Recent outings and activities...
From Sevenoaks to Ightham Mote on the Greensand Way
A disappointingly small number of people suggested that they'd be going on Ken's proposed walk when asked at the club on Thursday evening. My perception is that this has been the case for a few walks now – although more subsequently have turned out than indicated beforehand.
So it was that I travelled to Victoria Station to meet just Ken and Fred - on Saturday 27th May – and did so at the proposed time, by 8.55. The station was as busy as usual as we were getting our tickets - only £3.10 for a Day-return to Sevenoaks with our Freedom Passes and Travelcards. However, as we were being served announcement began that the Underground part of the station was closed due to a person on the line. While waiting for our train, Victoria Station became as populated as a miserable winter Sunday in the '60s.
We hang on outside the ticket barriers where our train was at the platform, hoping that there might be some further arrivals from the Group, but realising that even if there were, they would have had trouble getting there, with the closure. Then Lynne went past. So fast that Ken and Fred didn't even see her and certainly faster than any of the trains at the platforms and probably anybody else on the station. She was through those barriers before my brain could get my mouth into gear to shout, but with Ken's assistance our combined voices caught her attention, and she joined us. And that was it...then there were four.
From Sevenoaks station it is a bit of an uphill haul along town roads and past the back of a T...'s store and near the bus station before you exit the town through a small gate and are suddenly in the countryside of Knole Park. Immediately there were grassy, grazed hillsides, bosky woods (whatever they are) and a herd of fallow deer that didn't pay much attention at all to passing people. There were more deer than there were passing people. We, as people, passed the deer, and then more, and more deer. There were a lot of deer, all beautifully marked in traditional colours – not like the more unconventional costumes that our Epping Forest ones are sometimes prone to wearing. And all more or less unconcerned about our passing – at least until you try to stroke them.
We picked up (but not literally) the Greensand Way, which is a long-distance footpath actually marked on O.S. Maps. I remarked that the name – and indeed the markings on the maps – are not very descriptive because although it might be sand, it ain't green. That didn't deter anyone, so we continued, past Knole House and through very nice parkland country until – crossing a road marked in yellow on the map (which of course was not yellow, or brick) we entered more natural-seeming country, with sandy heaths and scattered trees. Sometimes the scattered trees got together to form woods.
We had been generally climbing from Sevenoaks Station, and at Carters Hill (about 630ft) we emerged onto a path running east along the scarp face of the Greensand ridge, overlooking the Weald to the south. It is a very pleasant route, with a variety of lanes, paths, tracks, wood, grassland and scrub to add interest. Unfortunately, I was suffering foot-wise – and had been since leaving home – so much of the pleasure was negated just by walking. A Paracetamol at a brief rest-stop led to some abatement, but not much.
We were very lucky with the weather. The day before had been hot and clear. Today sometimes a bit of cloud – even a few specks of rain – and there was a breeze. This meant it was neither humid nor burning, and was good for walking. Never quite reaching 700ft, the route took us along the scarp with some short ups-and-downs at about 650ft until we reached the edge of the Ightham Mote estate which – the house being in a hollow – meant that we descended slightly, past some oast-houses and to the garden-grounds of the house itself.
Ightham Mote is a Grade 1 listed mediaeval manor house, surrounded by a moat, and is owned by the National Trust. After having tea (and, for me, another pain-killer) at the cafeteria we showed our N.T. passes and went in to the grounds. We listened to an introductory talk about the origins and history of the manor, then went inside the manor to spend some time looking around the very interesting building.
Our concern at the finish of the tour was to get back to Sevenoaks, and as the manor house is some 2 miles by narrow road from Ightham, and walking narrow roads did not enthuse us, we decided that our best route was to walk by way of footpaths to the A25 road some way north, and hope to catch a bus. That option was at least shorter than walking back to Sevenoaks.
As is often the case – at least I have found – beginning a walk from a particular location is the most difficult part. It begins with orientating oneself with where you are in relation to where you want to be. Essentially, we were in the car-park of a National Trust property, and wished to find an appropriate footpath out. By means of two different scale O.S. Maps and a “You are Here” map of where we were in the grounds, we made our way out, and onto a bridleway. It was a very sharp-stoned bridleway, and unfortunately the wrong one, as we discovered after some few hundred metres. We gained the correct paths, and proceeded to walk the 2 miles to the road – mostly uphill and sometimes steeply so. Strangely, after my pain of reaching Ightham Mote, this for me was a relatively painless and thus more enjoyable part of the trek. Paracetamol is good stuff.
