New Year's Day

We had a clear sunny day to start the new year, ideal for a ramble through pleasant countryside and villages in the Chiltern Hills a few miles out from the M25 on the north west side of London.

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Sarratt Treacle Mine

We started from Sarratt, a village which is set out around a large village green. We noticed the strange object above on the village green, a passing local told us that it is known as the Sarratt treacle mine - then explained that it is actually a water pump and that it got this name because of the color the water came up. It was last used in the 1920's. It looks an unusual design of pump but you can't see inside because it has been fitted with permanent protective covers to keep out inquisitive fingers.

From Sarratt we walked past the Church End and down to the River Chess, a meandering stream which was in full flood after heavy rain. We noticed working cress beds alongside the river, once a feature of many streams to the North and West of London, but now rare. Our path roughly followed the the stream to Chennies village for a pub lunch.

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Arriving at pub in Chennies village

After lunch we contined westward to the Latimer estate with its estate village and a grand house which is now a plush conference centre overlooking an ornamental lake formed by damming the river Chess. The website for the conference centre says that it is ideal for team building activities - but maybe it would be cheaper to join the HSC for that kind of thing?

latimer house

Latimer house conference centre

latimer green

Latimer village green

The Latimer estate village has a pretty village green, again with an interesting water pump. From here we returned to Sarratt at dusk, completing a walk of about 9 miles. Most of the party then headed to Geoff's house for the customary tea and mince pies.

Circular walk from Marlow - 3 February

Report from Richard

Saturday dawned clear and frosty, kind weather for our day's walk. Frank, Esin and Richard took the train, and alighting at Marlow station at 10a.m., they were greeted by Mark Smith and Steve. We soon found Mark T., Geof and Bill, and wandered down Station Road towards Marlow High Street, passing an impressive three storey building called Marlow Place, which excited Geof's curiosity.


Marlow Place

Marlow Place is believed to have been occupied by George II, when he was Prince of Wales.  Built around 1720, it dominated the surrounding area with its stables alongside, today it has been converted to an office building.

Crossing the High Street, we followed Pound Lane through some leafy residential developments, to reach the Chiltern Way footpath, noting a small flock of fieldfares passing overhead, which reminded us this really is winter. The bright sunshine had thawed much of the ground so we picked our way up a rather slippery muddy path to Davenport Wood. Crossing a minor road we went down a steep escarpment, emerging in fields below where ponies grazed


Fields near Marlow

We crossed more fields of pasture where Geof nearly managed to lead the map-reader astray, before we entered Homefield Wood, where the path follows a track through a Forestry Commission plantation of conifers. Emerging into more open country, we began to see our first red kites, soaring with a few buzzards, on the thermals. As we entered Hambleden, I attempted to photograph some of the red kites over the trees, a frustrating business. Easier subjects were the many snowdrops and aconites planted in the turf next to the track.

We reached the Stag and Huntsman at 12.30, managing to beat the rush of walkers and sightseers brought out by the fine weather. It was now so warm and pleasant in the sun that we decided to eat outside at one of the large picnic tables. So pleasant in fact, that we managed to linger for an hour and a half, rather longer than I had allowed for. Passing through Hambleden we crossed some level fields towards Hambleden Lock on the Thames. The old mill has been converted for residential use, and the wheel is no more, alas, so Geof could only photograph where it had been.


Crossing the Thames at Hambledon Weir

We crossed the weir on the elevated walkway, gazing down at the roaring torrent of water, while Bill pointed out the fish ladder [for swimming upstream, not for doing the decorating]. We gazed for a while at the spectacle, before moving on to the more peaceful lock itself. On the south bank we picked up the Thames path heading back east via Aston, and across flood meadows, overlooked by the Danesfield Hotel, high on the north bank. The building was formerly a grand private house dating from the Victorian period, and at one time housed RAF signals intelligence.  On the bank of the Thames at Danesfield there is a nearly circular intrenchment, designated Danes' Ditch - See here under Medmenham

The Thames Path at Hurley Lock crosses the river by a stepped footbridge onto one of several small islands. One of these is known as camping island, with 10 pitches, and the notice invites would be campers to apply to the Lock Keeper. This is one of several campsites provided for people travelling the river by foot, cycle or boat. See here for information on camping sites along the River Thames. At the nearby weir there were a number of canoeists practising their white-water skills. We paused by the lock and took advantage of one of the benches to have a rest, as the shadows began to lengthen.


