Saunderton train station. The silence on the route back past Nobels Hill farm was punctuated by a cry as David's thumb was stung by a wasp going after his banana.

Arriving back at Chorley Road about 3.30 we enjoyed tea, biscuits and cake in the garden. Thank you all for coming today and making it a lovely walk with delightful company.

Report by Carol

Seven of us met on a 'could go either way weather' day near Broxbourne station which is in Hertfordshire and not Essex, fact. We started alongside the New River, which according to the Geograph website is a misnomer, as it is neither new nor a river but in fact an aquaduct built between 1607 and 1612 that served London with drinking water. After leaving the river path the question arose as to why linden trees (also known as lime or basswood) are not popular in Britain. A most pressing matter, the Woodland Trust could probably deal with more efficiently than us.

After this most fascinating discussion, lunch was had, and Marin, who didn't fancy his sandwich, repaired to the pub and (having been joined by the rest of us sandwich-eaters for drinks) was promptly stung by a very persistent wasp. Following a leisurely lunch we then made our way through Broxbourne Woods Nature reserve where a pair of amorous residents laid on a special show just for us and several close-up photos were taken (some people have no shame, you know who you are Jane).

Nearing our starting point we discovered a small parkour of balancing bars and a kind of spinning wheel thing which had some of us perform unwanted splits, unlike Efisia who proved super bendy. So, on top of having good weather all day we also did some extra exercise! Thanks to Dave, Anna, Jane, Keith, Marin and Efisia for joining me on this walk. I hope readers found this report informative and packed with trivia nuggets.

Report by Erika

6 of us met at Berkhamsted station on Sunday morning. We set off promptly at 10:00 am, heading west along the Grand Union Canal towards Northchurch. I then led us up on to Northchurch Common, and towards the Bridgewater Monument, trying to find and keep to the right path whilst discussing the relative merits of Eastern European and Thai cuisine.

We stopped at the monument for a short break, whilst 2 of our group ordered coffee to go. From there, we headed towards Ashridge College before turning north along the Chiltern Way, through Little Gaddesden and on to Studham, the half-way point, where we stopped for lunch at around 1:00 pm.

After lunch, we picked up the Hertfordshire Way, which took us south west towards Great Gaddesden and on to Nettleden and then Frithsden, where we stopped for a well-earned drink at the Alford Arms. After the break, we continued south west, back to Berkhamsted station, which we reached at 5:00 pm.

Thanks to Jane, Steve, Marin, Monica and Irina for joining me.

Report by Phil

Many, many of you missed out on my 25 miler last Saturday - what I mean to say is only 4 of us actually attended.

A pacy walk heading west from West Wycombe departed just after 10am and within an hour we were on paths that were probably new to us all. My route was make-it-up-on the day with the only constraint being I couldn't go too far south or north as it's 10 miles as the crow flies from West Wycombe to Watlington, the latter being my intended lunch stop and turn-around point.

I chose a south and slightly longer route on the way out which meant we had a late lunch ~2pm at Watlington. Our route out was via Piddington and then - the south and new ish bits - via Barr, Leygrove's and Pound woods, then Bigmore Farm, over the M40 and west again past Chequers Manor Farm and on to Ibstone Common where we stopped for tea. We then took some lesser paths through Hale Wood, touching Northend before continuing south of Christmas Common and our best views of the day over Oxfordshire and down and north to Watlington.

Post lunch and with over half our walk done, we headed north east ish up Shirburn Hill and then Cowleaze Wood to take us to Stokenchurch where we stopped again for refreshments of the liquid flavour; the day was hot and humid. That marked the end of our hills and our route back was mostly flat and gently down hill taking in East Wood to Horsleys Green, past the Wycliffe Centre and through a few other woods before we rejoined our depart point earlier in the day, just before Fillingdon Farm in Piddington.

We reached West Wycombe a little after 6:30pm but more importantly just before the heavens broke meaning the only butts that got soaked were my water butts; my own personal butt stayed mostly dry! Thanks to Ray (Ramblers), David McC (HAWOG) and Carol (HAWOG and C2030) for joining me on some new paths through the Chiltern Hills.

Report by Steve R

4 of us met on a warm evening at Ruislip. After another fine display of supreme faffing by Derek and Prem we set off. Our route took us through Ruislip manor site and the detached villas along Park Avenue. The area includes some 1930s Moderne houses within the typical Metroland houses with their well maintained rose bushes and Tudor style gables. We passed through historic parts of Eastcote before climbing to Haste Hill viewpoint by Ruislip woods. We then continued via Pinner to end at the Case if Altered inn. We enjoyed some cooling drinks in the crowded beer garden where we were joined by some latecomers.

Report by Brian G

Squadron 562 led another great camping trip in sunny Sussex this weekend. 9 intrepid campers made it to Henfield, we set up camp HQ and secured the perimeter. Debbie and Keith again won prize for "most well furnished tent". Cookhouse leader Mark O fired up the barbecue to feed the troops, assisted by Martina who arrived as ever with a sumptuous chilli dish. Patrol leader Steve T set up campfire on the new fire pit supplied by Quartermaster Brian G and we soon had Vic and Christina doing mellifluous versions of "Where do you go to my lovely" and "Lilli Marlene" around the roaring fire.

On Saturday, Mark led a 10 mile hike from campsite through meadows to reach the South Downs. We did a very steep ascent under a clear sky to arrive at the National Trust beauty spot, Devils Dyke. We had a stunning panorama from the viewpoint before taking some cooling sodas at the summit pub together with a covert picnic in the shade. We continued along the ridge walk where we came across an army expedition campsite. Today saw a competition for all units running a course along the South Downs Way. We cheered on the recruits, lots of Ghurkhas were in the teams today. We passed Truleigh Hill YHA before descending to Bramber Castle. Some of the party bailed out to take a very expensive cream tea at Henfield. The rest of us marched across country back to HQ. The tea party also waited for a taxi (which did not come!) and found a very upmarket hair salon having their summer party. Martina, Christine, Christina and Brian talked their way inside for free wine and canapés.

Back at base we set out rations and had another feast before firing up the campfire. Christine presented her homemade carrot cake which was truly spiffing. Vic again led the singing around the campfire fuelled by Christina's cache of whisky. The duo led a search party in the early hours to other fires to purloin extra fire wood to extend the nights revelries.

Sunday was another glorious day and after breakfast we struck camp, helped by music from Planet Rock. The blue skies dictated that we do a beach walk today so we drove to Shoreham for a short hike watching the many kite surfers sweeping by in the sea. We finished at a lovely spot next to some stylish beach huts where we enjoyed some cooling ice creams as we took in the expansive views along the Sussex coast as far east as the Severn Sisters cliffs.

Thanks everyone for coming.

Report by Mark O

My walk started just off the A1(M), in a small village called Ayot St Peter. The day was slightly overcast, but a nice climate for walking. I had pre-walked this walk earlier in the year on a freezing snowy day, so the better weather was appreciated! The walk starts by crossing over a few fairways on Brocket Hall Estate. I had no problem on the pre-walk but this time I lost my bearings! Not a good start!

Back on track we passed by Brocket Hall and then along a bridleway with the River Lea alongside. This brought us near to the village of Wheathampstead, a possible lunch stop, but we continued on, through the grounds of Latmer Park Country Club, and Latmer Farm.

We then reached the village of Ayot St Lawrence, passing the National Trust property Shaws House. Ayot St Lawrence was our lunch stop, so we headed into the local "The Brocket Arms" for a very refreshing and very overpriced drink! By now the sun was breaking through the cloudy sky so we headed on to the outskirts of the village to have lunch.

Over half way now the walk continued through open fields, then through the grounds of Ayot Place, a British heritage-listed farm house. As the traffic noise of the A1(M) started to be heard we were reaching the end of our walk, back at Ayot St Peter.

