The Bogtrotter

Norfolk coast walk – Thornham to Hunstanton

by on Oct.29, 2011, under British Walks, Walks

This is a six mile walk along the western end of the North Norfolk Coastal Path, from Thornham to Hunstanton.

Wide open beaches of North Norfolk

Park the car or take the bus to Hunstanton, then get the Coasthopper bus towards Wells and Cromer as far as The Orange Tree pub at Thornham. From the bus stop take the road towards the coast, walking past Thornham church on the right and a mix of traditional cottages. At a fork in the road, bear right and carry on until the road takes a sharp right turn. At this point, turn left and follow the footpath (signed with a National Trail acorn sign). After 50 yards turn right and cross a small footbridge, then continue on the path with grazing fields on your left and saltwater marshes to your right. Keep an eye out for herons who like to stand beside some of the shallow water channels looking for food.

At the end of the path turn right and follow the track for a short distance, before turning left and joining the footpath on top of the sea dyke. As you walk you now have an elevated view across the marshes, where myriad wading birds potter along searching for tasty morsels to eat. The path slowly winds its way along the dyke towards the sand dunes and Holme Bird Observatory. (continue reading…)

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In search of the Avocet – Minsmere circular walk

by on Oct.08, 2011, under Britain, British Walks

I’ve never been a big bird watcher but some birds just have a magical appeal. The Avocet is one of these, and Minsmere is the place to see them.

Avocet in Flight

Possibly the hardest part of this 5 and a half mile walk is finding your way to the start. The tiny village of Eastbridge is just a few miles north of Aldeburgh. Park at The Eel’s Foot pub, and then start the walk by heading a hundred yards south back along the road. From there turn left and take the public footpath towards the coast. After 20 yards take the right fork (signed F.P.) along a narrow path until you come out into a field. Follow the edge of the field until the far corner then carry straight on through the gap in the hedge. The track now follows a small water channel with signs suggesting that otters can be seen.
(continue reading…)

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Marlow river walk

by on Jul.16, 2011, under British Walks, Walks

The perfect walk for a Sunday morning – a 3 and a 1/2 mile stroll along the River Thames following the Thames Path from Marlow to Bourne End.

Marlow Reflections

Marlow Reflections


Starting from Marlow railway station, go straight ahead and down the hill towards the river. Just before you reach the river take a narrow alleyway on the left behind the Church (signposted as the Thames Path). This goes through to a back road that has a small mooring point on the river. If you stand on the jetty you get a great view of the suspension bridge that is the main river crossing in Marlow.

Carry on through another back alley and you will come out again next to the river, where you can go onto the small foot bridges and across onto the lock island. Again you get picturesque views across the river, both back towards Marlow and down by the lock and the lock-keepers cottage.

Return to the Thames Path and carry on out of the town. You emerge from the houses to a small field and then have to go under the main bypass road before you hit the real countryside. From here you are alongside the river and get to wave at the passing boats pottering up and down the waterway.

Boat Moored at Marlow


The path opens out into fields, and you continue to follow the river at the edge of the fields for the next mile and a half. Eventually the fields end but the path carries on along the river, firstly through a small park and then an alleyway as you approach the boats moored up at Bourne End Marina.

Carry on past the marina until you reach the railway bridge over the river. Just after the bridge take a narrow path left, away from the river. This opens out into a small cul-de-sac. At the end of the cul-de-sac turn left and you will arrive at Bourne End railway station. From here you can get the train back to the start point at Marlow.

You can download a map covering this walk from the Thames Path web site.

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Steaming through the Gardon valley by train

by on Oct.17, 2009, under France, French Experiences

Preserved railway lines are something I always think of as typically English. Who else would spend so much time and effort lovingly restoring an outmoded, dirty, slow form of transport?

So imagine my pleasant surprise at finding a steam train line running throuth the heart of the Cevennes mountains. The Train a Vapeur des Cevennes runs from Anduze to St Jean Du Gard is 13 km, taking a route first opened in 1909 by SNCF after 12 years of planning and construction.

