Photos and Reports for 2014

This is where you'll find photos and reports from members who've been on outdoor activities with the group in 2014. We also have photos and reports from other years:

At Cadmore End we started off
for our little hike.
Just four of us we were at first
Dave, Phil and me and Mike.

We made our way to Turville quick
with its little wooden mill.
There we were joined by Carol/Steve
Came clomping down the hill.

Who had their car in a park wrong
And couldn't find our group
It all worked out though in the end
With our little troupe.

Stonor next then lunch awaited
In a church porch so dry
At Hambleden the building was
With Xmas greens apply.

Skirmett where talk was started then
Of Christmas present buys
CDs and dresses were purchased
but thankfully no ties.

Through Fingest we went up and down
Our trousers were mud caked
The day was dry, were glad for that
though not quite sunshine baked.

My little poem ends here now
I hope it was delightful
But if you didn't find it so
Do try write one it's frightful.

Report / poem by Erika

9 of us met on a rather chilly Sunday morning at Chesham Station for our annual post-Christmas walk.

We headed off promptly shortly before 10:00am, immediately tackling the first hill of the day as we headed east towards Botley. I had intended to walk through fields as far the edge of the village, but an indistinct path meant that we had to follow the road a little more than planned. We then headed north and later north west to get up on to a ridge that took us towards Hawridge. Our route then took us south west towards Ballinger Common, and included, appropriately enough, a Christmas tree plantation and later our lunch stop.

We then headed east along Herberts Hole, and back to the centre of Chesham. We reached the end of the walk a little earlier than expected, at around 3:00pm, so we took the opportunity to go for coffee and cake before going our separate ways.

Thanks to Amanda, Dave H, Erika, Ian, Keith T, Marin, Pushpa and Suja for joining me.

Report by Phil

Thank you to Andreas, Marion, Pushpa, Amanda, Mark, David, Abby and Steve for coming on this gentle walk, and for reminding me how enjoyable it is to walk with others.

The weather was bright and fresh as we set out from Wimbledon Park Station. This was all new territory, and it was good to visit Wimbledon Park, with its lake and sailing base. We walked on undulating terrain and in varied scenery from the woodlands of Putney Heath to the grasslands of Richmond Park. We saw the deer and jackdaws and enjoyed the fresh air!

We stopped for lunch at Pembroke Lodge and had plenty of time left at the end of the walk to make our way home, with those preparing for Christmas.

Report by Jane

9 of us travelled to Chipping Sodbury last weekend for an early Christmas away in the Cotswolds.

On Friday evening, we ate out in a local Italian restaurant. As well as the excellent food (including desserts and cheese board), we also found that, in addition to English, the Italian staff spoke some Romanian.

On Saturday, we headed in to Bath to start walking the Cotswold Way, beginning in front of the Abbey at around 10:30am. We were blessed with bright sunshine for the whole day, and we warmed up fairly quickly as the route included quite a few ascents and descents, some of which were quite steep. The route took us past the Royal Crescent, and then through Weston and up on to the Cotswold escarpment. We stopped mid-morning to admire the views from Prospect Stile, then carried on to the Grenville monument, which commemorates Sir Bevil Grenville, who died in the Civil War battle of Lansdown Hill. After stopping nearby for lunch, we carried on through Cold Ashton and Pennsylvania and around the edge of Dyrham Park, reaching the end point at a picnic area near Tormarton at around 4:00pm, having walked around 15 miles. In the evening, we dined in a local Thai restaurant.

On Sunday, we were once again blessed with good weather, and after another excellent breakfast at our hotel, we returned to the Tormarton picnic area to begin our 9 mile walk to Hawkesbury Upton. We reached Old Sodbury at around 11:00am, where we were treated to tea and biscuits by relatives of one of our group (who happen to live within a hundred yards of the national trail). Later we carried on through Little Sodbury to Horton, where we stopped to eat our packed lunches a short distance from Horton Court (a National Trust property). We finally reached the end point of our walk in Hawkesbury Upton at around 2:00pm, from where we headed home. We're planning to resume our walk along the Cotswold Way from this point next spring.

Thanks to Amanda, Anna, Carol, Emma, Karen, Keith, Marin and Steve for joining me on this weekend.

Report by Phil

6 of us gathered at Chorleywood Station on Sunday. We set off walking up through the woodland to the car park area to pick up anyone who may have driven but it was deserted as it appears some of you were still caught up in the Black Friday madness. From here we walked down to the River Chess and followed this through to Chenies. The sun was now out and conditions were perfect.

We walked west for a mile or so still following the river and finally returning to Chenies coming back into the village via the manor house. We arrived at the Red Lion just after 12:00 and had a leisurely lunch here. Soon after 1pm the pub started to fill up so we reluctantly decided to vacate our lovely window table for some other customers.

We then completed the short walk back to Chorleywood Station arriving back about 2:20 pm. 9 miles covered in lovely sunshine with a pub lunch and great company thrown in.

I was joined by Marin, Rodica, Deirdre, Pushpa and Emma. Next walk will be early in the new year in this area, around 13 miles or so.

Report by Mary

11 of us met on a cold and damp Saturday morning at the National Trust car park near Ivinghoe Beacon. After waiting for a couple of late arrivals, we drove to Wendover so that we could start the 11.5 mile walk along the final stretch of the Ridgeway.

We left Wendover at around 10:30am, with intermittent rain during the morning. Reaching Wigginton at around 12:30pm, we stopped shortly afterwards, and it remained dry almost long enough for us to eat our packed lunches. The sky cleared a little during the afternoon, so that by the time we completed the last of the 87 miles of the national trail to reach Ivinghoe Beacon at around 3:00pm, the views were passable.

Thanks to Amanda, Anna, Avril, Derek, Emma, Karen, Keith, Marin, Pamela and Paul for joining me, and well done and thanks to those who have completed the full 87 miles with me over the last 2 years - and apologies for not providing any champagne to toast our achievement!

Report by Phil

The start was almost ten minutes delayed (I had to go back home because I forgot to take the map - imagine arriving at the start without the map!) but the others were nice and waited for us. The weather was better than expected - no rain and even 5 minutes of sunshine! Unlike other recent walks, this one was kept to the intended route. I tried a few times to add some degree of uncertainty and sudden improvisations to the route but Phil did not want to have any of it.

The route was scenic, stunning autumn colours, rustling leaves and ever changing clouds hurried through the sky by a lukewarm wind. From Burnham Green we headed north to Woolmer Green then east and south to Bramfield where we stopped for lunch at The Grandison. The food was exquisite (and a tad expensive), but probably the best we had in a pub this year.

After lunch, we headed further south and west up to the Church of St. Peter in Tewin (the only detour from the official route approved by the committee) with the strange tomb of Lady Anne Grimston, and then north to the starting point, that was reached half an hour earlier than expected due to good pace and the exclusion of tea stops. Total length of the walk - 13+ miles, as advertised.

Thanks to Avril, Emma, Pam, Derek and Phil for joining Rodica and myself on this lovely peaceful walk. I promise I will be more creative next time.

Report by Marin

16 of us made it down to the hidden Hindhead hostel deep in the woods at the base of Devil's Punchbowl. Christine redesigned the interior into a haunted Halloween cottage using her amazing collection of props. Mike and Cathy converted their luxury annexe into the group tuck shop. We discovered the "Wemrow" chair donated by HAWOG back in the 50s. Friday evening was pumpkin carving and lantern lighting time with some fireside tall tales from Leo and poetry from Tricia.

Saturday's walk was a circular route led by Brian, taking in the eastern and western heights of the punchbowl. We had to cross several bridges and deeply-cut bridleways through the heathland. We stopped for lunch at the horse-friendly 3 Horseshoe Inn, several horse riders arriving just after us. The autumn colours were seen at their best as the sun came out in the afternoon. We took in the Gibbets Hill viewpoint (views of Leith Hill and North Downs). We then continued around the bowl with the traditional tiffin stop at the National Trust café (rather spiffing lemon cake according to Natalie).

Back at base Christina, Jan and Martina prepared and served a warming sumptuous Halloween themed meal with some of us (no names) having second helpings. Afterwards we held our fancy dress party. The best costume prizes were won by Humay's Jimi Hendrix and Steve's Dick Turpin. The best dancers were Humay and Reg who performed a completely unexpected interpretation of Madame Butterfly. Rebecca and Daniel were completely lost for words.

Sunday saw Mike cooking everyone the seasonal Surrey woodman's breakfast, assisted by Eliza providing Polish sausages. Mike D then led a morning walk along the River Wye in glorious sunshine around historic Godalming. We stopped at a stylish pavement café by the market place for brunch just in time to watch the Remembrance Day parade march past our tables. Bands, army platoons and massed ranks of scouts, guides and parishioners filed past on a fine sunny afternoon in this very scenic part of Surrey.

