The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
Needless to say this month’s newsletter is going to be somewhat dominated by our recent trip to Scotland. Please see Dave J’s article below for details of his muscle-wrenching & tendon ripping exploits. I, by contrast, had a much more relaxing time, occasionally mopping up the refugees from the relentless Munro bagging and forcing them into dank tunnels and trespassing to look at odd rocks in the middle of farmer’s fields.
Congratulations go out to (if I’m not mistaken) Cressida, Sue, Carol and Maria for scoring their first Munros. Having got a taste for it there seemed to be no stopping them.
As Sue’s article on the back page shows, it is possible to have a CYHA cycling event without getting drenched. Good news for our programme ahead!
NOT MUNRO BAGGING AT ALL
We set off on the Friday night fearing the worst weather possible after a miserable May but were pleasantly surprised - although cold and windy up high with a number of blizzards we were not seriously hampered in what we wanted to do.
Sunday saw a successful attempt on Lochnagar, where a number of the newer members broke their Munro virginity and will remember their first time for years to come. Some of the madder ones (Mike, Lorna, Brigitte and myself) then decided it would be a good wheeze to do a few (4 or 5 I think) more mountains as you can never get enough of it really. So our first day gentle walk ended at about 9.15pm just enough time to grab a quick pint or two down the pub. We did though succeed in completely knackering out Lorna which is quite a triumph!
Monday saw the Munro first timers up for more of the same south of Braemar but as it was particularly cold and windy we curtailed our plans a bit.
Tuesday was a day of low cloud and Mike and I set off to attempt Beinn a Bhuird but the visibility, cold wind and a lunch time blizzard caused a rethink. Discretion being the better part of valour we decided we would rather have an early pint in Braemar rather than walk inside a Tupperware bowl for the afternoon.
This kept our powder dry for the long walk and ascent of Cairn Toul the next day. Again Mike and I were up for maximum walking and managed to persuade Fergus that it would be a good idea although he did not need much encouragement. It was a 7 mile walk just to reach the valley that leads to the Munro and as we turned up the valley we were rewarded by fantastic views of The Devil’s Point, Cairn Toul itself, The Angels Peak, Braerriach and Ben McDui. This required some major picture taking and Fergus was so excited he zoomed off at a rate of knots like a man possessed to get a better view point. The summit was reached and fine views were had.
Mike and I (and others) added a fair number of Munros to our list, although I should point out that we are not Munro baggers, even though we have begun a secret list, it’s just it seems a good idea to do the big hills whenever you can (and list them so you can even more secretly tick them off the even more secret master list at home!)
This walk almost did Fergus in (although he’d deny it) aiding our mission to completely shag out anyone we walked with.
The Borders were very pretty and I was impressed and we had some lovely walks there - no Munros for us non-baggers not to tick off. But we did have two pints of Black Sheep - the only decent pint we had in Scotland.
Unfortunately I managed to completely shag myself out having injured my foot earlier on in the week but this does not count in the mission described above!
Already looking forward to more Munros next year to add to my not so secret list.
At the end of May the club made its annual journey to Scotland and what a holiday it proved to be. I had missed the holiday last year and was determined not to miss this year's. Clive and I left Rayleigh on Friday around midday and drove to Barnard Castle by way of Colchester in order to pick up John S and Sue. We made good time and arrived at Barnard Castle around 2200. This was a lovely hostel in a picturesque setting, which reminded me once again of how nice Northumbria can be. Fortified by a night's sleep we headed up to Braemar the following day, Saturday. It was great to see the Cairngorms again and brought back all the memories of the time we spent at Tomintoul two years ago.
The hostel must have formerly been the house of a local Laird. It was well equipped and very comfortable. The sight of a red squirrel dancing daintily across the balustrade of the hostel's veranda was a delight and the first one I had seen for years. We used the hostel as a base for exploring the local mountains and valleys. Tom, Nigel, Gerry and myself did some Corbetts on Sunday, among them Carn na Criche, Carn na Drochaide and Carn Deara. Nestling in the valleys between these peaks were patches of the once-great forest of Celidon - Cat Coit Celidon. This formerly stretched from Glasgow to Inverness and its vastness was instrumental in deterring the Romans from completing their intended conquest of Britain. Perhaps Agricola himself had once stood near this spot in his drive northwards, contemplating the magnificent mixture of forest and mountain but conscious of the difficulties of losing himself and his army in a land that was now clearly much larger and more daunting than any geographer in Rome had posited. Certainly it was not far from Braemar that he reached his furthest point and turned back, leaving the Highlands and its people to go their own way in history.
The main hotel in Braemar served welcoming tots of whisky in the evenings, and many members availed themselves of the opportunity to try Scotland's most famous liquor. The hotel looked as though it had been there for some time. Maybe it was Robert Louis Stevenson's local when he resided in the village, scribbling away Treasure Island for the pleasure of generations of future readers.
