Sunday, 17 June 2007

17. Canal du Midi

Toulouse - Carcassonne.:- A walk along the Canal du Midi in the south of France. I planned to do a short sharp 60 miles over 3 days, but my footwear was inadequate and I settled for a sore-footed but shorter distance to compensate. Distance:- 25 miles over two days. Going:- mostly on the towpath - now a cycle route thronging with BGV's - les bycyclettes de grand vitesse. Also a tremendous storm the night before made the unpaved sections somewhat soggy. Progress:- Walked 208 - to go 292. Photograph Hyperlink

The Canal du Midi.
Except for the towpath and the locks it's like walking a riverbank. The canal is not straight, but meanders gracefully through the Midi. There are tree lined banks with overhanging branches Watervoles plop in now and then for a spot of sculling; heron lurk for lunch in quiet sidings, warblers, including nightingale sing their socks off from the overhead boughs, and in the blue sky above buzzard and black kites spiral upwards on the wheel of a thermal lift.

.....down in the water the French bid for Olympic swimming gold in Beijing 2008 is forging full steam ahead.

A dead BGV -A mini-monument to speed.

Tales From The Towpath. As a walker you seem to be the lowest form of towpath life along the canal. The towpath is now in fact a designated cylcle path. The bicycle brigade assume full ownership. I was carved up and scowled at constantly. Put a frenchman in a pair of velcro cycle shorts with go-faster stripes down either side, and he thinks he's Eddie Merx on heat. After the cyclists in the peck order come the joggers, who also do a nice side line in scowling. It all made me feel quite humble. But at least there was some interest along the towpath.....

.....Ou est les bateaux?
Perhaps the strangest thing was the absence of boats plying to and fro. I saw only two all the first day. One was this traditional barge, of which there are many alongside the canal, almost all converted to houseboats. The other was a Norfolk Broads class booze cruiser - replete with bikini clad figurehead draped across the deck - tottymungous!


Everywhere you look in France there is graffitti. It's on the buildings, the walls, the signs, the bridges - everywhere. In Bordeaux my friend Ian has had his white van graffitied; and he's not alone. So don't stand rooted on one spot too long - or they'll do you as well!

Monday, 21 May 2007

16. Lavenham - Stowmarket

Details:- After being dropped off by Denise in Lavenham at 9.00am on a sunny Saturday, I walked the country lanes between Lavenham and Stowmarket, arriving back by train in time to catch the Cup Final. I might as well have kept walking - the match was rubbish! Distance:- 15 miles; Going;- Easy peasy - only some of the cars drive a bit close, when I am hoping to be given a wider by-pass. Progress:- Walked 183 - 317 to go. Photographs Hyperlink.

South Suffolk......

.......where since Hereward was awake, the medieval streets have given onto the open countryside.

South Suffolk....

...where since Edmund became the patron saint of hedgehogs, the oak timbers have acquired a lovely silvery hue with the passage of the centuries.

South Suffolk....

....where since Pontius was a pilot time seems to have stood still, and the years roll back as the countryside rolls over.

South Suffolk...

...where since Edward was a confessor, folk have lived off the fat of the land.....

.....but still don't have the time to sort the flat of the Land Rover.

South Suffolk....

....where since Constable squeezed hay-wain yellow over his palette, the fields of barley have conducted themselves in an endless Mexican wave.

Henry Ford might have well said history is bunk, but my guess is he never went to South Suffolk!

Friday, 18 May 2007

15. Stonyhurst, Lancashire.

Details:- This was a Sunday afternoon stroll, all mellowed out after a good lunch. The walk started at Stonyhurst College and took me down to the River Ribble, along the river bank of both the Ribble and its tributary the Hodder, past Cromwell's bridge, and back up to the college. Distance:- 7 miles; Going:- it drizzled, but was easy to walk. Progress:- Walked 168 - to go 332.

Stonyhurst College.

The approach down the mile long Avenue is impressive. This huge collection of interconnecting buildings are Grade 1 listed as of architectural/historic interest. Only 2% of listed buildings are Grade 1, so this then is one of Lancashire's finest.

From The Air....

showing something more of the size and scale. St Peters church at bottom right hand corner can accommodate 600 or so pupils at mass on a Sunday morning.

The Upper Corridor.

