Cape Point Nature Reserve hike – Dec 2018

Cape Point Nature Reserve, located on the southernmost part of the Cape Peninsula, has to be one of the most spectacular places on the planet. A circular hike from the main entrance near Smitswinkel, taking in views along False Bay and the Atlantic seaboard with an overnight stay in one of the huts, is an unparalled adventure. Ralph Pina and I completed this over two days, a total round trip distance of 33.8 km. Whilst the first day offers arguably the more spectacular views as they unfold towards Cape Point, the second provides unique access to the numerous beaches as well as wildlife such as eland, bontebok, baboons and ostrich. The northmost part of the park, though arguably barren, is recovering from wildfires, due to the unique ability of the fynbos to regenerate.

Read FULL text and view photo album – Day 1

Read FULL text and view photo album – Day 2

A walk through the garden of England, Cobham, in the Kentish countryside, via Luddesdown.

Having recently undertaken a walk around Faversham near the Thames estuary, my hiking friend Tammy opted for a return to the county that has earned the title ‘The Garden of England’, as it has referred to for hundreds of years. Kent is host to gentle hills, fertile farmland and cultivated country estates with fruit-filled orchards that cover the area. The area south of the village of Cobham typifies this landscape description. To make it to Eltham by 8 a.m. requires getting up at crack of dawn for a drive down the M11 from Hertfordshire via the Blackwall Tunnel. The route could roughly be described as a figure of eight with the small village of Luddesdown, named after a scattered group of houses and farms, as the crossover point. The terrain is undulating, traversing vineyard-covered farmland and numerous woods, so “breathtaking” in more ways than one, incorporating a section of the North Downs Way on the ongoing section and The Wealdway on the return leg.

Read FULL text and photo album – click here.

Adjacent to the church of St Peter and St Paul is Luddesdown Court, a 6,821-square-foot house that is estimated to be at least 800 years old. Some local historians believe it could be even older—the village of Luddesdown certainly existed in 1086 when it was included an ambitious survey of land ownership in Britain, the Domesday Book, commissioned by William the Conqueror, the first Norman king of England. One of Luddesdown’s former owners is thought to be Odo of Bayeux, the king’s half-brother (born around 1035). Odo was a key figure in the Norman invasion of England, and subsequently commissioned the Bayeux Tapestry, an epic depiction of the invasion’s decisive Battle of Hastings in 1066.

It was here that my mobile phone’s battery finally gave in. Having been experiencing problems with the device losing charge faster than should be the case, for some time now, I got it in the ear from Tammy, who was insistant that I should now be treating myself to a new phone for Christmas. Furthermore, I was assured in no uncertain terms that further walks with her would be ruled out until I had sorted the situation out. From Luddesdown, we took the Wealdway path towards Cobham, thus completing the last leg of the figure of eight route.

Cobham is a village and civil parish located 6 miles south-east of Gravesend and does not appear as a separate manor in the Domesday Book, so the village and parish were probably established later than 1086. The village has strong links with Charles Dickens, who used to walk out to the village: he set part of The Pickwick Papers there.

Read FULL text and photo album – click here.

Kent Walk, Hever Castle and countryside – Sunday 13th September 2020

My friend Tammy pinged me at short notice, proposing a walk in the Kentish countryside near Hever Castle, just 30 minutes drive from Tunbridge Wells in the High Weald Area of Outstanding National Beauty. This was my third walk in 3 days. We covered all of 10.2 miles. We set off from the car park of the Henry VIII pub, located directly opposite Hever Castle. Forecasts had predicted temperatures pushing 30 degrees and although it was probably cooler than that, I was still sweating profusely.

Read FULL text and photo album – click here

Hever castle is located in the village of Hever, Kent, near Edenbridge, 30 miles south-east of London. It began as a country house, built in the 13th century. From 1462 to 1539, it was the seat of the Boleyn (originally ‘Bullen’) family. Anne Boleyn, the second queen consort of King Henry VIII of England, spent her early youth there after her father, Thomas Boleyn, inherited it in 1505. The castle passed to him upon the death of his father, Sir William Boleyn. It later came into the possession of King Henry VIII’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves.

Tammy proposed a spur-of-the-moment detour to Chiddingstone Castle. Passing Hill Hoath Farm, we took a path across a field towards Chiddingstone village, within sight of the the Chiding Stone around the back of the village, which was allegedly used by local men to chide nagging wives, wrongdoers and witches on, in front of an assembly of villagers. The tower of St. Mary the Virgin parish church could also be seen from some distance. This is where the ashes of one of Tammy’s great aunts are scattered under a rock in the grounds of the cemetery.

As one enters the autumn months and the daylight hours in the northern hemisphere shorten dramatically whilst the shadows become longer, it is on days like this that one still appreciates what the countryside has to offer.

