Monthly Archives: March 2017

FUERTEVENTURA GR 131. Tefia – Betancuria.

Our conversation at breakfast was a strange mixture of Italian/French/English/Spanish, seemed to work. The resident hens provided superb fresh scrambled eggs for breakfast and the ginger kitten wanted to come with me. A detour around an observatory had me back on route. The Canary Islands are famous for their star gazing opportunities and observatories, it would have been good to spend time in this one. A prominent windmill was my next point, this one having originally six sails where  most have four. An information board here told of las parcelas – plots of land given to settlers last century and now mostly abandoned. The photo from yesterday showed the modern version of ‘parcelas’ distribution. Full circle.

The next stage was desolate barren land, I could see why a trail shelter I passed would be useful. The rolling hills to the north looked beautiful though and little rural houses reminded me of Tunisia which I used to visit often, how times have changed there! Further on, approaching a town identical unimaginative modern properties built on parcels of land lining the road. Each had its own barking dog tethered to a kennel, there must be a good business in prefabricated kennels. The village of Llanos de la Concepcion had nothing to offer apart from an 18th century chapel so I pushed on to Valle de Sante Ines where there was a very welcoming roadside shop/bar run by a delightful lady who provided lunch on the terrace watching the world go by.  The world consisted of the occasional local popping into the shop for a minor item and on the road a steady stream of cycling clubs powering through. When I arrived the music was Spanish but subtlety changed to a Rod Stewart rock album whilst I dined – nice touch señora, hasta luego.

Trail signage to the extreme.

Never identified this common ground succulent.

 

African atmosphere.

Modern ‘parcelas’

Convoluted lanes eventually led me out of town into a fertile valley heading to the hills where yesterday’s storms had been raging. Height was gained on roads then suddenly the GR went off at right angles onto  a paved path straight into the hills. A fairly direct ascent took me towards Coral de Guize at 588m, human statues on the pass seemed to be belittling  my slow upward progress. On arrival at the windy pass I fell into conversation with a German cyclist with tales of yesterday’s floods and the wonderful winter training opportunities. We collaborated with photos emphasing the scale of the statues, indigenous Guanche chieftains from the Island’s past.

An ancient path led down into Betancuria whilst the road wound its modern way down on the other side of the valley. Betancuria was at one time capital of the Island and is dominated by its church. Little lanes run everywhere, Little cafes serve coffee. I had been unable to find accommodation here prior to leaving UK and was due to catch the last bus out at 4.30 to Puerto del Rosario. This gave me time to inquire about Tomas who has rooms in town. The first cafe I went into knew him, phoned him  and arranged for me to meet him. His apartments were not easy to find but having done so I obtained contact details for a subsequent visit, all very useful. On the bus out were two ladies who had forsaken their all inclusive holiday in Fuste to experience inland villages off the tourist trail – good on them and I hope they made it back for happy hour. I was happy with my simple hotel at the heart of Puerto del Rosario overlooking the harbour.

A hazy Betancuria down valley.

 

FUERTEVENTURA GR 131. La Oliva – Tefia.

The number 8 guagua dropped me off at 9.30am with nothing much stirring in the village. The only sign of life were a few fancy dress stragglers on the bus returning home after a night’s carnivalling on the coast. A track left the village past a strange modern building and then a small chapel and monastery heading for the fine peak of Mt. Tindaya. This mountain was considered sacred by the indigenous people, looking at the picture taken from the chapel there are some ominous black clouds ahead. The ground is barren to say the least and again there is virtually nothing for the odd homestead to survive on. A board offers ‘parcelas’ of land for sale an echo of the schemes in the 40’s to try and attract farmers onto nearby land, each family was given a house, 2hectares and 56 pesetas towards equipment. Few remain.

Mt. Tindaya.

Arriving suddenly into the outskirts of the village of Tindaya a coffee was enjoyed in a little cafe bar, Los Podomorfos. Further in a shop provided some food and drink for an al fresco lunch and I didn’t visit the noisy bar. Sat outside the shop on a wall I was amazed at the number of cars that pulled up for a quick small purchase, the village seemed to be more roads than houses but a lot of people must live in the environs. Enclosures on the outskirts were full of untended Prickly Pears. These were originally introduced as an impenetrable spiny plot boundary and for there edible fruits. In the 19th century they became a source of income derived from the Cochineal beetle living on them and producing a red dye, now superseded by synthetic dyes  – hence the number of abandoned plots in this area. Human ingenuity always astounds me. Hoopoes were skipping about in the fields.