Report by Karen

Most people seemed to heed my advice about the very high temperatures last Sunday but Dave and Deirdre were undeterred and we set off just after 10:00am from Ibstone. We had a light breeze for most of the day and the sun broke through after 11:00. We had our first bit of shade in Blackmoor Wood shortly followed by College Wood as we made our way to Pishill. We were convinced that we kept hearing what sounded like someone blowing a whistle but I think it was a reminder that we needed to stay rehydrated. We reached Pishill at about 1:30pm so we had a quick sandwich stop before heading to the Crown Inn for some cooling drinks in the beer garden.

After lunch we picked up the Oxfordshire Way heading to Stonor and enjoyed a fabulous view as we exited Park Wood. We passed by the manor house heading towards Southend. We saw lots of wildlife during the walk everything from butterflies to deer. The last stop of the day was in Turville before the final climb to take us on the home stretch back to Ibstone. We finished at 6:50pm somewhat later than my planned 4:30pm, maybe we did more than 13 miles!

Report by Mary

8 of us met on another sweltering evening at Northolt village green for our latest evening walk. Our route took in the Northolt heritage area, 13th century churchyard and manor site. Jan and Derek helped to explain the history of the area to the new members present. We crossed Bellevue park to reach Northala where we ascended the highest mound for a spectacular view over London on a very clear evening. Jeff pointed out the famous landmarks clearly identifiable on the horizon. We then followed the canal footpath through meadows back to the start. We took advantage of the fine evening by enjoying some cooling drinks in the beer garden of the Crown inn where we were joined by others.

Report by Brian G

6 of us gathered in sunny Somerset for our latest camping weekend in this sweltering summer. Greenacres was a new site for us and was another winner with a really friendly manager and tip top facilities. On arrival Martina cooked a very welcome supper whilst Derek and Prem set up the camp fire.

Saturday was another glorious day for cycling across the Somerset levels. The looming tractors in the distant heat haze seemed to evoke memories of Easy Rider and Badlands. Our route took us up to Glastonbury Tor where our ascent was rewarded with panoramic views of 3 counties including much of the Glastonbury festival site. We did a fast descent off-road before turning into Chalice Wells, the ancient spring where Joseph of Arimathea is said to have washed the Holy Grail. The cooling iron waters of the spring were invigorating today as we strolled through the vibrantly colourful gardens. We cycled on to Glastonbury Abbey where we explored the extensive grounds of the 2nd largest abbey of England (at dissolution). By chance a wedding party was taking advantage of the blue skies and Abbey grounds to take all their wedding photos. Derek decided to join them so stole into the crowd to make their photos perfick. We took some ice creams to savour in the shade of an ancient tree in the grounds as we watched the birds of prey display above the Abbey Cloisters.

We then cycled via villages to reach Wells where Martina led us on a heritage trail through the historic town. The Vicars Close is a unique 14th century feature, home for choirists it is the oldest continuously inhabited street in Europe. We found yet another wedding taking place at the medieval Bishops Palace, the wedding guests playing games of croquet on the sumptuous lawn. Jan and Prem commented on the various hats and dresses as we dissuaded Derek from gate-crashing. We took in the Cathedral with its magnificent West Front, largest gallery of medieval sculpture in Europe, before enjoying some ice cold beers in the timeless market square.

On return to campsite Derek arranged a bumper barbecue with Brian offering the Oldfield award-winning apple pie. Jan presented Christine with her birthday cake as we sat around the campfire waiting in vain for Mark's yarns to begin.

Sunday was even hotter and we were glad to see the arrival of the freshly baked croissants delivered for breakfast in Somerset tradition by the camp owner on a Raleigh Chopper bike. Our walk took in the scenic area of south west Wiltshire, rolling hills and river paths. We arrived at the wonderfully preserved village of Lacock where we explored the abbey and historic streets. Jan was gifted a unique map for her journey home by the grandson of Churchill (but that's another story). We all gathered at the tea gardens for a final tiffin stop. Along with the cakes we savoured some strawberries and cream as it was Wimbledon final day (match still in progress) to celebrate another camping trip in the sun.

Report by Brian G

5 of us met in Langley, and were blessed with sunshine for the whole day. Our hike took us through the historic grade II listed Langley Park along a path lined with some very old trees. After getting a little lost in the park, we managed to find an exit and crossed over the road into Black Park. After stopping for a short break at the lake, we walked around the park, passing the fenced off area belonging to Pinewood Studios, and then took a longer break for lunch.

We walked along the road for a bit and a path adjacent to the motorway, and then alongside a stream, stopping for a short break at Little Britain Lake. The canal towpath was closed and so we had to take a detour, unfortunately finding out that the path was a little overgrown. We rejoined the towpath only to find our route still blocked, owing to bridge repair works, so we took another detour, eventually finding an underpass to cross the motorway. We then joined the canal towpath for the remainder of our walk back to Langley. Distance walked - 13 miles (detours included).

Thanks for joining me and well done to Neale, Catherine, Keith and Anna.

Report by Mark P

Four of us completed Offa's Dyke last weekend. We'd walked the first 70 miles during five days in summer 2012.

We were lucky with the weather, only one day of rain out of our eight days of walking. That was Sunday, which was also quite windy and we were on top of Gilfach Hill, south of Knighton on route to Kington. The other days were a mix of cloud and sun. Temperature was mostly warm.

Terrain varied with a few mostly flat days, some days with multiple ups and downs (the first Saturday was probably our hardest day) and one day with one main ascent followed by a long walk along a ridge (Wednesday from Hay-on-Wye across the Black Mountains to Pandy). Views varied too from rolling hills to mountains; there was no distant flat.

We passed through some lovely towns and villages. Hay-on-Wye in the sun was a treasure and we had Tuesday to explore its bookshops as that was our day off from walking the path. Probably our favourite village was Montgomery which we stayed at on our first Friday evening. A very traditional setting, well kept, with all the basic shops and a delightful DIY store that reminded us of the Two Ronnies sketch four candles. No, fork handles - handles for forks. The staff, the layout, the quirkiness of the place was a blast from the past.

Accommodation was mostly good to excellent. We had home-cooked porridge many mornings and apart from me being accidentally fed a meat lasagne one evening - the landlady ran in from her kitchen to tell me once she'd realised and swapped for the vegetarian one - dinner was good most evenings.

We managed a good pace every day, arriving between 3 and 5pm most, and having time for tea stops. We half expected to meet Brian and gang at some stage as we were frequenting more tea shops than usual (only teasing, guys).

Our end point, Sedbury in Chepstow, was a little disappointing though. We'd each brought a stone/pebble from the beach at our start point Prestatyn (north) a year earlier, expecting to throw into the sea at Sedbury (south) as tradition requires. But the end point was too far from the sea to throw and reach and too high up to easily walk down to! So we threw them as far as we could, they're now amongst the grass a little short of the coast.

Thanks to Emma, Phil and Tim for joining me this year and last to walk most of the 178 miles of the Offa's Dyke path (we missed maybe up to a mile due to taking wrong turns on a few occasions). I insisted on a high level of banter to ensure spirits were kept up at all times!

Report by Steve

Despite the weather being forecast to be wet and windy, it did brighten up considerably as the day progressed.

Derek and I started off at the Territorial Army Centre next to Hayes Bridge soon after breakfast. Then met up with Jeff at Perivale station before carrying on along the traffic-free towpath of the Grand Union Canal. With a strong determination Jeff wasn't going to miss this ride again for anything as he had already tried to do this route once before.