Reaching the pub by the A25 – by now all tired and wanting a bus – Lynne went ahead to see if she could find a bus-stop, and I went into the pub to ask where was one. Lynne's was the better option, because after I'd found out and we'd followed her, she appeared ahead waving her arms madly and encouraging us to run. We tried, but the bus driver did not want to wait a minute or two so we missed the penultimate and hourly bus by minutes.
Anyway, having then plenty of time for a leisurely drink, we got the last bus of the day an hour later, which deposited us at Sevenoaks station in two-minutes time for the train, and we went home.
Thanks to Ken for organising the walk, and to Ken, Lynne and Fred for the company. It was a good walk, totalling 6.7 miles, ascending 1069 ft and descending 909 ft.
Paul Ferris, 28th May 2017
Return to Fingringhoe Wick - 7th May 2017
What a lovely day it turned out to be, yesterday. When I set off to join the EFOG gang in Snaresbrook, the rain-threatening, dull grey morning confirmed that I was right to put scarf in my bag, layers on my 'top' and flask in my rucksack. What do the forecasters know? Where was the promised sunshine?
Still, it was cheering to see the little crowd waiting in Snaresbrook to sort out car shares and soon we were on our way. I was even being chauffeured this time – really appreciated as I'd had a bit of a sleepless night. Thank you Joshi and Sandhya – for your company as well as your care.
The dull weather seemed well set in on the journey, even after we had breakfasted in Heybridge Basin. The giraffes, crocodile and hippo hadn't moved much since our last visit. The food was just as good as I remembered. Looking at the clouds after we left the café, it was just possible to see the white disc of the sun floating above the grey murk. “It is trying to get through.” Marilyn said, smiling at it gently. I asked it to “try harder”.
The sat-nav and a bit of additional guidance from Paul ensured that we soon got to our final destination – Fingringhoe Wick Nature Reserve. The group had visited the new part of the reserve last year – see the blog entry 21st February 2016 – when I had compared it to a kind of building site. It didn't seem that way any more – but it was just as magical. Perhaps more so. Nature had clearly taken over - with a lot of help from her friends - well done Essex Wildlife Trust.
Talking to others, I discovered I wasn't the only one to think birdsong this year seems to be more varied and loud than usual. They were definitely in good voice at Fingringhoe. I can't remember hearing so many trilling nightingales at once – but I still didn't see any. Of course, there were more birds – including cuckoo, blackcaps and blackbirds – even a buzzard was spotted – perhaps helping to generate alarm calls?
Our chief goal, of course, was to re-visit Ann's Reeds and the new seat. We didn't get lost (thank you Duncan) and we weren't disappointed. I don't think I've ever seen a more photographed bench – and so many smiling faces – as we remembered our very, very dear friend. I could almost hear her 'squeaking' hip and feel her lovely spirit. There were other seat 'memorials' as we walked round, but this one will always be special to us all.
By then the sun had won its battle with the clouds. Its rays beamed on us for the rest of day, encouraging us to jettison layers as we walked round, putting some back on again when wind from the estuary blew through open hide windows. Some of the group changed plans for an early return – it was too good a day to cut short – in many ways.
This time, there were no dramatic surging tides breaking through breaches, no welly-sucking, muddy walks, but the views were magnificent, the late Spring colours fresh and vibrant. The wonders of verdant flora and fauna were multiple.
The waters were calm mirrors, reflecting clouds and sky-scapes; the feeding birds seemed settled and contented, ignoring the sometimes noisy visitors; the opportunities for silent contemplation were blissful. The air was nectar to my polluted London lungs. Thanks to all for making one of my now rare days out with EFOG such a great way to start a new week – soul-strengthened.
Pamela Fleisch, 8th May 2017
A visit to Fingringhoe Wick always gives rise to mixed emotions for me. The emotions always include one of pleasure, but also of sadness and loss. The visit by members of the Epping Forest Outdoor Group on Sunday 7th May to view Ann's Seat and Ann's Reeds held all of these emotions, and perhaps even a little more so.
