The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
Bonzer Birthday Barbie
I have been temporarily banned from talking about the weather, as Dave thinks I'm developing a meteorological obsession, but I can scarcely avoid mentioning that it was really very hot and sunny for Nigel's 40th birthday celebrations. We met up in Long Melford on Saturday afternoon, some early enough for a bite and a pint, others for the walk an hour or so later. Nigel very gamely put up with all the wicked quips about his age, and lead us on an 8 mile circuit taking in the splendid countryside of the Essex/Suffolk border and the lovely village of Glemsford. Janet, Bethany and Matthew joined us for the first part of the walk and had the benefit of arriving at Nigel's barbecue refreshed and radiant, whilst the rest of us crawled in sweaty and exhausted demanding beer and ice cubes.
As befits any event to which YHA have been invited, there were heaps of food, all beautifully prepared by Sharon, one of Nigel's colleagues. I felt it to be my moral duty to try all of the puddings at least once, and they were very excellent. Nigel had stocked up on booze, but by the end of the evening he was amazed to find he had more than he'd started with, although the condition of some guests suggested that plenty had been put to good use. The party eventually wound up around 2am and I am confident that we did a good job of seeing Nigel into his next decade.
"Name that Hostel" Quiz
Good showing from all contestants, but we all ate dust as Jim and Tom romped into the lead, identifying hostels with astonishing speed and accuracy, from the slightest clue. The contest was hard fought right up to the final round, when Tom emerged victorious.
Bats in the Belfry
A superb summer evening, if a little humid, saw 9 of us strolling through the lanes and wheat fields of Ongar to the charming parish church at Greensted. According to some, this is the oldest wooden church in the world. The older, wooden part is in the form of a stave church, traditionally put together without the use of glue and nails.
I'm not sure if the bats were really coming from the belfry, but there were plenty flitting about and this gave Dave a chance to show off his bat detector (the latest addition to his armoury of gadgets).
In the rapidly increasing gloom, we attempted to find our way back to Ongar, reading the map by the light of Clive's mobile phone as no one had thought to bring a torch. After a couple hesitations at tricky path junctions, we succeeded in striding confidently towards the bright lights of the town, and the welcome refreshments of The Cock. Safe at last.
Epping Bike Ride
Thanks to Jim for arranging another cycling weekend. They say it wasn't as hot as last year, but it seemed pretty hot to me! Certainly enough to start melting the tar on some of the roads; as if slogging up the hills wasn't difficult enough without feeling as though you're cycling in treacle!
The late evening stroll back from the pub was enlivened by police cars prowling around the area asking if we'd seen anyone suspicious. Someone said they hear gun shots during the night…if there was a battle raging around the hostel, I slept through it.
And as usual, Jim was the heroic bicycle repair man …
Bicycle Repair Man Saves the Day!
Under the searing heat of the Essex sun, a party of ten cyclists set out from Chelmsford on an expedition to Epping Forest hostel. We may seem like a normal group of weekend cyclists. But one of us has a secret identity. This is no ordinary man. This is Mr. J.M.Dixon. To all appearances no different from any other law-abiding citizen. But when trouble strikes at any time…at any place…he is ready to become…Bicycle Repair Man!
Enjoying the ride from pub to pub, all seems to be going well. But suddenly, disaster! A tyre is worn out, a gear cable has broken, a chain has come off. What shall we do? If only bicycle repair man were here!
"Mmmmm", thinks Jim, "this sounds like a job for Bicycle Repair man…but how to change without revealing my secret identity?"
"Look over there, a tea shop!" he yells. Distracted by tea and cakes, before we know it, Bicycle Repair Man appears, tools in hand, spare tyre around his neck.
"Is it a Quantity Surveyor?", "Is it a Chartered Engineer?", "No! It's Bicycle Repair Man"
Clink! Screw! Bend! Inflate! He's mending it with his own hands; see how he uses a spanner to undo that nut (with a little help from the man in the Ongar bike shop).
In no time the bikes are fixed and we're ready to ride to the next pub. "Oh! Bicycle Repair Man, how can we ever repay you!"
"Oh, you don't need to guv, it's all right, it's all in a day's work for … Bicycle Repair Man!"
Dave P. (with acknowledgement to Monty P.)
The ABC* Rover** tour of Poland
Tom and I have recently spent a week cycling through the Tatra and Pienny Mountains in Southern Poland. We started in Zakopane where Dave J got famously Zalany***, armed with the important Polish phrase "proszę dwa piwa" (two beers please) - which we had learned on the plane.
At Zakopane we picked up our bikes; 21 speed hybrid sit-up-and-beg's, like a hi-tech version of Lynn and Lorna's bikes. Over the next 5 days we rode roughly along the Dunajec river by the Slovak border. We had inadvertently taken the Essex weather with us; sunshine but with huge thunderstorms: think first Castle Heddingham weekend.
The route took us through mainly rural areas, covered in a patchwork of strip fields, tended by local farmers, as they would have been 50 odd years ago in England. Houses often had chickens or goats outside, and horses are still widely used. Almost all the tractors are a single design, a hangover of a centrally planned economy, and are easily overtaken by a bicycle. It's also amazing what they can do with an FSO Polski Fiat car; double-cab pickup, hearse etc.
The scenery set off as the jagged granite mountains of the Tatras, and became the greener rolling hills of the Pienny. In the main, the route went between the mountains rather than up then, but on Thursday, there were three big hills. The tour leader reckoned we'd have to walk them, which some of us took as challenge and rode up them all. A high-point of the ride is the ride through Slovakia along the Dunajec gorge, but we had a deluge and I didn't see much as I was too busy wiping the rain and sun-cream out of my eyes.
At the end of the trip, we had a day and a half in Krakow, which has Europe's biggest medieval square, and is intact thanks to a Russian army general who lured the Germans out of town to fight, so the centre didn't get flattened like so many great European cities. We had a bike tour for half a day, including a last surprise big hill, which led to dissent in the ranks, and then explore the town centre further on foot.
Another bonus was the price of food and drink; the dearest meal out cost was £12 for three courses including a live band, and the beers were typically about 60p a pint.
Don't miss the slide show, some time in November.
*ABC = Another Bloody Church
**Rover (actually spelt Rower) - Polish for Bicycle; the first modern bicycle was made by Rover.
***Zalany = Pissed
See some of Jim's Photos of Poland.
Please send any comments on these pages to Dave Plummer