Chelmsford YHA Group


The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group

April 2006

Breaking the Ice

Church at Audresselles

I may have been a bit premature with last month’s headline welcoming in the Spring as this March has been the chilliest for 20 years. Still it doesn’t stop us! We just pull on the thermal undies and try to keep that upper lip stiffened.

We’ve been frozen in France, drenched in Newport and frozen again in Layer Marney. We’ve stretched our intellect at Family Fortunes and our bowstrings in Danbury. Please see the articles below and on the back page for details of our exploits.

I’m always looking for new blood for writing Newsletter articles, so please feel free to come forward with your jottings. We take long articles and short, silly and serious – in fact anything that might interest your fellow readers. For next month I’m looking for articles on the New Forest, the canal walk or anything worth sharing with the group. A paragraph or a page, poetry or prose, I’m dying to hear from you.



SpeedFerry approaches Boulogne

Our late February trip to Boulogne-sur-Mer was notable for the icy weather and lazy wind, cutting right through every layer straight to the bone.

Friday afternoon saw the first flurry of activity when Tom, on his way to join Dave’s group, had the misfortune for his car to break down. A couple of frantic phone calls, a drive across Saffron Walden and three volunteers to push, and the crisis was averted (at least until after the weekend!). Speeding down to Dover, by dint of careful planning, we had just enough time for a creamy cappuccino before Helen and Gerry arrived. Whilst waiting to board the ferry, heading towards France the home of haute cuisine, what else could we do but line our stomachs with a precautionary layer of chips. Once on the ferry it was a question of keeping our fluid levels up (very important on these foreign expeditions) with beer and more coffee.

It was late afternoon when we arrived in Boulogne and after locating our Hostel, our minds inevitably turned to food. It is important to be well provisioned, so we took both cars to the local supermarket to fill with nosh. Choice was abundant and early on we abandoned the idea of sliced bread for a baguette-style packed lunch. As this is France, you couldn’t buy baguettes in the supermarket; these would have to be purchased each morning fresh from the bakery. So all we had to shop for were two lunches (not including the bread) and an evening snack for six people. Somehow we still managed to fill a trolley, mainly due to Gerry getting over-excited by the cake bars and Helen’s theory that two fruit flans are way better than one. It was soon evident that we had bought more food than it was humanly possible to eat in one weekend. But you know how we like a challenge!! After a modest repast, we hauled ourselves outside for a stroll round the town before bedtime. Quiet, dark and peaceful (at least compared to any English port) it even started to snow.

View from the gun Cap Gris Nez GR120 coast path

Saturday dawned clear, bright and icy cold, so we sent Helen out on a baguette hunt whilst we dressed and gathered for breakfast. Tragedy was averted by a kindly fellow guest, who seeing Helen frozen on the doorstep clutching her baguettes (having forgotten the key-code to get in), was nice enough to let her in. So if you are a murderous psychopath trying to get into a French Youth Hostel, now you know how!

Atlantic Wall museum

After the hostel breakfast we settled down to tackle the filling of the baguettes. This proved to be a monumental task as we were unaccustomed to the dimensions, and hacking about with a sharp knife was required to get them into manageable chunks. Cheese, ham and lots of cake bars and we were set up for a days walking.

Batterie Todt WWII gun emplacement, Haringzelles

Cunningly Helen had purchased a walking guide written in French, so the rest of us were mere pawns in her hand as we walked out from Audresselles to do a stretch of the GR120 along the Opal Coast. As this bit of the coast is pretty much opposite Dover, we weren’t that surprised to see the remains of WWII gun emplacements – but they were huge! And there were so many of them. The remains of Hitler’s “Atlantic Wall”, it made a lovely walk very poignant.

In spite of a lunchtime stop at a handy bistro (Yes, we did still eat the baguettes. We only went in for a warm up, honest, but the ham & cheese toasties sounded so nice..) we finished the walk chilled to the bone. As the sun set we headed back to the hostel for a quick shower/bath/rub with a damp cloth, before heading out on the town for a well-deserved meal.