The approach to the reserve, which is situated on the edge of the River Colne opposite Alresford Creek and really nowhere near any large towns, has always confused me, even though I have driven and been driven there on a number of occasions. The country roads get narrower and narrower, there are almost un-signposted turnings to find, and just before entering the reserve the road – almost a track – becomes sandier and sandier, quite unlike much of Essex. The sandy nature of the soil and the planted Pine Trees give it something of a Suffolk heath feel. As we drove along the approach track, a buzzard was soaring overhead.
The group assembled outside of the visitor centre, having arrived in different vehicles and still awaiting some latecomers, and the sun was shining brightly and there was a warmth to the air that had often been missing over the last few weeks. Some of us wandered over to view the lake in the deep hollow below. Much of the reserve's contours is the result of quarrying over the years, now completed and resulting in a diversity of habitats and landscapes. Mallards, Coots and assorted common duck were visible, and briefly – together with it's whinnying call – a Dabchick visible before diving. A lot of interest was shown by some of the group to the chickens that were roaming about, but my attention was caught by the sound of Nightingales just along the path. I spent some time, within view of the others, trying to spot one, but this is a near hopeless task. They are always so loud, so near, yet so invisible. They are also so rare, and increasingly so. Each year I worry that I shall never hear one again, yet know that Fingringhoe Wick Nature Reserve is one place in Britain where they still may be heard. I had my camera ready, just in case, and realised that I could record the sound if not photograph the bird, so switched to “record”. That's when the rest of the group turned up, chattering quite as loudly as Nightingales sing, but closer. When they'd either quietened or moved on uninterested, I tried again. That's when a young lad came along, shuffling at the gravel path. The Nightingale continued. I gave up.
Fingringhoe is an excellent place to see badgers, even in daylight – if early enough or late enough, or quiet enough. We were none of those, but I did see the distinctive scrapings at the sandy edges of the footpaths we were walking along. There were Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps singing, and the quieter and increasingly rarer song of the Willow Warbler. And Blackbirds, too – to my mind possibly the best of all the songs.
At Fingringhoe, the vegetation changes suddenly from scrub and woodland to the wide open views of the Colne estuary, and as we walked up the few steps to the sea wall, just before us was Ann's bench, which I was seeing for the first time. Most of the EFOG group were already gathered around it, so I kept back and looked across the small creeks of the salt marsh below the sea wall towards the Colne. This salt-marsh landscape, with its muddy creeks and low vegetation, is one that has a particular appeal to me. This certainly results from long childhood times spent at my grandma and grandad's plotland bungalow, with its French window looking south across the Pitsea grazing marshes out towards a distant Thames. I used to wander alone as a child by the salt-marsh creeks around Pitsea Hall Creek, where now the Wat Tyler Country Park is. Mud and crabs, purslane and sea-lavender. Out on the Fingringhoe marsh, a solitary Little Egret seemed to be just keeping an eye on the crowd by the bench on the sea-wall, but was completely safe out there with the muddy creeks between it and us. There was no sound of the Cetti's Warbler that Duncan and I had experienced on a previous visit to see Ann's Reeds, before the bench was set up above them. Possibly just a bit too much disturbance this time, but an ideal location for that loud bird, and hopefully – as the reeds develop – a Bittern may take to using it. From the bench, looking across Ann's Reeds, the recently-flooded new part of the reserve was at a low-water point, so the waders that are increasingly frequenting it were far away on its outer edges, near the Colne.
The group got itself together, with a succession of cameras pointing at the group posed around the bench, before moving off to walk along the ridge on the newly-opened track above the breached land. The previous week, two friends had visited the same place, and had sat quietly on the bench and reminisced. They'd known Ann, and appreciated the place in a quieter moment. I shall go back and do that, some time.
The sun was warm now, and it was lovely weather. We were by now split into a number of smaller groups, taking if not different routes, then different directions. Amina and I went into one of the hides and out across the lagoon and scrapes saw two Grey Plover in fine breeding plumage and handsome Sheld-duck swimming around in the shallow waters. The "wardens of the marshes" - the Redshanks - were piping across the waters, and - more distant - the lonely bubble of a Curlew could be heard. These are marsh and estuary sounds indeed.
