Here you will find stories and descriptions of many past events put on by the IOG: from concerts and trampolining to trips across Britain and further afield, with a solid foundation of reports of walks undertaken – usually with route maps and pictures.
Pictures contributed by Stela; story by Christina Bail.
Glen and I would like to say “thank you” to David and Glenys for organising this beautiful spring walk in the ancient woodlands near Thornham Hall which we glimpsed in passing.
Prior to arriving at the car park, we were in no doubt it was going to be a good walk, but we were expecting open field spaces as is so typical in the mid-Suffolk area. Instead, we walked approx. 6 miles through mostly lush and dense woodland, on soft grassy paths; at times the shrubs and trees formed green tunnels. The grounds around Thornham Hall have been made accessible to the wider public, becoming a real attraction thanks to the efforts of the 8th Lord Henniker and his wife, Lady Henniker, who were very involved in conservation projects. There is a small visitor centre, a cafe and playground as well as a walled Victorian garden which will be open daily as from 29th May.
Around 20 walkers joined David on that day. We encountered a pretty country church with a thatched roof, rather unusual, and probably the smallest church I have ever seen. We were able to go inside and admired the altar and its stained glass windows. People commented on the pretty cushions on the otherwise hard oak benches all of which had their bespoke design.
After the walk a couple of us were probably over ambitious and decided to take a different, supposedly more scenic route back to David’s cottage where teas and biscuits were awaiting us. However, we got completely lost and finally gave up and returned home.
Words and Pictures: Lou (with apologies to Lewis Carroll)
‘Twas Maytime and the IOG
From Needham Market set the course
Through Bonny Wood to bluebells see,
And retire to the Rampant Horse.
With a variable weather forecast, attendees had been advised to bring sun cream, hats, and wet weather gear. The day dawned grey and gloomy (groomy?), but that did not deter a good turnout of 22 people and 2 dogs. We were soon off-road, following an un-named track alongside the impressive chalk pit. We continued across fields in various state of crop, through someone’s back garden at Priestley (narrowly avoiding being mown down), to approach our objective. Bonny Wood is mostly privately owned, requiring us to circumnavigate the boundary before finding the western entrance. Here was no welcoming or informative sign, solely a warning about deer management. We were far too noisy to spot any deer, and emerged at the northern entrance, where there was a handy map to show us where we had been.
Bonny Wood was quite pleasant, but only a few bluebells were to be seen at the northern end.
Two short field boundaries and some nettles later, we dived through a gap in the hedge to find ourselves in Swingen’s Wood (or Priestley Wood as the sign declared). It was in Priestley Wood where we found the best display of bluebells (though somewhat greyer than in the photo which was taken on my pre-walk the previous week).
A short stretch of road brought us to Barking Church, from where we took the Causeway (Coffin Way?) back to Needham Market. The main church in Needham Market originally had no graveyard, and coffins had to be taken to Barking for burial. This magnificent tree is on the route.
I’ve sometimes wondered about walking this route in the dark, but there are too many things to trip over and bump into.
Safely back at the Rampant Horse, we sampled some of the Calvors brewery beers to support the local economy (Calvors brewery is only a few miles away and they own the pub).
Thus ended a splendid walk. I am declaring it a success as no-one got lost in the woods.
Story contributed by Sarah Sheppard; pics by Stela Luminita Dumbrava & Chanak Kwan Natnuea
Twelve of us set off from the entrance to Belstead Brook Park, a great place for me to start a walk as it is just down the road from my house. I’m so lucky that I live on the edge of this lovely area of Ipswich and I like to show it off to my fellow IOGers.
We set off through the tunnel under the A14, headed towards Belstead village and then towards the level crossing and onto Jimmy’s Farm. Here we met up with 2 others who were joining the walk. After a short stop, the full complement of 14 walkers set off out of Jimmy’s Farm, heading towards Freston.
On our way, we passed Cutler’s Wood, which appears to be private, so we stuck to the footpath around the edge. As it was full of bluebells, we stopped to take a few photographs through the gaps in the trees before carrying on towards Freston and having our lunch stop at Freston Church.
