16 of us met at Chesham station on another unseasonably warm winter morning.
Heading off promptly at 10:00am, we headed north-west and then north towards Hawridge. Just to the west of Hawridge we passed through a Christmas tree plantation which I had found on last year's post-Christmas walk, a suitable cue for a group photo shortly before making our lunch stop around half way between Hawridge and Lee Common.
After lunch we continued south-west to Lee Common and then south to Ballinger Common and Ballinger Bottom. We stopped there for a mid-afternoon break before heading back east towards Chesham, which we reached at around 4:00pm.
Thanks to all for joining me, including Amanda, Anil, Anita, Anne, Deirdre, Kim, Lara, Mary, Mercé, Mike, Paul, Steve and Stuart.
Report by Phil
Heading out of Chesham - Photo by Phil
On the way to Hawridge - Photo by Phil
Walking through the Christmas tree plantation - Photo by Phil
Group photo - Photo by Phil
En route to Lee Common - Photo by Phil
The best was definitely saved to last for the 14 who joined me on this 11 mile and last group walk before Christmas.
Fourteen people and one dog joined me for a light amber walk on almost the shortest day of the year. The start involved one of only a few ascents out of West Wycombe up and through Cockshoots Wood and then down and along the twisty and muddy paths of Bottom Wood. We were following north west paths for most of the morning in mainly sunny weather in a blue and grey sky.
After 4 miles of walking we reached the Studley Green Garden Centre by 11:40am to order our lunch. I'd budgeted a whole hour for lunch at somewhere where we could get a cooked breakfast or roast along with many other culinary delights. For a while it sounded like some of these options wouldn't be available as they were understaffed. But the cook kindly said if we could wait 20 minutes she would do the cooked breakfasts many of us wanted, so all got fed in the end. Including two late joiners and a dog who arrived 12.30 ish and somehow managed to get served and eat so we could depart by 1pm for the time-critical finale I had planned for later. But we lost three of our starters who'd found the morning mud too challenging - thanks for coming.
Our afternoon walk involved heading north east to Bottom Road which we followed south east for a few miles making very good time. Much less mud meant a faster pace but the weather had turned, with grey sky and rain mid-afternoon. There were three possible view points we could try for the grand finale, the sunset, if one was to be had. No joy at Great Cockshoots Wood (cloudy and rainy) so we headed north east and up to Hearnton Wood with less than an hour to go. Still no joy, still cloudy but the rain had stopped. So onwards to our third option, West Wycombe Hill taking the less common path on the east of the wood.
Ten minutes on route and our four-legged companion had gone missing. Not responding to being called and whistled I ran back to the edge of the wood and with 30 minutes to sunset and now facing west again I could see the sun. I quickly took some photos and then out of nowhere our missing four-legged friend appeared in front of me. Both our tails were now wagging! I headed back on the paths towards her owner and then onwards to get to West Wycombe Hill for the sunset in less than 20 minutes.
But now two of our two-legged companions were missing. And despite a number of phone calls and being only a few minutes walk away they were unable to get to our viewpoint in time for the sunset - which exceeded the forecast and proved to be wonderful. We had a full sun to see setting over the hill and took our photos before heading back to my place for tea and cakes.
Thanks to (girls) Asha, Brigitta, Carol, Laura, Mary, Mercé, Nathalie, Nihaad, Rodica, Thanika and (guys) Ian, Marin, Phil, Soumik and (dog) Jackie for joining me on this 11 ish mile pre Christmas walk.
Report by Steve
The sunny start... - Photo by Marin
...of a determined walk - Photo by Marin
Heading out of West Wycombe - Photo by Phil
Navigating the mud - Photo by Phil
Views of Chawley Wood in the background - Photo by Steve
Morning sun behind us in Bottom Wood - Photo by Steve
Mostly through muddy terrain in the morning - Photo by Marin
Post lunch towards Bottom Road - Photo by Steve
A much happier demeanour in the afternoon (no alcohol involved though) - Photo by Marin
A rough patch - Photo by Marin
Missing dog appears out of nowhere! - Photo by Steve
Moses with his tablets... - Photo by Marin
...and his preaching - Photo by Marin
Basking in the golden rays of the sunset - Photo by Marin
Happy Christmas everybody! - Photo by Marin
Sunset by the mausoleum - Photo by Phil
Tea and cake at host's house - Photo by Steve
Around 30 people attended Cathy's Christmas Extravaganza including past, present and new members. A wide variety of food was in abundance, much of it generous donations of home cooked dishes from various nationalities, from a whole host of those attendees. The remainder of the food was provided by our good friends from Iceland. I would like to thank each and everyone of those people who cooked and brought a contribution to enhance the wonderful spread. Christmas crackers helped the evening go with a "Bang". Christmas music and a Christmas quiz helped to entertain the masses. For those who didn't take part in the quiz, questions will be asked!
Thanks to Brian for providing the tea and coffee. Everybody looked very festive. Hope to see all you party people again soon!
Report by Mike
It was a damp start on Sunday morning but 8 of us gathered for the familiar route along the River Chess. As expected it was quite muddy. We did a loop west of Chenies at which point we took a different track which ended with a telling-off from the farmer. We were soon back on the correct path and approaching Chenies Manor. At this point Jacky took off running in the direction of a busy road and we had a heart-stopping ear-splitting moment until he was reunited with his owner.
Arrived at the pub just after 12 and it was a welcome respite from the grey gloomy mist. The pub looked very festive and we all sat in the warmth and enjoyed lunch and drinks. It was a bit more leisurely than I intended as some of the meals took a while to arrive but as usual they were worth waiting for. After lunch we completed the short distance back to Chorleywood this time walking along the opposite bank of the Chess and arrived back at the car park by 2.45.
Thanks to Dave, Efisia, Nathalie, Mark, Brigitta, Deirdre and Emma for joining me on my walk completing just over 10 miles.
Report by Mary
Fog descends upon us as we finish the walk - Photo by Nathalie
Weather windy and not wet for our weekend in the Shropshire Hills. Walks of 13, 18 and 6 miles over three days.
Six of us arrived at our four bedroom cottage on Friday evening in Churchstoke a few miles from Wales. Saturday we departed just after 9am heading north to ascend and explore the hills immediately behind us. Quickly became aware that sign posts and paths were at a premium! We climbed Todleth Hill (windy) where we lost one of our party (Paul) who answered a phone call, turned around and we were gone. He rejoined us after some faffing and we continued upwards and then down to Priest Weston for tea stop. Another ascent to the Stone Circles at Mitchell's Fold before heading to White Grit and a church for lunch. A church that hadn't been used for quite some time (vicar not well notice) and looking like a World War Two bunker (very un-church like). And locked. With the need to get nearer to home we took a direct route along country roads with surprisingly good views and walking. We tried a path at a farm in Hyssington but no sign whatsoever - when were these paths last walked? Detour to plan B meaning we got home just after 3:30pm and 13 miles distance, some of which included our morning ascent to just over 400 metres near Corndon Hill.
Sunday's route was southerly to Bishops Castle for lunch stop. Flat for the first hour or so until we reached the ridge in the distance. Ascent followed, a mix of paths, tracks, roads and woods until along the top we got the views. Descent to Bishops Castle which we reached ahead of schedule by 11:30. Tea shop and then lunch in St John the Baptist church - it had started raining by then - where more teas were being served, free, and we were invited to join. Very friendly churchgoers. Making good time we departed just after 12:30 and I felt at a push we could do the longer of the possible routes home. The obvious path up and out, the Kerry Ridgeway, was dull and a bit of a slog, until we reached the top where we got the views again. Heading west we reached Offa's Dyke and followed it north for a few miles with the best views of the weekend over rolling hills, countryside and woods. We left about a mile and half from home following the only path home. Quickly became poorly signed and was dark before the last of reached the road at Churchstoke. All home just before 5pm and a mileage of about 18, meaning an ish of about 6! An early present from Santa Steve.
Monday, definitely something shorter, we drove north east to The Bog, parked and ascended to reach the summit of Stipperstones. A rocky path with a high point of 536 metres. Back at cars by 12:30 and a distance of about 6 miles. Unfortunately only three of us as some, despite all the emails and event descriptions, hadn't realised we had the cottage for three nights with a walk planned for Monday.
Cracking weekend, good outdoors, mostly dry, nice views and wildlife, and good company. Thanks to (girls) Carol, Emma and Nihaad and (guys) Marin and Paul for joining me on this long weekend away.
Report by Steve
The clean and pleasant cottage where we stayed - Photo by Marin
Marin and Paul descend to Priest Weston - Photo by Steve
On top of a hill with Desmond's rain far away in the distance (we enjoyed only his 50mph or so winds) - Photo by Marin
Even in winter and high winds, the real men wear shorts... - Photo by Marin
...and are smiling (for reasons unknown) - Photo by Marin
Storm Desmond is not at fault for the fall of this ancient circle stone - it was probably toppled by some unnamed storm a long time ago... - Photo by Marin
...when this tree was little - Photo by Marin
Two odd looking creatures... and two alpaca - Photo by Steve
We walked the hills in the background yesterday - Photo by Steve
Emma was here a few years ago - Photo by Steve
Welcome to Shropshire Hills! - Photo by Steve
There's always sunshine after rain... - Photo by Marin
...and sometimes rainbows - Photo by Marin
Over Offa's Dyke, the last descent of Sunday's walk - Photo by Marin
Stipperstones summit and Steve's shadow - Photo by Steve
Steve at Stipperstones summit - Photo by Steve
Carol and Steve at Stipperstones - Photo by Steve
Carol and Nihaad descend Stipperstones - Photo by Steve
15 of us gathered to walk 11 miles from Gerrards Cross station and back, on this mild and breezy morning. We left at a steady pace, which we kept for the length of the walk, so it was not too rushed, and everyone kept within sight or hearing distance of the leader. The weather was really good. No rain all day and enough windy weather to throw leaves in the air and keep us cool.
The scenery was really nice and showed great quality even nearer to home than Chesham. Woodland, fields and the rises and falls of the Chilterns in green, deep brown and copper, with the sky as a backdrop. There was no real intrusion from the main roads. The pub stop was appreciated and we were lucky to have a table to ourselves in the public bar. We changed the route so that homeward bound was completely different.
Thanks to everyone for walking together.
Report by Jane
Once again, the weather rewarded the brave - the rain stopped by the time we started (almost 15 minutes late, as Steve rightly pointed out), the wind was mild and the sunshine defeated the cold for most of the time.
The area is scenic and proved very quiet - at least two of the participants decided to come back for a longer walk in the summer. The actual route is here
. Nothing went wrong until we made a wrong turn in a wood. It wasn't something to remember but it changed the second part of the walk. As the intended pub was a little late on the route, we decided to stop instead at The White Lyon and Dragon in Worplesdon. The Thai food was as good as you can get - we really liked the food and the atmosphere and we fully recommend the pub.
The small diversions and the colder day after lunch made me decide to shorten the last bit in order to keep the walk within the advertised length.
A very enjoyable walk - thanks to Carol, Nathalie, Nihaad (new prospective member) and Steve for joining me.
Report by Marin
Five of us met at Burnham Beeches for the start of this fairly easy going, but varied and pretty walk heading east at first. We passed through woodland and heath, common land and farmland, even the somewhat run down and overgrown area of the Pickerage. There was still quite a lot of colour on the trees despite it being so late in the season.
We stopped for lunch on the green at Hedgerley, which was a quiet small village. However it was a little chilly just standing about so we headed west along a small road, and back through the beautiful trees and stopped for refreshments 2 miles further on at a lovely old pub called the Jolly Woodsman.
The way back to our starting point was quite straightforward and we arrived back at the Burnham Beeches car park well ahead of schedule at 14:40, doing the distance as described without getting lost or distracted of just under ten miles.
Thank you Mary, Deirdre, Emma, David T and Ian for joining me.
Report by Claire
The day began with a real pea-souper fog enveloping the south-east. Putting lots of faith in the optimistic weather reports, by the time we arrived at the car park in Cowleaze Wood, sure enough, the sun had broken through giving us a warm clear day with cloudless blue skies.
Our party of eight set off down the escarpment affording excellent views over the surrounding countryside. Wending our way through single track paths, we engaged part of the Ridgeway, one of the oldest paths in the world dating back to neolithic times. Our first challenge was Watlington Hill imprinted with its 250 year old white chalk triangle. Some of our party, relatively new to countryside walks, struggled with the steep ascent and we all took a well deserved breather near the top. Many of us had stripped down to t-shirts in the unusually warm sunshine as we made our way through a small wood of dark yews and up our second hill. Here we stopped for lunch, appreciating the fine scenery and the sight of red kites floating on the currents.
Shortly after, we came to 'The Fox and Hounds' pub at Christmas Common and enjoyed some liquid refreshment. Proceeding to Shirburn Wood, we called a halt to gaze at the magnificent beeches in their array of autumnal colours for a few minutes. We left this arboreal splendour continuing onwards through younger woodlands carpeted with endless layers of leaves. Crossing a couple of fields, we came to a shallow valley, an open vista of English meadow and beech. We shadowed the perimeter of the Wormsley Estate, making our way through lanes and mixed woodland. A slight wrong turn with the tired party having to re-climb a hill resulted in a few restrained words of rebuke for the walk leader. Passing an apple tree at the bottom of the hill, half of us helped ourselves to its fruit, a welcome gift in this season of bounty.
Halfway up the last hill, Ulke and Nihaad stopped for a prolonged rest and decided to journey back together. We said farewell and the rest of us walked back through Cowleaze Wood, arriving at our starting point.