Report by Brian

The day started with a brief kerfuffle as someone managed to lock their car key and most of their walking gear in the car. One was not deterred and we bravely set off. As we left Ibstone we had grey skies and a light shower but this lasted no longer than an hour. The red kites were quickly in view and we passed a pheasant farm near Blackmoor Wood.

We reached Pishill in good time as I correctly picked up the Chiltern Way so no extra miles were added. We had our lunch stop at The Crown Inn in Pishill and a series of phone calls to car rescue companies provided the lunchtime entertainment. After lunch we picked up the Oxfordshire Way heading down to Stonor it was now much brighter with blue skies and the autumn colours did not disappoint. From there we went to Turville for our last stop of the day. We then climbed up through Park Wood where we glimpsed the deer and made our way back to Ibstone.

Welcome to Pushpa who joined us on her first walk with the group. We did just under 14 miles and we finished back at Ibstone for 4:30 pm. I really enjoyed the day, the excellent company and the very unseasonal temperatures. Thanks to Marin, Paul, Deirdre, Claire, Nina, Emma, Steve and Pushpa.

Report by Mary

7 of us met at Dorking on a very sunny Saturday perfect for the autumn colours of the Surrey Hills. The scenic railway had even arranged an unscheduled stop (signals?) above Denbies vineyard which looked resplendent, the lines of golden vines stretching away to the distant woods.

Two new members, Daria and Tracey, were attending their first walk and they enjoyed their welcome kit briefing given by Leo as we set off. The route involved the famous stepping stones crossing over the River Mole before the main ascent up to Box Hill. As we had clear blue skies the views today were excellent. Keith pointed out the South Downs on the horizon. At the summit café 100s of club cyclists were enjoying the warm weather as well as 2 other hiking groups. After cake and teas we set off north with great views of the orange, red and yellow colours of the North Down woodlands forests. We descended from Mickleham Downs to discover the picturesque Mickleham village. The 12th century St Michaels church (with unique weeping chancel) was the setting for another Surrey society wedding. We had our lunch at the village green and watched the guests parade out through a pitchfork arch before departing on a decorated Bristol Lodekka.

Our route then continued north following the River Mole trail with several historic manors on the route. Tricia engaged a stable girl in conversation as she fed a retired racehorse (Epsom is nearby), and Humay offered to do a country life portrait of them both. Leo as ever detected a worthy Inn where we stopped for pints of "t.e.a." and enjoyed fine views over the valley from the extensive beer gardens. Soon after we reached Leatherhead just as dusk was falling for the trains back to London.

Report by Brian

On a really lovely autumn day 6 HAWOG members joined Jim and I at Baker Street Station to do our walk of approximately nine miles.

We left just after ten and walked up through Regents Park where we saw lots of unnaturally tame wild birds, as they stood to attention and posed for photographs as we went by. We had a fairly leisurely pace through Regents Park along part of the Regents Canal and up on to Primrose Hill where we enjoyed the views over the city. From there we had to negotiate a fairly direct path through a short urban area into Hampstead Heath. A brisk walk around the perimeter led us to an early lunch break at the cafe.

Following lunch we veered into the local farmers market for 10 minutes before our walk up to Parliament Hill and the remaining zig-zag scenic route over and around Hampstead Heath via the swimming ponds, Ken Wood and Kenwood House. Once past the old dairy we strayed into the Spaniards Inn for light liquid refreshment before continuing on over green belt land to Golders Green Station.

Thank you to Emma, Deirdre, Phil, Erika, Dave and Amanda for joining Jim and me on this walk.

Report by Claire

We had 9 of us on our first trip to the Malvern hills since the YHA hostel closed several years ago. The very scenic Cotswold railway delivered us direct to Colwall where our cottage (great value) was found at the organic nursery. The cottage has its own apple orchard, salad boxes and camping meadow. After a sumptuous Thai meal nearby Leo, Reg and Eliza played the musical beds game between the sofa bed, the wood shed and Leo's tent.

Our walk on Saturday from the cottage headed south via woodlands of warm autumn colours. Soon we came upon a seasonal shooting party. One of the stewards led us safely through the gun party, with gundogs racing alongside to catch the fallen birds. Eliza and Reg were gifted a extremely colourful pheasant feather by the steward. We then climbed to the first summit, British camp, an iron age hill fort with extensive ditch ramparts. Descending north we found ourselves at the famous Rachel's ice cream kiosk (reputedly finest in England). The gooseberry and elderflower ice cream was awfully spiffing according to Jan. Our route then took in the ridge of the main Malvern Hills, a series of rounded grassy summits rising dramatically out of the Severn plain. At Pinnacle Hill, Natalie unpacked our picnic lunch of French bread, cheeses and wine. We took in the panoramic views west to the Black Mountains and east to the Cotswold hills. We continued north along the ridge with the warming sun on our backs before finally reaching the Worcester Beacon, the highest point of the range, with its toposcope giving directions to the 12 counties viewed from the summit. Descending via well-made tracks we passed St Anns Well before our final tiffin stop at the tea shop by the 15th century Priory gate. In the evening we hiked into town for a meal at the friendly Crown inn before returning to the cottage where Steve and Fernando had lit the camp fire. Leo as ever entertained us into the early hours with more tall tales and Jan led the singing.

On Sunday Jeff led a tour of Great Malvern town. Largely built during its spa town boom in early 19th century the town has kept its attractive late Regency architecture. We followed the Elgar trail including the 12th century Priory church and original gas lamp in courtyards. Within the wooded gardens we came upon a Morgan car rally. Malvern is the site of the original Morgan factory still making hand built cars today. We finished at the splendidly preserved GWR station for a final Worcestershire cream tea before catching the train back east.

Report by Brian

This was a walk that will be remembered by the participants. It was a record 47% longer than the intended length. I felt bad that I subjected Phil to some pain, both physical and the uncertainty of knowing the exact place we were at any moment in time and I apologise for it. It was like a demon sitting on my shoulder telling me, "relax, it is a great day, the other walkers are well trained and nothing can go wrong, it is England, not Nepal!"

And, despite Phil's early worries, nothing went wrong and a small detour around a disused quarry and the uncertainty of directions out of the centre of Hertford should not count as mistakes. The only mistake was when, succumbing to people power pressure and without any reason, I decided to go South instead of North and head to a different village than the one we started from (I won't give any reasoning or any excuses as they will not stand up in any court of law). Only when two posh horse riders told us that surprisingly we were so far off Bayford, I realised the mistake. At that point, any relative trust Phil had in my seriousness and navigational skills was long gone and the darkness in the sky was coming on to us. I did not flinch and, alas, too late, I paid some proper attention to the map reading.

Once again, I apologise to Phil, I thank Carol for her help in taking some important decisions and I understand Steve's understated cockiness. I promise I will pay much more attention to the map in the future, but I have to be truthful and say that somehow, I really enjoyed this walk. It is either that demon or the bad influence of the week away with the wrong sort of people. Hopefully someone will dare to join me in my next walk.

Report by Marin

Five of us enjoyed five days walking in the south and mid Lake District. Our location was the Duddon Valley, a few miles off the coastal path, in a lovely spacious cottage.

Our first day, Saturday, started with heavy rain in the morning and a promise of sun and dry in the afternoon. Forecast proved correct! I led all on a brisk 4 mile walk to find a bus to get us into Barrow with a plan to walk (mostly) home. We got to Barrow by lunchtime and our wet soon turned to dry. Our afternoon took in Furness Abbey, Dalton Castle, and the Wild Animal Park before heading to Askam and home; total distance around 15 miles, the afternoon in warm sun and a few hills.

Sunday, and we drove the 4 miles to Broughton, parked and started what turned out to be for some of us a 20 mile walk. Our north south route took in West Park and its castle, Broughton Mills and the Dunnerdale Fells to Seathwaite at 3:45pm. Road sign there said 8 miles to Broughton, so a quick march and we made it back just after 5.30pm. Weather dry, mild and cloudy.

Monday, more rain in the morning, so only two of us (Carol and me) stupid of brave enough to venture up the Old Man of Coniston from Torver. When I say two of us I mean we saw no one on the ascent as it was raining quite heavy late morning and at lunchtime. We reached the summit 803 metres about 1pm and didn't hang around - I was cold in shorts and we were both wet. Shortly after and all change - the sun shone and we started to meet more sensible people who decided to wait until the afternoon before ascending. We had hot chocolate in Coniston and the walked along the Cumbria Way back to Torver.

Tuesday, and we all headed to Wast Water to ascend highest mountain in England: Scafell Pike 978 metres which Paul wanted to do. Weather good until lunchtime - one of us had 40 minutes at the top with views. Sadly the rest didn't - should have walked faster guys and girls - and within a few hours the cloud had turned to heavy rain. Luckily I was almost down so stayed dry in my car, wondering how wet the others would be and how good their wet gear was.

