Romania 2016

Fri/Sat 13th/14th May

Travelling

All the trains behaved well. Sowerby Bridge to Leeds to King’s Cross to Hatton Cross tube about 4.5 hours.  A woman on train talked to me whilst she sewed crocheted flowers onto a large white bra! Walked 6 mins to Hilton Garden hotel. It has very little garden. My room was surprisingly spacious but no free slippers!
I had some M&S salad, drank some beer and some wine. You can buy food and drink in the little shop at regular prices and put them in the ex-minibar fridge. Slept ok but the room only had air con and no opening windows so I was either too hot or too cold.
Despite my booking saying no breakfast I got a free one including real coffee. Walked back to the tube and got on a free bus to Terminal 4. Had a free coffee and then rather a lot of waiting. My trip through Security was extensive as usual. I did the walk through then a 360 degree all over body scanner then a full body pat down and lastly a footwear scan and bio sample, at least I think it was. You’ll be glad to know I was then in the clear.
Pootled about the shops and had a good goat’s cheese and beetroot salad in Carluccio’s as had spent no money up to that point!
At last I got on the Tarom plane, sitting with other Exodus passengers, Camilla and Julie and a Romanian woman, Adriana who works for the British Embassy. Talked with them all, didn’t even read my book. Smooth flight. I had the “special” meal which was a surprise as I’d forgotten I’d ordered veggie food. It was pasta in a white sauce and fruit washed down with Romanian bear beer.
Reached Bucharest at 6pm UK time. They are 2 hours ahead so we reached Villa Hermani in Magura at nearly midnight. Thomas the Exodus guide is ex German army. We got into a big minibus and drove for 3 hours. Felt terribly tired on arrival. but Herman gave us all a shot of fiery plum schnapps.
C and J and I have rooms in the annexe. There was an initial mix up with keys. They are now in the room with 2 beds and I am in one with one bed, I also have a balcony. At night there is a lot of dog barking because in the mountains every one keeps a dog and they all live outdoors. I will find out if they have kennels as it’s quite cold here. Lovely clean air.
Little Ted and the Hungarian bear beer
Little Ted and the Hungarian bear beer
Waiting
Waiting
Tarom plane
Tarom plane
Carluccio salad
Carluccio salad

 

Sun 15th May
Woke early when the sun came up. Read a bit then a lovely hot shower. The dogs live in kennels, unfortunately right outside my window! Villa Hermani has 4 dogs, I think.
Breakfast. Some slightly fizzy pale juice. Lots of coffee. Cinnamonny lemony dense porridge with fruit and yoghurt. Rye bread with very good butter straight from the churn. Lots of cheeses, cured meats and sweet things. Also houmous, fishy spread and salmon.
Made up sandwiches for lunch. Houmous and cheese on rye, separate.
Katherina did intros. She is German and Herman is Romanian. She is also an expert on large carnivores and previously did lots of research into them.
The group is:
Camilla and Julie who are in the annexe with me
Anne and George from Macclesfield
Marion from HK
Nick
Karin from Vancouver
Julia from London
Katy from Oz
Jackie from Dartford
Sue from E. Yorkshire
Gary
John from Glasgow
We set off. It was chilly in the wind and hot in the sun so quite a bit of on and off. Walked to Pestera along rutted roads and across meadows with Alpine flowers.
Stopped for lunch at the pub in Pestera. This was a large empty room with only one customer, very basic, more like a village hall. We ate outside. Some brave souls used the loo at the rear. Thomas warned us to be careful around wild dogs i.e. Those that work with shepherds.
We then went to the bat cave. This was a foul place because of the human detritus and we didn’t see any bats!
Bimbled our way back to the Villa Hermani. Passed a house from which some frantic folk music was coming out. Boot cleaning under the outdoor tap.
Having a little lie down. Can just hear the music of the cow bells.
Bucegi Beer.
Dinner of parsnip soup, celeriac fritter, braised carrots and rice. Had taste of chicken sauce but strong and heavy. I’m glad I opted veggie as simply not in the mood to eat meat every day. Pudding of stewed apple and set cold custard.
Palinca shot (strong plum schnapps).
Dog chorus.
View from my balcony
View from my balcony
Hay stack
Hay stack
Typical village house
Typical village house

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It's a bear!
It’s a bear!
The bane of my nights
The bane of my nights

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Mon 16th May
Wet wet wet.
In the minibuses to the National Park info centre which was shut, as was the cafe opposite. I’d worked it up as an espresso possibility. Addiction denied.
We walked up to the orthodox monastery of Coitul Chilulor at 1134m. We were accompanied by a large shaggy brown dog for most of the walk. At the monastery we had herbal tea and marble cake. We continued up to a small shrine set in the rock. Back down to the monastery for our sandwich lunch. On the walk back down there were wild dogs roaming so we stayed together. Thomas spoke to them and they stayed away. Our shaggy friend helped to protect us.
Back to the road to be picked up by Katherina and Herman.
My room still had no heat despite the fact that everyone else was warm but finally it got sorted and I was able to warm up and dry off.
Early dinner at 3.30! Celeriac soup. Beef tomatoes stuffed with polenta. Apple cake.
4.30 into buses for drive to bear hide. Seems longer than an hour. A robust discussion about Rob and Helen in The Archers. Eventually stop and walk across the teeming, spouting stream to the hide.
Immediately we see a bear and over the course of 2 hours another 7 or so, possibly some repeats. Several young ones and some large. We are quite good at keeping quiet. The bears linger over the lure (biscuits and corn) for quite some time. Two cubs came along and one was a delight trying to get up onto a rock and falling back down like a toddler.
Very cold, damp and uncomfortable in the hide. Glad to be back in the warmth of the bus.
Neustadt beer and a shot of plum schnapps. The dogs are noisy tonight.
Shaggy dog
Shaggy dog

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First bear, window still a bit steamed up
First bear, window still a bit steamed up

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Tues 17th May
Fabulous day of Karst scenery on circular route. A bit over 14km. First part in buses then walked through the gorge passing where a scene from Cold Mountain was shot then up onto a plateau. Snow on the big tops. Lunch at La Table. Through mountain meadows. A bit damp at first and cold with a few snow flakes. Then warm in the sun on the way back to Magura. Lovely day on good paths. Height about 1450m.
Typical Romanian dinner of nettle soup, stuffed cabbage leaves with polenta and sliced tomatoes and sour cream, cake made with courgette and a little choc, very good.
Katherina showed us a 2001 BBC documentary about Transylvania and Living with Predators. She then talked about her work on the large carnivores research project and how things have changed since the film was made. She is responsible for the introduction of bear hides as responsible tourism and improving the welfare of the bears and the people of Brasov. All most impressive.
A couple of beers. Neumarkt and Bucegi.
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Villa Hermani
Villa Hermani

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It be pirate day!
It be pirate day!

