Recent outings and activities...
Bell-ringing at St. John’s Church, Epping
Seventeen EFOG members had a really interesting evening in the bell tower at St. John’s Church, Epping, on Monday, 26th March, 2012. The tower is 100 years old, and was built some years after the church, as an addition. I had arranged with Peter Milan, the bell-ringing captain, for us to visit, and I think the evening turned out to be even better than we had expected. Peter was explaining everything to us, and with his colleague, David, we were first shown how to bell-ring before we had a go ourselves. They gave us lighter bells, which was just as well, as when Peter demonstrated the largest bell which weighs over a ton, he actually had his feet off the floor to get it going, hanging on the bell-rope!
Bell-ringing is certainly much more complicated than I thought. When it is being done properly, the bell captain calls out numbers - not the numbers of the bells (they have 8 bells at St. John‘s), but the sequence numbers of the rounds. I couldn’t pretend to understand it, and you certainly need your wits about you! Being amateurs, we didn’t get to that stage, but we all had goes at ringing the bells with the help of Peter and David. It is quite tiring, and Peter and David were there with us, helping us to catch the bell-ropes by the sally - the furry bit on the rope!
Following on from that, we ascended the ladders to see the bells - not for those of a nervous disposition or with a fear of heights! The second ladder was completely vertical up the wall! As we had enjoyed a visit to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry last year, it was good to see to see the bells in situ, and Peter gave us some more information while we were perched on a narrow ledge, overlooking the bells. I think we were all grateful for the wooden railing along that bit! Peter had left one of the bells upside-down, which is where they are when they actually start to ring the bells, so we could see the positioning.
On the floor below the bells, is the complicated winding mechanism for the clock. There are three winding sections (for the time and the chimes), and they have to be wound every week to keep the clock going. Some of us had a go at the winding. As we were winding, we could see the huge weights moving up very slowly. That was hard work, and I am just relieved I don’t have to do it every week!
All in all, it was a really good evening, and we are very grateful to Peter and David for spending so much time with us, explaining it all. Peter and I live in Epping and we love to hear the bells ringing. I shall now listen with a great deal more admiration!
Maz. March, 2012.
The EFOG Spring Walks Campaign
The weather this year hasn't been the best for walking. Rain, mud, snow, mud, icy winds and mud. Lots and lots of mud. But it hasn't stopped us from getting about - would we be a proper walking group if we didn't own wellies or gaiters, and of course, good stout shoes?
T here have been plenty of opportunities to put them to good use, along with the waterproofs, scarves, mittens and a sense of humour about it all. After all, if you can't laugh at someone else with a muddy bottom, what can you do! Through the trees of Epping Forest to the open fields of Essex, we have been there - and you can guarantee there is always someone who has come prepared - with some water to clean off the muddy bits, a spare pair of socks or a plaster in case of the odd blister, and the sure and certain knowledge of where the loos are and the availability of a hot drink on the way or at the end.
Spring may be taking its time this year but we'll be ready for it!
Sue Ullesperger, 24th March 2013
Circumnavigating Mersea - Saturday 10th March
As those of you who have been on one of Ken's walks before well know, he has a mysterious knack of providing good weather. So it was when Group members met for a bit of island hopping, over the causeway to Mersea Island recently. Even though it was the middle of March, the sun shone, coats were shed and more than a few faces were a shade pinker at the end than at the beginning!
We set off through the pretty village of West Mersea, past the houseboats, fishing boats and oyster farms, out on to the sea wall, travelling clockwise towards the seaward side of the island. Shortly after lunch though, we discovered that Ken is not quite perfect - he can order up the sunshine but he cannot hold back the tide!
Crossing a small beach wildlife area (where we were told to beware of snakes) the previously accessible strip of sand was flooded by the incoming tide. All was not lost, however, we had to circumnavigate a caravan park full of not so friendly natives (except for the brave few who sneaked through while the natives were on their mobile phones) and resumed the path on the far side.
The tide went out almost as fast as it came in and we were able to beach-comb back to town past the jolly coloured huts for a tea stop before making our way back to the mainland as the sun began to set on another lovely day.
Sue. March 2012
Rotherhithe Walk, 21st January 2012
A goodly crowd of 18 EFOGers met at Canada Water to walk around the once hectic dock-filled area of Rotherhithe. The object was to look for reminders of the area’s history in a very modern, urban landscape. We found the lives of the dockers and seafarers celebrated in shopping centre murals, information displays, statues, building and street names but, perhaps most effectively, in the seafaring paraphernalia embedded in the streets: cobbles, chains, capstans, parts of hydraulic machinery, swing bridges, cranes and metal tracks.
We walked by Greenland Dock (still there) which was once one of the largest docks in the world and twice the size it is now. Before going on to Surrey Dock we passed The Moby Dick pub with its echoes of a time when industries which produced lighting, soap, corsets and umbrellas were supported by whaling.