Temple foot bridge

Re-crossing to the south bank below the lock, we walked down to Temple Bridge, a high footbridge provided in the 1980s to restore the link to the north bank. This rather elegant wooden footbridge just upstream of Temple lock provides an important element of the Thames Path. It was opened on 24 May 1989 by Lord Hesketh. Before this the Thames Path between Marlow and this point did not follow the River: it went along the road through Bisham. This bridge, which is 150 ft (46 m) long, was built on the line of the Ferry that closed in 1953.


Suspension bridge at Marlow

From here, with tiring legs, we followed the path on the north bank right into Marlow, passing Bisham Abbey before Marlow's elegant suspension bridge came into sight. Marlow is famed for this bridge, designed by William Tierney Clarke and completed in 1832.  A similar example exists in Hungary linking the areas of Buda and Pest over the Danube. There were 45 minutes to spare before the train departed, so the leader managed to coax the party into The Natural CafĂ© in the High Street, where we relaxed with a hot drink, before parting ways.


Walk in the area of the future London Olympic site - 18 February

HSC member Steve, an East London resident, invited us to come on this walk as a last chance to view the site of the London Olympic games before it gets covered with concrete and glass. At present the site is a mixture of parkland, wasteland, rubbish dumps, sewage works and industrial buildings, some of which are derelict. The area is criss crossed by the channels of the River Lea delta and the associated navigations, some of these navigable and others stagnant muddy ditches. Most people would imagine that the building of the facilities for the Olympic games could only improve an area like this, but walking through the area we realised that in its present state it is an enclave for wild life in the midst of a huge suburban area and I am sure it is also of interest to the industrial archaeologist. So when the new facilities go up there will be losses as well as gains. Some local residents have pointed out that before the UK won the right to host the games there was already a well funded development plan in place to improve the Lee delta area, this plan having been agreed through a consultative process with local residents. This democratically agreed plan has now been shelved and the plans for the Olympic facilities have been hastily pushed through with the help of an act of Parliament and with rather less local consultation than some people would have liked.

stratford map


Route of our walk (in red)

I took a new toy along for this walk, this being a GPS gadget that you wear on your wrist when you go jogging so that you can be sure to find your way back home - I will admit that I have sometimes got rather lost in the past. This running aid could also be used as a back up GPS at sea, although the way the menu system is set up it is not really intended for that purpose. The use of the gadget on this occasion showed that we walked 11.1 miles at an average speed of 2.2 miles per hour, not counting our usual pub lunch. When I got home I plugged it into my computer and let it produce the little map above, the red line showing where we walked. It can also superimpose the line on 'Google Earth' rather than a street map. It is definitely a boon for writers of rambling club websites, but I dont imagine that is a mass market.

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Three Mills - House mill to left, clock mill to right

We started from THREE MILLS, green pin at the bottom of the map above and the site of tide mills from the time of the Doomsday book.  The buildings have housed a gin distillery and warehouses as well as tide driven water mills and a film studio is now based here. Wikepaedia says that the 'House Mill' at Three Mills is the largest tide mill in the world, presumably they are not including the modern tide mill which generates electricity on the Rance estuary in France. The 'House mill' is open to the public although we did not have time to visit inside on this occasion.

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Bow Locks

From Three Mills we walked a few hundred yards down the towpath to Bow locks, a 'dual carriageway' lock arrangement, although only one side is now operational. This is the point where the Lee navigation branches off from the tidal River Lee. Most of the time the River Lee is lower in level than the navigation but, as you can just about see from the photo, there are two pairs of gates at each end of the lock, with the direction of the Vee gates opposite to each other, so that the lock can also function at the top of the tide when the levels on each side are reversed.  From Bow Locks we followed the towpath north, back past Three Mills and on past the magnificent modern Abbey Road sewage works, and also the evan more magnificent preserved Victorian Abbey Road sewage works. Then we came to the Prescott channel, built in the 1930s to bypass a section of the river to provide a better outflow into the tidal Thames. It is in this channel that it is now proposed to build a big modern tide barrier and lock, which would make the river upstream from this point non-tidal, so that there will always be a constant water level for the many ornamental water features of the Olympic site. The new lock is proposed to be big enough for 300 tonne barges carrying construction materials to the site, so avoiding extra traffic on the local roads. However, there is a suspicsion in some quarters that profit from potential property development is the real motivation behind this scheme, not reduction of traffic on the highway.

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The Greenway walking and cycle route

We walked through a park alongside the Presoctt channel, then followed a footpath north along what is now a culd-i-sac branch of the tidal river terminating where it is blocked by the sidings of the Victoria line depot. From the end of this branch, we joined the Greenway, a gravelled walking and cycling route which will become one of the main pedestrian routes into the Olympic games site. For that purpose it will need to be uprated with foot bridges built where it crosses main roads. When walking the Greenway at present you cannot safely cross the A11 dual acrriageway without a bit of a detour. All the power lines in this area, as in the picture above, are due to be burried underground as part of the tidying up for the games. Interestingly, a main sewer runs under the Greenway, which I suppose is why it follows a straight line.