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Magura church
Magura church
So pretty!
So pretty!
Weds 18th May
Too much snow for the very high mountain. In buses to Poaina Brasov ski resort. Cable car to Postavanu at 1799m. Snowy and v cold. Down the path to Cabana Postavanu for fab choc and rum cake and an espresso at last! Nice old Alpine pub. Down a bit more to a flattish bit at Sub Teleferic for lunch (very short intervals between feeds!)
Down the red ski slope a bit more (this is a medium rating for skiers and steep enough for feet on grass) to another pub, the Rossignol. Home made lemonade very delicious. Back to the buses and home.
Dinner
Vegetable soup
Cauli in batter with garlic sauce
Creamed potato
Green salad
Shortbread cake with plum purée therein.
2 Bucegi.
Hoar frost on top of Poaina Brasov
Hoar frost on top of  Postavanu
In the pub
In the pub
Inside the pub
Inside the pub
Thurs 19th May
No sleep because of bloody dogs barking all night. The bugger had the cheek to be asleep when I got up. And then a very long day.
Left at 9.30 in the buses to Brasov. Thomas gave us a very informative tour of the town. Black church, Orthodox Church, synagogue, bullet holes from 1989 revolution.
Coffee with Thomas and Nick and Marion.
Got money with my prepaid card. Ate my lunch on a bench in the square. To market which was just a supermarket. Back to synagogue which was shut but not supposed to be.
To Art Nouveau cafe for a drink. George and Anne turned up. Had lovely lemonade. Thomas arrived.
Got more money.
Then it was 5.15 so we went to the buses, met Udo. Off to man made lakes to look at birds with Dan from Transylvania University. He is expert in ornithology amongst other things. Saw a marsh harrier and several types of heron.
Back to Brasov to Roata Norocului  (Wheel of Fortune) restaurant. Too noisy the minute we walked in. Loud and modern. The live music was dire.
Karin had an amusing time in the loos. No need for signs on the doors here! Couple that with a wayward cleaner confusing the protocols!
Small creamed veg soup and bread.
Pork schnitzel with ham, cheese and mushroom. Cabbage salad. Chips. Ciuc beer. Light Silva beer. All for less than £9.
Too full and headachey from the awful racket. Bloody dogs better be quiet.
Some lovely singing on the way back with Udo from Julie and the girls!
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At the birdy place
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These looked fun
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Art Nouveau cafe
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Bird watching
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Bullets from the revolution
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Banca Transylvania
Fri 20th May
Up early. In buses to Libearty the bear sanctuary. A rather short whiz round with guide. Terrible stories of cruelty.
Nice walk through the meadows to Vulcan where the priest gave us tea, coffee, schnapps and a sort of pancake made by putting the cake mix round a piece of wood and turning it slowly so it didn’t burn.
As we got back in the bus I slammed the door shut on Gary’s finger. A bit of blood but seemingly no bones broken or lasting damage. I couldn’t possibly have seen from where I was that there was a digit in the door.
Drive to Bran and went round castle. Nice castle but full of tourists and masses of tourist tat. Not very relaxing.
Into the horse drawn carriages to ride for just over an hour to the bottom of the long hill. It rained towards the end. Pleasant way to travel, even over the bumps.
In the buses to get up the hill.
Dinner of barbecued meats and salads. Asparagus for veggies. Ice cream. Thomas shocked to see me eating meat. He wore his full traditional gear, hand made by his grandmother.  Very smart.
Settle up bills. I didn’t have enough money and got subs from Jackie and Sue.
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Karin and her new friend

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Carting about
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Bran castle
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Thomas
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Church dog posing
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Thomas in full regalia
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Uwe the priest
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Camera man
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Ready for the off
Sat 21st May
Woke at 5.30, bugger, too early.
On the minibus seeing further half finished but occupied buildings. Communist buildings, even a power plant returning to nature, not demolished.
We got to the airport and then had to get on with check in. Farewells to Karin, Anne and George and John who are all doing slightly different things.
No problems with security this time.
Not much time left to do any shopping after passport control so onto the plane, smooth flight but a somewhat bumpy landing.
Got straight onto the tube, remembered just at the right time that I had to go via Manchester on my ticket. Empty train from Euston but a bit chilly. Crossed Manc on the tram and home from Victoria. Carol had ordered me a taxi from Elland Cabs but stupid driver took me a really long and expensive way home so I won’t be using them again.
Nice to be home.

 

Villa Hermani
Villa Hermani
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Mountains over Magura
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Magura church
Camilla and Herman
Camilla and Herman

Link to Julia’s photos on Flickr:
Romania 14-21 May 2016//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Top 3 Tips for hiking
1 Footwear is as important as the tyres on a car, keep your boots clean and proofed and carry a spare pair of laces.
2 Water is more vital than food, think clean maybe use a filter bottle like Water2Go or a bladder. Keep bladder clean between trips by sterilising using e.g. Steradent tablets or Milton solution, rinse out thoroughly and keep in the freezer.
3 If it moves, tie it down. I’ve lost maps and poles by not having them properly attached. Fix your compass and map to your body/clothing using whatever works best for you, mini carabiner clips and bootlaces are good.
Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

 

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Archaeology of North Wales – Mountain Leader CPD

Saturday 19th September

I arrived at Cefn Cae campsite in Rowen at 6.50, it only took 2 hours and 20 mins to get there. I had just enough time and light to get the tent up and my dinner cooked. I had a Look What We Found meal with rice cooked up in my Jetboil. The campsite cost £13 for the night and was a newly certificated Caravan and Camping Club site, it was very clean and well looked after. They operate an honesty system for buying quite an extensive range of supplies and I didn’t have to pay extra for a shower.

After dark, I read my book for a while. The stars were amazing and I could see the Milky Way.

Moon on Tay y Fan
Moon on Tal y Fan

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Dawn on Tal y Fan
Dawn on Tal y Fan

Sunday 20th September

I’ve never really managed to sleep properly in a tent but this wasn’t too bad. I was warm enough especially with my little blanket. It was cold in the night and there was a heavy dew when I gave up sleep about 5.30. I had a cup of tea and then 2 cups of coffee and my breakfast of granola and yoghurt. I got to see the red dawn on Tal y Fan which was wonderful.

I packed up and drove up to Caer Rhun Roman fort (Canovium). There’s not a right lot to see, don’t be misled by the photo on the website, but the church is nice although it wasn’t open.

Then I met up with the group in the lay-by down the road. Jane Kenney is a senior archaeologist from the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust. The workshop is part of the CPD made available to members of the Mountain Training Association. The requirement is for 5 CPD points over 5 years and this is my second point since gaining the ML.

10 of us in the group. We got into 3 cars and drove up to a small car park some way above Rowen. We set off and the first thing to look at was the Roman road.

We then looked at long huts (rectangular), cairns with cists, hut circles, standing stones, a burnt mound and then a very good stone circle where we stopped for lunch. Jane was very good at getting us to look more closely at the structures and how to interpret them. She also didn’t try to give us all the answers as there is a lot that is not known and subjective but she clearly has a great breadth of knowledge. We then moved on past a reservoir and up to a slate quarry which is hidden away. Then it was time to head back passing 2 very prominent burial chambers, back onto the Roman road again and another stone circle just near the car park.

Fabulous, informative day with an expert. And a bargain to boot!

Last year’s walk.

We got back to lay-by around 5.15 and I got home at 7.45.

Burial chamber
Maen y bardd burial chamber
Church at Caerhun, sitting on the Roman fort
Church at Caerhun, sitting on the Roman fort
I think this is a green man
I think this is a green man
Big standing stone
Big standing stone
And another, not quite so huge
And another, not quite so huge
A cist
A cist
Very cheeky pony
Very cheeky pony
Stone circle
Stone circle
Another big standing stone
Another big standing stone
A peat house for storing peat
A peat house for storing peat
Burial chamber, marked on map as such
Burial chamber, marked on map as such
Burial chamber but not prominently marked on map
Maen y bardd burial chamber
Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

Stanza Stones Trail 30th August 2015

I forgot to make myself coffee. My biggest mistake of the day!