Report by Tim
Lunch break - Photo by Tim
Beech woods - Photo by Tim
Autumn gold - Photo by Tim
Ian, Phil, Efisia, Emma, Jane and myself met at Petts Wood station for the next section of the London Loop to Upper Shirley. We admired the views of the Downs from Darrick Common before passing through the quaint village of Farnborough. After walking through the churchyard of St Giles the Abott to High Elms Country Park we stopped for morning coffee and cake before leaving the park and its magnificent redwood trees behind. Our lunch stop was taken sitting on the low wall between two ponds near to Keston village. Continuing on we passed through West Wickham Common and the Greenwich Meridian Stone in Coney Hall Recreation Ground. I'm afraid to say that we all passed by without noticing this important landmark which marks 0 degrees longitutude, the basis for calculating standard time for Britain and the rest of the world. After climbing through Kennel Wood we followed the road to catch the bus back to East Croydon for the train home. Thanks to all who attended for their excellent company.
Report by David S
Al fresco tea - Photo by Marin
On our path again - Photo by Marin
Gorgeous creatures! - Photo by Marin
The loneliness of the long distance walker - Photo by Marin
Through the woods - Photo by Marin
Crossing the bridge - Photo by Marin
Rainbow walking - the Magnificent Seven minus Steve - Photo by Marin
Four of us set out from Henley in the glorious October sunshine. A traffic jam entering Henley meant that the walk leader was late and had to intercept some members, who were keenly heading off. Deciding to reverse the walk, we headed away from the river, made our way through Henley Park, to Fawley, the first village of the day. Too early for refreshments we carried on, successfully negotiating the Great Wood, with its spectacular autumn colours, although the temperature could have fooled us into thinking it was summer.
Arriving in Hambleden just in time for lunch we picnicked on a park bench and were entertained by the arrival of a succession of youngsters completing their Duke of Edinburgh award (they survived the night!). We abandoned our plan to have a drink in the lovely Stag and Huntsman pub as it was extremely busy and settled for tea and cake in the local teashop. From Hambleden we finally met Old Man Thames, via the spectacular weir at Mill End, where we picked up the Thames Path and completed the circle back to Henley.
Thanks to Pushpa, Avril and Derek for being such great company on such a lovely walk.
Report by Deirdre
Well, the dirty dozen arrived slowly at the isolated hostel in the middle of the enchanted forest. Martina and Daniel were first to reach Wootton and ride over the hills to our home for the weekend, followed by Christine and Jan and Carla, in muddy convoy. Next to arrive were Cathy and Mike who showed us how to execute an emergency rescue when their flying drone ended up in the lake at the bottom of the hostel. Everyone else came in the dark path, avoiding Broadmoor, which Jan was pleased to find out was not the high security prison for criminally insane, given that this was halloween after all. After settling in for the night we all awoke to glorious sunshine and atmospheric fog winding around the hostel.
Eleven of us managed the steep incline to Leigh Hill, the second highest point in South East England and enjoyed a variety of hot beverages whilst Mike and Jeff both let down their hair Rapunzel-style from the 18th century gothic tower. We wandered on in the fabulous autumn sunshine through colours to wipe away the Moody Blues. We managed to find three pubs along the way which we did not walk past, including Abinger with its original stocks for capturing Brian, and 14th century church, with piano on which Dean played a rousing rendition of 'My old Man' in keeping with the peaceful surroundings. Carla was for once left speechless when Cathy shouted across the lawn to her 'Do you want a sausage?'. In total we walked through glens and valleys for 9 miles, wondering what the night would bring. Martina, Daniel and Christine explored the picturesque town of Dorking, and walked up to Leith Hill in child friendly manner. A certain someone then celebrated a New Zealand Rugby win in style.
In the evening ghosts and ghouls came out to play, including Renee's skeleton, Lara's witch, Sherlock Holmes (??) and a beaming red devil leaving a trail of destruction (and red paint on the walls). Magic tricks galore fell from Dean's, alias Mr. Hyde's, hands.
On Sunday Cathy and Mike prepared a sumptuous breakfast and everyone managed to eat enough to last the week. We slowly left the bunkhouse nearly the same as we found it, leaving only the happy spirits of All Souls wandering the grounds, visiting Gomshall and Shere, prettiest village in UK and location for filming 'The Holiday', before sadly leaving for the big city.
Thank you to Renee, Carla, Lara, Dean, Leo, Brian, Martina, Humay, Jeff, Mike S and Cathy for helping to make another memorable Halloween.
Report by Jan and Christine
Start of walk - Photo by Brian
Colours on climb - Photo by Brian
Cafe at summit - Photo by Brian
Summitry - Photo by Brian
Vibrant colours of Surrey - Photo by Brian
Lunch at Holmbury - Photo by Brian
Abinger Pond - Photo by Brian
Fancy dress party - Photo by Brian
Arm wrestling contest - Photo by Brian
Hosts enjoy well-deserved breakfast - Photo by Brian
Shere village - Photo by Brian
We kept mainly to the advertised route, with one exception: for some reason we reached Bayford, the scene of some former walking odysseys. This time, the small detour ensured that we reached the Five Horseshoes Pub in Little Berkhamsted not too early for lunch. The pub is nicely decorated inside and cosy; the food and the service were very good. It was a rewarding walk - the weather was mild, the route was scenic and the autumn colours, especially along some copses, were out of this world. The atmosphere was very relaxed and everybody enjoyed the day.
Thanks to Carol, Claire, Emma (whose amazing orienteering skills helped keep the walk to only 13.6 miles), Mike and Steve for joining us. In retrospect, we decided to change the name of the walk into Team HAWOG's West End Walk, because it was a team effort by the Magnificent Seven.
Report by Marin
Al fresco tea - Photo by Marin
On our path again - Photo by Marin
Gorgeous creatures! - Photo by Marin
The loneliness of the long distance walker - Photo by Marin
Through the woods - Photo by Marin
Crossing the bridge - Photo by Marin
Rainbow walking - the Magnificent Seven minus Steve - Photo by Marin
Last weekend 8 of us met in Gloucestershire for the third part of our walk along the full length of the Cotswold Way.
On Friday evening we enjoyed a good curry in a recently-opened Indian restaurant in Cheltenham. Some felt that the portions could have been a little larger, but it was interesting to dine in a restaurant where the staff had perhaps not worked in the restaurant business prior to starting their new venture.
On Saturday, we did the usual car shuttle and then set off at around 9:45am from the point where we had finished Part 2 of the walk back in June, in Painswick. After taking a look around the church in the centre of the small town, we headed off at a good pace, gradually slowing down over the course of the day. The mist took a while to clear, but had mostly cleared by the time we reached Cooper's Hill - this hill is known for cheese rolling (on Spring Bank Holiday Mondays). Our lunch stop afforded great views of Crickley Hill fort, some parts of which are reckoned to be around 4000 years old.
After lunch, we carried on around Crickley Hill and Leckhampton Hill, stopping to look at the so-called Devil's Chimney, an isolated rock pinnacle left behind by quarrymen. We reached the end point of the day's walk, in Seven Springs (once thought to be the source of the Thames) in good time, having walked around 16 miles.
On Saturday evening, we headed into the centre of Cheltenham again for dinner, an excellent meal in a supposedly Turkish restaurant, although later in the evening we realised that the majority of the staff appeared to be Romanian.
On Sunday morning we resumed our walk in Seven Springs at around 9:30am. Once again the mist took some time to clear, but again we were rewarded with excellent views of both Gloucester, and later of Cheltenham from the top of Cleeve Hill, where we stopped for lunch. The day's walk was a mere 8.5 miles, ending shortly after lunch, so we were able to head home during the early afternoon.
Thanks to Amanda, Anna, Carol, Emma, Keith, Marin and Steve for joining me on this weekend. Sadly Anna wasn't able to join us on the walks, and Karen wasn't able to join us for the weekend, but hopefully they'll both find an opportunity to complete this section before we return to the Cotswolds for the last section next year.
Report by Phil
First day's group photo - Photo by Marin
The Devil's Chimney - Photo by Marin
The second walk had a foggy start ... - Photo by Marin
... but on top of the hills the sun was shining ... - Photo by Marin
... and lucky walkers are smiling - Photo by Marin
10 of us met on a very sunny Saturday morning in Guildford. We had 7 new walkers with us today. Our route started with a riverside path through the old town before reaching the castle and remains of the royal palace. The keep dates from the 12th century and is largely intact. We climbed to the top for views over the Wye valley. We then set off from the city and took the Pilgrims Way due east to eventually meet the North Downs Way. The Way is mostly a ridge walk and there were great views south towards Sussex and the weald. After passing through some woods we climbed to the first summit, St Marthas on the hill. The church is completely isolated on the hill and has served as a pilgrims refuge since the 14th century. As it was such a fine day with clear blue skies we stopped for drinks here and to take in views south.
We then continued on the NDW before reaching Newlands Corner. We had our picnic at the viewpoint here. Lara and Todd were the 2 South Africans with us and they explained the rules of rugby to Clare and Angela. Marin then asked to practise his navigation skills by leading him and Rodica on a different route back to the start. The rest of us began the descent, passing several tank traps and pill boxes to the "Silent Pool", a tranquil spot with links to King John. We then explored Shere which is cited as Surrey's prettiest village. The church is 12th century and the village was busy today with other walking groups. As it was still very warm we stopped here for ice creams and cooling drinks before catching the train back to London from the nearby station.
Report by Brian
Guildford Castle - Photo by Brian
Climb up Pewley Hill - Photo by Brian
St Martha's on the Hill - Photo by Brian
View from St Martha's - Photo by Brian
North Downs Way - Photo by Brian
Picnic at Newlands - Photo by Brian
Arrival at Shere - Photo by Brian
Shere village - Photo by Brian
Scenic rail line back - Photo by Brian
We were blessed with a fine day on Sunday, bright and clear, with just a hint of autumn in the temperature. Forces were gathered outside St. Johns' Wood station on the Jubilee Line, and we set off soon after 10.10am. Our journey commenced down the Wellington Road, past Lord's cricket ground. We entered Regent's Park by Hanover Gate, and followed the lake round to Clarence Gate where we exited, and continued down Baker Street passing the mythical residence of Sherlock Holmes, which is now a museum. We joined Hyde Park near the Marble Arch, and stopped for a bit to listen to one of the speakers at Speakers Corner. He was a bit difficult to follow, as his hatred seemed to be directed at everybody. Continuing down the park parallel to Park Lane, we enjoyed the glorious colours of autumn manifesting themselves in the overhead canopy. We exited Hyde Park to the south near the Wellington memorial. The Duke was resplendent on horseback, facing his former London residence Apsley House. Our journey continued down Constitution Hill, and we entered Green Park through the Commonwealth War Memorial Towers. I had expected to see rather more celebratory Welsh rugby supporters en route, but they were conspicuous by their absence. One suspects they had a long night of celebration, and would only surface around lunchtime. We continued past Buckingham Palace, where crowds were gathered around the railings. The flag was flying, so I guess HM was in residence - probably reading the Racing Post, and picking out a few winners for the Epsom meeting that afternoon. We entered St James Park, just beyond the Victoria memorial, and walked by the Lake through the Park parallel to The Mall, emerging just near Admiralty Arch.
Thanks to Joel and Seema for coming along, and their interesting and erudite conversation along the way.
Report by Roger
You can walk around London through the seasons, and around Aylesbury in a day. There's an inner ring in London which is 5 times longer than today's walk, and an outer ring around Aylesbury. Today we walked the inner ring around Aylesbury.
After an initial clamber through built form, we found the entrance at the waters end of the Aylesbury arm of the Grand Union Canal, which led us to the round path where we turned westward. The surrounding trees, shrubs, fields, water and sky gave little hint of the new build outskirts. Next came Bierton, an attractive village, then Dunsham Farm and the lakes of Watermead where we stopped for a break. We followed the River Thame to our lunch stop in the style of a standard day walk except whilst scrambling across a ditch, Phil in the lead, Marin and Emma were stung by swarming wasps, disturbed by their sudden intrusion.
Our lunch stop under buzzing pylons was a taunting echo with no respite for the warning stings although the good weather did sooth. Our hazards did not lessen as further on we climbed over a fence in search of a greener path option and further on still crossed an earthy and uneven surface to find an equally uneven path. Another challenge came when we were met with a bulldozed path, and impenetrable undergrowth, having to climb over a barbed wire wrapped fence to an alternative way back. All this and fresh air and countryside too! I'm thinking of writing to the council about the path destruction here.
We had a great day and did have beautiful vistas and an array of sensory experiences in the landscape which enhanced all our wellbeings. We crossed 2 railway lines, saw stampeding cattle and ate the last of the season's blackberries. Perhaps the next challenge might be the Aylesbury Ring, although my idea of donning wellies and walking along a river may fall by the wayside.
Thank you Phil, Emma, Keith, Anna, Nathalie and Marin for your company today and the conversations and general happiness.
Report by Jane
I see him coming in the sky, yes, I do - Photo by Marin
Happy in the wilderness of Aylesbury, with almost no power lines in sight - Photo by Marin
Mid-afternoon break - Photo by Jane
This weekend was blessed with plenty of sunshine. The early arrivals on Friday managed to have a leisurely stroll through the hostel grounds, with its tiny old church by the river and surprisingly 'active' graveyard (no, not ghosts, just recent burials). All of us managed the rough track and hairpin bend, even the late arrivals.
Saturday's walk took us across the Wye (but still in England) via a footbridge, with a bit of 'circumnavigation' (checking out the venue for our evening meal, of course), we were on track, through some rolling hills, with stunning views on all sides, into the woods where the only shower of the whole weekend had passed by the time we had our raingear on. The day's highlight, Symonds Yat viewpoint, offered panoramic views over the Wye, Symonds Yat rock and beyond. Here some of us stretched out like cats in the sun, while others did some serious bird-watching. After a steep descent to the river in the warm sunshine, the riverside pub beckoned, although half of us resisted the temptation and carried on via the Wye Valley Trail along the river back to the hostel.
