Chelmsford YHA Group


The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group

April 2011

A Palace fit for CYHA

Group at Palace Farm, Kent

After a chilly trip to Canterbury at the end of January, what better than a return visit to Kent! This time we were nestled in the chalky downs at Doddington, staying at the aptly named Palace Farm.

We arrived on the Friday night with time enough for a visit to the local pub to sample their excellent range of real ales. At closing time we made our way back up the hill to the hostel. Dave and I were one of three couples staying in the newly renovated barn, surrounded by the smell of new carpets and freshly sawn mdf.

Our Saturday walk was from the hostel and up onto the chalk hills surrounding the village. We passed through some beautiful Kent villages with quaint cottages and tempting pubs, through woodland and orchards, and vast fields full of knobbly flints.

We made it back in time for a civilising round of tea and biscuits, before settling down to chicken provencal and a massively generous portion of apple pie & cream. In fact there was so much cream that some of us were able to enjoy luxury porridge for breakfast the next day.

For Sunday’s walk we decided a trip to the seaside would be nice, so we headed off for Faversham. Faversham is a pretty town, an old port populated with Thames barges and boarded fishing sheds, plus the occasional tea room. Our walk took us along the Saxon Shore Way, out past the old Gunpowder Mills and Davington Priory onto Oare Marshes. At this point our pace quickened, if only to combat the chill breeze blowing off the North Sea. As lunchtime arrived, there was nothing for it but to duck behind the sea wall for a bit of shelter, but it was still pretty nippy. The solution was to cut our walk slightly short by catching the train back from Teynham. This way we had enough time to pop into a tearoom for a therapeutic cake & coffee before returning home.



Shepreth Walk

Thank you to Marion for organising a most enjoyable walk from Shepreth to Harlton, taking in an uncharacteristically hilly corner of Cambridgeshire. Our efforts were rewarded by a particularly nice Sunday lunch at the Hare & Hounds – tempting some to a three course extravaganza. Delicious, but unlikely to be walked off on the return leg!

Pancake Night

And thanks Jane and Gordon for hosting our Shrove fry up, mildly confusing George by shifting to the traditional Tuesday from our more usual Wednesday slot.

A Tale of Two Islands

Recently, I flew to two very similar, but equally contrasting islands for a bit of winter sun and walking, or so I thought...

Last November I spent a week on Gran Canaria with Explore, and this March I was on Madeira with Exodus.

Both are volcanic islands off the coast of Morocco, of similar size with 6000 foot peaks in the middle, but Gran Canaria is semi-arid with red-brown soil and cacti, and the only grass you see is on golf-course, while Madeira only 200 miles to the North is lush and green and even has the sort of cloud forest you may expect dinosaurs to appear from.

On both, you need a head for heights to do the walks,  as the paths are along cliff edges where you look up and think "is there really a path up there?", or along Levadas (irrigation channels) cut into the mountain side with a steel wire between you and a few hundred feet of daylight. Even the roads are not for vertigo sufferers, but to compensate, the views are spectacular. A torch comes in handy as on both, we walked through tunnels carrying the irrigation channels, only on Gran Canaria the path is actually in the water rather than next to it.

On Gran Canaria, my Spanish was fine, while on Madeira, Portugese is very similar, but different enough to need my phrase book, although much Portugese sounds like Sean Connery trying to speak Spanish - oh, and "push" means "pull"*.

The Madeirans like their fish to look like fish, even if they then put a grilled banana on top of it and serve it with school dinner vegetables, while the Canarians prefer their seafood to be of the mollusc or cephlapod persuasion which meant I could have my Pulpo Gallego (Gallician Octopus) which I'd missed out on in Gallica itself, and Puntillas de Calamar (literally Squid Florets) - whole baby squid done like whitebait. On both, food and drink prices are reasonable, even with the current lousy £:€ exchange rate.

Now the biggest contrast of them all, on Gran Canaria, I was in short sleeves from getting off the plane at La Palma, until touching down at East Midlands a week later, while a last check of the forecast for Funchal on Madeira showed maybe I'd better pack a fleece, hat and gloves, all of which were worn, even in the hotel bar. We had sun, wind to the point where all my horizons in the first day's photos are cock-eyed, horizonal rain, and real, genuine snow. The snow was such a novelty, the locals drove up the mountain to see it, got stranded and had to be rescued - it even made the Portugese national news. The weather redeemed itself for the last couple of days in Funchal though.

I'd recommend either, and I think Madeira normally has much better weather than I experienced, so for 3½ to 4 hours flying, you can escape the British winter, even it it's only for a week.                


*actually spelt "puxe" but pronounced "push".

Please send any comments on these pages to Dave Plummer