Annual dinner (article by Peta Jellis)

The theme for annual dinner was “The 60s” and it was interesting to see how many of us had kept (and could still wear!) 1960s clothes.  We were treated to the most amazing spectacle of how Cecil looked with hair in the 1960s - long and dark, complete with a band and flower; T-shirt with appropriate slogan and very fancy  jeans (enhanced by pink  polka dot inserts) which were so tight that the medical equipment provided by Christine could not go down them!  For those of you who were not there - our lips are sealed!  It was interesting to see the competitive spirit with which some played Musical Chairs and how many could answer quiz questions on the 1960s.  I think it is something to do with being able to remember events long past better than yesterday.  John and Pauline are clearly fans of “Come Dancing” and treated us to an excellent demonstration of rock’n’roll.  Where did they get the puff from?  Energy I mean!  Peace man, peace!
annual dinner

Ten pin bowling (article by Allan Bailey) bowl

Another successful ten pin bowling evening at Wellingborough.  It was good to see new faces there.  About 30 of us turned up - I was late because I had to attend a meeting first.  The bowling session was half way through when I eventually arrived and thought that I wouldn’t get a game.  To my rescue came Pauline.  She had hurt her finger and didn’t want to continue so I became Pauline for the rest of the evening.  I hope it doesn’t become a habit!!  Not sure who won but I bet it was Doug again.  [Actually, Doug let a guest win this year: Richard Amos Ed!] We were all having an enjoyable time and it was after 10 o’clock before we sat down to enjoy a buffet meal.

Line dancing (article by Heather Hewitt

There we were, some with cowboy hats and neckerchiefs taking lessons in line dancing. In no time at all, to the sound of Shania Twain, and with a heel, heel, and a toe, toe, a scuff here and a grapevine there, we were away.  It must have looked hilarious to onlookers because we were all over the place. Some were going left instead of right and vice versa, quick shuffles were needed to catch up and some ended the dance facing the wrong way. The look of concentration on each face was amazing.

During the well needed break there was a special raffle where everyone got a prize!  Then it was back to business. This time there was a bit more fun as people relaxed into it. As we went through more routines we realised that the secret was to stop worrying about what our feet were doing and just go with the flow and enjoy. That is precisely what we did – enjoyed it!

Tobogganing (article by Liz and Tom Parker)

toboggan This was our first adventure with the club and we both enjoyed it very much.  We met at the Pemberton Centre and gave Dave and Cecil a lift. Since we were not too familiar with the route we followed Peta to the centre at Milton Keynes. Well, that journey was almost as harrowing as the slopes. We were careering down the roads, full steam ahead all the way and I was amazed to hear Dave say “Peta's driving seems to have calmed down!” I thought he was joking but he was perfectly serious. Anyway we did arrive safely (and in record time for us anyway) ready and fit for our next adventure.
We met everyone inside, got our kit on and after a small instruction and safety talk we were lead to the slopes where the fun began.  Of course we had to get up the slope before we could slide down and I noticed that most of the party were fairly fit (I decided that I would have to start keep fit classes if I was going to keep up with everyone). However I did manage to get in four runs down the slopes and had a great time doing it.  There was racing, lots of falling and tumbling, crashing into the safety net at the bottom of the slope where Peta bravely risked life and limb for a few shots of our heroic team. Hearing the squeals and laughter it was obvious that all were having a great time. Our time seemed to go very quickly and most were reluctant to finish.
After we changed we enjoyed a hot meal in the cafe where we recounted our adventures. Tom and I had a wonderful night and look forward to many more with the club.

Orienteering (article by Graham Rowson)   

found Despite a forecast of heavy snow, twelve stalwarts turned up at the Irchester Country Park for a morning of Orienteering. Not knowing quite what to expect I was somewhat relieved to find that the map provided had all the points already marked on it and so I could keep my compass in my pocket.

We split into teams of 3 and 4 and we were off, dashing to Point Number 1. The running lasted about 100 yards and then settled back into a good walking pace. The team I was in seemed to be doing rather well. Two Points were “off-limits” due to tree-felling, but our little green scorecard was quickly filling with the answers read from the backs of the red and white topped posts which marked the Points. That is until we came to Point 18….

Twenty fruitless minutes later after marching up and down four-metre high ridges covered with trees, we convinced ourselves it was time to move on empty-handed. Nevertheless, the rest of our scorecard completed we headed at breakneck speed (well, I nice amble, actually….) back to the finishing line in the car-park. We were greeted by Grace with welcome chocolate bars and the knowledge that we had finished first.

It was a long wait before the other teams finally checked in but everyone seemed  to have had as good a time as we had. And no, there was no Point 18 – it had vanished. And the winner? Well, sadly it wasn’t us despite finishing first. We hadn’t thought to turn over the card where there were another twelve Points to find. Ah, well. We had to settle for the Booby Prize while the Patagonian Panthers (Dennis, John, Caroline and Helen) basked in triumph as the winners.

Thank you, Grace for a very enjoyable morning – and I hope someone has found Point 18…… Perhaps the photo above might explain some of the mystery.

Go-Karting (article by Martyn Richards)

gokart 20 members went Go-Karting on Saturday 18 March in Northampton. Being the new member, the task of writing up the event was given to me – so forgive me if I don’t remember everyone’s names. After a few heats, it soon became apparent it’s not the taking part, it’s the winning that counts. At the end of twenty heats, Nigel Cross emerged as leader with 40 points, myself and Mick Cook in joint second on 38 points and Graham Mason third on 35 points. The knock out stages changed the picture though and the ultimate winners were Nigel Cross in first place, second was Brian Douglas and Tony Kightley in third place. Not surprisingly Nigel Cross also achieved the fastest lap times (30.63 seconds) and apparently was last year’s winner as well. The winners were presented with trophies but despite standing close to the rostrum we didn’t get sprayed with champagne!!!

Tank Driving (article by Lucy Oliver-Carton and Jim Scoular)

tank On arrival at remote 'Armourgeddon' on a very cold April morning we were welcomed with hot drinks.  Once the entire 50+ group had arrived we were split into (A) Paintballers and (B) Tank drivers. All 7 tank drivers got to dress up in ex-German tank overalls and helmets with visors which helped us assume our roles for the morning.  Having separated into two teams of 4 and 3 we were ready for the off.

A series of huge mean heavy beasts awaited us. A safety drill and briefing and the awesome APC 432  monsters of 17.5 tons of metal were in our hands.  After overcoming claustrophobia and nausea in the tiny driving compartment, I suddenly became totally focussed particularly when driving down a vertical slope (I had hoped to give my two crew members some real mud slicks to contend with!).  A mixture of emotions of apprehensive tension, uncertainty and fright gave way to enthusiasm, exhilaration and enjoyment.  What a strong 3 man team we made when faced with the challenge of paint ball targeting with the other team!  It gave a real sense of what it is like to work in a confined atmosphere and to rely on your crew to work together. 

A really exciting time was had by all and after a welcome hot lunch we all agreed we had extended a few personal boundaries and had immense fun. Thank you Tricia and Mike for your input and congratulations on the birth of your grandchild at 2 am in the morning of our activity.

Paintball (article by George Goodyear)

Loaded for action and dressed to kill - the day of mud, paint and confusion began.  There was fun and frolics in the woods as mayhem and adrenaline commenced. 
As a recruiting sergeant for real-life battle, the morning’s experience of being splatted so easily and so quickly by enemy forces, made this war correspondent definitely grateful that he is too old to join the Army for real.  In fact, since one of his first ‘wounds’ was in the groin, he will remember the day not so much as the “Battle of the Little Big Horn” as “The Skirmish of the Bruised Bollock”.  Anyway, here’s to the next time!

Derbyshire walk (article by Marilyn Savory and Paul Rogers)

walk Will we be at the meeting point by 7 am?  Cats to feed, washing to hand out: they promised us a good day.  Yes!  We make it on time.  Minibus arrives, boots, backpacks etc pile in.  Seat belts on and we are off.  Pleasant drive, although a little misty.  Needed comfort stop (cappuccino) and we are back on the M1 heading for Chesterfield and ultimately Hope. 

At last we pull into a car park in Hope.  Boots and backpacks on, poles at the ready and the walk begins.  Through part of the pretty village, over a stile, through the mud and follow the footpath upwards to Lose Hill.  More stiles and plenty of mud!  The mist is still about us as we climb steadily to the top.  People tell us the view is magnificent.  Eventually we arrive at the top (476 metres).  View?  What view!  We can only see mist.

