Monday, 30 March 2009

Blind Ramblers, Breaking News...

I have just received a dispatch from our Walk Leader yesterday, Michael Way. I reproduce it in full below.

"Engineering works did their damnedest but 18 of us took part in the annual Hampstead Group walk with the London Blind Ramblers Club. A six-mile circular from Chorleywood with the usual memorable stop at the church and The Cock pub at Church end near Sarratt Bottom. We were 18 in all.

"We averaged an excellent 2.3 miles per hour and there was only one incident when one of the sighted members of the Blind group, Robbie, missed the train back at Chorleywood while he went outside for a cigarette.

"Thanks to Dave and Valerie Clark of the Blind Ramblers for setting it up, as usual, and a lovely speech of thanks at the end from Lea.

"Next year: Last Sunday in March (unless it's East - we'll check) from Kings Langley - Engineering works do your damnedest.

"Michael Way"


Sunday, 29 March 2009

Hampstead and London Blind Ramblers Walk

Today the Hampstead Group enjoyed a walk with the London Blind Ramblers. The circular walk around Chorleywood had 18 walkers, with a 19th joining us half way.

As so often this year, we had to catch a rail replacement bus to get to our destination. This is us waiting for the connection! The leader, Michael Way, is at the rear, 7th from the left.

We aim to have at least one sighted walker for every one with a visual impairment.

Crossing the stiles slows us down a little. Next time you go on a ramble, just imagine going over a stile blind. It needs a lot of concentration...

We stopped for Lunch at The Cock.

We managed the 6 miles at an average speed of 2.3 miles per hour. Mind you, some of our group, such as Jem, probably covered twice that distance...

Jem is a rescued dog, and had a great time trying out being a guide dog for the day.

Everyone had a great day out.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Selborne, Home of Natural History

I've been coughing and wheezing over the last couple of weeks. Luckily, Jane Rosoux, our walks organiser, has been busy walking, writing and taking photos.....

Jane writes...

"Last Sunday I went on the Hampstead Ramblers' circular ramble from Alton led by Henriette Van Zaelen, which was nearer 14 miles than 13. There were 13 in the party, which was excellent considering the distance from London, and the weather was very good - much better than forecast.

The route took us through a number of picture-postcard villages containing thatched-roofed houses, stilted grain stores,

oasthouses and attractive churches and we also had good views and spring flowers and blossom. In the morning we stopped at Oakhanger where the Church was having an open day and an hour later we had lunch at Selborne, which is linked with Gilbert White,

and some picnicked in the attractive churchyard, which contained a stone in honour of 'The Trumpeter',

whilst others enjoyed good food at the 'The Selborne Arms'. Soon after lunch we had a steep but rewarding climb up the zig-zag path to the high part Selborne Common. At Newton Valence pond there was a curious 'Frog Crossing' sign.

The last village we went through on the way back to Alton was Chawton, which contained yet another attractive church (which we did not have time to visit) and also Jane Austen's House.

Henriette is talking about doing the 8 mile circular ramble on another occasion, which would include an optional visit to Jane Austen's House and other places of interest."


Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Ramblers' Views Wanted By UCL

Hampstead Ramblers received the following email yesterday from Nick Antram, a masters degree student at University College London.

"I am a student on University College London's HCI MSc course. We are
designing a navigation aid for hillwalkers aged 40 and over.

"I am writing to ask if you and your group members would be able to help us
by completing a quick questionnaire to help us establish what your needs
might be from such a device. This data will be used to help form the
design and give us an idea of what features are important on the hill.

"The questionnaire can be found here

"It is anonymous and the data will only be used for this survey.

With regards

Nick Antram

Nick has also said he will let us know what designs his team come up with. The questionnaire only takes about 10 minutes, so please click on the link above and play your part in designing the next generation of navigational aids!

Update Friday 20th March 2009: Thanks to huge response, Nick has enough data for this stage of his research, and has closed the survey. Nick emailed that "...your group's help was much appreciated." Thanks to all who helped out.


Sunday, 15 March 2009

Gerald Colton Way, Part 1

Today saw a walk along the first section of the Gerald Colton Way. Gerald Colton was the Hampstead Group's first Walks Organiser, and he was a valuable member of the group for many years. In this, Hampstead's 25th anniversary year, we have commemorated his contribution by re-naming the walk he devised in his honour.

The walk goes from Waterloo on London's South Bank, all the way out to Wendover in the Chilterns. We will be walking it in six segments over the coming weeks.

An impressive 31 people gathered on a superb sunny London morning.

A birds-eye view of our walkers.

The walk was originally called the Nelson Mandela Way, and starts from his statue on the South Bank.

Our route passed the changing of the guard, Buckingham Palace and the parks St. James, Green, Hyde and Regent's!

The walk leader for today was Robin Midwinter, here pictured in front of Constitution Arch, Hyde Park.

Sufficient loos are an invaluable part of a ramble, and Westminster Council have worked out a novel way of ensuring timely "comfort stops"...

On the outskirts of Regent's park I spotted this handsome Swamp Cypress growing by the water.

