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OUTINGS 2017-2020

October 2017
Osterley House and Park



 
Successful and heartwarming … Members of the Group visited this handsome (and accessible!) National Trust property wearing its lovely autumn colours. One of the last surviving country estates in London, it was once described by art historian Horace Walpole as ‘the palace of palaces’, Osterley was created in the late 18th century by architect and designer Robert Adam for the Child family to entertain and impress their friends and clients.
 

 
“Fabulous visit to Osterley Park and House with the Outings Group on 27th October wonderfully arranged by Roslyn Byfield. We all thoroughly enjoyed the visit, in lovely weather, and much appreciated Roslyn’s efforts on our behalf. Not only was travel free with 60+ Oystercards and Freedom Passes but entry was free with an Art Fund card too! Looking forward to more outings with a lovely group.” – Lesley Ramm.

November 2017
Walthamstow Wetlands



 

 
“… a large group of us visited Walthamstow Wetlands today. Some met up at Costa Finsbury Park and travelled together to meet others there. We went into the visitor centre/shop/café area in The Engine House. I bought a map – which thankfully Julie Vaggers could read. We set off in improving weather along the top of the East Warwick Reservoir. It was blustery and chilly until we went down to the path again. We returned to the café between eastern reservoirs and saw more birds and several anglers.
 

 
Most of us had lunch at the café. Having sat outside some of us soon got chilly. We then went up to the second floor to look south over the reservoirs towards the very prominent church spire of St Mary Stoke Newington (identified by Julie from Google maps). Roslyn and a few others the set off for the northern reservoirs on the other side of Forest Road. We all enjoyed a great day out thanks to Roslyn. – Lesley Ramm.
 

 

December 2017
Christmas Lights
 

“We were lucky that it was a clear day and dry – although very cold, especially along some of the windier streets. We left by the rear of John Lewis, which had beautiful strings of white lights from the fifth floor hanging alongside the escalators, and crossed Henrietta Place then Cavendish Square and left on to Wigmore Street where we passed Wigmore Hall. Then into St Christopher’s Place and Gee Court which had wonderful lights strung high above along the road before crossing Oxford Street where the bare trees looked lovely with their fairy lights and into South Molton Street. Here the lights were huge blue and white arches with stars all along the road – very striking. At Brook St we passed the entrance to Haunch of Venison Yard, Handel House museum and Jimi Hendrix house. Then we headed along Lancashire Court (formerly Horse Shoe Yard) decorated with very large bells, to New Bond St, and joined Maddox St. New Bond St was decorated with lovely white Peacock feather lights. At Brown’s dining rooms Roslyn told us it was originally a tailor’s and some of the original décor remains inside. We looked at St George’s Church Hanover Square, where a choir was rehearsing before heading back along Maddox St before crossing Regent St which was decorated with flying angels. A quick look at the Christmas windows in Liberty then down Kingly St and Ganton St, strung with multicoloured bulbs, into Carnaby St, Newburgh St and Foubert’s Place decorated with a tropical theme – palm trees, parrots, party poppers and oversized lightbulbs. We passed Wright Bros Oyster House and The Bag o’ Nails nightclub. Then we were back at Regent St with the angels – and pretend soldiers outside Penhaligon’s. We headed along Regent St to Vigo St, where Pickett (leather goods shop) had lovely trees lit up over the doorway, past Savile Row and into Burlington Gardens towards Old Bond St. cut through the lovely Burlington Arcade where the decorations were beautiful trees with subtle green lights and out into Piccadilly. Looking along Old Bond St we saw the huge diamond light near De Beers. In Albemarle St there was a simple but lovely theme of white lights across the road. Looking across to the beautifully decorated Ritz we were now getting quite cold and tired, so set off for home after a wonderful walk seeing some beautifully lit streets … ” – Lesley Ramm.
 

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Middle Way Walks 2019-2020

May 2019
Richmond Park circular

The inaugural Middle Way walk (a Richmond Park circular) was greeted with a beautiful and warm, partly cloudy day. Five new walkers and nine regular walkers met outside Richmond Station to start the walk toward the Thames. Upon reaching the river we turned left to walk along the Thames path, enjoying the boat houses, boats and people along the way. Before reaching Marble Hill, we turned away from the Thames to head through fields, paths and woodland and, after passing Ham Commons, we turned to enter the park through a rather elegant Park Gate. We headed gently uphill enjoying the lovely green park and occasional deer until we turned right to reach Isabella Plantation.

We took twenty minutes to explore the stunning plants, flowers, ponds, streams, ducklings, bridges, and secret gardens and we all felt we could have spent much more time taking in all the beauty. We exited reluctantly out of Broomhill Gate and vowed to return. (We wondered how the name came about and thought it might be the wife or Spanish mistress of the first plantation owner. I’m afraid the most likely explanation is that Isabella is a corruption of the word “isabel” which means dingy or greyish yellow – the colour of the soil in that part of Richmond Park.) After leaving the plantation, we continued downhill until we reached Robin Hood Gate where we ate our packed lunches while relaxing on logs. We then continued and once again climbed up a gentle hill to follow alongside woodland and between two pretty lakes.

When we reached Pembroke Lodge, the highest point in Richmond Park, we entered the grounds to a spectacular viewing spot looking out over London and beyond. (Someone thought we were looking at the North Downs in the distance.) We drank in the view and headed out of the grounds downhill until we reach Richmond Gate. We happily returned to the station, stopping first for refreshments and reflection on a delightful inaugural Middle Way walk.

July 2019
Richmond to Putney (Thames Path)

This walk started in Richmond under cloudy, weeping skies and transport difficulties and ended in beautiful sunshine by Putney Bridge.

The overnight news was not good. A track fire at Waterloo had taken out several platforms and delays were predicted. Then in the morning problems arose on the Overground via Gospel Oak. Not to worry, the District Line was in good order and with our WhatsApp group keeping everybody in touch, 13 of our party arrived in Richmond for our 10.30 start. In the meantime however the Northern Line had decided to have a minor meltdown, so those of our group relying on that line were still stuck somewhere in the system.

The group of 13 set off, confident that sooner or later our companions would catch us up and so it proved. Upon reaching the Thames we turned to walk downstream. After leaving the town promenade, we approached Richmond Lock, which was undergoing maintenance and therefore closed to pedestrians wishing to cross the river.

Fortunately our route lay ahead, so we continued downstream with the Old Deer Park to our right. We soon passed Isleworth on the other side of the river, although we were unable to see the town, our view being obscured by the island known as Isleworth Ait, and it was in this area that the rearguard from the Northern Line caught up with us at last. Our route continued to the north-east around the Isleworth meander, passing Syon House on the opposite bank and Kew Gardens on our side. After Kew Bridge, the river turned and we were now heading south-east towards Chiswick Bridge. After passing the National Archives, we soon reached the boathouse belonging to Putney Town Rowing Club, where we stopped for a refreshing lunch break enjoying the calm and peace of the River Thames.

Back on the path we enjoyed the sight and sound of scullers rowing along the river while enthusiastically being encouraged by a shouting coach from a nearby motorboat. The shouting occasionally confused us as we thought it was coming from our own group, but we soon caught on to who the true culprits were.

We next passed under Barnes Railway Bridge where the path curved around to reach the rather oddly named Leg of Mutton Nature Reserve. It piqued enough interest in a few walkers to consider a possible future visit.

Hammersmith Bridge came next along with competition for the above mentioned reserve – the larger and better known London Wetland Centre. While you can reach the wetlands from the path, much of the view is obscured by the beautiful trees and shrubbery. Across the river we soon saw Craven Cottage (home to Fulham Football Club), Bishops Park and Fulham Palace. We passed the famous boat houses and the starting point of the annual Oxford vs. Cambridge boat race. Putney Bridge loomed ahead, marking the end of a lovely riverside walk. After a refreshing, if somewhat warm, beverage, we all headed home in warm sun – a welcome contrast to the weather at the start of the day.

August 2019
The Grand Union Canal, Horsenden Park and the four mounds of Northala Fields

Luckily the torrential rain of the previous day didn’t return and 18 happy walkers met at Alperton station, greeted by nice weather and no travel woes. We welcomed Richard, new to our walking group, and set off optimistically to enjoy the Grand Union Canal. It seemed we had just begun walking when we were met with a “closed path” sign – a sign which had not been there in any previous visit – and we were forced to take a detour enjoying the streets and sights of Perivale rather than the anticipated water fowl. Not to worry, the road returning us to the canal was aptly named “Horsenden” and it led us right back to the canal, directly to the bridge to cross to reach Horsenden Park. We walked up the hill to get the views (at 85 metres high) of west London, including planes landing at Heathrow, Harrow on the Hill, and Wembley Stadium.

After admiring the views, we descended and meandered through the park until returning once again to the canal.Now we would be able to catch sight of the wonderful cormorants, swans, moor hens, and possibly an owl while we enjoyed the canal walk for an hour or so. We did see some lovely boats moored and on the water and a new walking bridge that has magically appeared very recently. After following the curve of the canal and soon reaching The Black Horse, we were once again met with a “tow path closed” sign and were forced to abandon the peace of the canal walk and

enter the streets of Greenford. We enjoyed the urban walk of window peaking, garden envy, people watching and generally looking at a place we don’t normally see. We once again reached the canal just in time to cross over and head to Northala Fields, after traversing Marnham Fields, a meadow of wild flowers and sunflowers.

Before having our picnic lunches in the warm sun and taking in sights of people enjoying the park, a brief history of Northala Fields was given. Northala Fields was a park created for the locals and four mounds were created to help against noise and sight pollution, using the rubble from the old Wembley Station and White City shopping centre and used recycled timber, plastic and soil throughout the park. It took four years to build and opened in 2008. We all appreciated the children running, laughing and entertaining us with acrobatics and the families enjoying their time together.

After a leisurely lunch we ascended the highest of the mounds at 72 feet/22 metres.We took in views of London, including Horsenden Park, central London, Canary Wharf, St Mary’s Church, the new Wembley Stadium, the Post Office Tower and more. Then a group decided to enjoy the ambiance at the bottom of the mounds while the rest of us climbed the remaining three mounds so we could all proudly proclaim we “bagged four Munros!”. We circled the park admiring the fishing lakes and boating lake (with no boats) before heading out of the park and to Northolt Station for our return home. While not the walk that was planned (best laid plans and all that!) it was a lovely walk with happy walkers enjoying fresh air, sights and friendly patter.

September 2019
Epping Forest circular

This was one of those walks where the possibilities of getting lost were exceedingly high, given the number of unmarked paths and bridleways shooting off in all directions, and we were so grateful that our walk leader, Jane, had worked so assiduously in advance to plot an eight mile through the woodland and lakes of Epping Forest.

On a glorious early Autumn day we welcomed three new walkers at Chingford Station, re-acquainted ourself with Romeo, our canine companion, and made our way on a broad open path below the Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge and into the forest, along sun-dappled tracks until we emerged at High Beach, for a fine view over the surrounding area.

One of the features of Epping Forest are the number of lakes and ponds created by gravel extraction. We stopped for a while at Wake Valley Pond near the busy Epping New Road, and stopped for lunch by Strawberry Hill Pond, the colour of the water of which was a strangely unattractive sandy brown.

We were now on the homeward stretch, featuring a circuit round the beautiful Connaught Water, created as an ornamental lake in the 1880s. Back in the forest we followed the path to the 16th century Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge. One or two visited this wonderful space while others either stopped for a drink at the adjacent pub or made their way back to Chingford for the journey home to North London.

October 2019
The Abbey Line Trail

The forecast had not been looking promising for this Middle Way walk, but after asking walkers to wait until the morning for a decision, we optimistically decided to carry on. The sunny skies lulled us into a false sense of security until we learnt at Euston that there was major disruption to the train to our destination. Drat! Taking a slower service in the sunshine we finally arrived at St Albans Abbey station, gathered for a group photo and the heavens opened up! Waterproofs were quickly dug out of bags and a bright green umbrella hoisted: and, so with grumblings of “this wasn’t supposed to happen yet”, we began to walk along The Abbey Line Trail.

In no time we were walking alongside the River Ver. We enjoyed a path of willows and allotments before a section of residential walking. Then we returned to the River Ver and, when reaching How Station, had the option of returning home and out of the rain. But, in for a pound in for a penny, we all decided to carry on. We were soon rewarded with a respite from rain and enjoyed some sun while enjoying a peaceful walk to our lunch spot when the River Ver joins the River Colne. We managed to eat our lunch and remain dry, although the rain began as soon as we set off.

After a short walk through a field, we climbed a short, but very muddy and slippery hill. We walked through woodland, crossed another field and entered the vast, lovely Munden Estate. It was welcome relief to walk on wide pavement and leave the mud for a while. The estate was peaceful until we had to cross the rather loud M1 and return to the path. One more road crossing finally took us out of the estate and a short walk along a road. As we turned along the widening River Colne, we were nearing the end of this wet, muddy, beautiful and varied walk. We had to reach Watford Junction Station and hope the fast train was back in operation. It was and we had a quick journey back. A big thank you to everyone who stayed with the walk and smiled, talked and laughed throughout.

November 2019
Elstree to Totteridge

On a steely grey day our walk began at Elstree, a very English Hollywood, home to Star Wars and … , er, On the Buses and Pointless. Accompanied by our favourite dog, Romeo, we walked along the pavement of stars and crossed the railway bridge and climbed steeply uphill to reach the ancient oak woodlands of Scratchwood Open Space.

By now the cold was setting in and woolly hats were firmly on as we reached Moat Mount Open Space, the official start of the Dollis Valley Greenwalk.

After a section of up and downhill walking, we stopped for a pub lunch at Arkley, where our food and drink was accompanied by an aroma of freshly applied paint. After refreshment, we followed a road for about half a mile and entered Totteridge Fields Nature Reserve and walked along Dollis Brook. After crossing the meadows of Brook Farm Open Space we reached Totteridge Lane. A short distance ahead was Totteridge Station, where a few reminisced about having been here in Autumn 2017 on the very first CEDU3A long-ish walk.

January 2020

Lea Valley Walk #1 : Limehouse to Edmonton

Much to the 18 walkers’ pleasure, the first leg of the Lea Valley Walk began with blue skies and mild temperatures as we headed out from Limehouse Station. We quickly arrived at Limehouse Basin, where the River Lea meets the River Thames, and followed the Limehouse Cut (the first navigable canal to be dug in London). Walking along the canal made us forget the hustle and bustle of the city just above us We soon reached the beautiful Three Mills, the world’s largest tidal mill, which has been around since Saxon times and has produced flour, gin and munitions. For anyone interested, it is open for guided tours on Sundays. It is certainly worth a visit, with or without a tour. We then had our first impressive view of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to the right. and stopped for a quick coffee break. Soon, as we passed the last large great reservoir, we crossed the bridge to walk along Walthamstow Marshes, Europe’s largest urban wetlands reserve.

We saw birds of all varieties, houseboats of all size and descriptions and beautiful graffiti on the underpasses. We also, perplexingly, saw trucks parked in some of those same very small, narrow underpasses. Finally we reached our lunch spot at Markfield Beam Engine and Museum café.

 The steam engine was built by the Yorkshire born Wood brothers in 1889 and can be viewed on various Sundays from spring. Our blue sky was slowly turning grey and a few sprinkles appeared as we were lunching outside under cover. A chill developed in the air and we donned our waterproofs as we headed off to finish our walk, only to be removed very quickly as the rain disappeared and the chill went away. Relief was felt by all as we had been walking along at a good pace just to avoid the predicted afternoon rain. We then passed a popular rowing area but caught sight of only one rower. She, however, was of a “certain age” and moving very swiftly, so that those of us of that same “certain age” felt a flash of pride. After passing Tottenham Locks, the observant amongst us caught sight of Alexandra Palace’s mast off to the left. We briefly walked alongside Pymmes Brook, past Tottenham Marshes and ended our walk in Upper Edmonton at Meridian Water Station, a first, I believe, for all 18 walkers. It was certainly a much appreciated mostly dry day and we look forward to our second leg when we will leave Greater London and end our next leg at Broxbourne.

February 2020
Lea Valley Walk #2 : Edmonton to Broxbourne

Although we were forced to cancel the original Lea Valley #2 walk due to yet more dire weather predictions, we were lucky enough to still have two lovely walks, both with very little rain and even blue skies! We started this section along an industrial stretch of the path passing the large reservoirs to our right. When we reached Ponders End we enjoyed some lovely sculptures and diligently looked out for some promised otters, but none were to be spotted. We did enjoy a Heron posing for us and quite a number of geese and swans pairing off for spring. We also saw quite a number of bird species and a few of us learned how to tell the difference between a Moor Hen (who have a red beak, thanks Janet) and a Coot. After a quick coffee stop we walked under the M25 and left Greater London. We enjoyed a great number of boats docked of all types and sizes and with decorations ranging from gardens, to plaster heads and a stuffed dog or fox. We spotted a couple of rowers and a long boat with a friendly couple waving us. Lunch was a bit chaotic on both occasions so best not to dwell on it any more than that. After passing Cheshunt Lock we spotted some Muntjac deer off to the right and stopped to enjoy their company for a bit. The second observant group discovered some colourful mosaic tiles which had been set into the ground along the path. Most of them were covered by growth, but we managed to photograph one which had been cleaned off a bit. We ended our walk at Broxbourne Station after having had two unexpectedly lovely days.

