With rain threatening we thought we might have to go further afield to find something indoors, but we woke up to a bright day the rain had been delayed until after lunch. We decided that Dover Castle should be our destination, it was just a few miles down the road.
We left the hut at 09:00 and stopped off at the national trust White Cliffs of Dover visitors centre, where we attempted a walk along the coast to the lighthouse tea room, however we only got a third of the way there before the cold biting wind got the better of us. We went to the cafe to warm up and found out that but the lighthouse was closed so it was a good job we turned back, Helen would have been incandescent had we got there and the tea room was found to be shut.
After a pleasant coffee we had and enjoyable hour overlooking the port of Dover and the activities going. I tuned the scanner into the operations team choosing which lanes to load next while my camera took a timelapse of the boat loading. Next stop would be the castle.
The entry fee just shy of £20 seemed a bit steep, but Helen was paying, so i went with the flow. The wind was not letting up and the shelter of the tunnels that we looked at first was welcome. The tours of the medical wing followed by one with a multi-media show explaining the Dunkirk retreat wax very enlightening and done very well. We stopped at the NAAFI restaurant for a cheese scone and a coffee before getting the land train to the mail n event the iconic castle that you can see on top of the hill from the town.
There is an Anglo Saxon church on the highest point which is right next to if not connected to a Roman lighthouse. We had a look around the inside of the church. It was quite different and perhaps had a military influence very regimented and neat. Every pew had the allotted number of prayer kneelers and each was precisely spaced across he length of the pew. I did not spot a grave yard outside which is unusual for a church perhaps because the area id inhabited.
Finally we visited the great tower, and popped into a regimental museum which was a bonus museum on the site. The great tower was a bit disappointing for me because the place was made to look like they think it would have looked in the past but it all looked too new and colourful. We had had our time in the building because they announced it would be closing in fifteen minutes. We exited via the gift shop.
On the way home we heard on the radio that there had been a suspected terrorist attempt at Westminster, and when we got home we followed events on TV.
We were up early for a 09:50 shuttle to France, in fact early enough to just miss the 08:50, but have enough time to grab a coffee before the 09:20. The terminal was very quiet unlike it suspect it would be during the holiday season. Our destination was Cap Gris Nez to have a look at the gun battery and take a walk, then to Wissant a little seaside town with a lovely beach.
It always seems like a bit of a barrier to travel the channel, in the sense that when you are on the continent you can just get in your car and drive to anywhere, even as far as Beijing, from England there is a stretch of water in the way and no easy way across it. You have to book ahead then drive to a place then wait for a while get loaded onto a boat or train then wait till you are delivered to the continent. It would be a bit different if the tunnel was a drive through one because the while booking ahead and loading would not be necessary. In reality you spend 30 minutes being shaken, while you talk shit on you blog.
It did not take long to get accustomed to driving in the gutter. We headed down the lovely smooth autoroute and got off following the signs Cap Gris-Nez, where there is a car park and awalk to some viewing points. Unfortunately the wind was cold so we did hang about. We did notice what we thought were Meadow Pipits and then a Marsh Harrier quartering a field. Next we headed to a museum in a gun battery, however it was shut till 14:00, so we went to Wissant, and parked up on the town square. Lunchtime was approaching so the town was shutting down, so we grabbed a coffee in the loacl bar, before heading down to the beach, where again we did not spend too much the fighting the elements, but headed back to a cafe for some lunch. I had a cheese sandwich and Helen a cheese gallette.we were in the conservatory so it was nice and warm with the sun shinning in.
After lunch we went to the Twist build battery, where a very big 380mm gun was built by the Germans, opened by Hitler, and surrendered to the Canadians. Now it is quite a good museum with displays of WWII artefacts and exhibits. In the museum shop you could buy antique war memorabilia, including done genuine Russian and Swiss baynettes!
Next was a drive along the coast towards Calsis., Which was enjoyable withe sweeping vistas as the road ascended and descended valleys. We planned to turn around before we got to Calais but there were road works so we had to go into Valid before turning around and heading to Cite Europe shopping centre.
At the shopping centre we stocked up on food we never normally buy, some wine for Hrkrn and i got a couple of local beers and a box of Cidre doux which is only 2.5% and is quite quaffable. By the time we had shopped Helen has seen enough of France so we headed back to the tunnel terminal and managed to just miss a train but ended up at the very front of the queue for the 17:19 delayed by 5 minutes.
