Crossness Pumping Station, and a Thames walk.
Five EFOG members joined Lynne at Cannon Street Station on Sunday 6th May for a visit to Crossness Pumping Station, on the south bank of the Thames, opposite Dagenham.
The pumping station is similar in design and purpose to the one at Abbey Mills, near Stratford, which members of the group may be more familiar with, at least from a distance. Abbey Mills Pumping Station has been called “The Cathedral of Sewage”, because of its ornate design – although to me it looks more like a Turkish mosque than a cathedral. Apparently the style is actually Italian Gothic.
These buildings were designed and built as part of Joseph Bazalgette’s plan to deal with the sewage problems in London during Victorian times. The problem with how London’s sewage was disposed of came to a head in July and August 1858 when the smell from the river was so bad that Victoria and Albert had to forego a pleasure trip on the Thames, and Parliamentary business was affected.
Bazlgette was employed to find a solution to the odiferous problem, which affected health as well as the nose and river trips. And government. His solution was a vast network of sewer tunnels, all of which ultimately fed the materials to the two pumping stations, one on each side of the river.
Arriving at Abbey Wood station, the free bus to Crossness was somewhat indeterminate, both as to where it should depart from and in how long, so we opted for two cabs instead. Entering the complex – which is a working sewage treatment station – we were directed towards the Victorian parts of grounds, walking alongside a narrow-gauge railway line apparently being constructed. This led us to a large and well-fitted workshop, in which the Royal Arsenal Narrow Gauge Railway group (RANG) had laid out some model railway layouts for the public to enjoy and to introduce us to their project to run a 700 metre passenger-carrying railway from the site’s gates to the old pumping station. Quite a project for a local railway-enthusiast group! They even have a working steam locomotive - which they have renamed Bazalgette, and a nice open carriage.
We proceeded to the buildings which house the Victorian aspects of the site, one of which had an exhibition of a variety of pumping engines, and then we paid our £8 per person to enter the main building, meeting with other EFOG members who has made their own way there. This main pump-engine building houses four large, originally steam driven, pumps built by James Watt & Co. to Joseph Bazalgette's designs and specification, and were named Victoria, Prince Consort, Albert Edward and Alexandra. Victoria has been renovated, and was “in steam”, an impressive sight, with sounds too, of course. In fact, for demonstration purposes, the engine is now powered by compressed air.
There are other exhibits, too, in the visitor centre. Perhaps particular fun was the collection of toilet bowls and ancillary equipment and devices; after viewing those we (of course) made our way to the cafeteria, where good value simple snacks were on offer.
We discussed the options for our return journey, and decided that as it was a pleasant day – sunny and warm but with a nicely cooling breeze – we would make our way along the Thames riverside path to the Woolwich Ferry. This is a distance of 4 miles, and we arrived at the Woolwich ferry terminal in just the right time to board one of the two brand new ferries – the Ben Woollacott. The other – I think not yet in service – is named Dame Vera Lynn.
It is a quick crossing (and free) and – disembarking – five of the group caught a bus to Stratford, and I caught a another which conveniently terminates almost at the end of my road.
It was a nice – and varied – day, and thanks to Lynne for organising it and to the others for the company.
Paul Ferris, 4th June 2019
Camping weekend in Suffolk
Despite the weather forecast five of us turned up at Newbourne Woodland campsite on a Friday in the middle of May. After erecting the tents, three of us went for a walk around Woodbridge nearby, leaving Ian and Louise to prepare the BBQ. Woodbridge has some interesting architecture and the Tide Mill looks well worth a visit. It was closed at the time of our visit.
The BBQ was a success and we relaxed in a cool, dry evening.
On Saturday we drove to Dunwich Heath, a National Trust site, for a six mile walk. The route went through large tracts of heather where we upset some twitchers as we innocently disturbed a rare bird they were watching by walking past it. We ended at the seashore and only Val was brave enough to put her toes in the sea. A quick stroll around the ruins of Greyfriars Abbey and a visit to Dunwich museum ended the day. A nice meal at The Fox inn, Newbourne was had in the evening.
Breakfast on Sunday saw the Great Picnic Table Disaster of ’19. Brian was sitting at the table when he slowly started falling backwards, followed by the table which ended up on top of him. Ian said he went through a range of emotions, from concern to laughter, in the time it took for Brian to land on the ground, the table’s contents strewn around him.
We went out for a three mile walk in the morning, initially walking through reed beds and then alongside the beach where an oak tree’s roots were admired.
