Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Friday, 20 June 2008

Friday 20 June 2008 - Mobile Blogging and An Italian Border Route

I’ve just spent an arduous period on the phone to Orange, in an effort to clarify the cost of blogging from abroad over the next few weeks.
There seemed to be some uncertainty as to whether or not an email was technically a text message, and how it would be charged.
The third operative I spoke to was (helpfully) very clear about it. I hope I don’t have to use this blog entry as evidence to reduce my bill when I get back!
Emails to the blog will be charged at £3 per MB, and I’m assured that about 80 pages of text constitutes a MB. The cost is cumulative, so it seems I can produce about 25 pages of text for £1, or is there a minimum charge of £3? Other charges are shown above.
Anyway, it shouldn’t be as expensive as I’d expected, and I might even be able to add a low resolution image occasionally when there’s a good signal. But I don’t intend to spend hours on the tops of mountains trying to transmit huge messages like I did on the TGO Challenge!
So, WD, I shouldn’t be needing your help in uploading the blog. But you never know, if the emails don’t work I’ll have to resort to texting (SMS - Short Message Service) someone in the UK who can upload to this web page, or MMS (Multi-media Messaging Service) may work – it certainly worked direct to the blog when I tested it earlier.

So one way or another we can keep in touch.

I’ve decided to leave the ‘GTA’ (Grand Traversata Delle Alpi) flag on the blog – though I won’t be able to insert the flag remotely – as that route inspired the planned walk. Our latest plan includes only 13 of the 47 GTA stages detailed in Gillian Price’s Cicerone Guide.

We're planning on staying much closer to the border, and crossing over to France in places, so it’s very much ‘An Italian Border Route’.

Apart from the GTA, our planned route includes sections from the following trails:
Alta Via dei Monte Liguri
Via Alpina (surprisingly little of this, and the Via Alpina web pages are not really very helpful) Tour du Chambeyron
Tour of the Queyras
Haute Route Glaciere
Alta Via Delle Valle D’Aosta No 1
Tour of Mont Blanc
Alta Via Delle Valle D’Aosta No 2 – Alta Via dei Gigante
Tour of Monte Rosa

A mouth watering prospect!

800 kilometres (500 miles) and including around 60,000 metres (60 kilometres!) of ascent - in 56 days including 11 rest days.

Thursday 19 June 2008 - New Boots

My year-old Asolo Fugitive boots are not actually worn out, but as I discovered yesterday they do leak and I have my doubts as to whether they will survive a 500 mile walk in the Alps.

As no shop in Manchester (to the best of my knowledge) can provide the dual service of boot-fitting and a good stock of boots, I headed off to my friends at Outside in Hathersage.

It took over an hour to decide on a direct replacement for the Asolos, so despite trying on several other boots that seemed equally comfy, I came away with ‘the same again’.

I’m sure they’ll start to leak at some point on the Alpine trip, but at least I’ll start with dry feet! Now, shall I take Sealskinz, or just two pairs of ordinary socks? Decisions, decisions.

The shop has a nice café for lunch, and I enjoyed the drive home through the Peaks, past Speedwell Cavern and up Winnats Pass.

Sadly, The Marquis of Granby, an old haunt at Bamford, was a mere shell, and finally about to be demolished – you can delete that ‘PH’ from your maps. But at Speedwell there were coach loads of children on school outings – hundreds of them having fun in the sun.

Wednesday 18 June 2008 - Appley Bridge in the Rain

Today’s evening walk, the last for a while, was to be led by Keith and Carol.

Sue ducked out early. ‘I have to pack for the Alps’ she said, and started throwing bits of backpacking gear around.

I set off in the rain and after a while arrived at Appley Bridge.

It’s very rare that we start a walk from this position, but today was one of those rare occasions. Usually there’s a pub to wait in, but the one selected by Keith in his original instructions had been flattened into a car park.

So I waited patiently.

‘We are at the Water’s Edge, ready to start,’ came the text.
They were in a pub!

So, having planned and recce’d this walk, Keith and Carol had turned up and were determined to see it through despite the rain.

8 o’clock on a summer’s evening and it was getting dark, as we entered the Fairy Glen.





The waterfalls were barely visible through the murk.




Eventually we emerged into some fields.

A week in Torridon, two weeks across Scotland on the TGO Challenge, and a week in the Lake District, these had all given me a good feeling about my boots. They hadn’t leaked on any of those trips.
Tonight my feet were soaking wet after just a couple of fields. That means more kit needed for the Alps – it’s a good job I didn’t stay at home and pack!

Emerging, after some time, from a wet lane, we strolled up to Parbold Hill Viewpoint.

Not much of a view tonight, but this is the edge from which the flatlands of Lancashire stretch, on a good day giving lovely expansive views despite the viewpoint’s modest height of just over 100 metres.

Then it was down to the Leeds-Liverpool Canal – a busy stretch of waterway with an old ‘dual carriageway’ through one lock – and an easy stroll down the wet towpath.

Back at the Water’s Edge a quiz was in full flow, with a quizmaster who really did particularly greatly like the sound of his own voice.
The Cumberland Ale went down well though, and we returned home feeling mellow and well exercised.

Thanks for coming, Keith and Carol.

