Don led Dermot, Esin Helen Nicola and Pam on a great weekend trip to Goring and Streatley Youth Hostel. The weather was fine, the villages interesting and attractive, the river flowing through, the lock and the weir.
Don had visited the previous weekend to research the walks and hostel and assess the size of the members kitchen – and incidentally found out that we could leave our stuff in a side room to save carrying it all day.
He brought lots of the basic food, supplemented by a shop at Tesco beside the station, and Dermot brought food for the evening meal (very tasty pasta and pesto and salad). We were even able to make fresh sandwiches for the Sunday. We walked alongside the river to the north on Saturday and up into the hills and woods (and poppy-filled fields) south to Pangbourne on Sunday. The train service here is excellent, running every half hour even on Sunday, which made transport easy despite the almost non-existent bus service.
Coincidentally it was the weekend of the bi-annual Goring and Streetley Festival so we had an evening walk and caught a glimpse of Mica Parris, the star of the show, although the real stars were the afternoon local brass band, performing for free in the church hall with good tea and cakes. Our walk took us past places where Oscar Wilde and Jerome K. Jerome stayed, houses where Danny la Rue and George Michael lived and river and water mill views that Turner painted. There was a wonderful sunset reflected in the water on the way home.
There were six of us, Nicola, Hugh, Damien, Elena, Corinne and Nigel.
We started out from Box Hill and Westhumble train station and went west on the North Downs Way to Ranmore Common. Views were stunning. Then on to Wotton, where we had lunch in the packed village pub, which like most pubs in the Surrey countryside is much more of a gastro pub full of casually dressed posh people who vote Tory and hate Jeremy Corbyn. Nevertheless, they did ace pints of Tea and Doombar and plenty of them.
We went back roughly east towards the outskirts of Dorking and walked along Balchins Lane, which is where famous British 1930’s actor Lesley Howard lived, and there is a plaque outside his house. We eventually made it to the Mole Gap trail and then on through Denbies Vineyard which led up to the settlement of Westhumble. Meanwhile, to our right we got superb views of the striking wooded slopes of Box Hill. We also caught a glimpse, glittering in the distance, of the famous Swiss Cottage, a listed building that once was the home of John Logie Baird, one of the inventors of the mechanical television way back in the 20th century.
Altogether we did about 12 miles and even the Lycra clad cyclists who erroneously thought they were a cool bunch in their shades and expensive gear did not put us off. Although to be fair, they were much less hassle than passing car drivers.
Despite getting lost a few times, this was one of the best walks of the year so far. Those not on our wonderful jaunt don’t know what they missed
On a bright day we walked through Welwyn Garden City’s Janet-and-John western suburb and on through Sherrardspark Woods. Then over the A1(M) and into the manicured parkland of the golf course around Brocket Hall, the mansion sold to cover Lord Brocket’s drug debts. Next down a steep wooded path (its glades suffering from clumps of an invasive blue coloured plant) and along the River Lea Path to the ford at Waterend before two miles of climbing north to the picturesque village of Ayot St Lawrence. We took our lunchtime stop in the ruined churchyard, deciding not to visit GB Shaw’s house nearby. Returning across fields with long views, then an intricate shimmy eastwards to Ayot Green village. Then back across the A1 (M) to traverse Sherrardspark Woods by the old rail line, now “Greenway”, into Welwyn GC centre for a well deserved tea. This was a satisfying eight/nine mile hike on a very warm day; it presaged more for coming season.
Several members were interested in seeing this play at the Royal Court Theatre but the only tickets available were for Monday night and necessitated going online at 9am that day, so only 2 of us made it. We found it enjoyable and both funny and moving. Three black men walk once a month in the Peak District to relax away from their daily lives. On this day they all have their problems to brood on and fall to talking about 2000 years of black British history. Lost in the fog they come upon a young woman who seems at first to be a mystical figure but turns out to be a very down-to-earth Yorkshire rapper who puts them straight. A great performance by Dorcas Sebuyange who sings beautifully as they emerge from the fog back onto familiar territory. The play was inspired by a real Black men’s walking group based in Sheffield.
Chalfont and Latimer to Chorleywood. Fifteen Redropers emerged from London for this spring country walk. Fresh air and quiet woods and hills but an enormous amount of mud. Horses and lamas in the fields, cows still inside and no watercress yet. We ate our sandwiches in Sarrat churchyard and warmed up in the Cock Inn.
A cheerful small group turned out to walk across two linked country parks along the eastern fringe of Dagenham. Just two miles north of the historic Ford Motor Works on the Thames, these fields offer long vistas (when looking in the right direction) recalling the old, unkempt Essex marshes. After visiting the parish church we entered the Beam country park and followed the River Beam northwards passing lakes and a rather spooky new housing complex, then the site of an old fever hospital, now a tree-bordered rise. We next crossed the rail line to reach the separate Eastbrook End country park, with more lakes and a variety of bird life. In exposed fields the breezes were biting, so our exploration of this interesting lakes-and-heaths land was ended with a return over the rail footbridge and back to East Dagenham. There we found a classic cafe serving All Day Breakfasts. This was (I believe) our only Sunday walk this year among snow covered fields. It had its own considerable charm. Thank you Nicola for choosing and leading ….