Category Archives: Past Doings

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.

Robin’s Blackwater Walk – 9th April

Pics and story contributed by Robin Richardson; map reproduced from OS Maps. © Crown copyright. 2017.

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.

 

Christina’s Stowupland Bike Ride – Saturday 8th April

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.

 

Roach Valley Way, Foulness Island Recce Walk – 2nd April

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.

As the Foulness Island part of the walk is planned for the afternoon, we began by taking in a section of the Roach Valley Way along the River Roach estuary – beautiful views and plenty of birdlife – see map of route above (reproduced from OS Maps, © Crown copyright, 2017). Sandwiches in a pub garden that shall remain nameless as they weren’t entirely happy about it despite drinks being bought (don’t blame them, really) – this will not be the lunch spot when the big group is doing the walk.

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.

 

Steve S-M’s Orwell River walk – 1st April

Story by David Truzzi-Franconi. Pics contributed by Torben Wood and Chanakan Kwan Natnuea.

The walk started from Pin Mill and after a safety briefing – where Steve pointed out that as there were no railings around the coast at this point caution should be observed – the group set out at a brisk pace in order to meet the 11pm ferry at Shotley Gate, passing the houseboats and Butterman’s Bay. This was a transhipment point for large vessels before the river was dredged to Ipswich and, indeed, importers of butter awaited lighterage here!

We cleared the wooded stretch and set out onto open salt marsh arriving at Shotley in good time to consume a variety of mocchas, lattes, macchiato etc. The foot ferry operates via Harwich so as to cross the shipping lane at right angles, disgorging its passengers via a ramp on to the beach at Landguard Point – we stormed the beach with rucksacks held aloft to keep our sandwiches dry! Skirting the docks we passed Steve’s haulage company and had to run the gamut of lorry drivers trying to exchange their ignition keys for a sandwich. Their piteous cries were soon left behind as we ascended Fagbury Cliffs, stopping for lunch at Trimley Nature Reserve set in the marshes as an Ipswich bound tanker was taking the flood to the medina at Cliff Quay.

Negotiating the boatyard at Levingstone Marina one of our number halted the group to check some chafing from his boot; Andy applied a bandage to no avail and it was decided to shoot the victim. The report from the group’s revolver was soon reverberating across the river whilst we waited for his body to stop twitching – before sliding him under an upturned dinghy. Each of us now proceeded more keenly, aware that a minor slip could prove fatal!

The tide was now out and so we stepped out along the foreshore at Nacton before coming inland to climb to the Orwell Bridge up a steep flight of steps – rewarded by some stunning views down river. As the bridge crossed the mud flats I idly wondered how far I would penetrate if I jumped off – and continued negotiating the detritus thrown from passing vehicles on the narrow footpath. Descending from the bridge on the south side is not easy: you are confronted with a steep grass slope with a few wooden slats set into the ground to check your progress.

Dusk was approaching as we cut across country and found ourselves in Woolverton Marina and on the home run to the Butt and Oyster pub (c. 1456) at Pin Mill, eventually releasing our feet from their bonds, supping a pint and dining on a light repast of boiled puppy and crispy invalid.

An excellent day of brisk walking with only one casualty!

[This was adapted from the coroner’s report – the deceased has not been named until his family have been informed.]

Phil’s Boyton Walk – 25th March 2017

Map of route

Contributed by Phil Wilmot

Seven brave souls from the IOG ventured even further east than usual on Saturday 25th March in order to join Phil, his brother and three friends for a walk around the hamlet of Boyton. The weather was far better than it might have been: bright sunshine and clear blue skies, though with a stiff breeze particularly near the river.

We walked from the crossroads on the western edge of Boyton along the road to the village, and past the Mary Warner Homes. These almshouses were built in 1736 with funds bequeathed by the eponymous heiress Mistress Mary Warner, in order to house “six poor men and six poor women”. We then used a footpath that gave a good view of St. Andrew’s Church in order to reach Laurel Farm, before walking a short distance along roads through Capel St. Andrew in order to reach the footpath that follows the driveway to Butleyferry Farm.

Before we reached the small shed on the bank of the Butley River that is used as the terminus for the ferry, we turned to walk parallel to, but some distance from the river, along the Suffolk Coast Path over Burrow Hill, from the approximately 15 metre summit of which there was an excellent view of both the river and beyond to Orford and Havergate Island. We then continued to Butley Low Corner and thence to Five Cross Ways. Jayne, who knows the area, had hoped that we would find the grounds of Butley Priory open, as they occasionally are so that visitors could enjoy the expanse of daffodils, but sadly we had to make do with glimpses from the lane.

After walking along paths through fields we arrived at Butley where, to our surprise, we were able to obtain sustenance from the Oyster Inn which had reopened after a break of several years on the previous Sunday. Then, after a very short distance along the B1084 we turned roughly eastwards along Mill Lane, in Butley, from which, with the help of Phil’s secateurs, we again accessed the Suffolk Coast Path in order to reach Butley Low Corner. We thought that we might as well ‘do’ both the ‘Corners’ while in the vicinity, so this time we returned to Burrow Hill via Butley High Corner.