October 2020
Lea Valley Walk #3 : Broxbourne to Hertford

Finally, able to resume our Middle Way Walks, we once again ambled alongside the Lea River for the lovely section from Broxbourne to Hertford. On both days of the we had some sun, some clouds and some rain, but I think the joy of being together again rather diminished the annoyance of getting wet. Some of us hadn’t seen one another since lock down and enjoyed the chat as much as the views. We walked along Rushymeade woods and past Dobb’s Weir where the river and the navigation path split and we saw the historic 18th century Fish and Eels pub (pictured above right). We passed where the River Stort joins and contemplated a future walk along said river. We then passed Rye Meads nature reserve which we is well worth a visit for any bird lovers amongst us, but we hadn’t the time. We soon had a quick peek at Amwell Quarry nature reserve, but once again had no time to visit. After a picnic lunch, rushed a bit by rain on both days, we continued along the path enjoying the birds and the beautiful autumnal colours. When we reached Ware we had to detour around the closed canal for a brief look at Ware town centre and optimistically noted that most shops and cafes seemed to have remained open. The river soon widens and joins the River Beane and thereafter the beautiful King’s Meads. Upon reaching the end of this section I think all agreed that the best part was the feeling of normalcy once again and a fervent hope we can continue to walk together.

GREEN LONDON WAYFARERS

When Green London Wayfarers set off on 5 June 2019, before Covid was a word, we didn’t realise the 100+ mile route would take us over two years to complete! As this month’s ‘final’ walk around the Bow back rivers brought us full circle past Abbey Mills Pumping Station, encountered with Bob Gilbert on our June ’19 day, there was pause to reflect before we advanced to paths new: Olympic Park developments + Hackney Wick hip both beyond GLW’s 2012 book cover. Time and tide. We’re thankful to Victorian eco-warriors whose actions secured continuing enjoyment of green spaces familiar and new, and to Bob for enlivening our knowledge of London’s social + natural history.   Laughter and friendship. The word ‘joyful’ has been much bandied about…

June 2019
Stratford to North Woolwich
 
Bob Gilbert, creator and author of The Green London Way, led walkers’ first [“gritty”!] section from Stratford to Woolwich Arsenal on a richly varied route under sunny skies. A warm welcome to all – including Bob’s rescue greyhound Ash, most gentle presence. We gathered in Theatre Square aside Joan Littlewood for introductions and Bob’s stories of Theatre Royal’s historic contemporary, then a short turn into the Parish Church of St John’s – and a memorial to eighteen 16th century Protestant martyrs burnt at the stake on Stratford Green to a crowd of 20,000. Apace highway sprawl (outgrowth of the London Olympics, set on what was once Stratford Marsh) to Channelsea Path’s wildflower oasis of Lucerne wild carrot + parsnip / tufted vetch / hemlock / giant hog root… and the flutter of Common Blue, Holly Blue and Speckled Wood butterflies.
 

 
Outside the magnificent Abbey Mills pumping station, we were treated to a potted history of Victorian London’s sewage solution and its current upgrade. Then the warbling of whitethroats and chiffchaffs joined our chatter along a Greenway stretch between open spaces and regeneration’s rooftops. We traversed undulating wood-tracks and an A13 footbridge for a peaceful lunch by Beckton Park’s exotic tree trail,
 

 
where some pollarded horse-chestnuts prompted Bob to explain how conkers directed both the outcome of WW1 and subsequent turns of history. Beyond a further swathe of parkland, a delicate Jersey cudweed pushing up between paving stones was a reminder that ‘green’ London presents on many a scale. Every detail observed. Down to the Thames via the burgeoning conurbation of Gallions Reach and on to a ‘Royal’ group of docks: three basins of impounded water, now largely redundant. Of the numerous plants on our river path, brownfield and waterside species grew on different sides. Bob was pleased to point out a rare Deptford Pink. And we were all wowed by a pair of great crested grebes in full breeding plumage bobbing close to the river’s edge. Stepping through Woolwich foot tunnel to emerge south of the river, Bob gave us more points of social history.
 

 
Lastly, we each paired up with Peter Burke’s 16-piece Assembly Sculpture by the entrance to Woolwich Arsenal Pier, before wading market bustle for a DLR seat home. (Actually / lastly, some of us dallied in a [dog-friendly!] pub…).
 
Huge thanks to Bob for joining us and sharing his knowledge, humour and wisdom.
 
The Green London Way by Bob Gilbert [ISBN 9 781907 103452] is for armchair as well as active walkers. You can also find the routes at http://www.greenlondonway.com/
July 2019
Woolwich to Greenwich
 
We adopted the ‘Loopers’ tried and tested method of striding through the duller parts of a walk and were soon rewarded with the site of the evocative St George’s Garrison Church, built in the 1860s to serve the Royal Artillery Barracks, bombed during World War II, but still used for open-air services. Among the surviving features are marble tablets listing the names of fallen
 

 
Gunners who received the Victoria Cross. We were then treated to the grand Georgian façade of the Royal Artillery Barracks, said to be the longest of its kind in Europe at 1,000 foot long, with a Statue of Victory, a Crimean War Memorial, located in the parade ground. Given the picturesque backdrop and military history the Barracks were chosen to host the shooting events at the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. We came across the first of two ha-has before reaching open common land where with the grass left uncut, flowers and butterflies have returned. Soon we entered an innocuous looking park to discover its raunchy history. Hornfair Park is named after an annual three day party, ‘the rudest fair in England’ where spirits were sold in wheelbarrows, and women were ‘especially impudent’. Prudish lawmakers put a stop to the fun and games in 1816. Who could argue with the description of our next stop,
 

 
Charlton House, as one of the finest Jacobean houses in the country, and ‘one of the most determinedly overlooked buildings in London’? We learned about the various tragedies that had befallen its residents, including Spencer Percival, whose dubious claim to fame was that he was the only prime minister to be assassinated in office. We admired the 400 or so year old gnarled black mulberry tree, almost certainly a legacy of James I’s attempts to introduce a silk industry – silk worm larvae preferring to munch on the leaves of the white mulberry. Here too were remnants of our second ha-ha. Lunch was taken on benches
 

 
overlooking the iconic Thames Barrier where we learned about its history and future challenges. By now were heading towards our destination along a less than pretty section of the Thames Path, and across the building site that is the Greenwich Peninsula. The highlights of this stretch included the 4 acre wetland Ecology Park, the glorious wild flowers along the bank of the Thames – which as inquisitive walkers discovered were sown from packets of Homebase seeds, and Ballast Quay, so called because gravel from Blackheath was loaded here before being sold for a good price on the continent. The street comprises lovely 17th houses and a Harbour Master’s office. Our final stop was the Cutty Sark: the ship which for 10 years held the record for the fastest journey from Australia – 73 days with Captain Woodget at the helm.
August 2019
Greenwich to Forest Hill
 
The problem with South London is that it is not in North London, and quite frustrating to get there when Transport for London has one of its idiosynchratic days … and, oh, there are hills (indeed quite a few of them and Bob Gilbert’s route for this leg seems designed to ensure that walkers climb most of them).
 
We gathered outside the Cutty Sark in Greenwich and climbed up the hill to the Observatory for the magnificent view over the capital, nowadays dominated by the crowded towers of Canary Wharf.
 

 
We crossed Hyde Vale, noting the brick conduit head on the way, and on to Blackheath via the delightful Trinity Grove, boasting lush front gardens and celebratory bunting. Quite a contrast next, as we crossed the traffic-bound Blackheath Hill to Morden Hill, where the street names recall an area once populated by mills along the river Ravensbourne. At Lewisham we stopped to rest outside the astonishingly colourful Glass Mill Leisure Centre, the exterior façade of which is clad in 1400 individual glass panels developed in conjunction with local artist Phil Coy.
 

 
A nearby railway bridge mural indicated our next destination, then on to Hilly Fields, an open space saved through the efforts of Octavia Hill, founder of the National Trust.
 

 
We then walked through Ladywell and Brockley Cemeteries, and, then, another surprise on this most varied of walks, a therapeutic garden in the shadow of the Parish Church of St Mary’s. Then more hills, Blythe Hill Fields and the curiously named One Tree Hill (mercifully with steps to aid the ascent), where we stopped to rest by the viewpoint over London (did anyone spot Alexandra Palace?).
 

 
By now we were eagerly looking forward to some refreshment at the end of our walk, quickening our pace through Brenchley Gardens and Camberwell Old Cemetery to reach our destination, the cafe at the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill. Fortunately it was downhill all the way to the station for the return journey to the North.
September 2019
Forest Hill to Streatham
 

 
On the morning of the day of the walk it was dull and rainy, the buses were full of excited back-to-school children and commuters on their way to work after the summer break, the Northern Line was victim to signal failure, and Forest Hill seemed a long way from stationary trains in Whitechapel and Shadwell … so it was a relief finally to gather at the bandstand in Horniman Gardens, for this stage of the Green London Way, although there was just enough time to admire Mr Horniman’s magnificent conservatory.  For north Londoners, the variety of woodland, parks and views of the city in south London continues to delight. Taking a narrow path skirting Horniman Gardens to a nature reserve – claimed to be the oldest in
 

 
London – we walked over Cox’s Walk ornamental footbridge, which once crossed a railway line south of the site of Lordship Lane station. The path led to the beautiful Dulwich Woods, once home to the Hermit of Dulwich, murdered in this very wood. Emerging from the wood opposite the Grade II listed Dulwich Wood House (too early to stop for a drink!), our next green space was Sydenham Wells Park, offering splendid water features, formal gardens and an array of mature trees and shrubs.
 

 
Our need for refreshment was satisfied at the cafe on the edge of Crystal Palace Park, after which we explored the area further: unfortunately the path to the dinosaurs was barred. We stopped for lunch on the steps of the terraces on the site of the Crystal Palace, guarded by a pair of recently restored red sphinxes.
Resuming our walk through the streets of Norwood, we took a detour to a home once occupied by social reformer and campaigner Annie Besant, perhaps best known for her involvement in the Bryant and May female workers’ strike in 1888.
 
After unsuccessfully avoiding of the attentions of an over-enthusiastic large dog in Long Meadow , we next entered Norwood Park, where we played the now familiar but generally unproductive game of attempting to spot Alexandra Palace from a south London viewpoint (trees in the way, this time!).
 

 
Then, on to another green space, familiar to those who had walked the Capital Ring, Norwood Grove, the principal feature of which is the 19th century white-stuccoed mansion, once the home of Arthur Anderson, who co-founded the shipping line that eventually became P&O, and later of the Unitarian ironmonger and industrialist Frederick Nettlefold.
 
We were now nearing our destination – our final green space was Streatham Common, then along a long narrow footpath – Russell’s Footpath – crossing several roads to Streatham Station, where we took the train home, wondering just how many London boroughs we had walked through.
October 2019
Streatham to Wimbledon
 

 
Readers of these accounts will not be surprised to learn that an apparently simple journey from North London to south of the river can go seriously awry if the wrong travel option is chosen. Those who decided to travel via Thames[missing]link were sorely disappointed to learn that it was impossible to get to our destination. Lots of talk about how we arrived at Streatham ensued, but, hey, the sun was shining brightly after a few days of heavy rain, and the stress levels lowered.
 
So it was that we started our walk just a few minutes late, and after a rather bizarre detour which led us the local Job Centre, set off through suburban streets on the way to our first green space, Tooting Bec Common, and further, past Balham, Wandsworth Common.
 

 
Here we stopped by the lake for lunch, the contents of which attracted the attention of number of local dogs. We investigated the lake further by following the perimeter boardwalk, before making our way to Wandsworth (Earlsfield) Cemetery, where we admired the two chapels, and stopped a few yards further on at the simple white war graves of such young men (members of the Newfoundland regiment) who perished in the First World War.
 

 
Following a path in the cemetery along the railway line we came across another war memorial (this to citizens of Wandsworth who lost their lives to enemy action in World War II.). Our route then took us through the streets of Earlsfield to the Wandle Trail, lined at one point with an interesting array of garden sheds.
 

 
Our walk ended at Wimbledon town centre, where many of the group stopped for refreshment before embarking on the mercifully easy journey back to the home of what the Home Secretary recently described as “the North London metropolitan liberal elite”.
November 2019
Wimbledon to Richmond
 
We knew that this was going to be a good one! The morning was crisp and sunny, the trains were on time, and one of the first paths that we walked along after leaving Wimbledon town centre was named Sunnyside Passage. Here we stopped to admire a true London curiosity, a Grade II listed cast-iron cylindrical Victorian electricity transformer station. Sunnyside Passage soon gave way to Sunnyside, and soon we were on Wimbledon Common, stopping briefly to observe a heron and a cormorant on Rushmere Pond. Ahead of us was a wedding venue if there was ever one, Cannizaro House, the grounds of
 

 
which looked splendid in autumn colour and which is the site of our second curiosity, an aviary built in the style of Turin Cathedral. By now it was time for some refreshment, and we stopped at the Windmill Cafe, before making our way across an extensive golf course, where veterans of the London Loop walks recalled their experiences of getting lost among greens. Our next landmark was the war memorial the peace of which was disturbed by the insistent traffic of nearby Kingston bypass. Crossing Beverley Brook we were now well on our way to the killing fields of Richmond Park. From then on we wondered if every deer we saw (and there were many of them) was eating his or her last meal . 


 
but hunger was gnawing at us too, and we stopped for our lunch at the newly named Betty’s Pond, reached through a narrow track through tall grasses. Resuming our walk we passed through familiar landmarks, Isabella’s Plantation, Pembroke Lodge, and King Henry’s Mound for telescopic views for St Paul’s Cathedral and Windsor Castle, before negotiating Petersham Meadows on our way to the Thames at Richmond.
December 2019
Richmond to Hanwell
 

 
It was a walk of two halves, starting with the regal Richmond riverside and then through the more industrial Brentford onto Hanwell. But water was the common theme.
 

 
We learned about Richmond’s Tudor history, marvelled at Elizabeth 1’s 2,000 dresses, were somewhat perplexed by the upside down foliage of an umbrella pine – designated a Great Tree of London, and mourned the felling of a second such tree, a copper beech in Asgill House. By now we were walking along the Thames, regularly but always graciously giving way to cyclists, dog walkers and joggers. Our resident plants’ woman explained how the unfortunate George III was wrongly treated with gentian which turned his urine blue, so was diagnosed with porphyria, and was then treated with arsenic. He probably suffered from Bipolar Disorder. We passed Syon House, which briefly housed two doomed Tudor Queens, and then crossed Kew Bridge, back into our North London home turf.
 
Our plans for an early lunch in the wonderful Steam Museum were thwarted by a private booking. But we could still learn about the 19th century industries and their accompanying slums. There still remained the vexed question of lunch. The options appeared to be a bland outlet of a coffee chain, or the quite frankly dismal bar which we experienced on the recce. Some genius suggested a pub, which was a great success. Huge sandwiches, with chips and half a pint at a more than reasonable price. We made our way along the River Brent, passing the site on the Great Fire of Brentford 2019, and an island where a colony of rare two lipped door snails saved the site from a swanky development. Our next stop was at St Paul’s Church which housed a painting of the Last Supper by Zoffany, whose life was probably more interesting than the painting itself.
 
