Walking in Madeira: Ponta de São Lorenço Peninsula

As we landed at Funchal, one of the flight attendants said that it was the first time she had been on a plane that had landed on its first attempt. We had had a 100mph tail wind so had arrived 25 minutes early but did not experience any of the gusts of wind that Madeira’s airport is renowned for. These often lead to landings having to be aborted and re-attempted. Apparently after the third failed attempt the plane has to divert to Lisbon. The runway has been extended and now projects over the sea supported by concrete columns. Funchal is named after ‘funcho’, the Portuguese word for fennel which it is said, was abundant when Zarco landed here in 1419. Madeira means ‘wood’ which is somewhat ironic as the first settlers began burning and ultimately completely destroying the primeval forest and indigenous flora and fauna. Much of the current flora has been introduced from all corners of the earth.

We had dinner that evening in a restaurant specialising in local food. Dessert was strawberries from the restaurateur’s farm. On our way out, we noticed that the local cats and dogs were gathering, ready to eat the scraps they are given. Walking along a cobbled street back to the hotel, we passed lots of street art including these examples on a derelict building.

The following morning after passing through Machico, (the first place Portuguese explorers landed in 1419) we stopped at a viewpoint on the coast.

Feral cats were hanging around hoping for food. Just before we left, a local woman drove up and began to feed them.

Our first walk was an 8km circuit involving climbing the equivalent of 119 flights of stairs on the Ponta de São Lorenço National Park peninsula. By the national park centre, we spotted several canaries but none of them stayed still long enough for a photograph. The volcanic geology gives rise to many scenic views although it was very windy. It was busy, but it was a Sunday and in the Easter holiday season.

Afterwards we drove inland west to Porto da Cruz which is the first eastern town on the north coast. We had a tasting session of a local fish like tuna (Gaiado Seco) which is salted and dried in sand. It was served with olive oil, tomatoes and onions with bread. The sugar cane mill, ’Engenhos do Norte operates between March to May. In the 15th and 16th centuries Madeira was a major producer of sugar which was known as ‘white gold’. The current distillery makes rum. They have a machine used to pump fresh sugarcane juice up to the fermentation tanks which was manufactured by Jones Burton & Co of Liverpool. Another piece of machinery was made in Oakland, California.

Further on, Faial has a hill 598m high called ‘Eagle Rock’ where ospreys nest.

Nearby we had a madeira wine tasting session in a cellar, sampling 12 year old and 19 year old samples. Returning to the road we passed several people (some in national costume) returning to the church following the blessing of a house which often takes place after Easter.

The new road passes through the longest tunnel in Europe which is over 3km long. New road construction and tunnel building has expanded in Madeira in the last few years and has improved communications and transport. However, there is a feeling amongst some, that it is going too far. Our destination was Santana, our base for the night. It is renowned for the traditional thatched A frame houses in the area.

The weather was now deteriorating. The jet stream has diverted further south this year leaving northern Europe with a much colder spring but wetter weather occurring further south, including Madeira.

Monochrome and Colour: a Spring Weekend in Edinburgh

We woke before dawn on Friday to what became another bright, sunny day. The last week or so has persuaded us that spring might really be here although we have had some night frosts. I had a meeting to attend in Liverpool and so was on my usual early train, quiet with commuters reading, listening to music or catching up on sleep. The meeting finished, I caught a train to Wigan North Western where James was going to pick me up and drive on to Edinburgh. This train was also quiet as most people were heading into the city, not away from it. Just before St Helens, I saw an abandoned factory and covered in street art and wondered about finding it some time to add to my abandoned and derelict photography collection. As I was early, I took a stroll into the town centre where people sat in the sun having their lunch and a busker played while his dog snoozed, soaking up the heat. I had a coffee and the woman behind the counter (whose hairdo resembled that of Bet Lynch from Coronation Street) debated how many celebrities had died this year with another member of staff. Her broad Lancastrian accent reminded me that I had indeed left Merseyside behind me. Back at the station, a hen party had commandeered the ladies toilets in order to get changed and made up before catching their train so I stood in a queue there for quite a while. James arrived eventually and we headed north. Rooks busy in the rookeries and lambs playing in the fields alongside the M6 and A7 all added to the spring feeling.

Saturday morning was devoted to art, the afternoon to a walk with friends around the Hermitage of Braid and the evening to film. The Scottish Gallery of Modern Art has several exhibitions but art begins outside with installations and landscaping.