Once we had refuelled, we headed through the lovely Freston Wood SSSI, which was filled with bluebells and wild garlic. We also passed by some people who had set up their painting easels in order to capture the lovely environment at this time of year. After we left the wood, we followed the footpaths towards the Suffolk Food Hall, where we had a quick drink stop before heading up the hill towards Whersted.
After crossing the A137 and heading through the woods at the back of Jimmy’s Farm, I directed Miriam and Martin back to their cars before we headed over the bridge across the A14. We then walked through the ancient woodland of Spring Wood, where the last of the bluebells were still out, before passing by a small play area where a few members took the opportunity to have a go on the zip wire, myself included – great fun! We then headed through Belstead Brook Park, crossing the Belstead Brook, back to our start point.
A great day was had by all; thanks to all of those that made it along and made it an enjoyable walk.
Maybe it was because it was a Bank Holiday Sunday, maybe because the weather was perfect stuff for walking – dazzling and breezy – or maybe because Ginette and Alan had generously promised chili at theirs after we finished, but a record 36 IOGers rolled up to the Henley Community Hall where we met for the start of the hike at around 10.15 (a further two walkers joined us en route).
According to OS data the route was 14.23 km (8.9 miles), although it felt shorter. This was Suffolk countryside at its loveliest, high-skied best; the going was as dry as a drum and the company varied and full of interest. Luckily there weren’t too many stiles – it took some time to negotiate us all, plus dogs, through each one – while the sandwich stop presented quite an spectacle (see pics).
To tell the truth, I’m not the best person to write up a good walk – I take in the general ambiance, but details don’t linger. We had our first break at St Mary’s at Witnesham – a pretty church with some accommodating gravestones – but, beyond that, I’m left with impressions of mustard in flower, vivid green fields despite what seems to be a bit of a drought … and lots of chat.
The walk culminated at Ginette and Alan’s Henley house with its beautiful garden where bowls of chili, rice and salad were hugely appreciated by a very large gang of hungry folk – along with more good tales. Thanks to both for a well-organised walk through a lovely part of the world and for the hospitality they offered everyone afterwards.
On Friday, 7th April, nine IOG jazz fans joined our candlelit table at St. Peter’s by the Waterfront for an evening of musical delectation supplied this time by DixieMix.
We enjoyed a foot tapping couple of hours of traditional style jazz which rolled along at rapid pace and kept us smiling with favourites like It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing, Petit Fleur, Gee Baby Ain’t I Good to You, Bourbon Street Parade, Some of These Days, Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans? and others from their songbook.
Led by Simon Nelson, band leader, top class trumpeter / cornetist / vocals and very funny front man, with Chris Wigley – trombone, Pete Oxborough – clarinet and saxophones, John Benson – double bass and vocals, Kevin West – guitar and banjo, Tony Wilkins – drums and vocals. This band of top musicians who clearly know each other well and enjoy their own music, conveyed their love of performing jazz by communicating it to their audience with enjoyment and enthusiasm. It was a lovely, lively evening. A stomping start to the weekend.
Next month’s Jazz Night will be Friday, 5th May, and the performing band will be the Selion Swing Band. This is not to be missed as our very own IOG-er Celia Ward will be joining them as their vocalist and saxophonist.
A group of eleven IOGers met at Colchester Railway Station on Sunday for a nine-mile linear walk on mainly good footpaths giving pleasant views along the River Colne. The weather was changeable, fairly cold and overcast but occasional bursts of warm sunshine and we were spared rain – so fine hiking weather.
From the station it was a short walk (Mile 1) through the town centre before entering Cymbeline Meadow, where we found an unexpected display of bluebells between Spring and Baker’s Lanes.
From there we walked across the second large part of Colchester Golf course (Mile 2), marked by public footpath signs on the course and also on the OS Map. Most golfers are fairly OK with this, but they always just look so surprised to see walkers on “their” green. This time we only received one sarcastic comment; I think he thought he was being hilariously funny – but wasn’t.
From the golf course we followed a path that joins a lane that took us around the outskirts of the village of West Bergholt, following it to Cooks Hall farm and then joining the Essex Way (Mile 3).
