29 September-2nd October 2017: Red Rope National AGM Weekend, Mankinholes, Yorkshire

This year’s AGM venue was again Mankinholes Youth Hostel, near Todmorden in the Calder valley. Seven London members attended, mostly travelling up by train. Hugh and I came up to Todmorden via Leeds on Friday evening, had just enough time for a meal in a pub near the station, then caught a local bus out to the hostel.

On Saturday there was a session on navigation training, with a professional trainer, but I led an 11-mile circular walk, which started with an ascent of Stoodley Pike with its spectacular monument overlooking the hostel, then along a ridge to Hebden Bridge where we stopped for lunch, and coffee at a canal-side cafe.

Rochdale Canal

Our lunch spot on the Rochdale Canal in Hebden Bridge

We then followed what must be one of the steepest cobbled streets in England up to Heptonstall, where Sylvia Plath is buried, then along a spectacular balcony wall overlooking Colden Clough, the combination of steep drops and wet rock being a little scary. At the head of the clough we turned south onto the Pennine Way, over a raise and very steeply down into the Calder valley — more slippery flagstones. The final stretches of the walk were along the Rochdale Canal, then back up to Mankinholes.

Colden Clough

Looking down Colden Clough, with Hebden Bridge below and Heptonstall Church on the left

Saturday evening we had a wonderful meal, Gill Cox leading the cooks. The AGM on Sunday was inquorate, as not all regions had sent enough members to achieve the required ten per cent of total membership, so the new national committee members are all technically “acting”. We discussed trip charges, regional support, the timing of national committee meetings and a new online system for membership administration, which will involve moving to a regular annual renewal date. After lunch Dermot and I walked into Hebden Bridge, mostly along the canal, for the train home.


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24 September 2017: Knole Park and Ightham Mote

This circular walk from Sevenoaks station to Ightham Mote was led by Helen Alsworth, on a beautiful sunny day. Heading out, we went through the northern part of Knole Park to Godden Green, then through woods and across a lavender field to Ightham Mote where we stopped for lunch.

Passing Igtham Mote

Leaving Ightham Mote

We returned to Sevenoaks along the Greensand Way, a surprisingly hilly route. We stopped for tea at the National Trust cafe at Knole House.



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21st September 2017: Essex Way stage 10, Wrabness to Harwich Town

Eight Red Rope Thursday walkers made this a celebratory project ending the walk in mild temperatures with some golden sunshine among scudding clouds. Our eight miles started on the banks of the Stour estuary with good views across to Holbrook. We crossed the peninsula so that six miles later we were walking on Dovercourt promenade with its lighthouses on stilts. On the way we traversed paths through Copperas Woods and broad fields to the windmill outside Ramsey. This was the last village before our terminal town so we honoured The Castle pub with a late morning drinking stop. Then we crossed a scrubby, nettled copse to reach more broad fields to find a sheltered cabbage patch for our picnic lunch. Making towards marshes and the open sea, we walked along the top of sea defences to reach Dovercourt shoreline with its stately rows of beach huts. Two spider-like lighthouses stood up on stilts, aligned near-and-far to guide ships into the harbour. The lively sea, almost sending surf over the wall, inspired Joanna to hare up the stairway of the nearer lighthouse. One mile further on, now on the final Harwich stretch, we passed a treadmill operated crane, then another pair of lighthouses which were replaced by the Victorian ones when the sea lanes changed course. Strictly, the High Lighthouse marks the end of the Way, but we trekked a final half-mile through a corner of the old town,

passing lifeboat museum, navy shipyard (started by Henry VIII), and 18th C houses to “the Ha’penny Pier”. Here the advertised pier teashop was thankfully still operational and we conducted our completion tea party sedately. Alongside the quay the little yellow ferry appeared from the Felixtowe side of the estuary reminding us how modern transport systems have reduced, but not quite suppressed, the old ones. It was agreed that a further celebration would take place the next week at a pot luck lunch in Blackheath. Here we will plan our next Thursday project.

Steve Butters​
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17 September 2017: Hawksley and the Hangers Way

A big group of us joined Helen on this eleven mile walk in the Hampshire countryside, mostly following the Hangers Way — the Hangers being steep but densely wooded hills. After a long train journey fron Waterloo, we set out north west from Petersfield, through the village of Steep, then up Leg of Mutton Hill — which must give the village its name.

At the top of Leg of Mutton Hill

At the top of Leg of Mutton Hill.

Some of us had thought the hill was named after a pub at the top, but this was not to be and we had to walk on another couple of miles to Hawksley for lunch on the village green then a stop at the very crowded pub.

Descending towards Hawksley

Descending towards Hawksley.

We had another six miles to go after lunch, as we wound our way through the Hangers. We finally said goodbye to the Hangers Way, going cross-country and down hill to Liss and the train back to London.



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10 September 2017: Dartford Heath, Joydens Wood and Bexley

I led this six-mile walk which is mostly just outside Greater London but inside the M25 — and mostly pretty rural, apart from traffoc noise from the A2. We took the train to Crayford, then walked up to and over Dartford Hesth. We had lunch in Rowhill Wood then stopped off at the Ship Inn at Puddledock.

After Joydens Wood

Approaching the Cray valley, with Joyden’s Wood behind us.

We crossed a golf course then dived deep into Joyden’s Wood. Somewhere inside the wood we entered the London Borough of Bexley but the scenery stayed pretty rural until we crossed the river Cray — a modest trickle. The final mile followed the river and the London Loop into Old Bexley.


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3 September 2017: Leigh-on-Sea and Hadleigh

Maybe because so many people did the bank holiday walk the previous Sunday, just Don and I joined Jean for this walk on the Essex coast. We took the train out to Leigh-on-Sea, walked up to the ruins of Hadleigh Castle and had coffee at the Salvation Army Cafe.

Cat on Iron Age House

We stopped for lunch fairly soon after, by this reconstructed Iron Age house in Hadleigh Country Park. Just as we were leaving, a bold Siamese cat jumped onto the thatched roof and climbed up to perch on the top and survey the countryside.

Boat with Poem

We then walked down through the country park to join the coastal path back to Leigh-on-Sea. This ruined boat is an art project, with this poem cut into the wood:

As “acceptable loss” fuels public amnesia on the road of “progress,” we recall the dead, the lost, and the annihilated, to reconstitute them as significant—not in any objective sense, but as we need them to be.

The sea is a place to dispose of things one never wishes to see again: a dead body, a rotting hulk, illicit goods, cadmium batteries, arsenic, diesel, exhausted gear box oil, shopping trolleys, chip rappers, tin cans, and shoes.

At the end of the land is the sea. It has no roads. Rules relax.

The estuary is indifferent to us, and to all that is done within its limits.

Refuse to come ashore (at least in your mind).


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27 August 2017: On the South Downs from Lewes to Southease

Liz led a large group of Red Ropers on this walk that headed south west from Lewes through Kingston. There was a sharp uphill climb onto the Downs, then we had lunch just where we joined the South Downs Way. The walk ended at Southease station, but most of us then has tea at the adjacent Youth Hostel.

The South Downs Way, above Kingston (By Kevin Gordon, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link)

This was bank holiday Sunday. Going out Victoria Station was so busy it was a little hard to find the Red Rope group. Those of us who stopped for tea had an interesting journey coming back, as our train from Southease to Lewes was cancelled. Most of us ended up in Brighton but found it almost impossible to get on the London train that was already on the platform, as it was already so full of people, and waited until a train we could get seats on.


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