We were back in blighty just a few minutes late, and feasted on out supermarche purchases for dinner.
Rain day so we decided to use the car, and do a tour for the day. Main stops would be Cranbrook, Sissinghurst and Canterbury. Whilst having breakfast iIbooked the tunnel for a trip to France on the Tuesday, then we left and drove through thick drizzle, to Cranbrook where we had a coffee and a look around the church and graveyard looking for Helen’s relatives.
By the time we got to the National Trust property at Sissinghurst, the rain had stopped, but it was a bit windy and damp. We had a look at the garden which I image would look fantastic in a months time. There is a tower in the middle of the property and I took the opportunity to trapse up to the top for a look at the view. It allows you to get a good overview of the whole garden which is very extensive, There is a cottage in the grounds where the most recent owners used to live, and we got on the 13:00 tour.
With some time to spare we had some lunch I had some lovely pea, lettuce and mint soup. The tour of the house was very interesting, just a few rooms but they were covered in book shelves and looked lived in. Next we had a look at the library in the main building where they had book conservators demonstrating their work.
We decided to return back via Canterbury where Helen got some Euro’s for tomorrow and a pair of shoes she hoped would be less slippery that the ones she was wearing. There is a great eclectic museum in the centre full of art, artefacts, stuffed birds and other random stuff, just the sort of museum Helen and I like.
We had burgers for dinner and had an early night as we had reasonably early start to get to France,
We made a leisurely start and headed out the house at 10:00 destination Deal train station, the plan was to get the train to Sandwich and walk back to Deal, via the local coastal path. We arrived early for the 11:00 train so we took a still around town and grabbed some supplies. The train was waiting for us, it was the London train to Start Pancras, I guess it takes a loop around from London via Margate.
The journey was only 6 minutes, and we headed in to town then turned right at the car park by the river and headed out towards the sea. We had a golf course cross and just before we spotted a Ring-necked Parakeet flying over. Once we had crossed the Royal St George golf course with its appropriately red crossed green flags, we to the sea where there was a gathering of Dachshund owners and their hounds. We stopped for a sandwich fittingly overlooking Sandwich Bay.
We walked past Sandwich Bay Estate which was by the sea and made up mainly of houses with more than 10 bedrooms. Apparently one was once owned by the Astor’s and another by Jonathan Aitkin. We noticed one had a robotic lawn mower not sure if that meant they could not afford a gardener. The wind started to pick as we passed another golf course, luckily it was not exactly again us it was coming from the land, and eventually we were able to descend from the sea wall to a path somewhat sheltered by dunes.
The seats on the edge of Deal were a welcome rest, especially for me who had decided it was time to take up running again. My first run in the morning had been 1.5 miles and taken me 17 minutes, not a four minute mile but you have to start somewhere. I used to do sub 10 minute miles for four miles. My aim is to be able to run for 30 minutes.
We stopped for a coffee on the seafront and then wandered back to the station to get the car and Helen booked at table at the Zetland Arms it seemed to be the best pub in the village so we thought we would try it first. On the way back we managed to find the “Ham Sandwich” sign at Finglesham. It was hard to park up but we managed to get a few shots before any traffic came.
It is holiday time again, in March because we both took a weeks holiday over from last year. We had plans to fly to somewhere warm but when you failed to organise something we ended up booking a cottage in Kingsdown near Deal in Kent. The night before we got a call from the cottage owner explaining that the cottage was ready and we could turn up any time. That meant we could drive straight there and not have to waste time finding somewhere to visit on the way. Essentially we could gain a days holiday, so we got up at 07:30 and headed out at just before 09:00.
The trip around the M25 was traffic free, but one unexpected task was to have to pay for the crossing at Dartford there are no longer pay stations you have until midnight the day after to pay up online. We missed a couple of sat nav instructions and ended up going via the port of Dover, but the detour only added a couple of minutes to the overall journey.