It started raining as we arrived back at the campsite, just in time to soak Brian’s tent as he packed it. As soon as the tent was in his car the rain stopped. That was the only rain of note the entire weekend, very different from the weather forecast. And so back home with suntans on our faces and hands.
Brian U. 20th May 2019
Sweet Cookies, gin-an-tonic, a warm walk and chilli meal at Three Mills.
An extra May event was added to EFOG’s programme by Eleanor, suggesting a visit to the House Mill at Bromley-by-Bow on 12th May to see the Sweet Cookies, an Essex-based female close harmony group.
Jinan and I met at Stratford to walk from there to the Three Mills complex, on a lovely, sunny late Sunday afternoon. Stratford, of course – since the Olympics – has changed and is changing considerably, so the first part of our walk was along the busy Stratford High Street, heading towards the Bow Flyover and en-canyoned somewhat by the high apartment and office buildings. More or less the only pre-Olympic building that is obvious is the Builders Arms pub, on the corner of Lett Road.
However, there is some openness still where the Greenway meets the High Street. The Greenway is the promenade pedestrian and cycle path designed by Bazalgette to top his Northern Outfall Sewer bank, and one can walk or cycle that some 3 miles to Beckton. Shortly beyond the Greenway we left the High Street for the relative quiet of a footpath alongside the Three Mills Wall River. On the west side – in the Sugar House Lane area, more apartments and other-use buildings are being constructed, but on the side we were walking there are just the back gardens of the older terraced houses of Stratford.
Soon, the open area of Three Mills Green is reached, with residential narrowboat moorings in the arm of the river. In the late afternoon light the views through to the Canary Wharf complex were not unattractive, while closer we observed a coot nesting in a convenient motor-vehicle tyre and a black cat being admonished and chased off by a carrion crow. Indeed, we could see its nest in one of the London plane trees further on.
We arrived at the venue a bit early, so we continued our walk through the historic Three Mills Conservation area and between the Lea Navigation and the river itself. We passed under the Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness and the Upminster Underground Lines bridges, and went just as far as Twelvetrees Crescent bridge to view Bow Locks and from where we could have continued walking to Limehouse Basin and the Thames via the Limehouse Cut, or to Cody Dock and the Thames via the main River Lea.
However, our plan had been to go to the House Mill for the event, and so we returned the relatively short distance to Three Mills to see the Sweet Cookies, and the House Mill Volunteers.
We arrived as the doors opened at 5.30. The House Mill Volunteers might just sound like a part-time military unit from the Naploleonic Wars, but in fact it refers in this case to those people who manage to keep the wonderful House Mill open to the public on occasions, and even help host events such as this. So we were met very soon by Eleanor – whose idea it was to suggest this – and who is one of those who volunteer here, and our other group-member Marilyn, who is another. They, together with others, had prepared for the evening so that there was a bar available, and hot and cold snacks on the menu.
The Sweet Cookies are a female close harmony group, and were accompanied by a male electric piano player. They entertained us with a wide range of music – from folk and show songs to jazz and modern pop. And very entertaining they were too, leading to a very pleasant couple of hours. As well as Jinan and myself – and of course Eleanor and Marilyn – a couple of other EFOG members joined us: Marian and Karen, together with Karen’s husband.
After the music evening, Jinan and I walked back along the riverside to Stratford High Street, and hence made our ways home.
As well as providing a really nice evening of entertainment for us, the event was also valuable in contributing to the ongoing Restoration Project that is is taking place at the House Mill. The event was free, but contributions afterwards and the sales of food and drink would all help towards this. The goal is to restore the heritage water wheels of what is the largest surviving tide mill in the world to working condition. Once complete, the wheels – powered by the tide – could provide enough energy to power the House Mill, with capacity to provide a regular income from the excess electricity generated. This, of course, is all without the emission of CO2 – which just might contribute something to saving our planet.
As an extra thought, a couple of our members during the evening mentioned that they were unable to participate in any of the group’s walks at weekends, and we thought that maybe we should try to organise something for weekdays. Another walk around the Bow Back Rivers, down the Lea Navigation and river via Three Mills and Cody Dock to the Thames just might be an idea to facilitate this?
Paul Ferris, 14th May 2019
After the glorious Easter weekend weather it was a shame that the following Saturday (29th April) started cold, windy and wet as we drove to RHS Wisley. The rain had stopped by the time we arrived and we were surprised to see so many cars in the car park, considering the weather.
