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 Nazmin, text by Julia Capon
Phew! just made it! Although Friday evening walks are always going to be a rush after a long week at work, they certainly pack a punch, as the latest trip to Melton proved.
A group from the IOG of about 15 members met at the car park near Melton station for a five-mile walk in the area. We promptly set off, led very ably by Christina, for a short distance along the Deben River before crossing back across the main road to a fishing lake and past some blackberry bushes laden with early fruit. We then proceeded along a variety of country paths and lanes, passing some amazing thatched cottages – one even had an outdoor swimming pool!
As we walked on, we came upon a beautiful church where we stopped for a few minutes for a refreshing drink. After passing more wonderful houses and another church we arrived at the White Lion pub in Ufford which, had the night not been drawing in, would have been a great pub for a mid-way drink.
Shortly we came to a bridge: the perfect place to pose for a group photo! A bit further up-stream a member of the group thought they saw some otter tracks and scrambled down the bank for a closer look, alas all that was found was an old set of swimming goggles!
We then came across some very upright, straight trees which turned out to be willows – used for cricket bats. Eventually we surfaced from the beautiful countryside back onto the main road and ended a very fine walk at the Wilford Bridge pub for a swift drink just as the sun was setting…
Five of us met at Manningtree Station for 10am. It was one of those magical, blue summer days with enough sunshine and breeze to make for really good walking weather.
The walk incorporates the Essex Way and follows the Stour Estuary. The terrain was varied – a feast for the senses. We walked along the sea wall; traversed already harvested crops and formed an orderly line through still ripening wheat fields, paddling at Wrabness after our lunch stop.
As we walked through Manningtree, Miriam shared the historical information about Matthew Hopkins who in the early 17th century was (unofficially) the Witchfinder General in East Anglia. We also stopped to admire the Mistley Towers, which were part of the Church of St Mary the Virgin built in the 18th Century. Both ports are historically significant for brewing, and that unmistakable whiff of brewing hops and yeast was evident.
We walked on the sea wall, saw and heard a variety of different wading birds, ducks, geese and swans. The beach huts at Wrabness were gorgeous, with families making full use of the summer days for BBQ’s, fishing, swimming. We made sure we left the beach at the most convenient spot to continue our walk.
We made a special stop at the house of Grayson Perry in Wrabness – a site of architectural and artistic interest, and certainly worth a visit if you’re down that way. The house / chapel was designed by Grayson Perry to house his own art works and represent the character and qualities of Essex where it is situated.
The smell of the sea and refreshing wind were evident as we walked the last few miles through waving fields of gold and onto the sea wall towards Harwich. We had clocked up about 18 miles at this stage, and this is when the walking boots begin to pinch and the promise of a pint of something cold and refreshing are the motivation to keep going. And we did.
The pint of shandy went down a treat, and we caught the train from Harwich International back to Manningtree. A thoroughly satisfying day’s walking. Thanks Miriam and Co. for making it memorable.
p.s. It was also lovely to see some IOG members I hadn’t seen for a while. That’s the beauty of this group. You show up when you can for something that grabs your attention on the programme. It doesn’t matter if it is six days or months or even years since you’ve been. We’re always pleased to see you.
It felt like a well-deserved ending to yet another full-on work week serving the public in Ipswich and nearby villages. I arrived in Claydon early enough to enjoy a, mhmm, mediocre beef roast dinner at The Crown, part of the Hungry Horse chain. The roast beef slices reminded me of a microwave beef dinner I had some time ago, not proper meat, really. Yet I like the pub; it’s cheap and cheerful and has a large beer garden. It is always busy with families feeding their noisy and at times messy offspring with chips and burgers. Some food always seems to end up on the floor, I noticed, picking up another large chip.
Then it was time to meet my fellow walkers at the designated spot on Old Ipswich Rd. I was pleased to find that ten IOGers were joining my amble of around two hours. The path led us up a hill and past what was an old sand and chalk quarry, according to David. We walked past several farms, taking in Akenham Church, as well as fields with horses and corn fields where several tractors were still busy harvesting. We were lucky, after a cloudy beginning, that the evening sun came out during a big part of the walk. To me the area is a fine example of rural Suffolk with well: marked footpaths and very popular with dog walkers given the unwelcome evidence left on the paths we used.