Our lunch spot was around the six-mile mark, behind the Mill Race Garden Centre in Aldham; it is a nice spot by the River Colne where you can hire row boats.
The walk finished at the impressive, brick-built Chappel Viaduct and we had a well-earned drink at the Swan Inn before walking a few hundred yards up the road to catch a train back to Colchester.
Introduction and pics contributed by Glenys Johnson – trip organiser.
Hartington Hall in Buxton, Derbyshire – http://www.yha.org.uk/hostel/hartington-hall – is a lovely location for a weekend: gentle walking in Dovedale and Biggindale directly from the hostel; outdoor swimming a few miles away (for Torben and Rachael who are in training for the Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon in July, sponsorship appreciated, see details above); endless cycling trails that deserve much lengthier attention; and sightseeing at Chatsworth or Buxton for the less active.
Dales Easter Weekend
Story contributed by David Truzzi-Franconi
Hartington Hall sits atop a hill above the village of Hartington, surrounded by trees hosting a rookery and also home to some mistle thrushes. It was first built in 1360 by an order of nuns called the Poor Clares – Sister Immaculata digging the footings as a penance! It is one of my favourite hostels; the two oak panelled rooms have an assortment of soft chairs and sofas usually populated by figures poring over maps, reading, or staring gauntly into screens searching in vain for a signal.
A large group of nearly 30 of us would split each day into various factions and set out either by car and bus to visit the local attractions or on foot with the usual mix of a shorter walk with pub stops or a longer stride out along and over the Dales: the Monsal Trail, The High Peak Trail and the Tissington Trail which runs from Ashbourne to the quaintly named Parsley Hay Halt – one envisages puppets or an old ramshackle comedian in the booking office (and no, my application was turned down). Some mounted their bikes and set out on along the bed of the old railway line while a few of the more hardy members not only cycled in the Hathersage area but swam in the outdoor pool whilst it was raining! (You may wish to sponsor Torben and Rachel who are in training for their quadrathlon – I think you have to eat a jar of pickled eggs, drink a yard of ale and then do 100 press ups in the dormitory – well that’s what mine smelt like anyway!)
The River Dove lay in the valley and made for some easy scenic walking with dippers flitting from rock to rock, hawthorn in blossom and the woods carpeted in anemones and wild garlic – even wild raspberry in this area! The walk usually ground to a halt at Milldale where an enterprising couple were selling everything a walker could need from their front room shop: from pasties, soup and tea to Compeed and Ibuprofen. The limestone escarpments and undulating countryside formed by lead mining were full of young lambs, the fields scattered with celandine and a series of circular depressions called dewponds, presumably to collect water for the stock on the hills. Walking consisted of traversing fields and then trying to prise yourself through a narrow gap in the stone wall or negotiating a series of stone steps jutting out from it.
It was on a particularly steep descent that Andy found a pink flip flop – it now has pride of place at the centre of his growing collection of discarded footwear, safe in the oak display cabinet at his new home (visitors by appointment only).
Evenings were spent digesting, drinking, chatting, and mulling over the walks leaders had been kind enough to plot and assess – prior to making sandwiches for the next day and starting all over again!
A great start to another year. Thanks again to Glenys and all those who gave up their time to plan and lead the walks etc.
Day two at YHA Hartington Hall:
Story and pics contributed by Christine Bail; map by Lou.
On Saturday morning, twenty IOGers joined Lou and Anne on a leisurely walk of eleven miles starting from the hostel. Paul and Clare were staying nearby since the hostel was fully booked over Easter and joined us for the day.
It was a sunny and rather chilly day with blustery winds. We walked at a leisurely pace which gave people ample opportunity to take in the daffodils and other signs of spring, as well as the lush green hills and fields around us. I noticed that the majority of the fields were rather small and divided by the stone walls typical of this part of England. We must have seen several hundred sheep and their lively lambs that day.
Our first stop was at the site of Pilsbury Castle which overlooked a lovely part of the Dovedale. A sign read that the whole castle had been built from timber – probably after the Norman Conquest in 1066 – and lasted for less than two centuries.
