Category Archives: Travel

Portugal

After many hours I’ve finally finished editing all my photos from our recent Portugal trip, I took over a thousand! Don’t worry, I won’t inflict them all on you now but I have selected my top 33.

This was our first time in Portugal and our primary reason for being there was, of course, my sister’s wedding (see my previous blog). But aside from that joyous occasion we also managed to get out and about, including one trip to Sintra and two to Lisbon, so here goes.

We stayed at Cascais (pronounced Cashcaish – just think Sean Connery and you’re halfway there) which is a seaside town just west of Lisbon. It has a Goldilocks quality to it, in that it’s not too big and not too small- just right in fact. The beaches were clean and the amenities plentiful, there were plenty of bars and restaurants but it never felt too commercial or sprawling. We had great weather too with clear skies virtually every day, the hot sun made the beach even more inviting and the water was lovely, once you got over the initial cold shock of the Atlantic chill. I found I was acclimatised pretty quickly except for my hands which seemed to take forever to warm up. For about five minutes after diving in I found I was swimming with my hands held aloft out of the water, which must have looked pretty strange.

Sintra is a 30 minute bus ride north of Cascais and was the summer retreat of the Portuguese Royal Family. There are several sites to visit but we only had time for two; the Palace de la Pena and the old Muslim Castle.

The Palace sits on top of a hill and when we got there it was shrouded in cloud, which only seemed to make it more magical – we later found out that it’s common for cloud to mystically cling to that particular hill and the locals refer to it as the Queen’s Fart!

Imagine you asked  an eight-year-old girl to design a palace with a set of brightly coloured crayons, the Palace de la Pena is that design on steroids. It really is amazing, with no expense spared and a real sense of palatial extravagance gone mad.

A short walk away is the old Muslim Castle. This was the opposite of the Palace as it had a strong military reason behind it, was bare stone and pure medieval functionality. It is impressive though and has a fascinating history. The low cloud robbed us of the supposedly best view of the Palace, but added a real sense of mystery and mood to the brooding towers and precipitous walls.

In Lisbon, we hired a Tuk-Tuk and held on for dear life as we raced through the steep streets, stopping at a variety of different Cathedrals, Churches and viewpoints. It was a great way to see the city if you don’t have much time. We also managed to fit in the Timelife Market and the Elevator, which is an old viewing platform, squeezed in between the buildings and reached by a rickety lift. Apparently the whole thing was built by one of Gustave Eiffel’s (of tower fame) apprentices, and you can certainly see the influence – it’s beautiful, quirky and the views from the top are great as long as you’re okay with heights.

Lisbon is a beautiful city, especially the old sections we explored.

From Lisbon we caught the underground Metro and travelled further out to the Oceanario, the second biggest aquarium in Europe. Incidentally, once you get there the whole area has been developed into a very futuristic seafront and you can also see the longest bridge in Europe snaking 17km off into the distance.

The Oceanario didn’t disappoint, with sharks, manta rays, penguins and even two gorgeous sea otters – Clare could get over their “little hands”.

My overriding memory of Lisbon is one of a beautiful place, with warm friendly people, obviously it’s hard to get a real sense of a place on a short holiday, especially when you consider I probably had at least two drinks in me at any given time. But, from my brief experience there, it’s great place and I would heartily recommend it. We had a great time in Portugal, especially magic with the wedding and the time spent with our wonderful family – usually ending the day here, in the Duke’s pub in Cascais.

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So much to see and so much we missed, I suppose we’ll just have to go back.

Chris

 

Rachel’s Wedding

We’re just back from our trip to Portugal and our main reason for being there – my sister Rachel’s wedding to Neil Gunn.

As well as the wonderful wedding, this event had special significance for me as it was the first time I was with all my Irish siblings at the same time (I‘m not going into the history here, wait for the movie), so we were all looking forward to it, but that’s enough about me, this was Rachel’s (and Neil’s) day.

Most of the guests stayed in Cascais, not far from Lisbon, and we all met at the railway station to be picked up by coach for the 40 minute trip north to Mafra and the Quinta de Sant’Ana where the ceremony and celebration took place. A stunning venue in a beautiful location.