A small group of us gathered together, and I suggested that a right-turn from the ridge-track rather than the more direct route back to the visitor centre could make a more varied walk, so that we did. It's a walk I know and like, mostly parallel to the stream that feeds the reeds. It follows at first a wide-cut grass track between Hawthorns – complete with May blossom – passes by an ancient meadow and then enters something of a wonderland of narrow paths along rising and descending ridges. Last year when Duncan and I walked this we had the pleasure of hearing and seeing a Turtle Dove – another of those sounds of the countryside that is almost gone now. We weren't so lucky this year – not with a Turtle Dove – but we did hear a Cuckoo. That, to me, is one of the most evocative sounds of Britain in Spring and early Summer. How many more years will we be able to hear that, as well?
Our last - well, not quite last – observation – and that is apart from the pleasure of the walk itself – was of a Green Hairstreak butterfly, already being looked at by a group of four people. These are not necessarily rare creatures, but are decidedly local, so not a butterfly that is commonly seen. And just to round the wildlife aspects off as we got very near the visitor centre – a few Swallows and a few Sand Martins passing overhead – and a male pheasant and his two females in the adjacent fields.
We met the others, already ensconced in the cafeteria part of the centre, joined them in tea and cake and the like, before various sub-groups began to say their farewells and return to their cars and home.
I suspect that all enjoyed their visit to Fingringhoe Wick, to see Ann's Reeds and the bench that the group purchased to her memory. The weather was lovely, and the stroll round the beautiful area was – hopefully - a pleasure to all. I think that probably quite a few of the group didn't perhaps appreciate the wealth of wild things that some of us were aware of – and maybe didn't even know they were hearing Nightingales. Ann would have done, and my lasting image will be of that Little Egret out there on the marsh, watching the group chattering around her bench.
Paul Ferris, 14th May 2017
Photos by Paul Ferris and Peter Gamble
A Week on the Norfolk Broads - 29th April to 6th May 2017
There was nobody from either EFOG or the 18 Plus Group already arrived at Potter Heigham when Fozi and I arrived in Chris's car around mid-day on Saturday 29th April. So we checked roughly where the boats Trevor had hired were moored, and went into a quite busy Bridge Stores Riverside Restaurant and Tea Room to eat and await other arrivals.
Those were forthcoming, together, or rather preceded by, a text message that just about got through the less-than-one-bar signal that seemed to be quite prevalent in these wilder and more desolate parts of the British Isles. Thus it was that having met the other eleven members of our holiday complement we boarded the Broads cruisers and having completed a short introductory course, distributed ourselves roughly EFOG on the smaller Corsair Light 2 and 18 Plus on the larger Jewel of Light – at least for the days.
But that was only roughly, and only for the days, for sleeping accommodation had to be more carefully worked out. As always, though, Trevor's meticulous (almost) planning was done in such a way that we all had a cabin to sleep in – apart from those who had to sleep in the wheel-house/lounge. Also, nobody had to share a double bunk, and to my knowledge no-one did, though some had to share a twin cabin, and some slept in somewhat cupboard-like facilities. Trevor – by the end of the holiday, had tried just about all of them – except my on-my-own (sad) double.
Last year, the weather during the day had been mostly warm and beautiful. The nights were beautiful if you like stars – and cold. This year I was nice and cosy in my sleeping bag at nights, and the days were a mix of bright for one half and dull for the other – and with an annoying tendency towards cold. Hence the choice of clothing in the photo to the left.
We travelled down the River Thurne from Potter Heigham, then up the Bure towards Wroxham. At about mid-day, we moored for a while at Salhouse Broad, where five of us took out two Canadian-style canoes, with myself and Eleanor in one and Trevor, Cathy and one of the 18 Plus group in the other. It was a pleasant experience, messing about on the water, getting used to paddling in synchronisation, fighting against a wind on the way back when our time was up, but also just idly watching the water birds doing their things. During the remainder of the journey towards Wroxham we all on the little boat had the opportunity to take a turn at the helm, or to watch other out-of-practice or newbies-to-the-game weaving from side to side or trying to mow down sailing vessels. We had one interesting incident whilst trying to find night-time moorings when both boats went into a potential mooring, only to find it full and with no easy turn around. The big boat behind us got help from a woman on-shore with a broom, whilst Trevor was driving our boat back and forth trying to get into a turning position without bashing other boats until we came up with a cunning plan. We pivoted round on a wet penny – thanking whoever that there were no gongoozlers (or is that only on canals?) and trailed the other boat some ten minutes later to a more appropriate mooring.