Although the food was good at the local Indian restaurant, the long wait for it to arrive proved a bit much for our hungry walkers! Armed with torches aplenty we made our way back to the hostel, via tracks, paths and footbridge.
Sunday's walk started at Tintern Abbey, in Wales. However, we quickly returned to England, making our way up some steep ascents, picking up the Offa's Dyke long distance path, and some great views of Tintern Abbey, through the trees. Our lunch stop was at the 'Devils Pulpit', looking down on the Abbey. According to legend the Devil preached to the monks below from this vantage point, tempting them to desert their order. Thankfully none of the group was tempted away as we made our way back into Wales, to the Abbey and some welcome refreshments.
Thanks a lot to Blossom, Claire, Jim, Emma, Mary, Pushpa and Keith T for joining me and being such great company on this weekend.
Report by Deirdre
Setting out - Photo by Deirdre
Crossing the Wye - Photo by Deirdre
Great views over England - Photo by Deirdre
Symonds Yat Rock and the Wye - Photo by Deirdre
Stretching out - Photo by Deirdre
Rest awhile - Photo by Deirdre
All set for Wales - Photo by Deirdre
Oh come away, all ye monks - Photo by Deirdre
Lunch and chocolate stop - Photo by Deirdre
Back in Wales, Tintern Abbey - Photo by Deirdre
What a day we had!
The walk was most enjoyable, thanks to the good company and the fresh warm sunny day.
The terrain was mainly flat, but we still had fine views west towards Didcot power station and the Oxfordshire landscape beyond. We had not been walking for long when we came across a fine heap of well rotted farm manure. As an allotment holder I get really excited by farm manure. But by some quirk of nature there was all kinds of things growing: tomatoes, courgettes and squash. Steve and Claire shared my excitement at such (free) bounty!!
We rested briefly at Berrick Salome, where we watched numerous cyclists pass by. This must be good cycling country as we saw many groups throughout the day. A few fields beyond Berrick Salome we encountered a field planted with sweetcorn. Claire led the way here and rather expertly removed a piece of corn for us all to try. It was delicious. You may be seeing a trend here for free food and guess what - Mary found a number of large mushrooms. They looked like the real deal, but you never can be too careful with mushrooms. Mary decided they were OK to eat and took a few home. I can report that Mary ate the mushrooms with no ill effects, however I did here something about an Irish lady doing cartwheels on the 8:15 to Baker Street on Monday morning.
North to Newington and then east toward Chalgrove. We stopped for lunch next to a field full of solar panels, we sat on a pile of discarded bricks. Post lunch, we felt the need for to stretch, Mary demonstrated a few moves which I attempted, Steve felt the need to touch the floor, Mark did this bend your leg back from the knee thing, (bit like trying to kick yourself up the bum) I think this worked best for me. Fully rested we pressed on at a steady pace. Our next target was Brightwell Baldwin, a very picturesque village. Due to lack of water and the heat we had to pop into the local pub, The Lord Nelson. This was a cracking place with an idyllic garden.
Fully rehydrated we pressed on. More open fields and lovely views until Ewelme came in sight. Steve recommended a slight detour back to the car park, this was via the cloisters within the church. Apparently the 13 cottages are almshouses and were built in 1455. Within the cloister was a very well tended garden with a real sense of peace, a very pleasant end to our walk.
This was a really enjoyable walk, thanks to: Mary, Claire, Mark, Steve and Atul.
Report by Mike D
6 of us met on Sunday for my 19 mile circular walk from Rickmansworth. The promised rain and thunder held off, proving you should never rely on the weather forecast. Initially passing the gothic-looking Royal Masonic School for Girls, there were no girls but quite a lot of fancy cars in the school car park for a Sunday, strange initiation ceremony maybe? The route then dipped down to take us into the familiar haunts of the Chess valley, Church End, and Sarratt where the field of cows were on their best behaviour and demonstrated total apathy towards us.
Then circumventing Chorleywood we went west where disappointingly the Steam Roller from the recky of the recky failed to make a second showing. Onwards through the woods, including Phil's personal hill, Philips Hill Wood, and the Open Air Museum where there were lots of people wearing medieval clothing in tents for some reason, on to Chalfont St Giles, where I waved in the general direction of the cottage where Milton wrote Paradise Lost and Marin and I raided an apple tree.
Lunch stop and supplies restock at Chalfont St Peter, we then made our way along the Misbourne and up through the posh housing estate into more woods until we reached the the diversion where the proposed HS2 work has rudely closed the footpath. The alternative footpath added an extra mile or so on and a bit of a hill but had better views. Then through the lakes to the welcome sight of the Coy Carp before making the final stretch along the Colne Valley way and the Grand Union canal back to Rickmansworth. Incidentally going past our second group of medieval warriors of the day as we did so. Not sure what era the girl with the sword dressed as Zena the Warrior Princess was from though...
Many thanks for your perseverance, friendship and company on the journey to Anna, Keith, Marin, Phil and Nathalie.
Report by Emma
I was joined for the hike by Emma and Nathalie.
We set off along the north bank of the Thames to Mill End. Crossing the river at Hambleden Weir and Lock, then made our way along the south bank (which very soon becomes the east bank due to the bend in the river) to Henley. Whereas the north bank was rural and tranquil, on the south/east bank we walked past literally thousands of tents and hundreds of metres of security fencing which had been erected for the Rewind Festival. Along the tow path were hundreds of Festival-goers, and dozens of boats were moored along the bank.
We reached Henley mid-morning just as it started to rain, which was good timing as we had planned to stop for a coffee and snack, which we did at the Angel on Bridge. It was still raining by the time we finished and headed up the river to Shiplake Lock. Here the banks became much more rural and wilder.
Then began the inland section of the hike, through Bolney to pick up the Chiltern Way for a few miles, before cutting off via Lower Assendon to join a section of the Oxfordshire Way for a short while. Then it was a few more miles and through the Hambleden woods for a brief refreshment stop at the Stag and Huntsman in Hambleden before heading for home.
The distance was a very good 16 miles, with much of the second segment involving quite a lot of up and down, so all in all a very satisfying day's hike.
Report by Paul
4 of us met on another warm evening at Ruislip Lido on Wednesday. Our route followed the paved paths around the perimeter of the Lido before Kerry led us up to Haste Hill for the viewpoint over NW London. We next passed the golf course, the right of way crosses 1 fairway and continued through Ruislip woods and the level crossing of the Lido railway on the beach side. Debi, Richard and Natasha tried out the outdoor gym and were soon joined by other walkers to test out the equipment. Our walk finished back at the Waters Edge pub where other members of the group joined us to take in the views across the water.
Report by Brian (on behalf of Kerry)
20 of us made it to the Dorset for the 5th camping trip of the summer. It was another scorchio weekend at Shortlake farm which had an amazing location, sloping downhill to the Jurassic coast affording wonderful views out to sea and towards the Isle of Portland. On arrival the organic farm shop sold cooling ice creams to enjoy whilst we set up camp. Leo led the early arrivals on a bike ride to Portland involving a few unexpected climbs and fast descents.
Tim was again in charge of the barbecue and the camp fire. Brian, as before, had to provide and erect 4 tents (quite a few new members along who were new to camping). Noodles and Jackie got to know each other quickly around the barbecue. Some dined at the famous Smugglers Inn in Osmington reached via the coastal footpath.
On Saturday we were able to collect fresh pastries from the camp bakery for breakfast in the sun enjoying the great views out to sea. We then started the linear hike eastwards following the SW coastal footpath. The clear blue skies allowed great views all day. Our route involved some tough climbs with a break at the hidden Ringstead Bay beach. We found a picnic spot at White Nothe point; high on the cliff top we had panoramic views east to Lulworth and west towards Dorset in the far distance. The afternoon route involved several big climbs and vertiginous descents looking down on secluded beaches far below with several yachts harbouring just out to sea. As the day was so fine quite a few of the group descended to the beach to sunbathe by Durdle Dor; Leo bringing along the cold beers and cigs as always. Suzy led the swimming group for a circuit of the bay with a route through the famous Dor archway. At Lulworth Cove we encountered the 3 abstainers by chance before our return journey.
Martina, Harpreet and Susan had been out sea fishing today and came back with a bumper catch of mackerel. These were cooked on the campfire for a gourmet supper served with salads and pasta prepared by Renee and Susan. The clear night sky was perfect for stargazing around the blazing camp fire as we listened to more yarns from Brigitta and Joanna. Tim and Caroline were inspired by one tale and, using Tim's Mexican blankets, they slept western style around the fire until dawn.
On Sunday after a leisurely breakfast and listening to a Cilla tribute on Radio Solent we struck camp. Tim then led one group on a hike along the White Horse ridgeway towards Dorchester. The others did another coastal hike from West Bay along the cliffs made famous in the title sequences of Broadchurch.
The trip ended back at the fishing marina of West Bay with rather splendid fish and chips eaten by the harbour whilst watching the boats sailing by in this very scenic corner of Dorset.
Report by Brian
Tim starts the barbecue - Photo by Brian
Glamping tent - Photo by Brian
Meal with views - Photo by Brian
Breakfast in the sun - Photo by Brian
Start of walk - Photo by Brian
On the beach - Photo by Brian
Picnic at viewpoint - Photo by Brian
View East towards Lulworth - Photo by Brian
View West towards Weymouth - Photo by Brian
At Durdle Dor - Photo by Brian
Harpreet catches supper - Photo by Brian
Martina prepares supper - Photo by Brian
More tall tales at the campfire - Photo by Brian
Sunset views - Photo by Brian
Cathy and I were joined by three other people at the start of the walk at 10.30am, starting from Hanwell station - Bruce, a prospective member, Pushpa an existing member and a mutual friend Harry. After having parked the car outside the station we set off, soon reaching the Wharncliffe Viaduct. This was built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1837 and is still being used to carry trains from London to Bristol. We knew we were on the right track!
We then entered the gates to Brent Lodge Park. A dilemma, should we go round the various enclosures or go into the Maze? The second option happened and some of us got totally lost, in the Maze of course. What an amazing experience though. After this we visited the various birds and animals in their enclosures. First occasion for a bite to eat. No cafe stop here though, we pressed on and came across the 12th century church of St Mary the Virgin. It can't be that old we said, that is virgin on the ridiculous, although the stained glass windows looked nice.
We turned left at the Lynch Gate and then into Old Church Lane. I think Cathy would have been lynched if we had gone wrong at this point! We crossed over a busy Western Avenue to reach Perivale station. As it was a very hot day we entered the Duke of Kent, a very nice, though expensive, pub. We passed our own food to each other under the table, trying to avoid the staff at the pub. It must have been a mason's pub.
Half the route completed we returned via Gurnell swimming pool, not going in as it veered off on a trunk route. An ice cream stop was called for and a picture taken of a very nice old house. Returning to Hanwell station we picked up the car and made our way home.
Thanks to all who attended.
Report by Mike S
Five of us met at YHA Coalport, Ironbridge on the last Friday in July. The hostel is housed in one of the original buildings of the Coalport China Works and is situated on the banks of the River Severn. Whilst eating our breakfast al fresco on Saturday morning we watched as participants of the Railway Ultra arrived in the hostel car park. The run offered two distances of 27 miles and 36 miles, however we weren't tempted to join in and we pressed on with our original plan to walk the Silkin Way catching a taxi to the start.
The taxi dropped us off at the start, a derelict pub, which as it turned out was an omen of things to come. The Silkin Way is a green corridor route through Telford to Coalport and was opened in 1977 by Lewis Silkin. Silkin was instrumental in introducing the New Towns Act in 1963, of which Telford was one of the first.
The walk was one of great contrasts, to say the least. Although the majority of the walk followed disused canals and railway lines, along with woodland and meadows, significant parts of the route went through the new developments that have grown up since 1977. The most memorable part of the walk being as the five of us, in full hiking gear, traversed our way through Telford's main shopping centre. Clearly this was an unusual apparition for the locals, as a small group of young wags sniggered at our attire, remarking that we were on an expedition through Telford town centre. In hindsight our maps, rucksacks and walking boots probably weren't needed for this section as we walked past the petrol station, Asda, the benefits office and crown court.
The day was saved by Emma, who persuaded us to take a short detour off route to a countryside hotel, where we sat on the veranda overlooking the lake and took afternoon tea. On the final section of the walk we met a group of volunteers excavating one of the old railway stations along the disused railway line.
After a freshen up back at the hostel we walked the half a mile to the lovely Woodbridge Inn on the banks of the River Severn. We enjoyed a lovely meal sitting in the conservatory overlooking the flowing river. Emma ordered the cheese board and is probably still working her way through the doggy bag that she took away.
Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny, therefore the five of us walked the few miles along the river bank to Ironbridge. On arrival there Dave, Efisia and Emma took breakfast in a local café whilst Phil and Jane enjoyed the views of the bridge from the riverbank. A local motor biking group gathered and we all stopped and watched as the cavalcade rolled out of town. After a short bimble around the town we retraced our steps back to the hostel, stopping once again to sit beside the river bank next to the Woodbridge Inn, before heading back to the hostel and saying our goodbyes.
Report by Dave S
Climbing into Country Park - Photo by Brian
Starting the walk - Photo by Brian
Picnic on beach - Photo by Brian
Fish and chips at end of walk - Photo by Brian
On another warm 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. The new format involved using map references and OS maps to find the clues. There were excellent views from the edge of the churchyard below the woods with a fine sunset in the distance, and we met lots of other walkers on the hillside meadows. We had 4 potential new members along on their first event. We finished at the village green facing café before returning to the hall for cake for all and prizes.
