The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
Up on the Downs
It was one of our Kent Sunday walks when we first spotted the Octavia Hill bunkhouse near Toys Hill. We thought at the time it would make an excellent base for a winter weekend away, and luckily Cress was able to book it for us. Whilst not quite as luxurious as our last National Trust bunkhouse, it was warm and moderately well equipped. The best bit was the location. The Kent hills are rather lovely wooded slopes interrupted by great views and beautiful villages. Our Saturday walk included Toys Hill itself and an excellent bit of ridge. The weather had been forecast as a bit on the damp side, but held off nicely. However we were struggling to find somewhere sufficiently sheltered for our lunch. When we got to Ide Hill we found a rather nice looking foodie pub called the Woodman. Not holding out much hope, Cress asked at the bar if we could eat our sandwiches on their benches outside. Surprisingly they said it was OK provided we were taking a drink from the bar (or possibly we were sufficiently unsavoury that they didnít want us hanging round inside). I have to admit the menu looked really tempting, but there was no time for stopping in pubs: we were heading for Emmetís garden and the National Trust tearooms there. The tea room had obviously had a hard afternoon with crushed kiddie snacks mashed into the cobbles, but they did have cake and they did have tea Ė who could ask for more? The weather was still holding up well, so we ventured round the garden before heading back to the bunkhouse for a shower and Chrisí delicious chicken dinner.
Sunday dawned with a substantial frost, but still the weather was better than forecast. We started our walk at Westerham. It was a bit slithery underfoot in places, but another gorgeous walk taking in rolling green hills. This time we finished early enough to take a tour of Quebec House, the home of General Wolfe. Not only did we learn all about the Battle of Quebec, we enjoyed cookies in the kitchen made to his mumís own recipes. Doug also had a go on the Generalís harpsichord. Plus we had another excellent tea shop opportunity by Churchillís statue in the town square. A splendid way to spend a November weekend.†††††††††††††††
Thank you Jim for organising a great Sunday walk. Starting at Great Waltham village hall the walk took in bits of the Essex Way and the Saffron Trail: some of the nicest walking in Essex. The weather was quite astonishingly mild, which resulted in us having to lug around our winter woollies rather than wearing them.
It was always our intention to have a late lunch, so the pub was booked for 2pm. Iím not sure if it was hunger that drove us, but we finished the walk in super fast time, arriving at the pub half an hour early. This meant that the previous sitting were still on their puddings, so we had an extended wait at the bar drooling over the menu before we could be seated. It was worth the wait and we had a really excellent lunch, some of us even tempted to the full three courses. Yum. By the time we had done all this is was pretty dark. Luckily all we had to do was stumble back up the road to the village hall car park.
This proved to be quite a cathartic event, with a chance to whinge about pretty much everything that annoys us in modern life. The problem was not so much disagreement as the fact that we agreed on so much it was desperately hard to select a winner Ė a prime irritant. Out went Essex mud, flashy Christmas lights, even Johnís Gauloise cigarettes. Dave Jís cheap tat nearly made it as a total waste of the earthís resources, but the outright winner was Dougís emotionally blackmailing chuggers. Absolutely no one loved a chugger, although a few of us doubted Dougís role as a vulnerable pensioner.
Happy New Year
Greetings from a rather damp new year in the Brecon Beacons. Iíve not really had time to write this one up before publication, so expect a few highlights in the next newsletter. Mud, rain, hills, teashops, beer and evenings around the wood-burning stove in our cosy bunkhouse. Needless to say we didnít get washed away - well, not quite.
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