The last stretch was up the Grand Union Canal where we came across Brunel’s majestic Wharncliffe Viaduct. There only remained a 50 metre dash to the train home. Beautiful weather, a fabulous walk and wonderful company – it was the best of days.
January 2020
Hampstead to Finsbury Park
 

 
Given the time of year with fewer daylight hours and colder temperatures, we deviated from the circular route, and walked a more local and shorter section of the Green London Way, from Hampstead to Finsbury Park. Starting out in Hampstead village, the walk took us across the northern part of Hampstead Heath, passing Kenwood House (admiring on the way Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture Empyrean before reaching Highgate Village. From there our route took us through the ancient woodlands of Highgate and Queen’s Woods, before we picked up the final 3 mile section, along the Parkland Walk, which took us to our destination at Finsbury Park.
February 2020
Hanwell to South Kenton
 
This 10 mile stretch combined two of the shorter stages of the Green London Way to make a viable full day walk, although there were plenty of transport links along the way for those who wished to curtail their walk. We left Paddington Station in bright winter sunshine, congratulating ourselves that we had chosed such a day for our excursion into west London after a succession of dull, sunless days, but within ten minutes of our journey a spectral mist descended : it was not until we reached the picturesque Western Avenue in Greenford that the sun returned. By this time we had already walked along the splendidly named Golden Manor and under the Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s magnificent Grade I listed Wharncliffe Viaduct, built in the 1830s to carry the Great Western Railway over the Brent Valley. The walk then took us into Brent Lodge Park, where we could not resist tackling the Millennium maze in Brent Lodge Park, before making our way past a small zoo (no animal activity discerned) to St Mary’s Church, one of two buildings designed by the prolific Victorian architect George Gilbert Scott to be seen on our route. Leaving behind the noise of Western Avenue we crossed Perival Park and followed a stretch along the Grand Union Canal. Reluctantly leaving the canal we climbed our way to our lunch stop in bright sunshine at Horsenden Farm, a community garden and orchard set in the grounds of a Victorian farmhouse, with craft brewery attached! We needed a good rest to build up our energy levels to tackle the hilly parts of the walk, Horsenden Hill (279 feet, 85 metres, Sudbury Hill and Harrow-on-the-Hill (426 feet, 130 metres), where we stopped in a rather smart cafe for refreshment and observed young men in smart school uniforms carrying straw hats. Here we also encountered our second George Gilbert Scott building, the magnificent High Victorian Gothic Vaughan Library. Then it was time to begin our descent down Football Lane to the school playing fields into Northwick Park and finally reaching our destination, South Kenton Station for the journey home.
March 2020
South Kenton to Hampstead
 
Because the treacherous conditions underfoot after so much February rain this leg of the Green London Way was shortened with a walk start at the bus station of Brent Cross Shopping Centre. “Dystopian” was the observation of one of the members of the Group who had arrived by underground and then had to negotiate a series of underpasses under the thunderous North Circular Road to get to the meeting point.
 

 
After the now familiar discussion of the bus routes by which members had arrived we sought the first area of green space known at Hendon Park, bordered by the Northern Line tracks. A short path into a series of dull suburban streets led us in the direction of the North Circular Road, along which runs Brent Park.
 

 
At the entrance to the park we noticed two dilapidated brick gazebos, a reminder that on this site stood once the Brent Bridge Hotel. Leaving Brent Park and resisting the temptation to investigate further a parked  Mitzvar Tank we changed direction and followed the Mutton Brook, and made our way through the eerily quiet immaculately maintained Arts and Crafts and neo-Georgian houses of Hampstead Garden Suburb to Central Square, flanked by two Edwin Lutyens churches and Henrietta Barnett School and then on through an opening in the Great Wall to Hampstead Heath extension (mercifully, not too muddy), eventually stopping for a break at Hill Garden.
 

 
By now the weather was deteriorating, but before we left the area we explored one of the jewels in the crown of the North London landscape, Thomas Mawson’s Pergola, built for soap magnate William Lever.
 

 
From here it was just a short distance through Hampstead’s side streets to our destination Le Pain Quotidien in Hampstead High Street, where to the amusement and distress of some we were served tea and coffee in receptacles with no handles or saucers. Here the group dispersed in the rain, although a few hardy souls continued their journey on foot to East Finchley, Crouch End and Muswell Hill. South Kenton to Brent Cross will have to wait for another day.
June 2021
Finsbury Park to Hackney Wick

 
The Green London Wayfarers finally picked up section 12 of their loop around London. Starting from the café (near the boating lake) in Finsbury Park we headed off towards Stoke Newington via the New River Walk, around the reservoirs and through Clissold Park. After a brief stretch along Stoke Newington Church Street, we walked through Abney Park Cemetery and then Springfield Park to reach the River Lea and the Walthamstow Marshes. The final stretch took us around Hackney Marshes to reach our destination, Hackney Wick.
July 2021
Hackney Wick to Stratford and the Olympic Park
 
And so we headed off from Hackney Wick, using the most circuitous of routes, to complete the Green London Way: an adventure started in those innocent days of 2019. We soon found ourselves in Victoria Park, and made a beeline to the Victoria Fountains, commissioned by the Baroness Burdett-Coutts to supply drinking water for the massess that thronged the Park. We were impressed by her philanthropy, and by her decision at 67 to marry a 29 year old American, and in doing so effectively disinheriting herself, but relieved to discover they lived happily ever after. We made our way to the wonderfully name Pudding Mill Lane and confusingly named Three Mills there are just two) via canals, rivers, the Greenway, and building sites. It was at the latter where excited walkers who had yet to arrange their Staycations discovered Snoozeboxes: a snip at just £39 a night for a double room.
 
Just after we had fortified ourselves with lunch we discovered a pensioner friendly trampoline, and invented new moves that required the wearing of walking boots and rucksacks. Someone recognised the potential for a new U3A group. All we would need is a member to donate space in a garden, some funding and quite probably additional insurance …
 
We completed the formal walk by passing one of Bob’s favourite buildings, the Abbey Mills Sewage Pumping Station, and then made our way to the ‘optional extra’ walk in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Passing through dazzling banks of wildflowers, the gorgeous wetlands, we arrived at the London Blossom Garden. An enclosed space with 33 trees (the number of boroughs and the City) planted in circles, wild flowers and benches made of recycled materials, the Garden provides a beautiful and serene place for reflection.We have come full circle. Thank you Bob for designing such an inspiring route, thank you Green Wayfarers for providing such joy on the travels, and perhaps most importantly, thank you to our forebears, who as we have discovered, fought long and hard to preserve green spaces for our enjoyment.

LONGER WALKS 2020

December 2020

Welham Green Circular

Mud! Mud! Glorious mud! Almost immediately after starting today’s walk at Welham Green, we encountered our first water obstacle, where a stream had decided that the bridle way we were following, offered an easier option than its usual channel. However, while we encountered difficult conditions underfoot today, the heavy going was helpfully broken up by occasional stretches along quiet country lanes that allowed us to clear the mud off our boots and make up a bit of lost time after being inevitably slowed down by the ooze! After crossing the A1000 at Bell Bar, we followed squelchy footpaths across arable land to reach the hamlet of Wildhill. Next, a walk up a country lane led to a bridle path through Harefield Wood at the edge of which we joined the Hertfordshire Way, and continued northwards for a short while before turning east. From the turn, we descended to Essendon Brook, before going uphill through Backhouse Wood, to reach Essendon village. Here we arranged ourselves on the benches around the cricket field for a perfectly socially distanced lunch stop. After lunch we continued northwards, although a fine drizzle put paid to some fine views across the Lea Valley. We were now descending once more and just before we reached the River Lea, turned to the west to walk parallel to the river, hidden behind trees to our north. By now with the help of our in-house’ mud seeking missile’ (Top Secret), we were learning to cope with the tricky conditions underfoot and made good progress towards the edge of the Hatfield House Estate. Leaving the river, we turned south to follow farm tracks taking us out of the valley, through the tiny hamlet of West End and onto another gloriously muddy bridle path. This eventually issued onto a minor road which we followed along the edge of Millward’s Park, before re-crossing the A1000 and returning to the station.

October 2020

Watton-at-Stone Circular

Despite heavy overnight rain, with the possibility of more to come, it was a cheerful group of walkers that set off from the Hertfordshire village of Watton at Stone. After crossing the High Street, we followed Mill Lane to cross the River Beane (on its way to join the River Lea at Hertford) before climbing steadily to reach the strangely deserted Watton by-pass. Once safely across the main road. we continued uphill before setting off along farm tracks, through meadows and over a number of stiles to Cutting Hill Farm. From here our route followed a sunken lane through woodland before emerging onto a broad track that undulated across farmland. We soon emerged on the edge of the small village of Green End, where the local cricket pavilion provided the perfect spot for a socially distanced lunch break. Not only did this structure provide benches, but also shelter as we somewhat fortuitously avoided the only heavy shower of the day. After lunch our route took us to Haultwick, a mile or so to the north. From here, we climbed the Old Bourne valley (the river sadly a trickle due to groundwater extraction) to reach today’s high point of 126 metres We now turned south to pass through the twin villages of Hebing End and Burns Green, after which there was a steady descent back into the Beane valley. Crossing the Watton bypass for the second time was a little more fraught due to much increased levels of traffic, but once on the other side, we were rewarded with a visit to a fairy dell installed by children from the local primary school. Whether this magical place was a nod in the direction of Rupert Grint (aka Ron Weasley) who grew up in the village remains uncertain. However it made a good talking point as we re-crossed the Beane to reach the end of the walk.

September 2020

Royston Circular

The return of U3A long walks! After an enforced hiatus (for reasons that we are all well aware of), the Longer Walks Group made its long-awaited comeback in early September! Following rigorous risk assessment and personal safety checklists, our pioneering group of walkers assembled outside Royston station, removed our face-masks and thrilled to the sound of a health and safety briefing. Suitably informed and alert, the walk got underway, with a gentle stroll past the Roisia (or Royston) stone and then a gentle climb along the main street. After a short road climb, we turned south from Royston, to follow the Icknield Way Trail as it climbed gently through an arable landscape. Fortunately the area still retains some of its ancient hedgerows, and autumn fruits such as sloes and haws were abundant. As we reached the top of the chalk, the slope levelled out and we entered the settlement of Therfield, stopping to admire its  attractive village green before continuing on past the parish church. From here a short stretch across fields brought us to the village of Kelshall, where we stopped for a socially distanced lunch around the base of Kelshall Cross and millennium monument. Suitably refreshed, we walked through the village as our route looped around to head north, now following the Hertfordshire Way, back to Therfield. We now began our descent of the chalk, at Thrift Hill, enjoying views over Cambridgeshire as we did so. At Thrift Farm, the route turned to head back to Royston, and after encountering an area set aside as ‘gallops’ for racehorses, reached today’s ‘sting in the tail’. As we reached Royston Golf Club, the Hertfordshire Way, deviated to south and a short but very steep ascent of Church Hill. However we were rewarded with a lovely ridge walk in the Pen Hills, before descending across the golf course and back into town. It’s good to be back!

March 2020

Darent Valley

What a contrast to the previous walk! The weather was bright and sunny, with the promise of Spring waiting just around the corner. So it was in optimistic mood that the group set off from Eynsford station in search of the River Darent. After a short road walk, we followed a farm track to cross the river (unsurprisingly in full spate) as it hurtled north to Dartford. Lullingstone Roman Villa managed by English Heritage was not yet open to the public, but as we followed the Darent upstream we soon encountered the more recently built Lullingstone Castle parts of which date from the 16th century. Continuing along the valley by hop fields and a lavender farm, our next stop was in the lovely village of Shoreham (Kent), home during the early 19th century to the artist Samuel Palmer and full of lovely cottages, a vineyard and the first of two picturesque bridges that cross the Darent. After leaving the village, we traversed the obligatory golf course before descending to go over the Darent once more before tackling our first steep climb of the day. Rewarded by fine views to Otford, Sevnoaks and the North Downs, we will entered Meenfield Woods and had our lunch just above Shoreham Cross (a memorial cut into the chalk in honour of the local victims of WW1). Suitably refreshed, we set off on our second steep climb, crossed our second golf course and emerged onto the top of the Downs. We were now looping back towards Eynsford, and soon began our descent, crossing a fine viaduct on the Sevenoaks to London railway line, before entering the village.Here we met the Darent for one final time, although disappointingly none of the group was prepared to cross the river by the ford, choosing instead to use the Grade2 listed 17th century road bridge, thereby causing local traffic congestion. All agrees this was a varied and fantastic walk, which more than made up for the previous week’s cold and wet!

February 2020

Digswell to Knebworth

Having cancelled the previous week’s attempt at this walk due to sleet and snow, we were promised a fine if dark and cloudy day by at least 3 forecasts, so it was with some surprise that we awoke to a drizzly London. Surely that must be last night’s rain clearing away. Wrong!

We alighted at Welwyn North station into a continuing drizzle, which weather wise proved to be as good as it got.  After descending into the valley of the River Mimram, we headed south east across somewhat muddy fields in the general direction of the village of Tewin and fter and after an hour of walking reached the grounds of Marden Hill House, a Grade 2 listed property dating from Jacobean times. Turing north, we followed the Hertfordshire Chain Walk as far as the village of Bramfield and into Bramfield Woods. At this point the drizzle had metamorphosed into a fairly incessant and unpleasant steady rainfall, which coupled with the Hertfordshire mud made the going difficult. Nevertheless, our group maintained high spirits as we finally made our lunch time pub-stop, The Horns at Bulls Green dates from Tudor times and claims to have a resident ghost. We saw little evidence of phantoms, but were pleased to dry ourselves by the log fire and enjoy some hot food in congenial circumstances. Despite an offer of taxis to the station, we channelled what the landlord called ‘the Dunkirk spirit’, and headed back out into the mud and rain. Continuing north to Datchworth, we turned west and despite nearly losing half of the group to a primary school playground, descended into the village of Woolmer Green. From here it was a mile or so to Knebworth station, where we arrived just in time to miss a London bound train by one minute. However even this setback did nothing to dampen our spirits at the end of what had been a fine walk despite the elements!

January 2020

St Albans to Harpenden

This was one of those winter walks when everything went right … well, almost! We welcomed two walkers new to the Group, the trains ran on time, the walk was expertly led, the pub lunch stop was a model of efficiency, the muddy paths along which we walked were not that slippery (although heavy on the boots by the end) … but if only the weather had been a bit brighter! From St Albans City station we walked to the city centre along a road characterised by some rather dull red brick churches until we reached the Market Place and then along French Row to the Abbey for a photo opportunity, although Romeo refused to co-operate! This is the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in Britain, architecturally a fascinating melange of styles. Leaving the city through Verulamium Park, we walked past the museum and through the churchyard of the Anglo-Saxon St Michael’s Church on to the Hertfordshire Way. The walk took us alongside the River Ver, through the Gorehambury Estate, after a brief stop at the sluice house, passing a couple of splendidly maintained mill buildings … and a indication of a darker side of rural life – notices warning that the area was subject to police patrols to prevent illegal hare-coursing and poaching. At the hamlet of Redbournbury we stopped briefly to admire the fully functional water-mill, before it was time to take off our muddy boots and enjoy our lunch at The Cricketers on the village green at Redbourn. Resuming our walk, we headed off across countryside towards Harpenden, crossing Harpenden Common to arrive at Harpenden Station, and our train back to London.

MONTHLY MEETINGS 2020

March 2020
 
Dave Clarke : Untangling the Web – Demystifying Spiders at ZSL London Zoo
 
This was a really fascinating and well received talk on spiders and ZSLs very effective Friendly Spider Programme which has achieved 90% success rate with people wanting to overcome arachnophobia. Dave also showed many images of the innovative displays of spiders at ZSL, including an installed bath with spiders in it! Conservation initiatives were described with the great success of breeding and reintroducing the rare (and large) endangered raft spiders in the fen wetlands.

February 2020
 
James M. Taylor : Brilliant British Humour in the Forgotten Art of the Picture Postcard, 1840-1950s
 
Artist-drawn postcards were the most popular art form from the Edwardian era to the outbreak of World War II. They entertained, inspired, instructed, motivated, persuaded and lifted up the spirits. James described the popular themes and styles by the masters of the medium such as Mabel Lucie Attwell, Donald McGill and Fred Spurgin; and the reasons why their popularity waned with the British public.

January 2020

Andrew Ellis : Art UK: Democratising Access to the Nation’s Art

A full house for the first monthly meeting of the year was rewarded with a fascinating and enlightening talk on the work and achievements of Art UK, by its director Andrew Ellis. The ambition of Art UK (gradually being realised) is provide an online catalogue of the nation’s artworks. This is especially important as 80% of these works are generally hidden from public view at any one time. The venues in which these are housed range from the country’s most well-known museums and art galleries to smaller institutions like Haringey’s Bruce Castle (although, sadly, not the Royal Collection). Andrew described the photographing and cataloguing of the works of art, talked about copyright and licensing issues, and highlighted one or two recent initiatives of the Art UK website, the most interesting of which is the forum where members of the public are invited to share any information about painting and sculptures about which nothing is known.

 

BIRDWATCHING EXCURSIONS SINCE 2017

November 2017

Eleven birdwatchers set out on a beautiful, autumn morning for our very first group birdwatch. In bright sunshine we walked quietly through the cricket grounds, alongside the Shepherd’s Hill allotments and into Queen’s Wood. As leaves slowly cascaded from oaks and hornbeams, we stopped to practise our listening and observational skills and got to grips with our binoculars. We were eventually rewarded with a range of the most common birds – Jays, Wood Pigeons, Magpies, Blackbirds, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Ring-necked Parakeets (flying low over our heads) and Crows. We identified several Robins robustly maintaining their territories, caught an exciting glimpse of a foraging Tree Creeper and heard a Woodpecker. At the end of almost two hours we retired to the local cafes and agreed it had been a pretty good start!

