Recent outings and activities...
Circular walk to Davy Down, Mardyke Woods and in Thames Chase, Saturday, 17 August 2019
In true EFOG style we began our day by meeting for a coffee at Thurrock Garden Centre in Ockenden, and once refreshed the eight of us travelled to Davy Down car park in two cars.
The circular walk was more like a figure-of-eight, taking us through the woods at Davy Down and then through open meadows, past the water pumping station and the viaduct. Much of our walk followed the Mardyke river, where we spotted some wildlife including a Grey Heron and ducks but also some sculptures of animals, including a mammoth (which was quite hard to spot among the trees), foxes, dragonfly and heron. Most of the walk was in fields or woods but we did have a short walk on the road up to North Stifford village, passing the cricket green on the right-hand side. We then walked through the Field of Peace and alongside the Mardyke, crossed the road back into Davy Down and then over the bridge on the other side of the river and under the viaduct which serves the C2C railway. We then proceeded to walk through Brannetts Wood which is very pleasant and leafy. We returned to Davy Down along the river, across the bridge, passing the fish sculpture and over the small lake where we were able to see some Marsh Frogs taking in the sun.
We returned to Thurrock Garden Centre for a tasty lunch and a circular walk round Thames Chase Forest before finishing with a cuppa and an ice cream at the café. Thoroughly enjoyable day for Eileen, Fred, Jinan, Trevor, Sue S., Ann, Marilyn and Tina who took the pictures. This was Tina’s first walk with EFOG and hopefully the first of many.
Ann W. 26th August 2019
Trip to Kentwell Hall, Saturday 24th August 2019
Ann, Jenny, Jinan, Fred and Louise travel together in one car to Kentwell Hall to see the “Meet The Tudors” weekend where we spoke to various volunteers dressed in Tudor costume who were speaking in the Tudor form of English to us. We first encountered a group of musicians playing on instruments from the Tudor period followed by a gentleman who had a red kite perched on his arm. He told us a little bit about the bird of prey, who at the time was shedding some of its feathers.
We then made a circular tour around the site watching pottage (soup or stew) being made for the workers, blacksmiths working on tools, told how wool is dyed using various plants, and we watched young men and women spinning yarn and weaving as it would have been done in Tudor times. We visited the house and observed the gentry eating their meals and also the servants in the kitchen as well as the group of musicians we had seen earlier, come into the house and perform a short comical play in front of the gentry as they sat eating their meal.
We were given a full history of how to make butter and cheese in the dairy and went into the camera obscura which is a small room with a small hole cut through and when the door to the room is shut you get a reflection of the bridge and the land outside on the inside wall of the room. Finally we spent some time in the walled garden and gardens, looked in the ice house and finished with watching the basket makers who were wisely working in the shade under the trees.
A thoroughly enjoyable day rounded off with an ice cream very kindly bought by Jenny for the group.
Ann W. 26th August 2019
Eleven of us turned up at Chislehurst Caves in South London. Chislehurst Station (zone 5) is just 500 metres away, so very convenient.
The man-made chalk tunnels and caverns cover a large area, and the map looked like a small town. The entertaining guide occasionally dodged round a corner leaving us groping around with our feeble lamps until he suddenly popped out from an unexpected direction, such was his knowledge of the paths. The caves were used as an air raid shelter in the Second World War and there was a recreation of the conditions suffered by the people – triple bunks, the top ones getting wet from the chalk ceilings, basic medical provision, poor ventilation and so on. Discipline appears to have been rigid, which with that many people in an enclosed space is perhaps just as well. The caves were also used for storage by the army.
One hour later we were outside thinking what to do, the pub being uppermost in some minds. Instead we walked down the road to Petts Wood. This is a wood owned by The National Trust, along with Hawkwood Estate next door, but does not feature in their 2019 handbook. It is in their leaflet “Around London”, which is how we came to know of it. It was more than a mile to walk there, so we did the North edge of the Wood then went hungrily in search of a pub. The first was full – natch, it is Sunday – but the second, the Crown Inn on School Road, had tables outside. The weather was fine and so, ignoring the wasps, we had an enjoyable meal.
A walk along the busy roads back to Chislehurst and then off home.
Brian U. 28th July 2019
Higham, Kent, Circular
Five EFOG members met at Stratford International Station on Sunday 21st July for Lynne’s Dickens-themed walk in Kent.
It takes little time to get the two stops to Sheerness, and about the same to wait for the one-sto-down-the-line train to Higham. What occurred to me as we walked out of the station and across the bridge to our proposed footpath was the number of butterflies alongside the railway. This may have been a lot to do with the almost-forest strip of buddleia that ran parallel to the railway lines. The relevance of that I was not to find until I looked things up – much later.
Almost immediately, we were on a public footpath, with a single row of houses on our right and fields of wheat to our left. There was a gentle incline, and although the Sun was shining and it was warm, a breeze across the fields tempered things for pleasant walking conditions. Shortly after the row of houses ended, the footpath became a lane, and we passed what had been oast houses, and had now been converted into dwellings. We realized that it was the cowls of these that we had seen above the chalk cliffs that had formed the car park for the station. We were likely walking above the railway tunnel.
