The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
When Dave first mentioned using the Lee Valley weekend to cycle into London, I thought it sounded like a great idea. Even when he suggested cycling from Saffron Walden to get to Lee Valley YH, I thought: “30 miles, I can do that”. I clearly underestimated the challenge!
We set off on Friday morning with a route that started off in the chalky highlands of north Essex before following the course of the River Stort into Lee Valley Park. We first joined the river at Bishops Stortford, close to the remains of Waytemore Castle – a part of the town we’d never seen before. Our route used the tow path, but the path quality was a bit variable: from slightly bumpy tarmac to fish-tailing through thick mud. It was exhausting. We took a break at The George in Little Hallingbury for a light lunch involving sausages and a medicinal quantity of ale. Thus fortified, we did give the tow path another go but it defeated me somewhere short of Harlow and we were forced to take to the roads. Apparently this meant that it was my fault that Dave’s 30 mile route became 40 miles. What with the slow off-road sections and the longer route, the sun was setting as we reached Lee Valley park. About a mile from the hostel Dave and I simultaneously got punctures, so we walked the last bit.
Due to a re-fit of the kitchen our room at the hostel wasn’t ready, so our late arrival didn’t really delay us, just allowed us time for another beer whilst we were waiting. This whiled away the time until Mike & Cress arrived and we had a super-quick turnaround to make it to our dinner booking at a Cuban tapas restaurant. And a bit more beer.
Saturday started off a bit drizzly, but this had pretty much stopped by the time we had fixed our punctures. Now accompanied by a small posse, we set off through the park following the River Lea. It was a fairly stiff headwind, so progress was not as fast as expected. Our first stop was in the Olympic Park, where we stopped at the Copper Box for coffee and cake, and a timely puncture repair for Marion. From here on the route was a little more enclosed, which helped with that lethal headwind, but it was still a late lunch that we had at Limehouse Basin. The city-side of the river featured quite a lot of industrial heritage and striking graffiti, but with the wind now behind us the return route was a breeze. Afternoon tea was at the White Water Rafting Centre, just round the corner from the hostel, and we had the opportunity to see rafters fighting for their lives whilst we enjoyed our flapjack.
It was with some trepidation, and a sore posterior, that I mounted my bike the next day for the ride home, but this proved to be the nicest ride of the lot. We really must organise a ride round Nasty and the Hadhams for when I’m not so knackered.
Three Done Roman
A small but select bunch of teachers or ex teachers decided not to cycle from Lee Valley Hostel, but instead to take advantage of our proximity to the city of London and walk the remains of the Roman Wall. The wall was built in AD 200 and runs in a defensive arc from Tower Bridge round to Blackfriars and encloses an area of 330 acres. We began from Liverpool Street in the fittingly named London Wall, where John Maton retailed us of his knowledge of the area when he used to work for British Rail before his travels to work abroad.
We found many well preserved sections of the wall, despite the massive cross rail project, which forced us into several detours, and we particularly enjoyed the sections near the Barbican, where we found some remains of watch towers (hence the name Barbican) We visited St Giles and the Physic garden of the Barbers Hall, where the Barbers, who were also surgeons at the time, grew their health giving herbs.
A detour took us to the Guildhall, where London's amphitheatre was discovered when building the new art gallery. You can now visit part of the excavations. After lunch we visited the Guildhall itself, set to as if for the Lord Mayor's Banquet. After returning to our wall walk, we reached the Thames, where we enjoyed the views across the river until we reached Tower Hill and the wall again. We passed the Monument to the fire of London, the Old Bailey and Bevis Marks Synagogue until we were back to Liverpool St and the train to Lee Valley. A very interesting and enjoyable city walk through London, yet so quiet you would not believe it! So Caroline, John and I have walked 2 Roman walls now, London and Hadrian's.
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