Our last day of walking, Wednesday, and we walked up the Duddon Valley, no car needed as we walked from the cottage. We took in a Stone Circle (think very small Stonehenge), Ulpha Park and Rainsborough Wood, before reaching Ulpha for lunch. To get back we followed the River Duddon gently downhill towards Duddon Sands and the sea, taking in Duddon Hall and Duddon Bridge on route. 12 miles. And we all got home just before the rain came. Result!

Good week, thanks to Carol, Dave T, Marin and Paul for joining me, really enjoyed, look forward to seeing you all on a walk very soon.

Report by Steve R

Margate may be classed as a bit of a dive - there were a few policemen about on the train coming in, there are a number of worn-out buildings and recreational features harking back to the Victorian era, and there is scope for refurbishment, and the YHA red triangle on the OS Explorer map is out of date, since the place has gone independent. In any case there is life in Margate, and despite the above it's ALRIGHT.

We walked 13 and a half miles minimum on Saturday, along the coast to Minster. A varied walk, taking us along the sand and by the unusually low chalk cliffs in mild warm weather. We had time for a morning coffee and time to look around. We walked up to a lighthouse, and walked by greenery and Botany Bay. Some of us saw the chalk stacks, whilst others looked at a chalk cove. People were surfing and families were at play on the beaches as if summer was never ending.

We lunched in Broadstairs. A seagull ate my sandwich, like something from The Birds. We kept together and strayed apart and ended up doing things twice, and that was OK. There was so much more to see. Towards Ramsgate we watched lads swimming in the waves and when we saw someone's amazing dogs we patted their puppy. Ramsgate was a suprisingly nice place to walk through. We passed the Smack Boys hostel - only a fishing place would have such a named place. We got to Minster just as the train pulled in.

Sunday was Turner Gallery day and lunch in the old town.

There is more to say, but a lot of it was fun that you just remember e.g. the meal out and pub on Saturday. A big thankyou to Emma, Mike, Deirdre, Dave S, Efisia, Dave H, Erika, Harpreet and Christina for making this weekend so jovial!

Report by Jane

The title was very appropriate on many levels.

Similar to another walk in the area that we led more than 3 years ago, the orientation was perfect except for one (big) mistake - this time a wrong turn in the woods. By the time I realised what I had done, I felt it was too late and embarrassing to go back. I tried to make it up as we went along, hoping no-one would notice. This involved revisiting Box Hill mid-way through the walk, more hills to climb than initially envisaged, some of them steep, some acid remarks (to which I paid no attention) and, as an unplanned bonus, a pub stop before the end.

Despite the muggy atmosphere that we had to endure for most of the day and the toughness of the walk, everybody (Carol, Emma, Monica, David (from our former colonies), Paul S, Steve R) enjoyed the walk, even the constantly moaning member of my family who I will not name.

Thank you for the company.

Report by Marin

8 of us made it to Haworth in the Yorkshire Dales for the August bank holiday weekend. The first arrivals changed trains at Keighley to arrive at Haworth in style on the Keighley and Worth Valley steam railway. The hostel is a ex-mill owner's mansion with many original features. We took over the gardens picnic tables each day for afternoon tea as they had splendid views over the Worth valley below. As the evening was fine we climbed Haworth main street to the Steam Bar Inn for a huge Yorkshire meal and tried some unique botanical gins.

Saturday's walk started from nearby Pecket Well and took in the National Trust lands of Hardcastle Crags. This is a river walk passing tumbling streams, weirs and waterfalls. We reached the majestic renovated Gibsons Mill for some spiffing cake by the riverside before climbing up to the moors. Stopping at the scenic hamlet of Heponstall, Tricia led us to a friendly village inn for lunch in the sunny beer garden. Our route descended to the thriving eco town of Hebden Bridge where we explored the canalside shops and art exhibits. At Oxenhope we joined the steam railway back north to Oakworth. Rob explained the Victorian semaphore signals as the train passed the many mills remaining in the valley. The train had its own bar with hand pumps on board so we tried several real ales on route. At Oakworth (location for the Railway Children film) Natalie and Leo recreated the iconic scene on the platform, Leo an uncanny likeness for Roberta.

On Sunday we took in the Bronte Parsonage and literary sights before heading off on the Bronte Way trail across the stunning Pennine Moors, an expanse of purple heather to the horizon. We had our picnic in the sun at the Bronte bridge below the waterfall. Afterwards heading north we passed Ponden Hall (inspiration for Wuthering Heights) and lonely farmhouses on the heights. Our destination was Mardon farm with its welcome tea shop and balcony viewpoint over the moors. Jeff enjoyed his cream tea so much he forwent the bus back and trekked back alone. Jan performed her customary miracle back in the sunny hostel gardens by transforming ribena into red wine whilst we fed the hostel cat its afternoon treat of milk at the table. Our evening meal was at the 17th century Haworth Hall, a gritstone manor house with original mullioned windows.

On Monday we headed east to Saltaire for a town walk around the world heritage site, the model village, park (cricket match in progress) and the magnificent Salts Mill. The Mill now contains the Hockney art gallery, museum, exhibitions and fine art shops. After touring the Mill we of course discovered one of the several cafes hidden within for a final Yorkshire high tea stop to celebrate this very scenic corner of the county.

Report by Brian

4 of us met at the historic village of Hassocks for an exhilarating hike along the South Downs Way. Two other hiking groups (rival rambler groups in fact) alighted at the station and all 3 groups did the same route so no need for maps! The hot weather meant the South Downs Way was full of walkers, cyclists and day trippers.

We passed the impressive Clayton church (12th century) before the main climb up to Jack and Jill (the famous Clayton windmills on the ridge). We had some cooling drinks at the top and listened to a volunteer guide explain the workings of the windmill. After this the walk was on the ridge for the rest of day with very few ups and downs. We stopped for a picnic at the Ditchling beacon viewpoint. It is one of the highest points on the South Downs and there were fine views towards the North Downs and along the coast. Just afterwards Mark found a propitiously located ice cream van, we all partook of the cooling ices as the afternoon sun shone along the coast below.

Our route east took in more views over Plumpton racecourse and the new Brighton football stadium before we began descending towards the historic town of Lewes. We had a walk around the historic High Street including the castle and priory. We then found a splendid tea shop for afternoon tea. As the day was so fine we detoured to Brighton via the frequent coastal rail service to take in a hike along the beach promenade. As today was the Pride parade day the beach and pier were packed with an "eclectic crowd". After fish and chips on the beach we returned to London by the fast frequent Southern rail through the very scenic Sussex countryside.

Report by Brian

5 of us gathered in sunny Somerset for our latest camping weekend in this sweltering summer. On arrival new members Dawn and Patricia opened up the wine box and Dawn shared out her home made fruit cake.

Saturday was another glorious day for cycling across the Somerset meadows. 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 and town where we found an otherworldly café for lunch.

We then cycled via villages to reach Wells where Steve 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 took in the Cathedral with its magnificent West Front, largest gallery of medieval sculpture in Europe, before exploring the medieval Bishops Palace. We took tiffin at the tea gardens on the palace lawn before starting our ride back to camp. On return to campsite Leo and Dawn arranged a bumper barbecue with Brian offering the Oldfield award-winning apple pie. We set up the campfire at dusk where Leo entertained all with some new (and some old) tall tales.

Sunday was another scorchio 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. After striking camp we made our way to the canoeing centre where we set off on our kayak expedition on the very calm Somerset wetlands (the expanse of reeds gave the area a look of the Everglades). This inspired Steve and Leo to re-enact a key scene from the film Deliverance (Leo has the higher pitch voice). Back on shore we made our way to the excellent tea shop at Sharpham where we enjoyed a final cream tea to round off another camping trip in Somerset.

Report by Brian

6 of us met in Watlington on a rather dull but nonetheless very humid Sunday morning, to walk the penultimate section of the Ridgeway.

We set off shortly after 10:00am, covering the first 6 miles fairly quickly. On the outskirts of Chinnor we were joined by 2 more members, from where we carried on for another 3 miles, stopping at the half-way point on top of Lodge Hill. By now the sun had broken through, affording us excellent views whilst we ate our packed lunches.

Suitably rested, we carried on around the edge of Princes Risborough and over Whiteleaf Hill. As we descended into Lower Cadsden, the sight of the Plough pub was indeed quite welcome, and we stopped for some cooling drinks. After a break of around half an hour, we set off up and over Pulpit Hill and around the grounds of Chequers, before climbing up the last hill of the day, Coombe Hill, taking in the stunning views from the top. Finally we descended into Wendover, finishing the walk at around 5:00pm.

Thanks to Anna, Carol, Emma, Karen, Keith, Marin and Steve for joining me on this walk.

Report by Phil

On another glorious sunny evening on the hill we had our annual treasure hunt. Our catering team arranged teas, cake and cold drinks in the church garden whilst the teams arrived. There were excellent views from the viewpoint at the top of the hill with the clear blue skies and we met lots of other walkers on the hillside meadows. The winning team contained 2 new visitors, Jan presented the prizes once all teams returned.