In the 1970's many of the college's Durer engravings were hung on these walls. After some eight or so Rembrandts were stolen in the early 1980's the Society of Jesus was forced to be a little more circumspect with its possessions!

Cromwell's Bridge.

No longer in use, Cromwell's Bridge once carried a packhorse trail over the River Hodder, about a mile from its confluence with the Ribble. It earned its name after Oliver Cromwell's parliamentary army crossed the bridge on their way from Gisburn to where they fought the King's men in the Battle of Preston. There is in the refectory at the college a long table with an inscription under it to the effect of: 'Cromwell slept 'Ere'. What provenance there is for this is a little unclear.

The River Hodder....

....drains much of the Forest of Bowland, and the upper reaches also feed the large Stocks Reservoir which supplies much of Lancashire with its water. The School still owns much of the farming land around the lower reaches, together with the fishing rights. In this river I once managed to tickle a young trout out from under his stone - but that was many years ago!

14. Hurst Green, Nr. Clitheroe, Lancashire.

Details:- Another Walking World walk; as always scenic, and with mainly clear and reasonably concise instructions. At one point the directions were muddled when by luck I took the right path. It is a relief to have good guidance when out walking; otherwise losing your way (but rarely lost) deprives my day of its relaxation. This walk climbs up Longridge Fell, from the top of which there are excellent views of the Ribble Valley and Pendle Hill. It then drops down to the hamlet of Walker Fold and finishes past the front and through the grounds of the Jesuit public school Stonyhurst College. Distance:- 7 miles; Going:- Height gain 200 metres, but not as you'd particularly notice. The huff/puff factor was not exactly up to wheeze level. Progress:- Walked 161 - to go 339.
A dim glimpse......
......of the Ribble Valley beyond the forests of Longridge Fell. Regrettably the day was dull and the views a little disappointing. That great hothouse of medieval witchery - Pendle Hill - was a bit dim and distant - see photo below.


.....behind the Stonyhurst cricket pavilion. The cricket oval is great setting on which to hear the thwack of leather on willow, nestling as it does close to the River Ribble 'twixt Pendle Hill and Longridge Fell.

Ent Lookalike?

Because it is common knowledge that JRR Tolkein was writing TLOTR at Stonyhurst during the war, everyone assumes that his inspiration for Middle Earth is taken from the countryside around the college. There is now a 'Tolkein and The Three Rivers Walk' around the school. Whilst the confluence of the Ribble with the Calder and Hodder might just bear some resemblance to the map in The Hobbit, I personally think that most of this so-called inspiration owes more to our own imaginations than to anything he was thinking about whilst he lived in the school. If you ever do the walk you'll see what I mean. So - the B 6246 that takes in Hodder Bridge is meant to be his Great East Road? I don't think so!

The Eagle Towers.
Symbol of Stonyhurst.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

13. Settle, North Yorkshire.

Details:- This is a walk from the Walking World website, for which I pay to subscribe. There are some excellent walks on the site, which are well presented, and generally easy to follow. My only gripe is that they are mostly less than ten miles long, and I would like to see some longer walks provided. This was one of their longer ones. Distance:- 12 miles. Going:- Well....the information said there was a height gain for the walk of 700 metres, but since nowhere on the walk is higher than 650 odd metres I find this hard to fathom. I should have thought it was a height gain of 150 metres or so. Progress:- walked 154 - 346 to go.
The Yorkshire Dales....

Wow! Wonderful walking country. I texted Jack who did Malham on his Duke Of Edinburgh Silver expedition. All he could remember was constantly treading in the droppings of the countless numbers of sheep up there. Hmmm - he probably slept well anyway.


My peace and quiet was shattered when this RAF bomber ripped the overhead sky apart as the pilot practised some (very) low level flying across the Dales. The noise level was enormous as it flew off into the distance; it's powerful engines roaring out loudly across most of the county.

Malham Tarn.

So here you are walking on all this porous limestone pavement with a myriad of pot holes beneath your feet. So how come there's this large freshwater pond holding up from beneath? Why doesn't the water permeate down through the limestone and form tights or mites or whatever it does down there? My rudimentary knowledge of geology affords me no clues. Any offers?

A drunken dry stone wall....