December 2017

On a bitterly cold day, nine birdwatchers arrived at the newly opened Walthamstow Wetlands for our second group outing. Within moments of arrival we had a greater spotted woodpecker in our sights and later we checked out great crested and little grebe, tufted duck, heron, pochard, greylag and Canada geese , pied and grey wagtail, plus more; in all about twenty-two different types of bird. At one point a flight of thrush (Redwing?) shot over our heads and an unseen Cetti’s Warbler enticed us with a few notes. The local Cormorants were an interesting sight, sharing their guano covered island with Grey Heron. Two local fishermen were keen to give us their views (mostly positive!) on the development of this extraordinary wetland. After two hours the very smart information centre and café were a welcome retreat from the biting wind.

January 2018

In contrast to our last outing, the January weather was kindly with an intermittent gleam of sunshine. Our route from Finsbury Park followed the New River all the way (crossing over Seven Sisters Road) to Woodberry Wetlands. A Song Thrush, high amongst the tree tops sang a delightful welcome on our arrival at the park. There was a wide range of birds on the park lake including Red Crested Pochard, Tufted Duck and Egyptian Geese. Unfortunately the first quarter mile beside the New River was slippery, thick mud, however, we were rewarded for our efforts by seeing many of our favourites – Robin, Goldfinch, Blue and Great Tit, Blackbird and Chaffinch – before coming across a tree sheltering several redwing. The wetlands reservoir was equally rewarding with Grebe, a variety of gulls including Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed, a veritable host of Coot, Moorhen, Mute Swans, and at a distance, several male and female Shovelers. Another enjoyable trip and another good café to check over our sightings and warm our binocular wielding fingers!

February 2018

Alexandra Palace Park was the venue for our February bird watch with local resource, Trevor Wyatt, joining us for the morning as guide, whose speciality is identifying birdsong. As it was a fine, spring-like morning the birds were in good voice and we were soon able to detect several by song and then visual observation. The walk started at the Farmer’s Market entrance following the path up to the Grove, from there we walked under the bridge and up to the lake, then down passed the pitch & putt course and on to the reservoir. In all, and with Trevor’s considerable help, we saw thirty different types of bird including Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Nuthatch, Mistlethrush and flocks of Redwing, Dunnock and Wren, Greenfinch and Chaffinch, Blackheaded gulls in their winter plumage, Pochard and Heron. After a thoroughly engaging session and with winter clouds approaching we headed back for soup at our convener’s, and a meeting to draw up our schedule for the coming months.

March 2018

Group 1 met in March at Kenwood House parkland for a circular walk which included a wide range of habitat. In the woodland we were rewarded with plenty of nesting behaviour from the Blue Tits, Great Tits, Jackdaws and Parakeets. On the lake the Little Grebes, Coots, Mallards and Moorhens were paired and active. We were pleased to have a close and extended view of a green woodpecker feeding amongst the grass and on a low tree. We ended at the café and while a Dunnock collected crumbs at our feet, we reflected that there were simply too many dogs being exercised to allow this to become our prime birdwatch location.

Group 2’s inaugural meeting provided time to agree a schedule for the summer which includes Rye Meads, Walthamstow Wetlands and the Fisher’s Green. We took a short walk around the cricket field in Alexandra Palace Park and were very pleased to spot a range of birds including a goldcrest, greenfinch and song thrush as well as a pair of great crested grebe on the reservoir.

April 2018

Group 1  met at Cockfosters Underground Station for a short stroll to Trent Park.  The weather forecast promised a fine spring day but after the recent heavy rain it was still very muddy underfootand the clouds were slow to lift. Once in the woodland we were greeted by a barrage of birdsong, including the sweet, melodic tones of a Blackcap. Whether it was due to the low light or the heightof the trees, we had difficulty in locating some songsters, however, by the end of an extended walk, (including the lake and obelisk), we had a good list of birds spotted including Nuthatch, Song Thrush, Redwing, Tree Creeper, Heron, Moorhen and Mandarin Duck.

Group 2’s second outing was to Walthamstow Wetlands, first meeting at Tottenham Hale station before taking the short walk to the south side reservoirs. Despite the chilly wind and the closure of one pathway between reservoirs (to prevent disturbing the nesting birds), we had a very busy morning sighting over thirty types of bird. Most controversial may be the two Yellow Wagtails in the tree (?), a prize for speed goes to the Peregrine Falcon, prettiest song was definitely the Blackcap, most obliging has to be the Bramblings and the Willow Warblers, but most exciting was undoubtedly the Ring Ouzel!

May 2018

What a difference a week makes in bird watching! In glorious sunshine, both groups headed for Fishers Green in the Lee Valley on their respective Fridays in May, in search of Nightingale and Cuckoo.
Group 1  – Within a few minutes of arriving at Cheshunt Station we heard Cetti’s Warbler, Blackcap and a Cuckoo. Later, and after sighting a range of other birds, we were able to stand for twenty minutes listening to an exquisite Nightingale, hidden in the dense growth of a roadside hawthorn. Aim accomplished!

Group 2– We met in the car park of the Lee Valley Park Farm, edged by a field of bramble bushes where several Lesser Whitethroats were in full song. Throughout our walk we heard Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. There was plenty to see with clear views of Grey Heron and a Muntjac deer by the water’s edge. Although we caught tantalising snatches of a distant Nightingale, we didn’t get the full serenade and the Cuckoo had clearly moved on. However, the sight of a Swift, another long distant migrant, was very welcome.

June 2018

Group 1 – An outing to the Walthamstow Reservoirs north-side, with its varied landscape and habitat. We saw a good range of water fowl including Little Egret, Shelduck, Greylag geese and goslings, and a Coot nesting on an upturned trolley with a hatchling sheltering in the part-submerged basket! Evident in number were House Martins flitting above the reservoirs and chattering Starlings gathered in nearby trees while three young Wagtails skittered along the reservoir edge. The most notable songsters were amongst the marshland bushes, and included Blackcap and various warblers. Final stop was the canal side café from where we watched an intrepid human swimmer enjoying thecool canal water

Group 2 – A trip to the RSPB reserve at Rye Meads on a very warm, bright day in hope of a Kingfishersighting. Despite the relatively small area of the reserve it was packed with wildlife. Nesting Kestrels gave us a clear view of their hunting behaviour. Around the scape area we saw Lapwing and Little Ringed Plover, Black Headed Gulls, Common Tern, Shoveller, Little Grebe, Pochard, Teal anGarganey. The various hides were a treat and some of our group were fortunate enough to see the Kingfisher checking out a nest site. Along the pathways and beside the ponds and river we heard, and in some cases saw a range of song birds including Cetti, Sedge, and Reed Warblers, Reed Bunting, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Garden Warbler. Despite there being no café we stretched our visit well into the afternoon and agreed we’ll definitely return.

July 2018

Group 1  – June ended on a high note with a shared supper and presentation by Jon Raper of photos from his recent sailing trip to the South Atlantic. The terrific shots of wildlife included Penguins, Seals and birds thriving in their natural habitat despite the many hardships. These were interspersed with human communities also living in inhospitable island conditions and the sailors dealing with life aboard the sailing ship in a range of Atlantic Ocean weather. Inspiring! Our birdwatch for July was the RSPB Thames Estuary reserve at Rainham Marshes. Despite the 30 degree heat and very little shade, we covered the whole reserve and were rewarded with clear sightings of Marsh Harriers, Lapwing, Oyster catchers and a range of water fowl and other species (with maybe a Spotted Fly Catcher among them!).

Group 2  – A small group of five met at Finsbury Park to walk along the New River to the Woodberry Wetlands reservoir. The heat and sunshine brought out several species of butterfly including Speckled wood, Comma, Gatekeeper, Peacock and Green-veined Whites. We also spotted various Damsel, Demoiselle and Dragonflies along the New River. The highlight of the birdwatch was a female tufted duck with nine ducklings all vying to stand on a small, floating log, which to our amusement, periodically rolled over depositing them back in the water. The reservoir was quiet apart from the usual gulls, geese and coots, however, we did catch a tantalising snatch of the metallic call of a Reed Bunting before retiring to the café.

September 2018

Group 1 – After a break in August our first Autumn birdwatch was to Rye Meads in dry, sunny weather. There was plenty to see on the lake and scrapes including Shovellers, Gadwall, Teal and Lapwing plus the rare sight of Green Sandpipers. During the walk we spotted many dragonflies and butterflies including Holly Blue, Speckled Wood and Red Admiral, there was also a large hornet feeding on a profusion of Ivy flowers. Always a good venue!

Group 2 – Six intrepid birdwatchers set off on our first early morning birdwatch, to Alexandra Palace Park. We were quickly rewarded with a flock of migrant Meadow Pippits, one of which settled close to where we were standing. We watched a Kestrel hunting until it was mobbed by the local crows. On the reservoir we spotted a Great Crested Grebe but not that elusive Kingfisher! Then off to Elsie’s for a welcome cup of coffee.

October 2018

Group 1 – Our October birdwatch was an early, still and misty morning to Alexandra Palace Park. There was plenty to hear including Chiffchaff, Green and Greater Spotted Woodpeckers though little to see apart from a spectacular flight of immature swans. However, our outing ended on a high note with the arrival of a small flock of Redwings in the wooded area by the reservoir – old friends back for the winter perhaps, and a great way to celebrate our first year of U3A birdwatching!

Group 2 – On the tail end of a storm we set out for the excellent RSPB reserve at Rainham Marshes. Under a dramatic sky and through wild wind there was a wonderful array of wildlife to be seen including some Harbour Seals by the shore. Top of the list for rarity value came the yellow billed Cattle Egret, however, we also particularly enjoyed Marsh Harrier, Snipe, very active Kestrel, Little Egret, Shellduck, Teal, a Raven, Linnets, abundant Sparrows, Skylark and a departing House Martin. What a treat!

November 2018

Group 1 – to  Oare Marsh: On a sunny day, eleven U3A birdwatchers caught to fast train from St Pancras to Faversham near the north Kent coast. We enjoyed a wonderful, bird-filled day with over thirty different species identified. On the tidal flats were flocks of Dunlin, along with Shelduck, Avocet, Grey Plover and Curlew. We saw Teal, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Black Tailed Godwit, Shovellers and Red Shank feeding in the shallow lagoon. A large gathering of Starling gave us a brief, but spectacular murmuration, before heading west. With Kestrel and Peregrin Falcon above our heads and basking seals on the shore, this was one special outing!

Group 2 – to  Amwell Quarry, Lee Valley: We drove to the nature reserve, which has two good viewing hides, especially useful on this rainy day, but no other facilities. Although the reserve was quiet during our visit, a Red Kite repeatedly flew within close view and a Goldeneye duck was spotted landing on the lake. The reserve had introduced a herd of young pigs to clear the undergrowth, and as we left, they were making a bid for freedom which much Water Rail-like squealing!

December 2018

Group 1  – Ten birdwatchers arrived at the Walthamstow Wetlands, for the final meeting of 2018, on a cold, rainy Friday. Several paths were closed, as were the hides, apparently to give the birds a break, from visitors, during their moult. Despite the rain and restricted pathways we had good views of Teal, Pochard, Gadwall, Tufted ducks and Mallard along with Little and Great Crested Grebe and a veritable washing- line of Cormorants trying to dry their wings. As we retreated to the café to dry-out and warm-up, a rather damp Peregrin Falcon landed on the pylon above our heads; definitely our bird of the day!

Group 2 – Three new members joined us for a trip to Walthamstow Wetlands on a cold day with heavy cloud and poor visibility. Our tally of birds seen during the walk was over twenty species, including Egyptian, Greylag and Canada geese, and Shoveller, Pochard, Gadwall and Tufted duck (and maybe a Scaup?). We saw several Grey Heron, Great Crested and Little Grebe, but no French Partridge or Turtle Doves, however, much to our delight one Little Egret made a late appearance. We then retired to the café and centre shop for some last minute Xmas gift buying!

January 2019

Group 1 – During our planning meeting we had optimistically agreed that the RSPB Otmoor reserve might provide a starling murmuration, but only if we were lucky with both weather and birds. On a cold, bright day we drove to the Oxfordshire site. The local community owned Abingdon Arms pub in Beckley was an ideal base for lunch before an afternoon’s birdwatching which yielded our highest number of species yet! These included Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Redwing, Fieldfare, Stonechat, Golden Plover, Sparrow Hawk, Pheasant, Teal, Water Rail (heard), Snow Geese, Barnacle Geese, a large flock of Linnets and a Yellow Hammer. We also saw several hares and a deer. However, the crowning glory was the huge murmuration of Starlings that spun patterns above our heads before eventually funnelling down into the nearby reeds as daylight faded.
Another treat followed when Fran and Dave magically produced piping hot tea and coffee from the boot of their car along with Dunn’s mince pies, just wonderful!

Group 2 – This was a local walk in Alexandra Palace Park where we were joined by four new members. The day was mild and dry, though cloudy. Setting off along the Farmers’ market strip wesaw Goldfinch, Robin, Blue and Great Tits, Goldcrest, Jays, Pigeons, Magpies and Starlings. As we approached a rowan tree a small group of Redwing took flight, leaving one behind in the tree –either too exhausted or too full of berries to follow! As we left the Grove, a buzzard mobbed by crows flew overhead. The lake provided a good view of Coot, Moorhen, Pochard, Mallard, Tufted ducks and a variety of Gull, and the Lakeside café a good hot drink!

February 2019

Group 1  – London Wetlands Centre Barnes visit cancelled due to weather and transport disruption.

Group 2 – Eight intrepid birdwatchers visited the RSPB reserve at Rainham Marshes despite the wind and rain of storm Erik. Fortunately, there was a welcoming café with broad views over the site and a circular walk interspersed by hides. The wild winds prevented several species from attempting flight or curbed their time in the air, so that we were able to get good views of grounded Marsh Harrier and Snipe. After about three hours we had seen almost forty species including five types of gullexpertly navigating the storm, a broad range of duck (including Pintail, Shelduck, Shoveller, Wigeon and Teal), Sparrow Hawk, Lapwing and Redwing. We heard brief snatches of song from both Dunnock and Skylark, which were welcome reminders of Spring.

March 2019

Group 1 – The outing to RSPB Rainham Marsh  reserve on a still, grey day yielded some magical moments; a plucky Robin pecking hand-held crumbs, a Song Thrush in full spring song, a flight of Golden Plovers gleaming in the low light, and a Reed Bunting ripping apart a reed mace seed head. However, aided by a local Volunteer with scope, we saw our bird of the day – a Barn Owl, pale against the dark ivy covering one of the few tall trees beside the marsh.

Group 2  – were joined by several group 1 members in a visit to the London Wetland Centre  at Barnes. This gem of a reserve, surrounded by urban sprawl, provided an array of birds. Chiffchaff, Wren and Great Tits were singing loudly, there were Teal, Wigeon, Shovelers and Pochard on the water with several Snipe and Lapwing nearby. However, aided by a local Volunteer with her scope, we had a very special view of a Bittern, beautifully camouflaged, in the reeds at the water’s edge.

April 2019

Group 1  – Our return to Oare Marsh, Kent was on a cold, spring day, with a strong easterly wind. Thirty-eight bird species were identified including Bearded Tits that tantalised with their calls before flying up from the reed bed. A large flock of Black-tailed Godwits, covering an island in the scrape were suddenly spooked by a Sparrowhawk; they then flew in breathtaking formation before our admiring group, ensconced in the hide.

Group 2 – Rye Meads RSPB nature reserve provided  an early spring opportunity to note forty-two bird species including Red Kites and an exciting sighting of the usually very shy and skulking, Water Rail. In addition the group saw Muntjac deer and two of Britain’s mostendangered mammals, Water Voles, which were taking nesting material into their burrow.

May 2019

Group 1 – After our glorious May 2018, there was only one place to head to this year, Fishers Green in the Lea valley! We were rewarded by seeing and hearing Whitethroat, Lesser whitethroat, Blackcap, Garden Warbler and the glorious Nightingale (heard not seen). This is a very special green space for wildlife and people, on London’s doorstep.

Group 2 – The beautiful Lea Valley Regional Park was awash with birdsong and hawthorn blossom. We took the route along the canal from Cheshunt station, crossed to walk beside the SeventyAcre lake with its reed bed Warblers, then on to Fishers Green, the café and Bittern hide,before heading back. There were many highlights including Nightingale song, Swans mating and a Chaffinch singing from a spray of Hawthorn, though hands-down winner was the Great Crested Grebe family with two new chicks snug on an adult’s back while the other parent offered fresh minnows.

June 2019

Group 1 – The day started with leaden skies and ended in a prolonged rainstorm at the Amwell Quarry reserve in Hertfordshire. Fortunately this site always offers good sightings and we were not let down as next to the hide Little Ringed Plovers were nesting. During our lengthy stay within the hide, to avoid a soaking, we were able to observe the Plovers’ careful tactics for exchanging egg-sitting duties. A good number of Swifts ranged across the area joined in lesser numbers by House and Sand Martins. There were Oystercatcher and Lapwing, several species of Gull including one Mediterranean, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Chiffchaff and Cetti’s Warbler. We took a wet walk to the local pub to dry out and refresh.
The following day the group had an opportunity to visit Farnham RSPB site in Surrey for a guided walk to hear Nightjars. On a glorious evening, around sunset, we heard and saw several Nightjars, a Redstart and a Woodcock. Highly recommended!