Report by Brian

I think the jiggling about of this event's date may have been the reason only 2 other members joined me today! It didn't matter too much because we had a good long walk and there was plenty of interest along the way. We saw sunlit towpaths flanked by many canal boats, and there were plenty of people about enjoying the day. The Olympic Orbit and the Woolwich Ferry were memorable features of the walk, along with the jovial company.

We had a long stretch of a walk along the Greenway which is located on a sewage pipe, and were heartened to discover a stretch of the Thames Path that none of us had walked along before, by Gallions Reach. London City airport and other urban sights also provided interest.

Thank you Dave and Phil for coming on today's walk. Hope to see more people at the next bit of this circular walk around London.

Report by Jane

6 of us met on another very warm evening at Northolt village green for our latest evening walk. Our route took in the Northolt heritage area, 13th century churchyard and manor site. We crossed Bellevue park to reach Northala where we ascended the highest mound for a spectacular view over London. Mike pointed out the famous landmarks clearly identifiable on the horizon. There were several exercise classes taking part at Northala (a new weekly race is held here every Saturday morning). 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 Humay explained the offside rule and the history of the World Cup to Jan and the others.

Report by Brian

Clearly current sporting events have kept the attendance low for HAWOG this weekend, only 4 of us set out on my blooming good walk. Unlike Saturday, the weather was perfect for a 14.5 mile walk around the Oxfordshire countryside and equally good for the 15.68 miles which was the actual distance covered. Thanks to Phil's app and the odd satellite somewhere overhead.

Phil, Dave, Erika and myself set out south, initially along a small section of the Chiltern Way. We then followed the set route passing Potter's farm. We were sure this was a farm by the very large mound of cow poo and the really strong smell. The day was a real treat for the senses as we encountered many stinging things, even more smelly things and eventually fields full of truly majestic poppies and hundreds of small black caterpillars, all on one nettle leaf. Can't remember who remarked, "this is the countryside!"

We walked a while on the Swans Way until we reached Woodhouse Farm. From here we climbed gradually until our first break at Mongewell Woods. The view back over the Oxfordshire countryside was fantastic apart from the Didcot power station. We went on toward Stoke Row, where we started the return leg of the walk. Just beyond English Farm, which looked like a museum and had the feel of a movie set, we stopped for lunch. Again wonderful views and by now quite hot.

We headed north back to Ewelme via a bit of the Ridgeway, Swan's Way and the Chiltern Way. My favourite part was the approach to Ewelme, as there is a large field full of pigs. Pigs, I hear you say! They all looked so happy, adequate housing, clearly plenty to eat and lots of room to wander - more than the average city dweller I thought.

This walk was taken from the Pete's walks website, with a few minor changes. Just a small note about the intended and actual distance. I use the old string method to measure a walk, modern methods would suggest this is inaccurate by about 10%. Worth bearing in mind. Many thanks to all who joined me on a really good walk.

Report by Mike D

Only three of us (Carol, Marin, me) at the start for my Three Towns, One Day walk on Saturday. The weather forecast suggested rain later and it proved to be correct. Sunny on our depart from Great Missenden and I chose some new or certainly less familiar paths to get us out towards Prestwood and Denner Hill and the church at Great Hampden for tea about 11.30am, just as the rain started. And continued then for the next few hours. We reached Princes Risborough around 12.30pm, wet - Marin extra wet as he did an olympic quality skid downhill on route - and found a dry place to eat lunch in the town centre. Right next to a fruit and veg seller who immediately asked me if I wanted to buy a box of cherries. Only £3.50. Why not, provided I could fit them in my bag. Which I could so I did. Then wondered later in the afternoon how many cherries it was possible to eat over the next few days - there was a lot.

Rain continuing, we headed off to Wendover, again I was making the route up on route, this time decided to go north of the A4010 and taking in a few paths I know I have never done before, before picking up the Aylesbury Ring at Little Kimble to take us into Wendover. One of us departed at Wendover to get the train back, I can't say who so as not to bring shame or disgrace to that persons name, as that person had departed earlier from a longer walk the week before and would not want be seen as a "chiulangiu" (well that's what the translator comes up with). Unfortunately no train service but an awaiting taxi was available and used for the short journey down the A413.

Post Wendover, and Carol and I continued on in the afternoon sun, again taking in a few new paths back to Great Missenden, arriving just before 6pm. I'm not sure of the exact mileage, I'd said 25 mile ish but the ish might have been a negative this time, certainly 20+ miles walked but maybe a tad short of the 25. Thanks to Marin and Carol for joining me for this walk.

Report by Steve R

8 of us met at Watford Station on a bright and sunny Saturday morning for the longest walk of the year. We headed off promptly at 8am, passing through Cassiobury Park to the Grand Union Canal. We headed northwards along the canal as far as Boxmoor, from where we took the Chiltern Way up and over the A41 and west coast main line, to reach the tranquillity of Sheethanger Common, where we stopped for a mid-morning break.

Suitably refreshed, we carried on along the Chiltern Way as far as Bovingdon, before heading west and then south to Botley. Next, we needed to head south through some woods, and although this part had been trouble-free when I reccied the walk, unfortunately we weren't so lucky this time, and a couple of wrong turns added an extra 0.75 miles to the length of the walk. We eventually reached the Chess valley around half an hour later than anticipated, so soon afterwards we stopped for lunch, having covered just over half the total distance.

Heading off again a little after 1:30pm, we followed the river as far as Latimer, then crossing it and heading for Chenies Manor. Then we headed south to Chorleywood, making a loop around the village before heading back towards Chorleywood Common. It was shortly before we reached the Common, at around the 23 mile point, that we had to say goodbye to one of the group. The remaining 7 of us headed across the Common and back down to the River Chess, which we followed before heading up to Croxley Green for a welcome pub stop.

Rested and refreshed, we began the last 3.5 miles of the walk, heading north to Harrocks Wood and Whippendell Wood, before finally returning to the Grand Union Canal and Cassiobury Park, and the final hill up to Watford Station, which we reached at 6:30pm.

Thanks to Anna, Carol, Darren, Keith, Marin, Raj and Steve for joining me, and well done to the 6 of you that completed the full 30 miles with me.

Report by Phil

Yesterday we held a very well presented summer tea party at the hall. On a fine evening on the hill, Kim and Carla set out a vast array of home made gateaux, cup cakes, cookies and pastries. Jan and Liane added flags as a gesture to the ongoing World Cup. Carla's stupendous Victoria Sponge won the baking prize. The new members who came along as a first event were impressed with the offerings and they picked up details about forthcoming events. We donated the few cakes left over to the church for their fair next week. Thanks to Kim and Carla for their baking and presenting talents.

Report by Brian

Humid and overcast at the beginning, with a vigorous half hour of rain in the middle and sunny in the last part. Apart from a bit of a wandering in Halesmoor Wood we kept to the intended route, away from the main roads and in pleasing green surroundings. A total of 20.1 miles, at a very good pace.

I suggested a couple of pub stops on the way, but everybody was keen to maintain the pace (and avoid any possible new showers) so we stopped for a pint (thanks Keith!) only at the end.

Thanks to Anna, Karen, Keith and new (but very fit) members Mel, Raj and Darren for joining me.

Report by Marin

11 of us gathered at Park Farm campsite for the first camping event of the year. As always Sussex was in glorious sunshine for the whole weekend. We welcomed 2 new members along, Steve and Rebecca, to join the regulars.

On arrival Martina taught Steve and Leo how to fit a double mattress into a 1-man tent (long story), while Paul and family settled into the new bell tent perfect for family camping. The site café served tip top ice cream from the farm shop as we listened to the D-Day broadcast and wartime songs, Jan doing her peerless impersonation of our Gracie. Mike was in charge of campfires for both nights while Martina once again led the marshmallow toasting.

On Saturday we awoke as custom to Sounds of the 60s with Martina and Paul preparing gourmet breakfasts for all. Olly and Archie tried out the rope swing before we set out on the 11 mile circular walk around the Sussex Weald. At Ewhurst we discovered the village fair just starting so tried out a few stalls whilst Leo posed for photos in his designer shorts for the WI calendar. We stopped for some cooling drinks in the beer garden of the Dog (tepees camping here) overlooking the Rother valley and hop fields. After crossing into Kent and hiking through idyllic orchards we stopped for ice creams at Northiam Station where some detoured using the steam railway. The rest carried on the route west via several hamlets of oast houses and manors. We stopped at the White Hart, yet another excellent Wealden inn with sunny beer garden and a competitive game of petanque going on. At the very picturesque village of Sandhurst, Brian led us to a timely tea shop for tiffin before the descent down to Bodiam Castle "the most romantic castle in England". The exterior is complete and we did a circuit of the wide moat taking in all the views. Back at the campsite Paul, Bev and Mike prepared the barbecue with farm shop strawberries for desert. Around the campfire the clear night sky allowed for star gazing as we listened to some more tall tales from Leo.