Most people were happy to join me for a drink in the beer garden of The Crown afterwards. We had a great time, chatting and enjoying sitting without our coats well into the evening. It did rain in the end, but by then people were ready to leave. I very much enjoyed the good company and walking in this lovely area on a Friday evening.
Map contributed by Sarah; words and pics by Marie-Louise
This was a lovely short walk of about 5.5 miles that convened at the free parking behind the Red Lion in East Bergholt and took a circular route along quiet paths and lanes with some wonderful scenery and Stour River views.
We stopped for lunch at Flatford in the heart of Constable country – it’s always a thrill to stand where the artist must have stood when devising The Hay Wain (recently voted England’s second favourite painting after Banksy’s Girl with a Red Balloon – which puts Constable in his place!), though the actual painting was executed in his London studio.
Apparently, in the interest of art rather than accuracy, Constable shortened the roof of the cottage – leaving Willy Lott and his family with rather less space than they thought they had. Flatford Mill and Flatford Granary are both iconic buildings overlooking the Stour, while a pleasant spot to unpack the sandwiches is the Flatford Wildlife Garden which is run by the RSPB. Abuzz with bees and butterflies, it offers plenty of inspiration for creating a wildlife-friendly garden of your own; the flowering oregano in particular was smothered in happy feeders.
A few of our number.
The threatened deluge was a sprinkle or two – very refreshing.
Like Brown’s cows…
As usual, the company was good and the walk was well-planned and relaxing. Even our youngest participant seemed to be having a good time and keeping the ‘old folk’ entertained.
Twelve IOG members met up at The Chequers in Great Blakenham for an evening stroll on Friday. After some gentle persuasion we left the pub and headed off on our walk which began with a detour through the new housing estate on the site of the old cement works. This was a last minute diversion from my planned route due to overgrown verges and road work signs blocking the way, but it was nice to have a nose at what was there.
Once the housing estate was negotiated, we started along a track between the industrial estate and the recycling/landfill site. We didn’t make it as far and the old chalk pits which is actually quite a site to see (another time maybe) as our route cut off into a small wooded area. We then came out onto a track past Cottage Farm, which I have since discovered is actually part of Blakenham Woodland Gardens (www.blakenhamwoodlandgarden.org.uk).
From here we headed off over fields towards the main road, where we stopped to forage for blackberries (there had to be some food involved somewhere on my walk as someone joked later!). We then crossed the road and headed back into the fields, chatting to some horses on the way and seeing a small bush covered in caterpillars (sorry Nick, I can’t remember what they were called).
After safely crossing the railway line, we made our way across the fields to the river path, with the Energy from Waste plant in our sights. The route took us through quite overgrown hedgerows, under the main road, and under a fallen tree at one point, but we safely made it to the road bridge between Great Blakenham and Claydon and on to the fishing lakes at Barham Pits where there were a few fishermen about .
Energy from Waste plant
Energy from Waste plant
We then crossed back over the river, went under the railway line and carried on alongside the river back into Great Blakenham, through the churchyard and back to The Chequers for well-deserved refreshments.
Great Blakenham quarry
Across the fields to the river.
This was the first time I have arranged a walk with the group and all seemed to go well; maybe I’ll do another one in the future.
[Ed.: and for some reason the usual arrows have not appeared on the carousels – but the pics can be shifted using the cursor to drag them.]
Assorted doughty individuals collected outside Ipswich station, with road bikes, on a sunny Saturday morning, wondering what on earth Miriam had in store for them. Advertised as a 40-mile excursion, we had every confidence in our intrepid leader’s ability and planning, and set feet to pedals safe in the knowledge that the day would have been planned to the nth degree.
Vicky, Rachael, Boyd and yours truly followed Miriam to Shotley where we clambered onto the ferry to Harwich. Disembarking, we cycled along the sea front to find a quiet bit of beach so that the hardiest of us could venture into the chilly North Sea. The ‘hardiest of us’ excluded Vicky and Boyd, both of whom pretended not to have brought their swimmies!
Lunch on the beach followed, after which we set off towards deepest Essex. I look forward to seeing the route map that may get published along with this poppycock, since some of us spent much of the ride with little or no idea where we were despite our leader having furnished us all with maps in advance. Happy to simply let Miriam dictate the route, there was, however, much to enjoy. The weather was lovely, the company jovial, and the East Anglian scenery splendid. Nonetheless, letting our leader dictate the route was one thing but letting her dictate the pace was very much another. Slowing down to select lowest gear before reaching every upward slope was simply too challenging for some of her motley crew!