Read FULL text and photo album – click here

Royston walks during lockdown – April, June & August 2020

All the walks described in this blog incorporate Royston and the surrounding villages of Reed, Barkway and Barley undertaken during the Covid 19 lockdown of 2020, with variations of the same walk. UK Covid19 guidelines permit one form of outdoor exercise a day, provided social distancing measures are maintained. Fortunately for me, living in Royston in the Hertfordshire countryside means that a walk or a cycle can be undertaken whilst meeting very few en route and such instances where one does encounter someone, maintaining a wide berth of more than two metres is not a problem. Despite the UK now having been in Covid19 lockdown since 16th March, people out walking on the countryside generally still maintain social distancing.

Read FULL text and photo album – click Google Photos album.

Saturday 18th April

Much as I try and keep off tarred roads, even if they are only country roads, I was on a mission to explore. I had cycled this road many times past Newsels Barn Farm and Newsels Park Stud and on up the steep hill towards the road that runs into Barkway however was intrigued by a gravel road, known as Stock Bank, that led off to the left. It drops down into a dip before ascending and reaching The Mount behind The Chequers pub, along the Cambridge Road into Barley. There is however a turn-off in this dip that runs south, rising slowly, until one reaches a tarred road which accesses Newsells, a collection of houses that scarcely makes up a village, as there are, to my knowledge, no shops or pubs to speak of. It’s gorgeous countryside, many old homesteads to be found en route.

Sunday 19th April

The idea was to pick up The Mount, a gravel road running behind The Chequers pub, down the hill into the dip I had approached the day before from Stock Bank, off the Royston Road, before heading via Newsels towards Barkway. On this occasion however, I cut short of walking into Barkway itself, instead picking up the path at a junction which would lead me to where Royston Road climbs before meeting The Joint into Barkway. In the village of Newsells, whilst maintaining social distancing, I struck an interesting conversation with a local family en route, who immediately guessed my country of origin. Despite having resided in the UK for close on 20 years, I have yet to lose my accent and probably never will. We chatted about Covid19, the subject on everyone’s lips, and the government’s handling of it.

Saturday 13th June

It was an unusually hot Saturday morning when I repeated this four hour walk last undertaken in April, a circular route from Royston to Barley via the black barn and bridleway off the B1039, bypassing Barkway and Reed along The Joint and back along the Hertfordshire Way following the Greenwich Meridan. It was on the first section up to Horseshoe Farm, Barley , that I met some horseriders, the lead rider turning out to be a South African woman living in Melbourn, a village just outside Royston and across the county border in Cambridgeshire. I don’t recall whether she recognised my accent or I hers. A decent temperature today at 24 degrees. Once again, the duration of the walk was roughly 4 hours.

Saturday 22nd August

Another walk along this north Hertfordshire route today, on this occasion tackling the walk in an anti-clockwise direction. In the village of Barkway, I stopped by a tea-room doubling as a florist. Despite just having shut in order to prepare bouquets for a wedding, they seemed to empathize upon learning I had walked from Royston, so the young waitress agreed to make me a pot of tea. I’ve recently incorporated an alternative route to my local Royston evening walks, which takes me through woodland adjoining Burloes Farm, rather than along the B1039. The setting is sumptuous, as can be seen by these late afternoon photographs. Burloes Hall is a beautiful Queen Anne country house with stunning views of the rolling chalk hills of North Hertfordshire. The generous lawns, bordered by handsome beech trees and mature yew hedges enclose secret Edwardian gardens makes Burloes Hall an ideal venue for weddings.

Read more and view FULL photo album – click Google Photos album.

Namibian adventure Dec 2019 – Jan 2020

Having communicated with one another for about a year on social media, the time had come that we would finally meet. Ursula is a native of Swakopmund, Namibia, a town on the Atlantic Coast I had last visited in the mid 1990’s on my African Overland tour between Cape Town and Nairobi.

Having boarded the 10h10 flight from Cape Town International Airport to Walvis Bay Airport, located in the Namib Desert, a somewhat surreal sight, the passport check upon arrival proved a rather lengthy and tedious affair. Ursula, known locally as Ulla, had waited patiently to meet me, although she admitted a element of nervousness. Taking the inland road via Dune 7 rather than the coastal route, we arrived back in Swakopmund within half an hour.

[For the FULL blog and photo album, click here]

[For the FULL blog and photo album, click here]

An eventful Cape Point cycle – Dec 2019


Ralph and I then set off on the road back to Sun Valley. We hadn’t gone far when the curse struck again and I suffered a tube puncture, in fact a split along the seam. Whilst trying to repair it, this guy in a bakkie pulled over and eventually offered to take us back to Muizenberg, totally out of his way, in the spirit of Xmas. The journey proved quite entertaining as he relayed his life’s adventures in colourful detail, an upbeat ending to an event-filled day’s activity.