Short break and we are off again across the ridge heading for Hollis Cross: the mist had almost gone.  Lunch at the top of Mam Tor (517 metres), views magnificent.  We descent towards Windy Knoll and the sun greets us.  Down through Winnets to Speedwell Cavern and on into Castleton. 

The group split at this point, some going to Peak Cavern, others enjoying the quaint village bathed in sunshine, whilst others seek hostelries and tearooms.  After 2 hours, we meet up again to enjoy the last part of the ramble along Peakshole water and back to Hope.

After a short break, Dennis takes the wheel once more and drives us safely back to Kettering.  A wonderful day enjoyed by all; excellent company and a big “thank you” to Jane and Dennis Tromans who made it all possible.

Visit to Bletchley Park Sunday 23rd April (article by Martyn Richards)

Around 25 people met at Bletchley station for what turned out a thoroughly enjoyable day. Our organiser, Pam Tomalin, had cleverly worked out we could park our cars for free in the British Rail car park, instead of paying £5 inside Bletchley Park. For those who have not visited before, there is much more to this former WWII “spy” centre than is apparent. Thanks to Pam’s organisation, we had a guided tour around the displays and buildings during which we learned:

  • Formerly a country residence, Bletchley Park was acquired one year before the outbreak of WWII.   It was originally called the Government Code and Cypher School.
  • The codebreaking team included mathematicians, military officers, Post Office engineers and a chess grandmaster.
  • An electro-mechanical machine, strangely called “The Bombe” was designed by Alan Turing to run through every permutation possible on the German Enigma machine.
  • Different codes were used by the German Army, Luftwaffe, Navy and Secret Intelligence and these all changed on a daily basis.
  • The activity was intense, a vast multitude of messages arrived constantly from outbased “listening posts” for de-cyphering, language translation and dissemination to military commanders.
  • At its peak 250,000 intelligence cards were being catalogued daily, 1000 motorcycle despatch riders arrived each day and over 10,000 people were employed on the site.
  • As well as despatch riders, carrier pigeons were used to ferry messages in and out of Bletchley Park. We saw the pigeon loft above the garages.
  • The role of the site was kept secret from the local inhabitants and remained a government secret until the mid-seventies.
  • Despite its secrecy, the site was unintentionally bombed when a German bomber dropped its unused bombs before returning home.
  • Colossus was the piece of equipment designed by the Alan Turing and Tony Flowers to break the highly sophisticated code used between Hitler and his Generals.
  • Colossus was the world’s first programmable electronic computer, built in 1943.
  • Alan Turing committed suicide some ten years later by biting an apple dosed with cyanide. Interestingly, the guide told us the logo of Apple Computers, an apple with a bite missing, is believed to be a reference to Alan Turing and his pioneering work.
  • Some historians/generals(?) believe that Bletchley Park probably cut 2/3 years off the length of the war.
There were many other features on our tour including a Winston Churchill collection, a 1940’s Post Office, and a Toy Collection. They are clearly very keen on more visitor numbers in order to contribute to the upkeep of the buildings. Go on a Saturday and park in their car park. Go on a Sunday and park in British Rail car park for free!

Street Rally (article by Peter MacGovern)

It was a fine evening for a stroll around Kettering.  There were many clever clues set around an interesting route; more challenging for some than others, who didn’t know the difference between a toilet and a Tardis!  We returned to fish and chips and drinks at Paulines.  It was a very close result with one or two dissenters on various clues but the adjudicators decisions were upheld.
Thanks for an enjoyable evening.  <Anyone volunteering for the 2007 Street Rally please see a committee member. Ed>

Grendon Ropes (article by Martyn Richards)

So there I was, perched on the top of a telegraph pole. Birds were flying around below me. My head was amongst tree branches. Voices from beneath were shouting  “1  -  2  -  3 JUMP.” How had it come to this?  A few weeks previously, the 50+ newsletter had arrived. I read it quickly, filled in a couple of the reply slips and sent them off. On Saturday morning, 6th May, I left home for the activity titled ‘Grendon Ropes.’ I hadn’t really considered what it involved.

It was very warm and sunny. Our group of 12 gathered around three red-shirted instructors (!) Safety helmets were issued (!!) A large first aid bag appeared (!!!) We were then led to a spinney with a pond and an island and commenced the named activities:
The Grapevine  -  a series of overhead hanging ropes for support as you shuffle across a pole bridging the two banks.
The Postman’s Walk  -  another shuffle back over the water.
The Lily Pads  -  a hanging rope between each lily pad to swing yourself from the bank Tarzan-style, then pad to pad   -  and the first dunking.
Hanging Tyres  -  more suspended ropes with old tyres on the end. Very bouncy and above water. Stepping from tyre to tyre, there was the constant risk of doing the splits and finishing up in the water  -  possibly with one leg caught in a tyre – but we all managed to get across.
Suspended Log and X-Wire  -  balanced walks above a bed of stinging nettles.
The Cargo Net bridge   - over the water with a somersault in the middle.
The Y Walk  -  two parallel narrow logs above the water. Take a partner and lean into each other to cross the bridge. It’s best if couples are on speaking terms when they attempt this.
The Army Crawl  -  two parallel wires stretched across the water about a metre apart upon which you laid and pulled yourself from one side to the other. Tony definitely had the best technique and managed to get across without a rest.
Balance Beam 1 -  outstretched arms above ground.
Balance Beam 2 -  outstretched arms above the water, the faster the better.
Leap of Faith  -  See the first paragraph. Climb up a telegraph pole, stand on top and throw yourself at a hanging trapeze.
High Dive  -  climb up a tree – stand on a platform -  and leap (with a safety harness).

Surprisingly we didn’t need a first-aider but we did need a drink in the pub across the road afterwards.

Llama trekking (article by Julia Rees).

Llamas Looking anxiously at the sky after the previous night's thunderstorms, Grace, Margaret and I set of from Kettering to take the country roads to Green's Norton where we were meeting Peta, Linda, Jill and Louise for either a drink or lunch. We decided we would have lunch there but after a long and fruitless wait, had to ask for our money back or we would be late.

On arriving at the farm we just had time to grab a quick sandwich and put on our boots before it was time to meet the llamas. We were put with another group of four and were first given a short talk on the history and general nature of the animals. Mary (their owner and champion) then explained how to lead the llamas and how to make sure they knew we were the "boss" in the first twenty minutes, especially how to stop them from trying to eat all the time!! The seven of us had three animals to share - Spinach (Peta's favourite!), George and Nye. Off we went with Spinach and Peta in the lead. I felt quite excited as this was my first venture with the club and my first experience of llamas.

We went across fields, a little way on the road (where George decided he was definitely NOT going to walk through the puddles!) and into the woods, which were beautiful with carpets of bluebells and primroses and the birds singing. Margaret commented on what a strange sight it was to see llamas in an English woodland. It was a lovely leisurely walk taking two hours altogether as we had to stop several times for the animals to answer calls of nature!!

As we turned for home George decided that he wanted to be in the lead. According to Mary he was making sure that we were going home and not on day trek. After that some of the others also wanted to push through to the front, which caused slight chaos, and Nye got quite upset when he got left at the back. Eventually they sorted themselves out into an order that suited them and we made our way back to the farm, where we were met by the dog and the "girls" who all came to the fence to see what was happening. The weather managed to stay fine (we even saw a little bit of sun) and we had a lovely day. It was a great introduction to the club for those of us on our first venture.

Hovercraft racing (article by Christine Clark)

hovercraft We met at the Pemberton Centre at 7.45, started the journey in dry but dull weather but then the sky went quite grey and stayed that way for the rest of the day with showers just enough to keep everyone wet.  On arrival, some people donned waterproof clothes and wellies and off we went into an empty, boggy field with an open shelter.  Good news!  There was a decent toilet which was a welcome sight after 2 hours journey. 

After we had been briefed on Hoverdays, we were split into 2 groups: my group went for Archery first taking cover under an open shelter whilst waiting our turn.  We went 3 at a time: the first 2 goes were practice and I did quite well with several arrows landing in the Gold.  Then came the time to count our scores: what a disaster!  The arrows didn’t even know where the Gold was!  I think 4 people did well – Val scored 100 which was the top score over all and Cecil had a score of 82 and was top of his group.  So well done Val and Cecil.

