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New Years Day

On January 1st, while most people stayed abed, six HSC members congregated at Geoff's house in Berkhamsted by 10 am. Geof, Bill, Mark T, Richard, John and Josephine. We walked from the house along routes we have used before, but no less enjoyable for that, over the Chiltern Hills to Little Gaddesdon, where we reached the village pub around 12.30, in time to beat the expected rush.

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Tea Stop at the Bridgewater monument

After lunch we continued an anti clockwise circuit through the Ashridge Estate, stopping at the popular tea kiosk at the Bridgewater Monument. The picture above, showing us at this tea stop, was actually taken on a previous New Year Day walk, but it was not a lot different this time. We had probably  covered 10 miles or more by the time we got back to Berkamsted, walking the last stretch along the canal back to Geof's. Here we wound down with cups of tea and mince pies. Many thanks to Bill and Geof for organising this event again.


South Downs walking weekend based at Wetherdown Hostel - 8 to 10 February

Report from Richard

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Wetherdown Hostel

We originally planned this weekend at our AGM last autumn and that was when we decided on a location somewhere in the South Downs. However, we then found that most of the YHA hostels in this area were unavailable so early in the year and so we decided to try Wetherdown Hostel, a non-YHA hostel located high on the South Downs, three miles south of East Meon and about 15 miles north of Portsmouth. We were very pleased with this choice; although we are strong supporters of the YHA we would recommend Wetherdown hostel, it offers similar facilities to a typical YHA hostel, it has very helpful staff and the gardens are quite something, - on the Sunday we walked for about an hour without actually leaving the hostel grounds!

Wetherdown Hostel is part of the 'Sustainability Centre' run by the Earthworks trust. The land and buildings were part of a former Navy base: the "stone frigate" HMS Mercury. This was the main shore establishment for training wireless telegraphy operators, but closed down in 1993. There is still a military site north of the road, surrounded with security razor wire. I assume the residential blocks were formerly used by the forces. Most of these buildings are in a bit of a neglected state, but the hostel block has been renovated using sustainable building materials, it has an integrated solar roof (above and a bit left of the horse in the pic above) and a wood chip biomass boiler. With the grounds being so extensive and mostly wooded I can guess where they get the wood for their boiler.

Saturday: By 10am. we were ready to set off on our walk over the South Downs into the Meon valley, when we had a phone call from John and Jo who had driven up from Devon and were only a few miles away. About 20 minutes later we were united and set off north via a track to Coombe Cross and down into the Meon valley at Westbury House. We followed the stream west into West Meon village, where we posed for a group photo below, then on to Wanford for a pub lunch. There are still  functioning watercress beds along the River Meon

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HSC Members at West Meon


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Watercress Beds by the River Meon

After lunch we crossed the main A32 past Warnford Park, joining the Monarch's Way LDP, over the track of a disused railway to Peake Farm, then south east to the heights of Old Winchester Hill which is the site of a prehistoric fort. From here we had views of the Solent and the Isle of Wight.

Pressing on over Teglease Down, we were trying to follow the path that then mysteriously disappeared, so we had to make our way across a field to the country road that took us east directly back to the hostel.

After changing, most of us set off in cars to attend the Dinghy Cruising Association South Coast Winter Meeting and buffet which was conveniently being held only a few miles away at Emsworth, at the head of Chichester Harbour. Here we met up with Len, Liz Baker, and other old friends, including Alan Glanville who had participated in the Golfe du Morbihan event last year. As well as a good buffet spread, we enjoyed some photos of South Coast rallies, and John showed some pictures from Brittany and a few of our east coast sailing. I trust that the DCA were suitably impressed by our moderately ambitious cruises made without use of engines. The evening finished with some demonstrations of different approaches to cooking on a dinghy cruise, perhaps we should have brought a sample of 'group stew' (traditional HSC cruise fair prepared by emptying whatever tins may be found in the bilge into one large saucepan and bringing to the boil).

Sunday: A good light breakfast was provided by the hostel on a help yourself basis. It was a sunny morning again, and so we wandered around the grounds, viewing the yurts.  One of these sturdy huts, or are they tents, is provided for visitors to rent and another is used by staff as living quarters. There is also an Indian style tepee available. 