Report by Brian
Lots of potential members at the start - Photo by Brian
Hillside very busy - Photo by Brian
Sunset on hill - Photo by Brian
Final clues at top of hill - Photo by Brian
Wheat field - Photo by Anna
Morris Dancers on our way - Photo by Anna
Barley waves - Photo by Anna
6 of us met on another lovely sunny summer evening at the Ruislip manor site on Wednesday. We had another 3 people join us for their first event, Darrah, Natasha and Catherine. After exploring the heritage area around the manor we set off on the Celandine Way. There was a boot camp keep fit class on the outdoor gym on Kings College playing fields, a perfect evening for fitness training. Kerry pointed out a woodpecker and the various wild flowers alongside the river bank. We continued along the trail to enter Eastcote House Gardens; these have just been reopened after a long refurbishment. There is now a café on site and the historic buildings were all much improved. Our walk ended at the Case is Altered, we found a table in the beer garden for some cooling drinks in this tranquil corner of Eastcote.
Report by Brian (on behalf of Kerry)
Start at Ruislip - Photo by Brian
Ruislip boot camp - Photo by Brian
Crossing the meadows - Photo by Brian
End at Case - Photo by Brian
8 of us made it to the New Forest for the 3rd camping trip of the summer. It was another scorchio weekend in the national park at a new campsite for the group. We stayed at Embers at Beaulieu which is a working farm with farm shop on site. On arrival we bought ice creams to enjoy in the sun before pitching tents. Martina prepared a barbecue for all whilst Ji cooked his supper on the camp fire in true camping style.
On Saturday after Robin cooked a camping breakfast for the group we hired bikes in town and Leo led us on our route south. We visited Bucklers Wharf (18th century naval base) before taking rough track ways to Needs Ore Point (furthest extent of land) where we watched the many yachts sail past us along the Solent. We headed west stopping at a country inn for lunch in the shaded beer gardens. Afterwards we found a private beach area popular with kite surfers today where Brian discovered the inevitable tree swing. Our route then followed marked trails through the heathland and forests back to base. The inevitable wedding was taking place at the Abbey and Hotel; a route master passed us en route with guests.
Back on site Martina started the barbecue with Renee preparing another tasty salad whilst Christine mixed up a prodigious supply of heady fruit pimms for us to savour in the warm evening over supper. For a seasonal desert Robin supplied delicious fresh farm shop strawberries and cream as we listened to vintage rock on Radio Solent. Ji and Brian lit the campfire around which we swapped more tall tales.
On Sunday some of the group toured the very impressive motor museum at Beaulieu Abbey close to the site. A monorail is now in place for high level viewing of the collection and the landscaped gardens. Leo arranged a challenging canoe trip down the Lymington River. We headed out to sea being chased down by the Isle of Wight Ferry before landing on a sand bank in the estuary to rest up and (Leo and Renee) to sunbathe in the glorious afternoon sunshine. Afterwards we all took in a scenic boat trip before a final rather spiffing cream tea in Sophie's tea gardens in the very picturesque town of Lymington.
Report by Brian
Setting up camp - Photo by Brian
Breakfast on the way - Photo by Brian
Glamping on site - Photo by Brian
Cycling through farms - Photo by Brian
Racing from the sea - Photo by Brian
Welcome shade at the pub - Photo by Brian
Another wedding! - Photo by Brian
Christine checks the Pimms - Photo by Brian
More tall tales - Photo by Brian
Lymington harbour - Photo by Brian
Leo races the ferry - Photo by Brian
Landing on island - Photo by Brian
Boat trip - Photo by Brian
I thought I may be doing the route on my own but luckily Brian appeared, which was a lovely surprise. We set out just after 10.00, we had a light breeze as we made our way towards Cowleaze Wood and the first viewing point of the day. We made good progress and reached our pub stop in Christmas Common close to 12.30. We found a bench in a cool spot tucked away in the car park for our sandwiches and afterwards had some drinks in the beer garden. The sun appeared just after 1.00 and we set off towards Turville Heath. Here we had the third climb of the day but were rewarded with a panoramic view.
We enjoyed the quietness of the Chiltern Hills, the red kites soaring overhead and we spotted some wild orchid and a huge display of foxgloves in the wood. There were Duke of Edinburgh groups in the area and we met one leader who was looking for a group of girls and just before that we spoke to someone who was looking for some wandering lambs.
Made it back to Ibstone just before 3.30 having completed the 12 mile route. We made really good time, thanks Brian for joining me and saving the day.
Report by Mary
Last weekend 9 of us met in Gloucestershire for the second part of our walk along the full length of the Cotswold Way.
On Friday evening we enjoyed a good curry in one of the local Indian restaurants. When I told the owner of the B&B where we were staying that we were going to walk into town for dinner, she was surprised and said that there was a steep hill. I assumed that she was underestimating our hill walking experience, but it turned out that the hill was indeed rather steep, and this was to be a recurring theme of the weekend.
On Saturday, we did the usual car shuttle and then set off at around 9:45am from the point where we had finished Part 1 of the walk back in December, in Hawkesbury Upton. We started at a good pace, but our average speed gradually fell as we encountered one steep ascent or descent after another. After lunch we encountered a number of runners who were using the Cotswold Way as part of their course - they were running in the opposite direction to us, and our crossing of a corn field was interrupted by constantly having to move aside as runner after runner came towards us.
A little further on, we were surprised to find that one thoughtful (and trusting) homeowner had set up a fridge on the edge of their property specifically for Cotswold Way walkers - it contained chilled bottles of water and an honesty box, and we were very glad to be able to top our water supplies on such a warm day. Suitably refreshed, we carried on up the hill by our B&B, where one of our group decided to take a shortcut across the golf course that would cut around 3 miles off the length of the walk (also missing some excellent views, including the Severn Crossing in the distance). After eventually realising that the rest of us hadn't followed him, he rang to find out where we were, and then decided to retrace his footsteps and join us on the correct route. We then headed down the steep hill (again) into Dursley, where we stopped for more refreshments before heading on to Uley Bury, which we finally reached at around 5:30pm after a few too many steep hills. According to the official guide book, we had walked around 17.5 miles, but in reality it was probably closer to 19 miles.
On Saturday evening, we headed down the steep hill (again) for dinner at a very good Italian restaurant. After dinner, several of us took advantage of Keith's kind offer of a lift back up the steep hill to the B&B.
On Sunday morning we resumed our walk in Uley Bury at around 10am. It was a cooler and wetter day than Saturday - but not much cooler and not too wet - and that day's walk had the additional advantage of having fewer steep ascents and descents. We passed to the west of Stroud and then up Haresfield Hill, which afforded more great views, and a suitable stop for lunch.
After lunch we carried on towards Painswick, passing the marker of the 'half-way' point (after 55 of the 102 miles) around a mile or so before the town, which we reached shortly after 3pm. Again, the official distance was around 12.5 miles, the actual distance probably closer to 13.5 miles.
Thanks to Amanda, Anna, Carol, Emma, Karen, Keith, Marin and Steve for joining me on this weekend.
Report by Phil
Poppy field - Photo by Anna
Arrival at scenic lunch spot - Photo by Anna
Lunch with a view - Photo by Anna
OK, first to find Steve is the winner - Photo by Anna
The invisible hiker sits on Marin's lap - Photo by Anna
Panoramic view of our journey - Photo by Anna
Lovely blue sky - Photo by Anna
Group shot - Photo by Anna
Viewing the Severn Estuary - Photo by Anna
Missing the blue sky on Sunday - Photo by Anna
What comes down, must go up - Photo by Anna
On the trig point - Photo by Anna
Sunny glade - Photo by Anna
9 of us met on another lovely sunny evening at Café Rouge by Kew Bridge. We managed to secure tables on the front balcony which overlooks the Thames. After drinks and introductions to the 3 new members we set off on the walk along the Thames Path. The towpath on Strand on the Green was crowded with lots of drinkers sitting outside the many pubs on this section of the path. There were also several canoe clubs out on this fine evening, plus some paddle boarders and rowing boats passing by. At Barnes Bridge we crossed the Thames with great views upstream from the footbridge. We walked through Barnes village to the common before stopping for a late meal at the Sun Inn in the beer garden facing the village pond and common.
Report by Brian
Arrival at Kew - Photo by Brian
Strand on green - Photo by Brian
Busy towpath - Photo by Brian
Barnes Bridge - Photo by Brian
5 of us met at Berkhamsted station on a fine Sunday morning. We set off promptly at 10am, heading out of town along the Grand Union Canal for a couple of miles before heading north towards Potten End. We stopped on the edge of the village to admire one particular house and the superlative views that its' owners must enjoy before moving on to the idyllic village green.
After a brief stop we carried on to Frithsden and Nettleden, stopping for lunch shortly before reaching Little Gaddesden. After lunch we walked on to the Ashridge estate, passing in front of the management college and then walking towards the Bridgewater Monument, clearly visible a couple of miles ahead of us.
We stopped at the National Trust cafe by the monument, where several of us were tempted by the cakes (including one with courgettes (?!)). After a suitably long break we started the final third of the walk south towards, and then round, Northchurch Common. Walking along the northern edge of Berkhamsted, finally we headed for the station, reaching it at around 3:40pm, just in time to catch the train back to Harrow.
Thanks to Amanda, Marin, Nathalie and Rodica for joining me on a very pleasant walk.
Report by Phil
Thirteen of us met on a warm and sunny Friday evening at the Park Farm Campsite in Kent. Martina was first there and had reserved a cosy corner on the site. Two new members to the group were Lucy and Louise. Louise required assistance putting up her tent, this was quite a challenge as it was dark and alcohol had been consumed! However, the following morning it looked just fine. Lucy showed her mettle by going for a jog along the river. Deirdre had a bit of trouble putting her tent up as there were no tent poles, Brian to the rescue with yet another spare tent. By late evening we had the full group chilling out in front of a blazing log, we sat up until the last embers died out.
With breakfast over we made ready for the main event of the day, a 13ish mile walk. The route followed the Sussex Border Path toward Northiam station, on the Kent and East Sussex Railway. Beyond Northiam we headed onto the High Weald and the return trip via Bodiam Castle. The day was hot and humid, not the kind of day to be getting lost. So I thought it best to get lost early in the day rather than when we were all a bit tired. We had only gone about a mile or so when it all went fluffy. After a little detour we were back on track. The plus side of getting lost in Kent is you always have a cracking view, apple orchards everywhere and the very distinctive oast houses. We passed by Great Dixter Gardens, where Leo felt the need for a rest and did not rejoin the group. Eventually we reached Northiam station in time to meet Martina and Bev for a spot of lunch. We sat in the pub and relaxed with a pint of local Sussex beer. While sitting at the pub we agreed that a barbecue in the evening was a good idea. Martina kindly offered to go and get the food.
The remaining walkers pressed on into a slightly cooler afternoon onto the High Weald. The next place of interest was Bodiam Castle where we encountered a rather grand looking wedding, we thought about crashing the party but we were a little underdressed. We returned to camp around 6pm. Martina had been very busy preparing the food for the barbecue. The hungry walkers ate heartily and once again the fire was lit. Festivities went on late into the evening.
Sunday morning, all had a slightly longer lie-in today, around 7am. After breakfast we all mucked in tidying and dismantling tents. Myself, Paul, Humay, Louise and Deirdre went to the world famous Sissinghurst Gardens. This was once the home of Vita Sackville-West, famous for being part of the Bloomsbury group of writers in the early part of the 20th century. The gardens were stunning and well worth a visit. Brian went to explore the East Sussex Railway, Leo and Lucy went to the coast, Mick went home.
Thank you all: Martina, Daniel, Paul, Bev, Olie, Archie, Louise, Lucy, Leo, Humay, Brian and Deirdre for joining me on a really good weekend. Regards to all.
Report by Mike D
Arrival at site - Photo by Brian
Healthy breakfast - Photo by Brian
Scene for Monet - Photo by Brian
Walk through orchards - Photo by Brian
Climb to Dixter - Photo by Brian
Great Dixter - Photo by Brian
Northiam Station - Photo by Brian
Making hay - Photo by Brian
Bodiam Castle - Photo by Brian
Another wedding! - Photo by Brian
Camp fire yarns - Photo by Brian
Striking camp in the sun - Photo by Brian
Steam railway to Tenterden - Photo by Brian
A perfect day for a long walk - a fresh breeze and mostly overcast. Not so good for photos, which cannot reflect the beauty of the area. We did not deviate from the proposed route (Emma's iPhone helped several times) until the last third, when we decided the route plotted on the OS website is much longer than I was led to believe. So we cut it to almost the advertised length - 20.02 miles.
It was rewarding - a well paced walk, some sharp climbs, great views, and a pleasant day.
Thanks Emma and Paul for joining me.
Report by Marin
Two intrepid explorers - Photo by Marin
Local housing estate - Photo by Marin
Endangered flora and fauna - Photo by Marin
How much is the doggie on the doorway? - Photo by Marin
On top of the hill - Photo by Marin
Alternative way to enjoy the Saturday afternoon - Photo by Marin
Happy customers - Photo by Marin
Natalie, Debbie, Charo, Steve T, Sandra, Monique, Abby and, of course, my puppy Jackie joined me on what we later all agreed was a most enjoyable walk, stretching from Canon's Park to the lovely old village of Stanmore, through Bentley Priory and Harrow Weald, where we all enjoyed a lovely lunch in great surroundings.
We then headed back through Bentley Priory to the starting point of Canon's Park where Charo, Sandra and I had a cuppa and ice creams. Jackie managed to empty a whole big bowl of water in one go. I have a feeling that these potential members might just join HAWOG.
Hope to see you again soon.
