First taste of the Rodings Rally
Before the rally my feelings about volunteering to be a check point checker went up and down; one moment congratulating myself on taking on a new challenge and assuring myself it must be fun – otherwise why would people do it more than once - the next, letting the nagging voice of panicked reality persuade me I must be mad. My friend Sofia might be right – don't sleep anywhere without a socket, especially in winter!
The week of the 2010 rally brought new concerns. The weather forecast was dire. Not rain this year, but snow threatened - skyfull's of it, even in London – and the temperature was dipping drastically. I kept remembering my Dad telling me how I had become a Southern Softie since moving down here, and thinking maybe he was right.
However, I had seen where Eileen and I would be camping. There were lots of trees to protect from the elements and even soft looking bracken – perhaps a bed for the tent? The leaves were thick on the ground and we were really very near the road and the site had a good few night time loo options. Experienced EFOGers had persuaded me that I wouldn't be bored (I still took reading and writing stuff just in case) because the Number 5 check point would be busy.
The day began very well. I found the hall relatively easily (only one phone call to Peter – and that was just to check) and had a pleasant time helping out a bit, but mainly chatting with other EFOG folk. I met Bill and Inger for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed the meal they cooked. The choice of desserts was incredible, the atmosphere jolly.
I discovered that over a hundred competitors were expected but I doubted they would all turn up – it was freezing outside! I was wrong -more than 200 took part and most, it seemed, enjoyed it.
Paul had brought a choice of under bedding and I borrowed the biggest pack (the best for warmth). Thank goodness we had trusty EFOG sherpas to help us trek to the tent site and put it up in the dark. I had made a flask of green tea before I went, made sure I had a hat or two, scarves, nibbles and two pair of warm socks. I even had time to make a hot water bottle for my feet. I wasn't the only one – so did Val and Prue I was told.
Finding the check point was more difficult than expected. How many metres in was easy – the directions to follow weren't- but thanks to Fred's experience and persistence ( I think I would have given up and put the tent down before we found the right spot) we eventually got there.
Thus began one of the toughest nights of my life! It was getting late so we had to hurry to put up the tent. The spot would have been great if we had remembered that our heads would be at the open end. That slight slope down made all the difference to me. Poor Eileen had to put up with my constant moving around, wriggling and experiments (it seemed like all night) trying to raise my head above my feet to stop my head aching and my neck cricking.
I was amazed how noisy the forest was. A few times (I must have dozed now and then despite my conviction that I didn't sleep a wink) I thought I was taking a nap in a motorway service station or even an airport. Do the planes fly lower at night? Perhaps they were UFOs? Where was the mystic silence of a forest, the soft call of owls, the gentle snuffling of forest creatures around the tent? I had been warned, but was still surprised.
And the competitors! They did come. We had at least 25 hands thrust through the cold draughty gap – some joking, a few a little despairing. “You've missed check point 2 and 3,” said Eileen to one, scoring through their board. “I know,” replied the voice in a tone that made me think, I bet this is far as they go – and it wasn't even midnight. Most though seemed eager to continue. None suggested swapping places.
What I want to know is how they knew how to time their visits just at that point when I thought I might finally drop off to sleep for a few minutes. I began to understand the torture of sleep deprivation. At times I wanted to shine my torch to help them find us (and then go away). I hope that John, Robert, Vicky and other “lost” competitors were found by their team mates whose shouts and torch beams pierced the starry night sky looking for them.
Most of the time (on what was the coldest Rodings Night ever) I was warm as long as I retrieved my ever slipping hat and accepted that I should keep my head inside the sleeping bag (I will get a balaclava next time, Steve) but eventually the least efficient circulatory part of my anatomy began to feel the cold – more wriggling to try and wrap my additional blanket around my bum. In vain.
My top half and feet were so warm in comparison that I dreamed of asking my sister in Ireland to make me a pair of double fleece lined (ideally Jack Wolfskin) knickers, long ones, down to the knees! Very sexy!