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Yurt in grounds of Wetherdown Hostel

The Earthworks Trust uses the grounds to practice and teach traditional country crafts, the photo below shows some of us playing with their pole lath.

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Pole Lath at Wetherdown Hostel

We wandered on, through the woodland burial site, which is apparently a popular facility. Some of us decided to circumnavigate the entire grounds, so we ended up scattered about, but managed to gather enough together to agree a plan to go to Queen Elizabeth Country Park where we would meet up at the café. The car park when we got there was nearly choc a block, with all the Sunday cycle riders congregating in their cars with their bikes on carriers and roof racks. We held a club committee meeting over coffee at the cafe and discussed dates for our summer sailing. We then set off for a walk up to the top of Butser Hill. After this strenuous exercise, the warm sunshine seemed so pleasant, we could not resist stretching out on the grass for a bit of relaxation.

Eventually at about 2pm, hunger drove us to get to our feet and make our way back to the cafe at the visitor centre for a snack lunch, after which we dispersed, as some had quite long journeys home. Thanks to Frank for organising the hostel booking, and the DCA buffet tickets. I think we all found this a particularly enjoyable weekend, helped no doubt by the unseasonably fine weather.


Easter Weekend - 21 to 24 March

Pictures from Richard

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Bridges YHA

Nine of us arrived at Bridges Hostel on the evening of Easter Friday. The hostel was busy over the Easter weekend, with several parties of cyclists in addition to our party and a few other ramblers. Angela, the busy hostel warden, cooked meals and looked after us all with just a little help from some local volunteers. Bridges itself is no more than a hamlet, nestling in a valley to the west side of the Long Mynd hills in Shropshire. The picture of the hostel above was actually taken on a previous Easter visit on the way to Wales in 2006, we had better weather for photography that time. There has been ongoing work at the hostel since that previous visit, nice new annex domitory, entrance hall, washrooms, all looking good.

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Following the stream along the bottom of Ashes Hollow

The weather did not look too promising on Friday morning, grey with some snow which was whitening the hilltops but not quite settling down in the valley at Bridges. Despite this, we set off to cross the Long Mynd, first following lanes, then cart-track then open moorland over the top which is at about 500m. The weather was brightening as we descended down Ashes Hollow to Little Stretton. Ashes Hollow is an attractive steep sided valley with a rough path at the bottom, this path hopping from side to side of a bubbling stream. We had lunch in the pub at Little Stretton then followed a path through the woods almost into Church Stretton before recrossing the Long Mynd, taking the route up through Carding Mill Valley which is National Trust property then down over Wild Moor to Rattlinghope then Bridges, completing a walk of about 12 miles.

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Familiar sight on our Easter rambles

Our Sunday ramble was another circle of about 12 miles but this time to the west of Bridges. We started on the 'Shropshire Way' footpath heading south from the hostel, then east through the villages of Wentnor and Norbury, we stopped to eat sandwiches and to look at the church in the later village.

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The rough path by the Stiper Stones

After lunch we turned north for a few miles taking us up onto the Stiperstones, a line of exposed crags on the top of open moorland. From here we joined the 'Shropshire Way' and followed it down to Bridges. 

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Traction engine outside pub at Bridges

We found a steam traction engine parked outside the pub at Bridges, gently fizzing. The owner lives locally and he was keen to explain how it works and to invite us to climb up into the driving position - the heat from the glowing coal fire was welcome. We watched as he set off home, starting with a rush that lifted the front wheels off the ground then making off up the steep lane with clanking machinery and noisy puffing of exhaust steam.

On the morning of Easter Monday we went to look at Bishops Castle and Clun, a small town and a village to the south of Bridges. These are pretty places with plenty of teashops to provide refreshment for weary walkers. Clun also has a castle and a nice Youth Hostel. We went our separate ways after lunch in a cafe at Clun.


