Tag Archives: walking

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Tenerife walking festival: feature for TTG

I love Tenerife. It has beautiful beaches, great food, plenty of sunshine year-round and brilliant hiking.

That last one comes as a surprise to many but perhaps not for much longer. Tenerife is hosting its first ever walking festival this March, opening up this island of volcanic valleys, lush forests and black sand beaches to anyone keen to explore on two feet.

Read my feature on walking in Tenerife for TTG and get those hiking boots ready.

Big thanks to Robin McKelvie for his photography.

 

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London Loop: Moor Park to Elstree

Walking this section, Number 10 from Moor Park to Elstree, made us realize very quickly how disappointed we had been with our last section. The book (“London Loop“) had warned us that there was too much road walking between Elstree and Cockfosters and it was a relief to be back to greener paths today, starting with Oxhey Woods.

This section is the farthest from home we have completed so far and it took us through areas we had never even heard of, Oxhey Woods being one of them. It turned out to be a real hidden gem, with hardly another walker in sight and mile after mile of woodland path where the only noise was birdsong.

We reached Pinnerwood Farm and Pinnerwood House in just a couple of hours, picking our way through the mud by their stables and stopping to take photos of the charming house reflected in its lake. Once again, we were blown away by where some Londoners live, so close to Hatch End station and yet so rural and so quiet.

We skirted the edge of several fields, passing the ends of numerous gardens and peering into suburban life through back doors and windows. And then suddenly we were crossing the main west coast line to Scotland, Virgin trains thundering underneath us.

It was soon forgotten – the rural landscape between Bushey and Stanmore turning out to be a real delight, with stonking views over the London skyline. Doug climbed on an old pillbox for a better look and we debated over whether that was the Gherkin on the horizon or not – it was, though it looked tiny with the Shard looming so much larger to its right.

Also looming large here is Bentley Priory, Fighter Command Headquarters during the Battle of Britain and still RAF property today – which explains the double wire fence along the pathway here. It is a surprisingly beautiful building, a Victorian house with an Italianiate tower – and yet another of the Loop’s surprises.

The final stretch of this section involves getting under the M1. We walked for some 15 minutes across farmland, passing horses and discussing what we would have to say about walkers seen from the motorway – for the first time beginning to understand why you might find yourself emerging from a gas works beside an A road!

The motorway rushed overhead for a few minutes as we crossed the busy roundabout here but, like the railway before it, it is also soon forgotten. Because just a few minutes walk further on we reach Aldenham Reservoir and find a vast dam and a pretty sailing lake, now just starting to twinkle under a setting sun.

It was beautiful, but it also made us appreciate how long the day must be to fit in a whole section of the London Loop. Two hours by tube to reach Moor Park had undone our early start and we staggered exhausted into Elstree and Borehamwood station just as darkness began to fall. There was no spare time on this section and although it is one of the longer ones, we have learned an important Loop lesson – no early start is too early.

 

OUR WALK:

Start point: Moor Park station (Metropolitan line)

Finish point: Elstree and Borehamwood station (Thameslink)

Length: 12 miles (19.3km)

Time taken: six hours

 

 

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Article in Wanderlust: the Routeburn Track, New Zealand

This month’s issue of Wanderlust magazine features my six-page article on the Routeburn Track on New Zealand‘s South Island.

This long-distance hiking trail is all-too-often overlooked in favour of its more famous neighbour the Milford Track. But there is much to recommend it, from mountain vistas to alpine meadows, plunging waterfalls to pleasant, bird-filled woodland. And it can be easily combined with visits to adventure capital Queenstown and epically beautiful Milford Sound, too. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Read more about it in the April 2014 issue of Wanderlust.

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Walking on La Gomera


I’ve always had a thing about islands. Something about the ability to explore a place more or less in its entirety in one go has always appealed to me and when I received my maps for my trip to La Gomera with Macs Adventure I was pleased to see how much of the island was covered by the brown lines that marked our routes.

We arrived by ferry from Tenerife, crossing from Los Cristianos to San Sebastián in just under an hour. On the crossing we spotted whales and talked excitedly of Garajonay national park, which covers much of La Gomera and would be our first destination.

This vast area of jungle is one of the last vestiges of the ancestral laurel forests that once covered the entire Mediterranean region. On our first walk from El Cedro to Chipude we reach the national park’s highest point, Alto de Garajonay. It is a gradual ascent through pleasant, misty woodland to the summit, passing laurel trees and lichens, and the reasons for its lushness are all too apparent – from the peak we can see almost nothing.

We fare better the following day on the route from Chipude IMG_5812to Vallehermoso. On this walk we cross Barranco de Valle Gran Rey, full of palm trees and marked out by man into regimented terraces. It is astoundingly green, with every shade from emerald to olive represented underneath a clear blue sky, the route marked by giant cactus and swaying palm trees. It is beautiful.

ALL CHANGE

As you would expect this close to the sea, the weather iIMG_5823s very changeable and over the next few days our walks vary hugely. We walk along ridges cloaked in cloud, cross streams that look just days old and pass through dripping forests, before emerging onto dusty paths lit by the sun and rounding corners to find sudden sun-soaked valleys.

La Gomera is known for its dramatic geology and no walk is complete without a steep ascent IMG_5831followed by an even steeper descent to undo all the ground gained. On our walk into Hermigua we arrive via Santa Catalina after a total descent of 1,140 metres – the steepest I have ever done. The path here appears to dive off a cliff and I am astonished at every turn to find it winding on ever downwards, across terraces and down stony slopes.  It is easy to see why the Gomerans developed a whistling language, silbo, which could travel easily across valleys so that they did not have to.

BACK WHERE WE STARTED

After several days walking on the island we have covered some 50 kilometres, and a large chunk of this volcanic rock. And yet we feel as though we have only scratched the surface.IMG_5860 All too quickly we are back on the island’s eastern side, turning a corner to find Teide suddenly just a short hop across the water. It beckons us back towards Tenerife, and our final stop back in the capital San Sebastián.

This diminutive town had seemed so tiny on arrival but after a few days walking in the island’s interior it seems a vast metropolis. We escape its centre through a tunnel at the harbour and find El Charcon, a seafood restaurant on the quaysiIMG_5883de serving fresh fish platters in the sunshine. We order a platter of local cherne and other white meaty fish, topped with huge, sweet prawns and served with salty papas arrugadas (wrinkly potatoes) and mojo sauce. Washed down with a Canarian white wine it is the perfect end to a week’s walking. But I have to admit that I was wrong about one thing – you can’t discover a whole island in one visit. So I will just have to come back.

 

PRACTICALITIES

Macs Adventure offer seven-night walking holidays on La Gomera, with six days walking, from £455 per person, including all accommodation, breakfasts, baggage transfer from hotel to hotel or taxi transfer between walking locations, and a detailed info pack and guidebook. Flights/rail to and from starting point are not included, but Macs Adventure’s team can advise best value travel options at the time of booking. Macs Adventure has more than 200 walking trips around the UK & Europe, which can be tailormade according to your level of fitness.

More details of the trip are available here or by calling 0141 530 1950.

For more information on Tenerife visit the tourist board’s website here. I also found the “Lonely Planet Canary Islands (Travel Guide)” very useful on this trip.