Report by Brigitta
6 eager navigators met at a very warm and sunny Ashurst in the New Forest on Saturday. Nigel, the trainer, led the group on a walk around the heathlands of the New Forest. He introduced the group into the basics of map reading and compass skills and also explained some of the history of the forest and how it is maintained. Lots of New Forest ponies strolled past us during the morning. We continued to Brockenhurst for lunch at a welcoming inn before trying out the skills on an afternoon hike. We were able to pass on some tips to the long line of Duke of Edinburgh hikers meeting us on the forest trails. We finished the day as always with a splendid cream tea at a thatched cottage tea room before catching the train back to London. New members Beate and Ian joined Jan, Gill, Quaim and Annika on the day.
Report by Brian
Start of course - Photo by Brian
Pond on route - Photo by Brian
Cricket in the New Forest - Photo by Brian
Lodge at Brockenhurst - Photo by Brian
Cream teas at cottage - Photo by Brian
4 of us met at Amersham station on a nice sunny day. We waited till 10:50 and then set off through the woods and down the steep hill towards Amersham old town. After a short break in Amersham old town, we continued along a path behind some houses, across the road and into a field. We accidentally took a wrong turn and ended up in Cherry lane, taking an unintended detour along the main road to reach Mop End. Following a wide track downhill through the woods, we then reached the South Bucks Way, continuing on to reach the pub in Little Missenden. After a nice lunch and some consensus discussions, we decided to not to proceed on the planned route to Great Missenden and instead return to Amersham station, following the South Bucks Way. This turned out to be a very nice route, passing by some ponds with large numbers of geese. We again passed through Amersham old town before walking up the hill to the station to finish around 15:30.
Many thanks to Lorna, Gill and Aren for joining me.
Report by Mark
12 of us travelled to Hailes Abbey campsite for a weekend of camping in an idyllic Cotswold setting next to a 12th century Cistercian Abbey with fruit farm next door. The weather was warm and sunny for the weekend and we welcomed lots of new members along on their first HAWOG camping adventure.
On Saturday Blue and Natalie departed for a equestrian day at a local stables including a fast hack over the hills and a jumping course, the rest of us stocked up for the walk at the farm shop before setting off on the 10 mile walk along the Cotswold Way. This is a splendid long-distance path which follows the Cotswold escarpment, affording stunning views over 4 counties. Our route took in several manors and a herb garden at Farmcote. We had a pub lunch in the sunny beer garden at Snowshill village with its pink Valerians and 13th century church opposite the pub.
We continued on the high trail with spectacular views over the Vale of Evesham. Reaching the very picturesque village of Stanton we stopped for cooling drinks on the balcony gardens at the Mount Inn Stanton with its great views over the valley below. We continued south through sunlit buttercup meadows within the landscaped parkland of Stanway House. Stanway itself is a Jacobean manor house built from local Guiting Yellow Stone which lights up when the sun touches it. Its enchanting gardens were designed by a numerologist and feature the highest gravity driven fountain in the world. We were blessed today as the fountain was in full force for a private wedding reception (very stylish) which Seth and Glen insisted that we gatecrash. We explored the gardens and croquet lawns before wishing the happy couple good luck and departing.
Back at the campsite Kerry and Cathy prepared a scrumptious barbecue whilst Renee created a savoury salad including fresh ingredients picked on the walk. Tim built a huge camp fire and we settled around its glow, listening to more tall tales from Leo.
On Sunday Martina and Jan cooked a large breakfast for all whilst Daniel woke all late sleepers with the radio and football. We travelled by the Gloucester and Warwick steam railway to Cheltenham racecourse. This was the start of our 11 mile walk along the Cotswold Way. The first stop was at the very impressive Ellenborough Park, a 16th century stately home now hotel and spa. Jan talked her way into the bar to order Hill Climb Prescott ales for all of us in the sunny garden courtyard. We then did the long climb up to Cleeve Cloud (Iron Age hill fort site) and the ascent to Cleeve Hill summit. This is the highest point of the Cotswold Way and there were panoramic views west of the Malverns and Welsh mountains. Our route back took in the Jacobean manor and tithe barn at Postlip and a final stop at a coaching inn at Winchcombe. Back on site Tim cooked the evening meal over the fire pit before making another captivating camp fire. Martina brought marshmallows for us to toast on the fire as we listened to more campfire yarns from Kerry and Angela.
On Monday after striking camp Tim led a group on a walk around the Slaughters before heading for Broughton on Water. Brian led the others on a walk to Winchcombe for the music festival (Ukelele bands and Crow Morris men dancing) and a final cream tea at the Lady Jane tea rooms in the stunning Cotswold countryside.
Report by Brian
Start of walk - Photo by Brian
Farmcote farm - Photo by Brian
Snowshill village - Photo by Brian
Views west - Photo by Brian
Pub with viewpoint - Photo by Brian
Stanton village - Photo by Brian
Memorial at Stanton - Photo by Brian
Stanway parkland - Photo by Brian
Gravity fountain - Photo by Brian
Surprise guest at wedding - Photo by Brian
Barbecue - Photo by Brian
Campfire yarns - Photo by Brian
Morning campers - Photo by Brian
Steam rail gal - Photo by Brian
Winchcombe station - Photo by Brian
View from Cleeve Cloud - Photo by Brian
Hill Climb Ales at manor - Photo by Brian
Lunch at golf club - Photo by Brian
Postlip Manor - Photo by Brian
Music festival - Photo by Brian
Assembling in ront of Uxbridge station, 19 people and 1 dog were raring to go on this circular route of 11 miles in total.
This was a baptism of fire as our first point of interest was unable to be viewed due to the church holding a christening ceremony, the point of interest being a curious monument in the crypt. We soldiered on regardless with the dog Jock-y-ing for position amongst the people present. After a while we walked adjacent to the idylic River Frays, stopping only to view the re-make of Constable's Haywain i.e. a shopping trolley in amongst the reeds! We crossed a bridge opposite the nature reserve to retrace our steps to the now defunct pub, the Abrook Arms.
Continuing up to Uxbridge Common, where we stopped for a break, I got out my huge flask of coffee (not a euphemism}. Crossing over the A40 we entered the entity that is Swakeleys, having a drive, a park and a Jacobean House (more than just a roundabout, Claire). Walking alongside the River Pinn the medieval Pynchester Moat appeared, one would have been moatified not to see it! This was truly the Celandine Route, named after a bunch of weeds commented one person! Our second tea stop was in a field, not the fields of barley, no Sting in the Tail there. We continued on to Ruislip Woods where Cathy, whilst concentrating on the written instructions, fell over a fallen tree. After dusting herself down she said "we must be on the right ROOT". Yet another tea stop in Ruislip Woods, a welcome relief in the shade from the baking sun, we used our loaf to escape the suns rays! This was the Hillingdon Trail where we arrived at Harefield Church, the burial place for amongst others the ANZACs.
Some people were dying to go to the toilet so I asked a gentleman if there were any toilets in the church. He said he didn't work there, he was just laying some flowers on his wife's grave. Very embarrassing! Continuing up Bird Lane to the top of the rise spectacular views of the Colne valley lakes could be seen. Descending down to the Grand Union Canal at Black Jacks Lock we turned right to make the final leg back to Uxbridge. The Bear on the Barge pub appeared into view so we stopped for a well-earned drink. We don't do anything by halves so we had a pint!
After a while we passed under the fine railway viaduct, still carrying trains from Aylesbury to Marylebone. We were on the right track! We continued past bridges, marinas and locks until the busy traffic from the A40 could be heard. The famous Parexel Building came into view and after passing The Swan and Bottle pub we made our way back to Uxbridge station, our starting point. No-one had any ideas of swanning about or bottling out at this last pub!
Many thanks to all those who supported Cathy and myself, 8 current and 11 potential members.
Report by Mike S
A cloudy and cowy day for my 24 mile walk - More Than a Stone's Throw. Eight met at Stone for ten, heading off at a very brisk 4+ mph pace, north westish over the River Thame, through Eythrope Park to paths just south of Waddesdon Manor. I wasn't sure if we we'd be allowed on all of the paths I'd planned and all looked ok until we reached a footbridge saying (words to the effect of) 'only for use by paying visitors to the Manor'. There wasn't any obvious alternative, the footpath we wanted was just across the footbridge, and we weren't visiting the Manor. So we crossed and saw more of the road around the Manor as I missed the left turning I wanted due to low sign being completely covered by leaves. We stopped for tea along the posh tree lined road, Paul S suggested we'd gone too far, and a brisk ten minute walk back and very keen eye for the footpath sign this time got us back on planned route.
Broadly north paths again, past the old Quainton Road train station - now the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre, Aylesbury - and on to the quaint Quainton village common for lunch. Making good time, we headed to our most northerly point of the day, North Marston, on route encountering - shock-horror - cows in a field. Two of us headed direct along the footpath, welcomed some of the cows who'd come to greet us, and exited the field by the intended stile; the others headed towards a barbed wire fence, ignored the cows who went to greet them, and exited the field over a barbed wire fence. Ouch! And then another barbed wire fence (pesky landowners, doubling up fences). Oh and then another two barbed wire fences to get into the next field with the path. Wonderful stuff. And a bird's eye view from a higher point for the two of us who travelled direct; kept the boredom at bay though for the fifteen minutes we patiently waited.
After North Marston we started heading south - and more cows. I could sense the excitement from some on the walk. This time though the cows were waiting to greet us at the next stile. In front of it. Wonderful. Again some decided to detour to avoid the cows; but the cows spotted them, went to greet them, and forced them to join the rest of us on Plan A. Two nil to the cows! But unfortunately no barbed wire. Sorry I'm hard to please. Tea mid afternoon at Oving, then past Whitchurch, Hardwick and Weedon. All lovely villages, especially Weedon with some very old houses and expensive looking locals, and old pub, duck house and ducks on the road with their very own sign forewarning all.
Then more cows, this time to our right as we followed a path along a corner of a field. And guess what happened next? Yes, some of the cows followed us to the corner of the field where our exit stile was. I'm hoping there might be a nice photo on our website of one of our group reaching for his bag after failing again to appreciate the warmth of the cows. One of the cows even had its tongue out to lick him.
We briefly touched the north west edge of Aylesbury before more footpaths taking us south past Whaddon Hill Farm, Lower Hartwell and back to Stone for 6.30pm. I had thought would only be five of us for the goodbyes as Paul, Phil and Marin had departed the walk a few miles before the end, only to appear ten minutes later climbing over fences - I'm guessing there must have been a ghost cow in the field which they saw, and it then followed them to the fence? I daren't ask! You can tell me next time we meet, guys.
Anyway, all returned having done 23.69 miles - I saw Marin's phone, he said he couldn't say, must be shock of me being very close to intended mileage... Other phones of course had different mileages. A good day's walk I think, mostly new paths and places for me, a few poorly marked stiles and signs though but navigation ok with my 1:50k map. Big thanks to Marin, Paul S and Phil (HAWOG) and Paul, Richard (who'd travelled from Swindon for the walk) and Thomas (C2030s Young Ramblers) and Carol and me (both groups) for coming on the walk.
Report by Steve
Spot the leader of the walk - Photo by Marin
...or the numbers of opinions in this photo - Photo by Marin
The main theme of the day - Photo by Marin
Mr. Putin spotted on his secret visit in Buckinghamshire - Photo by Marin
The cows did not win this time! - Photo by Marin
Try to interpret the body language - Photo by Marin
Idyllic scene with 2 mutineers plotting in the background - Photo by Marin
On Friday 6 of us congregated at YHA Totland Bay, arriving at various times, all of us taking the train/ferry option. After settling in Jeff, myself and Ines went for last orders at the local hostellery. Ines' charm / guile worked on the barman as he promised her a fresh mackerel!
Saturday started with damp conditions, this led me to the conclusion that we should head for the Needles and do a slightly shorter circular walk than originally planned. Heading towards Alum Bay we soon made our first climb which resulted in "ooous and ahhhas!". Monica was a mine of information regarding the wild environment / flora and fauna (what doesn't she know!). We soon reached the chair lift on the beach and we marvelled at the coloured sands on the cliff face. We went onto the old Battery where there were bunkers with displays of British defensive arms, not only that this was a research centre for space exploration particularly pertaining to Britain's first space satellite "Prospero" (still encircling us apparently!). I decided this should be our lunch stop as there was a tea room selling some tempting light lunch bites! From this point we concentrated on doing some hard yards walking along the cliff edge battling strong winds before reaching the dramatic "Tennyson Monument". This was one of the few opportunities for me to show off as I explained to our European contingent that the monument marked a golden age in the arts in Britain with the Romantic movement to the fore incorporating artists, poets, writers, architects, landscapers(?). We continued on Tennyson Down which ended at the dramatic Freshwater Bay. From here we cut inland northbound through an indeterminate path through some reed beds. Thanks to some expert map reading from Jeff we meandered our way back to the hostel. Before we headed out for the evening we met three outdoor groups from Wales and shared a conversation regarding YHA / group politics!
On Sunday we headed to Newport with various activities in mind. We again ignored plan A 'The Tennyson Trail', instead we took a ticket to Ryde - and we cared! We aimed to walk west to Fishbourne which took in part of the northern part of the Coastal Path. Our first point of interest was a church with a seperate Roman arch. At this point I decided to explain cricket to Elena (from the Dolomites). I warned her that some people thought it was like watching paint dry! However she thought it fascinating and she wanted to see a match! I recovered from this shock as we carried on west, reaching the medieval ruins of Quarr Abbey. We then moved onto the 19th century version which was dramatic - it was part monastery part imposing Abbey with a woodland walk, museum, art gallery and a tea shop....lunchtime! From there we reached Fishbourne, a good place to chill. As the sun shone we enjoyed the panoramic landscape watching the ferries roll in! Here we eventually reached the steam railway, alas the last train had gone! Never mind, tired of trapsing we bussed it into Newport. Not a lot of interest for a capital, we found a livelier quayside with some trendier restaurants, we would spend the evening here. The conversation flowed, especially Elena and Ines dominated proceedings with their travel / work experiences. If those two don't become CEOs within 6 years I'll eat my hat! Even Blossom woke up, she gave us the alternative view - very impassioned!
