The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
Oast Houses, Castles and Submarines
Our February weekend trip took us to YHA Medway in Kent, a converted oast house in Capstone Country Park.
Friday night most of us gathered at the “Wagon at Hale” pub, just half a mile up the road from the hostel – where some of us ate and drank rather more than our New Year diets should have permitted. Plus, back at the hostel, George was sharing out some very nice “Polish Flat Cake” (we found out afterwards that it was flat because Robin accidentally sat on it in the car).
White and Cold
Saturday morning – sharing the hostel with a Youth Symposium (which none of us seemed to be qualified to attend) – there was some contention for breakfast space, but we managed to avoid the rush by having a bit of a lie in. When we eventually set out, although it was cold and grey, a dusting of snow brightened up the country scene.
Down in the Docks
We chose to spend Saturday at the Chatham Historic Dockyard, which had lots to keep us entertained for the day. Being a virtually open air museum it was a chilly experience with flurries of snow throughout the day. Luckily there were cafés dotted around the site where you could grab a warming soup or life-saving cup of tea. Some of us had a go at rope-making in the Victorian ropery (the longest brick building in the universe, or something like that). The highlight for many was a tour of “The Ocelot”, a 1960s submarine in dry dock. In service, we were told, it would have had a crew of more than 60, but it seemed quite crowded enough just with our group of 13 crawling through the hatches and inspecting the captain’s toilet.
A new “digital theatre experience” gave us an overview of 18th century ship building and naval tactics, followed by a chance to see the fascinating “ship beneath the floor” – the timbers from HMS Namur which were found hidden below the floor boards, for reasons that are still a mystery.
The Great Bigos
While most of us went back to the pub on Saturday evening for a small aperitif, George was slaving away in the kitchen to produce splendid Polish-style sauerkraut stew. Very tasty – also it got a thumbs-up for authenticity from the hostel warden (who was Polish).
On Sunday, Cress led us on a town trail around the city of Rochester, taking in the cathedral, the castle, and the various locations associated with famous local people, from Charles Dickens to Rod Hull (and Emu). Climbing the castle keep provided fine views of the River Medway, complete with the rusting Russian submarine, the Black Widow, which is now moored there.
Up to Upper Upnor
An interesting afternoon walk, following the Medway downstream, took us past another castle, at Upper Upnor, to a pub at Lower Upnor for some refreshments before our return home. A great weekend - especially good for submarines and castles.
London E17 may not be the obvious choice for a day’s walk, but Trudi is now living there and she invited for a tour on a Saturday in January. The whole area is much smarter than it used to be; the historic sights of Walthamstow Village were especially pleasant in the sunshine. Our tour included a visit to the Vestry House Museum, a former workhouse now housing local history exhibits including the 1892 Bremer Car – claimed to be the first British car. Other sights included the imposing Town Hall and Assembly Rooms and the amazing ethnic diversity of the market. Filled with rice and peas from a great value lunch at the Caribbean Jerk Hut, we spent the afternoon at the William Morris Gallery learning about the artist, designer, craftsman, writer and socialist who was born in Walthamstow.
Altogether a good day out. And of personal significance to me – we passed the place of my birth, and spotted a picture of my father in the museum!
Winter Sunshine in Maldon
Thanks to Chris for leading a fine walk around her home town of Maldon on a particularly sunny February day. She pointed out the local sights: Thames barges at the Hythe, the famous salt works, Heybridge Basin and the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation, and the remains of Beeleigh Mill. Finishing with a drink at the historic Blue Boar Inn, a characterful local hostelry where the owner told us about the restoration of the building and the discovery of a secret passage leading under the road to the church.
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