Our last caller came some time after 5 am and I think I went to sleep at last for a bit – until Eileen shouted me awake at almost 8am and we packed up in a rush. But by then the magic had begun to seep back into my bones. The forest seemed quieter, breathing deeply in the what seemed relatively mild and still morning air. The earthy smell from the leaf carpet was homely, the surrounding trees seemed welcoming and beneficent. Even the ice we shook off the inner tent had beauty.
By the time Katy padded along the track to help us get back to a great breakfast with cool friends (Maz and Peter following of course) I was already listing the lessons learned for next time – do the walk in at night beforehand, take less baggage and above all – check and choose the tent site beforehand. Forget the hot water bottle. Remember the fleecy knickers. Next time! Next time! What am I saying? Am I mad?
Pamela Fleisch, December 2010
Rodings Rally 2010
Half a league, half a league
Half a league onward
Into the forest dark
Ventured more than one hundred.
‘Forward’ EFOGers said
While the new maps were read
Guides for their forest treads
For more than one hundred.
‘Journey the plotted way
Let not one soul dismay
Not tho’ the snow might lay
No-one has blundered.
We will the clues supply
They’ll make the time fly by
There’ll be no hue and cry
Deep in the forest dark
By more than one hundred.’
Trees to the right of them
Trees to the left of them
Trees to the front of them
Bushes and brambles
Grabbed at by thorn and briar
Ducking low, stretching higher
Into the forest dark
Went more than one hundred.
Flashed all their torches bright
Fireflies in dead of night
Ensuring they got it right
Asking no mercy
Trudging on and onward
Searching for passage through, while
Will all the tents be found
Will checkers sleep too sound
To tick the boxes right
Deep in the dead of night
For more than one hundred?
Trees to the right of them
Trees to the left of them
Trees to the front of them
Bushes and brambles
Grabbed at by thorn and briar
To succeed - their desire.
Know that they fought right well
Came thro’ the muds of hell
Back from the savage dell
All that was left of them
Left of more than one hundred.
When will their glory fade?
O the brave trek they made
All Epping wondered.
Honour the challenge faced
Moon time deep forest paced
By more than one hundred.
(with acknowledgement and thanks to Alfred Lord Tennyson)
Jim’s War Memorials & Statues Walk – 17th October 2010
On a sunny autumnal day in October we met at Trafalgar Square for Jim’s War Memorials and Statues walk. I was initially not really interested in the ideas of looking at a bunch of war statues but it was a nice day, and the company would be good so I gave it a try.
How wrong I was; it was great. Jim’s commentary and opinions, based on detailed knowledge and research as well as his own experiences, turned what could have been a dull tour of statues into a fascinating walk. As we looked at each monument, we explored the history and changes in ideas and feelings about war.
We began with the glorification of war, exemplified by Nelson’s Column, and then, by contrast, we looked at the memorial statue to Edith Cavell. Here we began making links with today’s issues, especially the power of the media in war. What was the true story? Was she spy or martyr – or both? How was her story used to justify or condemn atrocities? Does history ever really change? Have things changed? These questions echoed throughout the walk.
We were given a puzzle to solve at Admiralty Arch when asked to find the hidden nose, either to tweak or to touch with respect – if on a horse! (Don’t want to give too much away here.)
Jim’s favourite monument - though he is a bit biased - came next in Horse Guards Parade: a monument to the Royal Naval Division, precursor – perhaps - to the Marines. We walked along the Mall, through Green Park and on to Hyde Park Corner, looking at a variety of monuments and considering how they made us feel today as well as trying to think about what they represented when they had been built.
Eventually the mood changed quite dramatically as we studied the memorials to the First World War when the horrors of war began to subtly creep in to the memorials. The emphasis changed from commemorating victories and campaigns to remembering the dead and fallen. Comparing the Machine Gun Corps Memorial (“glorious heroes”) to the Royal Artillery Memorial (“in proud remembrance of those who gave their lives”) was particularly poignant for me, contrasting the neutrality of the killing machines with the real impact on individual human beings.