The actual ceremony was fairly brisk, with a reading by my brother Peter, and yours truly, amongst others. Rachel looked stunning, as did the bridesmaids, and Neil looked very chilled – which was nice. The atmosphere was very relaxed all round in fact, with no trace of bridezilla anywhere, considering how much work must have gone into the day, that’s quite an achievement in itself.

Out of the church, a few photos and then a short walk through the town to the Quinta. This place was gorgeous, with the only Portuguese Irish Band I’ve ever heard, wine-tasting, great food and even white doves flying overhead at just the right moment – I have visions of guys hiding around the back waiting for the signal to chuck ’em in the air. It was almost too perfect.

It was great to be with everyone for such a wonderful occasion and I even got a few mentions in the speeches, so I feel especially honoured. The icing on the cake though was the chance to get a photo of me with my Irish brother and sisters after all this time, so it really was a wonderful day – thank you Rachel (and Neil obviously).

You now, we should do this every year!

Chris

 

British Museum

Another wet weekend forecast, with grey clouds and rain, so off down to ‘that London’ for a trip to the British Museum. Lady Hughes and myself had never been to the British Museum, so this promised to be interesting.

Looking at the website, we saw that it was walking distance from Euston Station, free, and the average visit lasted 2.5 hours – all I can say about that last one, is the average person can’t be looking at half of the stuff or they’re constantly being visited by runners trying to beat their personal bests for getting around as quickly as possible.

I didn’t actually know much about the British Museum, obviously, I knew it had a lot of antiquities and priceless artefacts – at what point do things become artefacts by the way? My house is full of ‘stuff’ but I wouldn’t describe anything as an ‘artefact’ as such. I don’t complain that people aren’t putting their artefacts away, or I’m sick of tripping over artefacts left lying around on the floor. Maybe it has to be in a museum first? Maybe museums have artefacts and I just have stuff.

Anyway, I didn’t know a lot about the British Museum.

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We entered through the North entrance, which meant we missed walking through the main entrance into the Great Court which was renovated for the millennium with a beautiful sweeping roof making the courtyard into a stunning indoor space. So when we stumbled into it, it was a wonderful surprise.

The exhibits themselves were impressive and extensive, with highlights including; the Elgin Marbles, The Sutton Hoo collection, the Lewis Chess Set (finest chess set in the world, apparently), the Rosetta Stone, the Rothschild collection, the Egyptian collection, Roman collection and the Assyrian collection – if you don’t know what any of those are either google them, or visit for yourself, I can’t do them justice here.

Needless to say, some of the exhibits were amazing, especially when you consider how old they are. In fact, we were able to handle a flint hand axe that was 500’000 years old. Which is pretty impressive in itself, until we were told that it wasn’t made by a human but by a species of early man now extinct – get your head around that.

Yes, lots to see, and it was pretty busy, so lots of people too. I saw one woman literally give up and tell her friend, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t do this anymore”. Her friend seemed to understand and helped her to the exit. Like all museums, you’re walking around looking at stuff, sorry, artefacts. And even the most enthusiastic and interested get a bit weary after a while, so we did skim a few sections – there are only so many Greek vases I can look at and still summon up the interest to read the description.

The map, offers some ‘not to be missed’ suggestions and we focused on them in the end to give us a bit of a focus. This worked a treat as it meant we saw most of the museum anyway, even if parts were a little cursory.

So, in summary, if you like a good museum I certainly recommend this one – it’s a cracker. But wear comfortable shoes and maybe check out the website to see what you definitely don’t want to miss. Also, I’m not sure I’d bring small children, unless you’re confident they’d really be up for it.

Chris

Brussels

Part three of our trip to Belgium.

After three lovely days in Bruges, we jumped back on the train to Brussels.

On the advice of Xavier, the owner of our Brussels B&B (X2), we avoided Brussels Midi station and headed to Brussels Central, much nicer and the same distance from our accommodation.