The towpath has been re-surfaced since we last rode the route and cycle gates were also taken off all the way from Hayes to Little Venice which made it much, much easier and faster to get to London. There was so much to see and enjoy along the way. We passed by many joggers, baby and dog walkers, fishermen and a number of residential houseboats on certain stretches of the canal, enjoying watching birds and wildlife including some ducks with brown coloured heads/necks instead of green, which we've never seen before in this country.

We arrived at Little Venice just after 1pm, stopped at the Warwick Castle pub for lunch with a couple of pints while people- and expensive bike-spotting. After the first pub stop, we then carried on to the Jubilee Greenway along Regent's Canal, passed Regent's Park and the London Zoo and the rear facades of fine buildings with landscaping down to the canal, and finally to the exciting atmosphere of the Camden Lock Market. The Jubilee Greenway marks the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. This 37 mile walking and cycling route is exactly 60 kilometres long - one kilometre for each year of her reign. It links many of London's impressive Olympic Games venues, which are worth visiting and could be organised as several separate events in the future. We were invited to sample quite a variety of international cuisines while passing through the market to our next stop, just across the lock at InSpiral - an organic vegetarian café-cum-bar and restaurant. It is also known for excellent music and DJs that occasionally play here. We took our time at Camden Lock Market and didn't leave until after 4:30pm. We arrived back at Horsenden Hill and enjoyed our final pub stop of the day at the Ballot Box pub for more refreshment and dinner. It was slightly windy and no rain throughout the day until we were about to leave the pub for home just after 8pm.

Thanks all for making it an enjoyable day especially to Jeff for his determination to join us.

Report by Prem

7 of us met on another fine sunny evening at Pinner for our latest evening walk. Our route took in one of the lesser known yet historic parts of Pinner. We climbed steadily through the manicured lawns of Pinner heights, rose bushes bordering our way. We then reached the Pinner Woods estate, passing the lodge and paddocks before finding the hidden hamlet of Pinner Woods. The delightful Pinner Wood Farm features intricate bargeboards and many fine decorative details. Humay recognised Pinner Wood Cottage as being the setting for one of his commissions. We then climbed up the ancient track way to reach the summit where the elegant Pinner Hill House presides over a grand vista south. It is now the club house for the golf course. Brian F indicated the features seen from the summit, easily visible on such a clear evening.

Our route then descended back towards Pinner village. We had a detour to the playing fields, where many were taking advantage of the long sunny evening, to visit the remains of the Grims Ditch (1st century fortifications). As we crossed the fields we stopped at the timely zip-wire course where we all enjoyed sailing through the air along the wire, Prem achieving the fastest crossing on her second attempt. We then reached the Oddfellow Arms to enjoy some cooling drinks in the newly extended beer garden.

Report by Brian G

Contrary to weekend weather reports, we ordered sun, and we basked in it today!

It was lovely to be joined by Anna, Mary, Joan, Das, Neale, Mark, David and David. Thank you to all of you for coming.

Efisia and I led our river themed walk, beginning with father Thames, and then running the full length of the River Wandle to its source. We walked gently today and no-one seemed tired when we reached East Croydon and completed our 12 miles.

The River Wandle flows through post-industrial London, and this image set the scene from Wandsworth town. Soon after it passes through a mixture of urban green spaces and streets. Sometimes it is so leafy that all the buildings are hardly noticeable, and the sound of traffic seems lost and drowned out by the rushing and gurgling river. Normal urban smells like exhaust are replaced by a familiar smell you only sense by ponds and rivers. We had some really nice stops en-route for ice cream, tea, and lying down to enjoy the summertime, too. The colourful flowers, signage and bird and animal life of Deen City Farm caught our curiosity, and Merton Abbey Mills provided us with music and beverages, as well as a little piece of London history.

We lunched al fresco at Morden Hall Park and enjoyed the National Trust cafe there. Even though there was a short shower which was soon forgotten, we kept dry under the trees. Meandering along the quietly burbling River Wandle, we were delighted to see a pair of swans and their soft grey cygnets. There were so many pretty bridges on this walk I am now wondering how many there are.

The sun came out at Beddington Park! We rested and ate more and enjoyed the remaining walk before catching the train back into the old smoke. A great day, and thank you again for the company. Well done!

Report by Jane and Efisia

16 of us gathered at Manor Court farm for a scorchio camping weekend in an idyllic setting in the garden of England. The glorious sunshine on Friday showed off the new tents to perfection. Mark had a new Australian trekking version from the bush safari, Brian a bell tent, whilst Debi and Keith won the award for their deluxe model replete with fitted carpet and designer lighting.

Martina and Liane cooked a very welcome supper whilst Mark and Jan set up the campfire. New boy Leo arrived with his supply of wine boxes to share around the fire. As the smoke swirled he donned his anti-smoke goggles (see ACME for details) and dressed Monica as Lawrence of Arabia to protect her visage from the cinders.

On Saturday we awoke by decree to Brian Matthews Sounds of the 60s and marvelled at Derek and Prem's gourmet breakfast preparations. Our route for the 10 mile hike took us along the Wealdway with panoramic views of the Sussex Weald. Discovering a tree swing, we all had a go, before passing though the picturesque village of Groombridge with its historic pub and church facing each other across the village green. The meadows by the river were a carpet of buttercups in the morning sun with wild garlic and forget-me-nots bordering the stream.

Our lunch stop was at the captivating High Rocks hotel with its sun-filled gardens and terrace alongside the steam railway halt. The cooling drinks here were very welcome in the heat. Liane produced a smorgasbord picnic to share, which Colin was happy to do. We then explored the sandstone High Rocks outcrop with its 11 intertwined bridges and viewpoints.

After lunch our route continued through forests to reach Tunbridge Wells where we explored the colonnaded walkway of the Pantiles with its elegant regency architecture. Tiffin was taken here before we caught the heritage train (filled today with Morris men) back to Groombridge. We stopped for some sodas at the Crown Inn by the green before the final ascent back to base. By tradition Brian shared the Oldfield award winning apple pie with all as we prepared the bbq and campfire.

Mark as always produced a barbecue of stupendous proportions including sea bass and a variety of kebabs. Around the campfire Jan taught the newbies how to toast marshmallows and Gordon did the same with cigarettes. Mark, Keith and Ian entertained us with tales of Suez and Malaya whilst Jan and Caroline led the singing of the scout songs. Leo and Gordon were again the last 2 standing at 2am. Leo, ever resourceful, solved the twin problems of "no more beer and no more firewood" by producing his secret cache of shorts and finding his old Haynes manuals were most efficacious at keeping the campfire glowing till dawn.

Sunday was a very leisurely morning. After breakfast and many mugs of tea we somehow managed to strike camp and set off on the walk to Groombridge Place. This 17th century moated manor house has award-winning gardens and today featured a birds of prey display. Others had an afternoon climbing at nearby Harrisons Rocks beginning with bouldering then learning how to belay and climb with ropes.

We all then gathered at the Burrswood tea gardens for a final tiffin stop. We enjoyed some spiffing lemon drizzle cake as we took in the views down the valley to the rhododendron gardens and lakes whilst planning our next visit to this historic area.

Report by Brian G

6 people joined me early on a sunny Saturday morning at Watford station for the start of the 30 mile walk. We headed off just after 8am, walking down through Cassiobury Park to the Grand Union Canal. From there, we walked south-west along the canal as far as Harefield, where we took our first break. From there, we headed west to Chalfont St Peter, and on to Jordans, where we stopped again for a late morning break, watching the locals preparing for the annual village fair on the green that afternoon. From Jordans we walked west to Seer Green, from where we headed north towards Amersham. As we were making good progress, we decided to carry on until we reached Amersham old town, where we stopped for lunch at 1:30pm.