The weather was very good, sunny but not too warm and this set the pattern for the rest of the holiday. A walk up the Linn of Dee proved to be very popular. This, a valley leading away from Braemar, commanded good views of the Devil's Peak (?) as well as providing a busy flight path for the RAF. Two Hercules and a Tornado showed up in quick succession but thereafter left us in peace. The remains of stone houses in the valley were a mute reminder of the shepherds and crofters who once lived here. Perhaps their descendants still farm today in the New World. Another day was spent by Clive, Dave P and myself climbing Lochnagar. This day proved to be the exception, for on top we experienced a minor blizzard and a whiteout. It was quite exhilarating and a useful test of my walking gear. It made me grateful for modern technology: no perforated cagoules or leaking boots that I had had the pleasure of walking around North Wales in as a schoolboy in the mid-70s.
From Braemar we drove down to the Borders to Broadmeadows hostel outside Selkirk. The scenery here is pleasant but very different from the Cairngorms. Rolling hills flanked valleys in which cattle and sheep farms thrived. In the summer sun it seemed like a rustic idyll and far removed from all the congestion and troubles of life in the Smoke. A number of us walked across to Traquair on what must have been the hottest day of the holiday. What seemed at first to be vast crop circles in the heather proved ultimately to be a canvas for artists, and a diversion on the way back allowed us to practice some deductive walking, as the return path proved to be very vaguely defined. A trip into Selkirk enabled us to enjoy some local ale as well as to see the Court House, where Sir Walter Scott, the Borders' greatest son practiced as magistrate between writing Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, Waverley and the rest of his brilliant output to keep the creditors from his door.
A sight that will stick in my mind is of the five or six parascenders riding the thermal on the ridge tailing down from the Duchesses' Drive above Broadmeadows. They seemed to circle so effortlessly and in such unison with the elements that it seemed as if we were standing on the set of a well-choreographed film.
A great week away - I am looking forward to the next one!
Keeping Our Cool on Sunny Suffolk Sunday Cycle
A ‘gang of four’ defied the growing suspicion that CYHA can fill the nation’s reservoirs just by going cycling. It paid off. The ride through Suffolk countryside was sunshine all the way.
We started off at Dedham Mill, a place of much interest to me, since apparently my great-great-grandfather, George Duckling (no, don’t laugh!) was miller there in the nineteenth century. Well, there were still plenty of ducks on the mill-pond as we crossed the river and rode past water meadows made famous by Constable. Leaving the Dedham Vale behind, the narrow, high-banked lanes provided us with plenty of climbs, exhilarating downhill stretches, and some lovely views over undulating countryside.
Breaking with the tradition of getting at least an hour’s ride under our belts before refreshments, we stopped for a breather at Polstead. Such was our thirst that we decided to wait for the Cock Inn to open its doors, an event that was clearly imminent, judging by the army of locals sitting in the pub garden. The delay gave us time to shiver at the fate of poor Maria Marten, a local woman treacherously murdered by her lover in the Red Barn early in the 19th Century. William Cauder paid for his crime by being executed, and flayed, his skin being used to bind the record of the court proceedings. But the sun was too warm to stay chilled for long by this grisly tale.
A few more miles and we were cycling through a ford and into the picturesque village of Boxford. We paused to admire the pretty row of cottages that line the bank of the stream, and to wonder at the audacity of the local character, portrayed in the village sign with his companion, a lion. Famous for their wall-of-death ride, the pair reputedly rode around the village on a combination motorcycle, the lion seated in the sidecar!
A short ride brought us to Groton, where, the heat of the day being now fierce, we felt the need for further refreshment, and repaired to the Fox and Hounds. Groton was the home of John Winthrop, first Governor of Massachusetts.
A mile or so more, and we arrived at Milden. The hamlet’s name is derived from its Saxon past, when local inhabitants, the ‘mellinga’ cultivated ‘melde’, a nutritious weed commonly known as ‘fat hen’. The second highest point in Suffolk, from here we looked down towards Lavenham, its church just visible in the distance. Milden’s St. Peter’s Church is a delight. An avenue of laburnum trees was planted here in the 1920s. We walked through a golden tunnel, the flowers just starting to fall, carpeting the path and showering us with petals. Inside, the church’s coolness was refreshing after the heat outside.
Restored, and ready for more hills (and we needed to be!) we set off towards Kersey. The tiny abandoned chapel of St James is tucked out of sight, but worth a visit. The heavy old door bears a sign, warning visitors to take care of ‘little fingers’. We all heeded it, and managed to go in, and out, without any crushings of any parts of our anatomies. Whew! Never know what dangers you’ll face next with this lot!
After that excitement we agreed that The Bell was a good plan. Besides, we needed something to stiffen our resolve to get up Kersey hill. The village is another of Suffolk’s prettiest treasures, ancient houses bordering its steep street, its church standing high above the village. A ford cuts across the road at the bottom of the hill, adding to the village’s charms, and gives a cooling splashing for hot cyclists willing to risk it. Some of us did. Lovely.
The standing start at the foot of the hill on the other side was less lovely, and just when we thought we had reached the top – there was more, and even steeper. Still, with the prospect of a return visit to the Cock Inn we met the challenge. Not sure if so many pub stops is quite within CYHA cycling regs, but we thought that we should stick to the precedent set on the last two rides, when we all got a soaking, by making sure this one wasn’t completely dry!
Please send any comments on these pages to Dave Plummer