On Sunday we cruised from Wroxham by way of the River Ant and across Barton Broad towards Stalham. More driving of the boat was undertaken by those who wished, and we all felt just a little more confident than the day before. Not to say that some of us didn't do any weaving, though, and not to say that anyone other than those more experienced did any of the harder docking procedures. At Stalham we were able to moor easily in the very large boatyard and walk into town to eat at a decent-enough pub – The Swan Inn.
Monday began with Trevor walking into Stalham to visit the supermarket there. It begins with 'T', and has changed Stalham from a market town into a supermarket town. He'd asked if anything was required for the boats or individuals, and a few requests had been given him. Later, apparently just after he'd bought the requests and left the store, a phone call was made requesting some extras. Then Eleanor and I thought it would be nice to have some wine on board, and whilst I was finishing that request, some jam was added. That's when Trevor asked – with a tone to his voice – whether we wanted vanilla jam or ice-cream jam or what? As I'd never heard of these, I suggested Strawberry might be nice. Somehow, I don't think these late requests went down well, but the wine did. The jam never got eaten, so Trevor – probably rightly – claimed it at the end of the trip.
Our Monday journey was back down the Ant – as the Ant is a no-through river. Monday was also May Day, and hence the First Day of Summer, come what may. It started well weather-wise, as well. We moored for a while at How Hill, which is a lovely spot with an historic marshman's house called Toad Hall Cottage and, on a knoll fifty feet above the river, the other extreme – How Hill House. From here there were great views of the marshes and waterways and lovely and extremely carefully tended gardens, with rhododendrons, azaleas and manicured hedges. The lovely sunny and warm morning meant that we were also treated to many butterflies and bees. Louise said that it was like something out of Alice in Wonderland, and another visitor commented to us that it was like something out of Alice in Wonderland.
Continuing the boating part of our holiday, we turned left into the Bure near St Benet's Abbey (Remains Of) and bore-right with the Bure where it meets the Thurne near Thurne at a place called Thurne Mouth. Now we were heading south, towards Acle. Here we said fond and sad farewells to members of our EFOG crews, as Cathy, Louise and Fozi had to return home. They got a cab from Acle Bridge, accompanied by Trevor to ensure they got away. We moored for the night there, and had a good meal at a Bure-side restaurant/pub before retiring to our respective boats and bunks. We were still boat-hopping at that stage, and Trevor was beginning to experiment with sleeping in different bunks each night – strangely after the women had vacated them.
Tuesday was still May, but the summer seemed to have gone back to April, at least to start with. We began by some of the dwindling group taking the Corsair Light 2 back to Potter Heigham, and thus saying farewell to Steve and Sammy (18 Plus) and to Chris and to Phil. (EFOG), whose time was up. The rest of us – minus Trevor who had gone back with them to Potter to return the boat – journeyed along the River Bure, which had a distinctly easterly direction to it, as did the wind. The Bure becomes more and more maritime as it nears Great Yarmouth, and we were beginning to see wading birds on the muddier and muddier banks, along with seaweed. It get busy going into Yarmouth Town, where – on account of the wind – everybody had their heads bowed down. But you have to get away from Yarmouth Town, and the wide open spaces of Breydon Water is where you do that. This is like driving at sea, though keeping between markers to indicate the navigable channel. Then into the quieter waters of the Waveney, to moor up at St. Olaves where Trevor was waiting for us, and to have lunch at the pub there.
Later in the day we moored up at Oulton broad, near Lowestoft, having crossed from Norfolk into Suffolk and from the northern Broads to the southern ones. It's a convenient mooring at Oulton, because there are shore facilities such as showers, places where you can draw money, and places where you can spend it. We chose to spend ours at The Waveney, a pub. Last year we'd taken part in a quiz here, came first and won wine and the food was alright. This year there was no quiz and the vegetable portion of our meals was indisputably mean. I told the barman so, and at least one other of our group did, too.
