The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
Very English Autumn
I think it was that hot, dry spell back in September, but this year’s autumn colours have been absolutely stunning. We had our first real taste on our trip to Tanners Hatch. For starters the hostel is buried deep in a beautiful woodland in the Surry Hills. Lots of beech trees, lime and sweet chestnut, all busy turning a delicious shade of orangey brown. The footpaths were covered in drifts of kickable leaves and verges were scattered with cities of fungi. The weather was suitably misty, so the views were more atmospheric than panoramic. However, on Sunday afternoon the mist cleared to reveal blue skies and low golden sunlight, plus we were treated to stunning views from the North Downs Way across to Leith Hill. Not a bad way to finish off October.
Oak trees always seem to be one of the last trees to turn in the autumn. There were a few oak trees in the Surrey woods, but if you want to see them in their full glory you really need to go to Epping Forest. Luckily, this was just what we had scheduled for November. The first week of November was marked with some wet, blustery weather designed to make bonfire celebrations particularly challenging, but with a massive stroke of luck the weather broke on the day of our Sunday walk. Waking up to blue skies and sunshine, it was no surprise that this was a really popular walk. On the down side this meant competing for spaces in the Forest car parks with everyone and their dogs.
Once safely parked up at multiple locations, we all met at Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge. From here it was a splendid walk through the woods to tea at High Beech. No cities of fungi, but some spectacular individuals to brighten up the forest floor. You couldn’t really say it was peaceful though: mountain bikers, dog-walkers, small children walkers – all competing for space on the woodland paths and hoping not to get lost.
Arriving back at the Hunting Lodge, we quite fancied some tea and cake, but Butlers Retreat had customers queuing out the door. Hoping that it might subside, we deviated over to the new forest exhibition. We’d hardly got started on the history of Epping before we were told there was Tudor music being performed in the Lodge by a group of local school children. Without particularly high expectations we trouped over to bulk out an audience of proud parents. We need not have worried, the kids were really good. A full recorder orchestra with pipes of every size from teeny-tiny to something that resembled a bedstead. The resulting tunes were lovely, and a 500 year old timber-framed building was just the place to hear them. Concert over, we returned to Butlers Retreat for the long-awaited tea and cake. Yum.
Tanner's Hatch Revisited
At the end of last month, we revisited Tanner's Hatch hostel, an old CYHA favourite, after an 8 year gap. Tanner's is back-to-basics, off-grid hostelling, you leave the car and walk ½ mile down a track, to a pair of nearly 400 year-old cottages nestling in the woods. Despite being only a few miles outside the M25, the main sound is owls hooting, with a diesel generator accompaniment.
The autumn colours were spectacular as were the view from Box Hill, although we had to imagine the view from Leith Hill as it was foggy for much of Sunday. We walked about 11 miles both days, using "British Plummer Time" to get an early start on Sunday and get back in daylight.
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