New Year's Day

Report from Richard.

Four people turned out for the customary New Year's Day walk:  Bill, Geoff, Mark T. and Richard.

They assembled at Shoreham, Kent, and walked over the North Downs via Lullingstone Park and back down into the Darent valley to Eynsford. After the heavy rainfall of the holiday week, the ground was saturated in places, though the mud was not too deep, not even ankle high! Some of the boggy ground and deep puddles needed skirting round, though.

The River Darent was swollen and many low lying fields flooded, and in Eynsford, the road either side of the bridge was closed off to traffic, but it was possible for pedestrians to get through. The lunch halt was at the Malt Shovel, reached just after a heavy shower. The afternoon walk back along the Darent valley was relatively easy going, though very wet underfoot.

We got back to Shoreham at 3.15, and from here the party drove to Eltham for the usual reward of tea and mince pies.

Theatre Visit - 14 Feb

A party from the HSC visited the National Theatre to see 'She Stoops to Conquer' by the 18th centuary playwright Oliver Goldsmith. A farce revolving around mistaken identities.

Ridgeway walking weekend - 8/9 March

Eric organised a walking weekend based on the Ridgeway youth hostel. This hostel is right by the Ridgeway long distance footpath south of Wantage (about 12 miles east of Swindon). The Ridgeway footpath follows a route which has been walked for at least the last 6000 years and there are numerous ancient historical sites along the route, a few of which we visited this weekend

Ridgeway hostel is a spacious purpose built hostel built using wood beams recovered from derelict barns. Our room was the one nearest the camera in this photo and that big triangular window in the gable gave a nice view accross the vale to the north.

ridgeway hostel

Ridgeway YHA

The hostel is built around a courtyard and this well head mechanism stands in the centre of the courtyard. Mechanical engineers may be interested in the iron wheel with pivoted segments around the periphery, these being designed to grip a rope harder as the tension in the rope increases.

well head


On Saturday morning we first drove to West Kennet, a village to the west of Marlborough, then took a walk south of this village to view the Wansdyke. Wansdyke is much more recent than many of the earthworks in this area having been built as a fortification against?/by? Saxon invaders in about 800AD

The photo shows the impressive height of the bank. The position of the ditch to the left indicates that this was a defense against attack from the northern side.

wans dyke

Part of Wans Dyke

We then drove to Avebury to join other tourists looking at the Avebury ring. Avebury ring dates from 2600BC and is a triple circle of stones, the outer circle measuring 450 yards in diameter. Originally there were at least 154 stones weighing up to 40 tonnes each. 36 still stand today, the remainder presumably pocketed by passing tourists. It was never a fortification or township and is believed to be some kind of temple, but exactly why it was built remains a mystery.

aldbury ring

At Aldbury Ring

After lunch rain was falling and Eric asked who would like to go for another walk and who would like to do something else. Surprisingly most of the party opted for another wet and windy walk.

That evening we met up with old HSC member Alison who now lives in this area and we all had a meal in a pub down the hill from the hostel

On the Sunday we started by driving to Ashbury village to the west of the hostel so that we could do a walk of about 10+ miles back along the ridgeway path to the hostel. We left a couple of cars at the hostel so that we could collect the cars left at Ashbury.

Our route took us past more very ancient sites. Waylands Smithy is a neolithic long barrow built arround 3600BC, at least 1000 years older than Stonehenge. It was named by Saxon invaders who thought it was something to do with a certain Wayland the Smith who was one of their gods. The stones in the photo (right) surround the entrance to a dark stone roofed tomb.

waylands smithy

Waylands Smithy

We also passed Uffington camp, close by the Uffingham white horse. This was a Neolithic settlement of 9 acres enclosed by defensive banks and ditches. The white horse itself is stylistically carved from the turf which overlays the chalky ground and has been dated at 500BC. Being so near the summit of a hill it may be best viewed from an aircraft.

We met up with Alison again at lunch time and arrived back at the hostel just befor dusk.