Cath and B and I met up at Hebden Bridge station with our cars at 7.40. Cath drove us to Marsden and we set off at 9.00 at a brisk pace to ascend Pule Hill and see the first of the Stanza Stones. Our walk was a reccy for a walk Cath is leading for the Walk and Ride Festival so we needed to check the projected timings and keep up the pace.

We headed north to the Pennine Way and the A640. Across White Hill and then to the rubbish dump on the A672. Cath was very incensed by this and took a photo. I have reported it. On my 3 drives along Turvin Road there was some fly tipping and this has also been reported.

Across the M62 and then to Blackstone Edge where we stopped for our lunch. Across the A58 and into the White House for drinks. The half way point. I had a coffee which seemed fine, a very inky black espresso. About half an hour later I started feeling queasy and this continued until the next day.

We reached the next Stanza Stone and then it was on to Stoodley Pike. Had a bit of a rest there. Then the last leg back to Hebden and along the canal to the station. I’m quite impressed that I managed it whilst feeling hideous but there wasn’t really a choice.

Into my car and back to Marsden for Cath and B. Then back to my house where I was able to be sick.

Despite my ailments we had a great day, legs were fine. 2 days later I’m still right off coffee and being careful as to what I eat.

Very official looking sign but the only one we saw right at the end of the day
Very official looking sign but the only one we saw right at the end of the day
Cath on the way up Pule Hill
Cath on the way up Pule Hill
First Stanza Stone
First Stanza Stone
Blackstone Edge
Blackstone Edge
Second Stanza Stone
Second Stanza Stone
Water board detritus
Water board detritus
Warland reservoir
Warland reservoir

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The blooming heather
The blooming heather
B and Cath
B and Cath
Stoodley Pike, last stretch
Stoodley Pike, last stretch
Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

Pyrenees August 2015

Friday 7th August
Carol clearly not well so took her to the GP. She knew she had a blood infection because this happened 2 years ago. Both her kidney consultant and our GP are on hols. Came away with a letter to admit her to St James’s via A&E. She slept most of the way. Terrible access at A&E so I had to say goodbye to her in the car park. Went and finished off at work then home for last bits of packing. C insisted I continue with my holiday but it felt odd and a bit crap. She got IV antibiotics started up that evening.

Saturday 8th August

Woke at 4.50 a.m. My taxi arrived early (good job as they never turned up for my trip to Hadrian’s Wall). As I got out at the station I realised I’d left my phone on charge. Luckily I’d allowed loads of time in case the taxi cocked up so we raced back and I picked it up, also turned a light off!
After that all the trains were ok until Nimes. My first time at St. Pancras International. Very busy and airport like. Picked up all my remaining tickets for the trip. After composting my ticket I got a rigorous twice over at security. British passport control then French.
Sat next to an Irish woman who talked the entire way to Paris to her pal. I think she was either a lawyer or an accountant. Some very interesting insights into Kids’ Co., charities and corruption. So interesting I stopped reading!
Paris was warm and smelly and the Metro to the Gare du Lyon even warmer and smellier but mercifully quick.
I’d bought my tickets for the Metro on Eurostar which helped. A wee for 80 cents and my hall of departure had changed by the time I came out. I passed a man with a foot long lizard in a cat box, then 2 separate women with cats in cat boxes who all got onto my train. Also a great many children in a chaperoned party were getting into my carriage but they were down and I was up on the double decker train. Air con, a seat to myself and I was whizzing through the flatlands of grain production for all those baguettes. Lots of water towers. A dull day weather wise.
Less than an hour from Paris the plains give way to forested undulations. Contours at last! Horses, Charolais cows. A bit of wet.
Train stopped at Valence and I thought of beds. Then Nimes.
A passenger required medical attention so we stopped for 50 mins. I had only 30 mins to make my connection from Montpellier. But on arrival in Montpellier there were no more trains to Toulouse. After much too rapid French I found they were trying to get me into a hotel in Montpellier! I explained I had to be in Toulouse at 10 in the morning so the controller got me a taxi to get me to the 10 pm train from Narbonne. Ok but it takes 1 hr 15 mins and we only had 45 mins. He tried. It was dark, wet and we shot along the motorway pushing other cars off the road. The driver fiddled with his phone all the way and all to the accompaniment of first bad rap, second football on the radio at way too many decibels. I asked him to go more slowly and not to use phone to no avail. No train waiting for me at Narbonne so the controller there filled a paper form in triplicate for my taxi to take me to Toulouse. He told me there were no hotels free in Narbonne, just as well because it wasn’t my plan to stay there either. I arrived in Toulouse only 1 hr 40 mins after the train would have! Despite being a menace to life the driver carried my bag, asked if I was ok and took me to my hotel (he was only authorised to take me to the station) and spoke a little English. I found it hard to do fast French and speak French very well under stress.
Hotel Mermoz lovely. Fell into bed with 2 paracetamols. It cost me £25 and some Avios I collected.
On the Eurostar
On the Eurostar
Gare du Lyon
Gare du Lyon
Sunday 9th August
After breakfast I checked out and walked 10 minutes to the railway station. Francois who is the guide for the week picked me up and drove me to Ax les Thermes. About 2 hours drive. Vast swathes of sunflowers being grown. I checked into La Grande Cordee. My room is in the annexe which is at the back on the 2nd floor away from the quite busy road. It’s plain but comfortable.
I went into the town, bought bottled water and had a look round. Most things shut because it was Sunday. Back with the heavy water (not the bomb making sort) then out again to do a self guided walk of the town and all the hot springs and spas. The water goes up to 74C in temp. Very, very hot just coming out of fountains and making steam as it flows into the river. It’s not used for hot water for the inhabitants because there isn’t enough pressure but they do use it to keep the roads and pavements clear of snow.
A demi pression and back to the hotel for the meeting of the group with Francois. We are 14. There are 2 other groups staying. Some of them haven’t read the instructions and don’t have boots, waterproofs or rucksacks. Francois directed them to the shops!
Dinner of salad with duck in it. Then duck kebab with roast spuds and ratatouille. I have an omelette as not keen on duck. Bread and wine. I pass on the creme brûlée although my favourite as have decided to quit refined sugar where possible. Ha bloody ha!
There is a man on the next table who looks like he’s stepped out of a Tintin story, he is short and plump, has a bald head, sideburns and a splendid moustache like the Thompson Twins and a beard.
Either the Ariege or the Oriege
Either the Ariege or the Oriege

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The meeting of the Ariege and the Oriege rivers
The meeting of the Ariege and the Oriege rivers
Hot hot water meets cold
Hot hot water meets cold
Hot hot hot
Hot hot hot

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Church being used for exhibition of "art"
Church being used for exhibition of “art”