Ahead was a vast empty plain with a range of volcanoes to the SE, worryingly the sky had turned even blacker and rumblings were coming from those hills. On my right above was a statue of Don Miguel de Unamuno a Spanish philosopher exiled because of his political views to Fuerteventura in 1924 – there is a museum in his house in Puerto Rosario which I hope to visit. I don’t know why this statue is here of all places. Moving on the storm worsened, I was on the very edge of it with the occasional dollop of rain as the thunder and lightening raged on. A garden centre appeared with an unusual planter.

I was hoping to get to Tefia before being soaked and I did but the bar was permanently closed so a bus shelter was my refuge for half an hour. The village was deserted, a familiar statement, as I continued past an hermitage and made for an eco-museum on the outskirts. I had booked a remote villa for the night and they had asked me to phone from the museum where they would pick me up. That is always a worrying scenario for backpackers – you are losing control. There was no shelter at the museum, which consisted of an interesting group of buildings representing rural life in the last century, but the storm stayed in the mountains. My hosts eventually arrived with tales of severe flooding in other areas of the island. Their small villa was indeed remote, two Italian guys who had bought a ruin and were in the process of trying to  build a tourist business. First they need to sort out their location info as nobody would find them at present. Great boutique rooms and lovely food in an idyllic setting, if you like remoteness, made for an enjoyable stay and it turned out the GR131 was only a few 100m away.                  [ Villa Cecilio. ]

Hermitage San Augustin, Tefia.

Little shelter.

Museum…

… my accommodation, little difference.

The house kitten.

FUERTEVENTURA GR 131. Lajares – La Oliva.

Across the road from the bus stop was a surfing shop highlighting the need to clean up our beaches, complete with a striking installation being made up of beach detritus. Lajares despite being well inland seems to have become a surfing centre with lots of related shops and schools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picking up the GR markings I followed a tarmac lane out of town passing housing, this became a dirt track passing more scattered modern properties with cactus gardens, then became a narrower path running between walls reminiscent of The Dales. Abandoned fields still had the occasional fig tree growing inside its own protective wall. There were clumps of wheat scattered in the rocky ground, no doubt seeding itself over the years since last grown here. One certainly had the feeling of walking through an abandoned subsistence landscape.

Walled lanes and fields under M. Arena.

I was slowly gaining height on the slopes of the prominent Mt. Arena with views back to scattered Lajares and yesterday’s volcano walk. At the pass I came across my first trail shelter built to provide the GR walker with wind and sun protection in this harsh landscape. Up here the lava has a green lichenous covering which in the past was collected for dye production.

Back to Lajares and volcanoes.

From here La Oliva was spotted down in the valley whilst more volcanic ranges stretched out to the south.  A Chiffchaff caught my attention high in an Agave plant. On a hill ahead were two prominent windmills used previously for grinding grain. As I descended the usual collection of put together buildings with associated yapping dogs were passed, there only purpose seemingly a few goats or hens. La Oliva itself has a smart central square with its church and muscular tower.

La Olivia with M Muda behind and the shapely Tindaya to the right.

There are shops and bars and importantly a bus back to Corralejo for a late lunch and a swim. These short days are suiting me.

The locals’ beach, Corralejo.

FUERTEVENTURA GR 131. Corralejo – Lajares.

Getting out of Corralejo seemed complicated, bits of waste land, a deserted failed development with nothing built but roads, signs and lighting and eventually a dirt track heading into the hills. The GR131 waymarking was now frequent making me think I’d come the wrong way at the start.

Looking back to Corralejo and Isla Lobos.

The way to Lajares crosses a vast area of lava known as Malpais of Bayuyo – badlands – between volcanic cones. There were a few habitations with a few goats. A natural gas cave was seen on the right and was bizarrely being visited by a man wearing a thong accompanied by a normally dressed lady, I kept a safe distance.

Don’t click.

On the left was a caldera on the flanks of Bayuyo, ahead however was a more prominent volcano,  Calderon Hondo 248m, and this became my objective despite being off route – it was asking to be climbed. A track led to it and a steep ascent reached the crater which provided a pleasant circuit. This seemed a popular venue, a land rover track giving easy access for tours, and lots of people were taking selfies against the 100m crater. The ash cone showed fantastic laval bandings. The rocks provided some footing for low plants and mountain goats were running around up here. Extensive views over the malpias below with occasional old enclosed agricultural areas with Corralejo and Lobos Isla behind and Lanzarote just across the channel. People were bending over taking pictures of the hungry and cheeky Barbary Ground Squirrels. This species was introduced from Africa, only a 100k to the east, in 1965 [why?] and has proved a good source of food for the frequent Buzzards.   Ravens were flying past in raucous cry. At the back of my mind was the film of Mt. Etna erupting last week, but surely this volcano is completely dormant…?

