Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Jersey revisited

29th April 2023

After my trip to Ireland in March, I noted how much good it did me and started pondering an Easter getaway to further the improvement. After surveying possibilities and rejecting a few because of the predicted inclement weather, I decided to base myself in Jersey instead.

For the sake of speed, I flew there and back to enjoy a week-long stay. St. Helier was where I based myself and a good bus network got me where I wanted to go. After that, ferry services allowed day trips to Saint-Malo and to Guernsey. What was not so convenient were some of the timings with an early morning arrival from Manchester along with early morning sea and air departures. The departures particularly meant that breakfast was skipped on some mornings in favour of getting something on the way.

Arriving early on Wednesday did mean a day of exploring though and it was possible to check in early at the hotel too. A stroll across the beach took me to St. Aubin, from where I ventured to Noirmont and wandered around its German gun emplacements. Sunshine was in short supply when I began this and cloud cover grew all the while with rain encroaching on the way back to st. Helier with the tide having come in while I was in Noirmont. It moves fast on these islands and covers a large area as it does so.

Thursday saw me head to L’Étacq, from where I was to walk all the day to Rozel in bright sunshine. Along the way, I passed Grosnez Castle, Plémont, Greve de Lecq, Bonne Nuit and Bouley Bay. After Greve de Lecq, there was an inland detour before the coast was reached again near the Devil’s Hole. A motorsport track meant another slight detour later on, but this was no deprival. There was plenty of dramatic coastal scenery to savour on what was the longest hike of the trip, and all the ups and downs made for tired legs too.

Friday became a day composed of shorter trips. The first was to La Corbière, whose dramatically sited lighthouse grabbed my attention while passing on the bus the previous morning. Next was Noirmont again, this time in bright sunshine so better photos could be made before strolling back to St. Helier across the beach. After that, there was an evening visit to Gorey to see and photograph Mont Orgueil Castle. That was a short stay but it was still long enough for the tide to come in to its full extent.

For Saturday, I went to Saint-Malo to retrace old steps from a school trip longer ago than I care to admit. The old town looked stunning as ever despite being festooned with a crane. Most of my time was spent beach hiking as far as Pointe de la Varde. The sun beat down on me as I did so and it felt unseasonably warm to me too. On the way back, I followed the GR34 and along a promenade much traipsed in that August numerous years ago. There was a brief call to Centre Patrick Varangot where we stayed back then. The hostel had not changed much apart from the sports facilities in front of it. Being there and spotting the hypermarché where midday lunches were sourced brought back some memories before I returned to the coast again. That was a quieter interlude before I ventured among others again, and especially so around the old town, which was very busy. Fancying somewhere quieter, I went out along Môle des Noires, a breakwater with a lighthouse at its end. By this time, I felt tired so I returned to the ferry terminal even though it was a bit early. It had been a good wander anyway.

On Sunday, the skies grew cloudier, but there was ample time for photographic wandering around St. Helier. That was followed by a saunter from Rozel to Gorey past St. Catherine’s under clouded skies. That may have limited photographic activity yet it was still a good stroll and finding a good vantage point for viewing Mont Orgueil Castle in the wrong weather was no perturbation.

Rain made a visit on Sunday night but I still went to Guernsey, perhaps with more hope than expectation. The weather improved as the day wore on, so there were plenty of dry interludes and occasional sunshine too. My wandering took me out of St. Peter Port, past Fermain Bay and as far as St. Martin’s Point before retracing my steps with some unintended deviations. There were views of nearby Herm and Sark to complement what was on Guernsey itself. There was a motorsport event at St. Peter Port so I was happy to get away from that, and there was plenty of peace and quiet away from that. While I might have fancied a visit to Castle Cornet, I thought it to be best to be at the ferry terminal in plenty of time with a deliberate detour through the town centre.

Tuesday morning was the drier part of the day and desire for a siting of Jersey cows sent me out to St. John. That errand duly satisfied, I then made my way to the Waterworks Valley, through which I headed to First Tower on the island’s south coast. That was a rewarding hike and would benefit from a sun-blessed return, yet I did not feel short-changed. A stroll along the promenade by the beach returned me to St. Helier before the rain got too heavy and I was back in my hotel relaxing before my early departure the next day.

The whole trip had been very rewarding, and whets an appetite for a longer visit to Guernsey and perhaps Brittany. Only time will tell what becomes of such prospects with what else there is in my life. There was much gained in any event.