Steaming along in the Cevennes

Steaming along in the Cevennes


The line was closed in 1971, but taken over by volunteers in the mid-1980s and re-opened as a tourist line.

Many of the services are steam-operated but some (particularly the later or off-peak services) are diesel-powered, so check before you arrive if steam is your thing. Several of the carriages are open-sided, giving you the best views over the amazing landscape. But be warned – it can get dirty as the steam and smoke from the engine get funnelled down the train as you go through the tunnels and under the bridges.
(continue reading…)

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Amble through the Lakes – walk from Grasmere to Ambleside

by on Oct.04, 2009, under Britain, British Walks, Walks

When you think of walking in the Lake District you immediately think of heading for the fells and mountain-tops, but there are also plenty of low level walks that provide equally enjoyable walking. This is an gentle but varied five mile walk between two of Lakeland’s most visited sites – Grasmere village and Ambleside. The walk is fairly easy going, with little ascent and just one tricky section.

Starting from Grasmere Church (resting place of poet William Wordsworth) take the small road opposite, past the car park and garden centre. You follow this road past a hotel and out of the village, getting your first views of Grasmere lake on your left. You then approach close to the lake, passing a small boathouse and cafe. The road then climbs up and slightly away from the lake, giving fine views across to Grasmere with the village lying underneath the bulk of Great Rigg.
(continue reading…)

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La Bambouseraie – a bamboo jungle in the heart of France

by on Jun.06, 2009, under France, French Experiences

Bamboo always makes you think of the far east – of China and Panda Bears. But tucked away in the foothills of the Cevennes in Southern France is a 15 hectare bamboo forest that provides an oriental oasis from the Mediterranean heat.

Bamboo Forest

Bamboo Forest

The Bambousarie park is a horticultural delight. As you would expect, much of the park is covered with waves of bamboo. But it is not a continuous monoculture, there are numerous varieties of bamboo from the blue-tinted Giant Bamboos rising over 20 metres into the sky to carpets of knee-high bushes, with a range of colours, shapes and sizes in-between.

There is even a small Laosian village set up to demonstrate how people use bamboo to create houses and other buildings, with small traditional garden plots dotted between.

Looking Up

Looking Up

As well as bamboo there is an impressive tree collection. Notably a column of Gread Redwoods (Sequoia) planted in 1861 that now climb 40 metres into the air, towering above the tallest bamboos. There are some of the largest Magnolias in Europe, great Oaks, and a 140 year old Ginko tree that stands over the Dragon Valley.

The Dragon Valley is a relatively new addition to the park – a Feng Shui inspired garden created by Eric Borja in 2000 (the year of the Dragon). With its colourful Acer trees, rolling landscape and Red Phoenix pagoda you really do feel you have been transported to the other side of the world.

Dragon Valley

Dragon Valley

Tucked away and easy to overlook are the smaller garden spaces that are equally inspiring. The water garden with it’s lotus flowers, the bonsai collection set over a pond, and the Victorian greenhouses which now house temporary exhibitions all bring another dimension to the park.

The Bambouseraie is easily accessible by car, but you can combine it with a trip on a steam train by taking the Train a Vapeur des Cevennes from Anduze or St Jean Du Gard and stopping at the Bambouseraie’s own station. Get more details on the park by visiting the Bambousaraie web site.

And if you get inspired by what you have seen you can buy your own plants at the nursery, and start creating your own oasis back at home.

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Modern Day Jousting – with a watery twist

by on May.12, 2009, under France, French Experiences

If you thought jousting was a thing of the past – think again. Jousting conjures up images of medieval knights in heavy armour taking to their horses to battle it out for supremicy.

Joutes

Joutes

But in the fishing ports of Languedoc in southern France they have a less violent but equally entertaining version that takes place on in the harbours. Joutes on the water is a speciality of Sete, but is also found in other ports such as Le Grau du Roi. During the summer these contests are a regular event, attracting tourists and locals alike. (continue reading…)

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Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay coastal walk

by on May.09, 2009, under Britain, British Walks, Walks

Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay is one of the most renowned coastal walks in England. As long as the wind is not in your face, it is an enjoyable seven mile walk taking in some spectacular cliffs and scenery.

