The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
After all these years there is no doubt that George is one of the cornerstones of our group. A member for over 50 years, he has filled most of the positions on the committee and organised countless walks. There was no way we could let his 7th decade pass without note, so we booked the 1912 Centre in Harwich for a weekend of ports, Napoleonic soldiers and Polish celebrations. We hadn’t quite banked on the tail end of hurricane Lorenzo, but you know how we love a challenge!
Our arrival on Friday night was staggered, which at least gave the chip shop a chance to catch up on orders between waves of hungry clients. Once nicely fed, we settled down for a drink in the local pub and discussed our plans for the following day. There was a certain amount of disbelief that George was actually going to get up early enough to cook breakfast for us, but it happened! The shock alone was enough to ensure everyone made it to the harbour ferry in time for our trip over to Felixstowe and Landguard Fort. The fort is famous for being the site of the last armed repulse of a land invasion on British soil (those pesky Dutch). On the day of our visit there was a Napoleonic camp and Rifle battalion giving demonstrations. As impressive as the fort and cannon were, it was dwarfed by the enormous container port next door. Big enough to deal with nearly half the container traffic coming to and from Britain, I wonder what Napoleon would have made of that.
The birthday boy spent the whole of Saturday slaving over a hot stove, so we made sure we were back in good time. A veritable banquet awaited with boiled beef, bigos and pork in apple, all whilst we enjoyed a slide show of George through the ages – not quite all 7 decades, but probably 6 of them. We rounded off with cards and cake – a slightly boozy iced fruit cake from Hania, and a decorated cake from Ali (although no one seemed to want to eat the little icing George..?).
The weather on Sunday was a little wilder and we decided to visit Harwich Redoubt. Another Napoleonic defence, it once had a commanding view across the mouth of the port of Harwich. These days it’s pretty tricky to find, tucked behind houses and with the massive embankments given over to allotments. Once discovered it’s actually quite a gem. It’s been restored by volunteers from dereliction into a rather nice museum. I particularly liked the massive cannon, found when digging out the moat and hoisted back onto the battlements.
For those of us who’d not had enough of defensive structures (or were not wet enough), there was also the nearby Beacon Hill Battery with a military history going back to Henry VIII, but most of the stuff you can see is WWII. Beacon Hill was largely derelict when it was purchased in 2018, but with the help of volunteers they are gradually researching the history and opening up the site. The best bit was climbing up the Battery Observation Tower for a fantastic view across to Felixstowe.
Copped Hall Revisited
In 2010 a group of us visited Copped Hall near Upshire, Epping Forest for a tour followed by a walk. The Hall had been purchased in 2004 by a charitable trust to stop the land being used by developers. It had been badly damaged by a fire in 1917 and used as a pig farm and target practice for the TA since then. As several years had passed, I decided I would like to plan a follow up visit, to see how the work had progressed.
And so it was that a group of us met up eventually after the vagaries of the A12 and Satnavs for a tour of the grounds and house, with ample time in the middle for tea and cake in the Rackets Court. The grounds are looking much tidier now, the kitchen garden is quite magnificent, with one of the Victorian Greenhouses fully restored, and we heard great tales of the history of the house, with its links to Henry VIII, Mary and Shakespeare. As the day was very chilly, we were glad of a warming drink and a variety of yummy cakes before we toured the inside of the house.
Here, much further work had been done and we toured the cellars, now set up as kitchen and scullery, with their beautiful vaulted ceilings. We saw the beginnings of the very expensive new stone staircase, the room fully restored to its Georgian splendour and the Victorian wing with a very interesting photo display of how the work had progressed.
We enjoyed our packed lunch on picnic tables in the grounds, it actually felt warmer than in the house, then moved our cars a short way to enjoy a 6 mile walk around the area. The walk gave us some magnificent views of the surrounding countryside and showed us why Copped Hall was built in its elevated position, as the area is hillier than expected. We visited Upshire village, Warlies Park and House and had great views of the M25, arriving back to the cars rather muddy but having had a most enjoyable day out.
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