After the medieval splendour of Bruges, Brussels’s modern, sprawling, capital required a slight gear change in attitude, especially as it was raining.

Once we’d navigated our way to the B&B we dried off, relaxed with a coffee and were briefed on the best places to eat, see, visit, etc. Xavier, the owner, was very thorough, drawing it all onto a map and labelling the key locations so it all made sense. As we were early for the room, we left our bags and set off again into the city.

 

Comparing Bruges to Brussels is a bit like comparing York to London. One is a small, beautifully preserved medieval gem and the second is a large modern city with lots of historic places mixed in with the modern. Brussels is beautiful, but it can also be dirty, drab and shabby – like any big modern city.

 

We followed Xavier’s suggested route and found some of the most beautiful bits. One suggestion was the comic book festival at the Royal Park and the balloon parade, which was starting at 2pm. Even though we aren’t the biggest comic book fans in the world, we thought it would be colourful and interesting so we agreed to give it a go.

 

The festival was interesting, and colourful as promised, but Lady Hughes really wanted to see the balloon parade so at 1.30pm we found a spot and waited as the large inflatable characters were prepared. 2pm came and went and they still weren’t parading. Due to the crowds, and recent events, security was tight with lots of police and heavily armed soldiers patrolling the area.

 

At one point, a small girl lost control of her little balloon and it floated in the breeze, bouncing across the floor towards me, with her chasing it. When it came to me, to help her, I reached out my foot and gently stopped it, so she could catch it.

BANG! The balloon popped.

Four things happened. First, everyone jumped, including the police and the heavily armed soldiers just yards away. Secondly, the little girl stopped and looked up at me with a shocked, hurt, expression, her eyes saying “why?”. My guilt was only tempered by the thought that I might be machine-gunned down as a potential terrorist at a balloon parade at any second – not the way I want to go believe me. Third, every adult within twenty yards took in the scene and looked at me as though I was the most heartless, reckless bastard they’d ever seen, and the fourth reaction was one guy, stood about ten yards away who was just pissing himself laughing.

 

We continued to wait for the parade, until a tall man in a long coat, with a large support boot, sat down next to me and proceeded to grunt loudly. At this point Clare decided we should go, so we never did see the balloons parade – but at least I survived, which is always a good day in my books.

Following Xavier’s map we eventually found the Grand Place, which had been previously described to me as the most beautiful town square in the world. This we had to see, and it did not disappoint.

 

The stunning architecture was enhanced by the fact that most of the square was filled with the Belgium Beer Festival, so, when in Rome, etc.

A few beers later, we continued our exploration and found more beautiful parts to the city which I won’t list here. That evening we returned and had a lovely meal, and a few more beers, in Le Cirio, one of the oldest restaurants in the city.

The next day we had planned to visit the art gallery before catching our first train home, but we arrived at the entrance to find they were all shut on Mondays, so we quickly changed our mission, jumped on the metro and headed off to the Atomium. Just sixteen stops out of town.

The Atomium, was built as part of a World’s Fair in the fifties and is sometimes referred to as Belgium’s Eiffel Tower. It’s certainly impressive, commanding the view as you walk the short distance from the metro station.

 

Once inside we bought tickets to the top and explored the various ‘rooms’, etc. The 360°view from the top was wonderful and the light shows as you travel through the escalators and ‘balls’ as Clare put it, gave you the feel you were in an old science fiction movie. It was as if we’d travelled to the future, just a 1950’s version of the future – if that makes sense?

 

Back on the metro we headed back to the B&B to grab our bags and then hiked to the Midi station, which didn’t do much to improve our first impression, and the Eurostar home.

Looking back on the whole trip, Bruges is beautiful but so is Brussels in the right parts. I’d definitely go back to both and I think everyone should visit the WW1 Battlefields, at least once, as it really gives you a powerful perspective on the cost of conflict, in a way you can’t get from a documentary or a museum. Even now, as I watch the news there are events happening in the world that seem very similar in their own way, as if we have forgotten many of the lessons. It’s important to refresh what we’ve learnt to make sure we don’t repeat the same mistakes and the best way I’ve found is to go there and see for yourself.