We arrived at the cottage at 11:00 and quickly unloaded the car. The approach to the village has some very tight roads, and there was a lot of giving way to other cars. We soon found the cottage for the week, an end of terrace on an unadopted road that leftover the sea.we were just over the road from a freehouse called The Rising Sun, and a hundred yards from The Zetland Arms a Shepherd Neame pub literally on the pebble beach, which after a quick look at the beach we sampled it’s wares. We has a cheese sandwich and a drink each, before taking a drive to Deal for a look around.
We chose Sandwich instead, and before that Pegwell bay, which is mud flat just outside Sandwich. We arrived at a good time as the tide was starting to come in, pushing the waders, closer to the hide. The pictures on the hide wall promised lots of waders but we were happy with Redshank, Curlew, and a start Avocet amongst some ducks.
Sandwich is a nice little town with old buildings that over hang the streets. It seems ytgat Saturday afternoon was notthebest time to visit as some of the shops were shut. We as a wander around then headed back to the car. On the way back we detoured via Finglesham where there is a sign with both Ham and Sandwich which I hoped to be pictured by, however we had not done enough research and would have to return another day.
Back at the hut i watched the Rugby which England lost to Ireland meaning they failed to break the record for consequtive wins and also the Six Nations Grand Slam, they did however win the Six Nations overall.
We were in bed early as the TV at the hut was tiny and we had to use my laptop to watch Amazon Prime.
I got my father in law in the Christmas secret Santa the year and got him a coach trip to the houses of parliament, and I also got tickets for myself and Helen so we could join him. The coach pick up point was in Beaconsfield Old Town, which I chose because it was the last one, so would minimise time on the coach and mean no early start.
Despite a traffic jam on the way we were at the Royal Saracens Head in time for a coffee. The Coach was on on time but a hundred yards down the road opposite the pub. We boarded and were pleased to find we had front row seats, numbers 1, 2, and 3. We set off but no sooner had we got going it was announced that we were stopping at Beaconsfield services, a jewel among service stations. As well as the usual Starbucks and McDonald’s there was the odd shop and even a pub.
The M40 soon became the A40 and an hour later we were dropped off just beyond parliament Square, after negotiating the London traffic. The weather was get and there was a cold wind to boot, so we headed into the visitor entrance. There is airport style security, which given the travelling I had been doing recently was a bit tedious. We were lucky enough to d find a table in the cafe, and whiled away an hour while we waited for our allotted time slot.
The tour starts on the great hall which has been used for special ceremonies, speeches and lying in state. There was a special exhibition for a competition for a proposal to build a memorial to the Holocaust, and another about the latest art piece to be added to the house. The piece is to commemorate women in parliament and the circles of glass light up depending on the tide.
We gathered at the allotted area for the tour to start, whilst our tour guide told us the rules about no phones or taking pictures. The guide was very informative and we started at the Lord’s end and finished in the Commons. It was well worth it, I would so it again and just walk around myself if I had visitors. The tour took longer than expected but we still had time for a coffee before catching the coach back.
Traffic was quite heavy on the way back. We had a great day and I would return again.
Late night Boxing Day party I thought would have dampened my enthusiasm before a walk, but I got to bed at a later but reasonable hour, and felt refreshed rather than hung over. A quick breakfast of left over Christmas food, hot cross buns, and a coffee and I was set to get the 08:53 from Berkhamsted. There were lads of free parking spaces, but I managed to miss the 08:46 while I got my ticket, annoying especially as the coffee shop was shut. I had time to spare so headed into Berkhamsted town to see if data could find a coffee shop open. I thought I was out that for luck but then noticed that Love Food Dining was open, they sold take away coffee and dam fine coffee in my opinion.
The train was packed but I found a seat. It was a frosty start to the day, and quite cold at -1 degrees C, but the weather forecast was a fine day, and with the sun almost as low as it get the photo opportunities were there for the taking. The train was delayed a little bit when we were held waiting for a signal outside Euston.
The transit to Falconwood was via the Victoria line to Victoria then a Southeastern train to my destination. The train was a bit slow and stopped for what seemed like every station, but eventually I got there. I was planning about 10 miles for the day, and was hoping I might get get to a camera shop at Euston on my way home to buy a new lens to replace my mid zoom which had finally packed in after over 10 years of service. I was going to invest in a 16-35mm f4.0 L IS USM.