No miracles  SGMA 23 Apr 2016-1

Water  SGMA 23 Apr 2016-1

Inside, a small exhibition of Bridget Riley’s work charted her progress from monochrome to colour and back to monochrome. There were also several other displays of pop art and Young British Artists whose work involves a variety of media. I enjoyed seeing David Hockney’s Rocky Mountains and Tired Indians, painted during a residency he undertook in Boulder, Colorado and Jessica Warboy’s Sea Painting, Skateraw Bay 2016.
Brigit Riley 1 23 Apr 2016-1
Brigit Riley 2 23 Apr 2016-1
Rocky MOuntains & tired Indians 23 Apr 2016-1
Jessica Warboys Skateray Bay 23 Apr 2016-1

The evening’s treat was Dheepan, a very powerful and moving film. Today, on our journey back south, the weather seemed to chime with Bridget Riley’s journey in paint as the sun disappeared and were treated to very heavy rain which could in no way be described as an April shower. There was even some snow on a Pennine Ridge – back to monochrome.

Looking for spring en route to Edinburgh

Friday’s mild, warm and sunny weather had lulled us into a false sense of security and we really did not want to believe the weather forecasts. I even managed my Street Pastoring shift without any rain and the thermometer still read 8 degrees at midnight. We were up at 5.30 this morning but the birds were already up ahead of us and singing in the trees. Despite only getting a few hours of sleep, I was glad we were driving up to Edinburgh today and not yesterday when the M6 was stationary heading northbound at 3pm. James did not change gear from getting on the motorway to leaving it 100 or so miles later for breakfast at Tebay. Up here it was very windy and a few ducks were braving the waves on the pond but these and a few seagulls stayed on the grass.
Ducks at Tebay 26 Mar 2016-1
The tops of the hills were shrouded in mist but as we approached the city, it brightened up a little. In Edinburgh, signs of spring abounded. The crocuses were out on Bruntsfield Links although a little battered.
Crocus on Bruntsfield Links
In town, the buskers were out, there seemed to be almost as many people handing flyers out as there are in August and the Socialist Worker Party were trying to get more signatures for their latest petition. I always check the mural on St John’s Church at the West End, this is the latest:
St John's Mural Edinburgh 26 Mar 2016

We had planned to do most of the necessary jobs in town on foot but halfway through, it poured down with rain so it was back to the car. The cherry tree outside the flat is coming into flower but the wind is already blowing a lot of the petals off. As we won’t be here for another month, I will probably miss the big show. It is certainly not a weekend for hill-walking or beach-combing.

Sun on the beach and snow on the hills

I love walking and beachcombing in all seasons and as the morning was bright and sunny we decided that today’s walk would be on Gullane Bents in East Lothian. Several people and dogs were enjoying a morning on the beach. Ships were heading out to sea and we could see snow on the hills of Fife to the north. I was wearing my fingerless gloves so that I could operate my camera but they got pretty cold very quickly but I did find some pieces of sea glass to add to my collection and one small scallop shell with barnacles on it.
Gullane Bents 14 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

Gullane Bents 4 14 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

Sea glass 14 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

After the walk, we warmed up in a coffee shop and then investigated the ruined church opposite, St Andrew’s Old Kirk. It was built in 1170 on the site of an earlier Norman church but was abandoned in 1612 as it kept getting buried in sand blown from the beach. The congregation moved to Dirleton and much later, other churches were built in Gullane and are still there today.

St Andrews Old Kirk Gullane 14 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)
We had planned to head south over a B road that passes over the Lammermuir Hills and past the Whiteadder Reservoir before descending into the borders. I could see a lot of snow on the hills and have previously taken some good shots up there so was very optimistic as the weather had stayed dry. Unfortunately the road was closed and had a fairly permanent closed sign so we had to turn round. The alternative route was to cross over to the A68 and then to the A7 via Soutra and were were rewarded by some snow.

Snowy landscape Soutra 2 14 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

Snowy landscape Soutra 7 14 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

We had a flurry of snow over the Teviots but south of the border the sun came out again and it was an uneventful drive home.

