Recent outings and activities...

The 50th and Final Tanners Marathon - 4th July 2010

Members of EFOG met up at the Leatherhead Football Ground in Surrey before 9 a.m. on Sunday, 4th July, 2010, for the 50th and final Tanners Marathon. I can only write from the checkpoint perspective, but it was a really successful day. EFOG had quite a few members participating this year and I am pleased to say that the 4 who entered the 30 miles finished in under the allowed time (10 hours). Congratulations to Duncan, Sue C., Jim and Parviz for completing the 30 on such a hot day. Congratulations, too, to Ken, Chris and Fergus who finished the 20 mile course in under the 8 hours allowed, and to Ann who did the 10 miles on her own! Well, there were plenty of others in it, but she was the only one from our Group!

Peter, Fred and I were helping on checkpoints. Peter and I have helped on checkpoints for many years now, but we have never known it as crazy as this one. As it was the last Tanners, everyone came out of the woodwork to enter! We were first taken to help on checkpoint 1, which is always really busy as the groups of competitors have not had much time to spread out. We were helping with the drinks there and it was continuous making up squashes, filling up bottles with water for the competitors to fill their water bottles, and washing-up the plastic cups - Fred’s really good at that!

Once the main crowd had gone through checkpoint 1, Peter, Fred and I were taken to checkpoint 3 where we were to spend the next few happy hours! I was signing the cards with the times they came through, and had queues waiting for a great deal of the time. Peter and Fred were on the drinks, and could hardly cope. We were inundated! So much was drunk that we had to ‘phone for more water supplies - long before we actually ran out. Unfortunately it took some while for the water to be brought to us, and we did run out! Luckily the main stream of competitors had gone through by that time, and we got replenishments eventually. A lady was helping us for a short while, but other than that, we were on our own. Peter didn’t even have time to take photos! I grabbed the camera and kept it round my neck as I was determined to get some photos of our members going through. I stood up and just clicked in between signing cards, but I nearly missed Duncan! I was so busy when he came through that I didn’t even have time to look at people, and had signed his card not knowing it was him! Luckily I realized before he left the checkpoint, and managed to snap him. Amazingly, some of the photos have come out quite well - more by luck than judgement!

We were supposed to stay at the checkpoint until 3 p.m., but as there were still quite a few blank spaces on my sheet where I ticked off the competitors, we decided to stay a bit longer. We had another couple come through who had got lost. Then, just as we were packing up towards 4 p.m., 3 more turned up. They decided to retire as one had bad cramp, but with 3 of us and 2 dogs in our car (Katie and Eddie were with us, too), plus the equipment, we couldn’t take them back. We were miles from the Leatherhead Football Ground, where the marathon started and finished. We ’phoned for someone to pick them up, and hoped it wasn’t going to take as long as they took bringing us the water! We left them there but saw them later, so we knew they were still not sitting there!

It’s such a beautiful part of the country in the area of the marathon, but I am not sure the competitors had time to admire it - neither did we! There were beautiful views from near our checkpoint, which we only had time to see when we were packing up! The 30 miles course goes to Tanners Hatch Youth Hostel towards the end.

When we got back to the football ground, Ken, Chris and Fergus had already arrived after doing the 20. We patiently waited for the ones doing the 30. Duncan was the first in - in about 8 and-a-half hours, I think. Peter and I then decided to walk the dogs down a lane to meet the others. We stopped at a junction to wait, and Parviz came through first - from the wrong direction! He had got lost! Immediately after, Sue and Jim arrived - from the right direction! After 30 miles I wouldn’t have thought they could walk that fast! We had trouble keeping up with them for the final bit back to the finish! They all came in together in about 9 and-half hours. There’s a bar at the football ground, so a great deal of drink was consumed when everyone finished!

Everyone collected their certificates, and we said our goodbyes to the Tanners’ organizers. Sad it’s the last one, but it was a really good day. WELL DONE TO THE EFOG TEAM!  Tanners will be missed.




A Day in Leigh On Sea - 27th June 2010

Hadleigh Castle

Got to Hadleigh Castle, sun beating down and it was only 9.30am. I’d left my hat at home – no-one else had – sensible lot the others!

A gentle walk to the castle ruins which boldly thrust into a wide expanse of Essex sky. The hill seemed very high above the town – thinking of the return walk!  It didn’t take much to imagine what it might have been like more than 400 years ago. Distant mist added to the air of mystery.

Panoramas over what had once been very marshy wetlands, showed the ecological inheritance – rivers of water meandering round muddy looking flats, distant islands and outposts of land. Perhaps a future  EFOG day?