After lunch, we headed uphill to Amersham station, where Keith and Anna decided to head home on the Tube, and where Dave S joined us to walk the remaining 12 miles. We carried on north, walking through Chesham Bois and then across the River Chess and uphill to the east of Chesham, then walking east to Latimer for our afternoon break. From Latimer, we walked along the Chess valley as far as Sarratt Bottom, from where walked up to Church End, and then east to Chandlers Cross, where we made our final stop, at the Clarendon, now with only 3 miles to go.

Suitably refreshed, we headed south towards Croxley Green and finally east, back to the Grand Union Canal and in to Cassiobury Park, and then uphill to the station, where a couple of us still managed to find the strength to sprint the last few yards to the finish, which we reached just before 7pm.

Thanks for joining me on my first 30 mile walk, and well done to Jane, Paul, Steve and Marin for completing the full distance with me - I'm looking forward to leading another really long walk next summer!

Report by Phil

6 of us met on a fine sunny morning at Sunningdale, together with 14 from a local heritage group. Our walk was found to be 11 miles in fact, the pencil on the map calculation was a tad short. Our route started with Cosworth Manor grounds where several polo players passed us on the way to the match. Some late arrivals caught up with us by helicopter. We then crossed to Virginia Water where we did a circuit of the lakes before entering the valley gardens. This is full of twisting paths giving dramatic views of the varied landscape, the vibrant colours of the rhododendra were evident today. We had our picnic at one of the follys with a view down to the lake.

We then continued through Windsor Great Park before coming to the Sun Inn which had a vintage motor show today. Some of the group stayed at the pub for cooling drinks, whilst the rest headed north to Englefield Green. A cricket match was in progress on the village green, we took in a couple of overs and then climbed to the Coopers Hill RAF memorial. It has a dramatic setting on the edge of the hill and is designed as a chapel with a cupola reached by a spiral stairs. From the open balcony on the roof we took in the panoramic views of the Thames valley below. Our route descended down to pass the JFK memorial and the Magna Carta site. Finally reaching the tea shop by the Thames we paused for some welcome ice creams by the riverside in the sun before catching the train back to London.

Report by Brian G

Six joined me for a lovely 18 mile walk along the flat to the north of the Chiltern Hills on a sunny and warm day at the end of May.

We met at a location I had never been to before, Cheddington, a few miles north of Tring in Hertfordshire. My route too was mostly new, heading north west to Wingrave, then south to Rowsham and then to Hulcott where we stopped for lunch on its large green, dressed with occasional trees. Post lunch we continued south taking in meadows, streams and quite a few paths and stiles that could not have been walked for some time; navigation involved a bit more guess work than usual (no comments please!).

Once we reached the Grand Union Canal our bearing was more east even after we quickly left the canal for more paths past Puttenham and then the surprise of the remains of a 15th century church tower hidden amongst a circle of trees and shrubs in Long Marston. With lunch now a distant memory the warm sun was necessitating a stop for a drink. My map suggested Wilstone had a pub, which it did, unfortunately it was closed mid-afternoon, so we continued to our next stop, Marsworth, which also had a few pubs, and they were open. We stopped at the Anglers Retreat sitting outside in its garden next to its aviary of various birds; the service and drinks were both good.

The final few miles of our walk were really about getting us back to Cheddington close to the stated finish time and so we followed the Grand Union Canal for a few miles, leaving at Ivinghoe Bridge to take the road straight to our start point, Cheddington station, for a little after 6pm.

As always, thank you to all who came - Monica, Sarah and Marin (HAWOG) and Thomas and Trevor (Chilterns20s30s) - for joining Carol and me (both groups).

Report by Steve

"Fortune favours the brave" and so we were to be rewarded with 5 sunny days and not a drop of rain for the final leg of our Pennine Way epic.

For Steve R, Keith, Anna, Erika and me it was to be the completion of the entire journey albeit over several years. We were joined by Jane for the last leg, a Pennine veteran, having walked the whole way as a teenager.

None of us could believe our luck having spent much of the previous two sections battling the elements. This time we only had sunburn to contend with and the misfortune of lugging superfluous amounts of waterproofs and extra layers.

The first day from Greenhead to Once Brewed was over in a flash. We covered the 7.5 miles by lunchtime so continued on to Vindolanda for tea and a look around the recently renovated museum and saw the progress in uncovering one of the world's most important Roman archeological sites.

The next day we began in earnest with a 15 mile walk to Bellingham. We left Hadrian's Wall and headed north towards Wark Forest with a quick look over our shoulders for a barbarian's view of the wall. We reached the small village of Bellingham by 4.20pm and checked into our two B&B's. Keith and Steve found that the local beer festival had had a loosening effect on their landlady so plans to barricade the bedroom door at night were contemplated. That evening we had a leisurely 3 hour dinner at The Cheviot hotel restaurant which despite being almost empty served lukewarm soup at a snail's pace. Four of us returned our soups and to avoid confusion the waitress carefully identified the lip of each bowl with a big marker pen. Seemingly the deputy chef was in charge for the night, although we rather suspected that the twice-cooked pheasant on the menu was mostly to blame. Matters were not helped by the raucous singalong-a-Meatloaf/Rolling Stones session coming from the public bar competing rather too successfully with the 80s mix C90 cassette which we enjoyed all the way through...twice.

The third day was the boggiest and the most humid. After lunch we spent a good hour and a half dodging bogs by a fence before following a logging road and avoiding two large lorries loaded with timber. We arrived at the Forest Inn, Byrness at 4.30pm and checked in for two nights.

Here we discovered that all would be well as long as no one broke any of the rules, even those which were unwritten. It was a bit like being back at primary school at times, one member falling foul of the landlady for unwittingly using 'the wrong shower'. Apart from the odd atmosphere the place offered very good food and lots of good conversation. Byrness being very much a one horse sort of a town, the inn was frequented in the evening by the village wit, Terry, who told us tales of running down a reindeer in his animal loving wife's car, and the day the police descended en masse from Newcastle looking for a lost walker. Familiarity with the lively weekend nightlife in "the Toon" being no help in avoiding the local practical jokers in this obviously too quiet backwater.

The last 27 miles of the walk from Byrness to Kirk Yetholm we split in two, the inn landlady picking us up halfway and dropping us back for the final leg in a minibus. This meant a two mile descent and ascent to and from the trail but with 1600m of climb in total and a diversion to the Cheviot at 815m for lunch on the last day it allowed us time to appreciate the scenery and spectacular weather. Our sunny lunch stops were accompanied by almost complete silence broken only by skylarks and Keith's gentle snoring. Despite the extensive slabbing Erika had a tug of war with the bog and was thankful to have tied her boot on securely having submerged up to the shin and getting a bootful of slime.

We reached Kirk Yetholm at about 5pm and found an almost deserted village, just a couple of locals outside the Border Hotel who kindly took our picture. Quite an anticlimax really, but that evening we had a fabulous meal and forced in three courses before retiring to king-sized luxury beds.

We returned next day via Berwick with time for a wander round the fortified town and lovely views across to Lindisfarne and Bamburgh Castle.

Thanks to Steve, Keith, Anna and Jane for joing Erika and me on this perfect end to a great walk. Now, what next.......?

Report by David H and Erika

5 of us met on a sunny evening at Pinner for our latest evening walk. The High Street was full as the annual Pinner Fair was taking place at the same time. Jan and Jeff had one go on the dodgems while waiting for the others. Our route was the Celandine Way, which follows the River Pinn from Pinner to Eastcote via the hidden green spaces of the district. We passed through Pinner Memorial Park and West House (home for Nelson's daughter and grandson) before following the Pinn to the Long Meadows field with its' poplars and ash trees. We then came upon the Eastcote House gardens (the remains of the 17th century manor house). We strolled around the delightful herb gardens where Brian F pointed out the various herbs and shrubs. Passing the 18th century coach house we headed north to reach the Case is Altered where we met some other members who joined us at the pub.

