Club News


1st January - New Year Day

Mark S. Reports:

A select group (Geof,Frank and two Marks) walked from Geof's house to the Red Lion at Water End on the River Gade. Pleasant walking, very little mud and occasional sunshine.

We passed Noake Mill which used to be a water mill and also, apparently, a Youth Hostel.

Back to Berkhamstead for Tea and Crumpets - thanks Geof.

Meanwhile, over in Devon,  John and Josephine had a day out in their rowing boat. They launched it at Cargreen Yacht Club and rowed up the River Tamar to the National Trust property at Cotehele, then back to Cargreen by about dusk.  Lunch in the quayside cafe then we walked up the hill to the main Cotehele house to look at a small exhibition about the local participation in the WW1 and also the flower garland which appears each year at Christmas in the main hall at Cothele. Its made from flowers grown on the estate.

cotehele 01

cotehele 02

 The flower garland at Cothele house



3 November - Annual General Meeting

Another straightforward AGM for our club. Financially we more or less broke even in 2018, a significant improvement on last year and the result of greater use of our club owned Wayfarer dinghy.  This is good news.  We also needed to agree a change to our club constitution to take account of the fact that Youth Hostells Association no longer recognises any affiliated organisations.  Our current constitution, as revised by this year's AGM can be found here:  HSC Constitution

Our AGM days are also a social occasion and, as we did last year, we had a morning ramble, much of the route being within the Lee Valley Park.  The photo below shows the view looking accross the lake in the Amwell nature reserve just to the east side of the River Lee Navigation.

agm walk




9 September - Lifeboat Cup

Mark S. reports:-

We had a good day for the last RSA dinghy race of the year, held in "fickle" winds. Frank and I scrubbed Merganser before the race but it was still touch and go that we got over the finish line second - just! before our Chairman who is sailing his Mirror rather too well and beat us easily on handicap.


16/17 June - Weekend cruise  to Brightlingsea

Account by Gerald, pictures from Mark S.

We had a successfull trip to Brightlingsea,despite the strong winds, our intention being to meet up with a Dinghy Cruising Association rally to be held on the Coln. The  wind was force.4-5 ,gusting 6 but from the west so the seas were relatively flat. We left Paglesham about 11:30 having to move Merganser, our club owned Wayfarer dinghy, a few boat lengths from the mud to the water. We rigged one reef and working jib, and set off with a broad reach to the Crouch. By the time we gained the Brankfleet we had changed to a double reef and no jib, a sail plan we held all the way untill we arrived at Mersea stone, just to have a visual on the camp site, we then raised the jlb, to help us across to Brightlingsea, then landed on the town pontoon. A run all the way with one controlled gybe.

With no other boats in sight, we assumed Dave and any other DCA members had gone up to Rowhedge, so we settled on having a pint. Then Mark had a message to say Dave was on his own and heading back. So we decided to have a meal, another pint, then settle in for the night at Mersea stone, without a long trek to the pub and back, which suited me fine as l had a short nap when I got home in morning before leaving for Paglesham.  I was a little weary, Mersea Stone was deserted, but the ground was hard as ever to drive the tent pegs into.
A good night's rest and awoke to a overcast sky, yesterday had been bright sunshine. The wind had moderated a little, this time we had the small working jib and the double reef. We set off at low water on broadish reach, gradually going to close hauled all the way till we had to stop at the Ron Pipe bouy since there was not quite enough water to get over Raysand into the Crouch, so anchored for tea.
Originally we were going to Burnham for lunch,but decided to carry the flood on up to Paglesham with some stiff sailing on the way around the bend of the river and onto the moorings. We beached the boat on Gordon's patch, unloaded, tidied the boat ,and Mark rowed back out to moor.

All done by 16:oo, roughly the same time we arrived Brightlingsea on our outward passage.

evening at mersea stone

Merganser anchored off Mersea Stone on Saturday evening

morning at mersea stone

And on Sunday morning - the leaning tower of Brightlingsea in distance

camping at mersea stone

Tents at Mersea Stone



19/20 May -  HSC joins DCA rally on the Alde

Account by Gerald, pictures from Mark S.

aldebourogh pontoon

Gerald's Drascombe together with Dave's Roamer dinghy at Aldeburgh

I left for Suffolk immediately after work thinking it would be quieter on the roads to get to Aldeburgh. I towed 'Susie' from where it was parked in an inconspicuous nook in the yard and arrived at Upsons boatyard in Aldeburgh to launch & park for the paupers sum of a £5 note.