Old Hall afforded a welcome afternoon stop for tea and cake. Miriam had excelled herself with a delicious carrot cake that will live long in the memory. So yummy that we all couldn’t resist a second generous portion, we then staggered back to our bikes and hefted our significantly heavier personages onto our saddles for the cumbersome ride back to Ipswich.
Boyd, who had cycled from Earl Soham, made his way directly home whilst Miriam, Rachael, Vicky and I rounded off the day with an affable beverage at Cult Café on the waterfront. A fitting end to a great day out.
Oh, and one more thing. Remember the high level of confidence we had in our leader’s planning skills? A supposed 40-mile cycle ride proved to be a tiny tad longer. Perhaps Miriam had mistakenly measured the distance with an elastic band rather than a piece of string – add 40% to the advertised length and you will discover the actual distance. Advertising Standards Authority, please note!
Joking aside, a great day out and many thanks to our leader for both her baking and planning skills.
Unfortunately a route map and/or pics have not been forthcoming for some reason but Miriam asked me to add the following: ‘From Harwich we followed Sustrans route 51 to Elmstead Market then took the scenic route back via Manningtree to East Bergholt then on to Ipswich.’
It was a bright and sunny hot day for my walk from Needham Market Train Station to Stowmarket.
Ten humans and two lovely dogs – Hugo, a Schnoodle and Taz, a Poodle. Unfortunately the footpath along the River Gipping was very overgrown in places. So many nettles and thistles everywhere but we fought our way through to then diverted towards Badley Church. Lunch stop here before walking into Stowmarket around the edge of Combs Wood.
On arrival into Stowmarket some folks visited the museum, café or headed home.
Three of us went to the excellent beer festival in the grounds of the Museum of East Anglian Life. Sitting around in the sunshine, sampling some of the 105 beers (mainly local beers) was a nice end to a great walk.
At the beginning of July, twenty IOGers traipsed across the continent – literally by plane, train and automobile – to Le Tour, Chamonix, to stay in a spacious chalet with glorious views down the valley and up towards Mont Blanc. Many thanks to Glenys who once again took on the arduous role of organising the many aspects of a group trip away.
In mind was a week of challenging walks in a beautiful area, lots of good food and drink and plenty of laughs and camaraderie. I can safely say that these goals were surpassed. Even the weather, after a shaky start on the first day, was flawless. A bit too hot sometimes? Round the corner there would be a breeze fresh off a glacier or even a glacial lake – of which, naturally, the loony ‘Anglaises’ took full advantage.
After long days outdoors, we were treated to a series of great evening meals by the various teams, who planned shorter walks for those days to make time for shopping and prep – and an extraordinary amount of food and wine was consumed with a clear conscience after hours on the go. The shopping trips were epic.
Towards the end of each evening conversation would become increasingly animated as people tried to decide what to do the next day: maps were flapped, suggestions made, lies told about the ease with which a proposed walk could be achieved, minds changed, and changed again, voices rose – it was all a lot of fun. And people (mostly) suited their plans to their puff and inclination (in my case mostly the least incline available, or even no incline at all).
As so many different walks were accomplished, I leave it to the various participants to tell their stories – beginning with Anne’s outline of a typical day in the mountains…
A Typical(?) Day for the Chamonix Crew
Words and pics by Anne.
1) Get up, take in beautiful Alpine views from chalet balcony, and enjoy leisurely (generally) cooked breakfast courtesy of Marie-Louise and her breakfast band, including best scrambled eggs ever. Reinforced by plentiful sustenance, pack up lunch and prepare for day out somewhere.
2) Walk/take local bus/local train/cable car up/down/across mountains in local area.
3) Very welcome lunch stops in a variety of locations, most with amazing views.
4) Further walking, eventually finding our way back to the chalet, some via a circuitous route into Switzerland and claims they had been kidnapped by the bus driver, but most via a pub/bar for a very welcome cold beer (or two).
5) Cool down in a nearby plunge pool – a wonderful find in a fast-flowing river a short stroll from the chalet. The temperature literally took your breath away but was so welcome after a strenuous day’s walking in the mountains in high temperatures – excellent antidote to aching legs. Tootling back through the village in swim gear, towelling robes and flip flops provided amusement for the locals.
