Thursday, 29 December 2011

Iceland

I love my snowboots. My feet have so been so warm and dry in all this snow. the only problem with them is when I sink deeper than my knees. Would it have been possible to get thigh-high snowboots?

I love my new camera too. It takes amazing pictures and makes it all so easy. Even in the dark (which it is most of the time here) I don't need a tripod - it just focuses and then remembers what the image looks like whilst it does the long exposure thing. So I'm not getting any blurry photos. Wowee.

I haven't seen the Northern Lights yet, as each evening so far the trip out of the city to see them has been cancelled. It only runs when there's a good chance of seeing them. But I have plenty of time left yet.

What have I done so far? Well, yesterday morning I went outdoor swimming in the pool next to the hostel. I started by sitting in the first hot pot I came to as my bare feet were freezing fast as I walked over the icy ground the 2 metres to the pool. It was so warm. There was even a floating chess set bobbing about on it, so I suppose people really do spend hours in them.

I stayed in this hot pot until it was infiltrated by young children having a snowball fight. The Icelandic version of water polo perhaps? Then I switched to the main swimming pool which was cooler, but still a good temperature. I couldn't see how big the pool was because it was dark and the rising steam made it really misty. So visibility was down to about zero. I kept swimming round corners and bends and discovering more and more pool. Or maybe I was just swimming in tight circles and thought I was discovering new bits. At one point I swam under a bridge and discovered an elderly people's exercise class going on in one of the lanes.

Once I'd had enough of swimming I sat in a different hot pot - one with bends, corners and alcoves and watched the sun beginning to rise through the fir trees. It got slightly above the horizon which is about the best to be hoped for at this time of year. It gets light around 11am and is dark again well before 5pm.

Í've also been drinking lots of good coffee whilst I've been here. I think Icelandic coffee is second only to Dutch coffee. It's dark and strong and doesn't come in a bucket. Last time I was here I discovered a new little coffee shop called Cafe Haiti. It's run by a woman who is one of only two Haitians in Iceland. She imports the coffee from Haiti and roasts it herself. When I got home I wrote a review of it on Trip Advisor. The first day I was here I saw an advert for Cafe Haiti in one of the free tourist papers. It was quoting a customer who said they'd gone to Cafe Haiti because of a review they'd read on Trip Advisor and it really was as good as the review said. I've since seen the same ad in several other places. As far as I'm aware I'm the only person who's written a review on Trip Advisor so I must be the reviewer the advert is referring to. Does this make me famous? Or at least semi-famous? Even though no-one knows who I am. I'm glad my review (if it is mine - I will have to check when I'm not paying for internet) has done her some good. I've been back today and she is now in bigger premises.

Friday, 23 December 2011

New year, new challenges

I don't usually make New Year's resolutions. And anyway, I think more in academic years than calendar ones, so January is a third of the way in for me. I'm thinking of changing that this year though, and setting myself a few challenges. Not resolutions as such, but things to achieve during 2012. Since I've started keeping my list of 60 things and regularly writing about them (very tenuously sometimes, I know) I've realised how much more focussed I am and how I tune into things that may help me achieve my challenges. So maybe I should try a yearly list too. It might help me get more done and make me more 'micro-focussed'. In a book 'Getting Things Done', I read earlier this year it was recommended that tasks are broken down into minute stages to make them more achievable. So by creating a yearly list I'm on my way to setting step-by-step target stages for my overall challenges. I'm still at the thinking stage, but my ideas so far include:


  1. Floating in a floatation tank (I'm hoping to do this in London during the February half term)
  2. Reading at least 10 books from the BBC Big Read list (if I read 10 a year, I'll have the whole 200 knocked off in the next 12-13 years!)
  3. Taking at least one photo every day of the year (this will improve my photography skills, be a photo-diary of 'year in my life', and help me to learn to use my new camera)
  4. Coming up with a fitness plan and sticking to it (the start of my training for Kilimanjaro, though I may not actually climb it for several years yet)
  5. Leading at least 4 of my own walks (good practice for my walking group leader's qualification)
  6. Buying another house (need to get my finances in order first)
  7. Learning to use at least 3 new pieces of technology or computer programmes (not counting my new camera)
  8. Doing a writing course (depends on the length of the couse whether I'd complete it in the year or not)
  9. Getting at least one piece of writing published (paid or unpaid, as long as someone else makes the decision to publish it and it's not self-published)
  10. Making a start on sorting out my photos (putting the prints that are currently still stuffed in packets into albums and getting all my photos scanned into the computer - no way will this be completed in a year, but I'll feel good even if I get started on it)
  11. Buying a car/van that I can sleep in (and doing any necessary conversions/adaptations)
  12. Getting into cycling (even if it's just short cycles along decent paths)


That's twelve. The equivalent of one a month, which seems a good number for a yearly list.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

At Home

By Bill Bryson

As I didn't have to be in work till 11 o'clock this morning I stayed in bed with a cup of coffee and finally finished the book I'd started when I went to Norfolk. It's taken me a while as it's so chunky - 632 pages of text and another 70 pages of bibliography and indexing.

I chose to read this book in Norfolk as it was the only book I could find with a Norfolk connection, albeit a bit of a tenuous one. Bill Bryson lived in the UK for years with his English family before returning to the States for a few years. When he came back to the UK he moved to Norfolk and bought an old rectory. The rectory was built in 1851 which I think is the year my houses were built.

Bryson became interested in the history of his house and using each room as a starting point ended up writing what seems to be an all-encompassing social history. He discusses the history of servants, food, clothing, childhood, sex, comfort and luxury, hygiene, plants, science, and so on and so on. He sets the scene by referring to events going on at the time his house (and so my houses too) was built. The Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace was in 1851. This was also the time that Darwin was first finding fame (with a large and detailed book on barnacles) and the year that Moby Dick was published.

Bryson lives up to his usual standard of writing an easy to read, page-turner of a book that is informative and engaging and full of facts about the evolution of everyday products that I've always taken for granted and didn't know I needed informing about. The book is injected with light humour, but finished with a detailed bibliography for those who want to take it all more seriously and maybe do some further reading on a particular topic.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Getting ready for Iceland

I'm so busy at school at the moment I feel like I still have so much to do to prepare for Iceland and I'm not getting time to do it. It's a week today that I go. I keep thinking about clothes. It's going to be cold - even if the temperature hovers around zero the wind could make it feel a lot colder. And it's going to rain. Vertically, horizontally, diagonally, it's going to rain. I'd thought about getting a really good winter jacket such as a down jacket, but it seems the jackets that are made for warmth aren't particularly waterproof. Down in particular, is really not recommended for wet weather, though it's the warmest thing out there. So I'm just going to have to layer up underneath my waterproof jacket. The problem with that is that there's only so much I can fit underneath it whilst still being able to move. I've just invested in some new thermal leggings and vests and I tried them out yesterday. They are very thin, but kept me really snug, so that's a partial solution.