Sunday was another scorchio day, Rebecca serving strong coffee for all from her vintage camping percolator. After a leisurely morning Leo and Steve headed to Hythe for a day canoeing and coastal walking. The rest of us journeyed to Great Dixter to visit the magnificent gardens of the 15th century manor house. There was a wondrous summer display of kaleidoscopic colours amidst the yew hedges and red tiled timber manorial buildings. Paul led our walk through the gardens indicating the many types of plants and flowers on route, we ended the afternoon with a final Kent cream tea at Great Dixter in the garden of England.

Report by Brian

Our 6 hour drive included the obligatory bottleneck on the A303 and "it's no good now you can't get near those monoliths (i.e. Stonehenge)!". We included a very bracing lunch stop at Wincanton and finally reached our destination at around 5pm. "Great to get away from the Big Smoke" or so we thought as we were engulfed in smoke and fumes, one of the local trains was getting an MOT. Fortunately we consoled ourselves with some Victoria sponge cake and a cup of tea which came from the station tea shop which was generously kept open for us.

The next day the boys went kayaking on a tranquil stretch of water some 20 minutes drive from the hostel. Our instructor concentrated on a variety of techniques - my abilities took a backward step whilst Leo and Jeff seemed to progress well, although it was the final dunking which put us on a par!

As we drove back to the hostel the rain came and it stayed for the day. Our only option was to enjoy the cultural delights of Exeter. We decided on the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery, aka RAMM. This proved a good choice, the museum was an amalgam of the big ones in London, it was part science part natural history as well as an art gallery rolled into one. And it seemed to release Leo's inner child. He festooned himself in fancy dress - ancient warrior helmets went on, he posed next to various stuffed animals, Samurai warriors and phallic exhibits! The art gallery had an excellent wildlife photographic exhibition and a Gilbert and George retrospective - the jury's still out. On exiting the RAMM the rain was relentless so it was time for the obligitory tea shop which came in the form of a coffee shop (sorry Brian!). It was however a hip interior with an eclectic range of bric-a-brac as well some good coffee. Jan recounted her morning, she was regailed by "The winking expert! I couldn't get away fast enough!". Leo in the meantime had headed to the Ship Inn. When finally we got him out it was up to Jeff to drive Leo's motor; it required some effort to steer despite it having the power variety, what with that and the kayaking, Jeff has a tennis serve faster than Pete Sampras! The evening was spent at the Rajpoot and Leo had the lasagne curry - "Never again!".

Sunday was walk day, the 4 of us set out along the Tarka Trail heading for a village called Bellstone - we never got there. We decided that we needed less road more field paths, this tested our map reading skills however we were heading in the right direction - the pub! This hostelry made a good lunch stop, particularly the decoration, notably the size 35 Judge Dredd boots. Suitably refreshed, we headed south east to the highest point in northern Dartmoor. Our return necessitated an off piste route. This meant yomping across boggy marsh / heather strewn terrain which was a little haphazard. Eventually we could see our objective from afar (Bellstone) however we had a river to cross and that proved harder than expected. At one point Leo said "Jan you take the low road and I'll take the more difficult high road", a few moments later there was a yell from my left - Jan was almost up to her waist in water! Fortunately Leo was enough of a gent to rescue the lady. A late return ment we were reduced to the local Chinese and a rough but adequate pub.

Monday saw Jan, Jeff and Leo take to bikes. Apparently Jan had to take evasive manoeuvres - too many dogs on route! I decided to do the first part of the Sunday route, and this time I found the Tarka Trail, which took me to Bellstone, which is a charming village with an inn where I had an early lunch and finally managed to do some plein air studies (outdoor sketches). I returned via Oakhampton Castle then to the hostel where I linked up with the others before returning home.

Although there were only 4 of us I can recommend Okehampton YHA because it is a multi-activity centre. I would like to thank Jeff for his organisation and Jan and Leo for making it such an upbeat fun weekend.

Report by Humay

A very satisfying walk - good company, weather and pace, a very confident map reader (why Paul felt the need to take over the map a couple of miles before the finish, I don't know) and a very scenic route. Apart from the incident with the map (which I did not hold against him - he was a bit tired - and at this age he does not bother about sapping the confidence of younger walk leaders) everything was roses.

Many thanks to Maya - a new member, Abde and Paul who joined me on this walk.

Report by Marin

4 of us met yesterday 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.

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 clubhouse for the golf course. Our route then descended back towards Pinner village via the mansions of Pinner Hill village and Tookes folly. It was the day of Pinner Fair so we tried some of the stalls. Jan just missed out on winning a Roland Rat toy, while Jeff was the star on the go-karts. Many of the pubs were closed due to the fair however we finally found Café Rouge open on the historic High Street.

Report by Brian

Five of us completed the walk - Anna, Carol, Emma, Paul S and me - walking 18 ish miles along many lesser used paths. Some were very unused with missing signs, old signs, signs hidden by plant growth or just simply overgrown with little or no sign of a path in the first place. Those of us with shorts faced the added challenge of evading stinging nettles on a number of occasions.

Weather overcast, thanks to Paul arriving late(!) we only had 10 ish minutes of rain at the start of the walk then dry until 3pm ish when it drizzled for another 20 minutes. Some sunshine in the evening.

Route wise, it really was made up on the day, I elected to take the north circular, about 2/3 of total distance, to get us to Chesham, and avoiding most of the obvious main paths - South Bucks Way, Chiltern Way, Chiltern Link and Herberts Hole. We were always near to one of them, but took mostly smaller paths nearby. Certainly many new paths and views for me through Little Hampden, The Lee, Ballinger Common and South Heath. A later lunch than wanted though, pace was a little slower than I'd have liked, we reached Chesham about 2:30pm.

Our route back was more linear and therefore shorter, again avoiding the obvious paths, to get us to Great Missenden and then Prestwood before reaching our cars at about 6:15pm. Navigation mostly OK, only a few points where compass quickly told me we weren't heading in the direction we wanted, and prompting stop and check to get the right path.

Really enjoyed, certainly felt like walking somewhere new to me. Thanks to all who joined me on this walk - looking forward to the next one!

Report by Steve R

30 of us met on a glorious day in sunny Chiswick House Gardens on Sunday. A joint event with a local heritage group we found a shaded area to have our picnic, Debi bringing the strawberries and Jan of course the wine. After feasting by the neo-Palladian Chiswick House the 7 teams set off on the classical themed treasure hunt in the parklands. The park is full of temples, obelisks and features set out by the architect William Kent and the landscape designer, Inigo Jones.

One group returned early for a game of Frisbee on the lawn whilst the HAWOG team 2 did very well, Colin even solving the neo-platonic riddle in the Italian gardens. The winners shared out the prize with the rest and we enjoyed the award-winning apple pie again in the afternoon sun. Jeff led most of the group on a riverside stroll for some welcoming cooling drinks on the riverside Bulls Inn where we watched several boats glide by in this delightful corner of Chiswick.

Report by Brian

A much enjoyed walk.

The weather was better than expected - the threatening clouds that appeared from time to time only helped us to exercise the quick adding of rain protection layers to our equipment. The exercise and the layers did not help - a short rain on the home run finally drenched us. The spirits were raised up again by the sunshine that quickly came after the rain to tell us good bye.

The Garden of England proved to be vividly green and scenic - the walk felt shorter than the 15.9 miles recorded by the My Tracks app. We avoided main roads, so the route felt remote and with great views of the countryside and of the old and picturesque villages of Chiddingstone, Penhurst Place and Hever. We should do some more walks in this area.

Special thanks to Abde, who helped us increase the number of participants by 50% and added a French flavour to the conversations.

Report by Marin

26 of us gathered in sunny Snowdonia for the May bank holiday long weekend. We stayed at Snowdon Ranger hostel, its location is ideal as the Snowdon ascent starts from the front door and the hostel has its own station on the newly built Welsh Highland Railway (WHR).

On Friday the early arrivals made use of the left luggage at Bet Fred and toured the Caernarfon city walls followed by exploring the outstanding 13th century castle (all towers open, affording panoramic views across the Menai straits). Cathy, as always, opened her tuck box late evening for a communal feast. Debutant to group Yogi commented that "it's just like a boot camp", Roger responded that it was a lot better than his time at Eton.

Saturday saw Bev and Archie doing a coastal walk from Caernarfon and Roger visiting cultural highlights. The main group did the ascent of Snowdon, in fine weather, using the Snowdon ranger path and descending via the Rhyd Ddu path. These paths are easier than the Eastern routes and fuelled by coffee from Mike's enormous flask we attained the summit café in good time to enjoy lunch with scenic views when the clouds lifted. We descended to take tiffin at the welcome Rhyd Ddu tea shop where Sue kindly shared her savoury Welsh rarebit with the group and the absconder made several astute observations. After returning via the very practical Sherpa bus Jan arranged a 3 course supper back at the hostel, followed by Derek and Prem celebrating their silver wedding anniversary, enough cake for all.