We lunched in Surrey Dock Farm where there was a demonstration of a blacksmith’s skills as well as goats, pigs and turkeys. No one bought a ferret (but they could have done). Katie was allowed in on a lead and was her usual well behaved self. The food was a bit pricey but good. I still wish I’d succumbed to the temptation of the lemon cake! Peter stop gloating!
After lunch we carried on, passing more former shipyards, dock areas and warehouses, including one at Kings and Queens Wharf, built by French prisoners during the Napoleonic Wars. We saw a tiny looking fire station, once one of London’s busiest (built 1903 and closed in 1965). Like most of the original “restored” buildings in the area, this has been converted into urban residential accommodation, set in a cityscape bordering The Thames.
We went on to explore the outside of the Pump House Museum and its nature reserve (one of quite a few on the walk). The Museum would be worth a visit, but has limited opening times. The nature reserves were good to see but would be more attractive perhaps when the warmer weather returns.
Most of us had walked the “other side” of the river so we experienced different views of places we already knew such as The Prospect of Whitby (or Devil’s Tavern), the Captain Kidd and, in Maz’s case, an area in which she worked.
Unfortunately, the seal (Sophie?) I had seen on one of my planning trips did not appear but we did see cormorants and other birds - more than you might think. Apparently, although there are few nesting sites, there are a lot of visitors.
We took another break at The Brunel Museum which told the story of what was once hailed as “The 8th Wonder of the World”, the first tunnel under a navigable stretch of water. In the first 15 weeks after opening (in 1843) more than a million people paid 1 penny to walk through it to the other side (I didn’t find out whether that was single or return). This was at a time when the estimated population of London was 2 million. It took 18 years to build instead of the planned 3 and cost a lot more than expected – some things don’t change.
After looking round the museum we carried on to St. Mary’s Church where three of the owners of The Mayflower are buried as well as Prince Lee Boo, from the Pacific Island of Palau. He came here to learn about engineering but sadly died of smallpox after only 5 months.
Within the grounds of the churchyard was a playground. Some of us followed Amina’s lead in sneaking a go on the slide, big kids all. But, there were only two men with such courage and sense of fun. Can you guess who? Who was taking pictures?
Opposite the church is The Mayflower Pub, standing on the site where The Mayflower was kitted out before taking the Pilgrim Fathers to America in 1620, and where it was broken up at the end of its life. Nearby is the building that was St. Mary’s Free School, founded in 1613 to educate the sons of local seafarers.
The walk ended with a tour of King’s Stair Garden where we looked at the ruins of a 16th Century Manor House. Nearby was a bench on which a statue of Doctor Alfred Salter had sat before it was stolen. Ken had had his picture taken sat next to it on a previous EFOG walk. Finally, we looked at The Angel pub where Turner is said to have painted The Fighting Temeraire on her way to be dismantled. A brisk walk through Southwark Park brought us back to Canada Water.
Lessons. This was the first real-sized walk I have led and it took a lot of courage to attempt it, having so little sense of direction. I did learn some lessons, however, which others with similar concerns about leading might find useful. Next time I will lead “from the front” (I think this might have improved the pace of the walk). I think it would be good to have a named “rounder upper” to stop me worrying if everyone was still with us. It was essential to do the pre-walk planning trips but next time I will try harder to do this in a timely fashion so that I can have a pal to share this with me! Overall, it was fun though, and great to spend time with such a nice bunch of people. I would encourage others to give it a go – it’s nowhere near as scary as it might seem. Thanks to all those who helped and encouraged me.
Pam, February 2012
River Roding Walk, 5th February 2012
Snow had been forecast the previous day so it was no great surprise to see about 4 inches of the white stuff on the ground on Sunday morning. I looked forward to the prospect of the Roding valley path decked in snow. However, better I thought to check my emails in case the walk had been cancelled. No messages so off I went. The main roads were clear and presented no problems to a careful driver (like me!)
Only Jill and Julie were at the starting point when I arrived but others including Ian Greer our leader soon came. We were 10 in all. Some had been unable to get to the start because of the weather. After the snow the air was cool but not frosty. In about 15 minutes we were at the start of the Roding path off the A12 just south of the Redbridge roundabout. Ian led off at a good pace and soon everyone was comfortably warm within their layered clothing. We walked in single file and those near the back had a somewhat better surface to walk on.
We paused briefly at intervals to close up the column. Snow lay all around – deepish and even but not unduly crisp. The path was mainly level with only a few gentle inclines now and then. Probably the greatest difficulty we encountered was crossing the Southend Road at Charlie Brown’s roundabout. However the traffic was relatively light and we were able to cross when there was a gap in the flow.
We were now on the left bank of the river. After meandering around the Redbridge borough recycling unit we recrossed the river and made our way towards Woodford Bridge. Soon we were anticipating our stop at the Three Jolly Wheelers pub. After a very enjoyable pub lunch most of us took the soft option of taking the W14 bus back to Wanstead. Dolores decided to walk the return and Jill and Julie walked on to Woodford.
We don’t often get the opportunity to walk in snow and it was great to do so. Thanks to Ian for leading.
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