I've just reproofed my jacket. Last weekend the rain soaked right through so I knew it had to be done. I could have done with some rain this weekend to test it now it's been reproofed, but I'll just have to settle for spraying water on it. If the reproofing hasn't worked then I'm going to have to find the time and money to get a new one before I go.


I've also reproofed my walking boots and bought some snow boots. I'm thinking about getting a new backpack before I go too. My current one has been held together with duct tape since the Great Glen Way, so I do need one. But I was going to wait until Easter when I go to Germany and then check out Deuter packs. As it's a German brand there's so much more choice there.


I've played a bit with my new camera and tripod, but not nearly enough. I didn't take it out yesterday as I thought I would be walking with the group and so didn't want to be faffing about. As it happened I could have got some great practice in.


I've bought the Rough Guide to Iceland and had a quick look through it, but I don't think it's as good as the Lonely Planet I used 2½ years ago. So maybe I'll take both. I still have to decide on reading material. I'm envisaging spending a lot of time sitting in Reykjavik's wonderful coffee shops, relaxing and reading.


The hostel has emailed me to inform me of their reception's Christmas opening hours and to ask what time I'm expecting to arrive. As I should arrive during their opening hours that's straightforward. At some point this week I need to renew my travel insurance and book the Northern Lights tour. Then of course I need to pack. And do the million and one other things that need to be done with my house, work and Christmas before I can actually go on holiday.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

The Hathersage walk that wasn't

For a long time now, my small walking group have had this weekend set aside for our Christmas meal and walk. We met in Hathersage yesterday for Christmas lunch in the Little John pub and most of the group stayed over in the pub's 'cottage'. I booked too late to get a room at the inn and the youth hostel is closed, so my plan was to drive home last night and return to Hathersage this morning. I only live an hour away so it wasn't a big issue.

Saturday morning I woke to snow. There wasn't much at home, but once in the hills there was lots. The roads were fairly clear though it was slow going. I arrived late for lunch, but at least I got there (a big achievement for me considering my recent record) and I wasn't even the last. We had a nice lunch which lasted a few hours and then retired to to the cottage for quizzes, games and drinks. I didn't want to stay too late as I was concerned about the roads icing up over the tops.

I left about 7.30pm and had a fairly easy drive. The roads were a bit snowy, but there wasn't too much traffic and what there was seemed to be driving carefully and slowly. Then just before Hayfield, on a bend on a hill, there was an accident. I could see the blue flashing lights of police cars and ambulances and the narrow road was completely blocked with traffic starting to back up. I was ready for a long wait. Then I noticed cars pulling out from behind me and turning up a side lane. I'd actually assumed it was just a track leading up to a farm, but unless it was party night at the farm (a barn dance maybe?) it had to be more than that. I made a snap decision to follow the cars and see where they went. I presumed they must know another way into Hayfield and if I stuck close they could lead me.

Of course being a little side lane, no more than a single lane track, it wasn't gritted and was probably a tricky road to drive at the best of times. I slid around a bit, but it was fine. I stuck close enough to the cars in front to see where they were going, but left enough stopping room in case I went into a slide. Just as I wondered what would happen if we all met an oncoming car, one appeared. Luckily it was a 4WD with a driver who knew how to use it. The car went up the side of the bank and was almost at 90 degrees as the driver allowed us all to get past.

Eventually I got to Hayfield and continued on my way. This morning when I woke up everything was white. After driving home last night, I knew how bad it would probably be further into the Peaks, but decided to give it a try. There wasn't much traffic and even the grottiest roads looked pretty. Just outside of Glossop everything came to a standstill. The hill was pure ice and cars going down (my direction) were sliding. Cars coming up were ... well, they weren't. The gritters were out, including a couple of men gritting by hand, cars were being pushed, one was being towed by a truck. I finally got clear of the area at 10am which is the time we were meant to be meeting up ready for our 10.30am start. I sent a text to say I probably wouldn't make it and decided to decide at the end of the road what to do.

As it happened, the road up into the hills wasn't too bad at all. It had been well gritted and as a main route had already had enough traffic to break the ice and snow up. The fields were white and as I got close to Sparrowpit so was the air. The clouds had dropped and I was driving in a white-out. Once at Tideswell however, the snow abruptly stopped. It looked like a line had been drawn across the countryside - white on the left and green on the right. I made it to Hathersage for 10.45am but had missed the group. I wandered round for a bit in case I bumped into anyone, but didn't.

I had no idea where they were walking as we still hadn't decided last night where to go. And after driving through all that snow I really wanted to be out walking in it, not walking in the green hills round Hathersage, something I can do any weekend. So I drove back towards my side of the Peaks. The sun had burnt the clouds off and the sky was blue. I stopped a few times to take photos and then parked up in Hayfield to do a walk along the Sett Valley.

As it was now afternoon and it gets dark so early I didn't want to go up into the hills, so instead I walked to New Mills along the Sett Valley trail. Once there I had to turn round and walk back the same way as other routes I could see on the map would have taken too long. But it was nice and I got to see it twice.

I started following the trail along a well defined path and bridleway from the car park. There were lots of tatalising glimpses of white puffball hills through the trees and the river and lake (is it a lake?) were frozen in parts. The trees were white and the ground underfoot made pleasing crunching noises as I walked. The snow was deep and crisp and even. Where I turned back in New Mills I found an old graveyard with wonky gravestones overgrown with brambles. It looked so dramatic all covered in snow. I wandered around for a while taking photos before heading back to my car and home.

I've had a lovely day breathing in lovely fresh tingly air, upping my vitamin D intake and making the most of a white world. And I've added to my track record of going for walks with my small walking group, not meeting them and doing my own walk instead.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Waxing 2

Well I just had my second waxing experience. This is time I went for the whole leg job and it really didn't hurt anything like I imagined. I'm still not sure if I'm brave enough to go for underarms and bikini line yet though. So this might take a little bit longer than expected before I'll tick the challenge off as done and dusted.

Monday, 12 December 2011

The Name of the Rose - film

The Name of the Rose is book number 174 on the BBC Big Read list. I've had it on my shelves for a long time but haven't yet got round to reading it. The book was made into a film in 1986 and stars Sean Connery and Christian Slater. I've just watched it for the first time and it's motivated me to read the book. The film is good, but from past experience I know they're never usually as good as the book, so I'm glad I've seen the film first.


The story is set in a monastery high on an isolated hill in 1300's Italy. As a Franciscan monk and his novice, played by Connery and Slater, arrive for a debate ahead of their peers, a man is found murdered. Then another one. And another. Connery and Slater turn into medieval sleuths to solve the mysterious crimes and find a secret library in the process. Unfortunately the Inquisition arrives before they can solve the murders and three innocent people find themselves about to be burnt at the stake. It all ends happily however. Well, at least it ends happily for all except the two people who don't get rescued from the stake in time, the Inquisitor who is killed by his own torture devices, and the library which is destroyed. But apart from that, a happy ending.