En route to Waltham I passed through yet another Leafy London Suburb with lovely houses. I passed by Eltham Palace which is run by National Heritage. It was a strange building from the outside, some of it clearly less than 100 years old, but it has a mixture of parts that suggested that there had been some sort of building there for a very long time. It also had a moat.
On the other side of the track things were a bit more run down and I spent a couple of miles waking along paths between by run down housing estates, however I got great views as of Docklands from the slightly elevated path.
At Downham high street I looked for a cafe but could not find one that looked worth trying. Eventually I came across a McDonald’s drive thru, so stopped for a filet-o-fish and some chips washed down with a coffee. It is an interesting process these days, rather than talk to someone you use a large, 40 inch touch screen to order and pay then your food is delivered, although I realised once I was tucking in that you could order in the traditional way at the counter.
Things got a bit rural for a while as I passed through Beckenham Park, there was a cyclo cross competition going on, so I paused for a while and took some shots of the action. I carried on and things were pretty urban for the rest of the section with ntil I got to Penge East. As I approached I could see the Crystal Palace aerial beckoning in the distance.
I had a bit of a wait for the next train to Victoria again a bit busy but it is easy for one person to find a seat. The connections went well and at Euston I had a 30 minute wait for the next train, and with a Calumet (photographic shop) just around the block it seemed rude not to pop in and have a look. As luck would have it they has the lens and in stock and it did not take long to negotiate a better price than those list, I was a few hundred pounds lighter. Probably the most expensive wait for a train I have ever had.
I grabbed the rear most carriage to ensure easy access to the exit at Berkhamsted Station. I had got be another 10 miles of the Capital Ring and has a new lens, which will be taking pictures for this blog in the very near future.
Having finished the London Loop I needed a new challenge, I thought I would give the Capital Ring a go. the Ring is a whisker over half the distance of the London Loop at 78 miles which breaks down into 6 or 7 stretches, of reasonable length. It is another route around London but closer to the centre, and I hoped would be a bit more urban than The Loop.
We finished work on Wednesday the 21st so I thought I would get my first section done on my first day off. Trouble is it is a week day so travel would be more expensive. I knew the first off peak train from Berkhamsted was the 09:31 so I aimed for that. I was not too sure of the best option so went to the ticket office, it turns out that my Railcard was only valid on trains after 10:00 so I opted for the £20 one without the Railcard discount. I had to be on a train back before 16:49 which would suit me fine.
I had puzzled over where to start, my book and early Xmas present from Helen started at Woolwich and went clockwise, and from experience I knew following book was best done on the same direction. I could however start anywhere on the Ring and just loop back to the beginning of the book as necessary, so I went to bed thinking somewhere north of London would be best given the train restrictions. One final look at the map in the morning and I changed my mind, the route passes close to a DLR station just north of Woolwich ferry so I decided to start there, just a mile from the start of the book, and a chance to use the tunnel, as when I did the Thames Path I had used the ferry.
The train was on time and empty at Berkhamsted, but by the time we got to Euston most seats were taken. The weather was forecast as sunny but there was a most about, which I hoped would make for good photos. The northern line took me to Bank the I got on the DLR to West Ferry then changed to the Becton line for the final leg to Cyprus. I had a front row on the train and with no driver’s cabin you get great views of Docklands as we passed through.
I soon reached Gallions Point, which at first glance looks like it is spelt wrong but when I checked on Wikipedia it all made sense, “Gallions Reach is a stretch of the River Thames between Woolwich and Thamesmead. There are various locations on both sides of the river named after Gallions Reach. The area is named for the Galyons, a 14th-century family who owned property along this stretch of the river.”
At Woolwich ferry I chose the tunnel rather than the ferry which I used when I did the Thames Path, deep and long is as much as I have to say about it. The getting the modern bit wood panelled lift back up to the surface is worth the ride and save some energy. I was still on familiar ground as the path again follows the Thames Path, but after a mile I took a left through Marion Wilson animal park where in the middle is a very secure couple of fenced areas containing ducks and chickens on one side of the path and deer, with antlers, on the other. I think it was run by Greenwich council for children to experience where children can experience a kind of farm like environment.
I crossed a busy road BT was soon in another ark this time Charlton Park which contains Charlton hall a grand Elizabethan, I think, building. I came across auch needed WC and a great little cafe where I had a cheese sandwich and a coffee for lunch.
