New Year's Day Walk

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Grand Union Canal at Berkhamstead

Once again our New Year's day walk started from Geoff's house in Berkhamstead. For the first few hundred yards we followed the Grand Union Canal which runs through the centre of Berkhamstead, then we left the town heading west along footpaths and across fields of freshly plouged sticky clay soil. After a while we met a much larger party of ramblers and we discovered that the pub they had in mind for lunch was the same one that we were planning to visit. Perhaps it was fortunate that a small party of ramblers tends to travel more quickly than a large one, espeicially when crossing styles; if it were not for that fact I think we would have had a very long wait for our pub lunch to be served.

full moon pub

A welcome sight at the end of a morning walk!

Behind the Full Moon pub in the village of Cholesbury is this windmill, now used as a residence. It has steel spars for its sails, strengthened with 'diamond stays' as you sometimes see on a yacht mast.


Our return route headed south east at first, then north east back into Berkhamstead to complete a roughly triangular walk of 11 to 12 miles, which was followed by mince pies etc. back at Geoff's place. Thanks to Geoff and Bill for organising.


We came accross a fine heard of these during the afternoon

Cholderton Walking Weekend - 12/13 February


Cholderton YHA

Cholderton YHA in Wiltshire, a few miles east from Stonehenge and north east from Salisbury, is listed in the YHA Accommodation Guide as a bunkhouse but it offers the facilities of most standard hostels and is the farmhouse part of the Cholderton Rare Breeds Farm. The farm is open to the public in the summer and although it was closed at the time of our visit the shepherd/swineherd was keen to show us arround and encouraged us to feed his calves, he also showed us a cow's passport!


River Avon - a meandering stream

Our Saturday walk started in Amesbury near the bridge over the river Avon where there is an abbey church. We followed footpaths through pretty villages along the river, as in the picture above, reaching a riverside pub at Woodford for lunch. From Woodford we followed footpaths heading north until we came over a ridge to be greeted with a perfect rainbow (the day was mostly sunney but with showers) and Stonehenge in the distance. We carried on past Stonehenge and back to Amesbury. Stonehenge is so such a well known antiquity that I dont think I need include pictures or description here. 

For our Sunday walk we started by driving to the village of Coombe Bissett to the south west of Salisbury. We were about to set off walking when the sky suddenly darkened and hail lashed down but it turned out that we only needed to stay in our parked cars for a few minutes then all was peace and sunshine again. With the hail came a squall of wind and, as we discovered later, that brought some trees down and caused a power cut over the Salisbury area. Our walk followed footpaths through a string of small villages along the River Ebbie, a tributary of the Wiltshire Avon. At one point we found our path blocked by a tree which had probably be brought down by the squall earlier that morning. We thought we might be doing a minor public service if we could shift it from the path but the trunk was about 12" diameter, one end was still partly rooted and the other end was burried in bushes. To most of us it seemed silly to even try to move an object of that size by hand but Josephine was convinced that it was possible and encouraged us all to heave together. Much to my surprise the trunk simply broke in two, it must have been more rotten than it looked, then with some heroic efforts we were able to shift the two halves to clear a way through.


Tree Clearance

Arriving at our chosen pub, electric power was still off but it was business as normal with candles all round for light and gas for cooking. Our return to Coombe Basset followed paths to the north of our our outward route to complete an excellent walking weekend.


Easter in the Peak District - 25 to 28 March

Report from Richard

We succeeded in booking into Gradbach YHA this year after failing in 2004. Surprisingly the hostel was not full, and there were no large groups. It was a pleasant place to stay, being open during the day, so when we arrived we were able to take advantage of the ready brewed coffee or brew our own tea. The building was converted by the YHA from a derelict stone mill which was originally powered by a waterwheel housed in the nearest part of the building in the photo below.


Gradback YHA

Good FridayHaving made early starts, five of the group, [Mark S, Mark T, Esin, Geoff and Richard] were able to set off on a ramble by 11.30 on Friday. We walked along the valley of the Dane, finding a pub in a village with the interesting name of Wincle. Oddly, there seemed to be a number of pubs in the district called The Ship, even though they must be miles from the sea. The pub was crowded, so we ate in the garden, but the food and service were good. In the afternoon we tackled more hills, so we were thirsty enough to make another stop at a farm tea shop.

At the hostel in the evening we found John and Josephine, who had been visiting John's brother on their journey up from Plymouth. We opted for the warden's 3 course meal.

Saturday: We tackled the hills known as the Roaches, a spectacular outcrop of gritstone that was festooned with rock climbers. roaches01

Climbers on The Roaches

The Roaches, with Hen Cloud and Ramshaw Rocks, form a gritstone escarpment which marks the south-western edge of the Peak. Best viewed from the approach along the Leek road, they stand as a line of silent sentinels guarding the entrance to the Peak District, worn into fantastic shapes by the elements.


Wind-shaped rocks

The sight of so much strenuous activity was almost too much, so we lost no time in tracing our steps to the nearby Roaches Tea Room for another alfresco lunch. Josephine unluckily picked a wooden bench that had an attack of wet rot, causing general hilarity when it gave way under her. The puddings with lashings of double cream were too tempting to resist, so several of us over indulged. We continued in the afternoon at a more leisurely pace, returning to the hostel in the late afternoon. We also encountered two lamas, a couple of goats and a turkey: part of someone's menagerie.

In the evening we held a brief committee meeting to plan fitting out and decide some dates for the year's main activities. Another excellent three course meal at the hostel was washed down by bottles of organic wine on sale from the hostel store [remember the days when alcohol was prohibited in hostels?]. A shorter night as we put our watches on one hour for British summer time.

Easter Sunday: A rather damp misty morning. On the drive from the hostel to Grindon, some of us were rather surprised when three red deer stags ran across the moorland road in front of us, but fortunately a collision was avoided; just as well as they would have made a nasty dent in my car! We walked to Wetton Mill, on the way finding an unusual looking flower, which Geoff correctly identified as Butterbur. Pausing by the riverside for light refreshment , we then continued on to the spectacular Thor's Cave, above the village of Warslow. We joined other walkers toiling up a steep path to the mouth of the cave. Mark insisted we go into the cave, emerging on a different side of the hill down via a narrow fissure of rock, and down a steep scree-like incline. This caused some of us problems, and the whole descent took more than half an hour. At the bottom we crossed a dry stream bed, in this area a sizeable stream can abruptly dissapear under its own bed which fills only in times of exceptional rainfall. We then had an easy walk along the Manifold trail, a former railway line, where we found a refreshment van, and Mark bought us a cup of hot chocolate to steady the nerves (shaken by the unexpected introduction to potholing).

Grindon is a peaceful little moorland hill village, standing at over 1000 feet above sea level in the Peak District National Park, and over looking the beautiful Manifold valley. A stone pillar by the church gate is `rindle` stone bearing the inscription `The lord of the manor of Grindon established his right to this rindle at Sheffield assizes on March 17th 1862. A rindle is a brook which flows only in wet weather - a common feature in these parts.

A couple of websites with further details: MANIFOLD AND DOVE DALE        THOR'S CAVE AND THE MANIFOLD VALEY

Monday: Monday was again misty and damp. We had a morning walk taking in a natural feature known as Lud's Church, a narrow steep sided gorge hidden in woods just a few hundred yards from Gradbach hostel. If you stay at the hostel it is worth taking a look at. It may have been used for religious services, or perhaps more recently for parties.

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Within Lud's Church

We then drove into Buxton and had lunch in the Pavilion, which adjoins the Opera House in the centre of this elegant spa town, before going home our separate ways.

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The bath house at Buxton


Somerset House and evening restaurant meal - 19 May

Report from Richard

Josephine, Len and Frank met up with me at Somerset House in the afternoon, and we spent a  while catching up on the news, especially John and Jo's successful move into their house in Wembury. We then went down to have a look at the exhibition on the history of Somerset House, which features computer animations of the development of the site over hundreds of years. We also took a look at the so-called Nelson Stair.  After a coffee from the Deli bar we then made our way through the fountain court to the Strand entrance where we planned to meet the others for the restaurant meal.

In all ten people showed up, including the YHA Local groups co-ordinator, Barbara Rich, who had expressed interest in meeting us. We made our way towards Covent Garden, and found a place called Papageno's which was able to cater for a party of our size. Apparently the owner is an opera fan, and the background music was of an operatic nature. The d├ęcor was very over the top ornamentation with generous swags and fabric hangings; and the decoration in the toilets cannot be described in a family publication [cross my palm with silver].

Arrangements were made for some people to sail this Saturday, possibly taking some new people. (I heard that Potton Island was circumnavigated that weekend, despite wind and lashing rain - Ed.)