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Monday 10th August
7.30 Breakfast of bread, cheese, croissant and coffee. The French are drinking huge bowls of coffee. I had forgotten this.
Set off at 8.45 in minibuses. Quite cool. Francois drove us a few kilometres up out of Ax to the Col du Chioula. We stop 1.5k past it at a big junction of paths at 1360m. Climb up to Rocher de Scaramus at 1868m. Gascon cattle, black Merens horses, goats, a marmot, griffon vultures and a bearded vulture. The bearded vultures need 500 sq km to lord over. Lovely walk with long lunch. Lentil salad in our boxes. Francois produced sausage, cheese, wine and coffee out of his bag! Cheese was lovely. Lots of info re geology and history. 8 or 9km. Followed it all on the map.
Back at 4.30. Into town but the thermal baths were very busy so I went for beer instead. Also I was hot enough.
Back at the hotel I rang Carol who says she will be in hospital for 5 weeks. Bugger.
Dinner of gazpacho with cheesy thing, salmon bake and apple pie. Very nice and yes I broke my resolution! After this holiday then!
Merens horses
Merens horses

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Gascon cattle
Gascon cattle

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I think this is Fredy
Fredy
Symbol of Comte de Foix
Symbol of Comte de Foix
Dent d'Orlu
Dent d’Orlu

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Inside St. Vincent's church
Inside St. Vincent’s church
St. Vincent's
St. Vincent’s
Tuesday 11th August
Col de Pailheres 1965m
Pic de Tarbezou. GR78. 2340m
Another lovely day. Francois drove us to the col and we climbed the peak. Fabulous 360 degree views across the whole Pyrenean range. Saw a royal eagle AKA golden eagle. Also griffon vultures. Down 200m to one of 4 lakes for lunch of tabbouleh, bread, cheese. We were with the other group most of the time. David the other group leader asked me to spot from the back for a while. They all know I am ML in the UK.
It was very hot so I stayed off the wine. It was still hard to get back up the 200m.
F explained about peat bogs – tourbe and tourbiere. I told him about sphagnum moss as a WW1 wound dressing from Dartmoor.
The group is made up of  5 married couples and 4 solo people. Mostly professionals. Lawyer, marketing consultant, research doctor, state psychologist.
I went to the thermal baths in all the rooms. All the names are in Latin just like at Hard Knot fort but without the Lake District weather!
Beer at different bar and getting more expensive every day!
Dinner of Greek salad with yoghurt, tartiflette – potato with jambon and cheese, tartelette au citron.
All lovely.
Slide show from F with pics of bears, wolves, foxes, deer, pine marten. Who knew that these are related to bears?
Late to bed at 11pm.

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Very big bird
Very big bird

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Reminded me of Tryfan
Reminded me of Tryfan

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Cairns
Cairns
Wednesday 12th August
Merens 1070m.
F drove us to Merens-les-Vals where he lives and parked outside his house. The walk was up through the forest for 700 m so at least in the shade but steep in parts. We collected dry beech wood on the way. Came out to a pasture with a shepherd’s hut/refuge/bothy at the Col de Joux at 1702m. A large herd of cows with bells and 2 big bugger bulls on the col.
F and David quickly got the fire going. We handed over our potatoes in foil already cooked so just for warming. Tomato salad to start, bread, baked potato, sausage like a Cumberland sausage in shape ,melted Camembert a bit strong for me so F gave me the mountain cheese we’ve been eating. Then cep mushrooms collected by Guy who is mushroom expert but who doesn’t eat them! And a little chocolate. And wine.
Then back down on the GR 107 to Merens. Saw a lizard. Lots of grasshoppers or are they crickets?
Out for a beer by the fountain, the most expensive so far.
Back for dinner – starter of green salad with cooked meats. I didn’t fancy cod so had a nice garlicky creamed spinach with carrots and Bulgur wheat. Choc dessert.
Valerie and I went into town to see a live street performance. Funny.
One of the "papas"
One of the “papas”

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Fredy outside the bothy
Fredy outside the bothy
Guy looking for a frying pan
Guy looking for a frying pan

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Francois and David cooking our lunch
Francois and David cooking our lunch

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Looking across to Scaramus

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Our group
Our group -1
Francois took this by accident but I liked it
Francois took this by accident but I liked it
Very old church in Merens-les-Vals
Very old church in Merens-les-Vals
Francois
Francois
Street artist
Street artist
Thursday 13th August
Out at 8.30 on foot to see the Vierge and then a circular tour of the villages around Ax because lots of thunder and at one point it went very dark and then rained a lot for a little while. A very humid day. I ended up as wet as Bruce doing a show.
Lunch of tuna, rice, sweet corn, chick peas salad, bread, cheese, wine by the side of the path.
Back early. Out to look at shops. Beer in square. Marie-Odile joined me. Grimbergen for me and Cro Mignon a local bottled beer for her.
Dinner of tomato pastry, duck on menu again so they gave me vegetable quiche without egg, green beans and cheesy pasta followed by tiramisu but lovely, usually I don’t like it.
The group is made up professionals and retired people. Pascale is a painter and has painted rooms for a prince of Saudi Arabia and Yves St Laurent. Janine was a nurse. Valerie is a psychologist. Marie-Odile is research doctor into organisations management. These are the people I’ve had the most conversations with in our Franglais.
Virgin who looks after Ax-les-Thermes from her Disney tower
Virgin who looks after Ax-les-Thermes from her Disney tower

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Reservoir for hydro electric system
Reservoir for hydro electric system
It went really dark before the storm broke
It went really dark before the storm broke
Orgeix
Orgeix
Family with over laden donkey who didn't want to go down the steep path
Family with over laden donkey who didn’t want to go down the steep path
Old mill
Old mill

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David and group
David and group
Marie-Odile and the local beer
Marie-Odile and the local beer
Summer house in the town
Summer house in the town
Friday 14th August
Just a croissant and a small bowl of granola with yoghurt and apple for breakfast.
Raining a lot so off in the minibus to Merens-les-Vals. Through the village, off the main road, past the municipal camping and up up up to park the minibus. Adrien a trainee mountain leader joined us. I talked to him a bit.
We went up 300m to the Etang de Comte (de Foix) but it was foggy and wet. We could have been in Scotland or Wales. We stopped at the black horses on the way, 2 of them belong to Francois, one is an old girl of 28 and the other is 16. He put down salt for them to supplement their diet. We only stayed out for 4 hrs as so wet.
Back to the hotel to change and eat our picnic at the table. Pasta salad, bread, wine, cheese. And a slice of chicken.
I nearly fell asleep but decided not to waste my time so set off for the telepherique. €7 for aller et retour. I went up to the station and chatted to a French couple on the way.
Tried to find the first path down but it was overgrown. Aimed for the second and found it. Mainly a bike route so very steep and muddy in parts with deep channels, hard work. Got down 700m and back to the hotel in 2 hours.
Very glad I am now a lot more fit and a lot more confident in navigating and in walking. The overall level of the walks we did were not anything I wouldn’t have attempted solo at home so I didn’t really need a guide however Francois did give the added history and information about the Ariege, the Pyrenees that I would have found it harder to obtain, plus it was quite fun being amongst a very French experience. He also made the walks fun and interesting. I would love to do the International Mountain Leader but it’s expensive and would take up an awful lot of time that I don’t have at the moment. And there are probably some other skills that I might struggle with.
I got down from my shower to find our group had gathered with complimentary peach wine, goats cheese nibbles and olives and Tacos. Francois forgot to tell me but it was ok. It was the only major thing he forgot to translate for me. I will forgive him because he is normally so charming!!
Dinner, toast with strong garlic spread and Italian type ham, dish like bouillabaisse without rice and with fish, mussels, chorizo, pimentos. Tasty. Discovered that mussels are ok! Chocolate muffin which was a bit heavy.
Lots of kissing because most are leaving tomorrow. Janine threw herself into this activity!
Lovely people and lovely time.