Change over to Hovercraft.  In our briefing we were told that you are better if you carry a bit of weight, otherwise lean forward if you get into difficulties and shake from side to side to help the craft out of the thicket areas.  Failing this, you have to get out, hold the craft on full throttle and pull it back onto the track.  As I was of a slighter build, I knew I had to do a lot of work thrusting one way or other to keep on track.  Things were going well at first but I didn’t realise my coat was hooked on the pin which was there to stop over-turning the handlebars, which prevented any steering at all!  I was soon grounded in the thick grass and had to get out by the full throttle method where I got soaked from spray from under the craft skirt, into my trousers and down into my boots!  Wet feet from now on – oh, I wish I had brought my wellies!  I was not alone in this situation but we carried on regardless.  I was given the nickname by Jim as “Woman Possessed” – I hope this was only to do with my driving!  There were some good time laps scores.  Martyn was fastest at 1.37 minutes over 2 laps and the rest of us seemed to manage around 1.51.

Time now for home or the pub.  Those who went to the Queen’s Head had a lovely meal.  Staff were very pleasant and helpful.  Most of us had wet feet if they hadn’t taken a change of shoes, but Linda Street went one better and asked for 2 carrier bags.  Off came her socks to be replaced by the bags, shoes were put back on and tied in nice bows with the bag handles.  Looked very stylish – could catch on!  Note to self: next time do take carrier bags if you forget or don’t have wellies.  As we left the pub, what did we see?  Blue sky which was with us for most of the way home.  It was a great day – just what I joined the 50+ Adventure Club for!

White Water Rafting (article by Gay Teese)

Having been brought up by the sea and spending my childhood in rubber dinghies getting dunked I was not worried about the rafting. I was more apprehensive about meeting everybody and being in the right place at the right time and as I waited in the PC car park peering into every car that arrived not daring to ask if they were part of the 50+ group in case they were offended and only about 35. I obviously look my age because as Christine walked into the car park she said ‘50+?’.
So far so good I had met up with everyone, it was a glorious evening and then came the safety talk. My carefree attitude began to diminish as we heard about the injuries and dangers and the disease caught from rat’s urine and I began to think I may have made a mistake.
Not so, dressed to kill in wetsuits with very indiscreet holes, helmets and life-jackets we carried the rafts to make a start. It was then fun all the way. We only lost 2 members of the crew overboard and had a little difficulty paddling in time as there were 2 men at one end and 2 small ladies at the other, with me in the middle.
Thank you to everyone for making my first outing so enjoyable and please could you always ensure the weather is so good.

The Voyage of the Albatros (article by John Green)

albatros Ruth and I arrived at Wells car park behind the Ark Royal (the pub, not the aircraft carrier) at 4 on a sweltering Saturday afternoon fresh from a hot and very sweaty afternoon at Titchmarsh fete where we’d taken part in a display of English Folk Dancing. Ruth had driven down and I had attempted to listen to England’s first world cup game, the excitement of which had allowed me to sleep much of the way! Thank the Lord for 50+ adventure outings.
We wandered down to the quay via the Saturday Market in the pub car park and eventually ran into Pam looking very efficient with her 50+ folder at the ready. With time to kill until 7, we walked along the harbour entrance to the lifeboat house and watched some windsurfers and a water skier having a good time before strolling back to the quayside along the dike which stops the North Sea flooding Pinewoods campsite twice daily. Pam also found time to order a lobster to take home the following evening from the fresh sea food stall on the quayside.
Boarding the ship we met Ton and Katy and were, in due course, joined by the rest of those of our motley crew who were sleeping aboard that night. After a few minutes of excitement (anxiety for some) caused by the realisation that most of the cabins were 3 berth not 2, all was sorted out. Access to the cabins was down the steepest stairs ever, almost a ladder, with the gripping opportunity to give yourself concussion every time you used them. The berths themselves were comfortable but cosy. A pleasant evening was spent between deck and bar with company that could only have been bettered if the morning arrivals had been there too.
Morning dawned early – not that anyone noticed – but most of us were up and on deck by 7 and anxious to help as, along with a variety of fishing boats and pleasure craft, we cast off and eased our way along the narrow, tortuous mile-long channel separating the harbour from the open sea. In the morning we were joined by Richard, Ed and Helen to complete the complement of 5 crew. The rest of our group also turned up in plenty of time having either camped at Pinewoods or driven down that morning.
The first thing to do once clear of the harbour entrance was to eat breakfast, full English of course, all beautifully cooked by Ton and served by Katy and Helen who did a first class job of delivering it to the bar area, 2 plates at a time, down a steep companionway while Richard and Ed sailed the ship.
The next job was to raise the sails. Several of us took turns to help winch the main and other sails to the top of the mast though most credit must go to Cecil, who thanks to his time in the Navy and voluntary work on the tall ships with young people, not only did much of the work but actually understood what he was doing and why he was doing it. Pam would have liked to climb to the Crows Nest but since there wasn’t one that ambition has to be saved for another time.
We sailed gently east along the coast as far as Cley, picking out the seal colony basking at Blakeney Point, before sailing just as gently to the west. I use the term sailing loosely because there was very little wind and most of the motion came from the tidal current. We were making just enough headway to be able to steer, something most of us had a go at during the day. The day was spent relaxing, attempting the crossword in Nigel’s paper, watching the sea birds and keeping an eye out for passing seals. One stayed with the ship for 30 minutes or more popping up on first one side then the other. We also managed to accumulate 5 homing pigeons on the trip that spent the whole afternoon fluttering and walking around the bow end of the deck. All we could think of were their anxious owners scanning the Norfolk sky waiting for their charges to come fluttering safely home as these same charges partook of a relaxing sea voyage! One of them even tried out the cabins and needed rescuing by Jim (nobly assisted by Lucy who’d spooked it into going down in the first place). If only they’d arrived before lunch!
At last, off Brancaster – a naval port and powerful fortress in Roman times, the time came to restart the engine and head for home. There is only a short window of opportunity during which ships as large as the Albatros can enter Wells so all had to be neatly timed. We slipped into the channel and processed around the many twists and turns of this most difficult of harbours arriving at the quay with just enough time to turn the ship in the main channel and dock before the water level dropped too far.  Quite a work of art.
With many a smile, thank you and handshake we disembarked to go our own ways, some of us back to the cars and home, others of us to our B&B’s to spend a little more time in this most lovely of ports. Pam, thanks to her foresight the previous day, went home with a lobster so beautifully fresh I half expected it to walk to the car!
If there was a disappointment it was the lack of wind which gave us a day of drifting with attitude rather than a day of high speed sailing. This disappointment, such as it was, was far outweighed by the many positives. We had good company, glorious weather, excellent food and the warmest of welcomes from our crew. The calmness of the ocean also meant no-one felt particularly seasick, just a little queasy until our sea legs kicked in! A splendid day all round and one for which I am grateful to Pam for sorting out and to Nigel for providing the initial inspiration.

Canal Boat Trip (article by Margaret Keevil)

It is Sunday, 18 June: Val is driving and we are off to Stretton-under-Fosse and the Rose Narrowboats.  Grace checks us in and we are allotted the 32 foot day-boat Rosette.  The men are instructed on “the workings” of the boat - the engine and the tiller.  The ladies meanwhile familiarise themselves with the galley.  Paul was designated captain and I think Grace was the purser in charge of logistics.  After a minor adjustment to the engine, we headed south.
We were soon gliding along between shady wooded banks. The dog roses were amazing and honeysuckle blossomed at the water’s edge.  A pair of swans with 8 cygnets were our first visitors.  Of the many families of ducks, the largest brood was 17.  The moorhens by contrast had only one or two chicks.  The men said they saw a kingfisher but we noticed it was painted on another boat!
Grace safely navigated us through the Newbold tunnel where groups of tricolour lights created rainbows over the roof.  Paul brought us through on the return journey.  Paul and the two Johns did most of the steering with Grace, Val, Marilyn and Diane “having a go”.  Mary and I stuck to galley duties.
We moored for an hour whilst we enjoyed a delicious picnic lunch.  Entertainment was provided by a child falling off the nearest boat – the Dabchick.  We saw another boat called Grace.  The 72 ft Valerie joining from another branch of the canal completely blocked our way when making its turn.  Our favourite boat name was The Kid’s Inheritance.
At the Hillmorton locks, we turned and headed back to the boatyard taking tea en route – we definitely had our 5 fruits and vegetables.  We had a few encounters with the banks, a lot of laughter and enjoyed a relaxing day in the beautiful rural setting of the Oxford canal.  Our journey took 8.5 hours arriving back at the yard all shipshape at 7 pm.  
Now, what shall I do next?