I must read the book.

Hathersage Christmas Walk no. 1

Sunday 11th December, 2011


This Sunday my big walking group had its Christmas walk and meal. Next Sunday it's the turn of my small walking group. Both walks and meals are in Hathersage as this is such a good hub and is on the train line from Manchester to Sheffield, so people living on either side of Pennines have the choice of catching the train instead of driving and so can have a few beers with their Christmas meal.

I chose to drive as it's much quicker, cheaper and I didn't feel like drinking a lot anyway.

I picked a friend up at 9am and we were in the pub car park in Hathersage by 10am. The pub we'd chosen was the Millstones and is just outside of Hathersage on the road to Sheffield. The car park had a few goats and a collection of micro pigs and piglets roaming around. The piglets were for sale at £60 each. Tempting, but as I don't have a parish licence (it's not that straightforward to buy a pig) I wasn't able to give in to temptation.

It started to rain just as we began walking, so it was wet-weather gear all the way. We followed a path at the side of the car park downhill into the trees and headed towards the railway and the River Derwent. We walked along a back lane of Grindleford, past Padley chapel, through the Longshaw Estate and ended up at Surprise View from where we walked along the road back to the pub.

We stopped for a coffee break at a shelter behind Padley Chapel and also stopped to take photos of a waterfall and of the money tree on Longshaw Estate. The money tree is a horizontal tree trunk that has been embedded with coins over the years. The coins are firmly hammered in, so there's no removing them. This is supposed to be a tradition associated with good luck, making a wish (similar to making a wish when throwing a coin into a wishing well) or getting rid of illness (if someone removes a coin they could become ill). See here for an Daily Mail article on money trees.

Once back at the pub we all piled in and took over the toilets so we could get changed into clean and dry clothes. Then, drinks and meal tickets bought and paid for, it was time to attack the carvery. Carveries are great for vegetarians. I piled my plate high with roast potatoes, veggies, bread sauce, stuffing balls, yorkshire puddings, cauliflower cheese, and horseradish sauce. It was delicious and I left the pub a few hours later feeling several kilos heavier than when I'd entered.







Sunday, 4 December 2011

Iran in the news

Iran has been in the headlines again this week. Firstly because of the attack on the British Embassy in Tehran, and then because of the Iranian diplomats in Britain being given 24 hours to leave the country. The attack on the embassy in Tehran seems to have been a terrifying ordeal for those inside. They say the police stood by and allowed the 'students' to carry out the attack. If the police were standing by does this mean the attack was condoned (or even instigated) by the government? The Iranian foreign secretary (I think) did apologise, but how genuine was this apology?

Britain sending the Iranian diplomats back to their country seems a bit tit for tat (though in a much nicer and less terifying way). Yes, we're making a point, but what is it really going to achieve? It just seems to me that the situation could be much more easily resolved in our favour if we kept them here. For starters, if Iran is such a threat then surely we need people on the ground there to keep an eye on things for us. How is that going to happen, if we have no ambassador or other embassy personnel there? If we allowed the Iranian officials to remain here, the path of safely returning diplomats to Iran would be much simpler and quicker.

When I went to Russia in the mid-1980s it was the time of the cold war and Russia was the most misunderstood and least known country on the planet. Everyone thought they knew all kinds of things about the USSR, but as most of their knowledge and perceptions came from American spy films and propaganda, much of what they thought was wrong. When I told people where I was going their reaction would either be one of disbelief or one of fear and paranoia. "But what if they don't let you out?" was a question I was asked all too often.

These days it seems like Iran is the new Soviet Union. Most people have never met anyone from there or anyone who has been there, let alone thought of going there themselves. The presiding image of Iran in most people's minds is of crowds chanting "Death to America" whilst burning American flags. When I mention to people that it is one of the countries I would most like to go to, and indeed when I told people I was actually booked on a trip to travel around Iran (it was cancelled as there weren't enough people on it, so I never actually got to go) their reaction is similar to what the reaction was back in the '80s when I went to Russia. Yet whenever I speak to anyone who has travelled there, or read of anyone's travels through Iran they always speak so highly of the country and its people, saying it's one of the friendliest most welcoming places they have been. As usual it seems to be the politicians who are setting the international tone for their country and doing their own people a great injustice by creating such a negative perception of them.

My dream of going to Iran could be further away than ever now as I doubt there'll be many visas issued to British passport holders for the forseeable future.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Free flights to Japan

I just came across a rumour that Japan is planning to give away 10,000 free flights as a way of attracting visitors back after the earthquake and tsunami. If this giveaway happens, it's thought it will begin in April. I was thinking of going to the Outer Hebrides next summer, but if I could get a free flight to Japan I'll definitely go there instead.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The sun's got spots!

I've been reading up on the Northern Lights and this is a really good time to go to see them. The sun operates in a 12 year cycle and every 12th year it gets spots. These sunspots are visible without a telescope (though eclipse type glasses are recommended to avoid damaging your eyes) and are caused by particles being expelled from the sun. It's particles from the sun that cause the effects seen as the Northern Lights. The particles are dragged towards the two magnetic poles and then swirl around in the atmosphere causing the multi-coloured lightshow effect. The closer to the poles you are the more strobe like are the lights. In Scotland, on the odd occasion that they are seen, they tend to appear only as a pale swathe of colour on the horizon. Green and red coloured lights are caused by oxygen particles and the less common blue lights are caused by nitrogen.

Not only is sun at the height of its 12 year expulsion cycle, but some experts reckon it is the most active its been for 50 years. So with all these extra particles floating about surely I've got to see them! 

Monday, 28 November 2011

Q&A

I came across these questions and answers in Alastair Humphrey's blog and they got me thinking about what my responses would be. It'll be interesting for me to look back on them in a year or two's time and see if my answers are still the same.

Mountain/ocean/jungle/desert – which are you?
I like all of them for different reasons. It's too hard to call.

What was your first great travel experience?
Either going on a college trip to Russia back in the 1980s when it was still hidden behind the iron curtain, or interrailing around Europe for a month. I did both with the same friend within the space of a few months and I'm not sure which came first.

Favourite journey?
Travelling overland through Africa using of mix of walking and hitching with the occasional bit of public transport thrown in.

Top five places worldwide?
Unst, Shetland; Sydney; Zaire (or the Democratic Republic of Congo as
it's known now); Iceland; London

Name a special place to stay.
In my tent on the grass in front of the youth hostel in Uyeasound, Unst. It's peaceful and I can while away the evenings sitting in the conservatory at the back of the hostel chatting to interesting people and watching the sun go down and distant lights come on across the water.

What three items do you always pack?
Decent coffee, something to read and a toilet roll.

