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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Walking in the San Diego area


Walking with; Allen, Jess and Ruthy

Some of my favourite walking memories have come on trips to the Western United States, the challenge of the chains on Half Dome, the stunning vistas from Angel's Landing in Zion National park, the eerie solitude of the desert in Joshua Tree and the otherworldliness of wandering amongst the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon. This trip however was going to be based in San Diego where Ruth was attending a conference and whilst I had high hopes for some excellent eating and drinking and a little in the way of museum visiting I didn't hold out much hope for any real walking....luckily I was wrong. Whilst the walks I managed May not have been epic in scale they were certainly memorable for very different reasons.
I had headed down the long sand spit linking Coronado with Imperial Beach (the most South Westerly town in the USA) and was making my way towards the beach when a sign pointed me towards the lengthily named Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve. It didn't seem the most promising environment for a walk, naval helicopters were hovering overhead keeping an eye out for any illicit border crossings and in the distance Tijuana itself sprawled untidily up the hillside above it's enormous bullring, but starved of leg miles over the last few weeks I decided to give it a go. The track led me along the edge of the reserve,which contains part of the 10% of remaining coastal wetland in Southern California, directly towards the Mexican border, I could almost smell the tacos! Helicopters continued to buzz overhead as I headed towards the estuary mouth, a Red Shouldered Hawk was using a low tree as a vantage point and I watched him circle over the marshes looking for his prey. The sandy path kicked down towards the beach and came to an end overlooking a series of shallow pools, there was not a soul to be seen and I drank in the incongruous feeling of solitude a couple of miles from the busiest border crossing in the world. The pools were busy with birds, the imposing Brown Pelicans huddled on the mudflats and around the margins of the water Long Billed Curlews, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons and Dowitchers were busy searching for food. I meandered back, the dust coating my shoes and legs, picking my way past Cacti and the distinctive Pickleplant and watching Lizards dart out of my path. On the pier at Imperial Beach I watched the fishermen and saw more Pelicans, Double crested Cormorants and Caspian Terns. It goes to show that whilst many of us walk in order to explore high peaks and crags, it's worth looking in the most unpromising surroundings sometimes as it is surprising what you might find!
  The next day I was joined by Ruthy and our friends Al and Jess who had come down from LA. We headed up the coast a little to the Torrey Pines Reserve, home of one of the world's rarest pine trees. The reserve is crisscrossed with tracks high above the sandstone gullies and with magnificent views down the coast and out to see where, in season, Grey Whales can be seen on migration. We started out on the Guy Fleming trail named for one of the pioneers of Torrey Pine preservation. It's a gentle loop around sandstone outcrops with fine views over the ocean and a chance to examine the pines themselves at close quarters, whilst Bobcat have been seen on the loop we were restricted to Hummingbirds and the briefest glimpse of a Peregrine flashing along the cliff face. We then took the Razor Point trail leading down the side of a gully to another whale watching lookout flanked by bizarre rock formations reminiscent of the previously mentioned Bryce Canyon hoodoos. By now the sun was high and we sweated our way back to the safety of the car and air conditioning and headed back to San Diego to sample a few of the excellent microbrewery beers the city specialises in.
So, I didn't climb any mountains, discover the source of the Amazon or come across a Grizzly Bear in a pristine wilderness, but I did discover that even in the most unpromising urban environments there are pockets of wild land itching to be explored and which often provide the most unexpected of rewards!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Walking home by Simon Armitage

Simon Armitage is a poet born in the village of Marsden on the Pennine Way, reckoned to be one of the tougher long distance paths in Great Britain. For the purposes of this book Armitage decided to walk the way and perform poetry each evening to see if he could be financially self sufficient (hence the sub-title Travels with a Troubador). This book simply tells the story of his walk and the recitals that were integral to it.
   Armitage is not a natural walker and I suspect that many more experienced in the gentle art of plodding may find some of his descriptions a little overwrought or dramatic, none-the-less there can be few walkers who haven't felt the familiar tendrils of dread enveloping us once the cloud descends on a rain soaked moor! As both a performer and narrator he is self effacing and the gentle vein of humour that runs through the book takes the edge of what can be, occasionally, the necessarily repetitious nature of a fortnight or so walking and then reading poems. In style it reminded me a little of Bill Bryson although I think the latter has a sharper observational eye for the absurd.
   Our narrator does not walk alone. He actively encourages a safety blanket of knowing locals, Pennine Way Rangers and any of the odds and sods attending his readings that he can persuade (after a pint or two)  that a day on the Way was better than their previously planned alternative. The characters travel writers meet in books always seem to have decidedly more eccentricities than those I come cross but they add colour to the pages and the affection Armitage feels for them is clear in his prose and the reported snippets of conversation.
   Walking home is not a literary masterpiece, it won't be edging it's way onto the shelves populated by Patrick Leigh Fermor, Robert MacFarlane or Norman Lewis, but it is a good paperback read. I can see myself sitting by a log burner in a hostel with my socks gently steaming dry and turning over a page or two as I pass an undemanding evening. The book made me feel as if I wanted to get back out there and, even more meaningfully, get back out there on a long distance path......The twist at the end of the story disappointed and perplexed me but it didn't detract from the fact that the time i had spent getting their had been very agreeable indeed.

