Chelmsford YHA Group


The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group

April 2007

A Walk in the Woods

At Shining Cliff hostel

Having had a superb February trip to the continental finery (and bars) of Bruges, March saw us going back to basics in the secluded Derbyshire hostel of Shining Cliff.

The weekend didn’t get off to a very good start as a broken down bus on the A14 delayed most of us for about an hour. Friday night was saved, for one car at least, when Dave’s sat nav guided us to the very doorstep of the Ambergate Chippy. Thus fortified, we attempted the last couple of miles to the hostel. We moved onto narrow country lanes, then past the farm it was a bumpy mud track. Spotting the car park was challenging: it was a bit of the track a little wider that the rest. Luckily, Chris & Janet had already arrived and their car acted as a beacon for us. From the car park it’s a 10 minute hike through the woods to the hostel, so we loaded up with luggage and set out, wishing the bloke in the chip shop hadn’t mentioned anything about the Blair Witch Project. Again we were grateful to Chris and Janet as after 10 minutes the lights of the hostel gleamed out from behind the trees.

The hostel is a small brick built building nestling under a cliff, half way up the side of a steep wooded valley. The morning revealed the cliff not so much shining as green and mossy, but a superb location. A couple of miles away in the wood are the shattered remains of an old yew tree. Formerly the home of Luke and Betty Kenny, charcoal burners from the late 18th century, 8 children were raised in the hollow trunk and a hollowed out branch was apparently the origin of “rock-a-bye-baby”. This was the start of our day’s walk, which continued out across the fields and along the Cromford canal to High Peak junction. This impressive route saw us walking alongside a canal, above a railway, above the road, above the river with all four interweaving with aqueducts, viaducts and rail bridges.

Sunday started with impressive blizzards blowing up the valley, a fabulous sight from the comfort the hostel, but a daunting prospect for walking in. We started back at Cromford, walking to Matlock Bath and the Black Rocks. Needless to say we picked an exposed location and the heaviest snow shower of the day for our lunchtime picnic.


Cromford Canal Shining Cliff hostel Robert on the Cromford Black Rocks

See a few more pictures from our Shining Cliff weekend

Border Patrol

The sun was shining, the grass rising and the birdies tweeting when 5 of us met at the car park in Flatford Mill for an 8 mile walk in Constable Country. After a short stop in the sun to wait for our Kiwi returnee to find his was around those confusing rural Suffolk lanes, we all headed off with a spring in our step.

Following the river valley along the county boundary between Essex and Suffolk we meandered our way to East Bergholt where we had our sarnies in view of the church.

This church is unusual in that is has the only medieval bell cage in the country. Containing five bells, the cage dates from 1531 and was probably built as a temporary structure. The bells are the heaviest peal of five in the world and were rung by hand, until a terrible accident in 1999 ended the practice. There was no ringing for 3 years until they were made safer, and the bells are now rung (by hand) every Sunday morning. The need for a bell cage stems from the lack of a church tower: Church construction began when England was a Catholic country but when the reformers took over and removed parish wealth, East Bergholt's tower was never built.

The Haywain at Flatford Mill

After stopping at the local public house for some refreshment we continued along the valley, returning to Flatford in time to enjoy some coffee, tea and cakes at the NT teashop (it’s a hard life, eh?). Once sated, we said cheerio to John and Charles before the remaining four headed off to Dedham where another pub awaited our custom. Sitting out in the beer garden it could have almost been summer had it not been for the biting March wind.

Our return to Flatford followed the Stour yet again and as some of our party were wind assisted (DJ), we made good time back to the cars.

Thanks to Dave J for organising a splendid day and to all who turned up after an hours less kip on the first official day of summer.                 


The Woman in Black

A scary time was had by all at the Civic Theatre’s fabulous production of “The Woman in Black” by Susan Hill. An atmospheric ghost story set in lonely marshes in north east England, where  a dense fog can creep in from the sea at any moment, accompanied by the screams of the dead. It certainly makes you think twice about being caught out on the marshes after dark!


See also Jim's New Zealand Blog

Please send any comments on these pages to Dave Plummer