The stroll down to Leigh was a mixture of open fields and bush lined paths, with butterflies, loads of different grasses and plants and a few pesky flies. I suppose they have a right to life as well – maybe. We had occasional stops  to enjoy the views and to rest up, especially in the shady patches.

The folk festival was nicely warmed up by the time we reached Old Leigh. The music from the different bands competed occasionally but each space offered something new. I don’t think I have ever seen so many different types of Morris Dancing in one place at the same time. Troops of Egyptian, Spanish and Jive dancers added to the variety. Gill and Michelle may do some Zumba there next year. Hope so.

Some of us even managed a paddle along a short stretch of rather stony beach and we had a great picnic spot on some steps leading down to our own beach. Paul’s pastie had defrosted, my sandwich had cooked - I must remember Peter’s way of keeping the butties cool. Katie had a swim and Eddie had to be rescued when the tide came in a bit too quickly. All added to the fun.

The festival atmosphere was infectious, the enthusiasm of the artists abounding. I  wanted to join in with the dancing ….. nearly lost the others a few times because my spirit was doing just that and ignoring the others. Sorry gang!

The singers also varied, from  pop/rock type folk beats to soul filled melodies which could have brought tears to my eyes (even if I didn’t understand a word) if I’d been in a different (less toe-tapping) mood.  The artists were happy to chat and a hurdy gurdy man even let Paul have a play with his instrument……

A great day out. Thanks Paul. And I didn’t even notice the hill on the walk back.

Pamela Fleish, June 2010

Leigh Folk Festival, 27th June

Perhaps something else was happening on the day we visited the Leigh Folk Festival, for apart from ourselves, the streets were empty. Strange, in the relentless heat of what could have been a desert sun, to see sage-brush tumbling across the cobbles of the old fishing village.


Leigh Folk Festival 2010From the hostelries of the town, though, came noises like the drone of a thousand bees, interspersed with the moans of humans and - just twice - cheers of excitement.

Gradually, people began to appear on the streets. Some were in tears, clutching beer cans and arguing and discussing. Others, though, were in a gay mood, frivolous and chatting, laughing and singing. And such costumes they wore - pretty dresses and skirts, colours and flowers; some even had bells on!

The atmosphere lightened and soon there was music, singing and dancing from every conceivable open space - from the largest car-park to the smallest space by the tables of the eating-houses. Such entertainment there was that day: ballad singers from Teaside, bagpipers from Sarfend, Morris Dancers from Ornchurch - even a Punch and Judy man from Gordnoswhere! And all to welcome us - seven members of the Epping Forest Outdoor Group - to the little town after our epic two mile walk from Hadleigh Castle!

Paul Ferris


EFOG French Excursion - 22nd to 25th May 2010

Day One:

Saturday, 22nd May. After an uneventful ferry crossing we arrived in Calais around 1-00 p.m. local time and made our way through Bleriot-Plage and Sangatte to Cap Blanc-Nez. At least we thought we had arrived at the car park for Cap Blanc-Nez. In fact we were some 1,500 metres short of the cape. However, we set off on a path towards the cliff top in somewhat cool and grey weather. Along the way we passed several World War II bunkers and gun emplacements built by the Germans with slave labour. As we reached the cliff top the sun was beginning to break through and we could see the route ahead, but not yet a clear view of the English coast some 22 miles to the north-west. The countryside was not unlike that of the Sussex coastal downs - a bit up and down like a roller coaster.

The cape was marked by a large granite column. We descended quite a steep path almost to sea level where a mobile “friterie” selling chips, baguettes and drinks was a welcome sight as most of our group of eight had not eaten lunch on the ship. By now the sun was fully out and the day was warming up nicely. Our original intention was to walk the coastal path between Cap Blanc-Nez and Cap Nez-Gris but because we had started late and short of the planned starting point we decided our destination would be the little village of Wissant. We needed the cars in Wissant for our onward journey to Boulogne, so Peter G. and Ken made the return walk back to the car park whilst the main party pressed on towards Wissant.

On a most pleasant summer afternoon we rendez-vous’d in the centre of the village, both groups arriving at about the same time. There was a choice of cafes to have a drink and we settled for one with a cool terrace overlooking the river.

Thanks to some good navigational work by Val and Prue in the lead car, we arrived at the FUAJ hostel in Boulogne just before 6 p.m., having crossed the River Canche. After sorting our beds and a quick clean up we were off into town to find a restaurant for our evening meal.