The next significant milestone was Shooters Hill in Greenwich borough. The path was in the woods but not at all muddy. It was however hilly. I passed a castle then a cafe both at the top of hills. I was glad of the final descent.
At Shepperdleas Woods I had had enough and decided that Falconwood station on the South Eastern Railway line, to Charing Cross, was the place to finish off. I had a two minute wait, for the relatively busy train but I found a seat without any trouble.
I made short shrift if my London transit by getting off at London Bridge and walking to the Northern Line, I got to Euston with 4 minutes to spare for the 16:34, which was well within the time cut off for my off peak ticket. I think I am going to enjoy the Capital Ring.
I kept waking up in the night, possibly because I knew I wanted to get up early to make sure I finished off LOOP, by getting the 07:49, however I was wide awake at 05:55 so I got up and was parked up at Berkhamsted with 20 minutes to get a ticket and coffee before the 06:49. I had no excuse to not finish. Puccino’s was open that early which was a relief, apparently they had a lie in and opened at 06:00 instead of their usual 05:00!
The train was on time and there were plenty of seats I managed to get a seat with a table to myself. Quite a few people got on at Watford at 07:03 my theory was that there first train pad there hours is always slightly busier than others?
Once again Google maps came to the rescue, I checked the best route from Euston and as I got to the southbound Northern line platform the train arrived, then after walking from Moorgate to Liverpool street the next train to Harold’s Wood was to depart in 4 minutes. I was back on the walk at 08:23 it was very foggy so navigation was going to b re a challenge.
I was in familiar territory as I walked a short action I had walked the week before, I left the built up area and entered Harold’s Wood park there were just a few dog walkers and joggers about. Visibility was down to about 70m. At the end of the wood I walked along a B road to get across the A127, or better known as the Southend Arterial Road.
Arty misty ThamesI again was in familiar ground as I approached Upminster and passed the car park where I had left the car the week vefore, the route was again urban for a while, until we hit Ingrebourne valley at Hacton parkway. I would be in the country and wildlife areas for quite a few miles, and had not taken the opportunity to get a coffee and some water as it would have meant a detour. I thought I may have made a mistake but then I came across Ingrebourne Valley Visitor Centre, run by the Essex Wildlife Trust, in Hornchurch Country Park. The café was a good one as many of the wildlife centres gave these days. I was not impressed with the stale scone but the butter covered that up and the coffee was good. I had a table overlooking the reserve and it’s reed bed but these was not much chance of sightings because they were all lost in the mist. I did however if and time to browse a book called The East End Then and Now, a thick book with all sorts of stories and pictures if the East End.
On the way out I noticed a small exhibition about the role of the area during WWII there was some Spitfire action around there involving the RAF. I also noticed a bird box camera display there was a squirrel asleep in the Tawny Owl nesting box! As I walked the remainder of the reserve I noticed pill boxes and gun emplacements.
I’ve learnt with all the walking this year that the tortoise normally wins, walk at a reasonable pace don’t try to rush, as that just results in sore things and blisters. At a good pace, around 3 mph, I ultimately am able to walk further than if I try to sprint.
As I approached Rainham there were a couple of super stores ans the photo place for garden atorage, Rainham Sheds. Evidence that I was nearing the Thames ce in the form notifications of Ferry Lane, which actually lead to the railway station where I crossed over on a pedestrian walkway. There was no evidence of a ferry to be seen, especially in the mist.
At the Thames edge I spotted waders, Godwits, Redshank, and Curlews amongst the ticks. I could hear boats but could not see them. A regular siren called out six times about once a minute, it was warning of a jetty I think, for boats offloading rubbish for the landfill. The route followed the Thames edge and there Was a sign posts every 200m counting down the distance to the finish at Purfleet, they started at about 4km.
There was not much to see what with industrial estate, and landfill, but I did pass Coldharbour lighthouse a light on a red tower about 10m high. I saw over Twenty goldfinch on a fence, and surprisingly a Stonechat amongst them. My feet were starting to get a bit sore at 13miles but I carried on rather because I knew Rainham RSPB was close and a sandwich in the very strange modern visitor centre was beckoning. I got chatting to the RSPB man who told me that there was a Cattle Egret, two Short-Eared Owls, and some Avocets out on the reserve, it was tempting to go and take a look but they were all in the far side if the reserve, and I had some walking still left to do and in any case had left my membership card at home. Reluctantly I pulled myself out of the comfy armchair and got back on the LOOP.
