Thursday, 3 October 2013

Walking with the Gadgette III and Where Eagles don't Dare.    Sept 27th.

  On September 23rd the gadgette and I left for a week's holiday on the beautiful island of Madeira which meant I would miss the gadgie walk of the 27th.
The hotel we stayed in obviously recognised we had class, low in my case, as they upgraded us from a room to an apartment which consisted of a living room, a bedroom, kitchen and dining area, plus two bathrooms!
 The room was on the fourth floor overlooking the pool. The view provided us with much early morning entertainment as we watched people emerge from their rooms, put towels on sun loungers and retreat to their breakfasts, in spite of the notice, in Portuguese, English and German, stating that it was not permitted to reserve  loungers. I suspect the rules were broken by Germans.
                                             Reserving loungers verboten est!
We had planned a relaxing week, with gentle walks and trips by public transport. First we made a trip on my wife's favourite terror ride- the bus journey to Curral des Freras, the Valley of the Nuns. The road is narrow, steep and winds up the sides of the valley. Should the bus go over the low looking barrier it would undoubtedly fall for several hundred feet in places.
                                   Taken from the bus, and not the steepest part by any means
There is not a lot to do in the village apart from admire the view. But the highlight of the day was the visit to the Information Centre/Bank in the centre of the small collection of souvenir shops and cafes.
I called in to ask about buses back to Funchal. The man cheerfully told me that today it was a bank, not an information centre. Bank on Tuesdays and Thursdays, he explained, Information on Wednesdays and Fridays, no info today, it's Tuesday. That's fine, I told him, but could he please tell me bus times.  Of course he could, and did, although it was a bank. What would happen if you wanted cash on a Wednesday or Friday?
                                           Curral des Freiras
                                                     Looking down the valley
                                                       The flimsy barrier.
  Most evenings I wandered down to "the spa" in the hotel to sweat it out in the sauna and steam room before enjoying a pummelling in the super sized Jacuzzi and a short swim.
Most evenings I was joined by a huge Russian who told me worked "in security". I suspect he wore a suit and sunglasses at work and no doubt had a bulge in his side pocket. He told me he loved England and had visited most of the tourist sites but really wanted to go to the town where  "the beee-attles" came from, Liverpool. He was overcome with emotion when I told him my wife and I had seen them way back in 1966! In return I told him of my visits to St. Petersburg and Moscow but left out the bit about going to the post office which didn't have any stamps.
Another day we went to the bus station and got on the first bus leaving, just to see where it went. We finished up in Canico, pronounced Caniso. Not a lot there but we joined a group of  four Netherlanders for a taxi ride back. The lady driver gave us a guided tour, carefully explaining the economy of the island, which nation sent most tourists, (Germany) and how the place had recovered from the floods. "Thank you, all you Germans, Dutch and English for funding us through the EU!". So the Union has some fans.
On the last day we set off to walk a levada. As we left the hotel the heavens opened, causing a rapid change of mind, Instead we caught an open topped bus, and before you even think what's the point if it's raining, the front section had a roof! The bus had a twelve language commentary, accessible by earphones (supplied). We sat next to a German couple who were very friendly and explained how the system worked. The American voice (why) told us all about banana and wine production and the fishing village of  Camara de Lobos. I noticed our new German friends went quiet when the voice explained that British Prime Minister Winston Churchill came to Camara de Lobos to paint. Maybe he's not too popular in the fatherland. The voice also told us about the rich flora and fauna on the Island Desertas, visible but inaccessible from the mainland, they are nature reserves. Made you want to go really to see the birds, flowers and seawolves.
                                                 Lizards are common all over the island
                                              Slightly off the tourist track in Funchal
                                            Zarco who discovered the island. Christopher
                                            Columbus lived on neighbouring Porta Santos
                                            for a few years before his wife told him to clear
                                           off and find something new. He did, America.

                                        Torrential rain in 2010 caused much damage in Funchal,
                                        millions of Euros are being spent repairing and improving the
                                        sea front.

MEANWHILE BACK IN THE UNITED KINGDOM..............................
My fellow gadgies had the usual Friday out. Brian gave me this report.

WHERE EAGLES DON’T DARE – Friday 27th September 2012

Today’s walk is around the head of Haweswater.  This is on the eastern side of the Lakeland fells so doesn’t require a visit into Keswick. Instead follow the A6 from Penrith to Shap where you turn off to the right following the signs to Brompton and then Haweswater.

 Not going into Keswick we breakfasted at the Village Bakery in Melmerby.  Bacon sandwiches 5* fitches and excellent toast and honey.  On to Haweswater where there is a small car park (469107), for which there is no charge and which we were surprised to find was almost full.

Haweswater is a reservoir constructed in controversial circumstances, read something of its development at, but its southern end matches the grandeur of the head of Ennerdale.

There are 5 gadgies out today, Ben, Harry, Dave, John and Brian.  Your beloved author is spending time in Madeira with his gadgette. 

The rough route of the walk is to Gatesgarth Pass – Harter Fell – Nan Bield Pass – Mardale Ill Bell – High Street – Kidsty Pike – Car Park.

The walk up to Gatesgarth Pass is a demanding ascent though the track is good underfoot.

Route up to Gatesgarth Pass

 At the top of Gatesgarth turn right and head up to the top of Harter Fell.  As it was now a beautifully sunny day there was no problem reaching the summit and the views were fabulous.

Haweswater from Harter Fell

 The summit is marked by a large pile of stones adorned with a tangled array of what look like old fence posts.

We now descended down to Nan Bield Pass where there is an excellent shelter of which we availed ourselves for a Herbie stop.  Ben provided his top notch ginger biscuits and John chipped in with some chocolate cookies.  Whilst having lunch a couple approached up the direct path from Haweswater and were ready to return by the same route until Dave and Harry recommended the route we had come up for their return.  They seemed pleased with this suggestion.

After lunch there is a steady climb over Mardale Ill Bell, with views to the west over Kentmere reservoir and out to the coast, to the flat summit of High Street.  High Street (828m) is named after a roman road which ran over it.  Why over and not around, stand on the summit and you’ll understand.

The descent from High Street around to Kidsty Pike takes you across the head of Riggindale. 

Kidsty Pike & Riggindale

This is a wide valley with crags on the southern side and grassy slopes with some scree on the northern side and with nothing much going in between.  Or is there?  Take a closer look and you are likely to see a herd of red deer and then two, three and more.  In total we estimated there would be about 100 in the valley.  They were in distinct male and female groups.  It will be coming up to rutting season for the males where they battle each other for the right to take females out and wine and dine them at the best streams and then perhaps a little more afterwards…..

The valley is also the home of England’s only Golden Eagle.  The RSPB website suggests that it is still there. It is a male, whose female died nine years ago and it waits in lonely solitude for a new female to turn up.  Ben and Brian are RSPB members but even that didn’t persuade it to put in an appearance.

The descent from Kidsty Pike is fairly gentle and pleasant walking and on the way back Dave Ben and Brian called in at the RSPB eagle observation point.  Another 0.75 miles saw us back at the carpark.

Looking up Haweswaer

We returned via Askham – a lovely village – where we took beer in the Queens Head.  This is a pub as it should be; welcoming, good décor and excellent beer. Five barrels awarded.

The bar of the Queen’s Head


Dave’s Pedometer          9.7

Brian’s GPS                         8.9

Ben’s GPS                            9.0

Bird of the Day

The English Golden Eagle

Beast of the Day

Red Deer Stag