Which passport stamp are you proudest of?
The USSR

Which passport stamp would you most like to have?
Antarctica

What is your guilty travel pleasure?
Good coffee - either making my own or finding a really good coffee shop like the minuscule Cafe Haiti in Reykjavik

Which do you prefer: window or aisle?
Window

Who is your ideal travelling companion?
I like to travel alone and meet people as I go.

Best meal on the road? And your worst?
Best - a little breeze block and cardboard cafe called 'Stop n Eat' in a suburb of Nairobi. It served the best cabbage in the world.
Worst - Communist Russia back in the 1980s. They had no concept of vegetarianism and so all I got to eat was coleslaw. As the other people in the group didn't like their coleslaw they would give theirs to me. All I had to eat for the best part of a fortnight was a big plate of coleslaw twice a day. It took a few years before I could even look at it again.

Most surprising place? And your most disappointing?
Surprising - most recently was Minehead. I was there earlier this year when I walked some of the South West Coast Path. I was just expecting it to be tacky, but it really wasn't bad. The train station area is really nice and I found a lovely cafe for lunch.
Disappointing - I've never really been disappointed with a place. I can usually find something to interest or intrigue me no matter where I am.

Where do you NOT want to go?
Although there are places that aren't high on my list, there's nowhere I wouldn't want to go to given half the chance.

Who/what inspired you to travel?
I've always had itchy feet. Ever since I can remember I've always loved holidays, days out, etc, and would cry when I had to come home.

Any travel heroes?
The travel heroes that have inspired me the most are the ordinary people doing extraordinary things that I'll sometimes be fortunate enough to meet when I'm travelling.

What do you listen to on the road?
I don't take music with me, so either the sounds of nature, or whatever music is being played in local cafes and shops.

Does any song take you back to a particular place?
Bob Marley takes me straight back to my kibbutz days in the late 80s.

What do you read when you travel?
Books with a connection to the place: factual books about the place; novels set in the place; books written by someone from the place.

Is there a person you met while travelling who reaffirmed your faith in humanity?
Lots and lots. And hopefully some of them have felt the same way about me!

What’s the most impressive/useful phrase you know in a foreign language?
patatje oorlog met uitjes - it's my favourite junk food in the Netherlands. This is the colloquial term for it and so I like to think it makes me sound like a local :-)

What is your worst habit as a traveller?
Bad habits? Me? Never!

Snowbound in a tent in Antarctica, how would you entertain your companions?
Sharing stories.

When and where in your travels have you been happiest?
Lots of places, but over the last few years in Unst in Shetland. I feel so relaxed there.

What smell most says ‘travel’ to you?
Smoke from the fires at roadside stalls. I think it's why I like lapsang souchong tea so much. The smell just takes me straight to Africa.

Given a choice, what era would you travel in?
It has to be a place as well as an era. Kenya, particularly Nairobi, in the 1920s.

If you could combine three cities to make your perfect metropolis, which would they be?
The bustle and internationalism of London with the look of Sydney and the vibe of Reykjavik.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Creswell Crags Walk

Sunday 27th November, 2011


This was a walk in an area I don't know at all. I'd always thought it too far away for a day walk, but with the help of TomTom I got to the meeting place of Whitwell in just over an hour. This was a walk with my small walking group and for once I actually managed to meet up with them and not be late or go to the wrong car park or do any of the other things I seem to have been good at doing recently.

We found a free car park and there were toilets in the commuity centre across the road. Whitwell itself is a village with a look of a small town. There are quite a few modern houses, pubs, a pizza takeaway place, a hairdresser's and it has a general look of being fairly low income. Different to many of villages I start walks in where it seems as though you have to be a millionaire to afford a week's rental in a two up two down.

entrance to Creswell Crags
limestone quary










We began by walking through the town to reach fields and the edge of a limestone quarry to the south of Whitwell. The quarry is fenced off for safety reasons but there was a good path all round the edge. We could see the village of Creswell off to our right as we walked. At the bottom edge of the quarry we left the path and came briefly onto the A616. Then we turned left into the entrance to Creswell Crags. A path that veered off from the road took us to the crags themselves. This rocky gorge has many caves in which have been found bones and skulls of animals not seen in Britain for many thousands of years, and tools used by the first people to inhabit the area. The caves are gated so we couldn't go in them, though there are tours at certain times.




















We walked down both sides of the gorge and then stopped for lunch in a picnic area before walking to the swish new visitor centre for a toilet stop and a quick look round. There's a bit of a museum in the centre which I didn't get chance to see. I'd also like to spend more time looking round the gorge and doing the cave tour. So I'll have to come back. Especially as I now know this area isn't nearly as far away as I'd thought.










Leaving the visitor centre we walked through a dolomite quarry. The earth was silky black and alien looking with just the one fenced in path going through and lots of warning signs about the dangers of straying into the quarry itself. A few shimmering pools added to the overall effect. I was fascinated by the environment and stopped several times to take photos.
















As we reached civilisation again we came across a house with a sign advertising a tea garden. One snap decision later and we all trooped in, much to the surprise of the owner who'd already given up for the day and packed most of the tables and chairs away. The house, called 'Penny Green', had a big garden with a swing seat and a little summer house. Running across the bottom was a small stream on the other side of which was a footpath. The lady told us that the footpath was currently being upgraded and when it was finished there would also be a little bridge across the stream so walkers could come directly into her garden from there, thus drumming up more business. We enjoyed sitting in the garden with our drinks, amazed that we could do so in late November. And I was only wearing a fleece and no jacket.

Continuing our walk we followed a small lane to the road near Hoodthorpe and then walked back along paths and through fields (including one with signs warning us to beware of playful horses) to reach Whitwell from the northeast. 

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Mail boat to St Helena

St Helena is an island in the middle of the Atlantic miles from anywhere. It's so isolated it was considered a good place for Napoleon to live out his days after his capture. As small islands interest me it's only to be expected that this should be somewhere I'd like to go. What makes this particular island even more fascinating however, is the journey it takes to get there. There is no airport. Not even a tiny airstrip the like of which can be found on islands like Foula or Skerries. So the only way there is by boat. There is a mailboat service that runs from the UK to South Africa and stops at St Helena en route to deliver goods and mail and this mail boat takes passengers. It's something I'd love to do and depending on what the mail boat is really like I might be able to kill two birds with one stone and get both the 'visit St Helena' challenge and the 'travel on a cargo ship' challenge ticked off in the one go.

I've just read that the mail boat is making its final journey from the UK. It will still go to St Helena, but only on return trips to South Africa. And the idea of building an airstrip has been resurrected (it gets talked about every few years and then ends up on the back burner again). So if I want to go to St Helena by mailboat I have to try to do it before 2015 which is when the talk says they will have the airstrip. If the plans go ahead this time, then no doubt this will spell the end for mail boat.

I wonder where else I could go by mail boat?