Part of the walk led us along the High Peak Trail which is great for cyclists since there is no traffic. We had numerous stiles to climb throughout the walk, however, which led to several humorous comments amongst the walkers. Along the trail stood a stone shelter, one of several in Europe. It had been given to the UK by Croatia when it joined the EU.
We stopped for ice cream and a coffee at Parsley Hay, a former station at the junction of two railway lines.
Towards the end, around 1.5 miles away from Hartington village, we stopped at the Waterloo Pub in Biggin. One attention-seeking customer had brought an exotic pet to the pub, a white and yellow snake which I identified as a corn snake. It was wrapped round his neck and was sure to attract attention.
A very enjoyable walking day indeed.
Thanks to Glenys our organiser, our committed walk leaders and everyone who helped out; this year’s Easter Trip was a great success.
Eight of us met in the unseasonal heat at the village hall car park in Wickham Bishops which is east of Witham and south of Tiptree in Essex, and for a change everyone was early. This was as well because despite being a walker and from Liverpool where according to her it always rains, Nicola had to be lent a rucksack having arrived with a glitzy shoulder bag – I can say this as I know her well enough!!
We walked through the village, accidentally disturbing a Palm Sunday procession, and across a golf course to the riverside. We were asked to wait while a group of golfers played their tee-shots but after the last one announced that they were all going to play again we made a run for it gaining the riverside path and walking beside the Blackwater and then through woods along a very wide mill-leat. The viaduct is one of two, the second being adjacent on private land, and together they are the oldest standing timber viaducts in the UK at 170 years old (part-restored in 1993 by Essex county council). They are 38 and 50 metres long and once carried the railway line from Witham to Maldon, closed in 1964. Interestingly the best preserved timbers are those in the water. Just downstream was a very large water mill, demolished in 1977. Crossing the road we followed some field paths to the abandoned (and locked) late Saxon church of St. Peter, 1,000 years old. The shade did for a coffee-stop however.
Next to this you can reach the railway cutting which has recently been opened up as a bridleway, running from here to the edge of Heybridge with just one break where two road bridge arches have been filled in. However there are permissive paths (and a churchyard) to get you around the breaks with little road walking. The track bed is mostly wooded and at Langford the old station platform is available as a picnic area (tested!). We joined the canal at a flood-gate where the railway used to cross it on another timber viaduct (there was a 4th one in Witham at one time).
The ‘Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation’ was built in approx. 1790 to join Chelmsford to the sea and provide a deeper harbour for Maldon, being easier to dredge and keep deep than either the original harbour or the river network. As you walk towards the sea it becomes less green and leafy and more industrial, finishing in Heybridge Basin which looks like a mini Ipswich Marina with a few old buildings of maritime origins, an ice-cream shop and two pubs, the Jolly Sailors (sampled) and the Old Ship (not). The weather by now was equatorial.
We walked across the large lock-gates to the west side of the canal and returned to Heybridge by walking along the sea wall path around the headland with views across the sands to Maldon itself. The flats are dotted with old barges that aren’t going anywhere very quickly except down into the mud. The path follows an old earth flood defence that eventually becomes a tour of several company’s private car parks but then the town centre is suddenly reached – and left just as quickly along Wood Lane, a footpath along a sandy track leading back into the countryside and past a fishing lake. A bit of shade under the willow trees (and a porta-loo) led to another stop.
We passed some interesting old farm buildings at Poplar Grove and then walked through a wood completely carpeted with wood anemones, arriving at Gt. Totham Church. Gt. Totham is Essex’s Tunstall, consisting of two completely separate villages with the same name a mile apart (presumably in the same parish however). This village is bigger than it looks and has been subject to new building, either that or we walked around it more than once! It has an old chapel joined to some alms houses, and then a network of narrow back lanes to negotiate before what was then a short road walk back to Wickham Bishops half a mile northwards.
Total distance was about 13.75 miles in 6 hours of actual walking excluding stops and getting lost (once, just before the finish!).