A spot of refinement

20th March 2023

A matter in Ireland weighed heavily on my mind for longer than expected until its recent completion. There are others to follow, but I hope that their execution will not prove to be so injurious to my emotions. There is more letting go to be done before burdens are relinquished.

None of that helped with my taking advantage of any fleeting episodes of dry, sunny weather that came our way since the start of the year. That there were a lot of grey, outcast days too meant that I never got to feeling too badly about what was left to pass. It is all very unlike this time last year when I embarked on a Pennine walking project in and around Marsden.

None of this stopped me from refining some of the content that got on here, though. Photos got enlarged, many posts had their writing improved, and some early redundant posts were removed. The photo overhaul took quite a lot of time since there are so many of them, even if it also was an automation project of sorts.

Now, I am starting to think ahead a bit more as the rain falls outside the window. Easter is coming, so my mind starts to ponder possibilities for a much-needed getaway, and there may be time for another one in May. Those aforementioned matters will take me to Ireland again and again, so that might add more walking opportunities too. It feels a bit premature to start thinking of trips to other parts of the world yet, but that cannot be discounted either.

When promised sunshine scarcely appeared

10th January 2023

These words are being written in a period of ongoing industrial relations turbulence. Whenever this happens, it can seem never-ending. Hope gets lost, but things can be resolved quicker than anyone can imagine.

Much of 2018 was blighted by Saturday-only stoppages that affected Northern Railway. It meant that outings were limited for me because I do not drive a car. In fact, they were an impossibility for many of the places that hill wanderer would go in the north of England. Thus, when the stoppages were halted, it was as if I was unleashed to take advantage of the restored sense of freedom.

Trips to the North York Moors and Derbyshire preceded two outings to the Yorkshire Dales. This piece describes the first of the latter, when sunshine was scarcer than predicted in the forecast. That encouraged another that will be described in a later posting.

The lack of sunshine necessarily limited the number of photos that I made on this trip, so figuring out the route again took some doing. Nevertheless, I reckon that I have recalled it. Recording GPS tracks or even filming hikes is something that I have avoided so far, but that needs a rethink unless I stop leaving it so long before writing trip reports.

On the day, I made my way from Settle’s train station towards Castlebergh Plantation. From there, I followed the Pennine Bridleway in the direction of Malham Tarn. That meant passing the turning for the crags that may have lured me out that way in the first place. They would be passed on the way back.

Everywhere lay under grey skies as I followed the track towards Langscar Gate and Malham Tarn. A young walking group was going this way too, so I dallied to give them time to move along for the sake of added solitude. Following the broad track appealed to me, as these so often do, especially when quietude can be found. That made up for any lack of sunshine.

When promised sunshine scarcely appeared

When promised sunshine scarcely appeared

Skies partially cleared of cloud around Malham Tarn, somewhere that I possibly had not visited for more than ten years. That made me linger and attempt a spot of photographic capture. The results may have been incompletely in their success, but they were proof that I was not totally out of luck. Now that I think of it, there may have been more sunshine available than I had thought.

When promised sunshine scarcely appeared

My next move was to make for Malham village. That took me past Broad Scars and Malham Lings before I returned to tarmac again. Descending by Malham Rakes gained me views over Malham Cove as well as getting me to the village where I enjoyed a refreshment stop.

When promised sunshine scarcely appeared

The shop was looking more tatty on the outside than when I was near there on previous visits. The paintwork was wearing off the stonework and the shopkeeper looked aged, which have explained the lack of maintenance to the outside of the building. Skies again broke to allow some sunshine, and I took in sights of the cliffs of Malham Cove on the next stage of my hike.

When promised sunshine scarcely appeared

My return to Settle took me near Town Head as I made my way onto Long Lane. That kept me off Cove Road until just before a steep ascent, after which I left the road for a public footpath that would take me back to the Pennine Bridleway near Kirkby Fell. There was empty countryside around Rye Loaf Hill, though I seem to recall seeing some mountain bikers around there.

More civilisation in the form of Stockdale Farm before I left the lane to follow the Dales High Way past crags that I had fancied photographing. The grey gloom put paid to that ambition, so I reconciled myself to enjoying the hike instead. There was one last uphill heave before the final descent into Settle, which felt very distant in the vicinity of the limestone outcrops that I was passing.

Another visit would be needed to make photographic use of the scenic delights that they offer, but the walk had left me content. There may have been a refreshment stop before I started on my train journey home in the knowledge that there was some unfinished business that remained in this part of the Yorkshire Dales. A return would follow.