Easter Weekend - Maypool YHA

Our easter party this year was depleted by last minute cancelations and also initially fragmented due to a car breakdown on route to the West country. Josephine and I arrived first, by boat having launched our dinghy into the river Dart at Stoke Gabriel on the Thursday evening befor Easter. We rowed a few miles down tide in the dark and picked up a mooring a few hundred yards from the hostel. In the morning Josephine walked up the hill to the hostel to find that only Mark T had arrived so the three of us went for a sail down to Dartmouth for lunch. In the afternoon we took a quick look at the sea just out of the river befor sailing back up to Stoke Gabriel then driving to the hostel to meet Geoff, Doug and Frank.

maypool yha01

Maypool Youth Hostel - A Victorian mansion overlooking the river Dart

maypool yha02

Superb view looking down the river from the hostel garden

We started our Saturday ramble from a carpark to the east of Kingswear, walking along lanes to Kingswear for an early lunch then back along the coast path. The coast path is quite hard walking, with ins and outs and ups and downs.  One thing that struck me about walking in this part of Devon is that appart from the coast path and paths along the R. Dart there are few footpaths so it is hard to plan a walk which is not mostly on roads. There are many small lanes, often sunk below the level of the surrounding fields.

For our Sunday walk we started from the hostel itself, walkind down the hill to the ferry crossing at Dittisham then following the west side of the Dart to Dartmouth for lunch and for a look at the Newcomen atmospheric engine which is on display in the tourist information office. Another ferry took us back accross the river to Kingswear then footpaths along the east side of the river to the hostel.

Most of the party headed home on the Easter Monday, while Josephine and myself spent a couple more days exploring the River Dart by boat. We did a lot of rowing, the wind on this river being rather flukey, espeicially in the upper reaches where the river runs between high wooded banks. We reached Totnes and also found a quiet creek leading up to a pub by a quayside at Tuckenhay.

Fitting out - 26 April

Our pre-season boat launching and fitting out supper all went to plan. We could hardly miss further improvements to the facilities at Paglesham boatyard carried out over the winter. The top end of the jetty has been tidied up and resurfaced and the chain of pontoons has been extended further into the river but has not yet reached quite to the low tide mark. The number of new and used motorboats displayed for sale suggests that the motor boat sales business is doing well. Although most of the boats ashore in the yard are now powerboats the mix of boats afloat on the river still includes a good proportion of sailing craft.

After our sailing dinghies had been launched and placed on moorings Josephine provided a buffet supper in the village hall and after supper Geoff helped us to indulge in some nostalgia by showing slides of HSC activities going back to the early '70's. A number of slides featured 'Merganser', the blue decked Wayfarer purchased new by the HSC - that boat has really seen a lot of use over all these years.

London social event - 20 May

A large proportion of the HSC membership met in the Covent Garden area of London for an evening meal and to chat about plans for summer cruising and other matters.

New members weekend - 14/15 June

Report from Mark On Saturday we sailed up to Stambridge Mills with a fair tide and strongish easterly wind. Getting back after lunch at the Cherry Tree proved more difficult than expected:- firstly due to the walk out to the boats through the mud, and then with not enough water in the river to tack and too much wind to row, we needed frequent mud-walks to get the boats' bows round. When we eventually found deeper water we had a longish stop to clean up sails, boats and sailors. However, all present, including two new members were too polite not to say they enjoyed the day.

Sunday was more civilsed; a gentle drift up Paglesham pool, a leisurely (Pub for some) lunch stop and a nice sail back in hot sunshine. John said the water in Paglesham Pool is now warm & clean enough for swimming.

New Bouyancy Aids and Waterproofs for the HSC - 20 June

A schools watersports centre at the Banbury reservoir in the Lee valley park had to close recently for lack of finance, which I find a bit sad since I am all in favour of school children getting the chance to try a wide variety of sports and hobbies including sailing. This closure did give the HSC the chance to bid for some of the surplus gear and we have now been awarded various bouyancy aids and items of waterproof clothing free of charge. I went to the centre this afternoon to collect these items. We expect our regular sailing members to provide their own sailing clothing but we have always kept some clothing for use of new members and temporary members who may never have previously been sailing. As a result of the generosity of the Lee Valley centre we now have a wider variety of sailing gear than ever befor, including enough good bouyancy aids for a full complement of new members in both our boats.