Manningtree Circular – May 18th 2024

The BBC had forecast that there would be rain in the morning but the rain had arrived very early and by the time 19 ramblers assembled outside Manningtree station the clouds had rolled back and the sun was shining.  We were lucky that it remained dry and sunny all day.  

After the briefing we set out.  The walk in its entirety was relatively flat and there were mud and puddles in only a few places which was not as bad as I had feared.   We walked through lovely quiet spring countryside and sometimes all we could hear was the sound of birds in full song.  We came to the pretty village of Dedham with its brightly coloured houses where we stopped for lunch, with those who had brought a packed lunch sitting in a nearby park watching the local team play cricket and a small group of poly’s eating at a café in the Arts and Craft Centre.  

After lunch we made our way out of the village until our path turned off the road and across fields towards the village of Stratford St Mary.  There was an ominous sign saying ‘Beware of the Bull’ on the stile entering the field.  There was no sign of a bull or any cattle, so we decided to cross the field.  Then in the distance we saw cattle in a field beyond that we would have to pass through.  It was clear as we got close that there was a large number of cows and some young animals which always makes me wary.  However, as they were some distance from us we decided to venture across the field keeping close to its edge and in quiet single file so that we did not excite them.  Thankfully we managed to get everyone across safely and it was only when I looked back that I spotted a large bull amongst the herd.  I might not have been quite so confident about leading the group into that field if I had seen him.  

Our peaceful walk was soon shattered by the drone of traffic on the A12 which we passed very close to, but this soon faded as we struck out across ploughed fields in the direction of the village of East Bergholt where the eighteenth century English painter John Constable was born and brought up.  Although Constable spent much of his time in London, he always returned to the Stour valley to paint and many of his iconic landscape paintings are of scenes from this area.

Whilst in East Bergholt we went to look at the church and, in the churchyard, the Bell cage built in 1531 to house the church bells as a temporary measure whilst the tower was being rebuilt.  It became a permanent structure and houses the heaviest peal of five bells in the country which are still rung by a team of ringers for special occasions.  

It was a short walk from East Bergholt to Flatford Mill, the scene of John Constable’s most famous painting, The Haywain, where we saw the old mill and Willy Lot’s cottage.  The old mill is now a field study centre, and the National Trust have a very nice tea room where we stopped and had refreshments in the garden next to the river.  

From Flatford Mill it was a short walk across water meadows bordering the Stour that were full of birdsong, back to Manningtree station where the train for London was already waiting.  Thankfully the guard held up the train to allow us to all embark before the train left for London.  

Mary K

Photos by Ida, Mary and Chris

Romford to Havering Park (Linear) 5.4 miles – 6th May

Despite the gloomy weather forecast, twenty-five members assembled at Romford station for this year’s May Day Bank Holiday walk. With the  predicted rain holding off for the time being, we initially traversed a short urban section. We then entered Lodge Farm Park, the first of a string of municipal parks, formed from Havering’s ancient private estates to realise an interwar local councillor’s vision of a ‘green lung’ winding up through the borough.

A miniature railway, sadly not in operation on the day, attracted our attention before we crossed into Raphael Park. Skirting a lake and an abundance of waterborne wildlife, we reached woodland containing wooden sculptures of ‘Percy the Park Keeper’ and some of his animal friends.

Another short urban section followed before we entered Rise Park and undertook a gentle incline suggested by the name. Bedfords Park was next and a steeper section took us to the top of Foxes Hill with its extensive views across London, partly obscured on the day by low clouds.

Some muddy patches were then encountered before we reached a visitor centre and its adjacent deer enclosure. Here we stopped for refreshments but while we were inside it started raining heavily. Venturing outside, we headed to the north end of the park where we joined the road into Havering-Atte-Bower, passing a splendid water tower and a scenic cricket ground enroute. Finally, in a rather soggy state, we reached the Orange Tree pub where the leader bought everyone a drink to celebrate his recent birthday. The group then proceeded to embarrass him by singing the traditional refrain.

Half our number decided to book Ubers to take them back to Romford as the promised bus unfortunately didn’t run on a bank holiday. After some refreshment, the remainder of the group had a short walk through Havering Country Park, past a Redwood Tree, to a bus stop which fortunately did have a service to Romford station.


Photos courtesy of Patricia, Nita and Hilary.

Oxford – 30th March

The sun was shining when twenty five members met at Oxford station for an Easter Saturday walk around its green and urban areas. One of our members, Gini, missed her train so I directed her to meet us at the lunchtime pub. We headed for the Thames towpath but soon found that a stretch of it was flooded because the river level was very high due to the recent heavy rainfall. We detoured through a new housing estate and reached a drier section of the path.

We crossed Rainbow Bridge to a temporary bar being set up at Medley Manor Farm but we resisted the urge to stop. Similarly we passed the Perch pub further on which was a haunt of the author Lewis Carroll. As we approached Wolvercote, we came upon another flooded area which proved impossible to pass without getting our footwear extremely wet. Therefore we decided to return to the Perch pub for our lunch. Although it was busy, we were able to enjoy the sunshine in its extensive garden with its outside bar and food offerings.