6) Warm up in the chalet’s hot tub, reflecting on the day’s events, life, the universe and everything.
7) Aperitifs – beers and wine galore. How many wine boxes did we get through?
8) Delicious evening meal provided by a different team each day. Hierarchy of teams comprised chef, sous-chef, sous-sous-chef, Paul. Menus were varied and portions very generous.
9) Entertainment. The chalet had its own home cinema but we preferred to amuse ourselves, quite literally with Glen’s hilarious stand-up comic gig, a French sing-song with Miriam demonstrating her skills on the violin, Miriam and Jayne trying out their newly-acquired cowbells, and a rather sobering British citizenship quiz. Results of the latter concluded that only 1 out of the 20 of us qualified to be let back into the UK.
10) Discuss ideas for next day then fall into bed exhausted but happy/merry/sloshed.
View from the balcony of the Chalet les Seracs
Lunch stop view of glacier
Plunge pool in a stream running down from the glacier above Le Tour
The weather had cleared, so Lou had a cunning plan. We would walk from the chalet up the hill behind us, but not by the direct route. Thus it was that we set off in the opposite direction to climb slowly towards the western end of les Frettes ridge, from where we headed off north-easterly with stunning views across the valley to the Mont Blanc massif. Lunch with a view was taken at l’Aguillette des Posettes (2201m). We then descended slightly to the Col des Posettes before climbing again to our high point of the day at Tete de Balme (2321m). Here we stood with one foot in France and one foot in Switzerland. The return journey was downhill all the way, with a short break at the Refuge du Col de Balme. Our legs took a while to recover.
Lunch spot with a view
One foot in France and one in Switzerland
The long walk down
Day Two (03/07) – Paul & Steve Seek Refuge (Albert Premier)
Contributed by Paul.
You might wonder why we were seeking refuge? Wonderful food and excellent company were available to excess during the recent trip to Le Tour in the French Alps, plus a (very) hot tub. What’s not to like is the obvious question, but Albert had a refuge and we decided to seek it!
Some of our travelling companions had taken the Charamillon gondola and the Col de Balme chairlift the previous day, and then enjoyed [or endured – Ed.] the walk to the Refuge Albert 1er. It’s located above the Glacier du Tour, on its right bank, and is the only shelter run by the CAF Chamonix that can be reached without going on a glacier. At a height of 2,702m, it affords magnificent views of Aiguille du Tour, Grande Fourche, Chardonnet, Aiguille d’Argentière, La Verte, Le Drus and the Aiguilles Rouge. If you’re wondering about the title, it’s named after the King of Belgium, Albert 1st, a mountaineer who died climbing near Namur. Those who had taken the route on the first walking day were so positive about it – and the views – that Steve and I decided we had to see it for ourselves.
After a magnificent breakfast, we set off. No gondola or chairlift for us. Common sense is a quality possessed by many hillwalkers, but not by all of them. Le Tour is at a height of 1,453m, so we had something of a climb ahead of us. Beautiful weather; blue skies and sunshine made for a very rewarding if rather thirsty excursion. Initially, we followed the route of the gondola and then cut off towards the refuge. The path was a little tricky in places and became a bit of a scramble near the refuge, but it was fun and added to the feeling of achievement upon arrival. Being called ‘young men’ by a guide as we zipped past his group made two old codgers feel rather sprightly!
After eating our lunch, we enjoyed a coffee in the sunshine, and bothered a few of the other people also enjoying the location. This included a couple of hillwalkers from the Netherlands (possibly even flatter than Suffolk), an English lady munching her way through the biggest cheese platter ever seen, and an instructor about to take his party onto the glacier (wearing jeans)!
After a baking hot descent, the chalet’s hot tub was very relaxing. A brilliant day was subsequently rounded off by a little alcohol and plenty of bonhomie, plus some wonderful grub (courtesy of the cooking team of the day).
A wonderful trip. Thanks to everyone – the organisers, the chefs, the fellow walkers, and my room-mate.
Day Three (04/07) – Lac Vert Walk
Words and pics by Lou
Lou and Anne made use of their car to drive to the start of this walk in Servoz, the other side of Chamonix from our chalet. The walk was described in one of the books that people had brought, and it looked to offer a slightly different perspective.
