Newsletter > Newsletter archive > July 2014
Walking across shifting sands
We spent a somewhat damp day last weekend crossing Morecambe Bay in the company of a hundred or so enthusiastic geocachers and the Queen’s Guide to the Sands, Cedric Robinson. It’s his official job, paid at the rate of £15 a year (plus free rental of a cottage), to locate a safe route across these potentially treacherous sands during the few available hours at low tide. It’s a trail that is always shifting, with each downpour in the surrounding hills and each tidal surge pushing the riverbed onto a new course, sometimes creating new areas of quicksand where it was safe to pass just a few days before.
Much of the way was on hard rippled sand, with just a couple of sections wading knee deep through flowing water. In one or two places we had to step swiftly across soggy patches that sprang underfoot like an old mattress. Here we were urged to keep going as once you start to sink it’s difficult to escape. If it gets past the knees, Robinson warned in a matter of fact way, the sand sets like concrete around your feet and rescuers have to pump in water to allow them to be released. It’s good to know that in over 50 years he has never lost a soul.
It’s a fascinating experience to follow a track that only exists in transitory form, for just a few hours a day and over no set route. It’s a reminder that, in the past, many of our footpaths were like this – ways across open ground where you chose your own route and sometimes needed a local guide. It was only with the ‘enclosure movement’ that our paths and tracks became so narrowly defined, with definitive maps to help (some might say, force) us to stay on course. Bounding hedgerows, gates and stiles are, of course, what give so many of our country footpaths their charm, but every now and then it’s appealing to do something completely different.
Hands across the border
It seems slightly odd that in a few months time Scotland and the rest of the UK may be parting company, with a new national border along a line that was pretty arbitrarily delineated by the Romans when they constructed their great wall. Walkingworld HQ is based on Stainmore at the southern end of Cumbria and looks out across the Eden Valley which was, for hundreds of years, disputed territory and so neither really English or Scottish. The Romans themselves once pulled back to create a new boundary here, as their empire declined. And of course, as Stewarts, we have strong family links to Scotland, as David’s grandfather was the son of a gamekeeper living in Dunkeld. It would be quite strange to find ourselves visiting Scotland as foreigners.
Whatever the outcome of the referendum, there’s a group who want to celebrate the history of the union by building a cairn on the border, at the famous village of Gretna. Hands Across the Border have ambitious plans for a stone structure with an internal chamber, like the passage graves found all along our Atlantic seaway. They are inviting people to bring bits of rock from across the UK to incorporate into the monument. The historians Simon Schama, David Starkey, Max Hastings and Antony Beevor, the philosopher AC Grayling, the General Charles Guthrie, and writer Alain de Botton have all contributed stones.
The group is inviting climbers, mountaineers and explorers to join the cairn builders on Monday 28th July. If you would like to meet – and work alongside - the explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes he will be on site during the afternoon. He will give a short speech, reflecting on stone, rock and the union. Also coming that day is climber Alan Hinkes, the first British man to scale every peak over 8000 metres. We’re planning on being there ourselves, accompanied by our dog Brough and one or two bits of Stainmore stone from our more ancient borderline. The cairn is behind the ‘First House in Scotland’ toll-house at Gretna (just south of the Gretna Gateway). Directions can be found at www.handsacrosstheborder.co.uk
Island hopping in West Sweden
With so many islands, hills and fjords to explore, Sweden’s West Coast makes a surprisingly good destination for a walking holiday. A short train ride from the city of Gothenburg and you’re soon on the ferry to the traffic-free Koster Islands, close to the border with Norway. Inntravel’s self-guided walking holiday allows you to discover the beauty of these islands, climbing rocky outcrops to reach high viewpoints, and perhaps ending the day with a swim.
The area is also renowned for its succulent seafood and in late summer you will find the local communities gearing up for the start of the lobster fishing season. Every year in mid-September, entire families head out to sea in search of this living ‘black gold’, with much of the catch finding its way into local restaurants for you to savour while gazing out over an impressionist’s canvas of ever-changing sky and seascapes.
There are options, too, to add on extra days to explore the royal island of Marstrand, or the stylish cities of Gothenburg and Stockholm, for the full Swedish Highlights experience.
For more details on Inntravel’s walking holidays in Sweden, see www.inntravel.co.uk or speak to their team on 01653 617034.
Sweden’s West Coast
- Self-guided, two-centre walking holiday
- Prices from £1038pp, inc 6 nights’ B&B accommodation, 5 dinners, detailed route guides & maps, rail/boat from Gothenburg & taxi/rail back
- Flights extra (direct from several UK regional airports)
Walking in the ‘best climate in Europe’
This guided walking holiday from Walk Andalucia gives you the opportunity to experience wonderful sunshine throughout the winter months. Based in Torrox, a small Andalucian white village at the foot of the Sierra Tejedas, the area has more than 330 days of sunshine per year making it the perfect walking location.
Guests stay in traditional village houses that have been restored to provide comfortable accommodation. Picnic lunches include fresh fruit and salad and are organic where possible. Meals in the evening are taken in fabulous village restaurants using locally sourced fresh produce. The company is proud to use local restaurants, shops and markets as well as tradesmen in Torrox. This helps both the community and the economy, especially during the winter months when tourism is slower.
For more information visit www.walk-andalucia.com or call 0808 1349913. Single travelers are more than welcome and there is no single supplement.
Cotswold Outdoor discount
Walkingworld subscribers benefit from a 15% discount on Cotswold Outdoor purchases both in-store and through the website. If you have been using a discount voucher letter to take to your local store you’ll need to download and print out a new one after September, because that’s when the current one expires. The new one is available now from the Subscribers section of the Walkingworld website. It also includes the discount code to enter on the Cotswold Outdoor website, as that too will expire in September.
Just make sure you are logged in and of course that your subscription is up to date. Then look down the lefthand menu bar on the homepage and you’ll find a link for ‘Subscriber benefits’.
The Wainwright Society’s 2015 Calendar has just been published and is now on sale. Once again the format includes photographs of the Lake District taken by Society members, together with line drawings and quotations from the works of Alfred Wainwright. For the past five years the Calendar has completely sold out raising thousands of pounds for the society’s designated charities. We know it has been very popular with Walkingworld members. The price of the calendar has been held at £10 including p&p, which we consider extraordinarily good value.
This year all profits from the sale of the calendar will be donated to the Brathay Exploration Group Trust, based in Ambleside. The money will be used to fund a two-year programme of ‘Taster Weekends’ enabling children from disadvantaged backgrounds to experience what Alfred Wainwright described when he first beheld the view of the Lakeland mountains as ‘a moment of magic’. We have visited the Brathay centre and it is a superb place doing great work.
The calendar can be purchased direct from the Society website using PayPal. Details are on the Society website.
Do come and join us for a free ceilidh, sponsored by Walkingworld, at the Kirkby Stephen Beer’n’Bangers Festival. The festival takes place on the 5th and 6th September in our delightful little market town in Cumbria. The ceilidh will be taking place under the expert guidance of Long Meg band, including our very own Walkingworld contributor Paul Shorrock. It starts at midday and continues until 3pm or whenever we all collapse, whichever is earlier. There are music nights on Friday and Saturday with some great bands – tickets for these are on sale now from just £7.50.