Monday, 21 November 2011

This and that

I've got a few things going on now. I'm still thinking about and planning for Iceland. I spoke to the photography teacher today about taking photos in RAW, but that's something she also doesn't know too much about. She's going to find out for me. I've remembered I've got the Bradt guide to the Northern Lights - I got it free a while ago - so I've been looking for it, but can't find it anywhere. I'll have to keep looking.

I've also started writing seriously for Nanowrimo. Now it's nearly the end of the month I doubt I'll get my 50,000 words done. It's not fiction either. But I'm doing what I wanted and getting a lot of words input to my computer. I only started yesterday and I have over 5,000 words already. I had worked out that I would need to do 2,000 a words a day for 25 days. I only allowed 25 days, as I knew there would be days when I wouldn't get round to doing any and so I built these word-free days into my timetable. To finish in time now, I would need to write more than 5,000 words a day, so I know that realistically that's not going to happen.

I've also just got round to ringing the local college to book my next leg-waxing appointment. The receptionist (who is also a student and told me this was her first day on reception) seemed to be struggling to find any appointments on her computer so she took my number and rang me back. The earliest she can do is the 13th December. I've booked it, but I know it means I won't get my waxing challenge finished this year. The first time I went, it was just for a lower leg-wax. This time it's for the full leg. My final appointment will also include my underarms and bikini line. After that I'll tick the challenge off and probably not bother any more as it seems much easier just to shave. So when I go in December I'll make the next appointment whilst I'm there. Probably for late January.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

RAW or JPEG

I usually use JPEG when I take photographs. It's not something I've thought about, it's just what my camera does and sites like blogger and facebook like it. But the research I've done so far on photographing the Northern Lights seems fairly consistent in telling me to use RAW. The memory card I've ordered can do this, so I do have the option. My conundrum is whether or not I'll know what to do with it once I've taken the photographs. I don't want to have amazing photographs and not be able to download them to any websites or even worse, be able to get them off my camera and onto my laptop.

I'll have to try to speak to someone in the photography department at school and get some advice.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Photography

Now I'm thinking about how I'm going to photograph that amazing view I'm soon to have of the Northern Lights, lava, bonfires and fireworks. Yes, all at the same time. I've requested it.

After looking at a few websites for tips on photographing the Aurora Borealis (to give it its proper name) I've realised that my snappy camera probably isn't going to be up to the job. So I've just ordered myself a DSLR. I didn't want a full-blown SLR as I know I'd get too confused by it and I can't afford one anyway. So I've got a combi type that has got really good reviews. It should arrive by the end of next week, so then I need to get out and about practising with it and learning how to be a good night photographer. All in the next few weeks.

I've also ordered an 'extreme' memory card. Apparently memory cards can give up when the temperature gets too hot or too cold. The extreme cards are meant to cope with extreme lows and highs. The temperature in Reykjavik should be hovering around 0 when I'm there, but it has been known to get down to -17, so I want to be prepared.

I need to get a spare battery too, for the same reason. Then I can keep one next to my body and keep swapping them over. And a tripod. I've been researching tripods, but I'm not too sure which one yet. I want something light to carry but it has to be strong enough to stand steady in big winds. Iceland can be VERY windy. The other thing is a coat. I have my waterproof which I use for walking, but I'm not sure if this will be warm enough. I can layer up underneath it, but I can only fit so many layers. I had a look a down jackets which seem really snug, but they're not particularly waterproof. At least not waterproof for the full-on sideways blasting rain that Iceland will throw at me. So I'll have to ponder a bit more on that one.


http://www.alaskaphotographyblog.com/how-to-photograph-the-northern-lights-with-a-digital-camera/

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

I know where I went

Well, I've studied the map and worked out where I walked on Sunday. So here it is ...

Lunch stop above Bretton Clough
Starting at the eastern end of the village known as Town End (the western end is called Town Head), we wound through a residential street to pick up a footpath that climbed steeply north through a wood. Running along the bottom of the wood is Hollow Brook. At the top of the wood we joined Edge Road and continued northwards until the juction with Sir William Hill Road. Climbing a stile we took the northeast path which followed a wall across the moor. The path curved to the west and then north again along the top of Bretton Clough. This is where we stopped for lunch. After lunch we continued along the path as it dropped down to Bretton Brook and then followed a path on the east side of the brook until we met the road leading into Bretton and the highest pub in Derbyshire. The road in front of the pub heads eastwards and we followed this for a quite a way. It became more of a track than a road and it's only now looking at the map, that I realise this is the other end of Sir William Hill road. Sir William Hill is a hill alongside this road and has a big pylon perched on top of it. It was in a field just below this pylon that we found the riggweltered sheep. About halfway along this track we turned right and south onto a footpath that headed downhill, crossed a road and then continued more steeply downhill finally coming out near the graveyard of Eyam church.


Map = Explorer OL24
Time = about 4.5hrs

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Eyam Walk

Sunday 13th November, 2011


I had a lovely walk today with my big online walking group (this is different to the small online walking group I was supposed to walk with last week). The walk started in Eyam, which is known as the plague village. This is because when plague arrived in this village, carried in by a flea resident in the cloth brought from London by itinerant tailor George Vickers, the villagers quarantined themselves selflessly to prevent the plague from spreading to the surrounding area.

The village itself is quite long, stretching along one main street with a few offshoots. Many of the old cottages have plaques detailing the people of the household who died of plague. One lists nine victims from the same small house. There is a church with a graveyard, a small museum, a hall (big house), several tea shops and one pub. It's very touristy and in summer the street can get quite crowded. Today however, on a misty, drizzly Sunday morning, there were only walkers about.

We met near the pub, all 47 of us, plus about 8 dogs of various sizes and colours. At 11am just before starting the walk we observed the 2 minute silence for Rembrance Sunday. A small group of other walkers walked past as we were all stood in silence and one of them made a comment about us being a very quiet group. Another one quickly realised and said 'It's 11 o'clock'. They then stood quietly too. We must have looked very strange though, before they realised - 47 people all stood in sombre silence in the middle of a village street. I also thought how bemused some outside observer would have been to hear the response 'it's 11 o'clock' to the query of our silence and how they would have puzzled over how that could possibly have made sense.

Once we started our walk, we moved quickly uphill slipping and sliding on mud and wet leaves until we were high above the village. There was a very low thick mist, so all views were obscured. As I hadn't planned the walk and I kept my map in my bag I didn't have much idea of where we were going for most of the walk. I know we went up Sir William Hill and stopped for lunch above Bretton Clough - the mist cleared just enough to be able to see down into it and realise how high we were. We walked across moorland and through woodland and stopped for a while at the Barrel Inn - the highest pub in Derbyshire - pity we couldn't admire the views.