A reasonable £13.05 admission and we then queued for ages at the inadequate Coffee Shop by the entrance area. The coffee was poor as well as the service. Going into the gardens, we noticed that a lot of money is being spent, with a large extension being due for completion shortly after our visit. We headed up through the Cottage Garden and the Exotic Garden, passing by a nice moulding of a female swimmer as we walked on to Battleston Hill, where among the glorious planting was a wooden dinosaur sited next to a Brazilian Giant Rhubarb, otherwise known as “dinosaur food”. A picnic lunch was taken on the Trials Field, but it was a shame that a notice there warned that plants should not be stolen. On to the Herb and Fruit Gardens, then down to Bowles’ Corner, a little celebration in plants of his work. Up to the new-looking Glasshouse, which was most impressive, with a temperate section, complete with a waterfall, and a very hot section, so hot that some members felt quite uncomfortable. There were some impressive plants in the Glasshouse, including one - a great spear lily - that had flowered for the first time in 18 years!
A drink break in the pleasant Glasshouse café and we went for a walk through the Pinetum, following the River Wey. We stopped in the bird hide but only Blue and Great Tits could be seen. We then walked back to the main area and our cars. Would we go back again? Yes, we were there more than five hours, covering nearly four miles, and still missed things. The car park looked busy but the place is so large that we were often the only people in sight. And of course, the garden will change with the seasons. A lovely day.
Brian U., 28th April 2019
Thames Chase - a bat talk and a stroll
The Sun rose, as it has been doing for a very long time – and thus not unexpectedly – helping to modify a day which, because of the time of year and atmospheric conditions, was almost bound to be a warm one. And it already was, when Trevor, Fred and myself met Ann at Goodmayes station on Saturday 20th April, for a relatively short journey to the Thames Chase Forest Visitor Centre, near Upminster.
Well, it is a relatively short journey if, as we were, one is travelling in a car, but it would have felt a considerably longer one if one had not a car and was required to visit by public transport. There is probably a slightly closer bus-stop, but even then it would have been a long foot-haul up Pikes Lane to the visitor centre. That might well be my one reservation for a future no-car visit, because the centre really is a nice place to be Since my long-time-ago visit only once before, in addition to the farmhouse and lovely barn that were present then, a new visitor centre has been added, providing educational facilities, toilets, a good-value-for money cafe with indoor and outdoor seating, things to buy and, separately, even bicycles for hire.
Ann had arranged our visit primarily to attend a talk on bats by Ella, a member of the Essex Bat Group, which gave us a good introduction to bats as creatures, their life-styles and the work done by the bat group in trying to provide for these little animals, such as erecting bat-boxes, helping bats that have been injured, and encouraging a public interest in the creatures. We had close up looks at two of Ella’s Pipistelles, which she had provided with a home as they could not fly.
Following the talk, we retired to the cafe for lunch, after which we set off on a walk around a small part of the Thames Chase near to the visitor centre. Thames Chase is a community forest comprising some 40 square miles located in 47 sites in London and Essex. Ann volunteers in the visitor centre, and has led EFOG on a couple of walks around other parts of the area in the past.
This walk followed part of that designated as Walk 1 in the series of leaflets obtainable at the visitor centre. It was a warm and sunny day, and we were content to stroll along well made paths, looking at some of the information boards on the way, and casually observing and listening to the birds, butterflies and other creatures and plants that we passed, or passed us. There are a number of constructions on the route that we followed, probably intended primarily for children, but quite accessible to adults too, if they are so inclined or fit enough. The first was a somewhat tent-like building, made of wood and with climbing-holds and foot-rests in convenient places on the outside to allow access to circular holes which provided entry into the interior. Trevor and Lynne made some use of these whilst the rest of us sat in the sunshine.
A very slight diversion off the main track led us to a woodland seating area, wooden blocks and logs variously and simply shaped to provide seating before a slightly more elaborate, almost throne-like seat. This was presumably for the story-teller to sit in, so we had a go at that and the group was treated to that wonderful story of the rabbit fu-fu (or fufu, or whatever), which some of the EFOG group may have heard before. After all, it was around Easter-time, so rabbits are in season. (see my seasonal poem below)
Another construction later on in our stroll is named “The Trusty Oak”, which although sounding a biy like a pub is actually a tower-like structure, wooden of course, and vaguely massively oak-shaped, which again provided climbing possibilities for our little group. Last of these buildings was the “Discovery Hut”, with walkways and wooden plaques showing various leaves and common birds that may be found in the area. Educational, and fun, too.
We made our way back to the Forest Centre cafeteria for tea, coffee, ice cream and the like before leaving after a very pleasant day.
Thank you Ann, and Lynne, Trevor and Fred, for a nice day out.
Paul Ferris, 24th April 2019
Eat a bunny...
People say “Aaaah!”,
but I think it’s funny.
And they taste nice.
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