15th July: Coombe Abbey. We started our leisurely ramble today from the visitor centre at Coombe Abbey Park. The Park was designed by Capability Brown and has over 500 acres of beautiful gardens, woodland, and lakeside walks. It was very busy today on the approach to the lake as several groups of children and foreign tourist had arrived to enjoy the weather. However, after passing the house we soon found the areas around the redwood trees and on the approach to Top Pool and Duck Decoy very quiet. We had our morning coffee break at ‘Bee & Bee’ which is an old hut surrounded with fallen trees where the walkers sat and had a chat. We then continued towards the heronry and bird hide near the lake before seeing some of the young people revelling in the climbing areas at Go Ape. After leaving the wooded area we enjoyed our lunch in a large open field in the sunshine and then headed back towards the house passing the lake to the Old Deer Park where we could see the outskirts of Coventry, grazing livestock, numerous rabbits, and low flying geese but no deer. We ended the day back at the visitor centre where some of us had a well-deserved ice cream. Judy & Gordon
9th July: RSPB Arne . A beautiful sunny day for our final ramble at RSPB Arne. Before the ramble we had an interesting talk from Sam Dallimore, she was the visitor experience officer for Arne. She talked about the site and what birds we may see and hear on our way round. The ramble was a figure of 8 ramble, as the tide was due to be low in the afternoon, we started off on the Shipstall side of Arne. We went through some woodland, which had some amazing views over the Poole Estuary. The heather was out and looked beautiful. We saw a few squirrels and heard some birds, but I think the sight of 12 scooters must have scared them off! We had our morning coffee at the junction to go up to the viewing point at Shipstall Point. Some of us went up in small groups to the point as it wasn’t big enough for all of us. After coffee we went around Big Wood, where I saw a buzzard, feeding on the ground. It flew off as soon as I saw it though, so no picture. We had lunch back at the start. In the afternoon, we went over onto Coombe Heath, there are some lovely viewing spots along this route and you could see for miles. We arrived at the hide and some intrepid scooters went in. It was a bit tight but doable. Unfortunately, there were very few birds apart from a flock of Canada Geese and an oyster catcher. When everyone who had wanted to had been in the hide, we headed back. This was a very enjoyable ramble for our final day.
8th July: Nine Barrow Down. The penultimate day started at Rollingstone Farm, where the farmer had kindly let us park on his grass verge. We set off up a steep path from the farm towards Nine Barrow Down. At the top of the hill we turned right to our coffee stop. This was overlooking a very picturesque view of Corfe Castle. The steam trains were very busy going from Corfe to Swanage and back very regularly. After coffee, we went back the way we came heading towards the Swanage end of the downs. Again the flowers and heather looked very pretty. We passed the round barrows and the long barrow, where some of our group went to have a look and take photos. The 9 barrows are said to be the burial mounds of 9 Kings, who fought in a battle. As the long barrow is Neolithic and the round barrows bronze age, it must have been quite a battle, potentially over a 1000years! We had lunch overlooking Poole Harbour in the distance. We were lucky with the weather again and could see the ferry for Jersey leaving. After lunch, we continued up to the Swanage end of the down to get the views over Swanage and then returned along the same route back to the farm.