Group 2 – For the final birdwatch of the summer, the group returned to Walthamstow Wetlands. Thirty species were identified, and highlights of the day were close views of Swifts feeding above the reservoirs, Sand and House Martins, Grey Wagtails, Sparrow hawk and Peregrine Falcon. Perhaps the best moment, however, was spotting seven Shelducklings! The group then met in the very pleasant café to plan their Autumn birdwatches.

September 2019

Every visit to Oare Marshes in Kent is different, being so dependent on the season, tide, weather and whims of the birds. This visit – our third – was on a blustery, autumnal day. The inland pools hosted dense flocks of Black-tailed Godwits, Redshank, Lapwing and Dunlin. Careful searching revealed the occasional Ruff and Golden Plover amongst the other waders, along with a well-camouflaged Snipe in the reeds. Word got out that Curlew Sandpipers were around, but we were sadly unable to spot them.  Clouds of Swallow and Sand Martin darted over the water and Starlings restlessly flocked from place to place. When spooked by predators, hundreds of waders would rise en masse and wheel around in panic. (Two potential predators flying low in the distance turned out to be Eurofighter jets …).  The muddy estuary banks were unusually quiet, apart from groups of Avocets being driven up by the incoming tide, and a solitary Curlew. Finally we were treated to a pair of Sandwich Terns flying low over the River Swale, completing another lovely, if chilly, day out.

October 2019

A visit to a rather cloudy Rainham Marshes to be entertained by a very persistent kestrel which hung in the wind for ages searching for prey on the Thames foreshore, and a buzzard which thought it was a kestrel as it too hovered over the marshes. A highlight was watching a water vole speeding past us down one of the channels, swimming too quickly to get a decent photo!

November 2019

A return to a favourite location – Fishers Green in the Lee Valley Park. Despite the rather gloomy weather, the scenery looked very atmospheric in autumnal colours with mist hanging over the lake, and there were plenty of water and woodland birds to see and hear. Highlights included numerous Grebes, Gadwalls, Pochards and Wigeon, several Hrons, flocks of Long-tailed Tits, two Kingfisher sightings (at least by some of us who were lucky enough to be looking the right way at the right time!) and a close encounter with a fox.

December 2019

Fourteen keen birdwatchers travelled to rural Oxfordshire on a rather damp Friday for the December outing. We first enjoyed lunch in the local hostelry (shockingly, several of us opted for the rather delicious Pigeon dish!) then made our way to the reserve nearby. The weather wasn’t too promising at first, but miraculously cleared later in the afternoon to produce some beautiful skies over the reeds at dusk. The flooded fields and marshes attract huge numbers of birds, and flocks of starlings and lapwings were continually on the move trying to escape the many birds of prey hunting the area. In the space of a couple of hours on the reserve we were lucky enough to spot 8 different birds of prey: Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, hen Harrier (a first for many if us), Peregrine Falcon and Barn Owl. Another highlight was an unusually close encounter with a hare, which casually lolloped past us on the path.  But the main event happened at dusk when tens of thousands of Starlings flew in for a low-level murmuration display before settling in to roost in the reeds. There was just enough light to find our way back to the cars and then to the pub for a very welcome cup of tea to finish off a lovely day.

EXHIBITIONS VISITED SINCE 2018

February 2018
Rhythm and Reaction: The Age of Jazz in Britain, Two Temple Place

11 members of the Group appreciated both the exuberant décor of the building and the cheerfully contrasting style of the exhibition on between-the-wars Jazz, and afterwards adjourned to a café to discuss these and many other matters.

March 2018
Drawn in Colour: Degas from the Burrell Collection

Five intrepid souls evaded illness, slippery pavements, heating problems and everything else that the vicious late winter could throw at us, and were greatly cheered by the colourful Degas works on loan from the Burrell collection in Glasgow.

April 2018
Gursky at the Hayward Gallery

Andreas Gursky has devoted his life to developing photographic techniques and the effects he achieves are extraordinary. 12 members of the Galleries group visited the exhibition on Friday 13th April at the Hayward Gallery. One of them stopped in front of the first photograph and exclaimed “Well! My gob is smacked already! “, which just about summed up the experience of us all.

May 2018
Sir John Ritblat Gallery in the British Library

Some members of the group visited the Sir John Ritblat gallery in the British Library. We could only do justice to a small selection of its many treasures, from Magna Carta, through ancient and beautifully illustrated texts of a number of religions, jottings of famous writers, Shakespeare’s first folio and early methods of notating music on paper, to Karl Marx and, unexpectedly to some of us, the Beatles. The morning was rounded off with coffee and chat outside in the sunshine.

June 2018
Apsley House

Apsley House offered so much of interest that it was hard to take it all in. The collection ranges from gifts of silver and porcelain to an astonishing range of Dutch, Spanish and Italian works by major artists. The cafe next door provided not only coffee and a chance to chat, but also an excellent close up view of the Household Cavalry in all their splendour

September 2018
Aftermath : Art in the Wake of World War I

A sizeable group visited Aftermath : Art in the Wake of World War I at Tate Britain, followed by lively discussion in the Tate cafe. It was agreed, among other things, that however much we had thought we knew about the First World War period, we had all learned something new; that some of the post war art on show was very good indeed; and that facial expressions in the later paintings were still sad and strained. We were also very impressed by prints by Kathe Kollwitz and others.

October 2018
The Estorick Gallery, Canonbury Square

Our biggest ever group visited the Exhibition of between-the-wars Italian paintings on Friday and greatly enjoyed Luke Alder’s talk on these works as well as on selected works from the Permanent Collection, all followed by coffee and conversation in the Gallery’s cafe.

November 2018
Annie Albers at Tate Modern

“As a female student at the radical Bauhaus art school, Albers was discouraged from taking up certain classes. She enrolled in the weaving workshop and made textiles her key form of expression. She inspired and was inspired by her artist contemporaries, among them her teacher, Paul Klee, and her husband, Josef Albers. This … exhibition illuminates the artist’s creative process and her engagement with art, architecture and design. You can discover why Albers has been a profound influence on artists around the world via more than 350 objects from exquisite small-scale ‘pictorial weavings’ to large wall-hangings and the textiles she designed for mass production, as well as her later prints and drawings.” – Quoted from Tate Modern website.

December 2018
Edward Burne-Jones at Tate Britain

January 2019
Uumwelt

We visited the Serpentine and Serpentine Sackler Galleries on a glorious crisp January morning to see Uumwelt, a collaboration between French artist, Pierre Huyghe, and neuroscientists In Japan to give visual form to brain activity using MRI scans.

At Serpentine Sackler, there was another collaboration, this time between designer Beca Lipscombe and artist Lucy McKenzie of Atelier E.B. Passer-by incorporated Fashion photography and magazines, mannequins, therapeutic dolls, traditional costumes, tapestry and “vitrines” as well as some contemporary designs.

Our visit concluded in the spectacular Zaha Hadid Cafe in brilliant January sunshine.

Mantegna/Bellini at the National Gallery

A large group visited the Mantegna/Belliniexhibition at the National Gallery on Friday 18th January. Olga Savastano’s excellent introductory talk inspired our appreciation of the exhibition, and conversation in the National Gallery café afterwards was lively.

February 2019
Ruskin at Two Temple Place

A sizeable group of us visited the Ruskin exhibition at Two Temple Place this morning. Much of Ruskin’s own art was on show, particularly some detailed architectural drawings and delicately accurate nature sketches. We were amused by his various dislikes, which ranged from Wagner through railway stations to bicycles, and wondered how it had come about that such an eccentric person had wielded such a strong influence upon artistic taste. Also included in the exhibition were paintings and objects that Ruskin admired and collected, including several paintings by Turner and others, and numerous miscellaneous found objects. After visiting the exhibition many of us adjourned to the courtyard tables of a Somerset House café, where we baked, coats off, in unseasonable sunshine.

March 2019
Don McCullin at Tate Britain

Despite an unprecedented number of last minute withdrawals, a sizeable group of members visited Tate Britain for the Don McCullin photography exhibition. It was not an experience to be taken lightly: horror at the devastation and suffering depicted mingled with amazement at McCullin’s courage in going again and again to witness such devastating scenes, and with sheer admiration of his skill. We reassembled, shaken, exhausted but in a strange way inspired, to bring each other down to earth over tea or coffee, cakes and chat in the Tate café.

Bill Viola/Michelangelo Life Death Rebirth at the Royal Academy

On Friday 29 March a group of eight members of the Exhibitions and Galleries group thoroughly enjoyed the Bill Viola/Michelangelo Life Death Rebirth exhibition at the Royal Academy. The exhibition was breathtaking at times. Both artists engage in different ways with the passion and drama of life and death. We thought thematic affinities were demonstrated and that the contact enhanced rather than diminished. The overall juxtaposition of the Renaissance master’s 15 exquisite small drawings and one beautiful sculpture with Viola’s spectacular high tech video installations was a rich experience. It certainly provoked much discussion afterwards.

April 2019
Pierre Bonnard at Tate Modern

Sixteen members of the Group visited the Pierre Bonnard exhibition at Tate Modern, glorying in his use of colour and sympathising with his efforts to remain “the painter of happiness” even when his life was going less well. After a refreshing coffee break, an intrepid few also attended the adjacent Dorothea Tanning show, with its surrealism melding into colour extravaganza, its innovative soft sculpture and its demonstration of how to live an active old age.

May 2019
Sorolla : Spanish Master of Light at the National Gallery

A dozen or so members plunged into the unknown on Friday to encounter the works of Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923), the post impressionist Spanish painter, unjustly ignored, we decided, in this country. Post-impressionism is but one aspect of this talented artist; there are homages to Velázquez and Goya, whose works Sorolla studied during his training; some excellent portraits, both formal and informal; pictures of landscapes and gardens; evidence of a social conscience;and above all a unequalled skill at conveying both sunlight and movement. Most of the group had never heard of Sorolla before the visit and were favourably surprised at what they encountered.

Van Gogh and the UK at Tate Britain

A sizeable group visited Tate Britain to discover the links between Van Gogh and the UK, beginning with his admiration for British artists and authors and his love of London. A number of his prints and paintings then demonstrated the development of his style towards his later, unmistakable hallmark, and the third part of the exhibition included a number of British paintings imitating, with greater or lesser success, Van Gogh’s own, some might say inimitable, style. There was much discussion over coffee in the Tate Café afterwards, some but by no means all of it on the subject of artistic influences!

June 2019
Münch at the British Museum

To the Münch exhibition at the British Museum. This mostly concentrated on the artist’s prints rather than his paintings, and gave interesting insights into how they were made, and the way he re-used them over the years to express different moods – or perhaps different shades of melancholy? His portraits of Ibsen, Strindberg and others were particularly impressive, and contrasted with the less sharply characterised personages in his other works.

July 2019
Lee Krasner : Living Colour at the Barbican Gallery

Our first visit as a group to the Barbican Centre. We were impressed by the work of Lee Krasner, wife of Jackson Pollock, which ranged from awe inspiring huge paintings to detailed small ones; were amused by her use of torn up pieces of earlier work to make collages; and coveted the glorious mosaic coffee table made from an old waggon wheel. We were impressed also by Lee Krasner’s courage and perseverance in becoming and remaining an artist in a world unready to accept women in that role – epitomised by the comment on her work of a (need I say male?) teacher – “It’s so good that you wouldn’t know it was painted by a woman.” The visit culminated in the usual chat, not all about art, in one of the Barbican’s several cafés.

August 2019
Natalia Goncharova exhibition at Tate Modern

A large group enjoyed the Natalia Goncharova exhibition at Tate Modern. We were amazed at the versatility of her talent, her work ranging from youthful studies of Russian peasants, through Cubism, religious icons, Rayism – the relationship between humans and machines – to haute couture and theatrical sets and costumes. The label of “everythingism” bestowed by her contemporaries was indeed appropriate, and her use of colour was glorious. Discussion over coffee was animated and included the observation that few of us had ever previously heard Goncharova’s name whereas many of her male colleagues in her various fields of activity remain household names.

September 2019
Olafur Eliasson exhibition in the Blavatnik section of Tate Modern

A large group visited the Olafur Eliasson exhibition in the Blavatnik section of Tate Modern, where Noeleen gave us an insightful introduction to this important and exciting Danish/Icelandic artist. Eliasson is currently based in Berlin, where he works with collaborators on projects which cross many artistic lines, often focusing on environmental concerns and exploring space, natural phenomena, light and community in a dramatic demonstration of the fluid boundaries between art and nature, as well as the impact we have on our environment. The final section of the exhibition shows on a large wall the multiple researchers and crafts people currently working on projects inspired by Eliasson, including his renewable energy Little Sun project supplying lights to communities where people depend on hazardous materials such as kerosene for light and other energy needs.

October 2019
William Blake at Tate Britain

Members of the Group that visited the William Blake exhibition on Tate Britain were full of admiration for his minutely detailed drawings, paintings and etchings and his beautiful tiny calligraphy, if somewhat mystified by some of his more imaginative symbolism.

November 2019
Pre-Raphaelite Sisters at National Portrait Gallery

A large group visited the Pre-Raphaelite Sisters exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. We were somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer number of these remarkable women, but delighted to discover that a sizeable number of them had, with the encouragement of their husbands and male colleagues, been painters and artists in their own right, in addition to their better known role as wives, models and muses. Having migrated to the National Gallery café to secure a table that accommodated us all, we discussed, among other things. how history has a way of forgetting women’s art which was highly respected in their own lifetime.

December 2019
Dora Maar exhibition at Tate Modern.

A large group visited the Dora Maar exhibition at Tate Modern. It was generally agreed that, while not quite soaring to the heights of her lover Picasso, whose portrait of her Weeping Woman was included in the exhibition, Dora Maar’s own talent, particularly for photography, richly deserved this opportunity to emerge. The rediscovery of forgotten wives, lovers and models has been a major theme of our 2019 programme.

The visit concluded in the Turbine Hall with American artist Kara Walker’s stunning and subversive installations. At first glance, the enormous fountain looks like a Victorian monument, but on closer inspection it is a disturbing account of the cruelty of the slave trade and the dreadful fate that awaited African captives. The second piece is an oyster shell concealing a child’s tear-stained face. Both works are replete with allusions, artistic and political.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LONGER WALKS 2019

January 2019

Our first walk of 2019 started in Windsor on a cold and crisp morning, perfect for a brisk stroll. After crossing the Thames from Windsor Riverside Station, we followed the Thames Path westwards to Dorney Lake. The private property of Eton College, the ‘lake’ was used to host canoeing and rowing events in London 2012, and became the fourth Olympic venue ‘longer walks’ have visited. (The others are: Box Hill – cycling road race, Hadleigh – mountain biking and Stratford’s Copper Box – handball/fencing). Our way continued along the Thames, past the settlement of Bray on the opposite bank and beneath the roar of the M4, before we cut across farmland to reach the Jubilee River. Although the Jubilee is in fact a flood alleviation channel, it provided an attractive waterway to walk alongside, despite being on the borders of Slough! As lunchtime approached, we took a short detour from the river bank into the village of Dorney, and refreshments at The Palmer Arms. Suitably fortified we crossed a spinach field to return to the Jubilee River. Turning to face east, we headed towards Eton, meeting as we did so a pack of friendly beagles, which we were informed were the ‘Eton Hounds’ by a very polite young man with a hunting horn around his neck, who appeared to be in charge of them. Arriving at the town, our final stretch took us south through the Eton College quarter, before we met the High Street and headed back to the end of the walk on Eton Bridge.

February 2019

The days leading up our Knebworth Circular walk had been unseasonably warm, but the day of the walk itself was overcast and showery. Surely this change in the weather was not due to the fact that we were missing our companions (currently enjoying an antipodean adventure) who always seem to have the ability to summon up brilliant sunshine on walk days? This was a relatively undemanding walk along the footpaths and bridleways of the Hertfordshire countryside, starting from Knebworth station, circling an area around Knebworth House and ending at Stevenage. The first of the day’s showers arrived just as we arrived at our lunch stop, The Lytton Arms, next to early 19th century almshouses in the picturesque village of Old Knebworth. The pub – highly recommended for its speed and efficient on the evidence of this visit – has adorned its gentleman’s toilets with framed posters promoting the famous Knebworth rock concerts and this evoked a few memories of Status Quo and Queen and other luminaries of the 1970s. Our post lunch walk took us into Knebworth Park where we passed the Grade II* listed Knebworth Houseand the nearby Knebworth parish church with its flèche or “Hertfordshire spike”; then on through Graffidge Wood and farmland (where we were greeted by a pair of friendly pigs) to the village of Langley. At this point it started to rain quite heavily so we hurried through the business parks and gloomy underpasses of Stevenage to the station for a welcome cup of tea before the journey home. Once again, an impeccably arranged walk!