Pony Trekking/Walking and Canoeing the River Wye (article by Stuart Rawlings)


walk wales Having been picked up by a friendly Tony and Cecil at 8am on Saturday morning, we set out towards Wales and the tiny village of Velindre, on the northern edge of the Brecon Beacons. When we arrived into the riding centre, other members who had obviously got up a bit earlier greeted us! After a well-earned rest, they pitched their tent, whilst I inspected my comfy bed in the bunkhouse and at 12.30pm, we were enjoying lunch “al fresco” style in the lovely sunshine with the most beautiful views all around us. To the left was rolling countryside adjoining Hay Forest, with very high hills in the distance, whilst to the right was the pony paddock, home to about sixty horses with a backdrop of open countryside.

After a leisurely start and plenty of sun tan lotion, our first port of call was the riding centre to see off our saddled friends before venturing left up a steep climb towards the top of the adjacent hill. Everyone stood at the top to enjoy the 270-degree view across a patchwork of fields, farm buildings and countryside, which must have stretched for 10 miles! A wonderful sight with camera’s aiming in all directions!  Not many people can say they have admired Lord Hereford’s Knob… but we all saw it towering away in the distance, with sheep on it too. Stop! Are they our pony riders winding down it? No, they were 30yrs our junior but a lovely sight to see as they approached on the winding path amongst the mixture of hillside ferns. We descended into a couple of watery gorges, which were wonderfully cool after the hot sunshine. Someone dunked their hat in it, others their feet and I nearly slipped in! Of course we never got lost at any time, it was just that I noticed quite a lot of activity with Dennis’s compass on the O.S. map…ahem!

Shame about the football as we all cheered over beer cans and wine (Oh, and thanks for the tea Ann)…. whilst I watched with interest as Mike and Tricia Booth demonstrated mass sandwich making…. and an even greater shame was that we had to endure a wonderful meal and even more alcohol at the local pub. It was here that I spread the news that it was Dennis and Jane Troman`s 39th wedding anniversary that day!  Congratulations to them both were toasted by a restaurant filled with 50+ Club members, along with more quips and laughter to wind up a lovely evening. 

Oh my goodness, I remember racing someone up the long hill back to the riding centre. I had to let her win though…. before collapsing into bed.


canoe wales Rising at about 8.30am on Sunday morning gave Martin, a couple of friendly teachers and I, the opportunity to chat and reflect upon all our experiences the day before as we drank our cuppa in the courtyard. As the cook (who reminded me of a character from the Pirates of the Caribbean film) beckoned us into his galley, his words “the works then” meant a really big breakfast, which was to set us up for the canoeing ahead.

Another leisurely start, culminated in our launch into the River Wye, well after the girls had finished playing and cuddling with the tiny kittens in the canoe centre. In pairs, we all set off on what was to be a most wonderful day rowing quietly down the river.  Our trip involved a 10-mile meander through some of the most beautiful countryside on all sides. Gentle and sometimes firm rapids gave way to still, glassy pools reflecting the ancient trees in the distance. Families of swans, many horses, various cows, various types of duck, birds, dogs, black animals with long tails in the undergrowth…it was all there for our enjoyment.

Half way along our route, involved a rendezvous for a picnic in an open field overlooking the rapids we had just encountered. Oh and by the way, I nearly forgot the tasty sandwiches that I had witnessed being made yesterday by Mike and his team. Well there wasn’t any left so that was a good advert! I did wonder where people were going across the field but I learned that there was a John Lewis behind the trees and they were giving away ornaments.  As our trip continued, the river became more of a challenge with the rapids becoming shallower unless you went along the right bit and obviously, Martin and I never had to leave our canoe to walk in the water to re-launch it fifteen yards further on…..but we did have a good laugh drying out our trainers and my shorts!  At the second of the bridges, we saw a couple of young lads admiring a wonderful 4lb fish that they had caught and then popped it back in.

Further leisurely paddling led us eventually to the riverside pub where we all pulled our canoes out on to the grassy bank for collection and our ride back to the canoe centre. Several members had capsized from their canoe into the shallows and I think there was an element of intentional dunking into the crystal clear water to cool off but everyone had a wonderful day. Oh and a couple of drinks in the pub too (for medicinal purposes only). When our transport delivered us back to the canoe centre, we all said our goodbye’s and then started on our journey back home.

As a new member of the club, I must congratulate Mike and Tricia Booth who will be celebrating their 36th wedding anniversary on 11th July 2006 and to Dennis and Jane who endured our company on their 39th wedding anniversary during the Wye trip.  A wonderful weekend and I may book up next year!

Pony Trekking and Canoeing Weekend (article by Helen and Graham Rowson)

horses Horses and canoes, bunkhouses and camping, a boiling hot weather forecast – and England playing in the World Cup Quarter Finals. What better recipe for fun and excitement. And so it turned out.
The setting of the stables and campsite where we were to begin our adventure could not have been more idyllic, nestling amongst pasture, hills and woods, and we couldn’t wait to get mounted up. The ponies/hoses were in really wonderful condition and thankfully had done this sort of thing many times before. They were patient as we got mounted and our saddles/girths/stirrups etc sorted out, and then we were off into the hills.
We mainly stuck to single file despite some of the animals’ attempts to change this along the way, and a couple of times over the open hillside we managed short trots. Sadly no-one took up the leading stable girl’s offer of “….anyone for a canter…?”.
We passed over streams and under branches until, all too soon I realised we were on our way back to the stables. I guessed, correctly as it turned out, that by the time we got back and another 24 hours had elapsed, it would prove to have been quite long enough. As it was, we climbed down from our mounts and automatically assumed the “John Wayne” position, restricted by aching thighs and cramping calves.
Soon it was time for the match and cries, gasps and sighs came floating out of the bunkhouse as the game progressed to its dramatic climax.
Even England’s eventual demise could not dampen our exuberance as we strolled down to the pub in the beautiful late evening for a meal and a few drinks, and to help Dennis and Jane celebrate their wedding anniversary.
Modifications were made later (after some consumption of alcohol) to the camping arrangements in an attempt to dispel the predicted orchestra of snoring, although some team members did struggle briefly to locate the new arrangement. Next morning dawned fine and clear and after packing up we drove to the canoe establishment for our second safety briefing in two days. Why do we do these things?
There followed a comprehensive guide to the 11 mile stretch of river we were due to follow, explaining which line should be followed etc. Once on the water, however, two to a canoe it dawned on the novices amongst us that knowing which line to follow was actually quite different to being able to follow it!
Some crews performed beautifully whilst others practiced spins and bank crashes that would have done more justice to the dodgems. But eventually the little flotilla settled down in time to face the first set of shallow water. Here the canoes accelerated and took on a mind of their own. I’m certain there were some stretches where Hiawatha would have struggled. Eventually we made a shingle shore-line for some well-earned lunch and many thanks to those who helped prepare such a feast carried downstream in our waterproof barrels.
After lunch the river was a little wider and quieter although there were some nervous moments as overhanging branches appeared to try and climb inside the canoes at the expense of the canoeists.
By following the instructions the final pub hove into sight and I knew how Francis Chichester felt at the end of his epic voyage. The canoes were hauled up the very steep bank right into the pub beer garden ready for pickup and ice cold beer seemed to be the order of the day as we swapped stories.
So thanks to Trish and Mike for a brilliant weekend and to everyone else who helped make it such a cracking success. Everything was so well-organised perhaps next time you could also organise for a couple of English penalties…..?

Dragon Boat Racing – Bedford River Festival (article by Sue Drinkwater)

dragons 16 Rowers and supporters travelled to the Bedford River Festival on a gloriously hot and sunny day to take part in the now highly competitive Dragon Boat Racing.  This time there were 26 teams entered (only 15 teams in 2004) and the majority were very young and fit looking – but did we let that worry us?  No of course not!  It’s the taking part that counts not the winning - or so we kept telling ourselves.
We all took part in 3 heats, 3 boats at a time along a 250 yard stretch of the river.  We probably should have recognized that we were going to be up against it when we failed to assemble all of our team together for the safety briefing at the appointed team.  It didn’t look too professional having to put out a PA announcement for the remaining members of our crew!
During the afternoon heats the commentator gave out gems of information about each of the teams competing.  Much amusement was caused amongst the assembled throng when he announced that ‘the 50+ Adventure Club Team consisted of 3 members over 70 and had an average age of 59; our strategy for the race being ‘Not to capsize!’   Nevertheless we got a rousing cheer from the other boats when we finished our final heat.
Although several of us including Grace particularly, seemed to do our best to get exceedingly wet we all had a most enjoyable day. I should like to thank both Pauline and Peta for all their hard work and attempting to get us all in the right place at the right time.