6th July : Old Harry Rocks. There was a large group of 25 with a few more walkers. We were very keen to set off on our walk up Old Harry Rocks. After a short walk on the road, we started the climb up to the cliffs. We had spectacular views going up to the cliffs of Poole Harbour. When we got to the section where the path opened up to the cliffs, we stopped near the top for a very blustery coffee break. Most people went to explore the top and look at the views of Old Harry. It was a very clear day and you could also see The Needles and the Isle of Wight. After coffee, we continued on our climb towards the Obelisk further on, along Ballard Down. Due to the extreme winds, forecast gusts of 45mph, the going got very difficult for all, but particularly affected the walkers. It became obvious we weren’t going to be able to make it to the obelisk for lunch . We managed to find an area that was a bit less windy on a path going down into the village, where we had lunch. There was great amusement at the volunteers, trying to assemble the toilet tent, but it was apparent this was not going to work! An alternative solution was created, much to the amusement of all! After lunch, we took a vote on what everyone wanted to do. By then we knew we wouldn’t get to the obelisk, so we could either go back to the top and return the way we came, or continue down the path back to the car park. There was an almost unanimous decision to go down the path back to the National Trust car park. This made the ramble a bit shorter, but was definitely a lot easier for the walkers. At the end of the ramble we had arranged with the local pub to go for a drink. This proved an “almost” impossible task, ordering everything and paying on the pubs website. Fortunately, we succeeded! Despite the changes, everyone enjoyed the day and loved the spectacular views.
5th July: The Sika Trail. The ramble started on a bit of a grey note but we had a few new members and also some keen new volunteers to give a hand. The Sika trail is a SSSI which, for those that don’t know, is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. This was due to flora and fauna on the site. As we went through the forest, there was some beautiful scenery. The ferns had grown since our last reccy and the heather was starting to come out too. After a bit of a delayed start we had coffee not far from the Morden Bog. The bog is one of the oldest valley bogs in the UK and has some of the oldest heather in England. We continued around the edge of the bog and then started to go up through a wooded area. We stopped in a pretty glade in the woods for lunch. After lunch, we continued through the wooded area. There had been a huge forest fire in the forest in 2020 and we saw evidence of this. However, the regrowth had started, the ferns, heather and rhododendrons all looked particularly healthy. Unfortunately, a lot of the trees were black up the sides from the fire. Great fun was had by all getting through a small wet ditch and I think it was possibly the highlight of the day. The new members all seemed to enjoy it. One last hill near to the end nearly killed one of our loan scooters, not to mention all the walkers! We were extremely lucky with the weather, the sun came out and it only started raining, just as the MSU doors were being locked, ready to leave after a successful day out.
Thursday 24th June 2021. Andy Jaynes Memorial Ramble on Bredon Hill. Andy was a great supporter of the Disabled Ramblers and his death from COVID 19 was a great blow to all who knew him. Together with his wife, Linda, and his family, eight members of the Disabled Ramblers made the trip to the summit of Bredon Hill, a place which Andy loved and visited at least once a week on his Tramper - so much so that he wore one Tramper out! Also with us was Becky Jones and Margret Reid from the Cotswolds AONB who were delighted to see how we are able to tackle such rough routes. After the challenging climb ‘up the Pad’ and then past the King & Queen stones, our route took us through ‘The Warren’, a delightful area of woodland – with lots of roots to negotiate. Entering the Iron-Age Hill Fort known as Kemerton Camp, we made our way to the small stone tower called Parsons Folly. Built in the mid-18th Century by the then land owner, John Parsons MP, it is believed that he had it built so that he could boast that Bredon Hill was over 1,000ft high when it is actually 965ft. The edge of Bredon Hill makes a great lunch stop with views across the Seven Plain and into Wales. Continuing along the edge to the east, we skirted the woods of Long Plantation and made our way past Lalu Farm. Our descent took us past Bell’s Castle. Princess Margaret was a frequent visitor to Lady Holland-Martin's home at Bell's Castle, Kemerton. The pair had a mutual interest in the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children of which Lady Holland-Martin was for many years the president. Continuing our descent, we passed several splendid dwellings built from delightful Cotswold stone and wondered just how much they must cost. Finally, back at our cars, we once again thought of Andy and all the wonderful rambles we had enjoyed with him in the past few years. John Cuthbertson