On Wednesday we travelled back along the Waveney as far as Haddiscoe, where we turned left into the New Cut, which is a short-cut-canal to enable vessels from Norwich to access Oulton Broad and thus the sea without looping around Burgh Castle, up by Breydon Water. At the end of the cut, and regaining the Bure, we stopped off for a while at Reedham, where some of us walked around the small village. Although at its highest only a few metres above sea-level, because if the surrounding landscape there is a feeling of height. I like Reedham. It seems like a “real” place without the ostentatiousness of some Broadland water-side communities. But I may be wrong.
We passed the sugar-factory at Cantley, where proper British sugar is produced from proper British crops, and drove towards Norwich. We didn't actually quite get to Norwich, but then we hadn't intended to, but moored instead for the night at the Surlingham Ferry pub near Brundall. The meals we had here were wonderful – all fresh and wholesome and plentiful. We chatted to the lady behind the bar, who'd lived in the area all of her life. She had a lovely boat moored by the pub in which I think she lived, at least during the summer. What a difference the Surlingham Ferry was to The Waveney of the previous evening.
Thursday required a long 18-or-so mile journey back, including crossing Breydon Water, to Stokesby. This was a lovely mooring, right outside The Ferry Inn with – on the opposite bank – just a view of the reeds and no other horizon. We were early enough to go into a cafe for a snack before the pub in the evening where we'd planned to go for a meal. The cafe was delightful, with good and plentiful food and a highly entertaining – if somewhat dry-humoured – cafe owner, whose accent was not at all Norfolk but more, as it turned out, Chadwell Heath. Our pub meal later was good too, but we determined to go back to the cafe in the morning for our breakfast.
Friday morning broke as one of the sunniest of the whole week, with a beautiful blue sky and a glorious Sun illuminating the pretty village. Our breakfast was just as good as we'd hoped and set us up for the penultimate day of our holiday, heading for a mooring at Ranworth Broad. Ranworth is not actually on the way to Potter Heigham, but necessitated a return travel up the Bure, turning left at Thurne Mouth, passing the remains of St. Benet's Abbey again, passing the little River Ant which we'd taken on our second day, and pulling in to moor stern-on at Ranworth Staithe on Malthouse Broad. This is another favoured mooring, and I remember it well from last year. There is a conveniently close shop for basics and trivia, the Maltsters pub a few hundred yards or metres away, public conveniences, and loads of attentive wildfowl mooching about in gangs. In that respect it's a bit like St. Ives with its rogue seagulls. Here, the gangs wander about on the roof of your boat in the early hours of the morning. Nice enough is Ranworth, although a bit classy and doesn't have the same feel of reality as did – for example – Reedham.
Trevor and I wandered off to look at the Norfolk Wildlife Trust nature reserve at Ranworth Broad, which is a lovely and an interesting place, managed to show different aspects of the Broads environment from woodland through carr, to reed-bed and water. Or maybe the other way round. We had our annual ice-cream in the visitor centre and then visited St. Helen's Church – known as the Cathedral of the Broads. It is possible to climb to the church tower from whence there is a magnificent view, but we didn't do that. The church also has one of – if not the – finest rood screens in the country. Returning to the boat, just as we got there we heard a cry of “She's fallen in the water!” We assumed it was a dog, and dog's do that. They commonly happily swim out and shake themselves dry with a waggy tail, or get one their owners to do it with a soggy towel, whilst the other owner extricates him/her self from the water after attempting a totally unnecessary rescue. However, in this case it was the young child on the boat next to ours that had gone in, with – rightly – her dad immediately after her. This could have been nasty, particularly as it was at the stern of the boats which are together, and against the bank. Dad offered up the child to one of our crew, Francesca, who of course offered it over to its mum. Mum and child were distraught and dad was wet. Nobody was drowned, and Francesca was congratulated on her assistance, and rightly so. Later in the evening, when mum and child had calmed down and were smiling, I suggested that we should play Kate and Anna Mcgarrigle's 'Swimming Song' to them: “Last summer I went swimming, last summer I might have drowned...” but they said I was evil, and we didn't.