Report by Brian G

The walk started promisingly through Lee Country Park and north of Waltham Abbey, where we could admire the highest buildings in East and North London from the top of a hill. After the first nursery (too gentle and euphemistic name for huge industrial greenhouses) we could not find the path and we dashed through a forest until we made some sense of the marks on the map. The day was dark, and even nice places such as Epping Upland looked grey.

I made only minor orientation mistakes - thanks to Dave for not letting me make some of them worse. The end was grim - first some endless "nurseries", then some poorly marked paths and a totally disappointing long and deserted Lee Canal.

Overall we did less than 20 miles at a good pace - thanks to Anna, Carol, Erika, Dave H and Steve for joining me.

Report by Marin

A refreshing walk around the woodlands of Ruislip. Bluebells were in their prime and the colour contrasted with the virgin green foliage while their fragrance pervaded the air. Thankfully the much touted rain stayed away and we were able to relax outside the Water's Edge pub looking across the lido during our break. 15 attended the walk which was held jointly with the C2030 Ramblers. From HAWOG thanks to Mark O, Prem, Derek, Neale and prospective new members Shilpa and Neets for coming along.

Report by Brian F

17 of us spent 4 fine days in the Lake District at Coniston village. Half the group travelled by train along the splendidly scenic Furness line crossing Morecambe Bay by bridges out to sea, which afforded magnificent views of the beaches and coastline. After the ceremonial opening of Cathy's tuck shop, a few of us did a lakeside walk, taking in views of the setting sun reflected on lake Coniston. Jan arranged the catering for the weekend, the hostel meals were first rate as were those at the Black Bull inn and the Sun hotel. Roger discovered a music evening at the Crown, where Mick joined Danielle on stage to perform a Meatloaf tribute medley.

Saturday saw the main climb, where most of the group ascended the Old Man of Coniston (via the Wainwright-derided "babies and grandmothers" direct route). At the summit Martina expostulated "that Wainwright is a liar, I nearly died". Luckily Keith had come to her rescue by carrying her over a stream. We had our picnic by the tranquil Levenswater before Keith led one group down via Goat Haws. Brian led the others on a ridge route climbing Brim Fell and Swirl Hows where the clouds finally lifted and we had spectacular views of the Langdale Pikes and Morecambe Bay to the south. Shakespeare kept replenishing the troops with his famous sugary Mellow Birds "coffee substitute" from the biggest flask ever seen at this altitude. On descending, tiffin was served by Carla and Kim with helpings of spiffing lemon cake from the innovative "Honest Shop" in Coniston. After our meal at the Black Bull (whose barmaid was a doppelganger for Corrie's Stella ("everyone says that"), we returned to base where Deirdre and Jan arranged a midnight popcorn banquet in the lounge.

Sunday saw a variety of activities. Bev, Archie and Olly went to Hilltop for a Potter (Beatrix not Harry) trail whilst Roger did a trek to the local racecourse. Most of us sailed serenely across Coniston lake on the 19th century steam launch Gondola, recently refurbished to Victorian elegance. We stopped at Ruskin's mansion Brantwood. We walked around the extensive gardens before Humay guided us around Ruskin's house, explaining his influence on art and Victorian society. Jane then did a hike up to the scenic viewpoint at Tarn Hows, whilst Jan, Deirdre and I went to the Swallows and Amazon tea gardens overlooking the lake. We had our evening meal at the Sun hotel with views of the blossoming magnolia trees framing the lake below us. Later in the night there was a onesie party at the Black Bull where Cathy won a prize for her polka dot ensemble.

Monday was another sunny day. Some of the group did a lakeside walk with a visit to the very informative Ruskin museum and Bluebird exhibition. Most of the group did an excellent sailing course on the lake, arranged by Jeff. We took out two twenty-foot boats, the trainers soon marshalled us into competent crews. Jeff and Jane were on the tillers with the rest of us alternating on the main and jib sails. We picked up considerable speed as we tacked across the lake with the majestic peaks overlooking us in the sun. The trip ended by tradition at Coniston tea rooms where giant scones were on offer as we enjoyed another sunny afternoon in welcoming Coniston.

Report by Brian G

I was probably a bit too dissing towards Aylesbury in my pre-event description!

Our walk on Saturday, West of Aylesbury, actually offered some very good terrain and views. Nine of us met at the town centre train station on a cloudy but warm morning and within twenty minutes walking we were touching countryside, heading west toward the River Thame which was very tranquil. We followed the river broadly south west to Winchendon, taking in a detour due to a permissive path being closed. Whilst the terrain for the whole walk was broadly flat, there were plenty of milder ups and down under foot and on the horizon to add some interest.

Our later-than-normal start meant our first stop would be for lunch, which we took at the lovely village of Cuddington, in the grounds of the church and graveyard. By then the sun had been shining brightly for well over an hour and we were enjoying what was probably the warmest day of the year so far; certainly a real contrast to our trip to Northumberland barely a month ago.

After lunch we continued south, losing the path across a field to reach a dodgy stile with no arrow markings. I took a gamble that we had headed a little too far east and should be in the small woods to our west (we needed to go through a small wood before you ask). Of course it wasn't that woods so I delighted attendees with an extra mile under foot. We touched the north corner of Haddenham before turning north east towards Dinton for a quick ten minute break and then south and then east to Bishopstone and the pub for a drink. A pub with a very relevant name - The Harrow - unfortunately it wasn't hello for us as it had closed down. So no afternoon drink there!

We had another chance though, near Hartwell, a stop a mile or so further on, which had a very functioning and nice pub, the Bugle Horn, with a large outdoor seating area which was busy on such a lovely day. We all had a drink and rest before walking the last 3-4 miles back to Aylesbury, following a north path back to the River Thame before retracing our steps (almost) to the train station a little after 7pm.

So, west of Aylesbury has some lovely villages and paths and the River Thame makes for some pleasant walking. Thanks to Julia, Sophie and Andy (Chilterns20s30s), Anna, Keith, Marin and Phil (HAWOG) for joining Carol and me (both groups) for an enjoyable 21 ish mile walk.

Report by Steve R

2 HAWOG members - Anuma and Harpreet - explored Black Park on Sunday morning. Harpreet was joined by her children, Ruben and Amber. Other attendees were Laura, Miriam, Cheryl and Martin (non-members) with their children - Parveen, Nicola and Sasha, Josie and Eva.

We started at the entrance of the park at Go-Ape, and walked along the pathways, the woodland tracks. Unfortunately there were no bluebells, but we did spot some blue forget-me-nots! The children had an outdoors adventure too - they ran and skipped most of the way - and also found logs to play on, made a log cabin, climbed and slid down mounds of mud, and kept going until we reached the lake. Even though I was the only child-free adult there, it was a pleasure to be at the front, keeping the children focussed and also finding the many distractions in the woodland.

We had a bite to eat by the lake, since all were famished - and some continued to play in the adventure playground, while others made their way home.

The weather was mild - sunny to start and then clouding over later - but thankfully no rain! We walked a total of 4 miles in 2.5 hours - and with 7 kids in tow, that was a good feat!

Report by Anuma

For our latest Surrey Hills walk, our train was full of walkers as 3 walking groups were headed to Milford. We all assembled on the platform for roll call and after Jeff was retrieved from Met ramblers and fraternisation being over we set off. The day was warm and sunny and showed off the splendours of the Surrey Hills well. We passed the picturesque Enton Mill and chatted to the owner who explained about the tea clipper magnate who had restored the mill into the manor it is today. We then quickly crossed a golf course before climbing to the panoramic viewpoint at Hydons Ball with its stone memorial bench to Octavia Hill who founded the National Trust and who often walked these hills.