Here's our route - about 8km in just under two hours.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Tuesday 17 June 2008 - A Sense of Panic

This time next week we will be in France, preparing to dip our toes in the Med before strolling around the Alps for a while.

We haven’t really prepared for this (in fact it has only one mention on this blog – on 28 October last year!).

I’ve bought a few maps, and we have a bit of backpacking kit left over from the TGO Challenge.

A selection of windshields for the stove has today been ordered from Bob and Rose.
Why do we seem to go through these like hot cakes?
Is that all we need from Bob and Rose?
How windy will it really be?

Between now and next Tuesday I’ll try to get more organised, and broadcast a more detailed plan of our route so that anyone interested can follow our progress.

My original idea was to follow the ‘Grande Traversata Delle Alpi’ (GTA) route that is covered in 47 stages in a Cicerone guide written by Gillian Price.
The more I look at that route, the more it seems rather ‘soft’. So in an effort to achieve something a little more challenging, we will try to keep close to the French/Italian, and later the Swiss/Italian borders, staying in Italy most of the time.

That has involved buying a fresh set of maps to cover the north west corner of Italy – parts not reached by the GTA, such as the enticing Gran Paradiso region.

In an effort to show you where we are going, I logged onto Google Maps for the first time tonight. It was really quite useful, though I didn’t get to grips with any significant features, and I was unable to show a scale on the screen dump that I have utilised for today’s postcard.
But the image I’ve quite easily finished up with does show our planned start and finish points, and Google has placed a convenient yellow line to mark the Italian borders that will form the basis of our route.

The distance between our start and finish points is probably about 200-250 kilometres as the crow flies, but our walking route may tot up to double that length.

Well, that’s a start, anyway, and given that there is no natural fixed end point we can build in quite a few rest days and make visits to local towns where practicable. The route will be ‘pure’ (an unbroken line), but side trips will be permitted!

Next posting
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Monday 16 June 2008 - Queen Sofia of Spain visits Eccleshall

Queen Sofia of Spain visits Eccleshall - A Right Royal Occasion!?

Well, almost.

Mother, who lives in Eccleshall, was wandering the streets of Rhodes a few days ago when she was taken aback by the presence of lots of security men.

‘What’s the crack?’ she asked.

‘We’re just minding Queen Sofia of Spain’ they answered.

‘Ha’ said mother ‘I know you’re joking….!’

However, she remained curious, and after a short while a familiar visage appeared from a shop, and faced her.

‘Good morning’ said the lady, cheerily, ‘and where are you from?’

‘Good morning, Queen Sofia’ said mother, who can instantly recognise any Royal personage from quite some distance, ‘I’m from England’.

‘Well I do hope you have a most enjoyable holiday’, said the Queen.

It had made mother’s day, so today, as I passed through Eccleshall, I reintroduced her to this most amenable of Royal personages.

The observant amongst you might even spot that Queen Sofia appears to have taken part in this year’s TGO Challenge walk across Scotland. We didn’t see her, but she was rumoured to have spent one evening massaging Denis Pidgeon’s feet!

Back in Cheshire
A farmer was working hard to bale his hay, which must be lovely and dry after all the fine weather we’ve had.


The hedgerows are filled with the white flowers of the bramble this week – hopefully a sure sign of a rich crop of blackberries in a couple of months’ time.

Sunday 15 June 2008 - A Trip to Charlecote Park

We were in Warwickshire today for a visit to Charlecote Park, a National Trust property advertised as a:

"- Superb Tudor house and landscape deer park
- Shakespeare was rumoured to be caught poaching on the estate
- 700 years of the Lucy family, with a uniquely extensive portrait collection
- Colourful landscaped gardens by the River Avon
- Great walking and picnic opportunities in the 'Capability' Brown deer park
- Traditional family games and play area

The Tudor home of the Lucy family for more than 700 years, the mellow stonework and ornate chimneys of Charlecote sum up the very essence of Tudor England. There are strong associations with both Queen Elizabeth I and Shakespeare, who knew the house well – he is alleged to have been caught poaching the estate deer. The rich, early Victorian interior contains some important objects from Beckford's Fonthill Abbey. Landscaped by 'Capability' Brown, the balustraded formal garden opens on to a fine deer park on the River Avon."

Despite the rather aggressive looking wild boar guarding the entrance, the property was very welcoming today, with lots of happy people wandering around it on a sunny afternoon.



In keeping with tradition at such places, mute swans floated serenely on the River Avon
Pleasant gardens, and a croquet lawn, led from the house to the river

We found a large mulberry bush, its fruits are shown below

The house, as seen from the restaurant (above), and the gatehouse (below)



Then we retreated to Solihull and had a fine bonfire, coincidentally succeeding in trimming the holly and rhododendron hedge as well – the technique could be likened to trimming one's hair using a primus stove.

Saturday 14 June 2008 - Summer in Cheshire

All was well as I wandered the Cheshire lanes today.

Holidaymakers were mixing with locals at Lymm, where a ‘canal fest’ seemed to be in full swing. Can you spot the man in fancy dress?

Meanwhile the swans, about 200 metres away from all the activity, were busy training their children.

Dad, as usual, was malingering near a boat named ‘Freedom’.