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Wild flowers grow tall in East London housing estates!

We left the Greenway where it crosses the tidal river and followed the footpath along the river bank to Marshgate lane, at which point several waterways link up, picture below. We followed one of these south, skirting various rather shabby industrial and ex-industrial buildings, scrapyard etc. then rejoined the Greenway which we followed till it comes to an end, then we crossed the A12 dual carriageway and walked through some housing estates (with the pretty flowers above) to lunch in a modern pub off a busy street market near Bow Road Station.

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Waterways junction at Marshgate Lane

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The main Olympic site to be - seen from across the A12 highway

After lunch we headed towards what will become the main Olympic Games site with the Olympic village, the main athletics stadium, the sponsors village and so on. At present much of this is just flat open land, part of it already graded off for building to start - see pic above.  There are also some factories, warehouses and a couple of tower blocks which are all to be demolished and an area of allotments which apparently are due to be temoporarily relocated than re-established after the games. There is concern that the tempory allotment site is on Lamas land, that being land which is traditionally available for commoners to graze animals during the winter, the owners of the land using it for crops during the summer. Grazing animals and allotments don't mix! We looked at some of the Lamas land later on our walk and it is at present open grassland with horses grazing.

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A modern stone henge

Leaving the Olympic site, we continued north onto Hackney marshes, crossing a footbridge over the A12 dual carriageway. We walked through extensive recreation grounds where many teams were playing amateur football and rugby, passing the huge building of the new Spittalfields market, and finaly arriving at the weir at Lea Bridge Road. This weir is the highest point the tide reaches on the River Lee. The final part of our walk took us through the Middlesex filter beds, part of an early water treatment plant built in 1852 to 54 but now disused with the sand taken out and left to be slowly reclaimed by nature as a nature reserve. We also noted some 'community art', a modern version of a stone circle. Then on accross the Lamas land I mentioned above and on to Leyton station from which we took the tube train back to our starting point.

Thank's Steve for planning a fascinating walk, here are a few more pictures.

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An interesting bridge over a canal side channnel

stratford factories

These buildings are a bit tatty but they have character


stratford canal

Typical scenary along the navigation

Walking weekend - Cheddar YHA - 9 to 11 March

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Cheddar YHA

A small party of five HSC members met at Cheddar YHA on a friday evening for a weekend of walking in the Mendip hills area. Cheddar YHA comprises two stone houses with a driveway and carpark in between. We stayed in the house which contains the main reception and a much larger rambling party were occupying the house adjacent - picture above shows some of them doing warming up exercises befor setting off on their day hike - can't imagine the HSC being as keen as that.

On saturday we did a thirteen mile circular walk from the hostel, taking lunch at a pub in Shipham.

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Some of us on Black Down heath

In the afternoon we crossed Blackdown heath, which is attactive open moorland, and on this fine day we had views across the Bristol channel to the Welsh coast. Then we dropped down into Velvet Bottom, a steep sided gulley which leads into Cheddar gorge. Rather than following the busy road back to Cheddar along the bottom of the gorge, we climbed again to return to Cheddar by a path above the south east side of Cheddar gorge with views down into the george. The picture below shows the view looking up Cheddar gorge from a point above Cheddar villiage.

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Looking up Cheddar George from above the village

Leaving the hostel on Sunday morning, we first drove about 8 miles south east from Cheddar to park near Ebbor gorge. Like Cheddar gorge, Ebbor gorge is a steep sided gulley formed by errosion of the limestone as water falls from the Mendip hills to the flat low land to the south. Ebbor gorge is smaller than Cheddar gorge and without a road through it.

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Climbing up through Ebbor George

We then walked to the city of Wells for lunch and to view the cathedral, returning to our cars via the tourist trap villiage of Wookey Hole. The picture below shows the unusual stonework in Wells cathedral, the lower part of the X shaped structure was added in recent times to strengthen the building against subsidence, it is unexpected but it fits in nicely. In Wells cathedral we also noted the REMARKABLE CLOCK with rotating discs representing the sun and moon revolving around the earth and model knights on horseback which do a quick jousting match every quarter of an hour. The outcome of the match is the same every time.