.....receding distantly towards Penyghent. We're in Ribblesdale here, There are plans to barrage the river at Penwortham, near Preston - as they have in Cardiff - for the purpose of redevelopment. I hope they don't. Gerard Manly Hopkins, the Jesuit who taught at my old school Stonyhurst, (which stands close to the Ribble near Ribchester), puts it well:- "What would the world be, once bereft of wet and wildness? Let them be left, oh let them be left, wildness and wet; long live the weeds and the wilderness yet."

A Cheese Scone/Yorkshire Pud Debate.

I do like a cup of tea and a scone, preferably cheese, after a walk. But in the Naked Man Tea Shop in Settle I saw natives tucking into Yorkshire puddings filled with gravy - at tea time no less. I have to say I'm not tempted. Indeed I wonder at all the fuss about puddings from Yorkshire; and at their elevated position as exemplary of our national cuisine. Surely tea is the quintessential english past-time, and a good scone is at the centre of a good tea-time. At the risk of upsetting the natives of 'god's own county' - about which I don't suppose I'll lose too much sleep - give me a cheese scone any day of the week! Anyone anxious to differ?

Friday, 27 April 2007

12 Haza de Lino, Alpujarra, Andalucia

Lynne & I walked 14 kilometers in the Alpujarra - the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. This circular walk is from the book of Alpujarran walks by Jeremy Rabjohns. It takes you from the bar in the small settlement of Haza de Lino up 200 - 300 metres through a forest of cork oak and onto a high point from where there are great views down to the med, and up to the snow capped sierra. Then we went down again through a very picturesque valley and up onto the road, from where we walked back to Haza. Distance:- 9 miles with the time taken at 3.75 hours. Going:- Regrettably it was a cloudy day with some rain and a cold wind up on the top. The views were not as good as we would have wished. The pictures were taken on an earlier occasion when I did this walk alone. Progress:- walked 142 - 358 to go.

The Sierra Nevada....

......highest peak is Mulhacen at 3749m or 11414ft, at which height the bio-climatic type is tundra, and the peaks are snow capped all year around. 50 km away, and at the other ecological extreme, is the Desierte de Tebernas, the only semi-desert in Europe. Therefore on a 50k walk you could potentially pass through all the bio-climatic zones of Europe. The variety of flora and fauna is as wide as the view above.

The View Towards the Med....

.......on a hazy day and looking into the sun. You can just see the white uprights of wind turbines on the ridge below, with the coastal plain in the background on the right hand side, and a mountain village bottom left hand side.

Cork Oak (quercus suber)... can see the cut around the top of the trunk where it the bark was harvested a few years ago. Here the cork oak grows at an unusually high altitude (c.1400m). When the bark is stripped the trunks turn in colour to bright orange, and then weather to a red-oxide/purple hue as the bark layers begin to regenerate.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

11. Ipswich - Stowmarket

Details:- This was a linear walk along The Gipping Valley Way, from Ipswich to Stowmarket. The path follows the river via man made cuts which were part of the old navigation system. The are still several locks along the way - all disused now. Distance:- 17 miles, which I did @ 4mph in 4hrs 15 minutes, the fastest that I have ever done a longer walk. Going:- very easy, and on a lovely sunny spring day. Map:- OS Explorers 197 & 291. Progress:- walked 133 - 367 to go.

Sculpture.... the countryside - I'm starting to see more of it in the UK, and about time too. Not entirely sure about this though!

Snake in the water.

His head is on the left, and the ripples behind are caused by the motion of his body below the surface - doing the snake paddle I suppose. It's a great time for flora and fauna - the wild flowers are up and doing, and I saw a mink working a riverside boardwalk for signs of lunch. Little varmink!

River Gipping in Ipswich.

For a river that turns into the large Orwell Estuary downstream of Ipswich, it's a remarkably minor affair upstream, and up at Stowmarket is little more of a stream than a river.

Forgot me knots.

This is the best of the floral shots taken to-day. The poet Longfellow called the stars the forgetmenots of the angels. Hmmm.


...........both ancient and modern are along the route. This, at Baylham is probably the most appealing of the lot.

Stowmarket Railway Station.

Perhaps Suffolk's finest station building; in an elaborate Elizabethan style, and built in 1849.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

10. Dunwich, Suffolk.

Details:- Lynne & I walked 9 miles along the Sandlings Way from Dunwich to Southwold on a warm April morning when the sun was warm, and the air heavy with the scent of gorse. This was a linear walk; so we had to drive back to Dunwich afterwards and collect the other car. Distance:- 9 miles; Going:- good; I've never seen so many people walking the footpath bet-ween Southwold & Walberswick. Map:- OS Explorer 231. Progress:- Walked 116 - 384 to go.

