Chelmsford YHA Group


The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group

December 2007

Dreaming Spires &
Shrunken Heads

View from St.Michaels Tower, Oxford

What else could I be talking about other than our trip to Oxford back in October.

The weather forecast for the weekend was far from thrilling, but as it turned out we did rather well. We had the company of old members Trudi & Debs, which was a treat. They’ve not been on many trips lately, so it was lovely to see them. However Trudi gets a black mark for breaking the record on “latest anyone has ever booked on a trip” as she rang up just 2 hours before we were due to set off.

Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

Saturday dawned grey, but bright, so we set off from the hostel for the short walk into the city. Most of us succeeded in withstanding the shopping temptations of the pedestrian zone and headed up the Saxon Tower of St Michael for panoramic views over the rooftops and out to the surrounding hills. Next stop was the Pitt Rivers Museum - described in one guide book as “like looking through Indiana Jones’ attic”, we simply couldn’t resist.

Natural History Museum, Oxford

The Pitt Rivers is situated at the back of the Natural History Museum and you have to go through one to get to the other. The Natural History Museum is bathed in light streaming through a glass ceiling held high above on a decorative iron skeleton. By contrast the Pitt Rivers is dark, with thousands of exhibits crammed into small, Victorian-style cases. It has so much stuff I could imagine going there every day for a year and still see something new! There was a fascinating section on tattooing, wigs and foot binding and an excellent section on early medicine, including some whimperingly evil looking tools. However, the two things the museum is best known for are the witch-in-a-bottle (looked like an empty bottle to me, but some people will buy anything!) and the shrunken heads of the title. Trudi reckoned one of the heads was a split for Bernie Ecclestone of F1 fame.

Exploring Oxford

The evening saw us sample the curried delights of “Chutney’s”, on Colin’s recommendation and, apart from the waiter’s repeatedly getting our order wrong, I must say the food was excellent. We wound up the evening in one of Oxford’s best ale houses in the company of Snow White & his seven dwarves (it was a stag night do) and a rather butch sleeping beauty (an excess of ale, I suspect).

Pub, Foxcombe Hill, near Oxford

Sunday saw us out on a healthy walk, out among the hills that surround Oxford. In fact at one point we’d have had the perfect view of the dreaming spires nestled in the valley, if it hadn’t been so foggy. We’d have succeeded in getting all the way round the walk dry, if it hadn’t been for a refreshing drink at the last pub.  The last half hour back to the cars saw us getting drenched as the weather that had been threatening all day, finally arrived. Still, worth it for that last pint!



Annual General Meeting

Thanks to all who came to the AGM. To all those who couldn’t come, you will be glad to hear that the committee were re-elected with no change other than the addition of Helen Baggett. Also the proposed changes to the constitution were approved.

Other topics discussed included ways to attract more members (numbers having fallen a little), a recommendation to buy Fair Trade tea and coffee, and non-discrimination against the disabled. As well as the usual statistics on tea bags and sausages consumed, the treasurer’s report included a calculation of our carbon footprint for the first time. It was also agreed to increase the membership subscription to £20 per year to cover our regular costs.

See the full minutes of the AGM


Walking with Christmas Trees


Being asked to go to the Czech Republic this August on business, it seemed a shame not to try and fit in a few days hill walking.  The factory I was visiting was in Trinec reasonably close to the Polish and Slovakian borders and on the edge of the Beskydy mountain range.

The region is a paradise for walkers, mountain bikers and skiers and wonderful in that there are chalets near the top of many of the big hills where you can get refreshments or even spend the night.  It is possible to hike from chalet to chalet making them your accommodation. 

For my few days walking I was based a little closer still to the borders in Jablunkov.  A nice little hotel at £20 per night., buses at 25p, the food staple and beer 60p a pint.  My only trouble really was that the main road went right past the hotel with border crossing juggernaughts going regularly past the door.  Even on very hot nights I could not have the window open due to the noise.  Who are SungWoo HiTech s.r.o anyway?