Chris.

WW1 Battlefields

Part two of our trip to Belgium.

As we were in Bruges, and I’ve always had an interest in the First World War, I really wanted to visit nearby Ypres, an iconic location

Clare and myself decided that we’d make the journey by train on the third day of our trip, but as we weighed up the travel options we realised that it was doable but would take hours. When we mentioned this to the owner of the B&B she suggested we go with an organised tour company – Quasimodo Tours.

I was hesitant, not just because they were named after a famous hunchback, but it was a bit expensive and I was concerned it would all be a bit rushed. In the end we did opt for the tour as it meant we could relax about the travel logistics and we’d get to see more sights than if we were on foot.

After a few complications booking the night before we were picked up by taxi at 9am and driven to the pickup point – all part of the service.

The tour was extensive to say the least, lasting nine hours, we travelled around the area with our guide Phillipe giving us a constant commentary on what happened where and why. He really was excellent, with a genuine passion for the subject and a talent for bringing it all to life. We visited a lot of sights around the Ypres Salient including (thanks to Quasimodo for the info):

Langemark German Cemetery: the second largest German cemetery containing 44,000 bodies. Among them are more than 3,000 German students who died during the battle for Langemark, more infamously known as the “Massacre of the Innocents”.

Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial Wall: The largest of the Commonwealth cemeteries. Almost 12,000 soldiers are buried here and another 35,000 are listed on the memorial wall – soldiers with no known grave.

Walking through the sea of gravestones, reading the names and where they came from, the emotional impact was very strong, very moving. Especially as many I came across, seemed to come from Manchester.

Polygon Wood: two cemeteries here and two memorials. Most of the dead here are from Australia and New Zealand, but there was still several Manchester graves scattered around.

The Brooding Soldier at Vancouver Corner: Memorial to 2,000 Canadian Soldiers who lost their lives in the St Julian area during the first gas attacks in 1915.

Hooge Crater Cemetery and Museum: we had lunch at the nearby restaurant and explored the museum with its wealth of artefacts.

Hill 60 Preserved Battlefield (Messines): This was the site of vicious fighting including the detonation of two massive mines under the hill which killed 650 Germans.

Control of this strategic point changed hands several times, which can be seen by this British bunker, built on the remains of an older German one.

Ypres and the Menin Gate: The Menin Gate is a memorial to almost 55,000 men who fell during the Great War and have no known grave.

Ypres itself was completely destroyed during the war and everything we saw was rebuilt afterwards, which in itself was amazing, especially when you looked at the great Cloth Hall.

There was a blacksmiths event on while we were giving Clare the chance to buy an Ypres poppy to go with our Tower of London one we bought a year or two ago.

The Yorkshire Trench and Dugout: These are the remains of the actual trenches, reinforced with concrete to preserve them.

Essex Farm Cemetery and Dressing Station: one of the original cemeteries and made up largely of burials from the dressing station on the site. One of the youngest soldiers to die in the war – Valentine Studwick, a 15 year old from Surrey, is buried here. Dr John McCrae, a Canadian, wrote his famous poem “In Flanders Fields” here in 1915.

Phillipe also took us to the Menin Road and Hellfire Corner, the most dangerous place on earth during the war. He also showed us some recent finds, dug up by local farmers. This ‘Iron Harvest’ of shells, grenades and assorted ammunition continues to this day and is a constant danger for the locals.

It may sound a bit depressing to spend a day visiting cemeteries and it certainly wasn’t ‘fun’ in the literal sense, but to actually stand where all these events happened, hear the accounts and see the names of those men and boys whose stories ended there, was something I’ll never forget. It was fascinating, enjoyable and very, very moving. Also, when we look at issues such as chemical weapons, long-term effects for communities and war in general, there are still lessons to be learnt today from places like this.

If you have an interest in history and the subject, I’d heartily recommend it.

Chris

Bruges

Finally found time to write up our trip to Belgium last week, and it was so good, I’m going to have to break it into three parts. So, with that in mind, here’s part one: Bruges.