Sunday saw a variety of activities. Martina and Humay arranged canoeing with tuition at the very scenic Lake Llanberis. Jeff and Derek showed their experience to perform some precise manoeuvres. Margaret and Deirdre led another walk on a lakeside route with fine views of the mountain ranges whilst Steve and Carol did another high altitude hike across Snowdon slopes and back via Llanberis pass. Brian arranged mountain biking for the others at Bedgellert forest, including a lunchtime picnic at a hidden lake where Paul pointed out to Olly the various geese and ducks on the lake. All the groups somehow rejoined at the very picturesque town of Bedgellert where we took over the tea shop, coaching inn and ice cream parlour on another very fine afternoon.

In the evening Jan and Carla arranged a scrumptious meal in Rhyd Ddu which had Mount Snowdon-styled Baked Alaska as local themed desserts. Back at the hostel the traditional last night party saw us take over the lounge where Jan once again led the sing-song. Leo continued the party until the early hours with his port and entertaining tall tales.

Monday saw the group journey south on the WHR with stunning views along the Pass of Aberglaslyn and the crossing of Portmadog High Street by train, finishing at the harbour station. Jan and Debi did a heritage trail to Portmeirion whilst Leo and Yogi enjoyed the sunny beaches west of town. Jeff led the others on another rail trip on the Ffestiniog Railway, with vertiginous views down the slopes below. We took in a hike through Tan y Bwlch woods (called the Welsh rain forest due to the lush vegetation and landscape). We all met up later for a final Welsh cream tea in sunny Portmadog to enjoy views north to Snowdonia and south to the Cambrian coastline.

Report by Brian

We were pleased but also a bit surprised (it was after all a bank holiday weekend) to see six joining us on this unexpectedly sunny day.

Starting our walk in Harlington in Bedfordshire people were soon in various degrees of disrobing. Some stripped off, some unzipped and one started a new trend wearing their zipped off trouser segment around their ankles. Abdullah Abdullah would have been proud of his Doppelg�nger. We stopped for a short break in Streatley with its famous Brussels style peeing youth before striding off once more ascending to Telegraph Hill where we had lunch and a glorious view of the surrounding countryside.

As we were making good time we stopped at The (family friendly) Raven in Hexton for cold drinks in the garden where Phil almost fell over before having had a single sip of shandy. Paul meanwhile was pleased to see that his table number was the same as his age (lips are sealed). After this welcome break we headed off on the final stretch and talk turned to using drones instead of helicopters and why some houses have enclosed porches while returning to Harlington.

It was a particularly scenic walk thanks to good weather and company (Mike D, Phil, Mary, Paul S, Ben and Marin).

Report by Erika

6 of us met on a wet Sunday morning in the centre of Milngavie, a few miles outside Glasgow, to begin walking the West Highland Way.

After the obligatory start-of-walk group photos, and having handed our main luggage over to a luggage transfer company (with the exception of Steve, who as usual would carry everything with him), we headed off at around 9:15am. We would be walking a distance of 19 miles on the first day - the longest day in terms of distance, although not (as we would later realise) the hardest day. The weather started off as showers, but by the time we reached Drymen, this had changed to more or less continuous rain. Those first 12 miles were fairly flat, but the last 7 miles included the ascent and descent of Conic Hill, from which the views on a good day would surely have been excellent, but in the driving wind and rain we could only make out a small part of Loch Lomond below. In fact, the weather was so bad that only 3 of us (myself, Steve and Carol) climbed the hill - the others took a lower path (that was also 2 miles shorter), reaching Balmaha before us.

On the second day, the rain had gone and was replaced by bright sunshine. This was our first day of walking along the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, walking 14 miles to Inversnaid. Although a shorter walk than the previous day, the path along the shoreline ascended and descended a fair amount, especially as we got closer to Inversnaid. Our accommodation was a bunkhouse (actually a converted church), around half a mile inland - Steve and I decided to walk to the bunkhouse, taking afternoon tea after arriving at our accommodation. The girls decided to stop for drinks at the lakeside Inversnaid Hotel before taking advantage of the free pickup service provided by the bunkhouse.

On the third day, the good weather continued, and we walked the remainder of the length of Loch Lomond, and onward to Crianlarich along Glen Falloch for our overnight stop, a distance of 13 miles. The section along the lakeshore was probably one of the hardest parts of the entire walk (as we had been warned).

The fourth day's walking took us to Bridge of Orchy, a distance of 13 miles. Although the distance covered was almost the same as the previous day, the walking was much easier, and our main concern was to try to reach our accommodation before the rain arrived - thankfully we were able to do so.

The fifth day's walking was another 13 miles, and the first day when the path took us well away from any signs of civilisation - the day included the crossing of Rannoch Moor, and once again we were very lucky with the weather - the overnight rain cleared up just as we were starting our day's walking. We all reached the King's House Hotel in Glen Coe by mid-afternoon. Probably the most atmospheric (i.e. rather dated!) accommodation of our trip, where deer would come quite close to the hotel, and were quite unafraid of us.

The distance to be covered on our penultimate day's walking was a mere 8.5 miles, but this included the so-called Devil's Staircase, one of the steepest ascents of the walk, which was followed by steady descent into Kinlochleven. We all reached our accommodation by early afternoon, so we were able to take advantage of the unexpectedly good weather to take tea and coffee on the patio of the guest house where we were staying.

The seventh and final day's walking took us the remaining 14.5 miles to Fort William, where, due to some confusion by the walk leader, Steve and I finished the walk at the official end of the Way in the centre of town (where Steve proceeded to wait several hours for the rest of the group to arrive), whereas the girls stopped walking when they reached the original (i.e. no longer the official) end of the Way on the outskirts of the town, and then headed directly to our accommodation. We were finally reunited at the official end of the Way later that evening!

Thanks to Steve, Carol, Emma, Mary and Nina for joining me on, and completing, the West Highland Way!

Report by Phil

What a difference the sun makes! 16 keen walkers turned out for the Amersham Amble on a warm breezy sun drenched day.

We spent a few minutes trying to get out of Amersham, but after that no major navigation problems.

Over the past few weeks the ground had dried and the going was excellent. We headed south through open farm land and a gentle gradient to warm us up. Then on to Upper Bottom House Farm where we rested briefly to allow the backmarkers to catch up. Down through Hodgemoor Woods, which was very pleasant with dappled light and the early signs of bluebells and a skylark singing high overhead. Marin was alarmed by the number of trees which had fallen in the previous months storms and indeed the devastation was all around.

The route then took us briefly along a tarmac lane, where on a previous outing a number of us had to wade through a small lake formed through excessive rain. However, today, no such perils. Onwards then to Bottom Wood, Clear Crafts Wood, Netherlands Wood and Knotty Green, where we turned north and up the hill to Seagraves Farm, which was picture perfect. Horses grazing in lush meadows - anyone remember Follyfoot, the '70s classic TV series about horses and teenage angst, it was just like that, but without the angst.

We stopped for lunch at Winchmore Hill. All ate outdoors, some at the Potters Wheel Pub, others enjoyed the view from the village green.

Fully rested and off again, past Penn Street with its quaint brick cottages and into Penn Wood. At this point Monica opened a debate lamenting the lack of proverbs in modern times. I personally love: A trouble shared is a trouble doubled, Frank Spencer. Then we discussed sat' nav' versus the string method, Marin used to use a little wheely thing - equally good. East is east, and west is west, that's what I say...

So, nearly the end of our journey. But the highlight was yet to come. As we neared Amersham, a ball of mistletoe was spotted in a small tree. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Marin and his dear wife posed in traditional fashion beneath the tree! What a wonderful end to a very enjoyable walk. Back in Amersham by 4:30.

Many thanks to all who attended the walk and especially to Bobby, who is probably the fittest member of HAWOG as he jogged most of the way round (small Poodle).

Report by Mike D

7 of us stayed at the very friendly Chester independent hostel for a warm and sunny weekend in historic Chester. Jeff and Carla arranged an excellent curry meal on Friday on arrival.

On Saturday we did a circular walk following the Roman era city walls which surround the original Roman citadel of Deva. Rebuilt in the 12th century they are almost complete with several towers and viewpoints with the famous Eastgate clock dominating the main gateway. Kim found us the Tea on the Walls café in a Georgian mansion overlooking the meadows. We followed the city trail along "The Rows", the half-timbered galleries dating from the 14th century which are unique to Chester. We discovered the Mad Hatters tea shop (rather splendid choice of cup cakes) on the Rows with its viewpoint balcony overlooking the streets below. Our route finished at the Roman amphitheatre still used today for concerts and shows.