Walking was T-shirt weather and hot most of the time.  The first day it was a visit to the place where the three borders meet via a 839m hill called Girova.  A full day in the sunshine I was glad of extra water both near the border and at Girova on the way back.  Lovely rolling countryside with 3 obelisks marking the 3 countries.

Day 2 was walking in the Primeval forest of Monsai with bears, wolves, biggish cats and the most marvellous fir and beech trees.  I’m not really into the habits of bears and wolves but wonder if they keep to quite tight territories.  Although there were notices, even little children were allowed to wander round provided they kept to the Trail and away from the Out of Bounds areas.  Not being allowed near the summit (towards 900m) I took the opportunity to go up the hill next door afterwards - a stout stick in hand !

Day 3 was my big one.  A wonderful ridge walk to the 995m Velka Cantoryje with its observation tower on the top.  A lovely hot day with fantastic views at times.   I walked past several ski slopes and chair / drag lifts on the Polish border that reached to the top of the ridge, and was again grateful for extra water at the summit and at another chalet!

Day 4 it was the largest hill in the region famed for its numerous ski slopes and paragliding.  The 1031m Javorovy.  An amazing experience in that due to the broad nature of the hill route and the marvellous trees it seemed like a walk in the park.  A lovely day however turned to thunderstorms after lunch and a fairly quick decent from the top glad I had packed some waterproofs.  While there was little wind - the rain!

Apart from being able to get a map initially, I guess my main concern was its accuracy and how closely I could follow the marked routes.  Bold coloured lines on the 50,000 map tended to wander a little at times, and marks on the trees didn’t always seem to agree.


Stephen  Cartwright



Holding Back the Flood

Thanks go to Helen for organising a splendid visit to the Thames Barrier. This proved to be very topical as it was the Sunday after the whole of East Anglia was in imminent danger of a tidal surge. The excellent guide took us round the interpretive centre and described how the barrier works, with the aid of various models. There were super photos of the barrier at night, the barrier when it’s closed and the downstream flooding that closure of the barrier causes (so don’t buy that property in Thames Gateway!). There were also pics of an unfortunate dredger which crashed into the barrier in dense fog. Fascinating stuff, however the guide was a little cagey about whether closure of the barrier had ever actually saved the City from flooding, so it probably hasn’t ….yet! But having gone from a couple of closures a year when it was first built to five or six now, that day is probably fast approaching.


Canary Wharf and the Dome Thames Barrier Thames Barrier


When a visit to the Thames Barrier was suggested a few months ago no-one could have predicted such a surge of interest, helped by the fact that dangerously high tides were predicted which necessitated the raising of the Barrier just 2 days before the day of the visit as a precautionary measure. What better advertisement could there have been?

Sixteen of us poured into Woolwich, a virtual tidal wave of Chelmsford YHA members, and pitched up at the visitors centre café for a quick coffee before beginning the tour. Following a 2 minutes silence in remembrance of those who have fallen in wars and conflict around the world we flowed down the steps leading to the museum. Our gushing guide inundated us with interesting facts and figures relating to the Barrier and we all stood transfixed by the deluge of information. After a rather cheesy but informative video of how the Barrier was built and with our brains overflowing with knowledge, we all flooded out of the museum to get an outside view of this amazing structure.

Ripples of hunger were passing through the group as we all headed back to the café for a warming cuppa before heading back to the cars to enjoy our packed lunches. A small number trickled away at this point which is a shame as they missed a fabulous walk beside the Thames led by Mike and Cressida. We all heaved our sandwich-heavy bodies up to the Thames Path where we quickly got into our stride, passing the Dome and some spectacular views of Canary Wharf. Who would have guessed that such a walk could be so interesting? With raging thirsts we streamed into the only pub on route, where we downed beer and fizzy pop to the fantastic sounds of the 60’s.

As we all waved good bye to each other at the end of the day, all were in agreement that a swell time had been had by all!

[How many ‘water’ references can you spot? Answers not on a postcard to me please!]

Helen B.

On the Thames Path Night Scene Barrier by Night

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