Green Bowling (article by “Toi” Bower)

bowling For my first activity with the club: we went green bowling in Market Harborough on Sunday 16th July. After we picked up Pauline at her house we arrived at the green about 10.30 am. There were about twelve of us. We received instruction from members of the bowling club. They made us feel very welcome. The gentleman that taught us showed us how to roll the ‘wood,’ where to aim and he outlined the rules.

It was a particularly hot day. We played in three groups of four I think, and spent about two hours playing twelve ‘ends.’ This gave time for everyone to get a sun tan.
Martyn and I played against Richard and Caroline, they are in different league to us. We were beaten hands down but at the end of the day we did not mind because we were sure that they have done this before! We did enjoy ourselves but we won’t be playing with them again!
Afterwards we had tea, sandwiches and home made cakes provided by CARE Shangton. Then we had time to reflect on our games. I had time to get to know some members, which was very nice.  I am looking forward to the next adventure, GO APE!

Go Ape (article by Jane Mills)

go ape There I was on my first adventure with the 50 plus club, and what had I let myself in for? The leader was telling us all about zip wires, Tarzan ropes, (well, my name is Jane!) and safety harnesses. We were all clad in, well…..  what looked like something from a naughty film! Being given instruction on safety and what to do if in difficulty. Then we started with the first set of climbing frames. Starting with a Tarzan rope, I found it hard to trust the safety gear but with encouragement from another member, I launched into the air and hit the climbing ropes on the other side a second later and scrambled up on to the next part which although scary, I managed with ease. THEN came the first zip rope………….. eeeek. More encouragement from the same person and I whizzed down, remembering the instructions and dug my heels into the wood chips that had been provided to soften the landing and I HAD DONE IT! The first section had been completed. I felt so good!

We waited for the others and carried on to the second set, which where higher and harder that the first, but with a little help from my new found friends, I completed these with less problems until I came to the end, another zip wire. This time I took courage in my hands and wheeeee! Slid down the wire trying to stay forwards, but alas turning round in the middle I again landed on my back covered in chippings. It was everywhere! My hair was covered and we all spent time brushing each other down. The day was hot but some kind soul had gone to buy us all a bottle of water each. We needed it, but not too much water…. there were no loo’s here and although there were plenty of bushes, there was a lot of people in the air!!! No, no, that was not a good idea!
On to the third lot again a little harder and with another Tarzan rope, again I found this quite hard and people below gave lots of support. For some reason, I had forgotten the safety harness and dreaded my hands slipping, then remembering the safety gear, I jumped to the sound of cheers and clambered on to the next bit. It was exhilarating experience!
THEN IT HAPPENED! Oh my .... as put my foot on to a log to walk across, .. oh dear a shout .. calling my NAME - Oh No! Someone was taking my picture..... ahhh ..... and me with my hair up and all my grey bits showing Noooooo!!!…. On to the zip wire. By this time I and several others, had decided not to go any further and not do the last set of climbing frames. Now for the last zip wire that I was going to do….. WHEEEE, with no hesitation I zipped down the high wire, hair flying everywhere……It felt good to have completed the three stages and we watched the Famous 5 intrepid pioneers who completed the course…. Julian, Dick, Anne, George and of course not forgetting Timmy! Oh no, sorry it’s the other famous five Toi, Martin, Jane, Dennis and Mick!
I am now looking forward to next years Go Ape and completing the full course.

Fireworks (article by Ann Cook)

fireworks We spent all week wondering if the weather would hold for Saturday's Fireworks. Well despite it looking decidedly dodgy about 5 o'clock we were in luck. Never been to Stanford before, what a beautiful place, a perfect setting for a good night of entertainment.  About a dozen of us turned up early eager to help out putting the Pam’s gazebo up. Despite so many willing hands it still took just under and hour to sort, good job Pam had seen it go up before!  No shortage of tables this year, enough to hold the great selection of food provided by everyone who came along.
There was plenty of time to kill before the fireworks began, but that gave us all an opportunity to have a wander, for some to have a dance, and for those with or without a steady hand to have a go at the "Hi Tower".  Then of course there was the food, quite a banquet.

Once it got dark we were in for a real treat, and we certainly had some of the best seats in the house. The fireworks were presented by four different companies who each had around ten minutes each to put on their displays to music and the show just got better with each display. The final show was absolutely fantastic and I think we all agreed was the best of the evening as proved by the 'text' vote afterwards.

Multi-Activity day at Grange Farm

Clay Pigeon Shooting (Richard Stanley)

clay We (Richard and Janette) started the day with quad bikes (brilliant) and after Peta and Heather had an hour at clay pigeon shooting, it was our turn. We were taken down to the range by Land Rover where we were met by John, our instructor, who kitted us out with jackets and ear muffs. My problem was that once the ear muffs were on I couldn’t hear a thing!

We had five shots each at four different targets.  You didn’t actually aim at the clay but had to follow it and aim either just in front or at the top or at the bottom – depending of which ‘bay’ you were in.  Janette got the hang of this straight away by imagining she was aiming at the boss ! X ! 

John promised Janette a bottle of whisky or vodka if she could hit 4 out of 5 on the ‘Rabbit Run’ which was where the clay bounced on the ground! When this didn’t happen it was only then that he said it would only have been a miniature!!  I eventually got the idea and after waiting for passing ducks, managed to pick up my score to draw equal with Janette.  We both thoroughly enjoyed the experience and will definitely try it again.  Then we went off to the archery.  Thanks to Pauline for organising the day.

Clay Pigeon Shooting (article by Heather Hewitt)

Set in beautiful surroundings with an abundance of trees and water, we donned our jackets and ear defenders and took to the stands to have a go at clay pigeon shooting. John, our instructor was patient and full of good humour as he advised us on the technical bits and techniques, Tummy in, bum out and feet placed properly to stop you from being knocked back when you pulled the trigger. 
We hit a few, missed a few, but had a great time aiming at the clay targets. They came from different directions and levels which prompted odd names for each like springing teal, going away, fluffy bunnies, trotting woodpigeon and incomer. This was good fun. I think I could get hooked on this as a hobby.

Quad biking (article by Stephanie Jordan)

quads It was my first visit to Grange Farm and what a treat!  Beautiful setting, great facilities and friendly instructors.

We were introduced to our steeds with the minimum of fuss after donning helmets and white overalls to keep out the dust.  So looking like a bunch of forensic scientists, off we set in glorious sunshine.  Uphill and down dale, through the fields and then on to some mounds in the quarry to test throttle control.  Next gingerly through a hand-gate with an inch or two either side (why do we always breathe in whilst doing tight manoeuvres?) and a nice winding trail through the woods, down into the stream remembering to get the legs up.

All too soon it was back to the yard.  Pauline hit 45 mph on the straight back in  but had to throttle back for fear of riding over the instructor.  Great fun, only sorry I didn’t book a double slot!  Many thanks organisers for a wonderful day.

Egg Launch (article by Martyn Richards)

egg One of the activities at Grange Farm required us to build a devise capable of launching an egg as far as possible. Five of us had selected this option, so we worked as a team. We were given a crate with an assortment of materials to use and 40 minutes to complete the task. Many design ideas were discussed and we set about constructing our "contraption." The ideas continued during the building process resulting in modifications before the final version of the catapult was completed. A roll of sellotape was used as the cradle for the egg, which seemed like a good idea at the time. With about two minutes to go, we were ready to launch.

The first launch sent the egg flying through the air. Our instructor was impressed and immediately measured the distance. Twenty two metres!!  Unfortunately the roll of sellotape collapsed at the first launch and subsequent firings never matched the first. However, the instructor assured us that twenty two metres was an excellent achievement and had we been competing in a larger team event would have put us amongst the winners. 

Archery (Article by Janette Taylor)


Three of us on this occasion were recruited to the Archery area – myself (Maid Marion!), King Richard and Martin (The Evil Sheriff!). After instructions, which included tales of David Beckham, Nicole Kidman and ‘The French’, we were given arm bands for support and a chest support to prevent nipple rub, (but enough about Richard and Martin). Then the arrows started flying thick and fast.

It was a very close thing and we all did extremely well (in my opinion) and after an excellent hour, the two highest scores for each of us were tallied.  In the end, to the disgust of both Richard and Martin, Girl Power prevailed and I won (Okay, so it was just by one point!). 

Thanks again to Pauline for the organisation. 