Eyam Moor
View of Bretton Clough


Highest pub in Derbyshire
View from the pub










From there we headed back towards Eyam. On the way we passed a field of sheep, Nothing unusual in that you might think. In this field there was something very unusual though: one of the sheep was upside down, lay on its back with all four legs up in the air. This is known as riggwelter (like the beer from the Black Sheep brewery that has a picture of an upside down sheep on the label). The sheep may find themselves upside down for various reasons, for example, they may not have enough lanolin in their coats and so their fleece gets too wet and heavy and overbalances them, Once upside down the sheep quickly gets a build up of gas in its stomach and this swells the abdomen and will eventually crush the sheep's lungs suffocating it.

I once saw a sheep like this in Brecon when I was walking on Pen y Fan and Corn Dhu. I was with a friend and we had gone off the main track, which was crowded with walkers, and onto moorland where we were the only people around. When we saw the upside down sheep we laughed. It looked so content, didn't seem upset or in pain and just seemed to be enjoying the sun. It was only later that we found out what this actually was and that the poor sheep would most likely have died. There wasn't much chance of any other walkers coming across it. I've always felt guilty about it (though it hasn't stopped me using 'inverted sheep' as my user name online) and vowed if I ever saw another sheep like this I would do something about it, though I knew my chances of seeing the same thing elsewhere were pretty much zero. When people ask about the origins of my user name I always take the opportunity to educate them in the perils of riggwelter in the hope that if they ever come across anything like this they will know to do something about it. It was actually the friend I was with that day in Brecon who suggested I use 'inverted sheep' as my online name.


But anyway, back to today's story. The sheep was in a field surrounded by a stone wall with a couple of strands of barbed wire stretched above it. No way was I leaving the sheep like that this time. Before I could even start to get over the wall, one of the guys in the group was over and was rolling the sheep back onto its front. As soon as he let go the sheep flopped onto its back again. It's stomach was really distended. He tried a second time and this time straddled it and held it upright for a few minutes to give it chance to get its legs working again - its hind legs seemed very shaky. Finally the sheep was able to wobble off. Within minutes its legs seemed less wobbly and so we can only hope that it was able to remain upright. If it did, then what should happen, is that it would do plenty of burping and farting until it had expelled all the gas. It's a pity there were no farmhouses about though so we could let the farmer know to keep an eye on it. But I now feel slightly less guilty about the sheep in Brecon. Even though it wasn't me who saved this one. To completely assuage my guilt I think I'll need to find one when I'm by myself and upright it, but at least this was a step in the right direction.

We finished our walk with a beer in the pub in Eyam. All in all a lovely day with a momentous moment. And now I'll have to study my map to try to figure out exactly where I've been.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Not doing much

I'm feeling like I'm not doing much towards my list at the moment. Nanowrimo started at the beginning of the month and I've only written a couple of hundred words. I needed to do about 2,000 words a day and so I should be on 20,000 by now. I've just felt far too knackered when I've got home in the evening. I was also going to get another leg waxing appointment made and go for the whole leg experience this time. But I never got round to making the phone call, got fed up with hairy legs and shaved them. So now I'll have to wait for them to re-grow. That's the bit that puts me off waxing - the inbetween times when I have to have a couple of weeks of stubble and hair before it's long enough to be successfully ripped off. Last time I only left it a week and that wasn't really long enough, so this time I'd left it two weeks. But now I'm back to the start again. I've also not read any more books from the 'Big Read' as I'm still reading Bill Bryson's At Home which I started to read in Norfolk.

At least I've got Iceland booked and so have a chance of seeing the Northern Lights and I've been able to get out walking again.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Foolow Walk

Sunday 6th November, 2011


I was supposed to meet my walking group for this walk in the Peak District. We'd agreed to meet in Foolow which is a small village not far from the better known 'plague village' of Eyam. Alas, I got caught up in a roadworks traffic jam and missed the group by what must have been only a few minutes. It was a gorgeous day; a frosty start had led to warm sunshine and clear blue skies. Far too nice to be a normal November day and a great day for a walk.



I parked up and got my boots on. I couldn't remember the exact route the group were taking and so decided to do a figure of eight walk following what looked to be interesting paths on my map. I added in a few ups and downs, nothing too steep, but I did feel as though I didn't want any more flat after three days of flat walking in Norfolk.










I started by walking west out of Foolow past the tiny church and the duck pond. After walking alongside the road for a few minutes I turned north on the first signposted public footpath to the right. This took me across fields and through a farmyard at Grindlow where there was a tiny pony (Shetland? Dartmoor? I feel I should know this). The path then headed northwest uphill to a road. Directly across the road the path continued upwards through a small wood to another road at the far side. I walked westwards on this road which quickly turned a bend to the north. To my left there was an airfield with gliders taking off and landing. Looked like fun. When they took off they each had a long rope dangling with some kind of bulky thing attached. Once they reached a certain height the rope and bulky thing were dropped. I have no idea what this was or what it was for. I was just glad not to be standing directly underneath!










Once round the bend in the road I joined a footpath again. This took me northeast and dropped down part way into a valley before climbing back up again and arriving at the road I'd previously left by the airfield. The road had looped round and forked just where I rejoined it. I took the minor downhill fork to the right and walked towards Abbey Grange and Grange Farm. Just before the farm I took a path to the south and headed back downhill. After meeting a very friendly ram in a field I found a well placed bench by a wall and sat to have my lunch. It was in the sun and I could see straight along a valley to the airfield and so was able to watch the gliders whilst I ate.










Leaving the bench I continued down to the bottom of the valley and across a small stream. A kind of half bridge had been placed across it. This was a big plank of wood which for me was quite a big step up to get on to it and another piece of wood as a rail along one side. The other side was open and the plank was slippery. Fun times. Safely across I walked uphill again after first taking a bit of a detour when I saw an 'access land' sign. There was a path but it didn't go in the direction I wanted. I tried to make my own route to climb out of the valley but it was too boggy, so I turned back and took the proper path. This is steeply uphill. Rough steps have been put in to help with the ascent, but the workman who built them was presumably a giant. Some of the steps were thigh high. There were good views as I climbed and I could see back to Grange Farm on the other side of the valley and across the bit of access land I'd walked on. From my viewpoint I could see lots of pyramid shaped hills and wondered how they had been formed - man made for some reason maybe? Or just a natural phenomenon? I tried to get a good picture but they don't really show up on my photos.

At the top of the valley I crossed a road and immediately headed down through thick undergrowth along a path on the opposite side of the road. I could have continued to follow this southbound path to meet up with the road back into Foolow but wanted to extend my walk slightly. So I turned left and east onto a bridlepath and followed this to join up with the same road, just further out from the Foolow. Hitting the road I followed it southwest and then south back to Foolow arriving alongside the church.

I then had a bit of a wander round the village. I went into the church and round the duck pond. I puzzled over a stone structure alongside the pond that had steep steps leading down into a water filled space. No idea what it was (or is) for.