A more modern memorial in Hyde Park was a tribute to animals used in warfare and discussion about the ways in which they still are used; however, we couldn’t find the glow worm.
After lunch we went to see the statue of General Foch near Victoria Station, and then on to Whitehall to meet Field Marshall Earl Haig, debating their relative merits and reputations. We finished our reflections on the First World War with a visit to the Cenotaph, probably one of the best known war memorials in the world. Although specifically commemorating victims of the First World War, it is now seen as a memorial to all the servicemen and women who have died in all British wars.
Jim finally took us to see the Monument to the Women of World War II – possibly as a brief taster for his next military walk. However, he has now been persuaded to do a repeat of this one first so if you didn’t make it last time – do it the next.
Pam Fleisch – November 2010
An Isle of Wight Weekend - 22nd-25th October 2010
The car parking area at Alum Bay covers a fair area of the clifftops, but the land that it covers is no longer fair. It sheer size indicates the popularity of one of the Isle of Wight's main attractions, but on the day that Pam, Jenny, Garry and myself visited, cars were pretty sparse, although in total there were probably quite a few visitors nevertheless.
This was our first destination on the morning after we had arrived to meet the rest of the EFOG group staying at Shearings' Broadway Park Hotel at Sandown from 22nd-25th October. We had indeed met some of them at Portsmouth while waiting for the ferry, and others on the ferry, but our Saturday group of four had pre-decided what our basic itinerary for the weekend would probably be. Pam had researched a walk which took in Alum Bay, a view of the Needles, and Tennyson Down and Memorial. That certainly suited me, as I'd memories of Tennyson Down from a distant-past lone-walk around the Isle of Wight, and of the coloured sand on the cliffs at Alum Bay from childhood family holidays.
The amusement area at the top of the cliffs was open, but the amusements were mostly closed, with non-galloping gallopers and shuttered shooting ranges. But the chair-lift to the shore was operating and as we'd a walk planned anyway, we booked a return journey to save our energies. Chair-lifts are chair-lifts, unless you are afraid of heights, and completing a few photographs of Jenny and Garry waving from the chair-in-front, we obviously reached the base of the cliffs. I suppose unless the chair had to be reversed back up, we'd have achieved the bottom whatever happened.
The tide was well in to the pebble beach, a high tide, and only a narrow strip separating the soft cliffs from the sea. It's easy to see on a day like that how vulnerable much of the island's coast is to erosion. We had to wait until after the seventh wave had receded to attempt access to a bit further along the shore, at the risk of wet feet or being swept out to sea. We four - and a few others - succeeded triumphantly, to enable views up the steep, soft sand and clay cliffs of many colours. There is a prohibition on climbing them now, but I was tempted to re-try my childhood experiment of a climb up the heights and the pleasure of throwing oneself out into space to hit the sands at an angle such that you travelled a long way down without injury. Perversely, it was the “without injury” bit that deterred me, rather than the “Do Not Climb These Cliffs” notices.
We caught the last chairs back to the top - a lunch-time interlude, apparently - and made our way to the Marconi Memorial. Of course, ultimately we would be heading for the Tennyson Memorial, but this - to my mind - is just as important; it is all to do with communications. From near here Guglielmo Marconi experimented with radio: in 1897 he set up a 40 metre radio antenna and established contact with ships in the bay below and in early 1898 communicated with stations in Bournemouth and then Poole, 20 miles away. Shortly afterwards he demonstrated that ships out of sight in the Channel could also be communicated with. We now carry the descendants of his experimental equipment in our pockets.
The walk along the no-through road to the battery and cliffs above the Needles was glorious, but a bit wet. Great rain-belts were rolling eastwards along the sea to pass through the Solent, and we caught the hail-edge of some of them. You get some views of weather from sea-sides and cliff-tops that you miss from houses and woodland, and the sea and the sky rewards with changing prospects and colours. We decided not to visit the historic Needles Battery, perhaps because we didn't need that re-charge, but continued up past the coastguard cottages and round the point to view the Needles. One is missing – in fact the one that is missing is the one that gave the chalk formation their name, and I overheard someone telling his party that he'd dived there and seen it laying on its side in the depths. I asked him if he'd tried to put it back up while he was there, but there was a lack of appreciation.