Blindfold Driving (Linda Franklin)

blindfold Sunday morning bright and early Toi, Martyn and I set off for Grange Farm, after a couple of wrong turnings, we arrived at the Farm and met up with everyone else.  After charging around the farm at 35 mph on quad bikes, the next activity was sedate in comparison “Blindfold Driving”.  The title caused some trepidation at first but in reality was quite different.

The course was in a field and marked out with cones.  We were timed for each turn and awarded penalty points for every cone “killed”.  The mode of transport being a golf cart, it was hardly Silverstone but it was good fun.  We each took turns driving or navigating : I am not sure which was the hardest but  there were lots of shouts of “Stop!”, “Not so fast!”, “Which way!” and “Help!!” and loads of giggles: so all in all, great fun.  The overall winner on time was Steph but we all had the same amount of fun.  After that and the quad bikes, I was really ready for home and a hot shower, a quick snooze and lunch.  The best day’s fun I have had in ages.

Canoeing - (article by Val Wrighting)

canoe On a cold and damp Saturday morning in August our thirteen intrepid adventurers arrived at Grafham Water Centre for a morning of canoeing, and an afternoon of sailing or windsurfing.  Immediate disappointment as we heard that it would be too windy for the afternoon sessions to take place.
However we perked up over our free cups of tea or coffee, and were soon on our way by minibus to the river at Brampton Mill.  We were allocated our canoes, which took two or three people, and I was helped into the front of one with Peta behind me to do the steering.  I will always think of her now as “Captain Sooty” (explanation later).  After a short instruction on how to control the canoe, we started off in light rain.  I didn’t think it was a very good omen when the two instructors put up a golfing umbrella in their canoe.
Most of the members got away at a fair speed and were soon out of sight.  Peta and I had more trouble finding forward gear, and slowly proceeded via each bank, and much reversing out of the reeds.  Fortunately most of the route was on a backwater so there wasn’t too much other river traffic, but we had very close encounters with a number of overhanging trees.  By the time we caught up with everyone else they had had a good rest and were ready to go on again - no such luck for us!  However one of the instructors left his canoe, and then walked along the bank shouting instructions to us, so we managed to keep a little straighter.  From this time on I had a continuous running commentary from behind me of - “Forward!”, “Back!”, “Rudder!” and “Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!”  The rest of the group managed a further stop which we missed out on again, and we gave amusement to another group of canoeist under instruction, as we were so much worse than they were.
We turned for home first but were soon overtaken by everyone else.  However, on the way back we managed much better as the wind was coming from a different direction, and although we caught the bank a few times we missed all the trees.  We avoided the moored boats, the swans and fishermen, and arriving back at the starting point managed to get out of the canoe without falling in.  THANK YOU PETA FOR A REALLY HILARIOUS MORNING.


GORGE WALKING EXPERIENCE (article by Lucy Oliver-Carton)

longtown gorge Seven intrepid members were mustered and having been issued with some unflattering red ‘fat’ suits, helmets and boots we set off chattering excitedly for the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Our first view of Mellte Gorge (Lightening River) was simply breathtaking. We clambered down the steep gradient in bright sunlight where the rocks glittered in amongst the bracken.  We were then faced with a number of challenges over the next four hours which at first seemed difficult, but with the increasing team spirit we overcame them.

All went well until our leader Mike encountered a fallen tree in our path high up on a narrow ledge.  We all were successfully roped up and guided through it, but then the unexpected happened. Julia lost her footing and started to roll towards the edge of a steep drop. Ellie the young trainee leader reacted quickly and lunged out for her and they both somersaulted twice and just stopped in time.  An accident was narrowly averted.   Somewhat more carefully, we made our way until we stood underneath the mighty waterfall and felt the full force of a huge volume of water battering over our bodies. There was to be just one more challenge. Having accessed a large rocky area with a six foot drop into a large pool we were invited to jump in!  It was an exhilarating and totally brilliant feeling.

After a long climb up, totally exhausted, looking like Wombles but still exuberant, Stuart delightedly insisted on taking advantage of the kissing gate!  At last the prospect of dry clothes and lunch at 4 o’clock.  I had certainly not considered that I would be undressing in public and in front of everyone but by now all decorum had gone.  This was a simply wonderful experience shared by like minded people and will be lodged in my mind forever.

DINAS ROCK AND THE SYKRID GORGE WALK (article by Trevor and Lana Brighton)

longtown group After breaking the ice on the Friday evening of our first 50+ adventure weekend, we (Trevor and Lana) were looking forward somewhat nervously to our day of rock climbing and gorge walking. We met in the barn to get kitted up and, after a few false starts when forgotten clothing and packed lunches were fetched, boarded the minibus with our 5 fellow adventurers and Martin and Sarah, the instructors.

Neither of us has rock climbed before and were a bit shocked when we arrived at Dinas Rock and saw what we were planning to climb. The others seemed totally unfazed! Martin went off to set up ropes while Sarah showed us how to put on belts ready for the climb. We had two sections of the rock prepared for us to climb. Martin explained how to belay and support the climber and then it was time for the first two to go. We all had a very successful morning. Everyone completed the climbs and had a real sense of achievement and pride in ourselves. It is an activity which demands good team work and faith in each other and was a fantastic introduction for us. We had a lot of fun too especially as we were climbing alongside a group of young men on a stag weekend. They were really friendly but were teasing mercilessly one of their group, Lee, who found the climb hard and wanted to give up especially as our members were doing so well! Sheila came into her own and shut them up by giving Lee such fantastic encouragement that he made it and gave her a big hug when he got down!

We all enjoyed our picnic in the warm sunshine and then got ready for the gorge walk by putting on our extra layers of clothes, waterproofs and buoyancy aids in the now extremely warm sunshine!

We descended into the gorge and then in to the river – and the first of the cold water seeped over the top and into the wellies! Our first challenge was quite a tough one. We had to go up into a dark little cave in the rock side feeling our way in the dark and then around the corner at the top ready to slide down the other side. It was tougher than it sounds as you couldn’t see where to put your feet to climb and we had to push and pull each other up the first bit. The slide down came as quite a relief. We continued our climb up the gorge up and round little waterfalls. Sarah showed us where she had lost her footing and fallen back down a waterfall on one of her trips with children – scary! The next challenge was a ‘little’ swim where the water got ‘a bit deep’ – we were finding Martin had a bit of a warped sense of humour! The shock as the water moved from just being in your wellies to moving through your whole clothes was – shocking! By now however we were beginning to enjoy the feeling in a weird sort of way so when we got to the final challenge which involved crawling along a ledge under a fast-flowing torrent and then jumping off a ledge the other side 10 feet into the pool below, some of us enjoyed it so much we went back for a second go!

Finally we walked back to the minibus, changed in the still brilliant sunshine (thank goodness) and set off. Not many remembered the journey back but all agreed after waking up back at Longtown that it had been a fantastic day!

CAVING (article by Heather Hewitt)

longtown cave For someone who for years thought of herself as being slightly claustrophobic, I have surprised myself once again. I managed to complete the caving challenge at Longtown.  On a lovely hot day, wearing multiple layers of clothes and an all in one suit, wellies, helmet and head lamps we began with the walk down to the cave. We had to use safety lines for this as there was a slope and a drop off to the right into the gorge.

We climbed over a rock to enter the cave through a small hole, and then crawled for a short distance before it opened out a bit. We were then sent off to the right, on our own, through a very narrow part where we had to crawl again with no idea of how far we had to go or how long it would take. A few minutes later we appeared at an opening where we were met by our grinning instructors. They had taken the easy route!

We continued to explore the rest of the cave, glad of the layers of clothes, as the water we paddled through was icy cold. We reached a dead end and before our return journey we played a game in total darkness where we had to arrange ourselves into name order which, of course, we did with ease.  Later some of us also had a go at the ‘duck’, where you had to lie in the water and slip under a rock shelf. This was a bit of a squeeze but as there was a central split in the shelf it wasn’t claustrophobic. As we approached the original entrance of the cave, we were offered the chance to try the ‘keyhole’. This was a narrow tunnel of about 30 meters leading out to another exit. This was a struggle. You could lift your head just high enough to see the daylight ahead. I had to wait in the middle part as the person in front was having a struggle, and I dropped my head for a rest. I lay there, eyeballs a couple of inches away from a muddy dip in the rock and, for just a moment, wondered why I was doing this!  You had to wriggle your way through as best you could and then at the end, squeeze out of the keyhole to be caught by the instructors. Five of us did do it, the rest are still in there.  No, only kidding.

What a sense of achievement!  Thank you, Longtown.