March 2019

It felt like spring had finally arrived as we assembled outside Hemel Hempstead railway station. It was quite warm when standing directly in the sun, birds could be heard trilling away, the grass on the water meadows had been cut and one or two of our group were complaining about the onset of hay fever! Immediately after leaving Hemel Hempstead station we joined the Chiltern Way, and followed it to the south-west towards the village of Bovingdon. From here the route turned due south, and after a stretch along Holly Hedges Lane entered Woodman’s Wood. By now we were almost two hours in and thoughts were turning to lunch which thankfully was not too far away. We had gradually turned to face east and soon after entering Chipperfield Common, arrived at our planned lunch stop at The Windmill. Describing itself as ‘a traditional village pub’, it certainly lived up to that description, providing a warm welcome along with our food and drink. Fully refreshed we crossed the common and joined the Hertfordshire Way, which entered pasture land after leaving the woods. It was here we met our first herd of cattle of 2019! A group of very curious young animals that insisted on standing in front of the gate and barring our exit from their field. Fortunately our resident ‘cattle whisperer’ was able to cajole them into moving, but not before one or two of the group demonstrated their personal unease. Having passed our bovine challenge,  we continued through fields to cross the A41 and descended through the outskirts of Kings Langley to join the Grand Union Canal. Here we turned north and followed the canal towpath back to Hemel Hempstead and the train to London.

April 2019

North Downs Way 1 (Farnham to Guildford)
 

A merry band of walkers headed off from Farnham station for the first section of the North Downs Way National Trail. The Thursday long walk luck held, as despite the gloomy weather forecast, the day was pleasantly warm, and, more importantly after heavy overnight rain- dry. The walk started on a busy road near the station, but soon we were heading down a grassy track and enjoying the peaceful sounds of birds calling. Somehow, in our enthusiasm for the walk, we missed the beautifully ornately carved North Downs Seat which marks the start of the path, but we did, however, find the “Fairy Tree” which someone once decided looked like it had a door in it and so went to the trouble of decorating it accordingly.
Upon reaching a lovely green valley, offering magnificent views of the Hog’s Back to the north, we decided it was the perfect spot to stop for our picnic lunches. (By the way, and in case you are wondering, the name “Hog’s Back” seems to have several explanations. The Hog’s Back pub believes it is because it simply looks like a hog’s back. The NDW guide believes it is because the A31 ‘hogs’ most of the North Downs ridge. Others say it is because in geology and geomorphology the term ‘hog’s back’ is used to denote a long, narrow ridge with a narrow crest and steep slopes of nearly equal inclination on both flanks. You choose!).  After lunch, we immediately entered Totford Wood, which with its glorious bluebells and vibrant greens, was a highlight of the walk for many. Next came the village of Puttenham, where dedicated walkers as we all are, we resisted the offer of a refreshment stop at the Good Intent. Instead, we continued on our route to reach two bridges adorned with large wooden crosses, marking the Pilgrim’s Way path. After passing the Watts Gallery and following a long sandy path, we reached the River Wey, where we turned north towards Guildford city centre. It was time for the train home, but not before a short stop to toast a wonderful walk and a successful start to our North Downs Way journey.

A lovely, scenic walk through the Kent countryside, which began and ended at Sevenoaks and took in two historic National Trust properties, Knole House and Ightham Mote. After a short walk through Sevenoaks town centre, our route crossed Knole Park before heading off through typical Kent countryside to the village of Godden Green. The walk continued past oast houses, through orchards and into more woodland before descending to Ightham Mote (a Tudor moated manor house), where we stopped for lunch. At Ightham Mote we joined the Greensand Way, which follows the crest of the Greensand Ridge and provided superb views south across the Weald as we headed back to Knole Park. Finally as we continued through the deer park, we got a closer look at Knole House before heading back into Sevenoaks and on to the station.

May 2019

North Downs Way. 2: Westhumble to Guildford
 
Starting the second leg of the North Downs Way at Boxhill & Westhumble Station we followed the crest of the Downs west to Guildford. The route began by passing through Westhumble village but very quickly wound through woods up and onto a ridge overlooking extensive vineyards with Dorking in the distance. Our walk continued along this wooded ridge, providing extensive views over the Surrey countryside to the south.  After crossing Ranmore Common, we headed south-west past White Downs, Dunley Wood, and Hackhurst Downs before reaching Netley Heath where we stopped for our picnic lunch. Feeling well-rested, we continued on the well-marked North Downs Way route until we reached the visitor centre at Newlands Corner, for a welcome break. From here we followed the route of one of our 2018 walks, eventually climbing St Martha’s Hill to enjoy further glorious views to the south. The last leg saw us continue on the North Downs Way to meet the River Wey where we headed north to Guildford Station, stopping on the way for a richly deserved drink.

Greensand Way and Devil’s Punchbowl

For once the weather Gods were not smiling on the Longer Walks Group, as we set off from Witley station in light rain, which came and went throughout the day. However, as the previous day had been characterised by heavy rain, punctuated by torrential showers, we got off lightly! At least everyone seemed to be very cheerful, with one walker even describing the weather as ‘a pleasant change’. Our walk today followed the Greensand Way through the Surrey Hills to the small town of Haslemere, and to begin with the path undulated through woodland, with the tree canopy helping to keep the rain at bay. By noon we began to hear traffic noise, and this got louder and louder as we approached the busy A3 London to Portsmouth Road. Fortunately a convenient service tunnel allowed us to pass beneath the hurtling vehicles as we walked on into the village of Thursley.  With the rain temporarily halted, we stopped to eat lunch in Thursley churchyard, where we were able to admire the small parish church, characterised by a small wooden shingled belfry and some surviving Anglo-Saxon features. Amongst the many headstones in this churchyard, is one remembering the ‘Unknown Sailor’, an anonymous seafarer murdered nearby in 1786. After lunch our route began to climb steadily along an ancient by-way, as we headed towards Hindhead Common and the summit of Gibbet Hill 150 metres above. ’Well, I wouldn’t want to be climbing this in full sun’, was one wise comment. We were now in the area where the ‘Unknown Sailor’ met his end. While walking back to his ship in Portsmouth and flush with cash, this unfortunate man was set upon and gruesomely murdered by three others, all of whom were swiftly apprehended and later executed on Gibbet Hill. This event clearly caught the imagination, as an account of it features in Dicken’s ‘Nicholas Nickleby’, written fifty years later. Our (thankfully) safer route across the Common, now took us around the rim of the Devil’s Punch Bowl, a large natural amphitheatre and beauty spot owned by the National Trust and now much more peaceful since the A3 was diverted through the Hindhead Tunnel in 2011. After a brief stop to avail ourselves of the facilities at the nearby NT tea-rooms, we began our descent towards Haslemere, skirting the delightfully named Polecat Valley, before entering the outskirts of the town and meeting up with the route of our July 2018 walk on the High Street.

June 2019

North Downs Way 3: Westhumble to Merstham

The third leg of the North Downs Way was even more stunning than the second. After successfully winning the no-prizes Southern Railway “Hunt the Platform” game at Waterloo Station, a smaller than usual Longer Walks Group resumed our eastbound progress in perfect weather. On leaving Box Hill and Westhumble Station we passed under the A24, then crossed the River Mole. Unfortunately we were unable to cross the famous stepping stones, so the nearby footbridge was used to cross the stream. We entered the woods of Box Hill and embarked on a strenuous climb, gaining 170 metres of height by the time we reached the summit. Having taken in the breath-taking views from Box Hill, we continued eastwards, descending through Oak Wood before rising again to an elevation of 210 metres. A further descent took us down to a clearing above Betchworth Quarry where we stopped for a welcome rest and lunch, before we undertook our final steep climb of the day from the bottom of Juniper Hill to the top of Colley Hill, with fine views over Reigate and environs. Here we rested for a short while in the shade afforded by the Inglis Memorial, and where we were informed by a proud local that Surrey has more trees than any other county.
Then a military curiosity, Reigate Fort, one of a number of fortifications built along the North Downs Way in the 1890s as a response to a threat of a French invasion, and further on a memorial to a B17 plane crashin 1945. From then on we thankfully enjoyed mainly level terrain in the afternoon heat, stopping briefy at the Gatton Park picnic area. Our final 2.5 miles was a gentle descent, through the grounds of a boarding school, then the inevitable golf course to the finish of the walk at The Feathers public house, a few yards from Merstham Station. A memorable walk, marred only in the latter stages but the incessant traffic noise from unseen roads.

Burnham on Crouch to North Fambridge

Up to press, we have been very fortunate with public transport on the days the group has been walking. Given the behaviour of the rail service today, it was time for payback! Suffice it to say that following three separate disruptions to the service, it took longer to get to and from the walk, than it did to complete the ten mile walk itself. Yet miraculously the group made it intact to Burnham on Crouch, where we set out along the northern bank of the river, following the Saltmarsh Coastal Path (SCP). Travelling westwards along the flood embankment, we did have to contend with a rather blustery headwind. The Met Office claimed it was blowing at 25 knots, but it certainly didn’t feel like it. At least the wind kept the rain at bay as we walked through the boatyards and marinas, while enjoying fine views of Wallasea Island on the far side of the river. Next stop was Creeksea, where King Canute allegedly demonstrated a monarch’s inability to control the tides, before we reached ‘The Cliff’ – all 3 metres of it. Our route took us to Althorne passing Bridgemarsh Island on the way. The island was once inhabited and contained a brickworks but is now barely visible at high tide. The SCP then passes Shortpole Reach and Longpole Reach with the Blue House Farm Nature Reserve on the inland side.Soon afterwards we reached North Fambridge Yacht Club and headed inland past the Ferry Boat Inn, originally on the water’s edge but now 200 yards away, it was closed for refurbishment. Pity that, a drink would have been welcome before braving the Greater Anglia rail service!

July 2019

North Downs Way 4 : Merstham to Oxted

This year seems to have been characterised by both meteorological and transportation difficulties. The walk was originally scheduled for what was predicted to be the hottest day ever in the UK records, in the end it turned out to be only the second hottest, but with temperatures in the mid-thirties the decision was taken to cancel and re-schedule for the following day. Although this meant that some of the group were unable to take part, those who remained had a grand day out, despite the train cancellations which delayed our departure from Finsbury Park, the muggy atmosphere and the intermittent showers. From Merstham Station, we crossed the M25 ( by footbridge!) to re-join the North Downs Way. We then went under the M23, before completing a steep climb up Ockley Hill and heights over 200 metres. We were now walking along the crest of the chalk ridge enjoying the views south over the Weald, although the sound of the M25 traffic was never too far away. South of Caterham we entered an area of woodland, which opened out into a grassy viewing area where we stopped for lunch. Refreshed, we continue eastwards, descending steeply to cross the A22 before climbing to heights of over 200 metres once more. At Gangers Hill on Oxted Downs, we faced our only steep descent, a flight of 109 timber and earth steps constructed to take the NDW around the old Oxted cement works. Once safely past the quarry, a final steep climb provided further fine views to the south, if you were able to block out the sights and sounds of the M25. We were now sharing our route with the Vanguard Way, heading from Croydon to the south coast and soon began our descent into Oxted, going beneath the motorway for one final time before walking through suburban streets to reach the town centre.

Thanet Coast (Margate to Ramsgate)

Our day at the seaside followed the Viking Coastal Trail, from Margate to Ramsgate in North East Kent. Upon arrival at Margate Station we quickly made our way to the sandy beath, passing the famous Dreamland entertainment complex (the modernist cinema of which was the inspiration for the 1930s super cinema), and the Turner Contemporary. From there we continued along a wide promenade to Cliftonville, where we encountered a series of derelict buildings and a Grade II listed Art Deco cliff lift. As it was low-tide our walk leader guided us along a series of sandy bays populated with day visitors and school children on end-of-term trips. This route enabled us to admire, at close quarters, the striking sea stacks of Botany Bay and the cliffs, brilliantly white in the bright sunshine. After a lunch stop at Charles Dickens’s “our English watering-place”, Broadstairs, we followed the Thanet Coastal Path, to Louisa Bay and Dumpton Bay, and on to Ramsgate where we enjoyed a refreshing drink in the former Royal Victoria Pavilion. The walk to the station was surprisingly long for tired legs, although we did have a few minutes to admire the lofty booking hall of a stunning railway station building before our return journey. All in all, a splendid day’s walking in brilliant sunshine. The only disappointment for a seaside walk – we saw no piers!

August 2019

North Downs Way 5 : Oxted to Otford

The walk started at Oxted Station, from where we retraced our steps to the end of NDW4 in order to pick up the beginning of section 5. Once there, we soon climbed a rather steep slope to reach Botley Hill, which not only sits on the Greenwich meridian but is also the highest point of the North Downs Way at 853 feet (260 metres) above sea level. It is also claimed that the summit of Botley Hill can be seen from Ally Pally! Suitably impressed, we continued through woodland, fields and country lanes, eventually reaching a NDW milestone. This informed us that we were leaving Surrey and entering the county of Kent, where we will remain for the rest of the North Downs Way. Shortly afterwards we stopped for a lunch break at a field offering lovely views to the south. The road noise from the M25 just to our south was evident here, but if you concentrated on the landscape and the birdsong it became less obvious. After lunch we continued to walk through fields, then, after a steep, but short descent we reached a busy road that took us across the M25 and into the hamlet of Dunton Green. From there we headed east across fields towards Otford. As we entered the village, we crossed the River Darent, to walk along the High Street, where we finished our walk at The Bull for some well-earned refreshment before heading to the station for the train ride home.

Wendover Circular

After recent transport and weather issues, our luck seemed to have turned around! The whole group arrived on Marylebone station in plenty of time for our train, which deposited us punctually in Wendover, in lovely summer sunshine. Although a circular, the walk was made up of two distinct parts. In the morning, we followed some less well known Chiltern paths, climbing through fields and woodlands to reach the tiny village of Dunsmore. We continued to Little Hampden Common then headed west over farmland, where we stopped to watch a group of 4 or 5 red kites soaring and gliding in the skies above, before walking on through Sergeant’s Wood. We soon reached our half way mark and our picnic spot at Whiteleaf Hill, which provided the added luxury of shady oak trees and proper picnic tables. It was here at Whiteleaf Hill that we picked up the Ridgeway National Trail, which we followed back to Wendover, as it climbed and dipped along the edge of the Chiltern scarp. Our first steep climb was to the summit of Whiteleaf Hill where we were rewarded with glorious panoramic views of the Chiltern escarpment, the market town of Princes Risborough, and the Vale of Aylesbury. After plunging back into the woods, we descended to Lower Cadsden, passing local hostelry the Plough. This is the pub which hit the news fairly recently as the place where David and Samantha Cameron left their eight-year-old daughter behind after Sunday lunch, as well as for the much publicised visit of the Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015. Next came another steep climb, this time over the beautiful chalk grasslands of Pulpit Hill. Reaching the top, a slightly less steep descent brought us to the edge of Maple Wood and the boundary path around Chequers, the official country residence of the P.M. Regrettably the latest incumbent was nowhere to be seen, (which was a shame as a number of group members would have liked a word!) so we left the warning signs and CCTV cameras behind to begin our final climb to the summit of Coombe Hill. At 260 metres above sea level, and adorned with an imposing monument to the fallen of the Boer War, Coombe Hill provided even more magnificent views over the Vale of Aylesbury. This was a spot to be savoured, so we tarried a while at the foot of the monument drinking in the glorious vista spread out before us. By now we were on the final stretch, and with the prospect of well-earned refreshment we descended Bacombe Hill, and headed into Wendover and the Shoulder of Mutton.

September 2019

North Downs Way 6 : Halling to Otford

Although the North Downs Way 5 ended at Otford Station, due to logistics, we reversed this section and walked back to Otford from Halling. This is a beautiful section of the North Downs Way of over 15 miles, much of it through woodland, but its length and the repeated steep ascents and descents made it quite challenging. From Halling Station we had a walk of just over a mile and a climb of 135 metres to join the North Downs Way, going in a westerly direction. The route was mainly level as we headed towards Great Buckland, where we turned south to walk to Holly Hill, where we deviated a short distance from the Way for a refreshment stop on the hilltop. We then descended the steep chalk scarp to follow the Pilgrim’s Way along the foot of the Downs. As we approached Trosley Country Park, we climbed back up to the top of the ridge and enter Vigo Village, where we had our picnic in the grounds of The Villager pub, where we celebrated with cake a very special birthday.
After lunch we continued through woodland, eventually descending the chalk once more to cross over the M20 and walk through the village of Wrotham. A further level section along the Pilgrim’s Way ended at Chalk Pit Wood, and the last of the steep climbs. Our final section undulated slightly with good viewpoints at Kester and Otford Mount as we gradually descend to Otford Station.