Having approached the foot of the hill from the west on the outward journey, on our return we turned east in order to reach the west bank of the Butley River, and then walked southwards along the river to Banters Barn Farm. As we turned away from the river bank in order to reach the Farm we could see Boyton Dock, from where several thousand tonnes of fossilised bones, mistakenly referred to as coprolites, were exported as fertiliser during in the 19th century.

We then joined The Street that leads through Boyton and back to the crossroads, passing en route the junction of with Mill Lane, in Boyton. This leads to Boyton Hall Farm, which was the northernmost point of Sarah’s Shingle Street walk on 18th February.

The walk was a little longer than anticipated. Dave Ohlson’s app gave a distance of 19.4 km, which equates to about 12 miles in proper units of distance, but Phil’s rather more low-tech methods suggested more like 10½ miles.

Catrin’s Daffodil Jaunt -18th March

On Saturday Catrin escorted a group of walkers on what has become an annual circular 5.5 mile walk in Bury St Edmunds to view the fabulous display of daffodils on offer this time of year.

Beginning from Wyevale Gardens car park the route went north to the Abbey Gardens and St Edmundsbury Cathedral and then onto Hardwick Heath returning via Nowton Park.

The lime avenue in Nowton Park, planted around 1880, provides a marvelous skeletal frame in spring for the 100,000 daffodils blooming beneath the trees. Planted in 1989, the two species of daff – for those interested in such things – are King Alfred and Magnificent.

The rain held off, and the daffs were indeed both regal and magnificent. A lovely day out.

Thanks Catrin for organising the walk once again.

Lee Valley Weekend – 10th-12th March

Contributed by Sarah Sheppard

Five of us arrived at the Lee Valley Youth Hostel in Cheshunt on Friday afternoon, joined by two others on Saturday. Lee Valley Hostel is split between the main building and five accommodation lodges, each of which has a self-catering kitchen on the ground floor, where Glenys cooked us a lovely meal on Friday evening. Kate, Glenys and I had an eight-bed dorm to ourselves on the first floor, with a balcony that looked over the park. Dave and Andy were in a six-bed dorm opposite, sharing with an Australian guy also called David.

On Saturday, while Dave and Glenys went off towards London on their bikes, Kate, Andy and I started a 14-mile walk by following the River Lee navigation north. It was warm, and a great day to be out exploring the Lee Valley. We stopped for lunch in the lovely yard of Nazing Church then headed back across Nazing Golf Course and skirted through the northerly part of Epping Forest. Finally we headed back to the hostel through Lee Valley Park, passing through the wetlands.

We woke on Sunday morning to a cloudy day, but thankfully without the rain that was forecast. After breakfast and checking out, we all drove to Epping Forest. Stopping by the visitors’ centre, where we picked up a leaflet for a six-mile route to Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, we started our walk through the forest. We passed by the lovely Connaught Water before stopping close to the Hunting Lodge to eat our lunch. We then followed the route back towards the visitors’ centre and to our cars in order to head home.

It was a lovely weekend away; thanks to Robin for booking us in even though he was unable to make it in the end. There are lots of water activities near by, including the Lee Valley White Water Centre that was used for the Olympics. It might be nice for the group to return to this hostel in the future, perhaps in the summer, in order to make use of some of these facilities.

Contributed by Glenys Johnson

Lee Valley was a revelation – acres of lakes with bird hides and fishing so near to London. Dave and I cycled along the towpath on Saturday, past houseboats and pubs on the waterfront and the Olympic Park to Victoria Park in Hackney. Had to cycle back fast as it was getting dark and we didn’t want to fall in.

Jayne and Jen’s Cattawade walk – 5th March 2017

Contributed by Glenys Johnson

Only six intrepid walkers met up at Cattawade car park by the river on Sunday for a walk organised by Jayne and Jen. It was raining at the start, which is discouraging, but it soon dried out for a bright if cloudy afternoon. The walk route (see the OS app. map above) went via East End and Bentley Wood to East Bergholt, returning via Flatford and along the river back to Cattawade. It was about 7/8 miles long – perhaps a little more (note the detour when we took a wrong turn!).

We stopped for a welcome tea break at Old Hall, the rambling, well-run commune in East Bergholt where Miriam lives – always a great experience – and saw the newborn lambs, the most recent born the night before. (Apologies for slightly incomplete map – my phone battery ran out; the route took us east along the river back to the car park.)

Spring plowing at Old Hall

 

Julian’s Newbourne Walk – 5th March 2017

Contributed by Julian Parker; pics Sarah Hollingham

A select group defied a gloomy forecast and were rewarded by watery sun and 4 birds of prey (kestrel, marsh harrier, sparrow hawk and a red kite). Some navigational uncertainty led to a thrilling river crossing, the team pulling together in stirring fashion. With muntjac, snowdrops and primroses (not yet in flower) we all went home happy.

Join us on the next one in three weeks.