The Nightjar.... the symbol of the Sandlings Walk . This footpath was only recently created and runs 60 miles between Ipswich & Southwold, We did the last section and a half, and we are now doing two long distance footpaths simultaneously - the other being Hereward Way. The walk connects the remaining heathlands of the Suffolk Coast. April is a great time to be out on the heath - the colours , scents and sights are an endless source of interest. Goerge Borrow would have enjoyed being out there to-day - 'There's the wind on the heath brother; if I could only feel that I would gladly live forever.'

Towards Southwold.

Westwood Marshes

Walberswick Church.

Friday, 30 March 2007

9. Kirtling, Newmarket.

Details:- Lynne & I just did this circular competition walk organised by the Long Distance Walkers Association, Norfolk and Suffolk Branch. We started at at the village hall in Kirtling, south east of Newmarket, and we meandered around West Suffolk, between Newmarket and the Stour Valley. We had our entry cards marked at three checkpoints along the way. Distance:- 19 miles. Going:- almost effortless, since it was a wonderful sunny spring day, and we talked most of the way round (hence so few pics), and so we barely noticed the clicks ticking over. Map:- OS Explorer 210; Progress:- Walked 107 - 393 to go.

The Daffodil Dawdle..... one of four walks organised by the LDWA Norfolk & Suffolk Branch.

The programme this year is:-

Daffodil Dawdle (Kirtling) - 25 March 2007 - 18 or 26 miles.

Poppyline Marathon (Sheringham) - 10 June 2007 - approx 17.3 or 26.8 miles.

Poppyline Fifty (Sheringham) - 4/5 August 2007 - approx 52.7 miles.

Flower of Suffolk (Dunwich) - 7 October 2007 - 16.3 or 26.0 miles.

Walking the tramlines.... can't see them here, but there were about a hundred and twenty walkers and runners doing this event. Along the way and at checkpoints we talked to a number of them; they were from as far afield as Blackheath and Hertfordshire. The man from Blackheath was sixty eight, and was running with some friends from his running club. He told us that he does three marathon runs a month, all over the country! Impressive, but we wondered what his wife, if he had one, might have to say about it - not something you can actually ask!

Kirtling Village Hall....

.....where secretary Chris is running off 'sustificates' for those who completed the course. At each checkpoint refreshments are laid on, and there is a hot food at the end. We passed up on the hot food in favour of our favourite end of walk refreshment - a cup of tea and a cheese scone!
PS - we came in tenth and eleventh out of 22 the entrants for the short walk. Lynne was well chuffed - it was her first competition walk.

Friday, 9 March 2007

8. Holland Park, West London

Details:- A walk from the Time Out book of London Walks. Lynne & I started in Holland Park, and then we followed the route through quiet streets elegantly lined with large C19th houses and studios, and eventually onto Kensington Gardens to see the Diana Memorial. Distance:- 4 miles; Going:- Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy; although a heavy shower just after getting off the bus saw us huddled under the umbrella. Map:- Time Out Book Of London Walks Vol. 1; Progress:- Walked 88 - 412 to go. Photographs Hyperlink.

Holland Park.

My first visit, and wow! How lovely to wander the gardens of Holland House, itself in tatters, ruined by bombs in ww2, and left to the nation. There are lawns, formal gardens, a Japanese garden, and acres of semi-wilderness presently sprouting daffodils. A fine refuge from a fast moving metropolis.


The back streets of Kensington and Holland Park are a delight. We noticed how quiet are these backwaters away from the hustle and bustle of the main thoroughfares. And as we stroll along what a pleasure it is to read about some of these wonderful houses and their inhabitants.

Albert Memorial/Hall.

The purpose of our visit to London was an evening out at the Albert Hall for dinner and an opera; my valentine gift from Lynne. It was my first visit to the Albert Hall , and it didn't disappoint. Our dinner in the Elgar restaurant was mostly very good; and marked a special occasion for us. Madame Butterfly was also very enjoyable; it was done 'in the round' with the stage set out in the promenade area of the hall. The singing was a joy, although at times slightly overpowered by the orchestra. We walked back across Kensington Gardens to our hotel in Bayswater with Puccini's wonderful music ringing in our ears, and with a total eclipse of the moon overhead.

