Chelmsford YHA Group


The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group

November 2004

Lost in Medway

YHA Medway

In a terrifying weekend of trainspotting, a fruitless search for Tescos and armed invasion by the German SS, it was amazing we made it back to Essex alive! But never-the-less our Kentish trip was a raging success.

We arrived in dribs and drabs on Saturday evening at the converted oast-house that is Medway hostel. Rose was one of the earlier arrivals, but discovered to her horror that toothpaste and brush had been forgotten. Thus started an intrepid foray into the Medway one-way system to find a Tescos. The rest of us snuggled up to steaming cups of tea whilst Tom got regular updates on Rose's progress. Thanks to a helpful bus driver, Rose eventually made it back us, clutching a toothbrush and a tape of traditional Turkish music.

Eurostar, Rochester

Saturday's walk was selected from a host of books brought along by Helen and appeared to be a homage to the absent Ian, as much of it involved walking close to the Eurostar railway line. A host of tragic train photos were a result. The weather was a tad drizzly for much of the day and a slightly heavier spell forced us into the pub at Wouldham. The village seemed to be having a fete and our arrival coincided with a procession of floats. Normally this sort of thing is a means to extract cash from innocent passers-by, but here they seem to have done it for the fun of dressing up. For some reason the children were mostly dressed as superheroes and their dads as schoolgirls - I think it must be a Kentish thing.

River Medway

Sunday saw a slight splitting of the teams with a fair slice of us electing to spend the morning at Fort Amherst. Imagine out surprise when we arrived to find the German SS parading in the car park.. We were assured that it was all part of a re-enactment for some cable channel, but it was eerie touring the chalk tunnels under the fort to the ring of unseen jackboots.

The afternoon saw us all meet up again for a walk from Upper Upnor on the Hoo Peninsula A splendid, even sunny, walk alongside the estuary, watching the boats go by.


Mammillaria Bocasana

Cacti & stuff

I hope everyone enjoyed my talk on cacti. I'm not aware of anyone nodding-off, but it is a subject I tend to get a bit carried away on. On our recent trip to Madeira, Dave and I were excited to see huge Dragon Trees, Aloes and Agaves along with Prickly Pear actually in flower. Nice as it is to grow your own, it's wonderful to see these things in the wild, even where they're not native. Ali

Colne Valley Walk

Many thanks to Dave C for inviting us on this walk with the Ramblers. I gather the discipline with start time, pace and length of pub stop were not quite what we're used to!

The Mangrove Swamps of Hampshire

Highland Water, Brockenhurst

Burley hostel in the New Forest was our most over-subscribed weekend for ages; we even had a few brave people camping. We had plenty of opportunity to test our waterproofs on Saturday's walk, but even in the rain the autumn colours in the forest were spectacular.

Bolderford Bridge, Brockenhurst, New Forest

On Sunday the weather was brighter and a few energetic individuals hired bikes to try out some of the excellent off-road cycle routes. The rest of us walked along the river from Brockenhurst - not all that easy because the river was flooded making the forest seem more like the Everglades. But we managed to pick our way between streams, puddles and newly-formed lakes without too many wet feet!

Dave P

Job Swap at the Top

The well-attended AGM held on 20th October saw Jim elected as Chairman and Dave J as Secretary (swapping their previous roles on the committee). Mike has joined the committee, Trudi and Marion have stepped down, and the other members of the committee were re-elected to their current posts.

Corsica - The Scented Isle


I spent my summer holiday this year on Corsica, France's Mediterranean island. I first heard about the island at school when my history teacher briefly touched on Napoleon. Later on, other references to Corsica turned up when I read the Count of Monte Cristo and some tales of the Foreign Legion. By the time I graduated it has become one of the destinations on my list of places to visit. Looking around at holiday brochures this Spring I noticed that Explore did a trekking holiday there, and so after a bit of delay while I weighed up my options for the Summer I put my name down.

The morning of August 15th saw me at Heathrow, from where I flew to Ajaccio, the island's capital. The view as we approached the island was magnificent, with green and grey towering peaks sweeping down to the azure-blue sea. Our party was transferred to a hotel and then we spent the rest of the day walking around Ajaccio. This proved to be a delightfully unspoiled place. The core of the city retains its distinctive 18th Century appearance to the extent, I am sure, that Napoleon and Dumas would be able to find their way around today without great difficulty.


The Bonaparte connection is very much in evidence in Ajaccio and, we later found, throughout the island. The house of his parents is a magnet for tourists, and busts of the man himself abound in the city. Times have changed for he was not that popular here in his lifetime (When he abdicated the locals heaved his statue into the sea). Now however he is a local son made good and the man who put Corsica on the map. Most people have very mixed views about him but nobody can deny his place in history. Most of Western Europe and Latin America still use his Code Civil legal system. And it was he who ordered the first survey of the Sinai by canal engineers and founded France's civil and political institutions which exist today.

Corsica today relies mainly on tourism for its income. There is very little industry, which annoys the locals but does help the island to retain its picturesque landscapes. Most Corsicans are of Italian origin and have Italian surnames. They have their own language, which is similar to the Genoese dialect of Italian. There is still some agitation for independence, but the violence of the 1970s has now subsided. The only signs that independence is still an issue for some Corsicans is the occasional painted slogan.


From Corsica we travelled up by bus to the mountains, which run in a spine from north to south down the island. Starting at the small hamlet of Bocagnano we hiked to Corte via Vezzavona and Venaco. The trail we followed was an old transhumance trail used by shepherds for centuries. Peaks soared all round, and mountain streams and lakes abounded. Swimming in the latter was very refreshing but not for the faint-heated : they are fed from the mountain peaks and are amongst the coldest lakes I have ever swum in.

Corte, the island's original capital, is geographically and historically at the very heart of Corsica. The town has never been large (today it around 6000) but it has played a vital part in the cultural and historical development of the island out of all proportion to its size. Europe's first written constitution was drafted here (1760s) by the patriot Paoli, and it was around Corte that the most ardent Corsican nationalists made their last attempts to retain their island's independence from France. The houses in the town are picturesquely clustered along the sides of a rocky outcrop dominated by an ancient fortress. Most householders can open their doors in the morning to a wonderful view of soaring peaks flanking the narrow Tavignano Valley.

From Corte we trekked through the Tavignano Valley. The path followed narrow ledges and passed abandoned bergeries (shepherds's huts) to the Sega Refuge, a hostel that uses donkey trains to bring up supplies as there is no road. From here we headed north through similar terrain to Calacuccia and then eastwards to Col de Vergio. The path used Mediaeval stone bridges and at one point a road that Roman engineers had hacked into the mountains when the Caesars were trying to garrison the wild interior (they never succeeded). We observed pigs swimming in a glacial lake at Col, which must disprove the idea that swine cannot swim.

From Col we headed east to Piana and the Calanches, a jungle of granite pinnacles rising up to 400m above the blue waters of the Golfe de Port. The cliffs here have been bizarrely chiselled into fantastic shapes which range in colour from red to yellowish pink. This area of Corsica's coast is on the UNESCO list of SSSI locations. At Piana we stayed in the last of a succession of gites and hostels.

Piana marked the end of the holiday as after this we bussed to Ajaccio for the flight home. A good enjoyable holiday. Exodus also organise a holiday there, and a quick search on the Internet will locate others.

I have posted some photos on my website at :

Other photos may be seen at

Toursit information on Corsica may be found at

There is a reasonable precis of Napoleon's life on

John Maton

Please send any comments on these pages to Dave Plummer