Fitting out - 19 April

Report from Richard

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Fitting out day - Merganser on the slipway at Paglesham

Club members turned out on a rather cold and very windy day to put Merganser into the water and on her mooring at Paglesham. The wind was easterly, which meant that the pontoons gave at least a bit of sheltered water, and Mark S managed to row her out to the mooring himself : the rest of us were having our lunch in the Plough and Sail! We rowed out to bring him back, though soon he could have walked ashore anyway, as the tide was ebbing fast. Meander was left on the road trailer ready for her trip to Milford Haven in June.

John Langrick was working around the mushroom shed area, and we learned that the RSA now has use of both ends of the shed. Perhaps now they have more room, we will have better access to our locker door?

The toilet structure looks worse than ever; chunks are starting to fall off the outside, and the floor inside is giving way.

We repaired to the hall about 4.30pm for tea and biscuits as some drizzle started. We had a chinese takeaway meal for fitting out supper, then Eric showed us some photos of his trip to Turkey. We also looked at photos of the Easter trip, and Mark S showed some of his trip to Iceland.


Day sail to Paglesham Pool - 5 May

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Track of daysail up Paglesham Pool

Most of the sailing trips that I report on these web pages are our 'epic' sailing adventures, generally camping away from our base at Paglesham. This neglects the fact that throughout the summer the HSC keeps a club boat ready for our members to use for local sailing at any time. Our club boats don't get used as intensively as they could be, but the opportunity is there and from time to time I hear that folks have had an enjoyable day out on the river. John D. took his gps along on one such occasion and recorded the track of a sail from Paglesham up to the head of Paglesham pool, the creek which branches NW from the Roach, then up to the entrance to Barling Creek before returning to base. That is a very modest day sail, but the top of Paglesham Pool is a delightfull spot to land for a picnic on a fine day, or if you have no picnic with you it is only a few hundred yards to walk along the footpath roung the edge of the field to the pub at Paglesham Churchend.

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Track showing tacking angle

The second picture is an enlarged view of part of the first picture, from which you can clearly see the tacking angle, that being the angle by which the boats changes direction as it tacks through the wind. This is an indication of how close to the wind a sailing boat can point, which is a large part of what defines an 'efficient' sailing boat. Old time sailing ships might tack through 160 degrees or so, that is they could just get to windward, but very slowly. Modern yachts are advertised as tacking through less than 90 degrees, although the reality is that allowing for leeway the true tacking angle (as measured by gps) is often a bit more than this. The gps track above shows that our Wayfarer dinghy (heavy loaded with four persons on board) was tacking through about 80 to 85 degrees, which is excellent. We do have new sails and maybe the tide was helping a bit?  Also of interest is how close to the mud the boat tacked, they even tried to get the bows into the little channels in the saltings to make the most of the width of the narrow creek!


Restaurant outing - 29 May

Report from Richard

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Wong Kei restaurant

Once again we met up in Wardour Street in London's throbbing Soho area. Throbbing a bit too much for most of us: the pub we met in was playing very loud music and was rather more crowded than when we met here last year, perhaps because it was raining and people did not want to stand outside. We need to find somewhere a bit quieter if we do this next year.

As the weather was damp, we did not feel like wandering around to seek out a new eating place, and went back to the Wong Kei restaurant across the road. There were eight of us in all, and we decided to go for the £12 set menu. The meal was good, maybe a bit better than last year's, and there was ample food, more than we were able to handle, and endless pots of China tea.

We talked a bit of the forthcoming Seafair Milford Haven event, and Len's Norfolk sailing meet: he may be joined by two more DCA people. Eric and Esin were detained by work commitments and could not join us. Present were: Barbara, Mark S, Geof, John D, Frank, Len, Mark T, and Richard.

Paglesham Yacht Race (for open boats only) - June 8

Report from Gerald

Steve and Herman crewed Merganser in the Paglesham Yacht Race. A sunny day at last, but not a lot of wind. With 2 hours of flood to come, the only course was up-river. Seven boats clung in a raft opposite to the Hard until Richard said "Go" and then they set off on the stream. The wind did pick up occasionally, and all made the turning buoy upstream of Stambridge creek within the hour. Then the struggle back with some tacking to do against the flood. Nemo had the lead throughout and made good time, with Merganser and then Mini in chase. On handicap Stella Marie had 3rd place with Nemo second, and Steve Noble's Tideway Apple had first place.