The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
Every pilgrimage is a journey, with a series of trials before achieving redemption. Our trials started on the Friday night with the journey to Canterbury beset with blizzards. Either manfully struggling over the North Downs on the M2, or winding the long way through the Medway Towns on the A2. In our case the destination wasn’t a religious shrine, but a hostel, or more specifically for Friday night, a pub. I’ve never read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, but I believe hostelries feature quite a bit. Each pilgrim brings a tale to tell, 24 in all, many of them a touch on the bawdy – so not that unlike a night with CYHA down the pub.
So what tales could we come up with? The classic tale of drunkenness in Bryce Canyon (“They think we are fruitcake?”), the team lost in a storm in the Dolomites, a dislocated finger, a couple of dislocated shoulders (both Dave), the Bulgarian taxi ride of death. I bet it would be none of those. I bet we’d be telling the story of when one of our volunteer chefs made the dreadful error of undercatering. It’s a nightmare that still has Dave P waking up in a cold sweat ten years later.
The White Cliffs
After a splendid day touring Canterbury on Saturday, we fancied a day on the coast. We’ve walked the more glamorous Severn Sisters and Beachy Head several times in the past, but never the stretch of coast by Dover. After the snow of Friday and a slightly grey Saturday, Sunday was all blue skies and sunshine. Perfect weather for chalk cliffs, and they were practically glowing.
We started from the cliffs just above the port. From here you have the view of the ships coming-and-going into Dover, all overlooked by the medieval castle. Admittedly the walk inland was initially a bit roady, but we were soon out into open farmland. Lunch was a leisurely break on a sunny hillside by a dismantled railway, before heading over to Cliffe in search of a tearoom. We eventually found a very nice tearoom with excellent cake, but no sea view despite being within yards of the front. What it did have though, was a little local museum – mostly WWII stuff, but also a bit on local residents. This included Noel Coward and Ian Fleming, who both lived in a splendid house right on the shore line at St Margarets At Cliffe. From the shore line there is only one way to go, and that was a pretty steep climb back up to the cliff top.
The path back to Dover had the clearest views of France I’ve ever seen. The air was so clear you could practically see the people of Calais waving from their tower blocks. This made it all the more poignant as we walked past bits of remaining WWII structures. The massive sound mirrors in Fan Bay were particularly impressive.
Our latest leg of the Saffron Trail took us from Great Easton to Henham. This was the 6th part we’ve completed and the penultimate - we expect to finish this summer. It was a beautiful day. After Storm Eric and a rather wet start to February, the skies cleared and the sun shone down on us. This was a gorgeous walk through the chalky hills of north Essex and was characterised by a couple of fantastic little churches. The first was at Tilty, with its amazing east window. Tilty church is the only remaining building from the Cistercian Abbey that was on the same site until about 1536. Close by are the couple of walls that are all that remains of the original grand building. Apparently these only remain owing to a curse that brings death to anyone who orders their destruction.
The second church was at Chickney and is no longer in use. It is very small and simple. The altar slab holds five carved crosses to represent the five wounds of Christ and apparently only survived the Reformation by being buried by the parishioners.
Henham, the end of our walk, was the site of another Essex Serpent report, this one from 1669. This is a good four hundred years after the Bures Dragon, but is probably the more famous due to the contemporary pamphlet that started: “The Flying Serpent. Or: Strange News out of Essex. Being: A true Relation of a Monstrous Serpent…..”. No monstrous serpents on our walk, but I did enjoy a refreshing half pint of Silver Adder.
Please send any comments on these pages to Dave Plummer