We then retraced our steps to the Rainbow Bridge and then headed across the Port Meadow to the Oxford Canal towpath. That took us along a pleasant stretch of waterway to the edge of the city centre where some of our number left us for the station. The remainder stayed for a short tour of Oxford. We saw Ronnie Barker’s old school and the adjacent Four Candles pub named after his famous comedy sketch with Ronnie Corbet.

Then we passed the Ashmolean Museum before reaching busy Broad Street with its original Oxfam shop and an Anthony Gormley sculpture on top of an adjacent building. The Sheldonian Theatre, the Bridge of Sighs, the Bodlean Library and the Radcliffe Camera were then seen before we reached a park area adjacent to Christ Church College. A short walk brought us back to the station for our return journey home. In case you’re wondering what happened to Gini, she enjoyed the planned lunch stop in Wolvercote and made her own way back along the canal to the city.


Photos courtesy of Ida Kwan.

Highgate Cemetery Tour and walk to Baker Street Station – 24th April

The Tour

Twenty members of the Poly Ramblers walking Club met at Highgate station and then went via Waterlow Park to the entrance of Highgate Cemetery, one of the oldest burial places in London and one of the most expensive as it costs on average seventy thousand pounds to be buried there.

We had a knowledgeable, enthusiastic guide who informed us of the historical context of the cemetery and which graves were of unusual significance. These included a grave with an Egyptian Pyramid and the grave of a famous Victorian Boxer with a sculpture of his dog. We were told of the exploits of one of the first zookeepers who had a sculpture of a lion on his grave, who very unfortunately lost some of his lions with a tragic outcome for those who had the misfortune to get in their way.

We were given a fascinating tour of the catacombs in which a visitor had recently accidentally got locked in. One of the most poignant parts of the cemetery was a mass grave of young girls who had arrived in London full of hope for a job in domestic service many of whom became ‘fallen women’. 

We finished the visit in the West Cemetery at the magnificent grave of Karl Marx. We had lunch in Waterlow Park before starting our afternoon walk to Regent’s Park via Hampstead Ponds and Primrose Hill. 


Photos by Hilary, Ida and Clare

The Walk

This was a 6 mile afternoon walk following the morning visit to the Cemetery. I suddenly received an email the morning before saying that our leader had been taken ill and was not able to lead. I sent an emergency reply, 11 words, saying I could lead it.

So I met some polyramblers in Waterlow Park having a picnic, others had gone into Lauderdale House cafe. Eventually we all set off from the Cemetery gates about 2pm being about twelve in all. The route took us down Swain’s Lane into the Dartmouth Park area, entering Parliament Hill fields on its east side. Once into this opening we turned northwards into Hampstead Heath passing the Highgate Ponds, then westward into the centre of Hampstead Heath beside a sports ground. We then proceeded southward rising up to the summit of Parliament Hill. From there we descended to Hampstead Ponds, and then into South End Road, coming across Hampstead Heath overground station. At this point half the group decided to leave, having completed about 2.5 miles. So then there were four!

We continued through alleys beside the Royal Free Hospital, into Haverstock Hill, where we passed Belsize Park tube, losing one more. It was busy rush-hour time with children and school runs abundant. We took a right turn into England’s Lane, left into Primrose Hill Road, across Adelaide Road, into the space of Primrose Hill itself where we climbed to the summit (reminding me of our older member Shirley who used to get us up here annually at night to see in the New Year!). We then continued south, crossed Prince Albert Road and entered Regent’s Park, walking along the west side beside the boating lake. Exiting through Clarence Gate we entered Baker Street, whose tube station ended the walk for the four of us.


Photos by Ida, Hilary, Geoffrey and Clare


Six Polyramblers assembled at Waterloo Station prepared to brave the vagaries of  South Western’s rail replacement buses.  We were rewarded  with a direct bus from Guildford to Petersfield , where we were joined by another Polyrambler, and thus were able to start the walk earlier than anticipated.

The weather brightened and we made good progress, following the Hangers Way via  the village of  Steep.  We climbed  the short but very steep Shoulder of Mutton Hill where we stopped for an early lunch by the memorial bench to the poet Edward Thomas and enjoyed a wonderful view of the South Downs. The path took us down to Hawkley  and its Inn where we stopped for a welcome  drink at the pub  before continuing on. 

The next five miles went through quite muddy rutted paths interspersed with fields and lovely  views. The weather stayed dry until we reached Liss station when the heavens opened while we waited for the 17.38 bus to Guildford. We just made the 19.04 train to Waterloo and were all home by 21.00.

All agreed it was a lovely walk, despite the transport problems and hopefully can be put on the programme again in a couple of years once the railway engineering works are finally completed !


Photos by Stephen