We set off through the village of Servoz, taking the old road which rose steeply and crossed the zigzags of the new road at several points along the way. Eventually the road ran out and a forest track took us on towards the lake. The vert (green) of the name comes from the reflections of the surrounding pine trees. We spent a long time waiting for the water to become calm to get a good photo with Mont Blanc reflected but too many people insisted on paddling.
For the return leg, we took the option of following a trail through the woods that was marked variously with pink dots on the trees and wooden boards shaped like snowshoes. It turned out to be easier to follow than I had feared, and the compass was not needed.
A rest spot on the ascent
Lac Vert with reflections
The trail through the woods marked with pink dots
The only snow shoe sign we found
Day Three (04/07) – Le Tour to Vallorcine via Montroc
Words and pics by M-L
This is a sweet, short walk that about twelve of us did in the morning on Tuesday before going our various ways in the afternoon.
Glenys, Dave and I did the same route at the same time last year before taking a gondola ride from Vallorcine up to Col de Balme and then wandering back down through flowery high meadows to Montroc. But last year they had the final snows at the end of June so spring was very late and the flowers were astonishing. This year the brief season was coming to an end, and we passed on the gondola.
We started out from the chalet – X marks the spot- strolled down the hill to Montroc and then followed a short path up to the pretty hamlet of Tré le Champ.
Tre le Champ – and a tempting cafe but we had hardly started
Pausing at the visitor centre midway
The reward for an easy stroll – Vallorcine station restaurant
From there we took winding paths through woods and meadows, pausing briefly at a visitor’s centre en route to try and identify the various animals we had seen from the stuffed versions behind glass, and finished up under some trees picnicking in Vallorcine before a pint in the station café and trains to various destinations.
Not every hike was testing – this one was literally a walk in a park. On the other hand, what follows are two reports on the route to the Lacs des Chéserys taken by two different groups on succeeding (and successful) days.
With Glenys planning a walk to the Lacs de Cheserys, Steve, Paul and I decided to join her. We began with a stroll down to Montroc from the chalet and then took a steep track up to Lac Blanc in 27C heat. My motivation was that it promised an encounter with ibex and some ladders. However, a third of the way up the first section I was becoming emotional at the thought of the task ahead; thoughts of turning back flashed through my mind as I watched Glenys, Steve and Paul stepping out ahead and realised I was the weakest link! But instead we took more breaks in the shade where we could, drinking plenty of water.
[David and I watched their tiny figures from the balcony of the chalet until they disappeared – drinking coffee and enjoying the view. And then I took myself to lunch at my favourite local restaurant: à chacun son gout – Ed.]
As we started to clear the first section the trees thinned and the landscape became rockier; there was also a breeze which reduced the heat. Once I could see the ladder section ahead of us my spirits lifted as this was the first thing I was looking forward to. We stopped for lunch (part one) to get some rest before ascending 12 ladders (we think it was 12, though no one thought to count them at the time) and passing across a tricky ledge with a hand rail. On and on it went till we reached the monument and there standing grazing was an ibex – which was the second thing I was hoping to see and how exciting! Well it was for Glenys and me but Paul and Steve had lunch (part two) on their minds! We had a break…Steve had a nap.
Then we headed off and up to the Lacs des Chéserys and when we arrived we did what most English people would do (except Paul who took photos [which sounds a bit creepy but I’m sure it wasn’t – Ed.]): we stripped off, wriggled into swimwear and got in. Cold but refreshing and amusing to the passing French. Once dry it was up another steep slope to the refuge hut by Lac Blanc. A cold drink was enjoyed to celebrate our 900 metre ascent but not for long as Glenys had discovered that the sign to La Flégère cable car said the route took 1 hour 10 mins, and the last cable car would be leaving in 40 mins.
A quick photo in the snow and then we ran down the hill, rock hopping all the way. As we got closer more people were also running so it became a big race not be left on the mountain to descend the steep 800 or more meters on foot. For us it would also mean a 9 km walk back to Le Tour as we would then miss the last bus. We made it with just 5 mins to spare. What a relief it was to be in that cable car!
And then back to enjoy the hot tub and reflect on what a great walk it had been thanks to our leader Glenys. It was a magical walk and the views throughout were so beautiful that they more than compensated for any effort made.
[The next day Lou and Anne took a slightly abridged version of the same route, and Lou’s report follows – Ed.]