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Inside Wells cathedral

Easter Weekend - Castleton YHA, Derbyshire - 6 to 9 April

Castleton YHA in Derbyshire, picture above, was home to a party of eight HSC members over the Easter break. We were lucky with the weather, having three full days of hiking under clear sunny skies which encouraged us to take high level routes over the moors. The food offered by this hostel was so good that we were not over-tempted by the local pubs, which in any case were probably packed out with visitors.

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Castleton YHA - recommended for good and plentiful food

Our walk for Good Friday took us in a big clockwise circle starting from the hostel, following Cave Dale up onto the moors, then round to Man Torr and along the top of the line of hills that separate Hope Valley from Edale, reaching the top of Lose Hill before dropping down to Hope village then back up Hope valley to Castleton. There were no pubs on this route so we took snacks with us and called at a tea shop in Hope for afternoon tea.

For Saturday we took a second clockwise circle from the hostel, but along different footpaths to the previous day and extending the circle over into Edale, the valley which lies to the north of Hope valley. Once again no pubs, but we stopped at a tea shop in Edale.



The view above is looking down Edale, I think from near Man Torr. The rising ground to the upper left of the picture is the slopes leading up onto Kinder Scout, to the right of that are the green fields of Edale valley bottom, with the Sheffield to Manchester railway running through it and on the right side of the picture are the hills separating Edale from Hope valley. Edale village is down in the valley and is the starting point for the Penine way long distance footpath.


Castleton, seen on the way down from Lose Hill

The view above is of Castleton, seen as we descended into Hope valley from Lose Hill. The castle from which the village takes its name is at the top of the steep slope above the village towards the upper right of the picture. Below and to the right of the castle is a dark gash in the hillside, this is the vertical sided gulley which has the entrance to peak cavern at the bottom of it. This is one of several limestone caverns in the area which are open to the public as show caves.

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Mystery object

Further down towards Hope valley we came across the object above sitting on a wall, although it may not have been anything to do with the wall, it could just have been dumped there. Do you know what it is? - I have no idea. Perhaps the piece of metal work attached to it at lower right might provide some clue.

On both the Friday and the Saturday members of a para gliding and hang gliding club were flying from the slopes of Man Torr. On the Saturday we got chatting to a hang glider pilot as he waited by his machine for the wind to increase a bit and for the thermals to get rising. He told us some interesting things about his pastime, for example I had not realised that both para gliders and hang glider pilots often carry emergency parachutes. This weekend the para gliders seemed to be limited to soaring in the updraft caused by the light wind over the ridge but the hang gliders were able fly away into the blue, circling in thermals to gain height. We asked where they might fly to and were told that with a northerly wind Kidderminster is sometimes possible but they are not allowed near Birmingham Airport so would need to divert either East or West of it. A pastime with some technical similarities to sailing - if I were to build another sailing hydrofoil it might be worth looking at some of the latest hang glider designs to compare rig ideas.

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Derwent Dam

For our Sunday walk we started by driving to the car park and tea hut near the Dewent Dam. We were not the only ones, the large car park was already nearly full with the cars of walkers and sightseers out to enjoy this fine Easter weekend. The castellated tower at the near end of the Derwent dam in the picture above houses a small but interesting museum covering the building of the Derwent Valley dams in the period 1901 to 1916 and the Ladybower dam which was added further downstream during the second world war. The museum also includes memorabilia linked to the RAF 617 'Dambusters' squadron which used the Derwent reservoir in 1943 to practice for their raids on German dams.

After looking at the museum and a visit to the tea hut we set off following the eastern side of Derwent reservoir, then climbed onto the high moorland to the east of the reservoir, circling clockwise and returning along the side of Ladybower reservoir. This is a well trodden circuit, following a route detailed in free leaflets available at the car park.  This area of moorland was an obvious contrast to the moors we had walked the previous days. Looking at the picture above of the hills near Edale, you see that the moors there are grasslands and the underlying rock is alkaline limestone which drains well. Above Derwent valley the underlying rock is millstone grit overlain with acidic peat promoting the growth of heather. Our free leaflets explained that this is a rare 'blanket bog' habitat. The picture below shows typical terrain, with small pools formed in the peaty soil. Excellent paths have been laid across this bog using long lines of big slabs of rock, you can see one in top left of the picture below.

blanket bog

Blanket bog

The bogy terrain is punctuated by boulders and outcrops of millstone grit, sculpted by erosion. The one below is known as the 'Salt cellar'.

salt cellar

The Salt Cellar

And below is a view taken as we descended down the track from the moorland, Ladybower reservoir to the left and another mile or so to get back to our cars and another welcome cup of tea - temperatures this year were at record levels for an Easter weekend.


Descending from the moors towards Ladybower reservoir