Peak District Residential

On the evening of Tuesday 10 September, the group gathered in Buxton’s Old Sun Innto discuss the next day’s walk over dinner. The weather forecast threatened early rain which would clear mid-morning, suggesting a decent day for our Wyedale walk. It turned out to be somewhat wet when the bus deposited us at Topley Pike quarry, but as we headed off along the Monsal Trail to Millers Dale, the skies cleared and we were able to enjoy the limestone scenery around us. After watching some youngsters abseiling off a viaduct, we were ready for morning coffee in the former Millers Dale station.
Next came the serious business! A descent into Millers Dale was followed by a lung-busting climb through the woods to reach the open moorlands near Priestcliffe. A level walk then took us across the A6, before we climbed again to reach Taddington Moor at over 400m above sea level. Following a stretch across the moors, we descended into the village of Chelmorton, and headed for Deepdale. Deep Dale is a fine example of a dry, limestone, valley that has been very aptly named. The descent is steep, and is probably one of the most challenging we have done. However with care and a lot of mutual encouragement the group made it safely down to the valley floor, only to have to climb out of the other side. We were now on the home stretch, with only farmland and a few stiles between Deep Dale and Buxton. After 11 miles of walking and 550 metres of ascent, we finished our walk with a drink in the Buxton Brewery Tap, refreshment being absolutely essential!

On Wednesday, we exchanged limestone for sandstone and a walk along the Goyt Valley. Trying very hard not to be mistaken for disaster tourists, we took the train to Whaley Bridge, passing the recently damaged Toddbrook Reservoir as we headed out of town.
Our route climbed steadily towards the Goyt Forest, finally arriving at the Fernilee Reservoir. A gentle walk along the water’s edge followed until we reached Errwood Reservoir and the beginning of the moorland section of our walk. We continued south, above the reservoir, climbing away from the shore to meet the track of a dismantled railway at Goyt’s Lane. Following the track across the moor, we eventually reached a bricked up tunnel entrance from where we climbed to the watershed of the Goyt Basin at 420 metres above sea level. From here there were fine views, north along the Goyt Valley to Whaley Bridge, and south to Buxton and the area we walked on the previous day. On reaching the edge of the moorland plateau, we descended a steep, wooded hillside to reach the Cavendish golf club and soon arrived at the outskirts of Buxton. After a stroll through the beautifully restored Pavilion Gardens, we ended the walk having completed another 10 miles and climbed another 530 metres. There was just time for another visit to the Buxton Brewery Tap, before catching trains for London, and no doubt a well earned snooze as well.

October 2019

Wendover Woods & Tring Reservoirs

As daylight hours reduce, we are gradually starting to walk a little closer to home, so the first of our October walks saw the group returning to the Chilterns with a walk starting from the pretty village of Wendover. We are also beginning to link walks together, so today’s walk joined together the Tring/Ivinghoe Beacon walk of May 2018, with the Wendover/Chequers walk completed in August of this year. Considering that we seem to be living through a monsoonal wet season at the moment, we were also fortunate to start the walk in fine weather, beginning with a stroll past the small market and then along Wendover High Street, admiring the many fine buildings along the way (there are 113 listed buildings in Wendover, many of them thatched). On leaving the town centre, we embarked upon a very steep climb of 120 metres, which took us up Boddington Hill and into Wendover Woods, a 325-hectare open access woodland site managed by the Forestry England. After catching our breath (and a hot drink) at the café on the summit, we immediately walked back down the other side of the hill, skirting the perimeter of RAF Halton to reach the Wendover Arm of the Grand Union Canal at Harelane Bridge. The remaining route of the walk had a watery theme, as we followed the canal to Buckland Wharf, before cutting across country to Wilstone Reservoir (built to supply water to the Grand Union Canal) and into Wilstone village, where we had a somewhat chilly lunch stop on the village green. Retracing our steps, we continued along the shore of Wilstone Reservoir to rejoin the route of the Wendover Arm, as far as Little Tring Farm, where we followed footpaths and causeways around Tringford and Marsworth Reservoirs.  We soon reached the Grand Union Canal (GUC), and followed the towpath south-east past Marsworth Locks, the junction of the Wendover Arm with the GUC and the canal side settlement of Bulbourne. The final mile took us along a section where the canal had been engineered into a deep and wooded cutting, all the way to the end of our walk, close to Tring Station.

November 2019

Kings Langley to Elstree

We had naturally assumed that all the Group would have travelled together on the train to our Hertfordshire starting point. Hopes were dashed by an incident involving a smoky Northern Line train at Kentish Town (or the latest instalment in Janet and Michael’s big adventure) … The walk was described as easy and gentle, starting in Kings Langley and following the Hertfordshire Way, in an anti-clockwise direction for much of its length, crossing the M25 and the M1. Much of the walk crossed exposed farmland, the muddy terrain of which presented quite a challenge : the bridge over the River Colne was particularly treacherous. The walk took us past (in the distance) the former art deco Ovaltine factory (evoking cosy evenings with malted milks drinks for a good night’s sleep), independent schools, a building research establishment, and an early ninetenth century house at Wall Hall built in the Gothick style.
The pick of the villages was Aldenham, with a fine parish church with a characteristic Hertfordshire fleche, and a large green bordered on three sides by white painted Arts & Crafts houses.
At Bricket Wood, we crossed the Common, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and shortly after passed through the Munden Estate. We stopped for lunch at Round Bush village pub, adjacent to a range of almshouses mostly obscured by vegetation and little else. After lunch the weather deteriorated, and after we left the Hertfordshire Way, we quickened our pace along suburban streets in the drizzle and fading light to Elstree & Borehamwood Station for the train back home. Anyone for Horlicks?

A Roydon circular

It seemed an age since the last long walk, so members of the the Group were anxious at Tottenham Hale Station to be on their way for the short train journey to Roydon, although the eternally apologetic station announcer teased us briefly with threats of delays due to broken-down trains … The good news was that the predicted dire weather did not materialise and we were lucky enough to enjoy a fine sunny day in this dismal Autumn. Our walk was circular, initially by following the Essex/Hertfordshire border along the river, lock and reservoir systems of the Stort and Lee and returning to Roydon Station through countryside via the village of Nazeing.
We enjoyed a splendid lunch at King Harold’s Head at Bumble’s Green where the staff were kind enough to supply a large roll of silver duck tape to patch up a twenty-year old boot that had lost its soul [sic].
In the summer this walk would be described as easy but the recent heavy rains had rendered the paths muddy and quite slippery, as one of the Group discovered to her discomfort. The wide rutted track near Dobbs Weir was particularly challenging as we had to make our way through pools of water, the depths of which were not known. The mystery was that how some walkers with no protective outerwear managed to complete the walk unscathed while others travelled home looking glumly at their mud-bespattered overtrousers! – or is it just a question of balance?

December 2019

Festive walk : Totteridge to Highgate

The  walk was called off because of poor weather, although a festive lunch was enjoyed at the Queen’s, Crouch End.

 

 

 

 

LONGER WALKS 2018

January 2018

After a week of greyness, gales and rain, the group met at Hertford North Station to be greeted by blue skies and sunshine. The fine weather stayed with us all day and made up for the sometimes boggy conditions underfoot, which prompted one walker to ask if we were doubling up as the CEDU3A swimming group. After skirting the suburbs of Hertford, our route took us through Hertingfordbury,where we joined the disused railway track known as the Cole Green Way to head towards Welwyn. After a mile or so, we joined the Hertfordshire Chain and headed south-west through fields and woodland. At the appropriately named Waterhall Farm we followed a short stretch of the River Lea, before continuing south-west to the village of Little Berkhamsted, where lunch awaited at the Five Horseshoes. This marked the most southerly point of the walk, as we now headed north east along the Hertfordshire Way and climbing through Bayford Woods to reach the pretty village of the same name. By now we were literally on the home straight, as we followed the railway line north into the Hertford suburbs, before crossing the historic centre of Hertford to return to the station and the train back to North London.

February 2018

A linear walk starting in the Essex town of Loughton, from where we were able to access the tracks and rides of Epping Forest. Once in the woods, we headed north east past Strawberry Hill Ponds, and followed the Three Forests Way to the Iron Age Hill Fort of Loughton Camp (which according to local legend was once used by Queen Boudicca during the Roman occupation). Shortly afterwards the route took us north west, across the Epping New Road and on to High Beach and the Epping Forest Conservation Centre. Here we walked north east to Woodridden Hill, with a steep slope down into the Lea Valley visible to our left and the noise of the M25 becoming ever more obvious up ahead. We soon reached the motorway, crossing on a foot bridge that had recently been used by wild deer for the same reason. We then reached Upshire and the neighbouring village of Copthall Green where we stopped for lunch in ‘The Good Intent’ ( a café not a pub!). The afternoon section took us through mixed farm land in the area of Copped Hall, where we were fortunate enough to have two different sightings of deer, a herd of about 20 near Copped Hall Green and a smaller group of 4 who attempted to stare us out as we climbed to cross the M25 for a second time at Ladderstile Farm. Once over the motorway we re-entered Epping Forest briefly before crossing Bell Common into the centre of Epping and the Central Line back to London.

March 2018

After what seemed like weeks of freezing cold, the group assembled at Rickmansworth Tube Station in what felt remarkably like spring sunshine. So it was with a somewhat jaunty air, we headed out of town to follow the River Chess upstream past the Royal Masonic School towards Loudwater. After about 2 miles, we briefly left the valley to cross the M25 and shortly afterwards headed south west to reach Chorleywood Common. The next stage led us across the common to the delightfully named ‘Artichoke Dell’ and our lunch stop at ‘The Black Horse’, a traditional pub with oak beams and a roaring log fire. Victualled and refortified, the group continued across the common to cross the Metropolitan line by a narrow road bridge and descend into Chorleywood Bottom. Almost immediately we began to climb steeply out again, to join the Old Shire Lane circular walk. With lovely views over open countryside this section ended in a footbridge over the M25, before taking us on into the Colne Valley. A short section of road between the flooded gravel pits that typify this area brought us to the towpath of the Grand Union Canal at Springwell Lock. Here we turned to the north east and followed the canal towpath past the ‘Hanging Monkey’ to Batchworth, and a short town walk back to the station.

April 2018

The group met at Gordon Hill station and as there was little to delay or amuse us in the immediate vicinity set off promptly towards Hilly Fields Park. At the park entrance, our route took us downhill and over Turkey Brook (a tributary of the River Lea) before climbing out of the valley to reach Clay Hill. From here we headed north-west on a bridle path that descended to reach the London to Hertford railway. With no footbridge or tunnel, we carefully crossed the line, before another climb took us across a golf course and into Crews Hill. With lunch booked for 12.30, we had to leave the undoubted charms of the garden centres for another day, instead continuing north towards the first of our ever-popular M25 crossings.Once under the motorway, we carried on to reach Goff’s Oak, where we enjoyed a pub lunch (last one for the time being!) at ‘The Wheelwrights’. Our route now turned to the south east as we made our way towards Bury Green, where we joined the New River to head south past Theobald’s Park. By now we were enjoying typical April weather, with rain drops one minute and sunshine the next, and so it was with somewhat dizzy waterproofs that we crossed the M25 for the second time and reached the highlight of our walk, the Tottenham Hotspur training facility. Having managed to get our Arsenal supporting members away without serious incident, the group continued south, to pass Myddelton House (regrettably with no time to stop for a look) before meeting Turkey Brook again. At this point we also met the London Loop, following it and the brook through the Forty Hall Estate and back to Gordon Hill.

May 2018

A group of 18 were expected this month’s walk to Ivinghoe Beacon, but at the last minute we had to cater for an unexpected guest. A bicycle! A broken lock meant this most treasured of personal possessions could not be left to the mercy of the Euston station bike rack and so it accompanied the rest of us on the 9.34 to Tring and then on the entire 11 miles of the walk in the Chilterns. To begin, we headed for the Ridgeway National Trail, taking the track north through the Aldbury Nowers Nature Reserve and climbing steadily all the time. Emerging from woodland into open chalk grassland, we followed the ridge over Pitstone Hill before a steep climb up the south side of Inchcombe Hole. We were now in the Ivinghoe Hills and although there was still much low cloud following early morning rain, were rewarded with views west to the Vale of Aylesbury and north to Edlesborough. Meanwhile to the east, the recently restored giant chalk figure of a lion marked the location of Whipsnade Zoo. Continuing our climb the party reached Ivinghoe Beacon, which at 233 metres above sea level is the highest point the group has reached on our walks so far. After a photocall to mark this summit topping achievement, we took advantage of the open spaces on the beacon to eat lunch before dropping off the ridge to join the Icknield Way and heading south east.  At Hanging Combe our stamina was tested once more, as we were faced with climbing a flight of 134 steps, (try doing that while wheeling a bicycle!). At Little Gaddesden, we joined the Chiltern Way which took us into Ashridge Park and on to Berkhamstead Common. Not only was this area the scene of a mass trespass in 1866, but on the day we walked through it was being used by a film crew, preparing to shoot scenes for a new Robert Downey Jr film ‘The Voyage of Doctor Doolittle’ due out in 2019. The Chiltern Way now turned to face west, following a woodland walk to the village of Aldbury. By now the clouds had lifted and we were walking in strong sunshine, so we were forced to take a break in the beer garden of the ‘Valiant Trooper’, before tackling the final stretch of the walk across the fields to Tring Station. The bike by the way did make it back to Crouch End, although somewhat muddier than when it started!

June 2018

It was in expectation of one of the hottest days of the year that the group assembled at Box Hill and Westhumblerailway station. No bicycles today, but a walker who had forgotten their boots instead! After a minor diplomatic incident with the owner of the station café concerning the use of the toilet facilities, we had our first climb of the day as we headed north through Norbury Park. A steady descent brought us back into the Mole Valley and after crossing the A24 into the village of Mickleham, we embarked on our second climb to reach Mickleham Downs and our lunch time picnic spot. The afternoon’s walk continued across the Downs, the route dropping steeply into a dry valley only to climb steeply out again. By now temperatures were in the high twenties, so we were grateful for the shade provided by the trees, as we continued around the perimeter of Headley Heath, with only the sound of the distant M25 for company. In mid-afternoon we reached the settlement of Box Hill and soon joined the North Downs Way National Trail to head west to the Box Hill viewpoint known as Salomon’s Memorial. Scene of the 2012 Olympic cycling road races, immortalized by Jane Austen in her novel ‘Emma’ and by Richard Thompson in the song ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning’, this is one of the most famous vistas in southern England. Although it was hazy due to the heat, we had a very clear view, roughly south over Dorking and further and right across to the South Downs, including Chanctonbury Ring and Devil’s Dyke, Sussex (a distance of 26 miles, according to the inscription on the viewing platform). As we continued west towards the River Mole, we enjoyed very good views to Denbies vineyard just outside Dorking, before embarking on a steep descent down the 275 step flight of National Trust stairs leading to the Stepping Stones over the river. Credit where credit is due, every single one of us crossed the river via the stones, although disappointingly nobody fell in! One of our number even celebrated by having a paddle in the Mole, a well-deserved reward for walking in sandals all day. Soon, we reached Box Hill station just in time for the next train to Victoria. We were hot and thirsty but after completing the most challenging walk the group has attempted so far quietly satisfied with our efforts.

July 2018

Our first July walk started at Coulsdon South station and involved an immediate climb to the top of Farthing Down. At 150 m above sea level, the Down usually provides good views north to the Thames Valley. Unfortunately this was not so today, as early morning cloud obscured the view. From the open Downs we descended into Devilden Wood, following the tree-line and emerging into a beautiful swathe of chalk grassland known as Happy Valley, an area of special scientific interest managed by Croydon Council. We now turned to face south-west and made our way to the mediaeval Chaldon Church for our first stop of the day. This was an opportunity to see one of the earliest known examples of English wall paintings, the internationally renowned doom mural on the west wall of the church which dates from about 1200. The mural consists of an image of the Last Judgement, in which souls were being consigned to Heaven or Hell. Apparently such images were very often painted on the west wall of churches, so it was viewed by the largely illiterate congregation as they left the church. Our walk now continued towards the south, gradually climbing until we reached the top of the North Downs at Tollsworth Manor. We were now over 200 m above sea level and were able to enjoy fine views, south towards the Weald and east and west along the crest of the Downs. After lunch, the route continued east along the North Downs Way, before turning north and descending towards the village of Chaldon. From here, we headed across the fairways of the Surrey National Golf Club to the very edge of Caterham, following the perimeter wall of the former Caterham barracks to reach Coulsdon Common. After walking around the edge of the Common, we re-entered Happy Valley directly opposite our morning viewpoint. By now the sun was shining brightly and the temperature had risen, so our final climb back onto Farthing Down was rather more challenging than the one completed at the start of the day. Fortunately the café in the Coulsdon Memorial Grounds was only a short walk away, providing the group with refreshment before the journey home.