The second loop of my figure of eight walk was shorter and started from the far side of the pond between houses. The path is hard to spot until you're virtually on top of it as it's a narrow walled-in path running between the houses and gardens. The entrance has stone slabs across the front and the footpath sign is hidden in the foliage. I'd never had known it was there if it wasn't for me actually looking for it. Good job it's marked on the map.

This path leads west and soon leaves the houses behind to head across fields towards the south end of Silly Dale (great name for a dale). I then turned right and headed north along a bridleway that followed the top of the dale back to the road I'd originally headed out on this morning. I walked back along the road to Foolow. These roads are quiet country lanes and so quite pleasant to walk along.

I never got to meet up with my walking group but had a wonderful walk all the same.


Time - about 4.5 hours including lunch stop
Distance - dunno - but maybe as little as 5 miles. I walked quite slowly and kept stopping to look at things or take photos.
Map - Explorer OL24
Start/Finish - Foolow SK191769

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Northern Lights

I'm feeling excited. I've just booked a trip to Iceland over New Year. I normally feel as though I can't do much over Christmas as Christmas Day is usually in the middle of my time off school and I often have family staying with me. But this year I break up right before Christmas and so don't have to be back at school until the 9th January. And I don't have family staying. It's far too good an opportunity to miss and the obvious thing to do with a holiday at this time of year is to try to see the northern lights. I've been to Iceland before and I love it there. I've only been in summer when the daylight seemed never ending, so it will be interesting to be there in the heart of winter when there's very little daylight.

I'm staying in two different youth hostels in the city as I was only allowed to book a maximum of 7 nights at either one. I've found a tour company that does tours each evening hunting for the northern lights. They check the weather maps and go to where ever the best chance of seeing of the lights is. If the weather doesn't look good they'll cancel the tour and reschedule for the next night. If we do go out and don't see the lights we can go on the tour the next night free of charge.

As I'll have 11 nights there, surely I'll get to see them??? I can't have all those chances and still miss out. And if I'm really lucky maybe one of the volcanoes will erupt again and I'll get to tick lava of my list as well. Oh to get one of those iconic photos of lava spewing in front of a background of aurora borealis ...

Antarctica

Antarctica must be the most intriguing and magical place on earth. I don't just want to visit it, but to live there for a while, spend time, get to know it. I've researched working, studying and doing my own research there, but nothing is really feasible at the moment.

Whilst in Norfolk this week I was chatting to my friend about the things we'd both like to do and the places we'd both like to go. Along with Kilimanjaro, Antarctica is on both of our lists. Sitting in the pub on Sunday evening I browsed through a local tourist magazine whilst Valinda was at the bar. There was nothing of particular interest until I got near the end and saw an article about winning a trip to Antarctica. This just reinforces my belief that if you talk about things, write them down, bring them to the forefront of your mind, then things happen. This isn't magic or fate, it's just a case of tuning oneself in to the opportunities that are around us all the time. Even if I hadn't been thinking of Antarctica, that article would still have been in the magazine. Only difference would be that I would have just flicked over the page and not paid any attention to it.

So, now I have a competition to enter. I've looked on the website and it all seems very simple - just take some award winning photographs in a wetlands centre. Hm, well with my simple point and shoot camera and my lack of award winning photography skills it might be a bit harder than it looks. But even though I don't have much hope of winning, by entering and taking it seriously I should improve my photography skills, get to go to Martin Mere wetland centre (which I've never been to) and improve my knowledge of birds which is something I'm trying to do anyway.

Friday, 28 October 2011

The Blood of Flowers

By Anita Amirrezvani

The un-named narrator is a a girl in her early teens. She lives a contented life with her parents in a small village in rural Iran. The unexpected death of her father leads to severe poverty for her and her mother. They take the decision to travel through the desert to Isfahan in the hope that relatives will care for them. Although the relatives take them in they are treated as servants rather than family and feel powerless to change their situation. The narrator has always been interested in making carpets and as luck would have it her uncle is a well-known carpet maker. He sees her interest and recognises her skill and so becomes her teacher and mentor. At the same time as learning to design and knot carpets and working as a servant, her aunt and uncle arrange a sigheh for her. She spends many nights as a rich man's concubine and is often completely exhuasted. Eventually she ends the sigheh and is thrown out of her uncle's home. Both she and her mother now have to fend for themselves and find themselves in their worst situation yet. Through her resiliance and carpet making skills the narrator manages to begin building a new and independent life for herself and her mother.

I found Amirrezvani's depiction of 17th century life in Iran fascinating and her descriptions of Isfahan make me even more desperate to get there than I already was. Iran has interested me for a long time and I wrote my Master's disertation on the practice of temporary marriage (known as sigheh or muta). This is the first novel I've read that features this practice and this made it all the more interesting for me.

I almost got to Iran last year, but it fell through at the last minute and I had to make alternative holiday plans. This book has brought it to the forefront of my mind again and inpired me to have another go at getting there.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Norfolk Coast Path day 3

Monday, 24th October, 2011

The final day was our earliest start yet. We had to pack the car up and drive to Cromer at the end of the walk in time to get parked, buy lunch and catch the first bus back to Blakeney.


The path took us straight back out onto the sea defences through the marshes, which followed in a big loop to Cley next the Sea. This is a lovely, little village with the windmill at which we'd orginally hoped to stay.




It was then back across the marshes to get to a very long shingley beach. We walked for 4 miles along here straight into a constantly strong headwind. The going was hard enough on the shingles without having to battle against the wind as well. The beach felt like it went on forever; it stretched out as far as we could see in both directions. Apart from a few fishermen we had it all to ourselves.

A very long beach
Ugly caravan park in Sheringham









At Weybourne the beach reached a grassy area that soon climbed up to become high sea cliffs (well, high for Norfolk). We followed the path along the top of these cliffs until it dropped down into Sheringham. Our first view of Sheringham was of vast ugly caravan park. I'm not a fan of these parks at the best of times, but at least the one where we were staying in Wells had lots of trees and so the caravans didn't stand out so much. This one had nothing. Really ugly.

We walked through Sheringham looking for a nice place to get coffee. Everywhere seemed to be plastic tablecloth, egg and chips type places and nowhere appealed. Eventually we settled on old fashioned tea shop with a carpet from the 1970s. The coffee was good and the staff were friendly, so despite the carpet it was ok.

The final stretch took us up over Beeston Hill and then inland through fields and woods, past farms and caravan parks, to arrive at the back end of Comer. We then walked down through the town to the pier and the end of walk.

For such a lovely walk the start and finish leave a lot to be desired. Both Hunstanton and Cromer are both shabby seaside towns long past their heyday. And, disappointingly, neither end has a nice sign to mark the start or finish of the walk.

Norfolk Coast Path day 2

Sunday, 23rd October, 2011

Another early start. As the buses don't start running till later on a Sunday morning, we decided to drive to Burnham Overy Staithe and leave the car there. Then we could get a bus back in the evening to pick it up.