Mark S. was joining me aboard for this rally, he was to meet me at Slaughden quay. And so he did, after a while. I texted him as I came close to Aldeburgh, he was surprised to know I was almost there, he thought that I would be another hour at least, so had delayed his journey.

I had a little nap, then leisurely rigged and packed 'Susie', ready for Mark to board as soon as he arrived. DCA members Dave Jennings and Richard had already launched and departed for Orford with the last of the ebb,  winds were light, so it must have been a bit slow. When we launched 'Susie' it must have been slack water, so rather than punch into a filling tide, which runs strongly in these parts , we turned right and carried the tide up river, hung a left round the corner and on up the Alde enjoying the  warm sunny weather. The river seemed wide, but of course the mudflats  constrained us. We were guessing which side of the withies to go, naturally we got it wrong a couple a times, but the water was rising so we weren't going to get stuck.


susie at iken

 Gerald's Drascombe 'Susie' at Iken cliff, with boat tent rigged

We soon reached Iken cliff and could have just about beached the boat at the camping spot, but that would have meant that the boat would be too far off the bank at HW. So we carried on up to Snape for tea & buns, saving me a 2 mile walk. The river was still low, so we wriggled our way up to the quay at Snape, boomless, which made life easier having not to duck under when tacking and gybing. We were following a very tortuous gutway, going right in to the reeds in places. We rounded the final bend and tied up at the Quay, which involved a climb up a ladder and using my longest lines. We had ample time for afternoon tea, with at least two hours of tide to still to come.


susie at snape

 Susie at Snape maltings, the head of navigation on the Alde (second boat from right)

We motored back from Snape to Iken, that was the easy option as by now the flood was at full strength and there was little wind. I could have rowed, but didn't have my best oars. As we came into the beach we could see a trimaran, and two other dinghies making their way in, Dave in his Roamer, Richard in his MK1 wooden Gull and Jerry and crew in Jerry's homebuilt trimaran. Jerry came gliding by and handed his sails and beached his 20ft vessel with considerable skill, hopping off  and tying up with aplomb. We set about mooring the Dabber before we lost too much tide, just on the edge of sand & mud, so that I could come and go cleanly. Mark pitched his tent, hopefully above the high water mark so he wouldn't be woken by the morning tide. I rigged my tent aboard 'Susie' and put my recycled bed slats out, still trying to find my ideal sleep solution for onboard camping. We had an easy and scenic walk to the pub for an evening meal, in a near empty pub, I guessed it would fill later in the evening.

I was awoken in the morning by a gently rocking boat as she floated off. I should have tucked a fender under for I did roll into the scuppers as I turned in the night - I am still new to the idea of camping aboard. I hauled in the shore line to give Mark his alarm call and a fresh brew. Then I sat in 'Susie' preparing porridge whilst the dew dried of the tent before packing away. It was almost flat calm, just a zephyr of wind. We rowed away downstream on the ebb making for Orford for a 2nd breakfast or was it Brunch, we ghosted along, being taken by the tide, sometimes sailing, most times drifting, to edge into the pontoon before we lost access to landing. The trimaran was bound for Harwich and the Stour, pootling along under engine. Eventually the other two boats came in, using my boat to tie against and making for shore. We had a ramble around Orford in the hot Sun, not getting a pint in the Jolly Sailor. I remember the pub has a small campsite in its garden orchard, so that's an idea for any future visit. It was small so only room for a few tents, knocking in pegs might be a problem with the tree roots and mooring might be problem as harbor rules allow only s short wait on the pontoon - beaching on the foreshore below the quay might be a solution.

With the sea breeze from the NE, sailing back to Slaughden seemed a better idea than going on a circumnavigation of Havergate island. We tacked too and fro twixt the mainland and the spit, sometimes taking a for look at the former secret base for Cold War research, the nuclear pagoda standing out. We soon came into Slaughden Quay, to retrieve our boats on a slippery hardstanding, made interesting at the base of the slip with heavy shingle to bog down in. I used a long warp to tow my trailer up, but still had bother getting a grip on the hard.

Home in time for supper, and good night's sleep in steadfast secure bed!