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Never seen so many capes and ponchos
Never seen so many capes and ponchos

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Florence
Florence
Francois
Francois
Attending to the horses
Attending to the horses
It could be Loch Ness
It could be Loch Ness
Looking down to Ax-les-Thermes
Looking down to Ax-les-Thermes
Saturday 15th August
The large group of cyclists who arrived yesterday made a huge amount of noise at 2.30 in the morning. I couldn’t get back to sleep so read my book.
Thankfully they were only here for the night. I hope they all fall off their bikes and get punctures. They broke the lift and knocked over all the plant pots. I gave one of them the filthiest look I could manage. All our party was displeased with them. Selfish load of louts we think from Holland. Farewell to most of the party.
Marie-Odile and I walked along the Oriege to Orlu and then the Forge d’Orlu to the Maison des Loups.  Saw a group of 4 Arctic wolves, a group of 7 Euro wolves and some cubs hiding behind a tree. They got fed raw chicken. Also it’s a family farm so there are chickens, sheep, goats, kids, piglets in close proximity.
We had lunch in the cafe at the park. M-O had cheese salad and I had cheese and mixed meats salad. Very good.
Then walked back to Ax, total of 18km or 11 miles.
On return M-O found she had lost her wallet portefeuille but luckily it was in the cafeso they rang her. The hotel then lent her their car so she could collect it. Very worrying for her. But great that it worked out ok.
I bought some bread, cheese, tomato for my lunch the next day.
Later met up with M-O for dinner. We went to a quiet, calm, small resto called L’Aparte.
Cold beetroot soup, excellent light courgette tarts with salad, lovely small choc pud. Quarter bottle of white wine. Great idea, just the right amount.
Very pleasant evening. I think we were both tired because we both tried hard to communicate in French and English.

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Wood store above
Wood store above
And another
And another
Les loups
Les loups

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This scraggy old git is the Alpha male
Happy stranger with kids
Happy stranger with kids

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Trying on a white outfit
Orgeix
Orgeix
Marie-Odile
Marie-Odile
More wood
More wood
Sunday 16th August
Breakfast and farewell to Marie-Odile. I finished squashing my gear into the 80l holdall from KE Adventures which I then strapped to its folding wheels/trolley. Mathieu picked me up at 11 and drove me back to Toulouse railway station. He was very interesting to listen to (he spoke a lot of English) and told me all about being a Mountain Leader in France, being an avalanche rescue person with an avalanche rescue dog and ski patroller. All sounds a lot harder and more intense than our awards which were not a walk in the park.
I put the holdall into the left luggage at Toulouse, got bossed around by a rather strict woman there. Then off to Tourist Info. I decided to buy a 24hr City Pass which covered all transport and some attractions. Straight onto the Metro, then onto a tram which I got off at the stop I’d been told to. Thank goodness for Google maps as it was the wrong stop. I walked for a hot 15 mins and arrived at the Roman Amphitheatre. It’s been restored using the famous pink Toulouse bricks. Did the Romans have these? I sort of doubt it but I may be doing them a disservice. Anyway there’s not much there apart from some old obviously Roman stones and big hole. There’s a copy of a statue of Minerva and some picnic tables. I sat at one in the shade and ate my provisions purchased the evening before. Very pleasant.
Then back to the centre on the tram and Metro. I got off near to the river and headed for the Bateaux Toulousains. They told me to come back a little later so I ate an ice cream from a boy with a bicycle powered wagon and then got in the queue. I wanted to be sure to get under the awning for some shade on the boat. I managed to sit near the speaker so was well blasted for the next hour and a quarter, nowhere else to go as the boat was full. The commentary bore very little relation to the English translation sheet I was given, which also bore little relation to English like what she is spoke! The trip was a bit dull, the Pont Neuf was really the highlight. We went into an old lock, out again, along a bit, turned round and then back through the lock. The main landmarks are at a distance from the Garonne. But it kept me cool for a while. There was a man living in a tent by the side of the canal.
I popped into the Jacobins convent which was especially huge as had no furniture in it. Lots of light. Glorious building.
Then went to find a beer and settled for a Kronenbourg. Wandered round a bit more looking for a corner shop. Phone call to Carol then decided to have a salad in the Van Gogh restaurant with real linen. It was very nice and I’m glad I did. Set off for the station, stopping to buy a couple of provisions for the night. Collected my holdall, scary woman no longer there. Waited for a while. Got onto train, I was first into my compartment. Turned down the heating controls. First problem there is nowhere to put a big holdall, definitely won’t fit under bunk 1 of 3. No room in bike store as full of bikes. Shove it down the end of my bunk thus reducing the space for me. 4 other women turned up eventually and everyone just said “Bonsoir” and that was it. Someone turned the light out and shut the door. Very limited headroom so hard to undress but so hot I took my top off. Felt terribly squashed. All the others had done the same with their bags. At some point later another person joined us. Later still someone opened the door and shut it from outside for no particular reason. Then I got cold so put my shirt back on, then colder so actually got into the sleeping bag thing. Gave up at about 6a.m. and got dressed and up. Train arrived at Paris Austerlitz at 6.50. In 1942, Jews in Paris were rounded up and taken from Austerlitz to Auschwitz. This is video of sleeping compartment from the website I used to plan the trip, the Man in Seat Sixty-One.
View from my room
View from my room
Roman amphitheatre
Roman amphitheatre
Repairs with Toulouse bricks
Repairs with Toulouse bricks
Minerva
Minerva
Pont Neuf
Pont Neuf
Hole to allow flow of water during times of flood
Hole to allow flow of water during times of flood
Jacobins convent
Jacobins convent

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Street signs bilingual
Street signs bilingual
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Jacobins convent

IMG_0719 IMG_0720 IMG_0727

The Capitole
The Capitole
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Never forget

IMG_0733

Monday 17th August
I got straight onto the Metro to the Gare du Nord just a few stops away. Went through passport control French, passport control UK, security and into the departure lounge thinking it would be like St. Pancras with shops and cafes but it wasn’t. I had a not nice espresso with a not nice croissant. And then found a nice espresso round the corner so had a second. Plugged in my phone, got in queue and onto Eurostar. Smooth journey to St. P. Across the street to King’s Cross and back to Leeds, then to Sowerby Bridge, then taxi home. Home by 2.30. Got myself a bit sorted and off to see Carol in St. James’s.
The Seine from the Metro
The Seine from the Metro
Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

West Wales July 2015

Saturday 4th July

Chris and I waited for the clouds to blow away. We eventually drove off from Borth and got to Mwnt where it was at least not raining and the sun popped in every now and then. We’d had some falafel and hummous on the way to keep us going.

On arrival at the campsite, we tried to pay up but no-one was in so we got Chris’s tent up. It’s very spacious and well constructed by Vango. By then time was marching on so we went into Cardigan to the Grosvenor for chicken Caesar for me and Chris had fish with ratatouille. Both meals were very nice and we washed them down with Doom Bar beer.

