Walking in Europe

THE GRAND TOUR: GERMANY 12/13th JUNE

19km / 12km

We had a night of rumbling thunder and flashing lightening and enough rain to make us grateful for the shelter of the hut. 

The morning started off with mist below us in the valley 

 but the sun soon burnt it off and we left the hilltop to the parascenders who were starting to set up. 

The walk to the next village took us alongside more cornflower ringed fields  

 and across farmland surrounded by forest where the dogs took off after a deer, scruff’s pack not slowing him down. 

  
In the village we were lucky to find a shop open for supplies as we’ve been disappointed in a few places that have been deserted and shop less. I came across my first Trabant, the old communist car of the people, and later in the day another that had been “pimped” 
   I’ve been surprised at the lack of old motors here and the Tranny stands out a bit, as it seems do we. There are NO other foreigners here and people sometimes seem wary of us or very curious anyway. Some of the villages are a bit eerily tumbleweed and staring locals, if you actually see anyone. 

The heat was building up rapidly and we were glad to get into the cool of the forest on our way down to the lake. 

 

There are benches along the trail everywhere, even on the forest.  

   Some have seen better days 

 but they are often just where you want them for a bit of a rest and view.  

   

We passed through a huge deserted camping site and have seen a few big developments from what looked like 60’s and 70’s that have been abandoned. We wondered if they were communist era workers holiday camps that are no longer wanted. 

At the lake was a popular “Eco” campsite that was dog friendly and had a nice beach so we hung out for awhile and had a swim.  

 It was the campsite with the cabins that we had been looking down on when we slept at the viewpoint two nights earlier. We had to stop for a swim a couple more times that day to cool off and the wooded hills made for a great backdrop while floating on my back amongst the jumping fishes. 

Back on a small forest track we were surprised by a convoy of big bikes.  

 

At the end of a hot afternoons hiking we came, at last, to an open bar serving food and we quenched our thirst and gambolled with the menu, getting a good result which gave us the strength to climb the last big hill and find a place to erect the tent and mozzy net for the hounds.  

   

A gun shot in the early night followed later by a lot of stag bellowing made for a disturbed sleep but we made it though unharmed and in the morning I investigated the hide next to us. There are even more hides than benches and they come in a variety of styles from the basic but movable metal ladder strapped to a tree trunk to totally enclosed rooms with a view.  

   The one next to us had carpet and comfy padded seating and magazines to read while awaiting the kill. 

So on our last, short, day on the trail we once again headed off down the wildflower strewn ways  

   and past vast woodpiles outside the old village houses.  

   

At St Jacob, our highest point of the trail at 560m , there was a church dedicated to the Saint who is the same as St James of Santiago de Compostella and the pilgrimage goes either from or through here.  

   

A breakfast rest on our last bench 

 was followed by a walk down a lovely fruit tree lined farm track  

 to finally arrive at the platform over the turbine pipes we had seen on our first day on the trail. 

  
  We had made it.

Just a few km downhill took us back to the van where we gratefully raided the fridge and food cupboards before heading off to a ” proper” campsite for showers and a washing machine. Did some house(van) work, got the awning up and planned our escape. 

Thank you Germany for the forests, wild flowers, benches, huts and trails. 

  

The Grand Tour: England and Holland 4/ 5 June

Finally packed up and left Hollymount. We gave ourselves time for a 3 hour hike around Howth Head and a leisurely dinner luckily as around 20 miles from Dublin we realised that we had forgotten to bring the van and travel insurance documents. DOH!!

We had to go through the motorway toll before we could turn around and go back through it and do a 4 hour return trip to the toll again. 

We managed a stroll on the beaches of Bull Island before the ferry so all was not lost. 

  
I’m up early the next morning, out on deck of the ferry as we approach Liverpool, desperate for a look at Antony Gormley’s Iron Men statues standing in formation in the sands of Crosby as the sea envelops them. 

  
I think I see them in the distance but then the docks are upon us and after Dublin they are very impressive. It takes us over an hour to make our way to the berth so after we disembarked at 6.30 there was no time to see the Men from close quarters as we had a nephew his wife and their new born baby to visit in Sheffield before they had to go out at 10. 

So I programmed my new navigator friend “Serena” with the address and she skilfully led us through the complex motorway systems of Liverpool and Manchester which were an early rush hour shock to us country bumpkins. Clearing the commuter crush we had a glorious drive over the Peak District looking it’s best in the  sun. It seemed like summer had arrived at last on the first day of our trip and with what looked like a full moon over the ocean last night the signs were auspicious. Luckily there was a diversion (!) so we were forced to experience more of the lovely countryside before coming down rapidly into Sheffield where our visit with the new family was all too brief. 

With the day free before the ferry from Hull we headed back up Ringinglow Road to Fidlers Elbow to hike along Strange Edge to Crow Chin … and not just because we loved the names !

  
This area is the birthplace of hiking in the hills with the first mass trespass happening at Kinder Scout. Close to a huge urban population looking for free and healthy recreation the Peak District gets a lot of visitors and paths are often stone paved to relieve erosion. 

  
They also come for the climbing, the gritstone rock securing trusted grip on the sheer cliff faces and there were plenty helmeted folk at it. 

   
   

The bottoms of the cliff were strewn with mill stones carved from the rock and some of the slabs above had been cut to collect water, maybe to facilitate the sharpening of tools (?). 

   
 

The views along the Edge were lovely so we continued to the trig point before heading down into the valley for that British tradition “the pub lunch ”

   
   

Fortified with sausage and mash and a pint we did another looped walk on some of the multitude of public footpaths that crisscross Britain before heading east again through flatter lands to Hull and the ferry. 

Another calm night and flat sea made for a good sleep in our dark and windowless cabin so we were passing through the first sea defences when I got on deck for a look around at Rotterdam. 

  
Then we cruised deeper and deeper into the warren of waterways past a wealth of industry. The Dutch have been a great sea going nation for centuries and it seemed their ports are still mighty powerhouses. 

   

There had been a party of scooter riders on board and we joined them in the queue for customs. There were dozens of them, some of whom were off to a big meet in Croatia. Fair play to them. 

  
After dog ablutions and routine van maintenance we asked Serena to guide us to a wetland National Park, the Biesbosch, about 100km away. 

She got us to the nearest town, my first in Holland, and it seemed really quaint in an indescribably Dutch way. Neat and tidy, organised and very cycle friendly…and scooter friendly. 

   
 

We got a map of the park and were soon walking on raised canal and river banks through a lush landscape of grass and grain with tree lined path and roadways. 

   
 

Sea defences are everything here and there is a whole programme of building up the dykes going on everywhere. 

  
It was hot and not wanting to walk on a building site we headed deeper into the park for a swim in one of the multitude of waterways to cool off. 

  
There were some lovely riverside park ups so we knew it wasn’t going to be a problem finding somewhere to stay with a view. We continued on to explore another area of the wetland where they were building an earth covered museum and had some land art. 

   
   

We discovered an area of willow growing and coppicing where they have been making structures of all kinds

   
 

With the temperature and humidity rising we found a nice park up where we could watch the barges plying their trade up and down the river and went to bed with lightening flashes and rumbling thunder.