Travel Arrangements

Return train journey between Macclesfield and Settle, with changes at Manchester Piccadilly and Leeds.

Exchanging years while on Tenerife

31st December 2022

Like my earlier Galway and Clare trip, I also split up the Tenerife trip report into several sections. This then is an overview piece that collects what I already have written, adding details of urban strolling that accompanied the various escapades.

The first big hike was on New Year’s Eve 2018 that was an incursion into Parque Rural Anaga from the heart of Santa Cruz. That was a tame encounter compared to what followed on New Year’s Day when I found adventure around Igueste de San Andrés and Antequera. Things felt more dramatic in Parque Nacional del Teide after that, though I contained my wanderings due to time and altitude considerations.

All in all, this was a trip that brought a lot more than many visitors to Tenerife might expect here. It is not for nothing that the island is a well known hiking destination. Guidebooks from Cicerone and Rother offer ideas that can be followed faithfully or customised like I did. Mapping is tricky, though, and I found myself switching between different maps while pottering about. Nevertheless, everything worked well without any sense of being lost at any point.

There were urban explorations too, though these were put on hold because of an after-dark arrival into Tenerife Sud. A shuttle coach got me to Santa Cruz, where I remained in the hotel that night without any explorations. When I went to Mallorca in 2016, I did potter about Palma, so this was a different approach.

El Teide from Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, Spain

There was a need to go to Puerto de la Cruz the following morning as well. This might have encouraged an early night because I fancied getting going early. The bus interchange was a significant walking distance away too, so I was leaving myself plenty of time to get there. After all, this was my first real introduction to Santa Cruz.

It so happens that Puerto de la Cruz is another of the island’s popular tourist bases, and most on the shuttle from Tenerife Sud airport were going there rather than Santa Cruz (I might have been the only passenger for Tenerife’s island capital). On this trip, I was intent on avoiding tourist fleshpots, but Puerto de la Cruz felt reasonably authentic to me as I wandered about the place in the sunshine aside from doing what I needed to do. When I arrived, I got off the bus a little early to photographically capture my first sighting of El Teide since I missed out on one the day before because of where I was sitting on the plane.

Rocas de Salto, Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, Spain

Looking west from Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, Spain

Rocks between Playa Grande and Playa Chica, Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, Spain

There was a lot more distance covered along the island’s northern shoreline than my memory had credited me with doing. The western terminus was Loro Parque, even if I opted not to go into this zoo. They may not have tempted me, but the little yellow street trains were unmissable as I wandered about Puerto de la Cruz. When I returned to the town centre, I opted for an al fresco meal before going back to Santa Cruz.

Once back in Santa Cruz, there was some shopping to do, and I found a good shopping centre where I could get it done. Batteries were acquired for my GPS receiver (which is heavy on them). These days, I might rely solely on a phone app with added backup from paper mapping. Garmin mapping is expensive, when an annual subscription is cheaper and offers more.

Skies went grey overhead for possibly the only time during my stay in Tenerife, though there was some cloudiness around Antequera too. The cloud cover over Santa Cruz meant that I was encouraged to return to the hotel for a quiet night after following a round-the-houses way there. My bearings were being found, and I was not overdoing things at the start. The strange mid-winter mix of restricted hours of daylight and summer temperatures need acclimatisation for someone like me.

There was to be much more wandering in following days, as well as navigation of local New Year celebrations. Buses conveyed me hither and thither in search of hiking opportunities and occasional quieter spots. Everything was unusual in its own way, as befits a subtropical island of volcanic origin.

The last day was devoted to getting to the airport and flying home. Bus connections between Santa Cruz and Tenerife Sud are not clearly timetabled, but all worked well regardless of this. On the plane, I wanted to see El Teide, but the routing and my seating position granted me views of other islands instead. Later on, there were views of Portugal, mainland Spain, France and England in the gloaming as I returned from a satisfying trip.

Fatigue stymied any mid-winter sunshine getaways this year. Until this realisation hit me, the Azores and Madeira were being lined up as possibilities when I spotted the cost of fares and infrequency of flights from Manchester Airport. That was just as well, given the strikes on the railways and in airports over the Christmas and New Year period. Resting at home was what I needed anyway. If I had realised that Tenerife offers more, maybe my mind might have been changed. The place does offer more, and I am not ruling out the chances of a return now.