After dinner, we drove up the coast a little and stopped to watch the sun go down along with some keen photographers who set up their tripods and did a lot of fiddling. This will be me one day.

Then it was back to the campsite and I set up my tarp and bivvy combo. Well now I’ve really looked at the pictures I can see I didn’t get this right at all. The idea with the tarp is that you use your walking poles as the poles (to reduce weight). This part went ok and I managed to stay dry all night as did my book and my shoes even though there was a lot of rain. But I didn’t get the tarp taut enough and it needed guy ropes. It didn’t come with guy ropes which is a serious error on the part of the manufacturer Rab as it ‘s not a cheap item so really they are being tight fisted here. All the photos of the Element Solo in action show it being used with guy ropes so I’ve got some on order now. The tarp acts as a flysheet and then I get myself and my sleeping bag and my mat into the bivvy bag which is a waterproof bag.

I drank rum and read some more of The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, good book but it will end in tears, I haven’t yet finished it. It was amazing feeling all sleepy under the stars and seeing the moon through the end of the tarp. It was less good hearing a thumping base which it turned out was about 3 miles away.

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Sunset in Cardigan
IMG_0442
The mwnt at about 11pm
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Boat in the bay
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Chris in the enormous palatial tent

Sunday 5th July

I woke up early and went up the Mwnt to see the views, someone was making sand patterns on the beach. I also looked in the church which was peaceful. Got back to the campsite just in time to brew up and then the heavens opened again. We sat it out and then packed up the wet gear. First breakfast of fruit and granola in the car. We paid up which was when we found out about the distant noisy party.

We parked in the National Trust car park and visited the kiosk on the path to the beach, hot chocolate and freshly baked Welsh cakes for breakfast no. 2.

Just about missed the next downpour and then off to Llanerchaeron to make further good use of our National Trust memberships. Lunch first, Chris had a ploughman’s and I had a frittata. Yum yum!

We went round the walled gardens and met a nice cat. Then back to Borth where Chris made my supper of pasta and veg and sauce. Yum, yum yum!

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The tarp with bivvy bag
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Bring me my dinner!
Chris with a nice friendly pussy!
Chris with a nice friendly pussy!
To the garden
To the garden
A water lily for Claude Monet (Carol in that hat)
A water lily for Claude Monet (Carol in that hat)
Apple trees espaliered
Apple trees espaliered
Flowers for Chris
Flowers for Chris
Not sure I have the time to do this
Not sure I have the time to do this
The mwnt at Mwnt
The mwnt at Mwnt
On the beach
On the beach
Looking north from Mwnt
Looking north from Mwnt
Our campsite
Our campsite
Cardigan island
Cardigan island
Sunset at Borth
Sunset at Borth

 

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

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Aberaeron and Llanerchaeron 19th April

A racing weekend with Chris.
Saturday night
Out to Machynlleth to see O’Hooley and Tidow who were on good form.
Sunday
A spot of gardening
PetsRUs to get supplies for Patcho and Jim the psycho.
Aberaeron for a wander to find a cafe, we ended up in the Celtic Cafe fish restaurant. Chris had a tuna baguette and I had a tuna toastie. Mine wasn’t very nice really.
Llanerchaeron for a wander round a nice old house, we were the last visitors of the day so had the place to ourselves. They made the phone ring when we went in the study so I picked it up and had a conversation with a clever recorded message.
National Trust shop for more plants for Chris.
Kate and Dels for dinner. Chicken pie and spuds and creamed spinach followed by choc brownie and ice cream and sticky pistachio dessert, possibly I have missed something out there! Delish!
A sort of typical Chris and Jak outing where we did as much as we possibly could. It was lovely to be out and about and doing things.
Both a bit cream crackered!

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Sunset at Borth

 

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Aberaeron

 

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Aberaeron

 

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Llanerchaeron

 

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In the courtyard at Llanerchaeron

 

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Llanerchaeron

 

 

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

Wall to wall Hadrian April 2015

Mon 6th April

As part of my job I’ve been taking some online courses called MOOCs (massive open online course). I did a very good one from Newcastle University on Hadrian’s Wall with FutureLearn for free.
You get to translate Roman tablets and identity objects. I’ve also done some very poor courses with FutureLearn but you don’t have to stick with it if you don’t want to.
It got me interested in the path and it looked like a walk with a lot of extra interest and lots of scenery. It’s also a test to see if I really can do 4 long days of walking and therefore will be able to do my Pyrenean trip in August.
The taxi I’d booked didn’t arrive so I drove to the station and parked in sight of a camera. Three trains were all fine. Chatted to a young Austrian woman who was on her way to Hawick to volunteer on a farm for a week and then coming back down to be an equine apprentice in the Midlands.
Walked to Ashleigh House B&B which is near my start of the Hadrian’s Wall Path (HWP). It’s probably 2* and frequented by builders but my room is clean.
Dinner in Pizza Express. I have a Peroni and a light pizza which is where they cut out the middle and fill it with salad. I can’t eat huge pizzas anymore. Also some roasted tomatoes and coleslaw on the side. Finish with fruity tea and a tiny piece of lemon posset crunch. Very nice.
Back to my room to take things in and out of bags.

 

Tues 7th April
Off to meet some Romans.
Breakfast of poached egg and tomato, and marmalade on toast.
Set off at 9. My first HWP sign directs me over the River Eden across the memorial bridge into Rickerby Park. Lovely park full of dogs and their companions. Rickerby village is des res. Over the M6 into Linstock, along the river to Crosby. A little girl had set up a roadside stall so I bought some juice for 30p. Start to see farm names relating to the wall. The first section of vallum (big ditch) and Bleatarn (Roman quarry) now  full of reeds and bulrushes. Various honesty boxes along the way but have plenty of supplies. The path goes along lots of farmland, mainly sheep but some cows (well behaved). Also sections of road all very quiet. At Swainsteads the path crosses a tributary of the river Irthing with a weir.
I had my lunch at Walton sitting on a bench. On the road to cross King Water which also feeds the Irthing. Here there is a temporary road section of the HWP which looks like it’s a very long temporary. Just here is the first real section of wall but I missed it because of the diversion. I met a solo female American and had a chat. Just after Howgill I met 2 Northumberland National Park Rangers in a truck. They asked me about the condition of the path. First real climb up Craggle Hill for good views back west and south. At Hare Hill the first proper bit of wall. Quite high. Into Banks. Nice chat with woman doing her garden. Arrived 3.50 at Quarryside B&B which is lovely. Proper good welcome with tea and cake (skipped this) and biscuits. Nice room. Lovely hot shower. They will drive me to the pub 5 miles away and the pub will drive me back! Love this.
I saw 4 parties of wall walkers. 3 non UK girls with gigantic rucksacks, 2 UK women, 2 women and a man and the American.
Nice drive with David to the Belted Will Inn in Hallbankgate (Belted Will is taken from Walter Scott’s Lay of the Last Minstrel, a reference to William Howard of Naworth Castle which we drove past just after Lanercost Priory). This is the family that built Castle Howard.
Another great welcome in the pub. Sweet potato, chick pea and spinach curry with rice, nan bread and salad. Good grub washed down with Thwaites’ Wainwright beer. I have to wait for Steve the chef to take me back at 9. I had a bit of a headache so the nice bar woman has rung David to come and get me sooner. Her suggestion.
Sheets and blankets!
15 miles, 24km

 