Our route then descended to the ancient village of Hascombe with its remarkable church. Canon Musgrave covered the walls and chapel ceiling with ornate decorations to create the Moorish effect described by Betjeman as "a Tractarian work of art". We stopped for lunch at the pub on the green where we met one of the walking groups from earlier (doing the same walk) who included an ex-HAWOG member. We chatted about the group, past and present, in the beer garden whilst David and Mel topped up their tans in the sunshine.

Our afternoon route took in the rights of way which afford free access to most of Winkworth arboretum. The magnolia trees were impressively colourful and some early camellias added to the colours of the daffodils and tulips. We crossed the arboretum, visiting the boat house on the lake before rejoining the Greensand Way. We continued north, passing several manors and mansions in the hidden hamlets on the hills before reaching the Wye canal. Our tea stop was at Hectors House (no Zsa Zsa present today) where we enjoyed some well-earned tea and fruit cake (thanks Jan) before reaching Godalming and the trains back to London.

Report by Brian G

Sunny day, warm rays of sun... Spring was in the air! It was a perfect day to have our walk around Wendover. I decided to change the route and did it backwards, leaving Coombe Hill and its monument to the end as the highlight of the walk.

We started our way heading south through lovely fields and woods with trees about to bud, having a little break at Chequers to enjoy the view of the PM's country residence, and Coombe Hill in the background.

We had our lunch break in a pretty churchyard in Ellesborough and then started heading off towards the highlight of the day. A very steep hill to go, Brigitta almost had to do it twice as her bottle of water fell and quickly started going downhill. It was hard work to go up, but worth it when finally on the top we had the beautiful view of the Vale of Aylesbury.

Back in Wendover we had a well deserved drink in the beer garden of the local pub.

Thank you to Tatyana, Catherine and her two lovely canine companions Riley and Minnie, Brigitta, Mary, Efisia, Erika, Dave H, Mark P and Keith for joining me on this warm day.

Report by Anna

It was the first real spring day - sunny throughout. The sunshine and the blue sky looked strange after an apparently endless grey winter. And it proved to be a bizarre day - I only lost the trail once (I am being smug here - I blame it on talking to Paul at that particular time - his arguments can easily make any sane man think that South is actually North) and the actual walk was only 18.5 miles long. The rest of the walk was normal: wooden animals on the green, forests with trees on fire, people falling down because of difficulties in coordinating speaking and walking at the same time, a Roman Road full of potholes and other such things.

Thanks to Anna, Jane, Emma, Erika, Abde, David H, Keith, Mike D, Paul, Phil and Steve for joining me in this surreal adventure.

Report by Marin

9 of us met at Mortimer station for the Roman trek. 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, reflected 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.

As we passed the Calleva Arms a shower started so we ventured inside. Jan and Martina ordered the traditional bowl of chips accompanied by red wine whilst Mark proceeded to entertain the locals with his peerless yarns from Signals Corps. Vic educated Caroline and Azra on the finer points of jurisprudence as more wine was ordered. We were about to leave when Jeff arrived at the pub, he had arrived at the start 1 hour late by tradition and had trailed us across country. Jan ordered another bottle to celebrate his tracking skills.

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

Five monkeys met on a Saturday morning at Harrow Leisure Centre to start their business...

After receiving instructions about basic climbing techniques on the walls from the RockFrog instructor, we started our business. The first challenge was learning to tie the basic climbing knot but by the end of the session we had it "almost" mastered. Some of us were natural climbers, some of us not so much (to be honest I should say me!). We went through 4 different climbing routes with increasing difficulty on each ascent, but all of us, skilled or unskilled, had a lot of fun.

Thank you to Liane, Merc´┐Ż, Jane and Keith for joining in me in this taster session of indoor climbing.

Report by Anna

Easter in Alnwick, Northumberland, wasn't as cold as I thought it was going to be!

I'd assumed that the biting wind and snow in the south of the country in the previous few weeks would still be prevalent in the north east during Easter. Certainly that was my understanding from the weather forecasts. Well it wasn't. In fact it was warmer when we arrived in Alnwick than when we left London, mainly due to the lack of wind. And while the temperatures were around 4 degrees Paul and I could wear our shorts to delight the others on the walks!

Good Friday's walk was a 21 miler from Almouth train station, a few miles from Alnwick and the coast. Thought I'd break them in gently. Before long, our route stalled as our path was crossing a river, a rather deep river with no easy non-wet way across. A detour ensued, of about a mile, taking us almost back to Almouth train station. After that though, the paths for the rest of the day were ok. Signing sometimes poor (we're spoilt in the Chilterns), as were the stiles. The feeling that we might be the first people walking some of these paths for quite some time was consistent with the lack of people we saw on our walk. The quiet and space was wonderful. We reached the Northumberland Coast path just before lunch which we had along the coast at Boulmer before continuing south to Warkworth for posh afternoon teas in a hotel. We left the coastal path for a 4 mile walk home reaching Almouth about 6:20pm. Weather a mix of sun and cloud, but no wind or rain.

On Saturday, a few less of us (6) started a 22 miler from Longhoughton, again a few miles from Alnwick. The first half of this route was inland through woods and fields before reaching the coast mid afternoon. Weather was better than Good Friday, more sun, certainly as the day went on, and when it shone we could feel it. We saw remnants of old castles and stopped for lunch in a Norman church which had heaters (and Emma and Abde soon put them on, slightly taking the holy water I do think). Post lunch and we continued north and then east to again reach the coast, this time at High Newton by-the-Sea, where we stopped for tea in the local pub (clientele quiet posh - we stood out). Then for what turned out to be the best walking and views of the weekend. South along the coastal path with blue sky and sea to our left and the sun to our right and front and beautiful coast line, mainly clear sand, around us. Everything, the feeling, just continued to surpass expectations. Then we reached Dunstanburgh Castle, which we'd seen in the distance ahead of us for about 3 miles. No entry as National Trust owned and closed, but just being there in late afternoon blue skies was fantastic. With light fading - ironically with only 6 of us we'd managed to take a bit longer for our breaks and walked a bit slower on the paths - we knew we had to crack on to finish before too dark. We returned to Longhoughton about 7:45pm, well into dusk.

Sunday, and Carol led the wind down walk for the trip, non coastal, 12 miles, in the Cheviot hills. We started from Wooler an hour later than previous days due to the clocks going forward and followed some of the St Cuthbert's Way. The terrain was very different to the previous two days; hill ascents into snow which was 15+ cms around the top. We saw plenty of horny cows who like us, weren't any more turned on by the sight of Paul stripping to his bare chest and diving into the snow. He said he was hot, need to cool down. Weather mainly cloudy today. We finished mid afternoon.

Accommodation wise, Alnwick YHA is excellent, modern rooms and facilities, run by two guys who look like the Hairy Bikers. And right in the centre of the historic town, meaning visits to the shops, many independent, and attractions were easily accessible on foot. During our four nights in town we sampled many of the restaurants, a few of the pubs, and the Co-op store.

Really enjoyed, weather, walking and views exceeded my expectations based on the recent cold weather. Thanks to Emma, Erika, Jane and Maria (girls) and Abde, David, Paul, Phil and Tim (guys) for joining Carol and me for another wonderful trip away with the group, and to Paul for driving the minibus up, around and back and for showing us all the delights of his upper torso!

Report by Steve R

Five brave souls set out from the quaint village of Amersham heading south toward Seer Green. We stopped briefly at Upper Bottom House Farm to allow us to regroup. The farmer kindly tried to direct us back up the hill which we had just come down, assuming we were lost. Onwards then into some really good driving rain. Brigitta remarked that "there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing." How we chuckled at such an apt remark. Hodgemoor Woods, where I previously had a gentle meander through snowdrops and early daffodils, now looked akin to some distant battlefield from the Great War.