When you hear the town of Whitby mentioned you immediately think of fish. Not only is it one of the biggest fishing harbours in the UK, it also is the spiritual home to fish and chips. Wander down into the town on any evening and your nose will be assaulted by the smell of fish and chips drifting out of the numerous cafes that line the streets. You know you shouldn’t, but how can you resist?

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey


The walk starts from Whitby centre. Walk through the old part of town on the east side of the river, and head for the 199 steps up to Whitby Abbey. After you climb the steps, pass through St Mary’s churchyard to reach the majestic ruins of the abbey, sat high up on the top of the cliffs. Follow the wall around the abbey until you reach the signed path (marked Cleveland Way) which crosses a field to get to the cliff edge. From here the route follows the sea edge all the way. After about one mile you reach a caravan park. Just follow the road through it for 200 yards before picking up the path again and returning to the cliff tops. (continue reading…)

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Visit a vineyard and taste the terroir

by on Apr.07, 2009, under France, French Experiences

Visiting a vineyard can be seen as little more than an excuse to drink a few glasses of wine. But lets be honest – who needs an excuse? The real reason for visiting a vineyard is to try to find out more about the wines and what makes every wine so distinctive.

Vineyard near St Christol

Vineyard near St Christol


Good old Oz Clarke (now theres a job I want – paid to drink wine all day and talk about it) always talks about the terroir – the relationship between the wine and the land on which it is grown. It is this mix of soil and micro-climate which makes each wine unique.

Whether it’s a famous chateau or a small vineyard most will happily open their doors to visitors to let you “discover” their wines. When I’m in France I love disappearing into the back of beyond and stumbling across a small vineyard to drop into. One of my favourites is the Chateau des Hospitaliers jsut outside St Christol in the Herault region. The Martin-Pierrat family that owns it are always welcoming, the wines are excellent and the free tasting lasts as long as you wish. Needless to say I have now discovered the Chateau several times! If you do visit yourself then don’t miss their “green wall” – the plants growing on a specially constructed frame up the walls of the inner courtyard.

If you like wine then you should consider it your moral duty to get out and visit a vineyard. So go on – you don’t need an excuse.

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Sentier des Douaniers – part two

by on Mar.28, 2009, under France, French Walks

In part one of the Sentiers des Douaniers walk we went from Maccinaggio around the coast to Barcaggio, where we spent the night. Now we complete the second half of the walk around to Centuri.

From Barcaggio the next stage is a simple walk along the coast to Tollare, the only other habitation on the route. This stretch give you the best views of the Ile de la Giaglia, a small island of the north coast.

View out to sea

View out to sea


Tollare is also the last place you can get water, so make sure you have enough before you set off. From here you start to climb up onto the grassy hills, then you see the Capo Grosso lighthouse down at the foot of the hills to your right. This part of the route is very exposed with no shade, so is best avoided in the middle of the day during the summer. But the views across the maquis scrub out to see are spectacular. The sense of isolation is great, with the trail cutting through the maquis is the only sign of human activity.

The route then starts to gently descend off the hills as you work your way down to the fishing village of Centuri, where the Sentier ends. The village peeks in and out of view as you slowly wind round the slopes towards it, but eventually you come to a few houses and then the village opens up in front of you.

Centuri

Centuri

Centuri is a typical picturesque mediterranean fishing harbour, with several small bar restaurants and a few shops. The ideal place to relax and have a drink before making your way back.

The final challenge is for us was to return to our starting point at Macinaggio. We walked up the only road into Centuri until we reached the main road, and then hitched back (which worked for us). All told, this was a fantastic coastal walk with a multitude of interesting things to see on the way.

Before you start the walk – visit the tourist office in Macinaggio which gives out a free map and route description of the trail (a poor quality copy is available on the web site).

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