In the evening Jan arranged an excellent meal in the great hall of a converted Jacobean mansion house. Martina surpassed herself, Lent having arrived, by ordering the largest meal in all of Cheshire. Leo, as always, discovered the late opening venues and kept several locals entranced with his erudite and eloquent yarns.

On Sunday we followed a riverside walk in glorious spring sunshine along the Dee passing some converted mills. The riverside is full of elegant Edwardian era boat houses set below grand mansions on the hillside. We returned to Chester on a ferry boat passing Chester Castle and the medieval walls. We made our walk along the walls to finish the tour at the Bell Tower garden café for a spiffing cream tea enjoyed in the warm afternoon sun whilst taking in the views of the 12th century cathedral next door.

Report by Brian

It was a bright day, with just a few threatening clouds on the horizon. We assembled at Rickmansworth Station at 10.30, the weather forecast had indicated a cell moving in from the west, but unlikely to hit west London before 2pm. So a prompt start was the order of the day. Our route took us down to the lakes, and past the café in the park. An abundance of wildlife was in evidence - swans, mallards and some very noisy canada geese. We cut through to join the Grand Union Canal, and headed in a northerly direction, passing several houseboats that were moored on that stretch. Our route continued for about two miles along the canal tow path, before we cut through the woods to return to the lakes. Ground underfoot was a little soft, but not too bad considering the amount of rain in recent weeks. The level of the lakes and the canal was still very high, and local knowledge indicated that there had been some flooding along the banks in recent weeks. We had a brief stop at the "Café in the Park" for cake and refreshments before returning to our start point for about 1pm.

Thanks to Denise, Pamela, Brigitta and Claire for coming along.

Report by Roger

8 of us arrived in Surrey on a suitably sunny fine morning for the first day of spring. There were 2 other hiking groups on the same train as us. The largest group was the actual Time Out walking group following the eponymous guide and whom we met several times on the route. We set off through Milford 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. A friendly gamekeeper allowed us to take a short cut across the estate as the recent floods had blocked the path. Jeff chatted to him about the fishing whilst Jockey almost fell in the lake.

We made it to the Three Horseshoes at the very picturesque village of Thursley. Despite the landlady's admonition last year some of us did it once more in the sunny garden, Colin and Pamela did it here for the first time. We then explored the 12th century village church and passed several manorial estate houses in the timeless village.

We next headed south via the byway track to the east of the Devils Punchbowl. The Punchbowl is a remarkable natural highland basin which has been attracting ramblers for centuries. A large group of off-road motor cyclists rushed past us on the gradual ascent up to the highpoint of the walk. This eastern ascent is a new trail which in part follows the former A3 trunk road (now diverted via a tunnel) which has now been reclaimed by nature. At Gibbets Hill viewpoint we were rewarded on this clear day with stunning views as far as Box Hill and the South Downs in the distance. We continued on the new sustrans route around the rim of the Punchbowl with views across the thickly forested interior including the Hindhead hostel.

We reached the welcoming National Trust café with its viewpoint where Paul, Marin and Pamela left us. The rest of us enjoyed a rather splendid upside down cake and teas courtesy of Kerry and Cathy before descending along the Greensand Way to Haslemere and the train back to London.

Report by Brian

We met at the Swan and Bottle, our start point at 10.15, although four of us had been on the same 331 bus as it wound its long and tortuous journey from Northwood Station via Harefield, Denham, Addis Ababa and finally Uxbridge. Carolina had chosen today's event as her first walk with HAWOG, and she joined Jane, Phil, Efisia, David and Catherine. Having satisfied ourselves that the other people milling around the pub car park were members of another group, we set off towards Harefield along the canal tow path.

Evidence of the recent rainfall was still evident, with the level of both the Grand Union and the River Chess still appearing high. Catherine and Jane spotted a bowl of oysters in the canal near one of the barges, however we were unable to agree whether or not these were likely to be native to the Grand Union. A brief stop at the Coy Carp allowed us to watch a sole kayaker traversing the rapids there. We pushed on uphill to the Rose and Crown for our lunch stop.

To our surprise we were greeted at the pub door by Dave T, who had decided to meet us for lunch having been unable to do the walk. Having refuelled on the pub fayre, we bid farewell to Catherine and Dave and continued on with the second half of the walk. Whereas the first part of the walk had been fairly dry underfoot along the canal footpath, the second half, being mainly woodland, was far muddier. By the time we reached our final destination, Hatch End, we had all had enough of the mud. A sense of déj� vu descended at the end of the walk, as waiting at the end to greet us was... yes, Dave T.

The general consensus was to have a hot drink somewhere before going our separate ways. The kind staff at Fellini's allowed us to sit outside in the patio area (we were too muddy to be let inside). However we were in good company as we were joined outside by the much loved British comedian Barry Cryer. After much tea, coffee and delicious cake we went our separate ways.

Report by Dave S

We met at Saunderton Station on a sunny and windy morning and walked up Smalldean Lane and followed a footpath along the edge of fields to Looseley Row. The sight of the windmill was welcome but the sight of the ankle-deep mud and horse manure mixture, less so. After boots became moulded to the stuff, we spotted the pub, Pink-and-Lily, very briefly, before continuing through woodland down a steep slope. Some horse play led to a lively coffee break in the woods, after which we walked across miraculously dry fields near Brimmers Farm and then walked steeply back up to the Hillock Wood where a number of twists and turns led to the inevitable, even with the two 1:25,000 maps. Lost, a 'horror' house (Hampden House, from Hammer Horrors) came into sight, just as the rain lashed down for the umpteenth time this year.

The church porch was very spacious for lunch, and the weather improved as soon as we started walking again to Great Hampden, and then Speen, which only had a pub too posh for horse-manured walkers to enter. More horse manure followed, at what I thought was just a stables but turned out to be the Horses Trust Stables with a lovely coffee shop and many horsey faces to cheer us. The final phase of the walk included Bradenham Beeches woods and fields back to Smalldean Lane.

Thank you to Steve, David, Erika, Paul, Jeff and Brigitta for joining me on a lovely day in the Chilterns.

Report by Carol

We set off from Chenies on a blustery Sunday morning following the River Chess for the first part. We then headed for Ley Hill and after negotiating yet another flooded gate opening I took a right turn instead of a left but the navigation experts were soon on hand and we hadn't ventured too far off track. We then walked into Flaunden for lunch at the Green Dragon. We missed the only shower of the day at this stage. I don't think the pub fare comes too highly recommended but it was a welcome break from the elements.

From here we continued through mainly wooded areas to Chipperfield Common and then on to Sarratt where we took time to admire the duck house in the village pond. We walked to Sarratt Church End and then descended once again to the River Chess. We were then a short distance from Chenies but had to walk through the largest flood of the day. We arrived back at Chenies just after 4.30 pm having completed the 13.3 miles in the allocated time thanks to the good pace set by Emma.

Mike D, Keith, Anna, Mark P, Emma and Ben joined me on the day.

Report by Mary

This event involved the donating of all sorts of items to sell and the generosity of those punters making bids on those aforementioned items. This particular evening is dependant on the active participation of all members and attendees with regards to donating items and parting with their monies to purchase items for a good cause. In this case the monies will be going to Mountain Rescue.

On that note I would like to thank all those people who made this evening possible with regards to the donating / purchasing of auction items for this worthy cause. I would like to thank especially two people for their very generous contribution in terms of auction items donated and monies donated - you know who you are! Monies raised totalled £90.50 which will be doubled by a matched donation scheme run by Santander.

Report by Mike S

On Sunday, Brigitta and I arrived on a clear sunny spring day in February. We thought it was going to be only us! Marin realised it was still winter after leaving his outdoor jacket at home and borrowed one of my spare fleeces.

We all 5 of us set off at a steady pace with mud under foot from the Brocket Arms. We noticed that the plants were getting confused, and there were many trees down and a few new lakes which were not recorded on the map. There was some group participation in the navigation which led us slightly astray. However not too far off course after our first break stop of egg sandwiches, Lidl chocolate bars and Mike's flask of hot coffee and my fruit juice, within 2 miles of our lunch stop! As we carried on walking, we watched a set of white shirts on a washing line blowing in harmony in the wind.

We fed and watered ourselves at the Bull in Whitwell. The landlord being well used to his walking customers, provided plastic bags for our feet. Paul and Marin had an argument on who was buying a round. We all sat down to eat a hearty leisurely lunch washed down with Doombar. After making use of the facilities and liking what she saw, Brigitta ordered a Poodle toilet roll cover from the landlady, for her bathroom at home.

After lunch we headed homeward, me leaving my poles at the pub, which Paul raced back to collect.