August 2018

Having had to cancel a July walk due to excessive heat, we had no intention of letting the rain that was forecast for today put paid to this one. We did however change location from the North Downs (heavy rain) to the Chilterns (not so heavy), catching the train from Marylebone to the centre of Beaconsfield. A short walk from Beaconsfield town centre, past the Bekonscot model village led us into Netherland’s Wood, and a short diversion as part of the group made an early bid for freedom by bolting off into the forest. Eventually we were happily re-united and continued our walk north and east on secluded paths, with the woodland canopy providing shelter from the light rain that had started to fall. Working our way along the edge of Hodgemoor Woods, we joined the Chiltern Way and descended into the Misbourne Valley, where our route lay south towards the pretty village of Chalfont St Giles, having resisted the opportunity to take a rest. This is an area associated with John Milton who in 1655 fled here from London to avoid the plague, with the cottage he inhabited now in use as a museum. However in typical fashion, the group seemed far more interested in exploring the delights of a hostelry known as ‘Merlin’s Cave’, where we stopped to dry out! After lunch we continued along the Misbourne as far as Chalfont St Peter, where the route turned west towards the village of Jordans. This model village is a centre for Quakerism, and also the burial place of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. This is supposed to make Jordans a popular destination for visiting Americans, although the only one that could be found today, was part of our group. We were now approaching the end of our walk, and after skirting the edge of Crutches Wood crossed a road at the entrance to Beaconsfield Golf Club, where signs for Seer Green Station pointed us to the London train.

After a train ride through rather worrisome rain, a group of ten headed out of Horsley Station and were soon enjoying a walk beside the railway with the rain a thing of the past. We followed a path through fields and passed by West Horsley Church where Sir Walter Raleigh’s head and the whole of his son’s body are buried. We didn’t take the opportunity to view them however, but continued our walk through the Sheepleas, 300 acres of downland which is classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Eventually our route joined the North Downs Way and then meandered through Shere Woods until we reached our lunch spot at Newlands Corner. Here we enjoyed the spectacular views south over the Weald while rejuvenating ourselves with a much needed meal break. After lunch our route continued along the NDW descending Albury Downs only to climb steeply up the sandy St Martha’s Hill. This we were informed contains bands of iron ore, and in evidence we were presented with several rocks to identify!bnHaving trudged up the sandy incline we reached the pilgrim’s church at the summit of St Martha’s Hill. After admiring more lovely views to the south, supposedly encompassing eight different counties, our walk continued. The NDW, now also called the Pilgrim’s Way, descended through woodland and eventually reached the Wey Valley. Arriving at the banks of the River Wey, we left the NDW and headed north alongside the Wey, which led us to a riverside pub in the heart of Guildford. The ideal spot on a sunny afternoon to stop and toast another wonderful Crouch End and District U3A long walk.

September 2018

Our morning’s walk took us out of Haslemere and south through land owned by the National Trust. After crossing Marley Common, we briefly joined the Sussex Border Path and climbed steadily through heath and woodlands to reach Marley Heights. Continuing south we were rewarded with our first magnificent view over the Weald to the South Downs at High Marley. The price we then paid for the view was a very steep path down into Kingsley Copse before we reached the town of Fernhurst and a deserved lunch break on the village green. From here at a height of about 80 metres, our route tooks towards the southern tip of the area known as Black Down, which at 280 metres above sea level is the highest hill in Sussex. And so it was a steep climb that took us to the viewpoint known as ‘Temple of the Winds’, a spot with magnificent panoramic views towards the South Downs and with strong associations with the poet Tennyson. Our climbing now more or less over, we turned north to walk at across heathland, before reaching a minor road called Tennyson’s Lane where we started to descend. By now we were on the return leg to Haslemere, continuing through farmland and woodland, to enter the town via Well Lane, a major source of the settlements drinking water in bygone times. From here, we reached Haslemere High Street and a short walk to the station and trains back to London.

This walk was conducted in clear blue skies and glorious sunshine, as we explored the creeks and coastline of the Thames Estuary. From Leigh-on-Sea, we headed upstream along the Thames Estuary Path, enjoying fine views inland to Hadleigh Castle, while in the distance the huge gantries of Thames Gateway port facilities dominated the skyline. After passing through Benfleet Marina, we reached Benfleet station and embarked on our first climb of the day, towards Hadleigh Country Park. As we climbed, superb views opened up of the Thames Estuary and on the far side of the river north Kent. Once in the country park we reached the track used in the 2012 London Olympics for the Mountain Biking competition. As part of the Olympic Legacy, this track is very popular with mountain bike enthusiasts, as several of our group seemed surprised to discover when they attempted to cross the track Our route continued through the park to reach the remains of King Edward III’s Hadleigh Castle.  With commanding views over the estuary, the views from here were the finest of the whole walk and it made a fine spot to settle down on the grass to eat our sandwiches. After lunch we descended to Leigh-on-Sea, where by now the tide was in, much to the amazement of some, who claimed only to have ever seen the mudflats before. We now set off on a stroll along the seafront passing the cockle sheds of Leigh-on-Sea, the bathing pools of Chalkwell, and the well-manicured gardens of Westcliff. By now the seaside atmosphere was proving too much for some of us and a large queue soon formed at Rossi’s ice-cream kiosk. Thus it was suitably cooled and refreshed that the group completed the final stretch of promenade to finish our walk at Southend Pier.

September 2018

To celebrate the anniversary of the Longer Walks Group, an intrepid band of 14 souls gathered in Eastbourne, for a 2 day ramble, exploring the Sussex Downs.

Day 1 : Friston Frolics

We assembled in hot and sunny weather outside Eastbourne pier. After dealing with leaking water bottles and a successful search for a missing camera, we faced the Downs and headed off along the sea front in high spirits. At the end of the prom, the South Downs Way Long Distance Path begins its journey to Winchester and it was the inland section we now followed. This involved a steady climb of 200 metres over the Downs to the top of Willingdon Hill, where we were rewarded with magnificent views of the south coast stretching from Newhaven to our SW to Bexhill on Sea away in the SE. The route ahead now involved a descent into Jevington, the birthplace of Banoffee Pie, and our chosen lunch spot , in the shadow of the Saxon tower of the Grade I listed Church of Saint Andrew. After lunch and somewhat inevitably, we began to climb again, this time to the top of Windover Hill and 360 degree views along the spine of the Downs to the east and west, north over the Weald and south to the coast. Cue descent number 2, into theCuckmere Valley and an afternoon stop in the tourist ‘honeypot’ of Alfriston. After a stressful experience with ‘teas’ but suitably refreshed, the group now headed south along the Cuckmere towards our final challenge, Friston Forest. A short walk from Litlington, brought us to Charleston Manor and a steep flight of steps into the heart of the forest. This was followed 10 minutes later by a monster 169 step ascent from Westdean, at the end of which we were provided with the most amazing view of the Cuckmere meanders as they snaked south from Exceat to reach the sea at Cuckmere Haven. A fitting end to the day and an appetizer for what was to come!!

Day 2 : Cuckmere Capers

After a shared meal in Morgan’s Bistro (a restaurant to be recommended if you are in Eastbourne), Day 2 also dawned with the promise of further warm and sunny weather. Despite some minor grumbling about the ‘early’ start, everyone made it in time to get the 9.27 Coastliner bus. Note the time … 3 minutes ‘twirly’ for Freedom Pass holders. Cue more grumbles and an international incident with the bus driver, before we were able to set off on one of the most scenic bus routes in the country. (The most scenic one is of course in Yorkshire). Arriving in Seaford, we joined the route of the Vanguard Way, as it headed towards Seaford Head, passing on the way a Martello tower, now the home of Seaford Museum, and an angled row of colourful beach-huts.. Once on the top and continuing SE, the day’s walk was laid out before us, as the magnificent chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters were gradually revealed. For now though, we enjoyed the stroll along the cliff top to Hope Gap and then the descent to the coastguard cottages at Cuckmere Haven. Unable to cross the river, and with an incoming tide making it look as if the water was flowing the wrong way, we followed the flood bank inland to Exceat Bridge, where we crossed and headed south to re-join the South Downs Way at Foxhole. Our capering was now over for the day! The Seven Sisters are seven truncated dry valleys (not the hills between them!) which are all between 12- 18 metres above sea level. However the cliffs between the valleys reach heights of over 70 metres. So walking them is akin to walking the track of a roller coaster. Although you never get to a great height, by the time you get to the end, you’ve actually done a lot of climbing. However our intrepid CEDU3A walkers did what all good walkers do and just took it in their stride. With a few pauses for photo opportunities and a picnic stop half-way, we all emerged at Birling Gap wondering what all the fuss was about (Saturday Walkers Club – 9 out of 10 for ‘toughness’ – you are having a laugh!). Birling Gap, was not the end. Up ahead lay more superb coastal scenery, as we continued past the Belle Tout lighthouse and then on to Beachy Head. By now Eastbourne was starting to re-appear and we soon began the descent to the promenade. Thirteen miles and 6 hours after leaving Seaford, our adventure ended back at Eastbourne pier.

 

The weather gods continued to shine on the Longer Walks Group, as we assembled outside Faversham station in bright sunshine, for what was to be our final seaside walk of the year. We began the walk at Faversham’s historic market square with its fascinating mix of architectural styles, regrettably walking past rather than into the Shepherd Neame Brewery on our way towards the Saxon Shore Way – a long distance path named after the line of historic fortifications that defended the Kent coast at the end of the Roman era.

Our route now led east along the coast to the village of Seasalter, famous for its salt production in the Iron Age, but now better known for the Michelin starred Sportsman pub which occupies a site which has hosted an inn since 1642. Again however any thoughts of refreshment were to be disappointed, as we continued on the sea wall before finally having lunch facing the public conveniences! The afternoon route led us onto the shingle beach, with just enough of it exposed for us to keep our feet dry, we passed rows of beach huts before reaching the oyster fishing town of Whitstable, where we celebrated the end of the walk with our favourite tipple in The Old Neptune.

November 2018

Autumn is definitely here! This walk was conducted in permanently murky weather, and a good dollop of Hertfordshire mud. Nevertheless it was a cheerful group of walkers that set off from the banks of the Lee Navigation, through the village of Stanstead Abbotts to follow the Harcamlow Way (a route running from Har-low to Cam-bridge and back to Har-low). This path took us through the arable farming country to the north of the village, and despite the mud, we made good progress, soon reaching the village of Widford. We left the Harcamlow behind at this point and after a brief road side stretch, joined the Hertfordshire Way. This route took us along a disused rail track to arrive finally at the village of Wareside and our lunch-time pub the White Horse. Having been very well looked after at the pub, we continued along bridle paths and by-ways towards the town of Ware. By now we were heading south and at Widbury Hill, started to descend back into the Lea Valley. Shortly we re-joined the disused railway, which led us through the Amwell Nature Reserve and onto the towpath of the  Lee Navigation (both spellings ‘Lea’ or ‘Lee’ being acceptable). By now we were close to our starting point, and after a short walk alongside the Lea we arrived back at Stanstead Abbotts and trains to London.

Our luck with the weather continued, as cloudless blue skies created a perfect autumn day for walking. We started at Bayford Station with a short roadside stroll, east into the village of Brickendon before striking north to reach the delightfully named Owls Hatch cottages. Here we turned south east, following wooded paths and bridle ways that skirted the edge of Highfield Wood, before plunging into Broxbourne Woods, Hertfordshire’s only National Nature Reserve. At this time of year, there was a beautiful display of autumnal colour to be enjoyed, as we were expertly guided along the forest tracks.bTowards lunch-time, the tranquility was disturbed by the chattering and shrieking normally associated with the fauna of a tropical rain forest. Then appearing through the branches to our left came the frightening sight of a Velociraptor on the attack, while ahead could be seen a prowling T. Rex. We were following the edge of the Paradise Wildlife Park and its animatronic dinosaur display, but suddenly our U3A group morphed into a year 4 school visit, and several members of the party had to be reluctantly dragged away before we could continue the walk. Fortunately we were close to the small village of Wormley West End and our lunch at the ‘Greek restaurant in the forest’, otherwise known as The Woodman and Olive. After lunch our route turned to the west, as we followed a large loop through another section of the National Nature Reserve. So far we had seen little in the way of wildlife, but suddenly a large bird appeared out of the trees, which some of us were able to identify as a barn owl before the bird took before flight at our approach. We were now close to Brickendon, and soon reached the village green and the short walk back to Bayford Station, where a perfectly timed ending to the walk had us heading back to London within 3 minutes!

December 2018

We celebrated our first full year of walking with a short local route and a long festive lunch! Beginning in our own back yard, at Highgate Station, we followed the Capital Ring along Parkland Walk before crossing Finsbury Park and circumnavigating the new Woodberry Down flats. The route took us through Clissold Park and along Stoke Newington Church Street to reach Abney Park Cemetery where we paused to admire the tombs. That of a big white lion marks the grave of Frank Bostock. Known for educating Victorian Britain about African and Asian wildlife, Bostock became a lion trainer at the age of 15. He survived both a tiger and lion mauling, then had his finger bitten off by an ape, only to die of the flu. We also reacquainted ourselves with the Salvation Army. Previously encountered on our Southend walk, General William and Catherine Booth founders of the Sally are buried in Abney Park along with other members of their family. Their family tomb lies near the Church Street entrance, a Salvation Army badge marking their plot. After crossing Stamford Hill, we reached Springfield Park and descended to the banks of the River Lea, turning south to follow the towpath to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and a lovely lunch at Gotto Trattoria on the banks of the Lee Navigation. We had plenty of time to enjoy our festive meal, before emerging into the gathering twilight to complete the final 500 metres of our walk to Hackney Wick station and trains for home.

 

 

 

 

LONGER WALKS 2017

October  2017

Our inaugural group walk started bang on time, as we headed south from Totteridge underground station along the Dollis Valley Greenwalk. After crossing Dollis Brook we cut through some 1930’s suburbia to reach Totteridge Green and the illusion of a rural idyll at least for a while. Following a brief road walk, we turned southwest through The Darlands, where, with overgrown parkland to our left and pasture land to our right, it really felt like we were in the countryside. After going through a very muddy field corner (nobody fell over!) we exited through a kissing gate to pass Folly Farm. The walk now went uphill across cricket fields to the Ridgeway and then on into Mill Hill Village and our lunch stop at The Three Hammers.
Despite having pre-ordered our lunch, service was painfully slow, so we were well rested when we emerged into the drizzle to complete the walk. After descending Highwood Hill, we re-entered pasture land to climb back towards Totteridge, where a walk through the Totteridge Fields Nature Reservereunited us with the Dollis Brook. At this point we joined the London Loop heading towards Underhill where we followed the Greenwalk back to the tube station.

November  2017

Having assembled in Chesham, we left town via The Chiltern Link path, and headed north-west along ‘Herbert’s Hole’. After overnight rain the ‘Hole’ was rather muddy but somehow, we all managed to stay more or less upright. In fact after an hour’s walking we were able to turn off the ‘Link’, and follow a minor road south towards an area of woodland. The path through the trees (still in their autumn colours), led us to the very busy A413, which we crossed safely before continuing south into the delightful village of Little Missenden. This is where we stopped for lunch at the Crown Inn, a delightful country pub with a good reputation. Pleasingly it didn’t let us down, not only was the food good, but the service was also first rate. We shall return!nUnfortunately we couldn’t stay in the ‘Crown’ all day, so it was back on with our boots for the afternoon walk. This section followed the Misbourne valley, which ran south east into a landscaped park complete with water features belonging to the Shardeloes estate. By now we were close to Amersham Old Town and were soon walking along the High Street with its fine collection of listed buildings (150 apparently!). In the centre of the old town, our final stretch of walking was revealed, a steep climb of 50 metres through Parsonage Wood to reach our train home. A walk with a gentle sting in its tail!

December 2017

Our Christmas walk began at Kew Gardens station where, after the snow and rain of earlier in the week, the morning was crisp, sunny and bright. Skirting the Kew Gardens boundary wall, we headed over Kew Bridge to pick up the Thames Path on the north bank of the river. There followed a varied and interesting walk along the Brentford waterside, with its house boats and old wharfs and warehouses, before we reached the Grand Union Canal for a short section along the tow path. Leaving the canal behind us, we entered Syon Park passing the frontage of Syon House (London base of the Duke of Northumberland) before heading back towards the riverside at Isleworth. Another 15 minutes brought us to Richmond Lock, where we crossed the river and continued on into Richmond for our Christmas lunch at the ‘Slug and Lettuce’. Much better than it sounds, the service was not only first rate, but we also received free Santa hats! The afternoon section of the walk stayed on the Surrey bank of the Thames. The elegant riverside of Richmond soon gave way to the water meadows around Ham, and once past Eel Pie Island and the Ham Lands Nature Reserve, the end of the tidal Thames at Teddington Lock.By now we could see Kingston in the distance, and we were entertained by the many coxed fours out on the river as we headed towards the town. Eventually the Thames Path led us beneath Kingston Bridge, and we ended our walk by heading to the Christmas market for the opportunity of a warming cup of mulled wine.