We passed a nice weatherboarded and tiled-roof barn at White House Farm, and then – at something over 100ft altitude – looking behind us we were able to get some good views across the Thames, with familiar Essex locations identifiable. Clearly to be made out were the Langdon Hills, and as the viewpoints changed slightly, the Hadleigh Downs and even Leigh and Southend.
The railway station is actually at Lower Higham, which was the original settlement. We were walking southwards, so we entered the now-larger village of Higham. Lynne had already given us an introduction to Dickens’ association with the area, and – after a short visit to the (very high – but not just the tower) St. John’s Church and walking through the village – we passed Gads Hill Place. We were told that when Dickens was 9 years old, he and his father were walking through Kent. He saw the house, liked it, and bought it in 1856. It was his country home, and he died there in 1870.
Nearby, on the other side of the road, is the Sir John Falstaff pub., so we went in there for some refreshing drinks. Although, apparently, a perfectly ordinary, pleasant – and presumably much-frequented – pub, we had the strange feeling that the majority of the clients were eyeing us during all of our stay. Odd. But then it is Kent...
Resuming our walk, we climbed the lane over Telegraph Hill, perhaps named because of the one-time positioning of a semaphore station there. These were built around 1795 for the Admiralty to warn of invasion from France. Chains of shutter telegraph stations were built, including the first, which was London to Deal and Sheerness. Messages passed from London to Deal in about sixty seconds. The prominent position at Higham would have been ideal to relay messages across the Thames, such at to the Westley Heights at Langdon, and there was definitely a semaphore station at Great Wakering.
However, on the hill at Higham now is a more recent edifice, which we duly visited. This is the Larkin Memorial which was constructed in 1835 to the memory of Charles Larkin (1775–1833), an auctioneer from Rochester who promoted the Parliamentary reforms of 1832. Although it is at the highest spot at Higham – and likely where the telegraph had been positioned – it is now almost hidden from sight by vegetation, and there is no view at all. The concrete monument was in danger of collapse by 1860, but was repaired. It was renovated again in 1974, but we were concerned about some rather major cracks as we looked at it!
Leaving Higham, we walked beside a quiet road along a nice ridge, with views north to Southend and south across rolling countryside - with lots of horses - towards Hillyfield, and then southward and downhill, passing more horses and across fields of wheat and barley, to Lillechurch Farm. After a short road-walk, a track and then a footpath across fields took us to Church Street, where the small St Mary’s Church is situated. It is in a remote position on the edge of the marshes that run to the Thames, although we didn’t go far enough down the lane to experience that aspect. It is Grade 1 listed, originally Norman building, both charming and somewhat eccentric. It was remodelled and enlarged in the fourteenth century, so that the newer and larger nave to the south is where the main chancel now is. The original chancel is still maintained as such, and is separated from the nave by a heavy wooden fourteenth-century chancel screen, a remarkable survival. The stone font is Norman and apparently one of the oldest in Kent.
From the church, and initially by way of field-paths we made our way towards the village of Lower Higham, at the edge of which, in Bull Lane, we walked along a very attractive long row of – I suspect – originally farmworkers cottages. Almost all of the tiny front gardens were well cared for and individual in style.
Suddenly, it seemed, passing ‘Station House’ on our left, we were walking back across the bridge and the buddleia to the butterfly-infested Higham Station to begin our train journeys home.
About the buddleia: I really ought to research places before I visit rather than on the return. Something had struck me as odd about this long parallel strip of land, adjacent to the railway and now full of buddleia. Beyond Higham station, heading towards Rochester, the railway plunges into a tunnel. This now railway tunnel had been the second longest canal tunnel in Britain, after Standedge. The railway company took it over from its disuse as the Thames and Medway Canal, and originally ran a single-track line through it, parallel to the canal. It was BIG - the tunnel could accommodate Thames sailing barges. The strip of land, of course, is the course of the original canal.
The walk was about 6.5 miles, and Cathy, Jinan, Trevor and myself accompanied Lynne. What a nice walk!
Paul Ferris, 26th July 2019
Seven of us went to Waddesdon Manor on a cloudy but warm Saturday 13th July. All of us were National Trust members, thank goodness, because the entrance fee is £21 for non-members.
The Manor is a French style chateau once owned by the Rothschild family and built by them in the 1870’s. The timed entry system worked well as we never felt crowded and the sumptuous interior could be enjoyed to the full. It took us more than 90 minutes to get round the house, it being a large property full of Sevres porcelain and furniture reflecting the Rothschilds’ French heritage. We ignored the wine cellar on the assumption that it would just be racks of bottles, although there is a talk there every day. We had a picnic and then went for a walk around the 125 acres of grounds that the National Trust owns.
The aviary is an ornate piece of gilded architecture and the cages were so full of greenery that you wondered how the birds could fly. A Robin-Chat was giving it full voice when we arrived. We walked down to the stables but the buildings retained little trace of their original use, being converted to a gallery and restaurant. Back up to the house to view the impressive parterre and then we walked the three quarters of a mile downhill to our cars, ignoring the efficient bus shuttle service.
Brian U. 15th July 2019
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