Lunch was at the Queen in Primrose Hill Village. The walkers proceeded to Hampstead Heath (by which time numbers had gone down to 14), and the walk finished at Kentish Town. Part Two of the walk is on Sunday, May 3rd.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


A lot of people who go on walks with the Ramblers don't realise how much preparation goes in to providing a walk. It's a fundamental tenet of walk leading that you always "walk-out" the route to be taken a week or two before, to check for diversions, possible dangers etc. Whilst we were walking in Bedfordshire, Michael Way was busy in the Chilterns. He sent us this report...

"Sunday March 7th. Walked out the excellent route planned for our annual hike with the London Blind Ramblers Club on March 29th starting from Chorleywood Station at 10.30. It is 7 miles with nice pub stop."

"This is certainly one of my favourites – through Chenies, along the river Chess, up to Sarratt bottom, them back across to Chorleywood Common. It was cold and bright today. I do hope Hampstead Ramblers will come along for a special and rewarding day. Michael Way"

The pace will be slow, but it should be a special and rewarding day. If you are free, do come along. The idea is to have one sighted walker for every blind walker. You can read more about the Blind Ramblers club here.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Aspley Guise circular

Angela and I had an "awayday" today, walking with the Kensington Chelsea and Westminster group. There's always a fair bit of cross-pollination with Ramblers' groups, and we weren't the only Hampstead members on the walk. In total, there were thirteen of us, led by Elizabeth.

Apsley Guise is in Bedfordshire. It dates back to well before the Norman Conquest, and the local Council has an excellent and informative website here.

Aspley Guise in the 1800's, from the website.

En route, we found two beautiful churches, both of which were open, a sadly rare occurrence in the English countryside nowadays.

The Church of the village of Salford was particularly attractive. A seventeenth-century wooden entrance led into a church with some well preserved monuments and carvings.

The knight above has an angel ministering to his comfort for all time...

This lion decorated a corbel...

And the cat above, in an almost Norse style, will protect the church from mice...

We stopped for a lovely lunch in the Carpenters Arms in Cranfield.

A post-prandial group photo. Elizabeth, walk leader, far Right.

Incidentally, Penny Thesen, extreme left on the photo above, is doing the London Marathon in aid of Sense, the charity for deaf blind adults and children. Anyone who wishes to sponsor Penny in this very worthwhile cause should go to her Justgiving web page, just click here.

We hope to publish an update here on how Penny did after the Marathon on the 26th April this year.

Plastic Bird Corner has yet another inhabitant! This post closes with a world-exclusive photo of the Giant Plastic Flying Mallard!

Friday, 6 March 2009

Suburban Stories: Golders Green Walk

What makes your suburb unique? London Transport Museum is working with communities in Golders Green to create a community walk in and around the suburb to capture what it means to them today. If you live or work in Golders Green this is your chance to tell everyone about your local area in your own words and to create a fabulous walk for your community. To find out more come along to an introductory meeting in Golders Green library on Tuesday 17th March at 6:30pm. It’s all part of a new exhibition looking at how transport has shaped suburbia to be launched in autumn at the Museum in Covent Garden.

Any questions please give Jane Findlay a call on 020 7565 7424 or at


Tuesday, 3 March 2009

It's Speen a Long Day!

The first of March started grey as we commenced a walk that was to take us in a rough figure-of-eight through the Chiltern Hills, starting and finishing at Great Missenden.

The walk was led by Jerry O'Connor, left.

We were able to get some lovely views of Red Kites (the Bird!), though yet again my camera finger was not fast enough to capture one.

Badger trails were evident, and so well defined they have been fooling people into following them...

Badgers are obviously encouraged in this area. We spotted this carefully made Badger-gate in a wire fence next to a sett...

This boggy area was an exception, and conditions underfoot were good.

(Photo: Jane Rosoux, with thanks)

The Chiltern Hills in all their glory...

We were eight in total, six Hampstead Ramblers, Joyce from Croydon and Bill from the Aylesbury group. Our combined experience still didn't prevent us from going "Off Route"...

Lots of Trees, No Path...

We actually ended up off the map at one point (But don't tell anyone).

(Left to Right, Joyce,Bill, Jerry and Jane.)

Lunch was taken in the beer garden of the Pink and Lily Pub in Parslow's Hillock.

According to locals, the pub name has nothing to do with flowers. Many years ago Mr Pink was a butler at nearby Hampden House. Lily was a chambermaid there. After Lily fell pregnant out of wedlock they were dismissed from the big house and opened a pub to earn a living. The pub flourished , and they lived happy ever after! The person pictured on the sign isn't Mr Pink though. It is Rupert Brooke, first world war poet, who used to frequent the pub. There is a Rupert Brooke snug inside.

We went through the village of Speen a couple of times.
Some of the old Chiltern crafts were celebrated on the village crest in Speen...

And some crafts were still being kept alive...


The sun came out in the afternoon, and in total we managed 17 miles, (including diversions!).

In Rare Bird Corner, we had a sighting of the Lesser Spotted Plastic Heron. Unlike the Red Kites at least it stayed still long enough to photograph!