Boulogne old town

As vegetarians are harder to accommodate in carnivorous France, we left the choice of restaurant to Gerry. However the boys were delighted when he picked a place with frogs legs on the menu, as for some Bon appetit unaccountable reason they were dying to try some. Three courses and a good quantity of wine later, we were all satisfied and ready for the short stroll back to the hostel and our comfy beds.

If anything Sunday was colder than Saturday, so we picked a walk a little way inland to miss the worst of the wind whistling up the Channel. From the charming small town of Colembert, we walked up to a wooded chalk outcrop overlooking the surrounding fields, with views over to the coast where we’d been walking the day before. Once in the woods we again saw remnants of the German occupation with a number of bunkers presumably to back up the coastal defences. With no bistros in sight we were forced to eat our baguettes sat on a small embankment just below the woods, whilst Gerry forced additional cake bars on us.

Near Colembert

All too soon it was time to head back to the UK. We’d had a marvellous time and recommend the area to all. It’s a bit like Dorset or the South Downs, only with nicer food and that exotic foreign touch.



From our website guestbook:

Name: Les Ros-Beefs 

Country: France:Boulogne

Date: Fri Feb 24 21:03:45 2006 

Comment: Bonjour toutes. We qre hqving q lovely tine in Frqnce. The food hqs been excellent qnd Dqve qnd I neqrly exploded. Getting out of the hypernqrket cqrpqrk zqs fun; couldnt zork out hoz to operqte the lift qnd getting out of the cqrpqrk zqs even nore fun. Hqvz gone zqy over usuql budget for food - Dqve zould be so shocked - - oops here`s here zith us....PS ze`re not drunk it is this French keyboqrd. 

The Twin Towers of Layer Marney

Layer Marney Towers

Many thanks to Fiona for leading us on a splendid walk in a corner of Essex we probably don’t visit often enough.

The walk started with some 19 of us hogging the car park at Layer Marney Church. The sun was out and the sky was blue against the orangey-red brickwork of the church and it’s rather posh neighbour, Layer Marney Towers.

Whilst booting up in the car park we had a visit from Gareth and his no.1 child, Rosie. Gareth and his partner Karen were members of the group back in the mists of time, so many of you won’t know them, but it was lovely that they remembered us fondly enough for Gareth to cycle over and say “Hi”.

The walk itself started following the edge of the Layer Marney estate, along fields and woodland and past a curious dome-shaped structure we took to be an ice-house. We then followed lanes, bridleways and footpaths until we got to our lunchtime destination in the Old Crown Inn, Messing. Some beer, a top-notch meal and a generous supply of puddings later and we were re-fuelled for the walk back.

The route passed through the gently rolling north Essex countryside taking in quaint old villages and of course the mighty Marney Towers themselves, all in  the golden sunshine of a chilly winter’s day. A wonderful day out for all.

Family Fortunes

A quiz with no requirement for intellect, just a basic understanding of what the average Joe thinks – or, as we discovered after some head scratching, what the average American Joe thinks. The questions are asked and teams predict the most popular answers. Cressida did a marvellous job as compere and I was particularly pleased as my team won (by lots!).



Archery at Danbury

It was a chilly Sunday morning that saw 15 of us meet up at Danbury Outdoor Centre. At least 14 of us did as John was experiencing some navigational difficulties and was a little late. Our instructor, Bruce, gave us some bsic instruction: like which way up to hold the bow, where to put the arrow, which way to point it, stuff like that. Next we were set on the targets.

At first it wasn’t too bad, the targets were only a few metres away and most of us managed to hit them most of the time, but Bruce was a hard task master and made us put them further away.

The final rounds had us attempting clout archery. This is where we fire arrows up in the air with the vague plan of aiming at a pole a hundred or so yards away. This proved to be a great leveler, but even so Helen B was the runaway winner.

Please send any comments on these pages to Dave Plummer