Largest chunk of wall height wise
Largest chunk of wall height wise

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The acorn, where's the blasted acorn?
The acorn, where’s the blasted acorn?
One for Carol
One for Carol
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Tower at Rickerby
M6 weirdly looking a bit quiet
M6 weirdly looking a bit quiet
River Irthing
River Irthing

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Vallum
Vallum
I saw a lot of these sleepy lambs
I saw a lot of these sleepy lambs
Old Carlisle airport opposite the new one
Old Carlisle airport opposite the new one

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Weds 8th April
Breakfast of poached eggs and beans while Elizabeth frantically makes toast to counteract a planned electricity outtage. Chat with 2 American women who are the support for a group of 19 walkers. They are all from RAF Lakenheath which I know well.
I set off at 9.25 and quickly reach my first turret. There are quite a few of these and 2 to each milecastle. Stop at Birdoswald for half an hour. Quite a lot of actual wall in this section.
Ghost boy. Strange little boy all on his own who looked like he had cancer holding a gate open. Then moments later another one who looked like him but smaller who then completely disappeared. I even looked to see where he had gone.
Cross the river Irthing which has a steel bridge brought in by helicopter. Through Gilsland crossing the railway line and then again at Greenhead. This morning at breakfast there were 2 men on the HWP. We leapfrogged for a while. I saw them when I stopped for lunch by a stream and one of them had a bad back and had to get his pack transported. I saw them again at Walltown Quarry and then later was waved at by someone being rescued in a Sea King helicopter which came right over my head. Don’t know if it was him.
First real ascent to Walltown Crags after Walltown Quarry. Frogs doing trigamy on path.
Lots of wall in such a difficult place. My back of a fag packet (mental arithmetic because haven’t smoked for nearly 15 years, hooray, best thing I ever did) calculation gets wall construction to 50 metres a day and it was 5m high which I thought could only be possible with vast quantities of slave labour, but apparently this is incorrect and it was auxiliary soldiers who did the work.
Along to Aesica fort which is really just a farm. Chat to woman who lives in Norfok and tells me the hardest bit is to come. Thanks. Today’s walk much tougher as a) muscles tired after yesterday b) much warmer and c) harder terrain with ups and downs. Down to Burnhead where there is a B&B. This would have been a sensible place to stop! It’s next to Cawfield Quarry (all the quarries are Roman and are now ponds), more mating frogs. Along the vallum to Caw Gap. Then some ups and downs to trig point at 345m where I meet my American pals from breakfast. Their party is 2.5 miles behind. I can see both my B&B and the Twice Brewed pub at Once Brewed from here. That last mile I fantasised about frothing tankards admittedly more likely in Bavaria! Val from the B&B rings me. Arrive at pub at 5.55, long hard day.
Twice Brewed beer is good. Eat a big bowl of pasta while drinking the Blonde beer waiting for my lift. It’s ok and I manage to eat it all.  The non bad back man turned up at the pub.
Two Belgians with beards tell me Val is here to take me to Gibbs Hill Farm.
Val is 71 and is in a pickup. My first time in one. Gibbs Hill Farm is about a mile from the wall. Boots off outside. My room is large and comfortable. Long hot shower then down for a bottle of Becks. Long chat with David. He is in the middle of lambing. This means a month of 20 hour days. He has 600 sheep. Twins are inside and singles are outside. They own huge swathes of land from the wall to the forest and to the lough but it’s poor land. 32 miles to get round it. Used to be lots of staff and horses but now it’s bikes. He tells me lambs don’t try very hard to live! As well as the farm there is the B&B, the 3 holiday cottages and the bunkhouse. In the summer the wall is solid with hikers so I’m glad I am here now with just a few hikers and a few day trippers. Keep following the acorns (National Trail symbol). The HWP is very well marked and maintained so the Northumbria National Park rangers are doing a good job. Also relatively litter free.
When David gets time off he goes across to the Lakes and has done 70 Wainwrights.
My dad would have been 101 today.
13 miles, 21km

 

Little Ted on his first turret
Little Ted on his first turret

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Walltown Quarry
Walltown Quarry

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Thirlwall Castle
Thirlwall Castle

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I've got to get to the far end of that today!
I’ve got to get to the far end of that today!

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I was disturbed by the big hole in the roof and the washing on the line
I was disturbed by the big hole in the roof and the washing on the line

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Birdoswald
Birdoswald
River Irthing
River Irthing
Birdoswald
Milecastle
Wall
Wall
And another turret
And another turret

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My first turret
My first turret
Thurs 9th April
Breakfast with the bearded Belgians. I’m not usually mad keen on beards but theirs are quite fun. One has a long but neat beard. I give the shorter bearded Belgian some sun cream.
We all get a lift back to the HWP at Steel Rigg and set off at 9.50. I go for a more relaxed pace although there is a teenage lad running up the hills like a puppy.
Up and down to Housesteads. A couple drop their National Trust card and I run to return it to them, could do with the boy for this. Pretty section through Scotch pines overlooking Broomlee Lough. I get in for nothing at Housesteads with my NT card. There are portaloos which are horrid and I wish I hadn’t bothered. Report the lack of hand cleaner to the staff. Eat choc ice cream. Quick trot round the fort. Came here a long, long time ago on a family holiday. Possibly as much as 50 years ago. I really cannot believe I am even saying that! Still some Ministry of Works labelling in place but a lack of apostrophes even then.
Say hello to the American walking group. They were 19 yesterday but today are only 10.
More ups and downs to Sewingshields Crags. Take the Americans’ photo and forget to ask them to take mine.  Chat with an HWP volunteer who is knocking down molehills and picking up litter although he says the path is not too bad and this is so but it is early in the years for hikers.
I have my lunch in a turret.
From this point on it’s down, down and then along the side of the road, not actually on it, some wall in between. This part is a bit dull, about 3 miles.
Across the road to the Temple of Mithras which also rings a very strong bell that I have been there before. I don’t bother with Procolotia fort as it looks to be lots of grassy mounds.
Back across the road and along to Limestone Corner. This is a Roman quarry where stone has been cut but then abandoned.
Down to the road, along a bit and then to Greencarts farm, arrive about 4.25.
Sandra is Val’s pal so I give her Val’s message and we are off to a good start. I have the whole bunkhouse to myself. It’s ok, but the floors are a bit grubby. First have to make my bed which is hard when I feel so tired. Second is to have a shower but I have to use the campsite ones as the bunkhouse one is being repaired so I am very glad I brought my flip flops as it’s all a bit old and grubby but my towels and sheets are all very clean.
Sandra drives me to the pub, the Crown in Humshaugh (said Humshoff). This is the best meal so far. Grilled chicken with couscous done with herbs and broccoli and red cabbage. Washed down with Blaydon Brick beer. Sandra picks me up and back we go. Huge hare in the field next to the farm.
Today’s walk was 10 miles. I’ve decided that as I’ve now walked all the exciting bits of wall and done all the ups and downs that I will have an easy day tomorrow. It’s 19 miles from here to my last stop at Heddon-on-the-Wall although they would be easy miles they look to be a bit dull. I have a plan.
Everything is signposted in miles on the ground and on one of my maps. I find it quite hard to think in miles for walking purposes as all my maps are metric.
10 miles, 16km

 

In Temple of Mithras
In Temple of Mithras
Start of the day
Start of the day
Milecastle
Milecastle