Dreaming of a long walk on a wet drive

During a very slow and wet drive south today, I started to dream and plan a long walk. As part of summer 2016 will be devoted to a long drive, it will have to be early summer 2017. James was driving so I could let my mind wander and plot the walk from South Cheshire to Edinburgh. My original idea was to walk the Pennine Way with a bit added on to the beginning and end. I am now thinking that I will work out a more direct route, utilising as many trails and minor roads as possible. I live about 3 miles from the Macclesfield Canal and walking north on the towpath takes me to Macclesfield. Although the canal carries on to Marple, a more direct path there is via the Middlewood Way. From Marple, the Midshires Way and a few other minor paths take me to Stalybridge where I can pick up the Thame Valley Way and then the Standedge Trail to just beyond Diggle. Then, I can join the Pennine Way. How long I stay on it remains to be seen as it weaves back and forth at times and it’s end at Kirk Yetholm is further east than I need to be. Along the A702 I looked at the grass verges and pavements in the villages thinking that if needed, this road could be easily walked up although hopefully when it is less wet than it is currently.

A702 water (1 of 1)

I had previously thought that I might walk up the old railway track alongside the A7. Now that has been re-opened as the Borders Railway so is no longer an option. Further on, down the M74 and M6 we made very slow progress with breakdowns and accidents on the motorway leading to long tailbacks before we could leave it.


It took just over five hours to get back and I have a lot more time to perfect my route over the next 18 months.

James Bond, paintings and a very wet drive south

Saturday was rather dreich and after a slow start and some shopping in the morning, we were off to the local cinema mid afternoon. The Dominion has sofas and footstools, a very different experience from the usual. We were off to catch the latest James Bond Film. Ever since James had a bleep number of 007 thirty years ago when we both worked in the old Royal Infirmary in Stirling, we have had to see the Bond Films. The cinema was full and there were several children’s’ parties there. This morning, with slightly better weather, the plan was to see at least one of the exhibitions at the National Gallery or the adjacent Royal Scottish Academy. Not so easy. They have been renovated and unless you enter via the Princess Street Gardens, it is very difficult to find your way around from one to the other. Eventually we found what we were looking for and the galleries were quiet.

NGS 1 (1 of 1)

I was keen to see ‘Rocks & Rivers, a display of thirteen works from the private collection of Asbjörn Lunde, New York, which are on long-term loan to the Scottish National Gallery. I don’t think I quite got the lighting and colour right on these shots:

Giuseppe Camino Forest with Raptor (1 of 1)

Giuseppe Camino’s ‘Forest with raptor’ and Alexandre Calme’s view of Jungfrau

Alexandre Calame Jungfrau (1 of 1)

After this, a quick coffee and it was back to the flat to pick up the last few things and head south. As soon as we were in the Southern Uplands there was torrential rain a lot of water on the road which lasted all the way down. We passed one accident and left the motorway near Warrington as there were huge tailbacks ahead. We made very slow progress but are now sitting in front of a warm fire.

Reading about Wyoming and driving to Edinburgh

The last two weeks have been very busy around work and home so I have not had any time for venturing further afield. However, I have been planning and making arrangements for next summer’s US coast to coast drive. We will pass through several states we have not been to before in addition to some more familiar ones. I have never visited Wyoming before so it was a happy coincidence to come across two books: one in a secondhand bookstore and one in the public library which have served as an introduction. Mark Spragg’s ‘Where Rivers Change Direction’ is an account of his growing up on one of the oldest ranches in the state, situated on the Continental Divide (we last crossed this further south in 2013 on Route 66). He describes the harsh winter weather, learning about horses, his parents and being mentored by an old cowboy. He has also written novels and I must seek them out.RiversEngland

I have read some of Annie Proulx’s novels and last month found her non-fiction account of searching out and building a property in Wyoming. ‘Bird Cloud’ is enthralling. She writes about the natural history of the area she is building in, the people and the challenge of acheiving the house she wants. This is something we will be doing in a few years as we downsize a bit. Figuring out priorities (e.g library, studio) and what compromises to make will be hard and sometimes it does not sound like downsizing.
Annie Proulx 1 (1 of 1)

This afternoon’s drive was the familiar trip to Edinburgh. I noticed that the northbound bridge near M6 Junction 18 had had a ‘D” added to the ‘Vote Pies’ directive, putting it in the past tense. In Cumbria there were very high winds, low cloud and driving rain. The recent Indian Summer and very mild autumn (I still have roses blooming) made me think that in my childhood, this would have been snow. I recall standing on snow in my Brownie uniform at the village War Memorial on Remembrance Day. Over the border, the rain had gone, some blue sky and the late afternoon sun in the golden hour beloved of photographers made the hills glow. We had an appointment in Edinburgh early evening so could not wander around with the camera much at all. Here are a couple of shots in the Clyde Valley.
Hill 1 (1 of 1)
Afternoon landscape (1 of 1)

Just before West Linton, a huge skein of geese flew over and the clouds were pink. No time to stop for photographs unfortunately.