The current Mrs Hughes and myself travelled to Bruges, via Virgin Pendolino to London (of course!) and then Eurostar to Brussels, before catching a 40-minute connection to Bruges itself.

We’d never been on Eurostar before and it only took just over two hours to get there. It would have been quicker to fly, yes, but this was travelling to be enjoyed, not endured. It was smooth, the service was good (though not as good as Virgin – of course!) and sitting in a comfortable chair, drinking wine while the countryside raced past was lovely – I recommend it.

The only downside to the journey, was Brussels Midi station. A dark, ominous, subterranean place, made worse by the heavily armed soldiers patrolling constantly. You can understand why they’re there, after the recent attacks, but rather than reassure, they just seemed to give the place the air of a warzone. Clare really didn’t like this place but, hey, we weren’t there long. We were later told by an English guy staying in Brussels that he knew two people who had been robbed in there. We didn’t experience anything like that, it was just a bit shabby and a bit tense.

Bruges is a beautiful medieval town, which has somehow managed to avoid the ravages of both world wars and stay intact. It really is a stunning environment, with cobbled streets, canals, chocolate shops, beautiful old buildings and picturesque bars and restaurants. The only noticeable hazard was the risk of getting run down by a bicycle, they’re everywhere.

We stayed in a gorgeous B&B (De Loft) just 5 – 10 minutes’ walk from the centre. It is part of a converted lace factory and our room was more of mini-suite. The owners were friendly and recommended various places to eat and drink and also pointed out a few to avoid.

We did a few tourist essentials, such as climbing the belfry (361 steps) and going on the canal tour, but we mainly just explored, chilled out and enjoyed ourselves – and drank some of the finest beers I’ve ever tasted!

The Belgians view beer in the same way the French view wine, and in fairness they’re very good at brewing the stuff. Each different beer seemed to have its own glass, which must be a nightmare for most of the bars. One of them, Kwak beer, is served in a glass which can’t stand up on its own and comes with a wooden holder.

The local people encountered were warm and friendly and it was great to talk to other visitors from all over the world, including Spain, Denmark, Australia, USA, Germany, Italy and even Taiwan (via London), everyone was having a great time and all were friendly – I suppose having over a thousand different types of beer can really help international diplomacy, maybe something there for the UN to consider?

There are lots of things we didn’t do and I’d definitely go back again, given the chance, but we had limited time and something else we really wanted to do while we were there – look out for part two.

Chris

Crawling Up Croagh Patrick

Croagh Patrick is a mountain in the west of Ireland, not far from Westport. It’s a holy mountain and a place of pilgrimage as Saint Patrick reputedly fasted on the summit for forty days in the fifth century. Well that’s the guidebook stuff covered – thank you Wikipedia.

Having travelled over to Ireland to visit family for years now, it had been suggested that we all climb the mountain together, on Reek Sunday, which is the one day of the year that thousands of people do it. We kept talking about this, but never actually got organised – until now.

Lady Hughes and myself flew over to Dublin and stayed with family in Slane before driving across Ireland to meet up with everyone else in Clifden. We had one brief stop half-way in Athlone where we met up with my brother Peter and his family for lunch and a quick look at the castle and the Shannon River.

In Clifden we all stayed in the same guesthouse, fourteen of us in total including four small children. It sounds hectic but it was actually very chilled.

On Sunday we drove through beautiful Connemara to the mountain, not really sure what was waiting for us. Most of our group travelled light, in running gear and trainers, but with my years of hiking experience I went prepared, with rucksack, boots, food, first aid and camera kit. This, along with the fact I’m really unfit, meant they all left me for dust within minutes. The only consolation was that they all got mild hyperthermia, waiting for me at the top.

Croagh Patrick is 764 metres high and the climb is classed as moderate. I found it fairly tough, mainly because the upper sections are steep and full of loose boulders as well as the numbers of people on the day going up and coming down – also, did I mention that I’m not very fit at the moment?

In some parts I was struggling to find a solid foothold and all the time people are stumbling and sliding around you. Having said that, the atmosphere was great, we were really lucky with the weather and the views were stunning.