It was not far, just a mile, to Purfleet station a train arrived but I was determined to find a plaque indicating the end of the LOOP so I let it go while I searched for the plaque. It turns out there is not one, or one that I could find anyway. So I sat on platform one and waited 25 minutes for the 14:56 back to central London. Google gave me a choice of routes I decided to get off at Barking and get on the Hammersmith and City all the way through to Euston. If anything the mist was even thickerbas the light faded. It looked like I would make the 16:24 from Euston, I was glad I had got up early l, it would have been proper dark if I has left an hour later.
Not sure if I missed the connection or got there early but Google suggested the district line when I check at Barking, it was due in 1 minute. At West Ham Google had me get off and wait for the Hammersmith and City to shave a minute of the journey. I noticed that the temperature had dropped significantly as waited briefly on the same platform I had got off at. No further suggested changes emerged. I actually made the 16:05 and had time to grab a hit chocolate, before getting on the train, which had changed platforms since it was announced on the departures board.
I really enjoyed the London LOOP and was surprised at how rural it was. One of the aspects I really liked was the adventure if getting g to and from parts of London by public transport. My next challenge will be the Capital Ring which I will attempt to get a good chunk of it done over the Christmas break. I reckon at 78 miles it should be doable in 6 sections of 13 miles.
I grabbed a ready meal from Waitrose on the way home and Helen and I planned to spend the evening in front of the TV, we thought we would give Westworld a go.
Saturday it rained all day so I skipped the usual walk and we headed for the cinema to see Snowden, which was good, not too technical that Helen enjoyed it too despite her thinking it might not be a good film because it was about computers. Sunday on the other hand was blue skies and a tad cold, excellent walking conditions. Getting to where I left off was going to be a challenge, I was once again on the opposite end of the LOOP from where I live.
I decided to drive to Upminster as I could het there in under an hour’s then could use the tube to get back to Chigwell where I had left off the week before.T he drive involved the M25 until the last junction before the Dartford tunnel, the Southend Arterial Road for a few miles to Monster where I parked in a car park that was free on a Sunday, and on the LOOP route, which I followed to Upminster Bridge station. A train was waiting for me on the platform. Passing through Hornchurch, Barking, West Ham, and Bow Road I changed at Mile End to get on the Central Line, to Chigwell.
Interesting stations on the Central Line included Gants Hill, Fairlop and Grange Hill. Not sure of the 80’s kids TV programme was filmed at it’s namesake? I had to change when the train terminated at Hainault. I had a 15 minute wait so would probably only start walking at 11:20 it was going to be a challenge to get the planned 15 miles done before it for dark. the Woodford twain was advertised on platform 2 but then arrived on 1 so there was a mad rush to change platforms, I just made it as the doors closed!
About a couple of miles in a guy called Dave caught up with me and I enquired whether he was walking the LOOP, it turns out he was. We chatted for a couple of miles, he had an interesting job. He was doing a PhD in the physics of solar weather, and prediction of solar flares. His pace was just slightly faster than my usual place, and at the first hill I bid him fair well. Soon I was the other side of Hainault Forest Country Park.
So far the going had been muddy which would turn out the be the theme for ther day as the path crossed lots of fields. There did not seem to be a way to stop the mud sticking to my boots. The next country park would be Havering Country Park, but I don’t remember much of it as I’m sure I was getting a cold and sore throat, which was distracting me. I passed through Chigwell Row Wood, and walked past Ye Olde Kings Head which I could not figure out whether it was still a pub, a private home or a curry house. It turns out it was an trendy restaurant where all the stars eat including Alan Sugar and Tamara Ecclestone, the website is here http://sheeshrestaurant.co.uk/
After Foxburrow Wood and walking through a nondescript housing estate I decided to bail out at Harold’s Wood station, I had had enough. I found the bus stop and waited 20 minutes for the 256 to Hornchurch High Street, then another 15 minutes walk (0.7 miles) to the car. The journey back was fine as the traffic was OK. Helen had a honey and lemon waiting for me when I got home and had made tea, perfect!