Trevor was still trying out different cabins and he spent the night in one of the smallest (which Eleanor had occupied originally and another of the group had found claustrophobic). I stayed where I was and after a good meal at the Maltsters, spent my last night aboard in my usual cabin, only banging my shins once and getting cramp as I walked across the walls and cupboards to get out of bed.
It was an early (7.30) start the following morning (Saturday), as we needed to get the boat back to Herbert Woods Boatyard at Potter Heigham and catch a bus to Great Yarmouth, to catch a train to Norwich, to catch a train to Stratford, to get home. The bus arrived promptly at 10.20, and the rest of the journey was uneventful. It was over.
During our trip we had been accompanied daily by the sounds of Reed Warblers and Cetti's Warblers. We'd also been privileged to hear Grasshopper Warblers, and see a few Kingfishers. One Cuckoo was heard, on May 1st, and we saw our first Swallows - but they didn't necessarily herald a summer any more than May Day did. We didn't see any seals or otters as last year, but lots of Marsh Harriers were a constant reminder of how valuable these reed-beds, rivers and broads are to England's generally diminished wildlife. It's a pleasure to note that we'd seen lots more Harriers on the northern parts of the Broads than last year, which may indicate an increase in their numbers. Of course, not everybody is interested in these aspects of where we were, and are happy just to cruise along in a peaceful landscape or to have the opportunity to learn just a little about the handling of a river-craft. It's a nice holiday, and I have to give thanks and congratulations to Trevor for organising so well a complex procedure – especially with people not being able to stay the full time and finding ways to get them to a convenient railway station. Also thanks to the 18 Plus Group, for inviting EFOG members to join them once again.
To compare this year's Broads Adventure with last year's, see here.
Photos and article by Paul Ferris, 9th May 2017
River Wandle Walk - 23rd April 2017
Saturday 23rd April's walk along the River Wandle, was very much a wander along the Wandle, with numerous diversions down streets.
The Wandle is a south London river that derives from springs originating from the North Downs and arises properly in the Croydon area. However, much of the early part of the river's course has been covered over by the development of Croydon – the 'Canary Wharf'' of its time back in the 60's. However, in earlier days the Wandle was described as the most industrial river in Britain, with – at its peak – 90 water-mills operating along its banks. It is a relatively short river, joining the Thames at Wandsworth, but also has a quick descent, so that the waters had the power to turn all of those wheels.
Some of us met up at Liverpool Street, by the statue to the Kinder-transport children, as I'd suggested. What I hadn't known was that at the main entrance to the station, there is another, larger, statue which Fritz and Fozi referred me to whilst we were waiting. Fritz had brought along a Polish-language newspaper cutting showing him photographed in front of that statue, and he was able to tell us about what led up to this whole issue.
We began our walk proper after meeting up with others at East Croydon Station, then walking down the busy main road accompanied by the trams of South London's tramway system. Not much to catch our eye in these early steps, just busy-ness, until we reached Croydon's Minster. This is a rather fine flint-walled church, although it had been substantially re-built after a fire in the 1860's. We went inside for a quick look, and certainly I was impressed with the interior.
It's just a few steps from the church fore-court to the busy Roman Way, which we were able to cross by means of an underpass into quieter residential, streets. A short alleyway took us to another fairly busy road, and then by means of a footbridge over a railway line into the quiet of Wandle Park.
Here we had our first view of the river, emerging from a culvert at a bridge and immediately, in the settings of the park, a quite attractive little stream. There was even a Grey Wagtail at the water's edge for the ten members of our group to spot. And there was even the first drops of rain – which the forecasters had said might 'just' be a possibility – but which encouraged us to don hats, coats or umbrellas. Can you don an umbrella? It is not a large park, and we crossed another bridge back to the bank we'd started from, and out and across the tram-lines into more residential roads. What with the drizzle, and the rather poor 'Wandle Trail' leaflet I was trying to follow, I was not getting a good feel for this initial part of our walk. Crossing Purley Way did not improve my feelings, and the industrial works that lay along Mill Lane didn't help either. But Mill Lane at least had an air of history about it, and soon we reached a lovely spot at Waddon Ponds. Although – surprisingly – our guide leaflet did not take us into the park, we stood and watched a variety of water-birds: Swans on nest, Mallard, Tufted Ducks, Moorhens and something going on between Little Grebes.