Travel Arrangements

This section is more than it might be on other posts, since there already is a post on using buses to get around Tenerife elsewhere. Some of the content overlaps with what is here, so I am referring to it instead.

Exercising added restraint within Parque Nacional del Teide on Tenerife

30th December 2022

My impression is that most travellers to Tenerife go for sun, sand and sea while staying in the busier southwest of the island. Nevertheless, I also fancy that the island’s highest point is a lure, especially since there is a cable car that takes you near to the top of it. The volcanic cone of El Teide is an ever present sight from many places around the island. Two hikes in Parque Rural de Anaga had me glimpsing the distinctive top as well as a previous visit to Puerto de la Cruz.

Puerto de la Cruz is another haunt for tourists, as I found on that earlier piece of reconnaissance. The visit also revealed where I would get buses to and from Parque Nacional del Teide because they do not run from Santa Cruz. This then was an excursion with a change of bus.

Those onward connections from Puerto de la Cruz are not as regular as those between there and Santa Cruz, so you need to be careful. Since this was my last full day before flying home the next day, I did not want to get marooned either. The outbound bus was going to take me back again and would constrain the time for walking unless I did a circuit of the island by bus. That was not needed in the event, though.

There was another consideration that was ever present: the altitude. Having experienced some shortness of breadth near Kleine Scheidegg in Switzerland, I also did not want to cause a repeat at a greater height than there. Thus, I was going to take things easier. Because I was out for a walk, catching the cable car was never an ambition anyway. Staying between 2000 and 2500 metres above sea level was enough for me.

My staying on the bus all the way to its terminus at Parador de Cañada del Teide meant that my rambling was going to around Roques de García. The barren nature of the landscape also was impressed upon me by my travelling. This was another of the wilder parts of Tenerife that I would explore while there, and it reminded me of my time around Landmannalaugar in Iceland, albeit with much more sunshine on this occasion.

Sendero Roques de García, Parque Nacional del Teide, Tenerife, Spain

El Teide, Parque Nacional del Teide, Tenerife, Spain

The backbone of my amble was the Sendero Roques de García, a circular trail that would take me away from the Parador and back again. Usefully, the line of the path would be marked out by borders of stones for much of its length. There was vegetation, but all looked dusty and dessicated when I was there. At other times, all can look lush and verdant, and this was not one of those. Thus, the path border avoided losing the trail in places where it was difficult to tell between the line of travel and what lay around it.

Montana de Guajara, Parque Nacional del Teide, Tenerife, Spain

Naturally, there were numerous others around Roques de García when I was there. That may have been part of the motivation for following part of the Sendero Los Regatones Negros. Following that trail all the way would not only get me to the “Black Giants” of the name in Spanish, but it also would get me nearer the summit of El Teide as well. Aside from the time needed, an ascent to an altitude exceeding 3000 meters above sea level was also out of the question.

Thus, I only went part of the way and the trail was to become difficult to follow. In the end, I found myself crossing obsidian boulders that sounded glassy whenever they struck on movement. Climbing as far as around 2400 metres was enough for me and gained wider views of what surrounded me. Then, it was time to get back to the Sendero Roques de García.

Montana de Guajara & Rocques de Garcia, Parque Nacional del Teide, Tenerife, Spain

Mirador Ruleta, Parque Nacional del Teide, Tenerife, Spain

El Teide and Rocques de Garcia, Parque Nacional del Teide, Tenerife, Spain

That followed a “best efforts” approach of not trying to trample vegetation in this arid environment. That was not always manageable though as I returned to the Sendero using more freestyle route finding. Then, it was time to follow the Sendero Roques de García into terrain that felt more remote. In fact, it felt as if I was somewhere entirely different to where I was and had me wondering if I had overdone things, the cause being that all human infrastructure was that well obscured. Maybe there was an element of what I had felt in the isolation around Landmannalaugar several years previously.

Montana de Guajara from Pozo de los Azulejos, Parque Nacional del Teide, Tenerife, Spain

There was no need to fear, for the car park at Mirador Ruleta came upon me all of a sudden; there was none of the slow progress of the Icelandic adventure that made me catch a later bus back to Reykjavík. Then, the Parador was in view on the other side of the TF21 with plenty of time to spare. All that was needed was a little tarmac tramping; it is all too easy to unnecessarily lose faith and become fearful. In the end, there was time to get some food and drink for the journey to Puerto de la Cruz and Santa Cruz. Cautious adventuring had paid off for me.