The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
August Bank Holiday and Pembrokeshire beckoned us for a long weekend of dramatic cliff-top walking.
Most of us had the Friday off work and took our time driving across to Wales. In our case we stopped off at Castle Coch – a veritable cornucopia of Arts & Crafts Victoriana in a reconstructed medieval castle near Cardif.
Saturday proved to be the best day weather wise, so we made the most of it by catching the bus down to St Davids and walking back along the spectacular coastline. En route we saw Neolithic remains at Coetan Arthur and bay after bay of seals, including dinky ickle baby pups. Seriously cute. A fabulous route only spoiled by the lack of regularly spaced tea shops and pubs along the way. Still, we didn’t need to worry about being malnourished as both Jim’s mum and Trudi had supplied Jim with humongous quantities of delicious birthday cake, which he was generously sharing around. Suitably sustained, we just about managed to last long enough to enjoy a 3 course slap-up meal at the pub.
Sunday wasn’t quite such a nice day: drizzly and blustery. But after the culinary excesses of Saturday, we really did need to take a bit of exercise. So, braving the conditions we drove over to Solva to bag another stretch of coast. This meant more spectacular coastline, plus the historical interest of St Nons Chapel (St Non being St David’s mum). The blustery wind did prove too challenging for some of the group, but a few stalwarts pressed on to bag another couple of bays before returning to St Davids just in time to miss the tea shop at the cathedral, but to catch the beautiful singing of a visiting choir. Culturally (if not calorifically) nourished, we headed back to the hostel, where Dave J treated us to a gorgeous curry.
Bank Holiday Monday dawned even windier than the day before, so not fancying a constant buffeting from the wind we de-camped further south to Laugharne where there was a bit more shelter. Laugharne was the home of Dylan Thomas for a few years and you can visit his former home if you fancy some cultural enrichment. We probably also have Dylan Thomas to thank, at least indirectly, for the excellent teashop provision in the town. Keen to make use of this facility, we rounded off our walk around the headland with my first teashop of the trip. Warm scone with jam & cream. Yum.
The Batless Bat Walk
It was a challenging evening even before we started the walk as a fallen tree on the A12 had resulted in a grid-locked Chelmsford. Dave and I had a hurried sandwich in the car park at Danbury Common as the rain came down, sure that no one would be daft enough join us on such a foul evening (and secretly hoping we could just nip over to the pub for a quick one before heading home). Needless to say we underestimated the grit & determination of our friends as first Jim, then Clive and Trevor joined us. More in hope than expectation (bats don’t generally fly in the rain) we donned our waterproofs and headed for the lakes. It was dark and wet, there were no bats, and we got a little lost, but somehow our homing instinct kicked in and we made it back to the pub for a pint.
Going Round the Horne
Thanks Dave for organizing a super evening at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester. Despite the original cast members all being deceased, the performance was excellent and hysterically funny. The actors playing Kenneth Horne and Kenneth Williams were particularly good. For those of you not familiar with the genre, Round the Horne was a radio series from the 60’s which nudged at the boundaries of decency with outrageous double entendres and outed the gay slang of Polari. It’s hard to believe that something so ground breaking can still be so funny 40 years later. Check out the repeats on BBC radio 7.
The Essex Way is a long-distance path stretching right across the County of Essex from Epping in the south-west to the port of Harwich in the north-east. Following footpaths and ancient green lanes, it covers a distance of 81 miles.
It was opened in 1972 after a competition won by a group from Chelmsford Technical High School. Relays of scouts carried a replica of a Roman Standard along the way to Dedham where the walk originally ended.
The path leads you through ancient woodlands, open farmland, tree-lined river valleys and leafy green lanes, unveiling historic towns and villages along the way.
Last year Cressida proposed that we could complete the Essex Way in eight sections as occasional Sunday walks. In September we walked the fourth section, from White Notley to Great Tey. This part of the route took us through Cressing and past vast sand and gravel pits to Coggeshall for our pub stop. The path passes the magnificent 13th century Grange Barn, and St Nicholas’ Chapel, which, in the 12th century, was the gate-chapel of a Cistercian Abbey. Just outside the chapel, we found the Essex Way milestone indicating that we had passed the half way point: 41 miles from Epping, and 40 left to go to Harwich.
Some more pleasant countryside took us uphill towards the massive Norman tower of St Barnabas’ Church in Great Tey where we’d left our cars. We dashed back to Cressing Temple barns, but, unfortunately, got there ten minutes after the tea shop had closed!
The 45 miles we’ve covered so far has been very enjoyable, linking familiar places with previously unnoticed footpaths. And it’s living up to the guide book’s promise of "a journey of discovery through deepest Essex".
We’re planning to walk section 5 in November and section 6 in January. For our weekend trip in March, we’ll be staying at the hostel in the old Harwich fire station, so there’ll be an opportunity to complete the final two sections then.
Please send any comments on these pages to Dave Plummer