On Monday, Blossom Monica and Elena left early, myself Jeff and Ines decided to go on the steam railway. This was via Carisbrooke Castle. The railway delighted Ines (from Lisbon via Madrid). We stopped at Havenstreet where lunch could be taken alongside fine cask ales and a model of the Hairy Porter! Ines and I went back to the big smoke whilst Jeff decided to stay on (oh these people of leisure!).
Talking of which I would like to thank him for his part, as well as Blossom, Ines, Elena and Monica.
PS Ines got her mackerel!
Report by Humay
Definitely, our Netherlands is hillier than the country with the same name. And we will probably never know if the distance was 17.85 or 18 something miles. I will not get political and suggest My Tracks on my mobile are a tad conservative. I will rather play the race card and say that the Chinese and South Koreans have different definition for meter (translation - the fundamental unit of length in the International System of Units).
The weather was good - some rain drops only tested our rapid response to putting on and taking off our rainproof jackets. The tests were passed with flying colours. If Putin had watched the second episode of The Game on BBC2 (you should not do it - the plot is quite offending by the lack of intelligence in a series about intelligence) and wants to drop the big one I believe we can duck and dive quickly enough to tell the story to the future generations on Yesterday Channel (or Yesterday + 1 for people watching other channels at busy periods). In the second part, the sunshine forced some of us to use the colonial hats.
It was great fun, and my orienteering skills were so good that I am still amazed at the ease with which I navigated through so many (but not treacherous) woods!
Thanks to Emma and Phil for trusting me, even if there was no other alternative on this day.
Report by Marin
Admiring the Silent Pool, which proved to be more awe inspiring than I initially I thought it would be - Photo by Marin
The old parish church in Albury - unfortunately this was the closest we could get - Photo by Marin
A ford in an idyllic village - Shere. I bet they did not build a bridge over this petty stream only to show off their 4x4's - effing Tory voters, NHS destroyers, etc, etc. - Photo by Marin
The Old Prison House in the same village - soon to detain all the socialist freedom fighters - Photo by Marin
Houses in Little London - shame Ed is gone now and they will not be bulldozed - Photo by Marin
The essence of spring - Photo by Marin
Ed's bulldozer - Photo by Marin
Two philosophical alpacas, not bothered by the new organic vineyards planted over their fence - proof that global warming and globalisation can coexist and it is good for us - Photo by Marin
Pill box, still useful if the EU does not like the result of the 2017 referendum - Photo by Marin
The long and winding road - Photo by Marin
Fantasy in Red - Photo by Marin
Three happy survivors - Photo by Marin
A beautiful spring walk. Bluebells carpeting the woods and bright yellow rape covering the fields. 13 keen walkers in total which included 4 new people from the 'Meet Up' website. A couple of slight diversions from the original route (which may have added slightly to the mileage) but did not distract from the scenic sights. Lunch in Seer Green (either in the pub or a comfy bench in the churchyard opposite) was a great resting place. All in all a lovely outing in the British countryside.
The following people attended the event: Phil, Amanda, Sean, Patrick, Derek, Ann-Christin, Katarina, Jane, Mike, Avril, Emma, Mary and Brigitta.
Report by Pamela
9 of us met at Milford on Saturday for the new members walk. 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. On the bridleways several horse riders passed us today, they were probably practising for the horse trials seen in the afternoon.
Our route then joined the Greensand Way, a well signed national trail crossing very scenic Surrey hillsides and meadows. We reached 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 White Horse inn on the village green. In the sunny beer garden Keith explained the basics of navigation to new members Elena, Louisa and Romain.
Our afternoon route took in the rights of way which afford free access to most of Winkworth arboretum. The rhododendron and magnolia trees were impressively colourful and we walked through the bluebell woods before crossing to the boat house on the lake. We then continued north, passing several manors and mansions in the hidden hamlets on the hills. At Munstead Heath we came across the horse trials under way; Kasia pointed out the intricacies of the dressage and jumping competition on display. We then descended to Godalming, stopping for final tiffin at the pavement café on Godalming market square before joining the trains back to London.
Report by Brian
Start of walk - Photo by Brian
Idylic fishing lake - Photo by Brian
Enton Mill - Photo by Brian
Crossing golf course - Photo by Brian
Horses on route - Photo by Brian
Lunch at Hascombe - Photo by Brian
Village church - Photo by Brian
Famous chapel at Hascombe - Photo by Brian
Octavia Hill Bench - Photo by Brian
Greensand Way views - Photo by Brian
Winkworth Arboretum - Photo by Brian
Horse trials - Photo by Brian
A lovely day - warm for this time of the year and sunny throughout.
I did not find the signs at the exit of the car park, so we started by walking in a circle for a bit. Surprisingly, this was the only deviation from the intended route that occurred. I was concentrating so much that I did not even pay attention to the most important sight to be seen on the route - Charles Darwin's house in Downe.
The route was scenic with all the shades of shiny greens that spring can offer, bluebells and all, despite being in London, within the M25. We climbed some hills, though "not menacing" ones, as advertised! Some of them offered great views, including a great one with Canary Wharf and City skyscrapers on the horizon.
The food at the Blacksmith's Arms in South Cudham was very good and the company great, as it was throughout the walk. Before the end of the walk, we stopped for ice cream at a farm shop, but we discovered that it stocked more types of food than we could ever have imagined you could find in England, such as "super snouts", cow noses, pig tails, "small (!) beef throats", and some other things that should only be mentioned in private!
Many thanks to Deirdre, Emma, Keith and Paul for joining Rodica and putting up with me on this very pleasant walk.
Report by Marin and Rodica
Bluebells - Photo by Marin
Up on the hill, some quicker than others - Photo by Marin
Those small faintly grey dots are the actual skyscrapers - Photo by Marin
The welcoming pub - Photo by Marin
Segregated walk - Photo by Marin
Sitting down in Downe city centre - Photo by Marin
Someone trying quietly to join the walk - Photo by Marin
A shop with something for every taste... - Photo by Marin
Twelve footprints departed Princes Risborough at 10am prompt on Saturday. Six from members of the Chilterns2030s Ramblers, two from HAWOG, and four from members of both groups. And no new footprints from the train station which we reached shortly afterwards to meet anyone arriving by train.
I had a rough idea of a route and an aim to try some new paths, which we promptly did on our way into Bledlow via Saunderton. Later in the morning we reached Henton, Emmington and then Sydenham village where we stopped for tea in the church at midday. Our biggest new path of the route followed as we headed north through New Park and Thame Park to reach our half way and lunch point at the lovely town of Thame. We'd been lucky as the rain had stopped just as the walk started and by midday the sun was shining brightly and we were warm.
After lunch, we headed east towards Haddenham where we stopped for tea at the duck pond and church. Then through Aston Sandford and some more new paths (for me at least) south ish to Black Barn Farm were we departed to the road; note for future it's private property so need to continue on the path, would've helped if (a) the gates across the farm were not tied up and (b) there was a sign at the footpath saying the track to the road was private.
From the road we continued south to Ilmer - somewhere new to me - a lovely village with an idyllic church and views, in particular of the Chilterns ahead of us. More south followed, through The Ford, then the east footpath along the old railway line to Princes Risborough and the start point by 5.30pm.
Mileage, well Marin's electronic gadget said the mileage was 21, so lets say it was 18 miles plus an ish of 3, well within the combined margins of error of Marin, his gadget and me. Thanks to (girls) Carol, Geri and Sharon and (guys) Marin and Michael for joining me on a wonderful walk without hills in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire countryside.
Report by Steve
Looking for footprints - Photo by Marin
Walking into Windows 95 desktop background - Photo by Marin
Lunch al fresco in the centre of Thame - Photo by Marin
Haddenham idyllic village green, before the Chinese chef passed by and left no footprints - Photo by Marin
Due to the speed and the distance (21.5 miles, don't listen to any biased person trying to cover his miscalculations) the blooming spring was admired and photographed on the run - Photo by Marin
Continuous running - Photo by Marin
Someone has to work even on Saturdays - Photo by Marin
8 happy footprints, 40 fingers etc. - Photo by Marin
26 of us gathered in Whitby for the Easter break. The train journey through the Howardian Hills was very scenic. We stayed at the Abbey House a 17th century mansion next to the Abbey with superb views over the harbour. We discovered the Abbey tea gardens for post arrival tiffin before the early arrivals explored Whitby town including the clifftop walk on North shore. In the evening most of the group had a welcoming fish and chips feast at the famous Magpie café.
On Good Friday we had a variety of walks. Steve led a group on a 16 ish mile walk from Scalby, just north of Scarborough. Route headed west following Sea Cut and the Derwent River, then up through Wykeham Forest for lunch at a viewpoint; the day was grey but mostly dry. Afternoon, we headed south taking in Sawdon and Wykeham villages, walking along a converted railway path, then east past East Ayton and the remains of its castle and then back to start point via a lovely river valley and four woods: Forge Valley, Scarwell, Raincliffe and Rowbrow.
Leo led his group on a waterfall walk near Goathland before losing them in search of a "nearby pub"; it was in fact 3 miles away and was a converted factory with special licencing laws. Keith led another group on a hike around the famous Hole of Horcum, involving a detour through a very modern milking shed (David and Ruth A would be very impressed).
The majority of the group travelled through the Moors on the newly extended North Yorks Moors Railway. A 56 mile round trip by steam train starting from Whitby station. The railway traverses the most remote parts of the Moors and affords magnificent views of the valleys and peaks. We explored Pickering castle and market town before alighting at the Newtondale Halt (only accessible by rail or on foot) for a 7 mile hike over the higher Moorlands. We trekked across a plateau of purple heather and boggy terrain before reaching Goathland for the station tea rooms. After evening meals at various pubs Leo led a nocturnal town walk discovering some hitherto unknown watering venues before helpfully telephoning at 6am to wake Steve Q in the dorm to proffer a suggestion for breakfast at dawn by the harbour.
On Saturday after Mike had cooked a communal breakfast we departed on the coastal walk on the Cleveland Way. This long distance footpath takes in all of North Yorkshire coast and the Howardian Hills. The day was bright and sunny all day with panoramic views north and south along the coastline. Irena showed resourcefulness in reuniting a lost dog with her owner, Monica (RSPB) indicated to all the various birds seen on route. At Robins Hood Bay Carol, Keith and Steve departed early to reach Ravenscar before following the Cinder path back to Whitby, a good 20+ miles walked in total in lovely warm afternoon sun.
The rest of the group had a leisurely picnic lunch in the sunny gardens of Robins Hoods Hotel. In the gardens we also took in the Birds of Prey display before exploring the fishing village. Our route started with a beach walk to Boggle Hole before the long climb to Ravenscar. We fell upon the captivating tea rooms at the old station square where we took over the café for some rather splendid cream teas.
Bev, Olly and Archie did a cultural day with the Captain Cook museum and the Dracula trail around the old town. Back in Whitby Jan arranged a group meal for everyone at the harbourside Board Inn. We then found live music next door where Conrad, Appi and Natalie impressed the locals with their dance moves. Cathy arranged by tradition the post pub midnight feasts at the hostel where we were joined each night by the friendly Abbey security manger. New members Joan and Olga joined Leo's nocturnal walk around Whitby being entranced by his salsa moves.
Easter Sunday saw a variety of activities. Jan, Humay and Mary did a coastal walk heading north along the coast from Whitby. After reaching Sandsend bay it seemed an appropriate stop for elevenses. The cafe had an outside seating area just perfect for taking in the sea view. We continued along the Cleveland way for a further 5 miles to reach Runswick. We met Debbie and Keith at one of the many view points along the way. This is an exceptionally beautiful part of the route helped along by blue skies and our walk ended with a fairly steep descent to reach the beach at Runswick Bay. We had a very leisurely late lunch taking in the sun whilst Humay sketched the scenic hamlet.
Steve led a 17 mile walk from the hostel. North along the coastal path to Sandsend, then inland through Mulgrave Woods (only open to public three days a week) stopping for tea at its castle. For lunch, we continued west to Ugthorpe, by which time the sun was beaming and most of us were in t shirts - temperatures must have been in the mid teens. South and east ish paths followed, taking us through Hutton Mulgrave Wood. We continued on making the most of the early summer weather, and were rewarded with more hills and views following paths to Ruswarp village and then north paths to Whitby harbour. Thanks to (girls) Carol, Debbie, Irena and Monica and (guys) Keith and Nirav for joining Steve on this walk.
Brian led the rest of the party on a cycle ride from the hire centre at Hawsker along the Cinder path (converted railway between Scarborough and Whitby). Great views of the sea along the route, we stopped for lunch at Ravenscar where the station square was packed with walkers and cyclists outside the tea shop. We continued to Hayburn Wyke passing meadows of daffodils and restored station buildings at Staintondale. We stopped for cooling drinks in the beer gardens at the impressive 18th century hotel before our return ride to base. Back at YHA all the groups had late afternoon tea in the Abbey tea gardens where Jeff outlined the basis of the Synod of Whitby.
On Monday we had various cultural expeditions. Leo led his group on a pilgrimage to Castle Howard for a Brideshead re-enactment, Appi's teddy being Aloysius for added verisimilitude. Brian led another group on a coastal walk by Scarborough, passing the imposing Castle before following the surfing beach trail of North Sands. We finished with ice creams on the beach on another fine sunny day in North Yorkshire.