Just over the cliff-top from the Battery and hidden in a shallow bay from the Dorset mainland is the experimental facility which the British rocket programme used to test the Black Knight and Black Arrow space rocket engines prior to these being shipped to Woomera for launching. We dived into the facilities' command centre as another rain cloud struck the island, had hot chocolate and watched Alice Roberts explaining on a video taken from the Coast series about where we were (or at least I did). We then went deeper into the centre to see the display about “Prospero”. Look it up – not many people know that - but don't confuse with Shakespeare.
The rain having cleared, we hiked on to Tennyson Down with its magnificent both-sides sea-views: the Channel to the right and the Solent to the left – or perhaps that should read starboard and port? From here we could see the Spinnaker at Portsmouth north-eastwards and Solent and Dorset coast towns glistening in the sunshine. Northwards was Lymington with its marina, Barton with its beach-huts, and the town of Christchurch. Then there was Hengistbury Head, and westward - beyond Bournmouth and Swanage - Durlston Head and St. Adhelm's Head were clearly visible.
At the Tennyson Memorial, surrounded by messages written with chalk pebbles, Pam read us some poetry – such that she felt was apt for where we were. Of course, it was by Tennyson.
As we descended the down, we paused to peruse a kestrel performing for us a personal aerial display, then our last visit of note as we returned to the car was at the farm tea-room, voted one of the best in Britain for its cream teas. We each had a cream tea, and then watched the Kunekune pig eating a turnip, or maybe it was a mangle-wurzle. We watched the goat too, but that was trying to eat our hats. We also raided the sea-buckthorn we found growing below the downs for its vitamin-C-rich fruits to keep us healthy.
So, that was Saturday. Sunday had been forecast to be the less settled of the weekend, so Jenny, Pam and Garry - and I – had decided we'd do a walk closer in to the pleasures of Sandown or Shanklin, in case of inclemency. We set out on a beautiful morning (having kicked the red squirrels out of our path) down to the pier and along the sea defence promenade towards Shanklin. There are a line of coloured beach huts along here that gave us a lot of pleasure, for they all have a humorous name associated with them. It was sunny and warm, so we sat just above the sands with the sounds of waves breaking gently near us. I awoke to find a Hitchcock-style scenario which involved seagulls; could it be that one of my companions had dropped some food? Halfway to Shanklin we ascended by a stairandslopeway (I did that deliberately) to the cliff-top path, and reaching my remembered “Hideaway” cafe above Small Hope Beach, we sat on a bench where we possibly all nearly or did doze in the sunshine. I couldn't do that in Wanstead.
Shanklin Chine was next - certainly my main objective for the day - where we had poor repast in the cafeteria and watched gannets feeding with the gulls on some great shoal of fishes out at sea. We also saw the remnants of Pluto. (look it up). Exiting the Chine, we ate from a Strawberry Tree and then trudged up and up the street leading out of town through Luccombe Village to the lovely coastal walk towards Dunnose Head. This is an area of chines and landslips, with occasional grand views back across Sandown Bay to Culver Cliffs and beyond. We were heading towards Ventnor, but I wanted to re-find the Devil's Chimney. In an area of wild oakwoods, ferns and lichens, I began to feel we may be close, and then a metal hand-rail helped in a journey upwards - and for me pastwards - into a dramatic and narrow cleft in the rock that I'd remembered since childhood.
We arrived just as the “Smuggler's Haven” cream-tea establishment was closing, so had to decide on how to get back. It had been a longish walk that had taken a longish time, so we decided that the nearby bus-stop might be an asset. A bus was conveniently due heading for Shanklin and Sandown, so we hopped on (well – perhaps not quite hopped). At Shanklin Old Village we got off, cos there was much to see and it wasn't time for tea, and the tapping and waving from the upper deck proved that we'd been on the same bus as other members of the group returning from their expedition. Well, ours wasn't over, so after hostelry refreshment in an old-village pub with a new-town interior, we walked through Shanklin town and back down to the lower promenade to walk back to Sandown as night fell. It was so pretty, with the lights of Sandown in the distance, the moon coming up over Culver Cliffs, and the planets and stars gradually appearing in a black sky.