29th June 2021: Delamere Forest and Pale Heights Regional Ramble. Delamere Forest, situated between Liverpool and Manchester, forms part of the Mersey Forest. The area includes Old Pale Hill (Pale Heights) the highest point on the northern end of the Mid Cheshire Ridge and Blakemere Moss, a restored wetland lake and a haven for wildlife. Five scooter riders and six walkers, including new member Julie with husband Vance, joined us for our first regional ramble. Setting off from the stunning new Visitor Centre our morning ramble on gravel forest tracks was a figure of eight route taking us through the forest with its variety of trees and round Blakemere Moss. Although, at this time of the year the lake is not particularly visible because of the surrounding trees, we knew when we were in the vicinity of it by the noise coming from the birds that have made the lake their home. Lunch break was back at the Visitor Centre before four Class 3 scooter riders and accompanying walkers set off on more open forest tracks flanked with wild flowers for the ascent of Pale Heights. The climb to the top is surprisingly steep in places and with sun, little shade or breeze even some scooter riders were saying it was hot! Resting at the top, our efforts were rewarded with views, albeit it little hazy, over seven counties. The final leg of our ramble was a careful descent back to the Visitor Centre. After such a long time it was lovely to be out group rambling again. Marian & Barry
7TH JUNE 2021: LEE VALLEY REGIONAL PARK This was a gentle and easy ramble, mostly on surfaced and level paths, on a very warm and rather humid summer’s day. Starting from the Lee Valley Animal Adventure Park, our fairly small group of 6 scooter riders and 3 walkers (including new members Graham and Suzanne) meandered through the 1,000 acre wetland park on the northern edge of London. The Lee was London’s working river and was known as London’s ‘privy, workshop and backyard’. The valley was home to railway sidings, rubbish dumps, gravel pits, sewage works and factories producing explosives, furniture, chemicals, railway engines, electronics – among other things. In his Greater London Plan of 1944, Sir Patrick Abercrombie suggested that ‘the Lee Valley gives the opportunity for a great piece of regenerative planning – every piece of land welded into a great regional reservation.’ This idea lay dormant until the early 1960s and finally the Lee Valley Regional Park Bill received royal assent in December 1966. The Lee Valley Regional Park Authority was constituted on 1 Jan 1967. Since then, rubbish dumps, gravel pits, scrap yards and industrial sites have been transformed into award winning open spaces and world class sports venues, including the 2012 Olympics White Water Centre. The park covers 10,000 acres and stretches 26 miles from north to south. Our route took us past lakes, alongside parts of the River Lee, through grassland and meadows; the Park is a haven for all manner of wildlife, including otters and especially birds. At various points on our ramble we came upon interesting and unusual sculptures – the Boulders sculpture was of particular interest to some of our group, who found it to be reminiscent of something unmentionable here!! Unfortunately we were not able to see the Lee Valley White Water Centre (home of the white water events in the 2012 Olympics), which was closed at the time of our ramble due to Covid restrictions. Mark and Bee
8TH JUNE 2021: EPPING FOREST Epping Forest stretches over 12 miles from east London into Essex and covers over 2,500 hectares (nearly 6,200 acres). A former Royal Forest, it was used by Kings and Queens of England as a hunting ground. Our party of 8 scooter riders and 11 walkers (including new members Wendy and John) for this ramble was supplemented by 6 new volunteer/potential towers, who had come to be trained by Judy and Bernard Cunningham on the intricacies of the MSU, FSU and the toilet tent! It was another glorious summer day and thankfully much of this ramble was along forest paths providing lovely dappled shade. From the Bury Road car park we crossed the somewhat bumpy and very open Chingford Plain before moving into the welcome shade of the forest proper. Our route took us on mostly compacted tracks and grass land. We had to cross the busy Epping New Road, but with the help of our army of helpers, suitably decked out in DR Hi-Viz jackets, the crossing was negotiated without incident. The final section of the morning’s route took us along the appropriately named (and fairly steep) Ups and Downs, before we stopped for lunch in some welcome shade at Rushey Plain, close to the Epping Forest Visitor Centre at High Beech. After lunch we embarked on the long incline (luckily mostly downwards), crossing the main road safely once more, towards the beautiful Connaught Water, with its abundance of water birds. From here we crossed open grassland up to Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, dating from 1543 and the Chingford Visitor Centre. From here it was a short trek down to Chingford Plain to return to our starting point. Mark and Bee