One impressive sight was all the devout Catholics climbing the mountain in bare feet, some of them had painted their toenails specially for the occasion. A more depressing one was when I was overtaken by an 82 year old lady who was being held up by two men – but hey, she didn’t have a rucksack and camera to carry.

On the top there is a chapel and a priest delivering mass from, what looked like a bay window. On one side of the chapel there was a doorway for confessions and on the other a doorway for holy communion. By the time I got up there (approx. 2 hours – not bad going) the summit was shrouded in cloud and the rest of my family were shivering and keen to get moving again. Clare and myself put on our anoraks and settled down for a bite to eat as they all abandoned us for the warmer lower reaches.

As we recharged our batteries, the cloud lifted and we were rewarded with gorgeous views over Clew Bay with its 365 islands (one for every day of the year). I strolled around a bit and took a few pictures before we eventually packed up and started the careful descent.

Back in Clifden we had another great night out, celebrating our ascent and swapping stories about the various sights we’d seen, including the English mother, and her son who sat down and refused to move another step. She was trying to get him to stay with the mountain rescue, who had a team every hundred yards, but he was having none of it and they started having a bit of a domestic on the steepest section.

Driving back to Dublin, we stopped off in Athlone again for a bite to eat and a better look round the castle. We said our goodbyes and headed off to the airport.

It was wonderful to catch up with all the family, especially my sister Rachel, who had come over from Perth, Australia. Connemara is stunningly beautiful and we had a great time, especially climbing Croagh Patrick on Reek Sunday – that’s an experience I’ll always remember. I suppose we’ll have to come up with a new adventure for us all now – but I’ll just let my knees recover from this one first I think.

Chris

Cruising through Cartmel, Hiking up to Hampsfell Hospice

Back up the M6 this week, to the south of the Lake District, starting and finishing in Cartmel. I was out for a meal that night so we were looking for something relatively close that wouldn’t take too much time. This was a new one for us so it would be interesting one way or another,  whatever it was like.

Parking at the racecourse, we dodged the Segways and headed off across the countryside. This area is near Morecambe Bay, so it doesn’t have any of the big hills, but it was a lovely day and there were great views of the mountains to the north and the coast to the south, as well as the Yorkshire Dales and the Pennines to the east.

Walking through the meadows with Lady Hughes and Ziggy, we were constantly overflown by a small aircraft ejecting parachutists every couple of minutes. I tried to get a few shots of them but they were too far away, so I turned my attention to the swallows speeding low over the fields, catching flies, to see if I could get a good shot or two – easier said than done. If street photography is like being a sniper, this is more like anti-aircraft shooting.

 

Crossing one field we found our way blocked by a herd of young bulls. Clare is a bit scared of cattle, so I went first to clear a path, only for Ziggy to slip his lead and sprint towards them. Clare was shouting frantically for him to come back and when the cattle started to trot over to him he decided it might actually be a good idea, so he about turned and legged it back. We squeezed through the gate just before the rush hit us.

Most of the walk was pretty reasonable with no great climbs, until the last half when you go up to Hampsfell Hospice – not a great climb, but just enough ‘up’ to get a sweat on. This is the best part of the walk with panoramic views and a Victorian shelter to explore – it doesn’t take long, there’s only one room and the roof.

From there it’s straight back down to Cartmel. We didn’t have time for a pint, even though we would have sorely loved to, as I was attending a work reunion that night in Stockport. But I did stick my head in the old Priory for a lightning tour. This dates from before the Restoration and is apparently one of the best preserved of its type – just wish we had more time to do it justice.

Lovely walk, seven miles, not too tricky and not particularly exhausting. Next weekend should be more intrepid as we fly off to Ireland to climb Croagh Patrick – watch this space.

Chris

 

Beautiful Borrowdale

Another weekend, another hike. This time, Borrowdale in the Lake District.

A bit further afield this time, Borrowdale is situated in the northeast of the Lakes. It’s a stunning valley, leading down from the high fells through little hamlets like Seatoller, Rosthwaite and Grange to Derwentwater (Lake) and the town of Keswick – famous for its pencils – honestly, they even have a pencil museum!