Report by Brian
Rail views over York - Photo by Brian
Abbey views - Photo by Brian
Whitby Harbour - Photo by Brian
Hostel tea shop - Photo by Brian
Steam railway in moors - Photo by Brian
Alighting for walk - Photo by Brian
Hike through heather - Photo by Brian
Start of walk - Photo by Brian
Coastal views - Photo by Brian
Robin Hood Bay Hotel - Photo by Brian
Sunset over Abbey - Photo by Brian
More fish and chips - Photo by Brian
Cycle hire at old station - Photo by Brian
Cycle track on coast - Photo by Brian
End of bike ride - Photo by Brian
Waterfall - Photo by Mike S
Scarborough Castle - Photo by Mike S
Ten in total started out,
Startled first by such a sight,
A giant dog, the size of a cow,
With Friesian pattern to boot,
In sunshine bright. We passed on foot
Keeper's cottage with statues and barrows,
Camels and Reindeer at Whipsnade Zoo,
But no wallaby to view,
And on to the church for tea,
Before seeing the Cathedral trees,
Then lunch with kites,
And watered down coffees,
We watched the gliders,
At Dunstable Downs, a great view,
And spring in the air, then
Back to the start past chickens,
With footballs, and a sleeping pig,
Pay 99 quid and you can take one home,
And several meals more, just ring Tony.
So thank you to all who came along,
and made it such a special day,
Carol and Steve, Pushpa and Clare,
Emma, Mark, Nick,
Erika and Helen.
Report by David H
We meet a camel - Photo by David H
Sun see sand and Carol - Photo by Steve
Church tea stop - Photo by David H
Clare showing off her missing right leg - Photo by Steve
The shadows show we were following a south west ish path part of the afternoon - Photo by Steve
£99 each - Photo by David H
Last hill of the day - Photo by David H
Stripping off - Photo by David H
First Henry awarded - Photo by Brian
Leo wins again - Photo by Brian
Fourteen of us set out on a dry Sunday morning with spring in the air. The hike moved along smoothly, in fact so smoothly that the organiser lost her way a little. Luckily it was only a 10 minute diversion. From then on the path was clear and we did not deviate again.
Lunch in The Lee was pleasant with some attendees enjoying an Italian meal inside the pub while others rested on the Common. Soon after setting off again it started to drizzle and just when it felt like it was going to get worse it abruptly stopped. We were all relieved. Great Missenden came into sight just as we passed under the National Grid and it was a pleasant hike down the valley and into the village. The organiser was amazed that we had finished at 3 pm instead of the intended 4 pm.
I really enjoyed the company of a cheerful group of people and would like to thank Emma, Phil, Amanda, Mark P, Steve, Adrian, Monica, Richard, Paul, Zelia, Eunice and Cristina.
Report by Christina
A record number of attendees, including a few four-legged prospective members, turned out in the sunshine for this lovely walk. Twenty-four of us headed along the Chiltern Way, out of Hambleden, towards Skirmett and Fingest. Those at the front of the walk startled a large herd of young deer, a beautiful sight, almost as many as we had attendees! Red kites also seemed to be attracted to the large train of walkers. The clear skies meant the views were superb. A few of our hardier walkers were disappointed that we decided not to climb up the steep hill to the windmill (of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang fame). Instead we explored the first of the day's churches, the beautiful tiny church in Fingest. Lunch was in Turville where we split between the churchyard and the pub. We seemed to visit these old village churches in order of size, Turville, being a little bigger, and finally Hambleden.
All went well as we skidded through the mud in the woods in the afternoon, although a few managed to end up on their bums in the mud, and the walk leader managed to follow the planned route until she realised she had lost her camera! It took a little time before the extremely capable navigators up ahead noticed that the leader and back marker were missing! Thanks to Claire for helping and rushing on alone while the leader retraced her steps, Keith for running back to join me, everyone for waiting patiently and especially the navigators who got everyone back to the start point precisely timed to arrive back at the same time as Keith and I, who tried an off-piste route. And best of all, one of our number had picked up the camera soon after I dropped it, so I was delighted to recover the camera and so have the evidence that we really were a group of twenty-four!
Some of us had refreshments in the Stag and Huntsman, when the heavens opened... perfect timing all round!
Thanks to prospective members Baz, Tim, Rachael, Louisa, Vjera, Russell, Marcela, Ana, Geovana, Andrea, Nicole, Nathalie and Monica and to 'old-hat' members Claire, Pushpa, Marin, Rodica, Phil, Mike D, Keith T, Mark, Avril and Derek for their great company and their extreme patience with the camera shenanigans! And not to forget our four-legged friends!
Report by Deirdre
The deer started to run away as soon as they saw us - Photo by Phil
Waiting for some of our large group to catch up - Photo by Phil
The long column in action in the fields - Photo by Marin
One of the muddiest stretches of the walk - Photo by Phil
Approaching Turville - Photo by Phil
Fingest in the distance - Photo by Marin
and its proud church - St Bartholomew's - Photo by Marin
Group photo - Photo by Phil
Arrival at venue - Photo by Brian
Christina choses biggest meal on menu - Photo by Brian
Jan just misses the cut - Photo by Brian
Last Sunday dawned clear, sunny and frosty rather than blowing a gale and pouring with rain as predicted by the weather people. Eight of us met at Cockfosters to continue on our journey around the M25 for hikers, the London Loop. The Loop restarts right next to Cockfosters tube station and this section is particularly rural. Wending its way through the old royal hunting forest that was Enfield Chase, you could forget at times that you are anywhere near a city. We started walking through Trent Park, once granted by George III to his favourite physician as a thank you for saving his brother's life in Trento in the Tyrol.
Following the valley of Salmon's Brook we passed a cluster of houses on the skyline known as Botany Bay, so named apparently for their isolation and loneliness. We then passed through the clay shooting ground of Rectory Farm, almost being mown down by a red sports car and several Land Rovers on their way back from or to a shoot I presume. Salmon's Brook then made way for the picturesque Turkey Brook which we followed until it joined the River Lee.
Due to the bitter cold and the warning of "rain arriving at 2" we stopped very briefly to eat a packed lunch in Hilly Fields Park on Clay Hill, so briefly in fact that Efisia did not even have time to drink her tiny cup of tea from the Rose and Crown pub. In fact I still feel guilty about it, sorry Fi. We then briefly entered urbanity again reaching Enfield before entering the beautiful Sewardstone Marsh Nature Reserve and then starting our climb to the top of Daws Hill where the two vast reservoirs that supply over a quarter of all of London's water can be seen in the distance. Making our way down the hill we entered Gilwell Park, the international centre for the scout movement. At this point the mud that had been hard work all through the day turned into a quagmire and our pace dropped down considerably. I guess those scouts had been out on manoeuvres churning up the forest tracks.
From there we entered Chingford golf course, where the players are required to wear red, there were definitely a couple that adhered to this rule but the majority seemed to prefer other garish colours instead. Just as we reached the open grass of Chingford Plain with the Tee House Cafe in sight the promised rain arrived with a vengeance. Running the last 5 minutes with a few families that were also caught out we made it to the cafe, where a small boy announced "I am never walking again" to his mother! Hopefully my other fellow walkers don't have a similar viewpoint! Many thanks to everyone who joined me, Phil, Efisia, Karen, Amanda, and newcomers Sara, Iwona and Dan.
Report by Emma
Two turned up and yet eight legs walking... How come? Well, Jeff's, mine and my little dog's ones. Even though one of the smallest groups ever, we still had a most enjoyable walk and met lots of interesting people on the way, including many fellow-doggies for my four legged friend Jackie. We went to the "Hare" for lunch where even Jackie's needs were met. He was pampered with a drink of, well...not scotch...but water that he was more than happy with, and a lovely treat. Thank you J&J for your lovely company. Must do something similar again soon.
Report by Brigitta
Start of auction - Photo by Brian
Mike demonstrates star prize - Photo by Brian
We gathered in Chenies village on a grey overcast Sunday morning. 10 of us set off just after 10:00 and followed the River Chess, heading west as we left Chenies. We passed Latimer House and not long after that a farm. As we made our way to Ley Hill the paths became very muddy and this was the case for much of the day. We reached Ley Hill just after noon. We continued for another hour to reach our lunch destination in Flaunden.
The Bricklayers Arms turned out to be a very good choice and it was busy but the diners amongst us managed to grab a window table. It has a Michelin-trained chef and the food was pronounced excellent. There is lots of seating outside too. After lunch we said goodbye to Steve and Fiona who decided to return to Chenies by taking the most direct route following the road. Shortly after we entered Lower Plantation wood the sun came out and we had a few hours of bright sunshine. We made our way through Chipperfield Common along a wide woodland path before dropping down to Sarratt.
From there we headed to Church End walking downhill to join the River Chess once again and a walk back into Chenies arriving back at 16:30. Thanks to Deirdre, Claire, Erika, Dave, Emma, Pushpa, Dolores, Steve and Fiona for joining me on the 13 mile route.
Report by Mary
7 of us made it to the Surrey Hills on Saturday, arriving just in time to see the Cathedrals Express steam train hurtle by. The fields and bridges alongside the line were crowded with photographers. We headed west into the woods beside the Witley estate. This was the setting for the Xanadu-inspired palace (with underwater lair) of Whittaker Wright, the infamous Victorian railway magnate. We climbed the slightly boggy paths south with several river crossings on timber bridges and the obligatory railway crossing.
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 fireplaces. 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 where Christopher led us to a very welcoming tea shop with some splendid Victoria sponges and creatively designed tea pots.
New members Lucia, Christopher, Macy, Loreto and Vanshee joined regular members Jeff and Brian today.
Report by Brian
Cathedral Express - Photo by Brian
Another level crossing - Photo by Brian
Bridge soon after the start - Photo by Brian
Coombe Court farm - Photo by Brian
Arrival at Chiddingfold - Photo by Brian
Inside Crown Inn - Photo by Brian
Crown Inn dining room - Photo by Brian
Holdfast Cottage - Photo by Brian
Tea shop at Haslemere - Photo by Brian
We arranged our first training event of the year at a cold but dry Richmond Park on Saturday. 9 members came along to learn map reading skills. We had a theory session at the ever popular Tide Tables café by the river. Then the new members took it in turn to lead the group, following the OS map, through Petersham into Richmond Park. The park today was busy with red and roe deer, cyclists and a drone hovering overhead. We practised route-finding skills to find the Pen Ponds, White Lodge and finally Roehampton cycle café (very good baguettes today). After lunch the other new members guided us back to Richmond village for the trains back.
Welcome to new members joining today - Jo, Paula, Paul, Carissa, Martin, Mannie and Pam, with existing members Ian and Brian.
Report by Brian
Theory session at Tide Tables - Photo by Brian
Viewpoint in park - Photo by Brian
Pen ponds - Photo by Brian
Red deer in the park - Photo by Brian
Cycle cafe - Photo by Brian
Turner's viewpoint - Photo by Brian
Thirteen of us met at Hartington Hall YHA near Buxton for the Bonnie South Peak District weekend. Anna and Keith got the full 'Bonnie' experience as they slept in the room where Bonnie Prince Charlie allegedly slept in 1745 during the Jacobite rebellion.
After a hearty breakfast at the YHA, on Saturday morning we set off across snowy tracks for a ~13 mile walk down Biggin Dale and the upper part of Dove Dale before heading back north west through Stanshope, Alstonefield, Narrowdale Hill and Beresford Dale.
We looked forward to the sweet twittering of birds in the trees but instead were assailed by dubious soft rock music from a ghetto blaster of a few tree surgeons. Luckily, they soon left us and at the meeting point of Biggin Dale and Dove Dale we had a tea stop and caused some hillside erosion of delicate limestone plants. The River Dove did not let me down and soon I spotted a beautiful dipper with white breast and brown plumage dipping up and down on the rocks in the river. During lunch at Milldale we enjoyed 'instant' coffee and friendly ducks.
The next part of the walk along the non-touristy side of the River Dove was slippery and a few got muddy backsides, including myself. Just after Dove Holes we walked up Hall Dale to the West. Alstonefield, further north, had a good pub for a stop and Narrowdale Hill provided good views. The evening meal was at the Devonshire Arms, 5 minutes down the road in Hartington.
On Sunday, the skies were wonderfully blue and we took the cars 10 minutes to the west to Hulme End in Staffordshire to start the walk at the Manifold Way Visitor Centre and car park. The ~9 mile walk took us south along the Manifold Way that follows the River Manifold. We had a coffee break at Wetton Mill and then walked on to Thor's Cave for lunch. Prehistoric man once lived in the cave, but it was a bit chilly for us so we decamped to a nearby sunny hillside after a short visit.
A short way further south we took steep lanes and footpaths up to Wetton. The name derives from the old English 'wet hill' but it was dry and sunny for us. Further north we traversed Wetton Hill and Ecton Hill. For 3,500 years, starting in the Bronze age, copper and lead was mined on Ecton Hill. Making a steep descent down to Ecton we rejoined the Manifold Way and arrived back at Hulme End just before 4 pm.
Thanks to Emma, Mary, Keith, Anna, Steve, Efisia, Dave, Paul, Raj, Darren, Erika and David for a lovely weekend to enjoy winter at its best.