Day Five (06/07) – Ladders and Handrails: Lacs des Chéserys again
Words and pics by Lou
Coming out of the forest
Approaching the Aiguillette d’Argentière
Grimpeurs, with Le Tour in the background far below
One of the ladders
Les Chéserys, after which the lakes are named
Swimming in a lake all to herself
Mer de Glace from the Grand Balcon Sud
This walk started with a dash to the bus stop and finished with a dash to the cable car, much like a lot of our other walks. However, the difference with this one was that it included a section of ladders and handrails – a bit like “go ape” but without the safety equipment.
It started off pleasantly enough, with a long walk up through the forest northwest of Argentière. As we got further up, the rocky crags looked more and more impenetrable. After a rest stop at the Aiguillette d’Argentière watching some climbers, we tackled the echelles (ladders). Some of them were almost vertical and you needed a good grip and an even better head for heights. It made for an exciting route, and soon afterwards we could relax at the Tete des Vents, where they had thoughtfully placed a large concrete cairn for people to shelter from the wind. Luckily there was very little wind this day, and we strolled on to the Lacs des Chéserys.
Anne found a lake all to herself for a very brief (cold) swim. With little time to spare, we missed out the more popular Lac Blanc and headed off down the Grand Balcon Sud to the La Flégère cable car. The views across the valley to the Mont Blanc massif were stunning.
Day Five (06/07) – Taking it easy on the Grand Balcon Sud
Words and pics by M-L
On this second-last day in the Alps, four of us decided to do the section of the Grand Balcon Sud between La Flégère and Planpraz, taking it slowly and stopping to smell the flowers. Sally, Kirsty and Angela all deserved an easy day, having tackled some “tough stuff”; and I personally don’t like any other kind. So we set off at a gentle pace from the top of the La Flégère cable car for one of the prettiest yet also spectacular walks nearby Chamonix (particularly for those who don’t like scrambling over treeless moraine).
It took about an hour longer than the suggested time of two hours and we arrived in Planpraz in perfect shape for a refreshing beer.
And then it was up the cable car to Le Brévent at 2,525m to eat our picnic lunches with our feet (almost) dangling into the abyss of the valley leading down to Saint Gervais les Bains. Ain’t life grand?!
[And then a report from the final group to head for Lac Blanc on the last walking day.]
Day Six (07/07) – Lac Blanc Revisited
Contributed by Karen
I was planning a relaxing end to the trip; a stroll into Argentière, catching the bus to Chamonix for souvenir shopping, back to Argentière in time for lunch with the ladies [see next report] and then on to Le Tour to see the sheep being driven down the valley. I was, however, persuaded into one last trip up a mountain and Paul’s promise of a gentle walk – “virtually flat” – to Lac Blanc.
Four of us set off on the bus from Le Tour to La Flégère cable car station where we ascended to the mid station. Our “gentle walk” started from the top of the cable car and it soon became apparent that I had been duped. It was in fact a climb of approximately 500 metres to Lac Blanc. Paul kept assuring me that we were nearly there and that I’d virtually be able to see the lake soon but we made it in the end and it was a lovely spot. Steve took a refreshing dip before we all had a drink at the refuge. We ate our lunch by the lake before returning down the track. It was too late to do too much else by the time we arrived at the top of the cable car so we had another drink while taking in the views before returning down the mountain. We caught the bus back to Le Tour fitting in another drink on the way back to the chalet – tired but happy.
Not exactly the day I had planned but a good end to the week in Chamonix nonetheless, with plenty of banter along the way.
Day Six (07/07) – Les Grands Montets & Glacier Argentière
Words and pics – M-L
The take-it-easy team assembled again to ‘do’ Les Grands Montets on our last full day in the Alps, sadly minus Angela who went home one day early. From the village of Argentière, we took the Lognan cable car to a height of 1,972m and then got off to traverse the hillside to the Glacier d’Argentière, a short upward slope for breathtaking rewards.
Lognan’s flowery hillsides
From the top of the Grands Montets cable car
Then it was onto the Grands Montets chair lift which took us to a suddenly very chilly 3,300m at the foot of the Aiguille Verte. As we got off we bumped into Andy and Kate coming down – the area was simply infested with IOGers. As they had already clambered down (and then up) the very long flight of metal stairs to sample what is described as “a snowy wonderland” in the tourist bumf, and as we decided, from on high, it looked like a small dirty field of slush at the end of winter, we eschewed that delight and directed our gaze up to the lookout:”That’s just a bit of meccano pinned to a rock,” said Kirsty. Height is a funny thing. 3,300m can make some people ill and dizzy, others experience little effect at all, while I feel – not unreasonably – high. Pleasantly wobbly and giggly. But definitely not up to negotiating “a bit of meccano pinned to a rock” – not put like that. So we repaired to the little snack bar where the climbers attacking the Aguille Vert could be viewed in awed comfort.