Impromptu Scherzo Opus 1 lived up to its name, with the wit and humour flowing from Paul, Mike and Marin regarding what happened the night before. We walked on, with the wit becoming cornier and cornier, which Brigitta thought was wonderful. When we arrived back Paul and Marin shot off, leaving Brigitta, me and Mike to enjoy the start of a live jazz evening with a beer at the Brocket Arms. After chatting to the jazz band, they played me out with a major minor gypsy piece.

Thank you to Mike S, Brigitta, Paul S and Marin for attending, for a wonderfully pleasant steady paced walk.

Report by David T

5 of us made it to the Surrey Hills on Saturday using the special South West trains fare deal to find Witley surprisingly sunny and dry. Apart from a short shower post lunch the day was rain-free to our relief.

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 the slightly boggy paths south and came across a shooting party with retriever dogs racing around to retrieve the pheasants from the morning shoot. We chatted to the squire who explained about gun etiquette and our route ahead.

After passing several impressive manor houses, we reached the timeless village of Chiddingfold and visited the medieval church with its impressive stained glass windows. The Crown Inn was our lunch stop beside the village green and pond. The 13th century pub is one of the finest in England with its own stained glass windows and medieval stone fire places. After lunch we continued south, hiking through National Trust estates, passing hammer ponds and several timber bridges in the forests of ash and sweet chestnut trees. We reached Haslemere just in time for the traditional tea stop by the market place before catching the train back to London. We have scheduled in more walks in the Surrey Hills over the next months.

Report by Brian

A starry and mild winter's walk in the dark was had by three of us on Saturday evening. Catherine and Hillary joined me outside the Empire cinema on the edge of High Wycombe for an 8pm start.

I hadn't walked the route before but had done most of its component parts over the years. First out was to cross the M40 which we did by following paths alongside both sides of it until we got to Wycombe Air Park which was deserted - no flights at night here I guess. Then south to our first challenge of the night - finding the path to Moor Wood. I'd been here once before, in daylight a few years ago, coming from the wood, and couldn't find the path. Guess what not any clearer at night. I set my compass on the direction of the footpath sign from the road and my map and followed religiously. A ploughed field and then up and into piles of manure-y type substance. We descended it as soon as the thrill wore off. And then got to the field edge and no continuation of path. We walked up and down along the boundary, no path, and so found a way in and around - following compass - to no avail and no suitable wood. But I could see a wood not too far away with boundary in the right direction. We headed over, found away in, and everything matched again. Hard work. Back on track, we continued south through Chisbridge Cross where I was looking for us to hit the corner of a track but instead hit a bridleway which matched in directions. And with no other suitable option we took the west path which turned out to be correct! Cue some self celebration, before continuing to Marlow Bottom.

More navigation fun ensued, as my 1:50k map - and only a black and white print at that - lacked the detail required to be sure of exactly where the Chiltern Way path we were now on was taking through the suburbia of Marlow. And of course that signage might have been better. And it was night. Again, the compass showed the direction the path would take - when we found it - and we headed up to Burroughs Grove for the pub, unfortunately closed as 11.30pm by now - the paths had been quite muddy which slowed us down in places. So no beverages for the late weary travellers. With most of the route done we decided to truncate and skip the last bit, losing about a mile in distance, instead following the road north direct to Handy Cross at M40 J4, the other side of which we were parked.

A lovely night to walk, Hillary took some photos of the various star formations, and apart from a view of a herd of sheep legging it en masse on a horizon close to us, we saw few others out walking. We might have had a Romanian join us but he wanted a 6pm start, which would have pleased those who really wanted the pub stop we missed, but not me who was tucking into his dinner about that time.

Look forward to the next one. Thanks to Catherine and Hillary for joining me on this 8 mile ish walk in the dark.

Report by Steve

We had a beautiful day for our walk. The sun shone on us and lit up a blue sky. A turnout of 13 happy walkers made the day. Starting from Boston Manor Station after a few of us had a refreshing stop at the local cafe, we soon entered the green earthy surrounds of the Capital Ring walk. The ground was muddy but there were no particularly flooded areas despite the rain we had had recently, so we had a brisk start, fending off the cold morning air as we went. A nice slope down through a small wood created a feeling of difference, away from the streets. The towpath gave us an easy route and once we left the busy road bridge behind, and areas of canal silt and pollution (plastic bottles, and suprisingly numerous footballs!) the Grand Union Canal beame more pleasant and serene.

Very soon we reached the Hanwell flight of 5 locks. I was quite surprised how soon this was and realised there was no need to walk quite so fast. There is a lot to see in the Capital Ring. The Brent River was our next natural companion. We walked along a narrow path all the way to Hanwell Bridge, which we were able to walk under (sometimes the path floods here). We stopped for a while, before going to look at the viaduct designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a highlight of this half of the day's walk. Following this the route crossed the landscaped Brent Lodge Park and locally named Bunny Park. We meandered by the Brent River, and were given picture postcard-like views of St Mary's Church. Crossing a golf course and the athletics grounds of Perivale, we passed Greenford and eventually reached the pub stop at The Railway by Greenford Station, where we were met by Caroline.

The afternoon's walk included a contrasting wild wetland area by a shopping village, and a long stretch rejoining the Grand Union Canal with views to the climb we would make over Horsenden Hill in the sunshine. I am guessing there were some places en route where we might have stopped a while longer, however I seemed to have my walking legs on so kept a pace a little over 2mph - next time! We had a small look around the visitor centre, and from Horsenden Hill enjoyed distant views. The charm of Harrow on the Hill and St Mary's Church gave us our final stop, and everyone finished early as we did not extend our walk to Kenton. There is always a lot to learn and see. I look forward to the next part of the interesting walk around the capital.

Thank you very much to Keith, Anna, Catriona, Maurice, Efisia, Mary, Christine, Pamela, Erika, David H, David T and Caroline for joining me. I hope to see you on a walk again!

Report by Jane

A sunny cold day and a nice group of 9 hardy souls set off from Wheathampstead at 9.30am ish. Our route led us to Ayot St. Lawrence over frozen mud to a coffee/tea break by the ruined church. Dating from the 12th century this church had been replaced by a nearby Greek classical style building in the early 19th century. The locals deliberately half demolished the original in an artistic manner to create a romantic folly.

We headed down to the River Mimram at Codicote Bottom, passing a farm with a small armoured car (very shiny) and fire engine (very faded) outside and on to Kimpton for a packed lunch. After lunch it became increasingly gloomy and the light faded quickly. The rise in temperature softened the mud underfoot and we all gained a few kilos on our boots as nearly all our paths were deep in the stuff.

We passed by St. Peter's Green, where the Baptist chapel was dwarfed by the nearby pub, and skirting Harpenden returned to Wheathampstead by 4pm along the former railway line which used to link Luton with Welwyn Garden City. Marin's GPS showed 26km at the end which is 16 miles, although he did double back to find us on a couple of occasions when we'd stopped for a chat.

Thanks very much to all who came along, Steve, Carol, Keith, Marin, Paul, Catherine, Hilary and Erika.

Report by David H

Sunday morning was dry and bright as promised. Pamela and Jeff joined me at Chorleywood Station at 10.00 and we made our way across the golf course to join Brigitta and the others in the car park. We headed towards Chenies following the River Chess, it was muddy and wet and it wasn't long before we were one man down. He recovered quickly but it was the cameras that came out worst on this walk. We were at our lunch stop just after 12.15 and the Red Lion was as welcoming as usual. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch with even a few of the regulars recognising us by now.

After lunch we had a spitting of rain as we made our way back but it quickly cleared and we were back at the car park by 2.20pm so making it a very quick finish 9 miles and a relaxing lunch enjoyed by all.

Thanks to Mick, Pamela, Marin, Jeff, Carol, Steve and Paul.

Report by Mary

Having driven along flooded roads and huge torrents of water to the start point at Chipperfield we really did think that the walk might not be able to happen. However by 10am the strong women of HAWOG joined Jim and I to walk the walk.

We set off south east through Chipperfield Common and then headed west along the Hertfordshire Way, through woods and fields crossing fast-running water as it rushed down Flaunden Lane and then we went on into some fairly flooded fields. Some parts were just plain muddy. The girls were not daunted and we splashed our way toward Bovingdon where we tried to find shelter from the rain which had been falling gently from the start. After a 10 minute rest we walked along Stoney Lane which was also rushing with water and then up into the higher ground of Bury Wood, where we joined the Chiltern Way.

The rain stopped for a while as we headed down into Hemel and walked along the canal for a bit and enjoyed a nice lunch in a cafe at Sainsburys. After lunch we climbed up to Apsley Manor Farm via the golf course and some more woodland, under the A41 and cross country back to Chipperfield.

Everyone was so cheerful despite the weather and surprisingly we kept warm and quite dry despite the puddles of water. It was great fun and we finished at 3:30pm. Thank you girls Deirdre, Hilary, Catherine and Pamela. We think this was the wettest walk so far this year.

Report by Claire and Jim