(Recent OS 1-25,000 maps, and even the online version, do NOT show all the railway trail as rights of way; near St. Peter’s church a footpath is shown parallel to it but in fact this has been extinguished and replaced by a bridleway in the cutting. It then runs to the Maldon Bypass at Heybridge village with the exception of 1/2 a mile through Langford where you have to piece a route together using busy roads with no footway and a permissive path parallel to the road that takes you near to the church from which it is road again to the next bridge over the railway).
Facilities – Free car park at Wickham Bishops village hall (NO public loos) almost opposite the Chequers PH (open all day at weekends, food). Village shop, 200 metres. Shade and logs to sit on at St. Peter’s Church. Pub and several cafes at Heybridge village (passed twice). Two pubs and a cafe at Heybridge Basin. Pubs in Gt. Totham are not en route. Just before the end of the walk you do pass two pubs, the Mitre, currently closed, and the Chequers, almost opposite the start (see above). Also a cafe but this doesn’t appear to open on Sundays.
Map of route.
Disused railway line from Witham to Maldon, now the Blackwater Rail Trail.
First lunch stop, Langford and Ulting Station
On the lock gates at Heybridge Basin; built in 1790.
Story contributed by Graham Preston, pictures by Christina Bail, maps of route by Kearton Rees.
It was perfect cycling weather when we set off from Ipswich station on our 32 mile adventure through Suffolk’s finest lanes and villages. Blue sky, wall to wall sunshine yet an air temperature that was just right for not making us break out in a sweat.
Christina had planned a route that took us through Claydon and Creeting St Mary cycling parallel with the A14 on the east side until we reached Stowupland where we ate our sandwiches in the high school sports field before taking well-earned liquid refreshments in the nearby Crown pub.
With the wind behind us the journey to Stowupland was relatively quick and required less of our stored energy; however, the route back along the west side of the A14 through Stowmarket, Needham Market and several cute villages was more demanding.
A slight headwind saw the pace slow down for the ‘first-timers’ but Christina and Kearton were both mindful and chaperoned the group back to Ipswich splendidly.
Though tired, participants regarded the day a success in achieving what was a fair distance that stretched the muscles, intermingled with good company and conversation. And of course the sunshine.
In preparation for her IOG walk along the Broomway (http://www.broomway.org.uk/) on August 6th, on Sunday Miriam organised a small reconnaissance trip to Rochford/Foulness Island in Essex to deal with issues like parking, route, lunch and drink spots, potential hazards and hitches, and general familiarization. This is a vital prerequisite for all new routes, especially one as potentially hazardous as walking the Broomway – an unmarked public right of way over the tidal Maplin Sands off Foulness Island, a restricted MOD testing ground which is mostly closed to the public.
Then onto Foulness Island which is an odd experience: it feels distinctly like stepping back in time – hard to believe it is so close to London. Once a fairly thriving farming community, the island was bought up by the government in 1914 for military testing and its inhabitants – of whom there are only about 140 left – rent their farms and homes from the MOD. The public is allowed to visit on the first Sunday of each month, though residents can sign their guests in at other times. We did a gawping tourist trip on hay bales on a trailer towed by a tractor along the bits of road open the public, which was a lot of slightly shamefaced fun. The farmhouses are reminiscent of Dutch clapboard houses, little has been done to maintain or update anything on the island, the school, pub and post office have closed, and there is a lot of disrepair – a bit like visiting a patch of pre-perestroika eastern Europe. Very quaint apart from the ugly military installations and prominent warning signs.
As the Broomway walk pretty much requires a guide we went to the Foulness Heritage Centre to speak to one whom Miriam had arranged to meet. Unfortunately, a bad back had taken him home early – so fingers crossed that he will have recovered in time to lead the way along the shifting sands in August. Lovely cakes in the tea shop, lovely day out altogether – thanks Miriam. On both counts.
The map was a prominent participant.
Roach River estuary close to Rochford
A moment with the map.
The map chatting to strangers.
Tea and cake at the Foulness Heritage Centre – minus the cake.
Recently renovated sea wall at Fishermen’s Head, the northern end of the Broomway walk. The tide is almost in.
MOD motorboats escorting a pleasure boat under the drawbridge across Havengore Creek to the open sea.