The group was rather pleased when I said that the next section follows the road for a while. However, we soon encountered a mini lake which covered the whole of the road and extended for about 20 metres and had high hedges to either side. Dave M was first to take the plunge. Brave lad, I thought! Then I waded in, it was at least a foot deep and very cold. Marin and Dave T then followed - lots of choice swearing by this stage. Then we lost Brigitta. As if by magic she appeared, having bypassed the lake by going through a gate marked "beware of the dog!" Interesting choice - wet feet, or a massive dog chewing at your arse! So, with wet feet and heavy hearts on we went.

The lunch stop saved the day, we found a pub at Winchmore Hill with a lovely inglenook fireplace. Nothing like the smell of wet walkers socks steaming on the hearth. Actually, Marin sat so close to the fire I think he had stopped steaming and was now roasting! Again Brigitta showed real practical thinking, having brought carrier bags to wrap around her muddy boots. The general mood of the group was quite upbeat. However, due to rain and mud we were quite a bit off the intended pace, so all agreed that we ought to shorten the walk slightly, by about 2 miles, which meant we would do a total of 13 by the end point.

I had done the walk a couple of weeks ago, it was mainly dry and very enjoyable. I will do this route again in better conditions. A big thank you to all who attended this challenge - Marin, Dave M, Dave T, Brigitta.

Report by Mike D

It was a cold and crisp morning, and eight of us assembled at Rickmansworth station for the Grand Tour Walk. For several of those on the walk, this was their first HAWOG event - so the chance of a few prospective new members. We set off towards Rickmansworth Aquadrome, and did a half circle of the lakes, joining the Grand Union Canal at Stockers Lock. The farm on the far side of the canal was used to film the opening sequences of the 1970's television series of "Black Beauty", which may be familiar to some of you. Our walk around the lakes offered us the chance to see an abundance of bird life - swans, canada geese, mallards, tufted ducks and coots - to name but a few. We were also befriended by a very sociable robin. The lakes were alive with a plethora of human activity : boats, kayaks, kayak water polo, fishermen and model boats being guided by owners with remote control devices.

From Stockers Lock we took the southerly route (towards London), and proceeded for a couple of miles, passing several occupied canal boats moored on that stretch. We were also able to see a couple of narrowboats meandering down the canal, so we had the chance to witness the locks in operation. The tow path was a hive of activity with joggers, cyclists and dog walkers much in evidence. There were times when the cloud cover looked a bit threatening, but fortunately we were able to avoid any downpours before returning to Stockers Lock. From there we completed the circle of the Lakes, to visit "The Café" on the lake, where refreshments and tiffin were taken. Returning to Rickmansworth Station for about 1.15pm.

Thanks to Kim, Catherine, Hilary, Yolanta, Sasha, Sonia and Goran for coming along.

Report by Roger

5 of us arrived in Surrey on a cold but dry Saturday morning. There was another walking couple who alighted from the same train as us. However they were not recruits but experienced walkers whom we encountered again several times during the walk as they were also following the Time Out guide. We set off through the village before entering the heathlands of the Surrey Hills. The area is mostly owned by the National Trust as this is where it was founded. The expanse of heather stretched to the horizon as we headed south. The guide and all maps confirmed that the inn at Thursley was "long since closed", however it was to our surprise reopened. Jan insisted we stop so we ordered drinks and found a table in the garden overlooking the valley. As we were leaving the landlady came out to speak to Jeff and David, she warned them that "we have let you do it today as no one else is here, but if you come back in the summer you won't be able to do it again".

We explored the excellent village of Thursley, with its 12th century church and manorial estate houses. We stopped near Ridgeway farm where Christina helped several horse riders who had problems with a locked gate.

We then ventured into the Devil's Punch Bowl itself. The mist had descended to cover the hollow, with the forests enveloping us. We passed the YHA cottage and farms before climbing steeply to attain the heights of Hindhead. Finally we reached the National Trust Café on the edge of the punch bowl with great views (on a clear day) of the surrounding hills. Victoria sponge and teas were very welcome to celebrate the hike. Our route then followed the Greensand Way back down the hillside to Haslemere to catch the train back to London.

Report by Brian G

The day was dark and although it did not look like spring it was mild, not at all windy, rainy or muddy.

And we were very determined. The pace was very good and we rarely stopped. Even the pub lunch took only about a couple of minutes - we quickly realised the meal would probably take an hour to be delivered so instead we had a quick lunch at the bottom of a vineyard. No sour grapes.

The route was pleasant and mostly new to me (apart from a bit which I was surprised to notice was the reverse of a part of Dave H's walk from last November - great minds think alike). At a greener and sunnier time of year the scenery would be spectacular, especially Gaddesden Place which commands great views for miles around.

Thanks to Anna, Jane, Brigitta, Karen and Phil for joining me in this sporty and agreeable walk. Surprisingly I did not make any mistakes - see you on my next walks.

Report by Marin

6 of us stayed at the Georgian Italianate Bath YHA for a cold but rain-free weekend. Jan arranged an excellent meal on Friday at the most sumptuous curry venue ever, the restaurant is in the ballroom of an 18th century mansion with views over historic Bath courtyards.

On Saturday we did the traditional hike over hills and along the canal to Bradford upon Avon. Kim arranged the itinerary today. It was full English fry-up, walk, café stop, walk, pub lunch, walk, cream tea, train, apple pie break, walk into town, huge meal, apple pie feast back at hostel at midnight. Bradford upon Avon was a delight, the 14th century Tithe barn is one of the largest in England. The cream tea at the 18th century bridge café was as spiffing as ever. Peter confused the waitress with his request for a pair of pliers but that's another story. Kim's comment of the day - "Is this lunch or just a snack?". We walked into Bath in the evening for a meal and a stroll around the Georgian terraces. Martina proffered her usual request at the pub - "Can I have a bowl of chips with that, it's Lent you see".

On Sunday we scaled back the calorie intake, Coral arranged the full English fry-up, walk, Jazz café lunch, walk, tea shop itinerary with admirable splendid asperity / frugality. We explored the famous Circle, Royal Crescent, Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths. Then Peter led us along the riverside walk featuring Pulteny bridge (designed after Ponte Vecchio in Florence). Coral explained where Jane Austen had stayed and why she based her novels here. Finally exhausted and famished, Martina led us to Sally Lunns for the customary tea shop finale for her famous buns. We gained a roof top table for views over Bath as we enjoyed a few brief moments of leisure and reflected on another great cultural sojourn here.

Report by Brian G

With Paul, Emma, Anna and I travelling to Wales in the late morning we were able to make an impromptu stop at Symonds Yat to take in the view of the River Wye from this high vantage point before continuing on to Brecon and then the youth hostel which was to be our home for the weekend. Steve and Carol joined us late that night - whilst waiting for them, Anna and I played a game or two of Snakes and Ladders which, she kindly informed me, was a game which didn't require much intellect!

Saturday morning we headed out across fields covered in an icing sugar coating of snow of no consequence other than the beauty it added to the scenery. The mountains were close and we started our ascent of Corn Du after a short walk. The weather was cold but dry and many others had taken advantage of the weather to climb the beacons. Reaching the summit of Corn Du the wind and cold really started to bite it was not possible to be without gloves for more than a minute or two. Carol and Steve had donned balaclavas little realising the lack of banks to rob atop of these peaks!

As we headed to Pen-Y Fan we were rewarded with fabulous scenery but a number of the group commented that it was the coldest they'd ever felt. We descended Pen-Y Fan, dropped into the saddle of Cribyn then up and over the next rise towards Fan Y Big (no joking!). We circled back round on ourselves along a treacherously icy path where Torvill and Dean would've been proud of Emma's ice skating manoeuvres.

Heading home and on much flatter ground Paul suddenly decided that 3 mountain peaks in arctic weather did not constitute a red event so decided to pull a knee ligament, or muscle, to make his homeward trip a little more challenging. However we still made fair time back to the hostel taking a slight detour from the intended route.