Day Two:

Sunday, 23rd May. After a very satisfactory continental breakfast (included in the bed-night price of 19 euros) we decided to spend the day in and around the forest of Hardelot. After a brief stop at a Carrefour supermarket en route for picnic provisions we arrived at the little beach resort of Hardelot-Plage. The local tourist office was very helpful in providing us with a map showing a selection of walks in the area. We set off for the Chateau d’Hardelot as a starting point for the chosen walk. The weather was perfect and so was the countryside. The castle itself looked shiny bright and new in the brilliant sunshine. In fact it dated back to the 12th century. We walked around a large lake first. The path was well managed with duckboards across several marshy patches and delightfully shaded by mixed deciduous forest for most of the way. The chateau is currently being refurbished and developed as a tourist attraction. The work is unfinished so there was no charge to look around. We were fascinated by an exhibition of late 18th and early 19th century mainly English cartoons depicting the relationship between the French and the English at this crucial time in the history of the two countries. Next it was time for lunch and we fortunately found a tree shaded picnic table near the main car park. Perfect!

After lunch Maz and Val took a leisurely walk back round the lake, stopping at a hide to look at birds, whilst the rest of us embarked on a forest walk. Along the mainly shaded forest paths it was easy. However, on a section across open rather mountainous dunes and along an un-shaded coastal path it was more arduous in the hot summer sun. Finally we came to a road, more by luck than judgement, and were able to enlist local help on the best route back to the chateau to meet Maz and Val. On the way home we stopped at a café in Equihen-Plage for a welcome cold beer or coffee.

Sunday evening is not the best time of the week to eat out in France as many restaurants are closed or have a limited menu. However, we eventually found a place which was able to satisfy our varied needs. The meal was enlivened by the droll remarks of our waiter on the idiosyncrasies of the English when it comes to eating and drinking.

Day Three:

Monday, 24th May. It was another glorious summer day. We agreed to explore the Foret de Boulogne which lies on high ground a few miles to the east of the town. We stopped off at Carrefour to purchase our food for lunch and for our evening meal. We thought it would be fun to dine “al fresco” in the courtyard of the hostel that evening. The forest was dense, lush and very green. We meandered happily around for a while paying no particular attention to direction or distance. We encountered a number of streams with quite deep cut valleys. It was somewhat wet in places and muddy and slippery on the slopes. Eventually we found a flat more open area covered in wild flowers where we stopped for lunch. A few biting insects found us so we did not linger too long. Now to find our way back to our parking place! We came across a forest road where we were able to work out our position and make our way back.

As it was still relatively early in the day most of us were up for another walk. After discussions we made for the town of Desvres, a little further inland. From the Michelin guide we discovered that Desvres is a long established centre of pottery manufacture. We parked in the town square, although it was more of a triangle than a square, with an interesting chiming clock in the middle. In the local café there was a demand for more Leffe - a rather good Belgian beer.

Two members wished to explore the town and the remainder went by car to the start of the forest walk. A large indicator board clearly showed a number of possible walks. However, as had been the case the previous day, the way-marking was not consistent and we were at times unsure of our position. No matter we enjoyed the paths through the woods. This forest was a little more open with more to see as we walked along. We made quite a large loop, roughly following the southern perimeter of the forest, before eventually coming back to the road near where we had parked the cars.

That evening, our last night at the hostel, we had an excellent cold buffet with meats and cheeses bought from the local supermarket. There was plenty of bread and salad and an ample supply of red and white wine to complement the food. For sweet there was a choice of French apple tart or strawberry cheesecake. A game of pool finished the evening.

Day Four:

Tuesday, 25th May. We had set this day aside to explore the old walled town of Boulogne-sur-Mer. Straight after breakfast and vacating our rooms we set off up steep hills and entered the old town through the back gate. The weather was again pleasantly warm and sunny. First we walked the ramparts of the town walls. Along each section and at every corner there were the remains of interesting towers and store houses. On every side there were wonderful views over the town and the surrounding countryside. Inside the old town we had a choice to make - coffee first or the cathedral. Coffee won! Unfortunately, after coffee we arrived at the cathedral just as they were about to close for lunch! 12-00 to 14-00. This is France after all. We walked round the old streets before settling down for lunch at pavement tables. After visiting the cathedral, it was time to meander back down the hill to our waiting cars.

We had a trouble-free journey back to the port at Calais in good time for our evening trip to England, with lovely views of the white cliffs of Dover.

Ken. 11th June 2010

A footnote. Four days after arriving home Ken’s car developed a serious fault which had it occurred a few days earlier would have seriously dampened our spirits.