5/6 May - Mark and Gerald join a  DCA rally on the Medway


mark on susie

Mark S sailing 'Susie' - looks to be nice weather!


Account by Gerald

We had hoped to sail the HSC club boat over to the Medway from Pagleshap but with light winds and a late tide,  further exactabated by a closed Potton bridge, this would have been a poor decision.
So I towed my Drascombe Dabber 'Susie' by road to Kent, meeting Mark at Upnor where the Medway yacht club has their base at about 11:30, i couldn't make it any earlier.  We hurriedly rigged and loaded the Dabber, mindfull that the flood was beginning to run - LW had been and gone at 10:57.
Bearing in mind the forecast, and a light easterly wind over a strong flood, I had packed a Seagull engine, which I had cleaned and tested at home. It had started 2nd pull and ran untill carb was dry, job a goodun !  But now that we had to get underway to Lower Halstow, I tried to start the motor, but it just didn't want to know!  Desperate to get away, I started to row away from pontoon, whilst Mark continued to flagellate the engine. i had left the starter cord on Cateran,,not good! So we were left with using cordage aboard Susie, which was too long and thicker than ideal. My hands were beginning to get sore, but we had to clear the moorings to stand any chance of making headway under sails. We picked up a mooring to have a rest, the tide runs quite strong, then suddenly the recaltricant engine burst into life, much to my hands relief !
We sadly motored most of the way towards Stangate creek, having to heave too to replenish fuel, eventually spotting two other boats at the entrance to Stangate. At last we could hoist sail so the last couple of miles were without the incessant racket from the engine. 'Susie' made good progress under sail, now having all 3 sails drawing well. We arrived at the top of the creek at HW. We tied up to Lower Halstow Yacht Club jetty, unloaded and made camp. All attendees arrived much the same time, Dave Jennings and two other boats ,a wooden Gull MK1 and a Mirror ,which was based at the Wilsonian YC, just downstream of Medwau Yacht Club. All crew were DCA members,which made this a well attended DCA rally.
lower halstow yacht club jetty
 At Lower Halstow Yacht Club jetty - Gerald's 'Susie' alongside the jetty and to the right of two of the DCA boats
evening at lower halstow
Lower Halstow at low tide later on the Saturday evening
We had to get up early Sunday morning to get away before the creek dried. With the morning dew it felt quite chill, of course the dew meant no wind,so we rowed / drifted out towards the main river, without a firm plan. We discussed a plan with the Mirror crew. Not wanting to go to Queenborough or fight the ebb up the Swale, I had a look at my OS map and reckoned we could land on Sheerness beach, which we did. The initial landing just outside the old naval base was good and clean, but the town would have been a bit of a walk, so we weighed anchor then landed where the Mirror crew were, between the groynes close to town. A short stroll to get a 2nd breakfast, it seemed a good spot.
sheerness 01
'Susie' on the beach on the seaward side of Sheerness
We came back around 10:30, dismayed to see our boats grounded, not that would have been a problem, but we were beached surrounded by a boulder field of rocks. We couldn't clear the rocks untill the tide flooded and to make matters worse the Coastguard had come along to find out if we were OK. Sheepishly we confessed we were, just that we didn't expect the rocks to be there. So we had a banter with the Coastguard while waiting for the tide..
sheerness 02
Tide has fallen and the beach now looks a bit rocky
Eventually got away with no leaks, with a flood tide and following light wind we made good progress up river on a run all the way, landing back around 16:00 for a well deserved cool pint.


30 March to 2 April - Easter Weekend at Wells-next-the-Sea

wells yha

Wells-next-the-Sea YHA (picture taken in pouring rain!)

Ten HSC members (Geof, Mark S, Mark T, Jo, John, Gerald, Frank,Esin,Barbara and Richard)  spent Easter weeked at Wells-next-the-Sea YHA on the north coast of Norfolk - an excellent turnout for our small but enthusiastic club!  Four of us traveled from the south west of the UK, John and Josephine taking three days over the journey, doing some boating on the way - they stopped at Woodbridge and launched Josephine's sliding seat row boat from the car roof rack for a row down the Deben to Ramsholt arms and back. 

Friday 20 March

Gathering in Wells on Good Friday we took a quick look around the town prior to a fish shop supper. It's a busy little town with quaint narrow streets and lots of little shops and cafes. I had the feeling that it had come a fair way 'up-market' since my last visit which was by sailing dinghy back in the '80s.