On Sunday Anna led us on a shorter, but no less challenging event (for other reasons) up Fan Fawr. Paul's knee was still causing him problems so his plan was to start the walk with us then turn back when the walk began to get steeper.

We tracked round and through a wood bordering a reservoir. The ground had been waterlogged and frozen allowing us to refine our newly acquired skating skills but the ice ended once we had left Paul and started our climb. With the wind in our face and even colder temperatures than the previous day several of the group said it was the coldest they had ever known (again)! Steve forged ahead and we found him sheltering from the wind near the summit - imagine our surprise when we found sitting next to him ..... Paul! He had taken a short cut straight up the side of the mountain. Finally we were pleased to descend away from the wind chill and back to the cars but were left with a huge sense of satisfaction by what we had achieved.

Thank you to Carol, Emma, Steve and Paul for joining me and Anna on this small adventure.

Report by Keith

5 of us arrived in Surrey where it was drizzling then sleet for the morning. We had yet another unmanned level crossing to traverse for a photo op, plus the inevitable manor houses on route. We had a short very steep climb to Leith Hill, highest point in South-East England for the viewpoint (somewhat reduced on such a day). The National Trust kiosk was very busy selling hot drinks, bacon butties and thick slabs of cakes. The summit was full of hiking and cycling groups. Humay met the Chelmsford outdoor group, and their dogs helped themselves to our cakes before we noticed. Our route then went south towards the hamlet of Friday Street with its excellent inn. We utilised the effective boot cleaning apparatus outside before entering. Jan and Martina had several large wines to fortify themselves and Mark entertained the locals with some new and entirely relevant fireside yarns.

After lunch we were pleased to see that it was now dry outside and we headed north, slowly descending towards the Tilling Bourne valley. We reached Westcott village where we had to wait for the bus back to Dorking. Luckily the village has an excellent cycle shop, art gallery and dress shop so all 5 of us were able to make good use of the time before catching the train back to London.

Report by Brian G

On a cold, overcast but dry day, 6 adults and 2 children (Ruben and Amber) set off, going north from the car park at Black Park. We walked along gravel paths through pine woodland and forest. Some of the paths were quite muddy in places, much to the delight of the children and the many dogs taken for walks in the park. Thankfully the children had wellies on which meant they could wade through the muddy puddles, without getting told off.

The children spotted horseshoe tracks so it was only a matter of time before we were greeted by horse riders on horseback. Amber spotted what she thought were dinosaur prints, and Ruben thought he heard the rumblings of a giant in the distance although we did not see either dinosaurs or giants, on this occasion. After a quick biscuit break for the kids we walked through pine forest and heathland. Even though it was an overcast day the woodland displayed a beautiful subtlety of colours and tones.

We took a group photo next to a large puddle which the kids were particularly pleased about since they were allowed to stand in the puddle for the photo. We continued walking, past rhododendron trees (which Ruben climbed) until we came to a picturesque lake. We stopped for lunch at the lakeside cafe at which point David T turned up and joined us. After warming up on hot chocolate and sandwiches the kids ventured back out to enjoy the adventure playground. A most enjoyable walk was had by all.

Thanks to Anna for helping to lead the walk, Erika, David, Oliver and Petra, and also to Ruben (aged 6) and Amber (aged 4 and a half).

Report by Harpreet

Both of us set off from Kew Bridge on a crisp sunny morning, and after negotiating the Richmond traffic we climbed Richmond Hill and were already very warm. Superb view of Surrey and the North Downs but we pressed on. Across Richmond Park which was heaving with cyclists, out via Roehampton and the pedestrian underpass onto Wimbledon Common. After stopping for a well-earned hot chocolate at the cafe by the Windmill we carried on through Wimbledon Village , then down the hill and past the tennis club. Then had to negotiate a bit more traffic through Southfields and Putney, but not too long before we were on the Thames tow path with lots of frenetic activity from hundreds of rowers. We came off at Hammersmith, crossed over the bridge, then made our way through the leafy streets of Chiswick and Grove Park and Strand on the Green to finish back at Kew.

The pace was faster than planned so we finished soon after 1 o'clock. The route too was altered from the planned one but was interesting and varied and included lots of cycle tracks and mostly avoided heavy traffic.

Thanks to Steve N. for organising the event and the benefit of his extensive knowledge of South-West London Cycle runs. A really enjoyable ride and a great work out!

Report by Paul

On a snowy Sunday, 7 of us braved the snow-covered fields and hills starting our little journey from Princes Risborough rail station. We headed south, enjoying the white landscapes and the good company. Some hills on the way, and hard work to walk through the snow (although very handy to clean muddy boots!). We arrived at Radnage just in time to have lunch in the pretty churchyard. In the afternoon we went north-west towards Chinnor Hill, crossing Surley Wood where some friendly robins which we met along our way watched with curiosity 7 walkers out in such a day!

We upped the pace a bit to arrive on time at the Lion's Inn pub in Bledlow as they announced their closing time at 3pm... We managed to arrive just in time to have a very well-deserved break in the warmth before heading back to Princes Risborough.

Even though it never stopped snowing since we started walking in the morning, it was just the right amount of snow and the views were fantastic!

Thank you to Catherine, Hilary, Hannan, Jane R, Dave T and Keith for joining me on such a lovely walk.

Report by Anna

5 of us made it to snowy Witley on a cold and crisp Saturday morning. All trains ran on time there and back and we had great views of the snow-covered Surrey countryside on the way south. We headed west into the woods beside the Witley estate. In the late Victorian era this was the setting for the creations of Whitaker Wright, the self-made millionaire who aped Hearst in spending millions on lakes and hidden palaces. It ended inevitably with a cyanide-coated cigar at the Old Bailey once the house of cards had collapsed. We climbed with difficulty through thick snow, passing impressive manor houses. We reached the timeless village of Chiddingfold and visited the medieval church with its impressive stained glass windows. The village pond was frozen over, Paul tested the stability but did not risk walking to the centre.

The Crown Inn was our lunch stop beside the village green. The 13th century pub already had groups huddled around the several glowing fireplaces so we tried some of the warming mulled wine, very welcome on this cold day. We continued south, hiking through National Trust estates, passing frozen-over hammer ponds and many timber bridges which looked very wintery covered with snow. In the afternoon we noticed many more families on the hills using sledges to sweep down the slopes. We reached Haslemere just as dusk was falling to catch the train back to London. We have scheduled in several more walks in the Surrey Hills over the next months.

Report by Brian G

Ten attended my 13 mile ish South of West Wycombe and Back walk yesterday. Weather colder than has been recently but a dry day with a mix of cloud and sun. Some paths of the route were new to me on the day and I think everyone; I tried to avoid doing the obvious easy route.

We left West Wycombe through woods and hills broadly heading south reaching Wheeler End for mid morning tea. We skirted Land End and then Fingest before reaching our lunch stop, Frieth, around 12:20pm. Some went to the pub for a hot lunch or at least hot drink, the rest of us found seats in the grounds behind the church.

After lunch we took mainly east paths, slightly losing the path through the woods at Moor Common but making the most of our return to it by slopping about in its muddy contours. Wycombe Air Park brought a change from the muddy paths before we headed north through more woods in Booker Common. We finished hearing the roars of the London Wasps rugby match at Wycombe's Adams Park which was on our right before our final, and hardest, hill ascent, along a very slippery muddy bridleway.

All returned to West Wycombe just after 4pm. Thanks to Carol, Emma, Marin, Mike, Monica, Phil and Tim (HAWOG) and Kate, Gareth, Jim and Trevor (Chilterns20s30s) for joining me (both groups) on this walk.

Report by Steve