Come walk with me UK's 100th post!

Wow! 100 posts, who'd have thought I would have got this far :-) Having reached this landmark I thought it might be appropriate to look back on the blog thus far and pick out a few highlights!

 Pool between Moel Hebog and Moel Yr Ogof- July 2013
Sprinkling Tarn- August 2013
Langdale Pikes- June 2013
Harter Fell- June 2013
 The Cantilever Stone- November 2012
 Frosted trees near Fernilee Reservoir- January 2013
 Cloud inversion from the Pike O'Stickle- October 2012
 Ruthy at Llyn Idwal- August 2012
 With Ros and Emily on South Head- February 2013
Parkhouse Hill- February 2013
Al on Y Garn- November 2012
 Cream Tea- January 2012
 Long-tailed Tit- January 2012
 Kinder Downfall- March 2012
 Mud- March 2012
 Bleaklow- March 2012
 On Pendle Hill- May 2012
With Ruthy on Pen-Y-Ghent- June 2012

CWWMUK highlights........Wild camping in Snowdonia in the Moel range, Tryfan, the Pike O' Stickle, Kinder in the snow, the many faces of Wasdale, Blencathra, Helvellyn, Malham Cove, 2 of the 3 Yorkshire Peaks, starting ML training, Bristly Ridge and many, many more.....

Thanks due to Ruthy, Al, Greg, Emily, Ros, the Peak District Rangers, Nathan, Rob and Helen, Rich, the good folks of the Pendle and Peak District walking festivals and all the others who have helped me to enjoy the fantastic walks we have done together, here's to the next 100 and the continuing success of Come walk with me!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The return ofthe errant photos-1066 country wanderings

I've found the photos from my 1066 wanderings and here are a few of them!

To view the full, now found, album please click on the link below;

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Nostalgic wanderings in 1066 country

Walking with; Nobody

A trip down South to the place that I will always think of as home, the village of Crowhurst where I was bought up, went to school, where my Mum is buried and my Dad still lives, a place where I will always feel happy. Crowhurst is situated in the heart of 1066 country and the magnificent ancient Yew in the churchyard of St George's is rumoured to have been mentioned in the chronicles of Norman as part of a gruesome tale of retribution when the Reeve of the village was hung for not revealing the whereabouts of local treasure. The village is also home to Forewood, an RSPB nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The woods are noted for their sandstone ghylls, the profusion of Bluebells in early Spring and their ancient bell pits used in a primitive form of mining.
Woodland walking is very different from walking in the hills. It has a spooky enclosedness about it, it can be dark and a little eerie, but it still has, in a very different way, a real sense of being in the wild. There are birds in amongst the canopy, mysterious rustlings in the fallen leaves and undergrowth and brambles snatching at you as you negotiate the muddy ditches where the coppicers tractors have passed. I followed the trail from the top entrance of the wood leading down towards the pond where my Mum's memorial bench is. Wrens hopped in and out of the scrub and a Jay shrieked noisily as I passed. The pond, flanked by Flag Irises seemed much smaller than I remembered and, sadly, there was no wildlife to be seen. Leaving the woods I crossed the fields, the rolling Sussex countryside that defines this part of England and, in fact, so much of the rural landscape of the Home Counties. I made my way through the drizzle to St George's Church, passing the ruined manor house built by Walter de Scotney in 1250. The original church was built in 1412 and the tower remains in place til today. I sheltered from the rain in the porch before making my way through the village lanes and back towards my family home. This was not an adventure, an expedition or a challenge, more a nostalgic, gentle ramble down memory lane.
I'd been waiting to post this until I had taken the photos off my memory card, but I've just checked it and it is utterly there you go!