Last year I walked the 800m descent into Argentière from Lognan. It was dull, straight and steep, and my knees told me about it for a week. This year the three of us switched from the Grands Montets to the Lognan téléphérique and descended effortlessly into warm, sunny Argentière and actually hurried to my favourite local restaurant, Le P’tit Vert – where, in the spirit of the IOG, we dined outdoors. A delicious farewell lunch of croûte au fromage, followed by an indigenous version of chicken and chips – like no chicken and chips available in the UK – and various wicked puds. This would require a nap in the afternoon to work it off, but first there was the start of the transhumance from Le Tour – when the flocks and herds are driven up into the high pastures for a month or two of gorging on alpine herbs and grasses. This one involved around 1,200 sheep and goats and one donkey – and watching what is an age old routine in that part of the world seemed a very fitting way to say goodbye to a wonderful week.
After the last fortnight’s heatwave and my grave warning to bring our own body weight in water, we met at the agreed time outside Shotley Village Hall to be presented with a cool breezy and somewhat cloudy morning.
Fourteen of us in all and a warm welcome to another two new members, Boyd and Lorraine.
We set off on time at 10 am and completed the first five-mile stretch (Shotley to St Mary’s Church, Harkstead) in very good time, probably walking briskly as it was such a cool start.There was a brief break en route at Erwarton Ness where we sat on a bit of shingly beach.
Our first lunch stop was at St Mary’s Harkstead where we met up with Miriam and a Spanish lady called Christina who is on a volunteering visit at Old Hall. The sun then decided to come out and the humidity rose quickly.
Just after leaving St Mary’s we walked through a paddock with horses which comes to a style and a short section of field before crossing into Lovers Lane. A big boo hiss! to the person who has attempted to block the entrance to the field with a fallen tree. It looks deliberately placed there to prevent access so it is not a coincidence or an accident, but we were able with a little difficulty to climb over it (see photo). Totally out of order!
A brief two-mile walk on the road to Chelmondiston, where we were rewarded with a drink stop at the Butt and Oyster pub at Pinn Mill. It was an interesting spectacle at the pub as I have never seen such a high tide covering the benches and public loos and literally lapping up to the beer garden wall.
Then an approx. five-mile stretch along the banks of the Orwell to take in a magnificent view of the estuary overlooking Felixstowe and Harwich; a pity that by then the weather had closed in again and was fairly cloudy and dark because I have seen the view on a bright and sunny day and it is spectacular.
We said goodbye to Glenn and his friend Simon as they were taking the ferry back to Harwich then walked inland past Shotley Church, where the commonwealth war graves were a point of interest. Finally we strolled back along the Old Hall road to Shotley village hall, arriving just after 4pm. A good day out.
On a lovely summer’s evening, 14 walkers and 1 dog set out from outside the Bristol Arms pub for a walk around the Shotley Peninsular. We headed through the Marina and up the Stour and Orwell path alongside the River Orwell. Once we left the path to head inland, we came to Shotley Church, where we had a short break. Angela’s dog decided that he didn’t want to walk for some parts of the route so he was carried along, either in her arms or in her rucksack!
After our stop, we headed along a quiet road and back onto footpaths where we passed through Viking Forest, woodland that has been planted on land purchased by the local people in 2004. We then came out into a residential part of Shotley and crossed the main road, where we joined another path that took us down to the River Stour. Here we re-joined the Stour and Orwell path back to the Bristol Arms where we said goodbye to those that were heading straight home. The rest of us went inside for a well deserved drink and a further chat and giggle.
While in the pub, we came across a leaflet for the Arthur Ransome Walking Trail. This trail has recently been set up and the leaflet also refers to the geocaches along the trail that our very own Rachael Norris has put in place. Look out for the event on the upcoming programme where we will explore this trail and hopefully find the geocaches that Rachael has set out along the route.
Thanks to everyone that came along and made it an enjoyable evening.