Report by Carol
Early arrivals visit an old acquaintance - The Great Ridge - Photo by Keith
High point - Mam Tor - Photo by Keith
Who forgot the sledge? - Photo by Keith
Anna's impression of Paul but she keeps her shirt on - Photo by Keith
Group photo about to start the walk - Photo by Anna
Keith and Emma playing with their electronic gadgets - Photo by Anna
River Dove - Photo by Anna
Shepherding an unruly bunch - Photo by Keith
Between a rock and a wet place - Photo by Keith
Unexpected! - Photo by Keith
Raj and Darren are number two and three in the snow... - Photo by Steve
...followed by Paul and Mary - Photo by Steve
A determined group of walkers - Photo by Anna
Snowy weekend on the Peaks - Photo by Anna
St. Giles Church, Hartington Hall - Photo by Anna
Hartington Hall YHA - Photo by Anna
Thor's Cave - Photo by Anna
Lunch break at Thor's Cave - Photo by Keith
Stepping up to the steep up - Photo by Steve
A peek at the snow, sun and happy walkers - Photo by Steve
Lovely view on a Sunday afternoon - Photo by Anna
Enjoying the sun - Photo by Anna
Decision time, do you want to shorten the walk? - Photo by Anna
Peak District beautiful landscape - Photo by Anna
Final destination for tyred walkers - yes, wheely - Photo by Steve
Six of us assembled at Rickmansworth station at 10.30am, three members and three potential members. The less than benign weather forecasts of the previous night, fortunately proved quite inaccurate. Though cold the weather was bright and clear, and once the walk commenced we were suitably warmed. The walk commenced from the station down to the lakes, and we did a circuit of the lakes before finding our way to the towpath of the Grand Union Canal, and took a northerly route. We passed many houseboats moored on the canal, and the smell of freshly made toast and bacon was very tempting. Managed to dodge out of the way of the runners, cyclists and dog walkers as we made our way along the canal towpath for a couple of miles, and stopped to witness a narrow boat safely navigating through one of the locks.
Our return journey took us back through the lakes to the "Café in the park", where we stopped for tiffin, including scones provided by yours truly. Kate regaled us with tales of "derring do" from her recent trip to China and Japan, whilst Deirdre was doing her best to create some additional interest in her Wye Valley / Forest of Dean trip in September. Also managed to learn about some "hidden jewels" in the Catalonia property market from Blanca. Made our way back to the station for just after 1pm - so everyone was home in time for Sunday lunch.
Thanks to Deirdre, Blanca, Kate, David and Scott for coming along.
Report by Roger
Arriving at Gatwick airport in the early hours of Thursday to check in for our 06:30 Monarch flight to Alicante we rushed to check in, even though we had only hand luggage (Monarch have the opposite policy to Ryanair and easyJet - you queue up at check in for hand luggage and pay extra if you want to check in online). Not much of a queue, I guess many bit the bullet and paid the £14 tax for being an organised customer.
All went well on the flight with the captain predicting 6 degrees when we got there it was 16c in fact. After picking up goodies from tourist information such as a map of Alicante a waiting minibus took us to our car hire depot around the corner where we picked up our 7 seater Opel Zafira and sped off on our 20 minute spin to Alicante.
It was a lovely day with lonely wisps of white cloud drifting aimlessly across the otherwise clear blue sky and so whereas it might be traditional to rest your head after a night of not sleep there was an eagerness in the air so after dropping our bags, a spring clean of the flat, a grocery shop and making the beds in preparation of a later inevitably well-deserved sleep, we headed off to El Palmeral a free palm grove park with waterfalls and a café where we trotted around and had a drink in the hidden cafe for a few hours till darkness, heading back along a dirt track by the beach over a railway line bridge requiring a clamber over soldered-shut barriers and down through the old town and home; well not home but where we were staying. Interesting and very scenic first day in Alicante, nearly walked every street in town.
Tibi Reservoir (oldest in Europe)
It had been a long day so we slept well, awake next morning the troops prepared a delicious breakfast and I plotted our escape for the day. Thankfully there was not mutiny when I suggested Pantana Tibi, the oldest man-made reservoir in Europe, built in the 14th century. Now finding it was another matter, with just two Spanish reviews on Trip Advisor I drove through Xixona aka Jijona (the home of Turron honey and almond chocolate) and onto Tibi where I hoped to see the turn off for Tibi reservoir. After assistance from Steve's gadgetry we ascertained there was a hairpin bend on the road between Tibi and Jijona where we discovered that the local word for reservoir was pantana not ebalse as written on all the maps, so discovered when we saw a sign for Pantano Tibi on a sharp bend and took the turn down a rugged downward spiralling mountain hiking paths/road. As the road became even more rubbley, I began to wonder if someone with a wicked sense of humour had moved the sign, my heart was racing and legs shaking in anticipation at what may be around the next corner, the sharp turns and drops were relentless, eventually we saw the reservoir/pantano/embalse and I stopped the car to make sure we were not just about to drive over the edge into it. 100 metres down the road was a derelict building, the one that I had been aiming for, and a public refuse bin and a car park - we had made it! I raced up to the troupers and beckoned them down to the wonderful views. Just in case anyone else was mad enough to trundle down this rocky dirt track I moved the car to the car/dust park. And so now the exploration began, we found a cave going from one side to the other and a small beach, lemon groves but we only had an hour or so before darkness would set in so after a jolly good photo session we headed back and enjoyed a meal out. Very scenic and unspoilt area around the reservoir, no gift shops or toilets here. Found a small cave, Irena went in and didn't come out so I assumed she was happy in there, walked away and took more pictures.
Algar waterfall and Guadalest
Saturday we headed off to Algar falls near Callosa, a beautiful landscaped spot with walks all along the waterfall and excellent viewing spots along with a little secret bit at the end. Lots of photos were taken and after some free varied fruit gathering by experienced scavengers we headed off to Guadalest Castle where we were greeted by very high winds but spectacular views over the Guadalest Embalse (as they call it here), lots of historic buildings and even a little walk around the rocks at the base enjoyed by a couple of us, then back to base where we enjoyed a warehouse-sized buffet at the Colonial.
I wasn't aware that I was travelling with a bunch of thieves and scavengers who devoured the nearby bushes of its fruit. After lugging it back to the flat we found most of it to be unripe, inedible. Leo kindly gave some to his neighbour, she must have appreciated it as we heard her later saying something nice in Spanish.
Font Roja Natural Park
The past few days was a gentle warm up now for the biggie - Font Roja - 1356 metres with 360 degree views. Up we corkscrewed from Alcoy below up to the car park at 1050 metres for the gentle stroll of 300 metres up the mountain along a 4x4 track that the meteorologist uses at the top. If a car can go up there what's the problem - it was in theory a warm day! In Alcoy the temperature was 8c, as we drove up the font Roja road the temperature dropped to 6c, 4c, 2c and then 0 at the car park where the water pools left from snow the previous week were frozen. One could assume with the winds at the top we would be talking -3 to -5c at the top. A very scenic path with lots of views, platforms and a picnic area half way. Along the way we passed an ice cave where in past centuries food was kept over the winter, I have one photo but not a great fan of heights so just poked my camera over the void. Onto the top where we all gathered for a group photo and various snapshots of the panoramic views. Me and Pushpa were for the record first to the top although the 3000 photos taken by Irena may have slowed her progress somewhat, can't wait to see them though (didn't have enough time on the holiday to see all 3000 you see, I'd need another week).
In theory that was it with a shortish direct route down the yellow steep wood path to the car park; however although I had been here before there was one path I fancied pottering along to a place called Barrack d'Infern, also known as the hidden valley of no return; I wasn't expecting any takers but Irena cheerfully signed up for this perilous mission and off we set down through the wooded steps at speed and up the mountain again to catch the turnoff to the hidden valley. It was indeed a hidden valley, we wandered along a thin enchanted forest path under huge overhanging rocks and past caves where one would not be surprised to see Gollom (aka lord of the rings) peeking out of looking for his precious.
It was dark now and my cones cells, honed over years walking home in the darkness in west Cork, Ireland had fully kicked in, hearing frantic movements in the bushes as we drifted through the woods and rustling feet away I expected a cave full of vampire bats to swarm out at any moment for their after dark mealtime. I was relieved ultimately to see tiny birds that did not have me and Irena on their evening menu. Irena capture some lovely red sky/mountain shots through the trees but ultimately the darkness descended to pitch black as we reached the end of the wooded walk below the car park somewhere below, now to find the hidden wooden staircase, there it was right in front of us and up we trundled though the mist to a relieved Pushpa, Blossom and Steve and off again for a hearty meal and a restful night. Leo changed into his special tight fitting walking trousers, a good hike up the mountain and the scenery was worth busting a lung to get there. Going down was nice.
Monday, a leisurely rising and breakfast as usual but where shall we go; well after the joy of the panoramic views at Font Roja why not have some more, so off we set for Panyal d'Ilfach aka Calpe Rock which rises out of the sea to 332 metres, it is a natural park with free water at the base from the rock and a free car park. So off we went, we virtually had the car park to ourselves on a glorious sunny day and up we went. The path up is landscaped so that even wheelchairs can go up as far as the tunnel. There were probably 10 fabulous viewing points up to the tunnel, which then goes right through the rock. After taking enough photos to keep Kodak in business for a year, if taken on old film to be developed, we gathered at the other end of the tunnel which was not to be sniffed at as ropes were provided to hold on to as the many visitors had turned the limestone into a marble like surface. At the other end was a viewing platform and a perhaps more precarious path where wheelchairs would not be suitable, a fall off the end down 332 metres. I had been here a few times before, some turned back as the heights were not for the faint-hearted and very tread was a must from here on. Past the first corner and it flattens out a bit (well you don't fall straight off the cliff edge) a couple of us ventured off to the outer viewing point for spectacular views, it was a judgement call to then head back down as the witching hour was again closing and there were real creatures up here, squalking seagulls who attack in the birthing season, at the top there are wild goats and large wild cats - that would be another day though.
Last day - a mountain and coast walk - over Sierra Groste and along Albufereta beach stopping at the marina bar - great views of Santa Barbara castle from the top and lively beach walk, then back to pack up and off to the airport where we actually get seated together and back to blighty to the freeze.
We will return, keep an eye out for next trip in April or May.
Report by Leo
9 of us arrived in Surrey for our new members walk. The blue skies allowed us great views of the Surrey Hills today, 4 new members were attending their first walk with the group. We had yet another unmanned level crossing to traverse for a photo op, plus the inevitable manor houses on route. Our route then took in the long climb to Leith Hill, highest point in South-East England for the viewpoint. 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 today as it was such a clear, still (and cold) day.
Our route then went west across the thick forests of Abinger before following a well signposted bridleway north towards the hidden hamlet of Friday Street with its welcoming inn. Grainne, Blossom and Quimah had the excellent gourmet venison burgers and others the very generous beaker of chips. After lunch we were headed south along the Tilling Bourne valley, passing the scenic Rookeries cottage and waterfall. Our route then took us east through the very picturesque streets of Dorking to the station for the train back to London.
New members Carolyn, Zaid, Quimah and Grainne joined regulars Brian, Keith, Blossom, Natalie and Deirdre today.
Report by Brian
Arrival at Holmwood - Photo by Brian
Crossing the tracks - Photo by Brian
Climbing towards Leith Hill - Photo by Brian
Teas at the tower cafe - Photo by Brian
View south from Leith Hill - Photo by Brian
Walking groups meet in Friday Street - Photo by Brian
Gourmet burgers at Friday Street - Photo by Brian
Lake by Westcott - Photo by Brian
Rookeries Cottage - Photo by Brian
Four of us met at Frieth from what was a fresh morning. There was still a light dusting of snow on the ground as we set off across our first field. After Moor Common we headed into Moor Wood but unfortunately didn't come out the other side where we were supposed to have. By the time I had got us back onto the intended route we had been gone nearly an hour and we were less than a mile from the start point!
Not a good beginning. However, once we were back on the planned route we were making good progress and the sky had brightened. After Chisbridge Cross and Bovingdon Green we headed up to Rassler Wood for our lunch stop.
The highlight of the afternoon was crossing the Hill between Medmenham and Hambleden with spectacular views over the Thames Valley and beyond. Our afternoon tea break was taken sitting on benches at Hambledon in glorious sunshine. By now, time was getting on and the temperature was beginning to drop, so we took the shortest route back to Frieth. The sun continued shining but was very low in the sky and cast our long shadows over the fields.
We arrived back a few minutes after four o'clock, having covered 16.3 miles, much of which was on unfamiliar footpaths.
Thanks to Carol, Steve and Marin for joining me.
Report by Paul
Waiting for instructions ... - Photo by Marin
... from very preoccupied leader - Photo by Marin
Chilly picture #1 - Photo by Marin
Chilly picture #2 - Photo by Marin
Short trousers, great emphasis (stress given to a word or words when speaking to indicate particular importance) - Photo by Marin
Smiling incredulously at the photographer - Photo by Marin
Quasi mythical image - Photo by Marin
Hambleden in the distance - Photo by Marin
We were lucky with the weather and this is one of the most varied and rural parts of the loop with some amazing views. However, the aspect that remains with me is the mud!! It was definitely the most muddy walk I've done. My thanks to Phil, Laura, Xian and Sarah for sinking, sliding and slipping with me - you made it more bearable. I hope Laura, Xian, Sarah you weren't put off the Loop - it was certainly an achievement particularly having to do more miles than anticipated.
Report by Efisia
I should have added the prefix WET to this as it rained most of the night before and continued until just after lunch.
The walk happened though, just three of us (Carol, Keith, me) and we departed just after 10am following the lesser known/used paths out of West Wycombe - along the western lower edge of the hill path then north west along the little used Bottom Road to Bennett End with some lovely valley views (more so when not cloudy). From there, the Chiltern Way for a short while then south towards the A40 Wycombe Road, before a detour via Waterend and Beacon's Bottom to reach the Studley Green Garden Centre at about 12:20pm.
We all bought lunch and tea (good value) and departed into the dry - the rain had stopped. Our route then was broadly south again taking in Horsleys Green, Dell's Wood and Leagrove's Wood. then east to Huckenden Farm and Wheeler End. North-east paths took us through Great Wood and up to Towerage before our last descent of the day to West Wycombe for 3pm. A good pace meant we probably did 12 miles.
I might re-do this route again when the weather is better!
Thanks all for coming.
Report by Steve
Keith and Carol on one of our gentler ascents before lunch - Photo by Steve
That was as close as we got to seeing some sun on the walk - Photo by Steve
Our final ascent before lunch up Pophley's Wood - Photo by Steve
The hot food and drink from lunch and end of the rain has quickened the pace - Photo by Steve