Marvelous Microlights (article by Gordon Reason)

It was on a Sunday morning, we aviators came to call,
to descend (tch !), upon Sackville airfield , blue skies just said it all ....
The Fiftyplus were here again, we're gonna have some fun,
and fly away into the sky ... get closer to the sun .

The microlights were woken up, and pulled out of their lair,
and after check, the first two folk, prepare ,
to get the wind, a'blowin’ throughout their hair .

All fifteen souls, went up and down, in order, as listed by our Mary,
No-one was allowed to jump the queue carried out so very fairly ...
A magic day it was ... this time I got to fly my plane,
I took it up, and got it down again.
Sixteen “Fifty-plussers” arrived at Sackville Airfield, on a super Sunday morning.  The air was warm, sky blue with little summer clouds, and, with the windsock about half-mast, I figured there would be just enough wind to make life interesting.  Two Microlights were got form their hangers , the trusty AXI-12000, a more standard type of aircraft, with a fixed wing, and a compartment beneath, into which you sat very comfortably, beside the pilot. And, much to my surprise, a microlight of the type, more often seen in our skies these days, a flex-wing which looks like nothing more than a wheelbarrow hanging beneath a sail!  It looked very new and I thought the pilot very trusting to let us lot up in it.  One sat behind the pilot and certainly got a good look around while flying .... but not sure about opening up a map, with that propeller whizzing around behind. 

So, when the first pair were invited to fly, after these aircraft were given their flight checks and it was pleasing to watch them buzz off down the strip, and so easily, lift off into the air .... without the turbulence that we saw last year.  While we sank a few coffees whilst those alight were doing their aerial circuits, and we got to chat to the constant array of pilots turning up as the day went by, who were revealing their flying machines .. they seemed to be popping out of every nook and cranny.  It was a very active and a whole lot different to the 2005 event.

So, my turn came along, a trip up in the Red Microlight, which was the one I secretly wished for, and I climbed in. After a short wait for engine temperature to rise, we whisked off down the runway, and we were aloft ....... much, much, gentler than last year.  After watching the grass rush by and fall away, I had just settled when the pilot, Bill, my pilot, put the joystick into my hand and said "You can take it from here ... you have control!" We had only reached treetop level, and were still climbing!  Not expecting that so early, it came as a shock, but it has been a childhood dream, and after a shaky start, and some encouraging words, things settled down. We flew out to Santa Pod, curved around Rushden , and took a long loop out over the countryside eventually finding our way back toward Riseley, where I was allowed to bring the craft almost down right on to the runway, and the pilot took over for the last few inches lifted the nose, cut the engine revs, and we were down  …absolutely magic!

A great time was had by all, and for our first flyers of Christine, Janet, Julia, Toi, Helen, Graham, Martin and Steve and those I may have missed: Mary - many thank yous for your ground crew activity ...  a great day!

A (Second) Day on The Oxford Canal (article by Richard Amos)

We arrived at Kettering at the appointed time just as the heavens opened, and the journey to Brinklow was in torrential rain. Someone must have been smiling on us, for as we turned into the marina the weather changed.

The narrow-boat Rosette was waiting and the provisions; enough for months at sea were loaded. A member of staff instructed us on how to handle the boat- starting, steering, and stopping and most importantly how to pass other boats.

Undaunted Gordon the elected captain for the day grasped the helm and shouted the order to cast off. He must have been listening to the instructions as he moved off without hitting anything. The Oxford Canal in this area meanders through woodland at the start. The trees form a green tunnel stretching into the distance, which is most spectacular, through which we chugged at a leisurely pace. From below was heard the clatter of teacups, heralding the first of many refreshment breaks.

The canal was so quiet that the birdsong seemed to be magnified within this green tunnel; the only disturbance was the Rosette chugging through.  Narrow boats look easy to handle but beware it takes what seems like hours for the steering to react to instructions. The first curve was a lesson to all but Gordon was up to the task and we proceeded on through farmland and back into the sunlight. Ducks and swans moved aside as we passed unlike boats from the opposite direction, but with the experience gained in the morning all was well.

Orders were sent to the captain to find a spot to tie up, after we pass through the tunnel, to have lunch. Tunnel sent waves of doubt through the steersperson but there were no problems. The tunnel was cool and beautifully lit and devoid of traffic much to the crew’s relief. A suitable spot was found to tie up and lunch was served. We sat down to a feast of salads, pies, roulades, and quiches followed by crumbles and flans - served with liberal dashes of wine and fruit juices. Having relaxed we cast off and sailed to the next turning point for the return trip.

The sun was shining and all was well with the world. The pace of life seems to slow the longer you spend time on a narrow boat, even the wildlife seems to drift aside as you pass. We tied up for tea and cakes and the conversation turned to setting the world to rights and before we continued a new political party was formed.  Please ask Cecil for membership forms. 

The journey back was uneventful apart from when the steersperson decided to try to wipe Cecil off of the six inch wide deck with a nearby tree and then grounding the boat, much to the hilarity of the rest of the crew.   Having cleaned and polished after tying up, we deposited the keys in the required place we all departed after a relaxing superbly organised day. Our thanks must go to Grace for all her efforts and her magic ‘odds and sods’ bag.

60s, 70s, and 80s evening (article by Anne Smith)

This was my first outing with the 50+ Adventure Club and Mike kindly arranged a lift to the venue at Market Harborough with Marilyn and Paul, which was very thoughtful.

We didn’t know what to expect for this musical evening at Joules Yard, because we had not been before.  However, as soon as we walked up the narrow, cobbled alleyway off the High Street, we realised that we were entering what could be described as an outdoor Aladdin’s Cave!  The description of Joules Yard on the ticket is “A unique Victorian Venue” and the words quaint and different spring to mind.

The eating house area comprised of people sitting outside in the courtyard garden at tables with garden umbrellas and coloured lights, which gave it a bistro type atmosphere.  There was also indoor seating in what comprised of a cross between a large greenhouse and garden shed!  This is where we sat, together with the live band “Back in Time”, who were positioned at one end, in front of a huge bookcase of second hand books.  I had a look round the rest of the “Yard” which was a fascinating collection of old bicycles, lawnmowers, bric-a-brac and even some old proverbial kitchen sinks!

By that time, the band - comprising three talented gentlemen of our age group - began their repertoire of hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s  They were very good and soon had people up out of their seats and dancing.  Then the food was ready and we all helped ourselves to various salads and quiches, etc., to be topped by a sizzling selection of meat from the barbeque being cooked outside by, I believe, Mr Joules himself.  The pièce de resistance was dessert which consisted of a chocolate fountain.  Having a sweet tooth, I was in my element, dipping marshmallows, jelly babies, banana etc into a cascade of hot melted chocolate.  I’d never played with one of these before – it was messy but scrumptious!  So, having eaten all that food, I thought I would burn off some calories by dancing to the band, playing some good songs from the likes of Abba, The Beatles, The Shadows, The Rolling Stones and Dire Straits, to name but a few.

I enjoyed the evening very much and met some really nice people.  Everybody made me feel very welcome and I am looking forward to my next event with the club.

Many thanks to Mike for organising the evening and to Paul and Marilyn for taking me.

Jack The Ripper trip - London (article by Diane & John West)

A sunny morning as 41 Adventurers and friends climbed aboard the coach and headed for London to enjoy our tour of the dark side with the ‘Jack the Ripper’ experience. Pam our leader had kindly provided maps and guides for everyone – a great information pack – so that we could make the most of the free time available.

First the coach had to navigate Kilburn High Road with all its multiethnic population and amazing shops; then via Edgware Road with its kebab houses and Arab restaurants. After 2½ hours we arrived at the London Eye in glorious sunshine – London seemed to be heaving with tourists – and queues had already formed for the London Eye. We had almost 4 hours of free time before the shadows lengthened and we started on the ‘ghoully bits’.

Promptly at 4.30 we rejoined our coach and drove to a rendezvous near Victoria station, changed coaches, met our guides and drove back to the London Eye! This time we joined our cruise down the Thames. Our guide was Simon ‘Silverstick’ carrying a silver topped cane which we had to follow to avoid getting lost.

On route we discovered that our adventurers had visited the Aquarium, the Churchill war rooms, HMS Belfast, the British Museum and some had even cruised down to Greenwich. So on with the river cruise and an opportunity to see famous landmarks and learn what befell traitors in bygone ages – beheaded and placed on spikes to deter other wrong doers.