Diana Memorial....

.....having heard all the hype when this was made in 2004, I came expecting to be entirely underwhelmed. But in fact....we thought it was great! All that beautifully carved granite creating a circular watercourse of great variety and interest that is a pleasure to walk around and enjoy. This is the blurb from the website:- ''It contains 545 pieces of Cornish granite - each shaped by the latest computer-controlled machinery and pieced together using traditional skills. The design aims to reflect Diana's life, water flows from the highest point in two directions as it cascades, swirls and bubbles before meeting in a calm pool at the bottom. The water is constantly being refreshed and is drawn from London's water table.'' Sounds like something and nothing, but my advice is check it out before you decide!

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

7. Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.

Details:- A largely town based walk from the railway station along the South Quay to the mouth of the River Yare, and then along the full length of the sea front through Caister, and on to Calfornia, where I turned inland to Ormesby St Michael, and Ormesby Broad, before catching a bus back to the town centre. Distance:- 15 miles; Time Taken:- 4.25 hours; Avg Speed:- 3.53 mph; Going:- It rained most of the way around. Map:- OS Explorer OL 40; Progress:- walked 84 - 416 to go. Photographs Hyperlink

Scroby Sands Wind Farm

Scroby Sands is one of the UK's first commercial offshore wind farms. Commissioned in March 2004 the £75million project generated enough energy to supply over 36,000 homes in 2005, saving the emission of over 65,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, nearly 600 tonnes of sulphur dioxide and nearly 200 tonnes of nitrous oxide.The first annual report into the performance reported that last year, 27 intermediate speed and 12 high speed gearbox bearings needed replacing, along with four generators. As a result there were "serious implications for resources, costs and downtime". However the wind farm still generated 153GWh, which is around 90% of its forecast annual output. I say - nice work!

Marine Parade, Great Yarmouth.

The speculation in Yarmouth at present is about guessing where they will build the newly promised Casino. I suppose there's no prize for guessing whether or not there will be a Gamblers' Anonymous helpline set up in the town, - of course there will - run entirely on voluntary contributions no doubt. Is it only me - or are there not are enough diddler machines in Great Yarmouth already - why on earth, let alone in Great Yarmouth, do we need more? The old fashioned image of the casino where the rich go to blow their excess cash just doesn't fit this traditional kiss-me-quick seaside resort. Scrap the casino I say!

This Rig Supply Boat...

...was reversing out of the harbour because the river is too narrow for turning, There are plans for an outer harbour to ease the congestion, and allow larger ships to dock. But I think they'll need to dual the A12 before Yarmouth sees any major renaissance.

California, Norfolk....

...and there are so many references to California along the East Anglian Coast. I've seen place and street names in Woodbridge, Southwold - where there is also a Klondyke beach, and here north of Gt Yarmouth. My brother, Bob, who has studied the history of the longshore fishing industry, says they are indeed a reference to the gold rush in 1849. It's just curious that there are so many of them.

North Quay...

This door has six letter boxes! I only wonder if there are six cages fixed to the other side, or whether all the post piles up in one heap on the doormat anyway! The little white sign says:- Flat One Knock Once; Flat Two Knock Twice; Flat Three Knock Three Times; & Flat Four Knock Four Times. It doesn't say about Flats Five & Six.

Notice On Caravan....

.....There are large caravan sites north of Gt Yarmouth with literally thousands of caravans. There have obviously been break-ins, because some of them have notices like this placed in the window. Is my thinking squiffy, only I consider this demonstrates a lack of understanding about thug mentality. Surely the vandalism is mostly wanton; and often entirely unconnected with burglary. As well as nick stuff, they also just want to smash things up, and get up your nose Mr & Mrs Caravan Owner whilst they do it. Sticking a sticker up will only encourage them to smash your window and door, even if there are no valuables inside. Well anyway that's my take on it.

At Ormesby St Michael there are lovely views of Ormesby and Rollesby Broad from the main road. Suddenly to left and right these breathtaking glimpses across large expanses of reed fringed water loom into view. Only on this occasion I was late for my bus and I didn't have time to walk up there to take the picture. Instead The Borrower has lived up to his name and lifted this photo of Barton Broad from another site! It approximates more or less the view at Ormesby.