Camping in Norfolk - 8th-11th May 2010

We started the Norfolk break on Saturday 8th May with some trepidation, in the rain with a forecast not brilliant! Not to be downhearted, we headed for the Manor Farm Campsite at East Runton, determined to make the most of what was thrown at us. Peter and I, with Katie, our Greyhound, met up with Val and her nephew, Charlie, and Gill with her dog, Serena, in a pub in West Runton for lunch. At least it was warm and dry in there! We bravely decided to go for a short walk along West Runton beach - after all, we are an Outdoor Group! It was blowing a gale on the cliffs but the beach was more sheltered and there was only a drizzle - or was that the spray from the rough sea? On to the campsite to set up. Thankfully the rain stopped long enough to get our tent up. Val had arrived earlier, and sensibly found a sheltered corner of the campsite out of the wind. No sea-view from the tents from there, but better than camping in a gale! There was only one problem - we had forgotten to bring a club tent for Gill.  No worries - our tent is large, so can easily take 3, plus 2 dogs!

Ann and Duncan eventually joined us after visiting some gardens en route. We drove into Sheringham in the evening for a pub meal, and back to the campsite for a good night’s sleep. Some hopes! The rain battered on the tents during the night, Serena decided she wanted to give me a kiss in the early hours and shoved her wet nose into the back of my head, some of us needed a trip to the loo at daybreak (thankfully the rain had stopped by then), probably after too much wine and coffee the night before, and just as we thought we could get a couple more hours sleep, the dawn chorus had started! A very pretty song coming from a tree near our tents from a Chaffinch (identified the following morning), but I did need more sleep!

The weather had improved by the morning, and after breakfast, we set off for a walk to Sheringham, through woods and along the cliff tops, about 4 miles. It was quite cold and windy, but at least the sun was out! We found a lovely café in Sheringham which allowed the dogs in, and had home-made soup to warm us up. On the walk back, we stopped at the Priory Gardens where some looked at the plants for sale, and a couple of us had coffee and cake, reclining on the comfortable armchairs in the sun in the secluded garden. Did Duncan really want to take an enormous olive tree in a pot home for Copped Hall? (Or was it for home?) Thankfully he thought better of it as he would have needed a crane and lorry to get it back (and £2,000!). When we got back to the campsite we put the kettle on! Gill and Serena had to leave that day, and young Charlie was picked up to get back for his SATs tomorrow. He looked really upset to be leaving. Camping was obviously preferable to exams! The remainder of us drove back into Sheringham for another nice pub meal. The night was rather like the previous one, but without the dog-kissing episode as Serena (and Gill) had gone home! If the rain only fell at night, that was O.K.!

On the Monday we decided to visit the National Trust Sheringham Gardens. We had a lovely walk through rhododendrons, but unfortunately, due to our long winter, everything was late this year. Many were out in flower and looked beautiful, but the majority were late coming out. The bluebells looked lovely, too, and we went up a couple of towers to see the views. We left there and walked through some woods to a small café set in pretty gardens - called “Pretty Corner”. We sat outside in the sun in a really peaceful and sheltered garden setting. Val had to leave us to get home. Down to 4 and 1 dog now! We decided to go back to Sheringham Gardens and do the tree walk this time. Back to the campsite and to give Katie a run on East Runton beach, where the previous day we had watched a couple of surfers braving the cold sea. They obviously thought better of it today, and we went back to Sheringham for the evening meal. Duncan had been updating us on the election fiasco after listening to news on his car radio - Nick Clegg was going with Labour, or was he going with the Conservatives? I was just grateful we were away until it was all sorted!

The night was much the same, except for one difference - there were hailstones all round our tents in the morning! Was it really that cold? This is May! At least it was quite warm in our tent. After an egg and bacon sandwich breakfast, which tastes much nicer cooked on a stove in a tent, we decided to go to Holkham beach which has a gorgeous long stretch of sand, but a long walk across it to get to the sea. It was ideal to give Katie a race round which she loves, but after 3 tiring days, she was not as enthusiastic as normal! After lunch at the café at Holkham Hall, we went to Morston Quay for a boat-trip to see the seals. Katie had to be carried across one boat to the boat we were going on, which didn’t do much for her dignity, but she immediately settled down on the floor of the boat to recover! Last year the seals were sitting on a sandbank and swimming round the boat, almost laughing at the idiots who come out to see them, but this year they had a different tactic. Hide and seek was the game! There was only one on a sandbank - the others were teasing us, popping up here and there out of the water, and back down again. “I’m over here. No I’m not, I’m over here now.” Apparently there have been fewer seals this year, and we only saw Grey Seals, and none of the prettier Common Seals. We then went close to a sandbank covered with nesting and flying seabirds - hundreds of them. The seal trip made a fitting end to a lovely few days in Norfolk, which turned out to be much better than we had expected, weather-wise! At least the days were dry and mainly sunny, but perhaps we should have gone in the warmer weather we had in April!