We were walking before 9am and headed back out to the marshes. We saw a group of birdwatchers with their telescopes all set up and stopped to chat. They were from Switzerland and watching a spoonbill which isn't particularly common. Also it was awake and apparently they're usually asleep. They offered to let us have a look, but it flew away before we could get to telescopes.


We walked for a long time over the sea banks. As Norfolk is so low it needs these sea defences to prevent flooding. It reminded me a lot of walking in the Netherlands. We saw lots of joggers and lots more birdwatchers. It's a lovely place to run and the marsh atracts lots of birds, particularly now that we're going into migration season.

After a few miles we were walking on beach again. We walked for quite a way along the tree lined beach before turning inwards to have a look at a bird hide in the woods. We then walked through the woods which were lovely with several pools and more marsh. The actual path followed the path further along the beach before turning into the woods, but we were ready for something different.


Finally the path led to the beach at Wells and we walked the long straight road back into the town. This was my first chance to look around Wells and it is a really nice little town. There's one main street which is narrow and pedestrianised. We sat outside a small cafe for lunch before heading out of Wells back on the path again.

Although we were walking at the edge of the 'land' the sea was far away in the distance. Between us was a vast expanse of marshland. We bypassed Stiffkey (pronounced 'Stewkey') and came to a stop at Morston. This is a National Trust place with toilets (yay!) and a place to get drinks. It was a lovely day again and I was really in need of a long, cold drink by this time, so it was a very welcome stop. It's also possible to do boat tours from here out to Blakeney Point to see the seals. They have their pups with them at the moment so now is a really good time to go out there. There were crowds of people waiting for the boats so no doubt it's something that has to be booked in advance. We had no time anyway as we were on such a tight schedule with the walk.

From Morston we followed the path through the marshes to Blakeney. We were about hour early for the bus, but didn't think we could risk going further as the path loops far from the road and if we didn't make it back to the road in time we would miss the last bus. We wandered round Blakeney - more boat trips to the point - and then sat in the courtyard of the Blakeney Hotel having coffee. It was very posh, but quite reasonale prices.

Once we picked the car up we drove back to Wells for dinner. There's a lovely area with houses and a couple of pubs set around a green. We had a drink in one of the pubs and then went for food in the other one. It was nice, but I preferred the pea soup we'd had the night before. We couldn't go back to the boat though, as there was a private party on. After dinner it was nice to be able to drive back to the caravan instead of having to walk along the long dark road.

Norfolk Coast Path day 1

Saturday, 22nd October, 2011

Up early to walk the half mile to the main road in Wells to catch the 8.15 bus to Hunstanton. It was a lovely sunny morning with just a slight nip in the air. The early light was so lovely over the harbour. It had been pitch black last night when we arrived at the caravan so I hadn't seen any of it.

Early morning light over Wells harbour
The boat where we later ate pea soup










The bus arrived and we bought 3 day passes for £15 each. This means we can hop on and off the coasthopper buses as much as we like. The journey took us through some lovely villages and it seemed a shame that because of having to do the walk in 3 days instead of four, I wouldn't get time to explore them. Ah well, just have to come back then.


We got off the bus at the lighthouse in old Hunstanton, then realised we should have been in the main part of Hunstanton about a mile up the road. We walked along the road to it and hunted for the sign to mark the beginning of the walk. The best we could find was a rusty old way marker. It was so inauspicious we really weren't sure we were at the start and so walked further back along the coast to make sure we'd definitely included the start.


Soon after the leaving the town we had the chance to walk along the beach below some dramatic stripey cliffs. The stripes are white limestone, red limestone and carstone. We chose to do this even though the route took us along the tops. We walked for ages along the beach, all the time being aware of the saltmarsh that kept threatening to cut us off from the mainland and the path. We kept seeing paths through and so didn't worry too much until it was too late and we could get no further. We either had to cross a fairly deep channel to continue on the beach or pick our way through the marsh to get back to the path. We opted for the marsh and pulled off our boots and socks so we could wade through it barefoot. Each way we tried the mud got too deep and gooey to continue. We ended up having to backtrack even though the path was so close. Frustrating, but we'd had fun doing our 'barfuss' walking in the marsh.









By this time we were ready for lunch and so perched on a sewage drainage thingy at the edge of the car park to eat our sandwiches. Not the nicest of places to sit on a nice walk, but there was a distinct lack of places to sit down and this was the best we could do.

The path then took us inland through Thornham and across the busy A149. It climbed (yes, I know this is Norfolk, but it really did climb) up away from the coast and we walked inland for quite a way before dropping back down into Brancaster. We wended our way along narrow lanes and paths through farmers' fields and got some quite good views of the coast and the wind farm out at sea.

Narrow boardwalks through the marsh
From Brancaster we were back to walking along the coast, through saltmarshes on a boardwalk. It took quite a bit of concentration as the boardwalk was narrow, generally only two planks wide, and had some drops of at least a foot on either side straight into the bog. It was strange to see boats stuck in what looked like fields, but what we knew was really marsh and would get flooded at high tides.

At Burnham Deepdale we came back to the road and stopped for a coffee at the White Horse pub. This doesn't look much from the road but was lovely inside. At the back was a verandah with a half-height glass wall. We sat here with a really good cup of coffee, looking over the small harbour and feeling completely sheltered.

After our coffee break we were on our last stretch of the day. The path wound over sea banks in a big loop away from the road. We felt like we were on this stretch for ages, though it was probably only felt like this because it was the end of a long day and we were getting tired. We could see the windmill which was on the road just before Burnham Overy Staithe and knew we were heading for it. For a long time it never seemed to get any closer. Finally, with fading light, we made it and walked alongside the road into Burnham Overy Staithe to catch our bus back to Wells.

As we knew that once we got back to the caravan we wouldn't want to come out again, we stopped for dinner whilst we were in Wells. There's an old sailing boat in the harbour which has been converted into a pub. It's owned by a Dutch guy and has a large pancake menu, and Dutch pea soup on offer. It was getting a bit chilly to sit on deck so we went down the very steep steps to sit inside. It's very basic with a tiny bar with 3 small beer barrels sitting on it. There are a few tables and benchs and the walls are papered with old maps.

We spent a really nice couple of hours here eating the best pea soup ever and of course we had to have a pancake. I didn't think much of the Norfolk beer though. Maybe it's something to do with the water which is really horrible. If I'd known I'd have brough a car load of Manchester water down with me.

Finally we walked the last half mile back to the caravan in complete darkness. Luckily I had my head torch in my pack. My body felt like it had seized into postion which I blamed on all the flat walking. It might seem easier than hills, but it's a whole different impact on the body to just keep doing what is essentially the same step over and over for a whole day. A hot shower and bed helped to sort me out though and I felt fine the next morning.