We made it with enough time to join the others for our evening meal and for our drinks in the lounge in the evening.
I won't bore you with details of the wonderful next-morning's visit to Culver Cliff-top, its kestrels, ravens and pipits, nor the stop-off at St. Helen's beach-side before reaching the ferry terminal in the afternoon, nor the enjoyment of the ferry crossing itself. Pam, Jenny, Garry and myself had a pretty good run home via the M25 and the Queen Elizabeth Crossing, and we stopped for an evening meal not too far from our homes. It was great weekend, with great company. Even though the four of us had done much our own thing, it had been an EFOG trip and we are grateful to Ken for getting us all together to do it. I am grateful to Jenny for doing the driving and I apologise for forcing Jenny, Pam and Garry to climb the Devil's Chimney. Wasn't it good, though!
Paul Ferris, November 2010
Team Efog cycling on a dreary day - 31st Oct 2010
Despite the weather not looking very promising five hardy souls (Duncan, Ann, Jill, Ralph and myself Val) turned out for Ann’s cycle ride starting from the car park of The Garden Centre near the M11 roundabout in Harlow.
Although there was a light drizzle in the air the first few hours we spent pleasantly cycling along the pretty autumnal lanes in the local area, taking in various Matchings and Lavers towards Hatfield Forest where we planned to have our lunch break by the lake.
Lunch achieved sitting under the trees to keep out of the rain a bit we started our journey back promising ourselves a nice hot cup of tea back at the garden centre where we had parked the cars.
Not too long had passed when Jill and Ralph disappeared from the back of the group – a bit of back tracking finds Ralph repairing a puncture to Jill’s bike. Job done and we think on our way again. Not 5 minutes had passed when they disappeared again – more back tracking finds Ralph repairing a second puncture to Jill’s bike, this time it needs a new inner tube and tyre which Ann and Duncan just happen to have along with everything else in their bottomless panniers, so off we go again.
By this time with the clocks having gone back an hour overnight daylight begins to wane a little earlier and we are thinking we need to get our acts together and do some serious pedalling. Very little distance had been achieved when my bike went on strike and succumbed to yes you guessed it, a puncture. Now I am thinking smugly that I do not have a problem because my off road bike has these thick tyres filled with the dreaded ‘green slime’ which self repairs as the air rushes out – the thing being I did not fill my panniers as Ann & Duncan do and I did not have a pump with me – Ralph came up trumps with a very small pump that managed somehow to get a little air in the tyre but doing so nearly gave Duncan heart failure with the effort required to achieve it. At a crossroads trying to read the map in fast diminishing light we set off again and somehow Jill and Ralph end up in an unceremonious heap in the road and Jill has hurt her knees, don’t ask how it happened, it just did.
Now we know we are definitely not going to get that hot cup of tea but are also in danger of not getting back to the garden centre in time before they lock our cars in their car park at 4.30 and go home for the night. I am struggling at the rear with a half inflated tyre on an off-road bike which seems to weigh a ton so we send Duncan and Ralph off at pace to at least get the cars out of the car park so we can get home. Jill, Ann and me then carried on at my reduced pace comforted by the thought that we would actually be able to get home.
We arrived at the garden centre at 4.25 just in the nick of time and found Duncan & Ralph anxiously waiting for us. I felt that I had run and carried my bike this last 5 miles and was a little worse for wear as was Jill with her rapidly stiffening knees. But team Efog rules supreme, we had beaten everything in the course of the day and there is another cycle ride on the programme in a few weeks and yes we will be going (and I will remember to take a pump).
Thanks Ann for a great days cycling – nearly 31 miles - we would still have been out there now if I had been reading that map.
Page 45 of 51