New Years Day
The HSC made a good start to the new year with a 10 mile ramble organised by Richard. We met at Badgers Mount car park in a wood just by the M25 and near Orpington in Kent. It was a cold frosty morning but the sky was clear and the sun was bright. The ground was frozen hard making ideal conditions for a winter ramble, no ploughing through mud.
Descending a steep footpath with Shoreham village in the valley beyond. But befor reaching Shoreham we turned South to Otford.
Church and village pond at Otford.
An interesting feature of Otford was the murial on the wall opposite the pub where we lunched, this muriel depicting village life over the past 2000 years
For the afternoon session we circled round to the North East of Otford returning to Badgers Mount via Shoreham village. Above is a picture of us skirting the edge of a ploughed field, the furrows frozen solid.
Late afternoon, shadows lengthening at the end of the brief winter sunshine.
We returned to Richards house for tea. Interesting hilly countryside, I was wondering if one had a competition to find the hilliest ramble starting within the M25 could this be a winner?
Walking weekend - Holmbury St Mary - 16/17 Feb
Eleven of us met at a car park near Len's house on Saturday morning. After just a few hundred yards we came to Shalford water mill, mostly restored and open to the public. Then we headed towards St Martha's, a church which from Norman times has stood on the top of a wooded hill on the ancient Greensands way/ Pilgrims way. The original plan was not to walk quite as far as the church itself but it was such a fine early spring morning that everyone wanted to go on for the sake of the viewpoint and some of us were sunbathing in the church yard. We were a bit late when we reached the pub at Tillingbourne for lunch and it was well into the afternoon by the time we had been served since the pub was rather busy.
From Tillingbourn Len lead us along the river Wey and the Wey navigation which was once part of a complete navigable link between the Thames at Weybridge and the sea at Littlehampton. This picture shows most of the party on a sluice gate by the river.
Len explained that this used to be the route for sailing barges to carry gunpowder from the Chillworth gunpowder works. Explosives were first made at Chilworth in 1625 by the East India Company and were last made on this site by ICI in 1920. The ruins of the works are still standing, I remember we visited them on another HSC ramble quite a few years ago. There are some notices to explain to visitors how the mill worked and I remember one of our group looking a bit worried on reading a notice which proclaimed 'Stove for drying gunpowder'. Len told us that the church of St Martha's which we had had visited that morning had to be repaired in 1850 as a result of an explosion at the gunpowder works so this stuff must have been pretty dangerous. The church is quite a way from the works - did it really get blown up? I checked and found confirmation on the internet so it must be true must it not? Sailing barges were used for carrying explosives even after motor vessels came into use since they were considered to reduce the risk of explosion. Len showed us the remains of a quay near the confluence of the Tillingbourne stream and the Wey where the barges loaded the gunpowder and presumably off loaded most of the ingredients other than charcoal which would have been to hand since the area is very wooded. The gunpowder would have been carted from the works to wooden storage sheds alongside the quay. One of these wooden sheds has been restored and now stands in the grounds of a modern office block, you can see it behind the trees in this photo.
As dusk fell we reached St Catherines, a twin chapel to St Martha's, also built on a hill top. This is a very steep hill alongside the River Wey, steep enough to almost need hand holds to get up from the river side. I found some strange stories about this place at THIS WEBSITE Then Len guided us back to his house for refreshment and we lounged around the log fire in his cosy sitting room. It was noted that Len's garden fronts a stream which joins the river Wey, so there is a direct (well perhaps not all that direct) water route from Len's garden to Paglesham. Len has already made the trip down to the lower Thames and said that it was a most interesting sail that took only four days. That prompted a suggestion for a Wayfarer cruise. One or two members thought it might be worth considering, someone said they would only do it if we could guarantee places to camp each night! Obviously it would be best to get right through central London in one day, or perhaps we could find some park benches to sleep somewhere along the embankment.
We drove a few miles to Holmbury St Mary's hostel and we held an HSC committee meeting in the hostel common room. At that meeting we finalised a decision to buy a new boat trailer and two launching trollies.
On Sunday John and Mark left to attend an Amateur Yacht Research Society meeting at Chertsey. Steve arrived by motorcycle to join the rest of the group so 10 set off on the Sunday walk. First stop was Leith Hill where the cafe was open and some of us climbed the tower to the highest point in southern England. Another fine day hence good views. Frank knew the area well and lead the group up hill (mostly) and down dale (sometimes) to reach the pub at Coldharbour then retraced our steps a little befor taking a different route back to the hostel.
Thank you Len and Valery for the tea and cakes!