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Sycamore gap
Sycamore gap
And on and on
And on and on
Down to Broomlee Lough
Down to Broomlee Lough

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And on
And on
And on
And on
Bottom of an arch
Bottom of an arch
And on
And on
Soggy Temple of Mithras
Soggy Temple of Mithras
Mithraic detail
Mithraic detail
Fri 10th April
It was odd sleeping in a bunk bed without Chris being in the one above!
I had asked for poached eggs for breakfast but got 2 small fried ones with the edges cut off which S was trying to palm off as poached. Sandra friendly etc. but the place was too grubby for me to want to come here again.
Walk to Chesters and happy memories of being in the bathhouse with Carol! Nice English Heritage coffee and shortbread. Sandra  suggested that I walk the dismtld rly (my favourite OS abbreviation!) to Hexham so I leave Chesters and go into Chollerford and cross the Tyne over a nice 18th C bridge. Along a permissive path to the Roman bridge abutment for the east side of the river looking across to Chesters. It’s an extensive structure and very clear in the water. I tried the old railway line but it was hard going, overgrown and soggy. Gave up at a private land sign to retrace my steps. Along the road a bit still on the HWP but no acorns or signs at all. Thought about looking at Brunton turret but instead got the bus to Hexham. The bus was 2 minutes late. Hexham is a bit tired and I wanted to leave almost immediately as I just didn’t want to be in a town. Went to tourist info and ran into the bearded Belgians from Ghent again. Their walk to Wark (said as in park) yesterday had been hard.
Back to the bus station. Nice chat with old man who reminded me of dear Dave, I’m a pushover for twinkly eyes! Bus to Corbridge was 10 minutes late.  Corbridge is a nice old village. Off to the Roman town which is 15 minutes walk from the centre. It’s our own Pompeii! Ice cream in the sun. Back to the village to wait for bus to Heddon-on-the-Wall. Bus was 7 minutes late. Get off at the Three Tuns. The barman says Houghton North Farm is 500m along the road. Off I trot, it is a bit more than that. Pass a bus stop I could have got off at next to the hostel. Paula is very welcoming and this really is a nice clean hostel. I have a bunk room I can lock all to myself. My bed not a bunk is already made up. The kitchen is next door and a skinny man is cooking several tons of pasta for 9 serious skinny cyclists who are in a race tomorrow. They are Wiggins level apparently.
Paula recommends the Swan. After I’ve sorted myself out and had a nice shower it’s off to the pub. I measure the distance back to the Three Tuns because I am quite obsessive and it is 800m.
The Swan is mainly a carvery. I opt for a pint, a whole pint of Doom Bar, veg lasagne and Eton Mess. It’s all ok but the beer is the best!
Back along and then take the footpath next to the hostel signed Military Road half a mile. I can’t see it at all because crops growing on it.
Back to the hostel. Despite planning not to walk much I’ve knocked up loads of miles which wasn’t the plan at all. My feet are quite good this evening. Am very grateful to Mandy for my birthday arnica salve which has saved my feet.
14 miles, 23 km

 

Corbridge
Corbridge

P1030651 P1030652 P1030654 P1030656 P1030658

Hypercaust
Hypercaust
Ministry of Works managed an apostrophe
Ministry of Works managed an apostrophe
Bath house at Chesters
Bath house at Chesters
The fog is not on the Tyne
The fog is not on the Tyne
Bridge foundations
Bridge foundations
Bridge over the Tyne at Chollerford
Bridge over the Tyne at Chollerford
Art deco flicks
Art deco flicks
Hexham Abbey
Hexham Abbey
Corbridge Roman town
Corbridge Roman town
Sat 11th April
Very glad no ailments on this trip – no blisters, no cuts, no bruises, no insect bites. Just slight headache because of not drinking enough which was soon remedied. Very pleased with what I’ve done. It got easier each day. Still slept badly everywhere. But I like waking early and the early mornings are the best part of day for me. Bruce song accompanying me on the trip in my head was Further on up the road. Of course.

 

 

Breakfast was a bit bonkers with the cyclists but pleasantly overlooked by Paula who made sure everyone had what they wanted. Surprise to see the 2 American women again. 12 of the 19 air force men finished the walk. They rushed off.
The Express bus got me into Newcastle. I recognised Eldon Square, decided to spend 20 minutes in the big M&S and had a coffee. Then onto the Metro to Central Station and into my First Class seat to Leeds (£1 extra). My car was still at Sowerby Bridge station much to my relief. Home before 2pm. Always funny to see how much further on the plants are in just a few days. Feels like weeks!

 

Gear, kit and tips
Planning was done using:

 

Maps:
National Trail 1:40K strip map, basic but despite the metric scale also shows exactly how many miles you’ve walked, good for detail of services available.
Harvey’s 1:40K strip map, showed better contour detail. I had the 2 maps on either side of a case so that I could quickly get the different but equally useful bits of information.
At no point did I need a compass. It would have been possible to do the whole walk without a map but you would also lose a lot of the historical detail.

 

I used a baggage service, Walkers’ Bags, to take my holdall to each destination. This was efficient and cheap, cost £7 per day.

 

Because the weather was so stunningly good I was able to ditch my waterproof jacket and trousers after the first day. I took:
Medium sized rucksack
Trekking poles (only used on one day)
Bladder for water (essential), I used about 1.5 litres each day, drink lots before you leave your accommodation.
Small first aid and emergency kit, Compeed essential here, I didn’t have to use it but if there’s a hint of a possible blister, you need to be able to deal with it. Sunscreen also essential.
Snacks, I ate a couple of energy bars each day, one mid morning and one as I started to flag near the end of each walk with a big hill looming! I didn’t eat much else but made up for it in the pubs.
Camera
Lightweight summer boots
Summer walking trousers
Short sleeve merino top
A sun hat, mine is a baseball cap with a foreign legion flap, I don’t care how stupid I look and I can always tuck the flap away and look almost normal if the sun isn’t shining on my neck.
Long sleeve merino top (merino lessens the terrible smells which you get with synthetic clothes)
Light weight warm synthetic jacket
Last but not least, a small Mountain Rescue bear, who has his own ruddy Facebook page! You will find him on Facebook by searching for Little Ted.

 

In the holdall:
Change of clothes
Wash kit
Arnica salve, this kept my feet in one piece, lovely stuff from Neal’s Yard
Books
Supplies of snacks, energy bars etc. I had far too many of these.
Extra layers because I thought it might easily be cold and wet!
I walked the walk I wanted to do, I didn’t stick strictly to the Hadrian’s Wall Path which starts at Bowness on Solway and goes to Wallsend. Once I had got onto the path at Carlisle though I did stick to it rigidly and followed it as far as Chollerford. It all went really well and I have a great sense of achievement plus I think the Pyrenees trip is now possible.

 

Please support the National Amyloidosis Centre
Lots of people decide to do big things, runs and walks and climbs and raise money for charity. I managed to not spend all the money I took with me so I’ve decided to donate £2 for every mile I covered to the National Amyloidosis Centre. Those of you who know me will understand why I’m doing this and I would urge anyone who has enjoyed this blog post to donate to the NAC. Amyloidosis is a hideous illness and is rare and thus needs more research, please support them and University College London to find out more and so be able to treat patients like my dearest friend.

 

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS