New Year Day

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Chinnor Windmill

We started the new year by taking a look at the windmill that Geoff, who is one of the most longstanding HSC members, has been helping to restore over the last few years. This windmill was demolished in 1966 to make way for a new housing estate, but the main timbers and some other parts were kept in storage. A small group, Geoff being one of them, has taken on the job of rebuilding the mill on a new site which is adjacent to the recreation ground at Chinnor in Buckinghamshire and which is just across the road from the original site of the mill. This is actually the second windmill that Geoff has worked on, he also helped with the restoration of Lacy Green mill, a few miles from Chinnor, so Geoff's experience with windmill restoration goes back some twenty years. Look here for a website about Lacy Green mill.

On this occasion we were unable to gain access to the interior of the mill, but Geoff was able to show us round the outside. I hope that at some stage we will be able to come back and look inside. This type of windmill is known as a post mill, having the machinery housed in a 'buck' which stands on a vertical post and rotates as a whole to face the wind. Although it is not very clear from the photograph above, this mill is a bit unusual in that it stands on six brick piers arranged hexagonally, rather than four piers as is more usual. The buck of the mill has only recently been craned up onto the brick piers, the steel I beam lying on the ground in the foreground is one of two that was threaded through the structure of the buck to enable it to be lifted by crane. Although the work appears to be progressing well, there is some way to go before we will see flour coming from this mill.

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The windshaft

The picture above shows the cast iron windshaft from the mill. This is the shaft near the top of the mill that carries the sails, the brake and the first gear of the gear train that drives the stones. The spars carrying the sails will be fitted into the square holes at the end of this casting. There will be a mechanism to automatically operate shutters on the sails to regulate the speed of the mill and this mechanism will be actuated by a rod passing down the hollow centre of the windshaft. Geoff explained that this is not the original windshaft for this mill, the original windshaft would have been timber since when the mill was built in about 1750 it would not have been possible to produce a casting of this size.

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Outside the pub at Stokenchurch

Having looked at the mill, we set off on our customary New Year's day walk. Chinnor is at the base of the escarpment that defines the north western edge of the Chiltern hills. We started by climbing a fairly steep path up this escarpement, then through woods and fields to a pub at Stokenchurch for lunch. Emerging from the pub we found it to be raining quite hard, the picture above shows some of us sheltering under an umbrella in front of the pub and wondering if it is worth waiting for the rain to ease off. The rain did ease off, but I dont think we saw sunshine that day. From Chinnor we drove to Geoff's house in Berkhamstead for tea and cakes, thanks Geoff for arranging all this for us.

Oxford YHA weekend -  24 to 26 February

Report from Richard
oxford yha 01Oxford YHA - just a couple of minutes walk from the station jarn mound 01
  Climbing the steps up Jarn Mound

John, Josephine, Gerald and Richard met at Oxford YH on Friday evening, and on Saturday morning, Mark S and Esin arrived by train at 0948h. We decided to walk south via North Hinksey village  towards Cumnor Hill and Old Boars Hill. The morning was clear, sunny and with a light wind, had a spring like feel. By bridleways and footpaths we climbed to the heights where the Jarn Mound has been raised to give an improved view of the countryside. We climbed the concrete steps, but found that the many surrounding trees still restrict what can be seen. Some of Oxford’s taller buildings could be made out in the distance.

After briefly losing our way [RF’s map reading being at fault], we got directions from a local resident for The Fox at Foxcombe Hill. Josephine tried to call up some map directions on her new smart phone, but the bright sunshine and unfamiliarity with the technology made it tricky. We did at least manage to confirm that we were heading in the right direction.

After lunch at The Fox, we made our way by footpaths to Sunningwell, and thence by a country lane across the busy A34. Coming across a bus route, Gerald decided to wait for a bus into Oxford, while the rest of us ploughed on towards the River Thames, which we crossed near Sandford Lock.

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Bumps races on the Thames

The Thames Path lead northwards for nearly four miles back to the hostel. On the way we came upon the Isis Tavern near Iffley Lock, where we stopped for a much needed cup of tea and some home-made cake. The towpath here was very crowded with students and their friends who were watching the rowing. The event was the “Spring Bumps”, and we saw the start of a race where the object is to catch the boat ahead and thereby move up the pecking order, so to speak. This form of race where boats start in single file, rather than side by side, is suited to narrow rivers.

As we neared the boathouses on the opposite side of the river near Christ Church Meadows, the crowds grew thicker and the number of bicycles increased so it was slow going. We watched some crews returning their craft to the clubhouses, and in some cases throwing their unfortunate coxes into the river, which must have been very cold.

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Students from Cambridge University take breakfast in the hostel garden - shows how good the weather was for February

When we returned to the hostel, Mark and Esin left to catch their train home, while the rest of us sat in the lobby easy chairs and rested our tired limbs.  As several of us had been feeling under the weather, we didn’t bother going out, but had a meal in the hostel. It was entertaining to see crowds of young Cambridge students dressed up in black tie and DJ [men] and sparkly shoes and short dresses [women], and going out for the evening after a lacrosse tournament with their Oxford rivals.

City hostels tend to have their own character and have a young clientele [apart from us], who make the most of the city’s attractions. Disturbance during the night is a usual feature of weekends, as we found again. A couple of youngsters in our dorm came in at 6.30am! Also the trains can be very noisy during the night, as the hostel is right next to the city station.

On Sunday morning the four remaining folk went for a wander around the city centre. In St Clements Street we found a Morrocan café, where we stopped for coffee and admired the hookahs and other nick-nacks for sale. After a wander along the banks of the Cherwell we stopped to admire a display of sculptural tree stumps in front of the Natural History Museum [“Ghost Forest” –A group of huge primary rainforest tree stumps, intended to highlight the impacts of worldwide deforestation].

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Tree stump outside Natural History Museum

We rounded off our weekend with lunch at Greens Café in St Giles, before heading off in our separate directions.

Easter on Anglesea - 6 to 9 April

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Anglesea Outdoor Centre - the main building

This outdoor centre near Holyhead hosts school parties and other groups for diving, canoeing, rambling and other outdoor activities, as well as being a regular youth hostel listed in the YHA handbook. It consists of several buildings on quite a large site. The main building with bed rooms, self catering kitchen and lounge spaces is the wooden building pictured above, there is a separate 'pub' building - the 'Paddler's Return' serving drinks and food, a canvas yurt for special parties and a building with class rooms and office, this including the reception area.

Richard F. has provided the rest of this report as follows:

Thursday 5 April: Five club members stopped off at Coalport Hostel, Shropshire on Thursday night: Geof, Mark S, Esin, Frank, and Richard.

Friday 6 April: On Friday morning we took a detour en route to Anglesey to see the spectacular 126 foot high Pontcysyllte Aqueduct near Llangollen designed and built by William Jessop and Thomas Telford in 1805. - PONTCYSYLITE AQUEDUCT 

Not only did we see it, but we walked across it on the towpath, from which we admired the valley far below, from behind the security of the railings. No railings were ever fitted to the other side of the aqueduct, so narrow boaters have to endure the sensation of a vertiginous drop a few feet away.

Continuing to Anglesey, we crossed the straits via Pont Britannia, and stopped in Beaumaris, where we lunched and visited the castle. On arrival at the Activity Centre we met up with John, Josephine and Mark T.

Saturday 7 April:

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Our walking party, island of South Stack, with lighthouse, in background

We had the best weather on Saturday when we walked northwards along the coast to the headland of South Stack. On closer inspection this turned out to be an island on which a lighthouse stands. A bridge connects the island to the mainland, and since there was a charge of several pounds to cross the bridge, we decided to spend our money in the café instead. On the walk to South Stack I was delighted to see small flocks of choughs, those charismatic members of the crow family with red legs and red down-curved bills.  INFORMATION ABOUT CHOUGHS FROM RSPB

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Looking back to South Stack from Holyhead Mountain

After a brief discussion about the afternoon’s walk, we decided to continue along the coast to North Stack, and thence we climbed over “Holyhead Mountain”, which is in fact a mere 220 metres high, and surmounted by a trig point. There were good views from the top, with Holyhead harbour laid out before us, with its long breakwater, and the distant mountains of Snowdonia still capped with snow. By the time we made it back to the Activity Centre, we had covered more than 11 miles, and felt we had earned our supper at “The Paddler’s Return” back at the outdoor centre.

Easter Sunday: Sunday was cloudy and cool, and we thought the best walk available was to go south along the coast via Trearddur Bay to Rhoscolyn. On the way we saw the RNLI inshore rescue boat carrying out exercises, and we were able to observe its recovery at close quarters. Its trailer was pushed by a tractor adapted to drive into the water. The driver sits in a cab which is a steel and glass tank with no roof. The coast hereabouts has some spectacular cliffs and arches, and at one point we were able to peer down into a raven’s nest from the cliff-top path: there was a raven sitting on the nest!

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Mark T. above hole through sea cliff near Rhoscolyn

After an afternoon refreshment stop at the pub at Rhoscolyn we looped back inland and then more or less retraced our steps to the Centre. Despite our avowed intentions, I think we ended up walking further on Sunday than we had the day before.

Monday 9 April: A drizzly damp day, so we cut our losses and made the long trek home, although some of our party did stop soon after leaving the YHA to view the working Melin Llynnon windmill and tea room.