10TH JUNE 2021: HUNSDON AIRFIELD LOOP Another fine day for rambling, thankfully slightly cooler than the previous days. Today’s party was made up of 7 scooter riders and 6 walkers. From the Playing Field in the centre of Hunsdon village we followed the farm track leading to Fillets Farm. Continuing on this track we descended across arable land, giving us a delightful long view towards Widford Church, where we stopped for our coffee break, overlooking the River Ash valley. Widford Church boasts a Hertfordshire spike, which is a short spire, with its base concealed by a low parapet, rising from a square tower. From here we took a section of road until we reached Levenage Lane, a bridleway that took us on a winding track through woodland. We then followed field edges and farm tracks to the open landscape of the site of the former WW2 Hunsdon Airfield, now largely used as arable farmland, but also home to the Hunsdon Microlight Club. RAF Hunsdon became operational in 1941. It was particularly noted for its squadrons of de Havilland Mosquito fighter-bombers, and for being the base from which Operation Jericho (the Amiens Prison Raid) was launched in February 1944. Continuing along the side of Black Hut Wood we came to the microlight flying club, where we stopped for lunch. From here we paused at the memorial to the 126 air and ground crew who died while flying from or serving at the base – many from Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Taking the airfield roadway led us to Cockrobin Lane, a charming ancient green lane and bridleway, providing shade and shelter. From the bottom of Cockrobin Lane we moved along a farm track past Eastwick Hall Farm and into a planted wooded area, passing close to Hunsdon House (a former estate and hunting lodge of King Henry VIII, here Princess Mary spent much of her early life). We crossed a section of a filed planted with rape – although the path had been kept well cleared by the farmer, the weight of the ripening rapeseed meant that the plants were falling across the pathway – it was like going through a tropical forest! We came out at the Nine Ashes Fishing Pond and after a short section of road, we move onto the airfield again and returned by way of Drury Lane. The day ended with tea and cakes at Mark and Bee’s house in Drury Lane.
11TH JUNE 2021: HATFIELD FOREST & FLITCH WAY Hatfield Forest is the best surviving example in Britain of an almost complete Royal Hunting Forest, declared as such by Henry I in 1100. It was acquired by the National Trust in 1923. It is a managed landscape, created by centuries of human intervention and continues to be managed with traditional woodland techniques of coppicing, pollarding and grazing. The wood pasture is a rare habitat in the UK. Today we welcomed 8 scooter riders and 9 walkers, including new members Dave and Helen with Lara, and Richard Walsh with his son James. Cooper and Islay , very well behaved dogs, joined us too. Our ramble was prefaced by a short talk from Ian, one of the National Trust Rangers who has worked at Hatfield Forest for 27 years. His very informative talk filled us in on the history and forestry management practices used at Hatfield Forest. Our route took us in a figure of eight from the Café and Visitor Centre by the lake on a mix of boardwalks, surfaced pathways, broad grassy rides and narrower woodland paths. We started by crossing the dam at the end of the lake and follow a long section of boardwalk before coming to a wide, open grass area alongside Elgin Coppice. Crossing this, we left the Forest and continued for about a mile along the firm-surfaced Flitch Way, a linear country park which follows the line of the former Bishop’s Stortford to Braintree railway line, before returning to the coppices and rides of the Forest. We passed Hangman’s Coppice and the Portingbury Hills Iron Age settlement. After stopping for lunch at the hub, we resumed our ramble around the southern part of the Forest, passing through Collin’s Coppice, Emblem’s Coppice and Lodge Coppice before returning to the Café and Visitor Centre. We are very grateful to Niamh Carton, the NT’s Welcome Manager, Ian and their colleagues for the assistance they gave in organising this ramble and in the day itself. Bee and Mark