We sailed past HMS Belfast and on to the Tower of London where we disembarked. Our guide Simon was enthusiastic and knowledgeable and full of spooky tales as he led us into the East End. Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, just follow the ‘Silverstick’. Over 100 years ago it had all looked so different in old-fashioned, grimy and downtrodden Victorian London. Today so much has changed; high finance offices, apartment blocks, local pubs and eateries but the mystique of the past is still there.

Back then five ‘Ladies of the Night’ were murdered in the area – the first serial killer had struck. Mary Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly – the last a few steps above the rest – she had her own room with a bed and  chair. All were viciously slashed and mutilated and the killer took a souvenir body part from each victim. Whooooooooo – he’s behind you!
The killings terrified London but the Ripper was never discovered. Even today no one knows who he was; many theories abound – a sailor, a doctor, a Jew – so no-one really knows and the legend continues.

On our tour ‘’Silverstick’ showed us part of the original Roman wall which was added to in medieval times but is now incongruously surrounded by modern buildings. He also took us past Middlesex Street, better known as Petticoat Lane. In amongst the old buildings we spotted the Gherkin tower, a reminder of how the old and new are mixed.

With supper eagerly awaited it was back to the coach and off to the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ pub and goodbye to Simon. A small problem at the bar – no beer on draught - so bottles had to suffice but the fish and chips tasted terrific.

It had been an excellent if long day with super organisation from Pam and we all seemed to enjoy it. Onto the coach, an official thanks to Pam, a collection for the driver and back to the Pemberton Centre shortly after midnight. Not too many nightmares we hope!

Conker Championships (article by Martyn Richards)

     Franklin reaches semi-finals
Intrepid Linda Franklin smashed her way through to the semi-finals of the World Conker Championships in Ashton  Using her well honed attacking technique in combination with a tight defensive strategy, fearless Franklin left many of her opponents in shock as she claimed victory time after time. Her amazing run through the heats and quarter finals was only brought to a halt by the ultimate ladies champion in a thrilling semi-final watched by a crowd of around 5000.
Earlier in the day almost 500 contestants from 19 different countries had gathered for the 42nd World Conker Championships in Ashton, Nr Oundle.

Linda Franklin had arrived with three other contenders from the 50+ Adventure Club: Janette Taylor, Richard Stanley and Martyn Richards. Braving the Scottish flag in the opening ceremony, a tenacious Taylor had skilfully selected a ripe nut to play with only to find it shattered after the first session. Stanley the Stout-heart fared better defeating his first opponent comfortably and promised to “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” but despite an impressive start went out in the next round when his second nut cracked! Richards, having thoroughly prepared for the event with a bowl of Crunchy
Nut for breakfast, cruised through the first and second rounds only to see his nut painfully crushed in the third round.  Franklin’s team mates could only watch in envy over the following hours as she completed her nut-splitting run through to the semi-finals. Asked about her performance on leaving the arena, Franklin said, “Can’t speak now, where’s the loo?” Franklin said, ”Playing conkers was easy, but I didn’t like the high platforms you had to stand on.” Let’s hope the organisers take Franklins comments into account for next year’s tournament.

By our sports correspondent.

P.S. (from the editors) Anne MacGovern won a year’s supply of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in the raffle!
Also – did anyone else see Cecil’s cameo appearance in “Airline” on 14 October at last year’s championships?  There were also fleeting glimpses of Diane, John, Jane and Dennis.

Cycling at Graffam (article by Anne MacGovern)

cycle Conditions were just right for a good pedal.  It was overcast and not too warm so we were not tempted to bare our arms and legs and risk grazes if we came off.  For those of us that chose to hire our bikes there was plenty of choice and very helpful staff.  We were a very mixed group as far as experience goes from those who had not cycled for many years to those who had recently returned from a cycling holiday not forgetting our reluctant cyclist (who shall be nameless) who preferred not to be in the driving seat!

The track around the waterline of Grafham is about 10 miles.  It is rough in places but generally not a bad surface but it is undulating and I swear some of the hills had grown since last time we were there.  There was evidence that the Health and Safety Executive had cycled the track recently, putting up notices, as every time we came to a lovely downhill, especially those on bends, we were warned about the danger and advised to get off our bikes! That was the best bit and we are the adventure club after all!  We all completed the trip unscathed if a little saddle sore although at one point a certain tandem nearly ended up off the track and in the field.  Did he say go to the right or he was coming through on the right!  Sorry Nigel!

All too soon we said goodbye to the Moorhens and Geese packed away the cycles and regrouped at the Wheatsheaf at Perry for a well-deserved drink and welcome plate of dinner.

Thanks Jane – another good trip.

Halloween Murder Mystery Evening (Article by Janet Bell)

On the last night of October, I set off for the Court House hotel in Thrapston.  It was cold with a promise of frost and the call of the armchair and TV was strong!  However, in true 50 + Adventure spirit (plus the fact that I had already paid for my meal!) I eventually found the venue and fellow “detectives”.
We were given the scenario where the body of a woman had been found in the grounds of a hotel, sustaining injuries suggesting a fall from a balcony.  The circumstances and further evidence showed that the death was the result of foul play.  We were shown a video recording of the comings and goings of guests attending a Halloween party at the hotel, given several pieces of evidence taken from the crime scene and had five minutes to interview each of the suspects. 
After our meal we were then allowed to interview the suspects again before deciding “who dunnit” and the reasons why.  Joan, Mary, John, Dave and I all gave our ideas – was it the alcoholic vicar who spent 30 minutes with the deceased in her hotel room?  Could it be her friend and fellow witch, who did not agree to admit the virgin maid into the coven?  Was someone being blackmailed?  Was it the stepson, who was a bit of a rogue?  We finally settled on the ……. but of course we were wrong – it was in fact the ……………… who was the last person we thought of!
Well done Peta’s team, who came up with the correct answer and thank you Mary for organising a most enjoyable evening.  Thanks also to the members of the Thrapston Dramatic Society for playing the characters so well and convincingly.
It was well worth turning out for and I am so glad that I made the effort.

LASER MAZE (Article by Steph  Jordan)

It was a cold night as 12 members promptly met at Wellingborough Laser Maze, and all agreed the temperature was even chillier inside.  Teeth chattered as instructions were issued.  Two teams would be formed as characters from either Star Wars (the gents) or Dr. Who (the ladies).  Points would be scored by destroying the other team’s bases or by hits on body targets.  Hits to the body disarmed the player’s gun for a few seconds.
Decisions were made as to the format of the game – we stuck to simple rules with no smoke-screen throughout our 3 games –it saved freezing in the instruction room!
Next into the equipment – quite heavy tabards with flashing beacons to mark target areas-very fetching!  After a little bit of wrestling to unclip the guns it was “Game On” and into the Maze.  This was on 2 levels and lit by ultra-violet light so those dressed in black had a small advantage.
Various tactics were employed by players - some chose to wander willy-nilly and shot with enthusiasm anything that moved - including their own team-mates (whoop, sorry ladies, my G.I. Jane mentality overtook me).  Others lurked in dark corners shooting passers-by in the back and retreating to their lair, whilst some took advantage of the second layer and sniped from above.  Each direct hit was marked by a calling for the undertaker and much laughter.
The action proved a great warmer and coats and jumpers were swiftly discarded after Game 1.  All were grateful for refreshments thoughtfully provided by Pauline.  The Star Trek team proved the overall winners of the evening, but there were no losers in the more important “Fun” stakes.
A great experience with all the entertainment but none of the pain of paintballing.  Many thanks Pauline for your organisation.

Body Flying (Article by Nigel Cross)

bodyflyimg This was my second visit to Bodyflight so I knew the drill, in theory if not in practice. After a lecture on what to do we all donned special suits with huge piping down the seams for the wind to grip and then earplugs, goggles and finally a helmet. When it is your turn, you fall into the chamber and the wind buoys you up well before you hit the floor which is a bouncy mesh. The instructor holds you and adjusts your posture, giving the hand signals you learnt earlier. It is tiring and noisy but very thrilling in the 130m.p.h. wind. More ‘rounded ‘ folk need higher wind speeds which the man in the control cabin dials in        

Watching the others flying is equally fascinating, especially how their faces distort. After we had each had two 90second flights we were very lucky to see a demonstration of how it can be done. He shot from floor to ceiling, flew sitting, on his back, spun and rotated in full control. PHEW! Finally what 50 plussers do best, drinking tea and chocolate and comparing experiences in the well appointed café. Which naughty boy flew with his watch on? We also celebrated Linda Street’s birthday. How old is she?  Over fifty!!!

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