Saturday 31 March

Saturday was a thouroughly wet day.but we made the best of it with a walk westwards to Overy Staith, returning by bus - there is a frequent bus service along the north norfolk coast road, even over the bank holiday.  Leaving the hostel we first visited the town quay which is up a creek about a mile inland from the sea, or rather more than that at low tide. The creek actually continues east past the quay then doubles back towards the sea before petering out among extensive salt marshes. Years ago Josephine and I explored the area by sailing dinghy, following this creek at high water to the point at which the width of the creek was the beam of our boat, whereupon we let the boat dry out and put up our boat tent for the night. 

From Wells quayside we followed the path alongside the creek to the point where an extensive sandy beach meets pinewoods that fringe the shoreline.  We stopped here at a large beach cafe that despite the weather was packed full with visitors making the most of a wet bank holiday weekend. Continuing to the west, the well made path follows the pine woods along the coast, then we took the option to cross the sand dunes and continue along the broad sandy beach before turning inland to follow the creek up to Overy Staith, where we found a very busy pub for afternoon tea prior to a bus trip back to Wells. 

wells beach

Looking west along the beach west of Wells,  Scolt Head in the distance

overy staith

 Overy Staith, the end point of our walk on Saturday

Sunday 1st April

Sunday offered a bit better weather. There are basically two good coastal walks you can do from Wells - east and west, so on Sunday we went east.  In this direction the coast path is well inland from the sea, with a wide expanse of saltmarsh between the path and the sea.

norfolk coast path

Typical view on the coast path between Wells and Blakeney - extensive salt marsh to the right of the picture

Coming to the village of Stiffkey, we visited the Maritime Heritage Centre run by the charity Rescue wooden boats.   Alongside the Heritage centre are several workshops carrying out restoration and maintenance of the boats that they are preserving and also doing paid work on traditional wooden boats. The Heritage centre and workshops are housed in several large sheds that date from WW2 when the site was a barracks and gunnery training establishment. We were taken on a guided tour of the workshops which were packed with craft in various stages of restoration together with masses of tools, materials and nautical paraphenalia. The prize exhibit is the 'Lucy Lavers', a wooden motor lifeboat that was completed just in time to take part in the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk in 1940. This former lifeboat is now afloat each summer, taking visitors on pre-booked day trips from Wells.


One of the workshops at 'Rescue Wooden Boats'

rwb 02

Wooden boat builders know that you cant have too many clamps

We lunched at Stiffkey then walked on along the coast path to Blakeney, returning to Wells by bus.

Monday 2nd April

We all left Wells on Monday morning, John, Josephine and Frank taking a look at Castle Rising on the way home. They had lunch in the cafe at Castle Rising village, then found an up-market lady's clothing shop in a large converted barn opposite the cafe - Josephine was fascinated! (pictures below)

castle rising

 The massive keep of Castle Rising

 castle rising shop 01

 And ladies know that you can't have too many hats

 castle.rising shop02

Or too many shoes!




1 January - New year day walk

We enjoyed our traditional new year walk in the Chiltern hills, starting and finishing at Berkhamstead. Leaving Berkhamstead we passed through a tunnel under the town's bypass then followed footpaths south to Bovingdon. We skirted Bovingdon airfield, a sizeable WWII airfield first used by the RAF then handed over to the US Army Air force  - General Eisenhower's personal aircraft operated from here. We noted that to a casual observer the concrete runways still looked in reasonable condition and it seems that the site is now being promoted as a film location and a place to carry out film stunts.  A little beyound the airfield I was puzzled by what looked like several army tanks concealed in a wood, then realised that these were not real tanks but were something to do with a paintball game. 

bovingdon tanaks


We found that neither of the two pubs in Bovington was offering food that day, perhaps we should have made enquiries in advance. However, a couple of village general stores were open so we were able to buy some sandwiches then we went back to one of the pubs for a drink and a share of the log fire.

The picture below shows some of us entering the pub and the structure in the foreground is a well house that originally housed a hand pump. 

 bovington well

After lunch we followed footpaths in a north easterly direction from Bovingdon untl we reached the Grand Union canal, then followed the canal towpath back to Berkhamstead.  Thanks due to Geoff for refreshments at each end of our ramble.