Read more and view photo album – click here.

Pringle Bay to Hangklip Peak – Dec 2019

My hiking buddy Ralph had suggested a walk that involved an ascent of Hangklip, a hanging rock that leans out to sea and marks the eastern end of False Bay, just beyond Pringle Bay, not far from the turnaround point of our cycle a few days earlier, at Rooi Els. The Hangklip Mountain at 484m above sea level is packed with numerous natural caves, and was once a refuge for bandits and slaves escaping their Dutch masters, hence the mountain cave being named “Drostersgat” – Deserters Cave.

[Full album of photos and text – click here]

[Route on Strava]

Reunion with Forbes neighbours and Kalk Bay tidal pool – Dec 2019

Once again, as the festive season approaches, it was time to catch up with my Tokai, Cape Town neighbours Ian and Lily Forbes, who were battling to wind down work activity associated with their electrical business, late on a Friday afternoon. In the midst of all of this grandson James was being entertained.

As is tradition upon every visit, I join them for an early morning dip in the tidal pool at Kalk Bay followed by a coffee at one of the multitude of cafes on the main road, alongside quirky Bohemian shops.

[To view full album of photos – click here]

Gordon’s Bay to Rooi Els cycle – 15th Dec 2019

First outing in South Africa with my hiking buddy Ralph, a 40-odd km cycle along the pristine Cape Peninsula False Bay coast from Gordon’s Bay to Rooiels and back. The weather was just perfect, a slight breeze without being gusty. We reached Rooi Els in just over an hour, stopping occasionally.

Endless photo opportunities present themselves en route. We scoured the rough roads of the town and its scattered array of up-market holiday homes. After enjoying a pot of tea each at a restaurant in Rooi Els, we headed back with great expectation though sadly, my cycle was cut short by a sudden puncture.

[Full text and photos click here]

An anthology of UK hikes from 2019

Here is an array of hikes and activities across the UK from 2019. Highlight of the year was having my brother over from Cape Town mid-summer for a long-overdue trip, which included a long weekend in the Brecon Beacons, exploring the Pembrokeshire coastline.

Please click on each of the links below to view the full blog and album of photos. 

A variety of Royston walks – 2019 – tba

Roaming the Kent countryside with my brother Eynsford – Shoreham – July 2019

On the Sunday over the weekend of Michelle’s birthday, a Sunday walk was arranged with my good friend Tammy. I was thrilled that Gordon, despite not being a regular hiker, had decided to join us; he had taken up cycling at the beginning of the year, some years earlier having undergone a quadruple heart bypass operation. Having driven with Tammy around midday to the Eagle’s Heights Wildlife Centre near the Eynsford Viaduct, not far from the remains of the Roman villa, we set off towards higher ground, skirting Lullingstone and Preston Hill Country Park. Boasting an internationally renowned collection of ancient trees, spectacular wildflower displays and countryside walks, Lullingstone Country Park is the perfect place to get back to nature.

 

Pilgrims Way – Wrotham to Otford – July 2019 – tba

Gower Peninsula Tour – The Mumbles & Worms Head – July 2019 – tba

Tenby town & beach stroll – July 2019 – tba

Dinefwr National Park & Castle Walk – July 2019 – tba

Marloes Sands Pembrokeshire Coastal Path Walk – July 2019 – tba

Lewes South Downs Walk – Aug 2019 – tba

St Pauls Walden – Whitwell – Stagenhoe Walk – Sept 2019 – tba

 

Green Chain Walk – Eltham to Thames Barrier Nov 2019

A mid-autumn walk was hastily arranged with my friend Tammy, on a weekend I had treated my niece and her partner to the Women’s football match between England’s Lionesses and the formidable German side at Wembley Stadium, before a record-breaking partisan crowd of 78,768. Tammy’s usual walks take one along the North or South Downs, so this was a break with tradition, perhaps more in terms of walks I have done with her in the past. The Green Chain Walk is a linked system of open spaces between the River Thames and Crystal Palace Park, so the route we were following from Eltham to the Thames Barrier in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, was a section of a much broader route.

 

London Walk – Greenwich to Rotherhithe 1st December 2019

Another mid-winter inner city walk with my friend Tammy, on this occasion after taking the bus from Eltham down to Greenwich. I had journeyed down to my niece, Michelle, and Adam, to deliver Christmas presents for their 3-year old son, Dylan. We had both come down with a bout of flu but felt that a walk in the open air does more to restore one to good health rather than remaining indoors. We set off from Eltham by bus to Greenwich however a catasrophe was averted when I realised I had left behind my lovingly-prepared rye bread and pate sandwiches. Michelle, still in her pyjamas, hastily drove down from Chislehurst to drop the munchies off just in time.