The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
Blue Skies & Stunning Views
Dave often complains that all my newsletter articles feature the weather, but given the blue skies dominating our Holmbury weekend, how could I not mention it?
Situated in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Holmbury St Mary hostel is ideally situated for exploring the wooded hills of the Greensand ridge.
Our Saturday walk took most of us out to the picturesque village of Gomshall with its excellent riverside pub, The Compasses. This was the perfect spot for some late elevensies. For some this was the chance for a tea or coffee, but a couple opted for all the opportunities that following a CAMRA walking route could afford. Shere Drop by the local Surrey Hills Brewery was a particularly fine offering.
Having had a late elevensies, it wasn’t that surprising that we were a little late with lunch too. Having run out of National Trust parkland, we ended up in the corner of an ex-sugarbeet field, but you could see the hills beyond, the sun was out, and we really weren’t in any hurry… Already fairly relaxed, a second pub in the afternoon was still a welcome site. This time it was a pint of Hophead from another local brewery, Dark Star, at the Kings Head just a mile or so from the hostel.
It was late afternoon by the time we made it to the top of Holmbury Hill. Still sunny, the views were magnificent. We lingered for a while, soaking it all in, before heading back down the hill to the hostel. We hadn’t gone far before we met Tom and Helen heading up. Tom and Yasmira had taken on the highest point in the Surrey Hills, Leith Hill, and when they bumped into Helen back at the hostel Tom decided to bag a second summit.
After meandering amongst the various paths in the National Trust woodland (no, we definitely weren’t lost!), we were back at the hostel shortly after 5pm. Several pounds of peeled potatoes later, we were sitting down to a steak pie dinner with lemon cheesecake pudding. Unsurprisingly after a day of beer drinking followed by a large meal, no one fancied the mile walk to the pub, so we celebrated Tom & Yasmira’s wedding anniversary with a toast of hostel-bought beer and wine.
Still sunny on Sunday, we decided to take on the chalky heights of Box Hill. Taking the train from Dorking to Leatherhead, we walked back over the hills on another CAMRA recommended route. The William IV was another charismatic pub, and another opportunity to sample local ales. Ranmore ale is another delicious contribution from the Surrey Hills Brewery.
Sunday lunch was in flower strewn meadows on Mickleden Common and it was all very peaceful until we got to Box Hill. The whole of Surrey seemed to be out with their kites and picnic blankets, but we still managed to elbow our way to the front of the queue for a National Trust cream tea.
Sikhs & Indians
It seems a little odd that we had to travel to exotic Kent in search of such distractions, but that’s what we did. On Saturday morning we gathered at Tilbury and took the foot ferry over the Thames to Gravesend.
We started with a walk along the river front and then headed into the town to St Georges Church to visit the grave of Pocahontas, the American Indian princess. Pocahontas was on her way home to Virginia when she was taken ill and brought ashore in 1617. Reports vary as to whether she had plague or tuberculosis, but either way she died and was buried in the churchyard. Only in her 20s, she’d packed a lot in to her short life and her descendants live on and still have contact with Gravesend.
The town has a long military history and all along the river front were the remains of 16th century defensive structures, through to the 18th century fort where we had lunch. On the opposite bank was the rather better preserved Tilbury fort. Both forts were re-vamped and re-gunned for WWII, which brought the history right up to the twentieth century.
By contrast our next stop was much more spiritual. We couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome to the Sikh Gurdwara. After removing shoes and covering our heads, we followed our host through the multi-coloured throng of saris to the meditation rooms. The architecture of the Gurdwara was stunning and we got the full tour, plus a description of the basic fundaments of the Sikh religion. The tour finished with the offer of a shared meal, which was delicious – well, when do we ever turn down a free meal!
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