CYHA News March 2023

Posted on Wed 01 March 2023 in News

A Palace Fit for CYHA

Our trip at the start of February was to Palace Farm at Doddington in Kent. This charming corner of the North Downs has long been a favourite with the group. It’s a lovely hostel, with a really nice pup just a short stroll down the road. All around there are beautiful country houses and quaint villages stack full of thatched cottages.

Arriving in good time on the Friday night, we did our best to boost the local economy with a meal and a few drinks down the road at The Chequers.

The hostel itself is a series of rooms set around a traditional courtyard. The sitting room was particularly cosy, with a log burning stove to chase away the February chills. Our hostess, Liz, not only fired up the burner for us, but kept us stocked up with breakfast croissants. However, railing against the vegetarian breakfast, Dave organised some supplementary bacon and even a couple of fish fingers.

Our Saturday walk was a local one from the hostel. Walking out past The Beheading of John the Baptist and the very grand pile of Doddington Place, we headed out to the village of Lynsted. This was a gorgeous little village, but we were a tad too early for the pub. The next one, however, was spot on. We paused for lunch on the hillside above the village of Newnham. This had wonderful views, but was a little chilly in the winter air. It made it all the more welcome when we made it to The George with its ceiling hung with hops and a fine array of ales. After a good warm-up the party split, with Cress leading the main party and Dave and I taking a shorter route back. Our shorter return route meant we could spend a bit of time in the church at Doddington, admiring the wall paintings. It was all about the culture and nothing to do with popping in at The Chequers for a pre-dinner drink.

Sunday was a sunny day, so the obvious choice was to head up onto the ridge of the North Downs to enjoy the views. We parked at Hucking and enjoyed a walk through the parkland up onto the North Downs Way. Lunch was overlooking the remains of Thurnham Castle before returning to Hucking and a welcome drink at the Hook and Hatchet. The unusual pub name apparently comes from the badge of office for the Chief Petty Officer Shipwright whose job it was to select shipworthy timber from the surrounding forest. And so ended another fantastic weekend. Thank you to Cress for organising our lunches, and to Sarah for a rather splendid evening meal. When’s the next one? Ali

The Palace of Poo

Doug wanted to title this article "A Sh*t Day Out", but in fact we had an absolutely marvellous time walking along the Thames Path and visiting Crossness Pumping Station. It was a beautiful sunny day, but bitterly cold, even inside the pumping station. However, we were welcomed with a nice cup of tea before being shown around. The pumping station was part of the original sewerage plan for London devised by Joseph Bazalgette and opened in 1865. This was all part of the grand plan to intercept the sewage of Londoners and pipe it 8 miles downstream and so solve the infamous "Great Stink" of 1858. It wasn’t enough just to fix the health crisis of the age, the building was decorated with the highest level of Victorian ornamentation. Good enough for a palace, let alone a sewage pumping station.

Our visit coincided with Chinese New Year, so some of us finished the day with a fantastic meal at a restaurant Cynthia had heard about. Lots of interesting dishes, including a nice bit of stomach lining and tree ear fungus. Delish! Happy year of the rabbit.

The Gospel Truth

Our Sunday walk for Feb had us walking a circuit from Stoke by Nayland to Boxford and back in the most glorious winter sunshine. Along with fabulous displays of snowdrops, there were some truly magnificent trees – including one oak that was so special it was marked on the OS map. The tree in question was bang on the parish boundary which led me to read up on the East Anglian phenomenon of Gospel Oaks. During the ancient practice of “beating the bounds” villagers would ritually walk the parish boundary, often led by the local preacher and the gospel oak formed a focus for community prayer. A particularly old specimen was located outside Polstead, a short way off our route. After it collapsed in 1953 a tree ring analysis showed it was over 1400 years old, lending weight to the local tradition that St Cedd preached under it in 653AD.