Waddon Ponds is now only one pond, and is often taken to be the source of the Wandle, but the Wandle has more than one source. The route onwards was along a vegetation-lined bridleway, with the river to our right. Crossing this, we continued on its north bank, and although accompanied also by some office buildings, was pleasant enough. The rain had all but stopped, and things were looking better.
At some rather nice quiet streets of terraced houses, we reached Beddington Mill, a very large brick building built in 1891, but of nice proportions. This is locally known as the 'Snuff Mill', as at one time it was used to grind tobacco into snuff, but later was used for flour. Almost adjacent to the mill are a short row of lovely single-storey cottages, with a small bridge as means of access across a stream. We were all entranced by Mount Pleasant – though why it's called a mount...
We walked alongside an old, heavily buttressed wall on our left, and the river on our right, at which we stopped for a while watching a duck mallard trying to round up the remains of her brood. There seemed to be only two ducklings left; they often have ten. The water in the river hereabouts is clear, with a gravel bottom – unusual in the London area where it is often muddy-bedded. It is probably the good flow of this river that keeps it nice and clean, and has resulted in watercress beds in the past, with some of the species still remaining in places.
We passed Carew Manor on our left before we entered Beddington Park; this fine Tudor manor was the home of the Carews of Beddington for 500 years. By Beddington Park we had also entered sunshine, and were beginning to getting quite warm. Tea and the like in the pavilion was suggested, and the suggestion went down well with all. After we'd feasted – or at least tea-ed up – we continued across the park, which is extensive and which the Wandle runs through. There are some nice ornamental features, including an ornate river-bridge. Before leaving the park, we were asked by a young lady – Emma – if she might join us. She'd seen us in the cafe, wanted someone to walk with, and she did so for the rest of our walk. We walked alongside a quite busy road, but with a stream running alongside the pavement separating it from the houses. Although we had left our branch of the Wandle behind the houses, we soon joined another branch, which originates at Carshalton Ponds, and the two meet up at a wooded spot – now a nature reserve – called Wilderness Island. Emma had not been there before, although she lived relatively locally – and was keen to revisit it later as she was also interested in the wildlife.
Although we were now entering areas where the river would once have been heavily industrialised, this wasn't really evident, and the river was still clear and with lots of plant-life beside and in the water. By Hackbridge we were feeling warm in the sunshine, and I noted that the May was out on the hawthorns. As in the well-known saying “ Cast ne'er a clout 'till May be out” I advised that it was and we were all entitled to take some of our clothes off. Some already had.
We reached what is known as Watercress Park – in honour of the watercress beds that used to be in abundance in these clean, clear waters, and – after 5.5 miles or so – decided that we would finish the walk as I'd intended, there. We trekked up Middleton Road, saying a last farewell to the Wandle until in a few metres we had to do so again as there was another branch, looked at some Hoary Cress by the roadside, and found our 5.5 mile walk was extended by another long mile or so to Mitcham Junction Station. Some got a tram there back to Croydon, the rest of us got a simple train back to Farringdon.
With Emma, there had been eleven of us on the walk – which was a bit disconcerting for me as on Thursday only two had said they were coming. What with the initial streets and the rain and the small print and poor instructions of the route sheet, I didn't find this one of the most rewarding walks, but then that's my fault as I'd not pre-walked it. The company, nevertheless and as always, was good, though, and I didn't hear many complaints.
Paul Ferris, 24th April 2017
p.s. We received this nice email from Emma after the walk:
To everyone in the Epping Forest Outdoor Group,
I really enjoyed meeting you all, and walking with your group on Saturday. Thank you for making me feel so welcome. I had never done that section of the Wandle Trail before but will follow it in the future, and I look forward to visiting Wilderness Island too. It will make a change from spending all my time in Beddington Park! Thank you to the group leader - (I am terrible with names) for pointing out all the interesting nature features along the way.
I hope that I am able to find a nice local group to join. I will let you know how I get on.
Please let me know in you are walking in my locality - (within a 10 mile radius) in the future. Thank you.
I wish you all the best.
Emma - (from Beddington Park river bank)
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