We started in Seatoller and headed north towards Castle Crag. This is  a rocky outcrop, believed to have been the site of an ancient fort and after that much quarrying. We climbed this crag years ago when the lads were younger and it’s a great little scramble to the top. Not this time though as we decide to keep on trucking northwards towards Grange.

The weather was a little overcast but warm and dry, it cleared as the day progressed. We took our time and soaked in the sights, just enjoying being out in such a great location.

At Grange, we stopped and had tea and lemon cake, sat outside a busy teashop – very civilised, I must say. Only hampered by a large group of people sat near us who decided to try and have an impromptu game of volleyball next to us and nearly took my head of with a ball – lucky for them, it missed!

Heading back we followed the river and when it was safe to do so, we let Ziggy off the lead for a bit of a run. He would run off a bit, exploring, but eventually come back to check where we were – his recall still needs a bit of work. At one point he found a plastic bag with someone’s discarded sandwiches in them and started to devour them. I shouted for him to stop and he obviously knew his time was up so he swallowed the lot, plastic bag and all – not a lot we could do at that point, so we’re just hoping it all comes out in the wash – if you know what I mean?

Not quite as much ‘up’ on this one as our last, up Harter Fell, but probably more enjoyable. Besides, I’m feeling a bit run-down at the moment, mild virus or something, so I didn’t want to push it too much, however we are officially in training for an ascent of Croagh Patrick, in Ireland next month so we can’t slack too much – keep an eye out for more updates.

Chris

Birthday Stomp up Harter Fell

This week was my birthday, 47 – I know, hard to believe, but it’s true. Anyway, it’s been a funny few weeks lately as the country gears up for the EU Referendum, which is in just two weeks. I must confess that I’m sick of all the debate and wish we could just get it over with now. I know what I’m voting for and I’m sure most people probably have a good idea what they’re voting for by now, so it just seems like we’re going over the same ground.

Anyway, to celebrate this momentous occasion (my birthday, not the EU Referendum) I was lucky enough to have number one son, Alex, come home from York ,and along with Elliott, Clare and a few close friends, we went out for a meal at the Tiffin Rooms in Cheadle. This lovely little restaurant serves Indian street food – think tapas but Indian. 

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The food was great and the company even better, I’m very lucky to have such a great family and some brilliant friends.

I’d booked the next day off to go for a hike with Lady Hughes and the weather was glorious, so we decided to head up to Haweswater in the Lakes and climb Harter Fell, a hill I’d not done before but it looked relatively straightforward and with it being a Thursday, we’d hopefully avoid the crowds.

Haweswater is not a natural lake, it’s a reservoir, created by the construction of a dam in 1929. This was quite controversial as the creation of the reservoir meant the forced movement of the local people to provide water for my city, Manchester. According to wikipedia it currently provides 25% of the North West’s water supply.

The route was pretty easy to navigate starting with a climb to the start of a steep climb, followed by a fairly steep climb, leading to a reasonably steep climb.

Once on the tops, the views are wonderful, if a little hazy on our day. It was hot and we found the uphill section a bit of a slog to be honest, but we only stopped a couple of times and kept on moving, even if we were puffing and panting a bit – hey, I’ve just turned 47, cut me a bit of slack will you!

Looking at the map I was a little apprehensive about the descent as it looked a bit steep, but in the end it was fine, bringing us down alongside a tarn. We were soon overtaken by a group of mountain-bikers carefully picking there way through the boulders whilst trying not to fall down the mountainside face-first. A few minutes later we overtook them as they had to deal with a snapped gear mechanism. I must confess to a little happiness as I strolled past the athletic twenty-somethings all decked out in lycra – don’t worry, they’ll get over it.

We got back to the car and checked out time. The guidebook had the walk down as 2½ hours and we’d done it in just over 4. I knew we were a bit slow but I don’t think we were that bad, ah well, it wasn’t a race.

Overall, great weather, great walk, great birthday – here’s the next 47!

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Chris