Calderon Hondo.

Distant Lanzarote.

I dropped out of the wind for a lunch of bread and tomatoes, don’t these fresh local tomatoes taste great. A camel train passed me carrying tourists and further down the mountain I came across their base. My path was well constructed through the lava fields to make easy walking and soon I was heading down a track into Lajares and rejoining the GR131. A cafe was open and served good coffee, while I was there it was inundated by a posse of 4×4’s depositing tourists on an adventure trip. Time to find my little bus stop for the number 8 guagua back to town.

Path to Lajares

Reliable bus service?

Hint – I’m glad I searched out the Kompass 1:50,000 map to replace the Discovery 1:100,000 which would have been inadequate for navigating. The signage and waymarking however are superb.

FUERTEVENTURA GR 131. Isla de Lobos.

I’m stood at the lighthouse on the northern end of the island of Lobos, just across the sea is Lanzarote where my journey on the GR131 through the Canary Islands began a couple of years ago. To reach here I’ve flown from Manchester, in the company of five lovely scouse sisters on a jolly; caught the bus to the surfing centre of Corralejo, booked into a great apartment; crossed the sea on a glass-bottomed boat and walked 5k up the eastern side of the tiny Lobos island.  A familiar sight of a wooden GR131 way post has me started on this next stretch. The weather is perfect and the walking an easy 6k stroll back to the jetty – what a way to start a short holiday.

The lighthouse was opened in 1865, originally powered by olive oil giving a red light. From 1883 a lamp ran on paraffin, and then in 1923 acetylene.  A system of solar panels and batteries now provide the power for a halogen lamp and when the lighthouse was automated in the 1960s the keeper and his family were the last to leave the island. The only temporary residents now are conservation staff and a few fishermen. At the southern end of the island are a few ‘huts’ all that is left of the village of El Puertilo above its tiny natural harbour. Here there is a small restaurant which, when I arrived, was being restocked from the ferry by wheelbarrow.

Stocking the Island.

El Puerlito.

Faro de Lobos.

Lobos is of course volcanic, last activity 10,000 yrs ago, magma frozen in time. A nature reserve where one is allowed to follow a few delineated tracks. I had read of rare birds – petrels, shearwaters and osprey but all I saw were a few gulls. The flora was easier to observe, if not identify.

Following the GR131 back across the island I passed the base of a volcanic cone but time was short [there will be plenty more] and I opted instead for a swim off the Playa de la Caldera. There was time however to visit the salinas, evaporating pools for salt extraction which were not apparently ever used.

Salinas and caldera.

Playa.

The sea was calm for the short trip back to Corralejo. My apartment block turns out to be tops – lovely warm swimming pool to relax in, studio room with sea view and kitchenette. A cheap supermarket round the corner sorted out my meals for the next few nights.  The room rules included “no board in the room” I thought to start with food not allowed until I realised they meant obviously no surfboard.                   http://www.surfingcolors.com/

 

Whats to come –

 

LONGRIDGE FELL – YET AGAIN.

I had no sooner booked a trip to the Canary Islands, to get away from our dismal weather, when the temperature here shot up and the sun was shining. Will it last? Better get out, make the most of it and do a bit of training. Now when I say training I mean go for a short walk. I chose Longridge Fell again as I was hoping for clear views, but which way up?  It is so easy to park up near Cardwell House but I decided to reverse my usual routes for variety. This turned out to be quite different and not entirely successful, for some reason my anti clockwise circuit was strangely unbalanced. I couldn’t really say why – the wrong views, the wrong gradients, the wrong approach.

So what was new today, apart from the sunny weather?  There has been a lot of timber extraction on the fell in the last few years, partly due to the Ramorum fungus and also with maturity. Interestingly I’ve spent a few days recently cutting down a Blue Spruce in my garden. It suddenly lost all its needles a couple of years ago and has not recovered. Spruces are susceptible to the disease and I wonder whether I brought it back from the fell on my boots. The tracks on the fell have been improved to take the heavy machines and lorries involved. They only need to quarry superficially into the fellside to obtain  hardcore for the tracks. I had just passed one of these quarries when I came across a lorry and trailer being loaded with cut timber. It looked a slick operation.

Distant Pendle Hill.

Ready made hardcore quarry.

Smaller tracks took me to the top and the views were clearer than the other day, the Yorkshire Three Peaks were prominent and across Chipping Vale the Bowland Fells distinct. On my way down the ‘balcony’ path I started to meet people coming up from the now busy carpark.

A good 5.5 miles. I was home for lunch.

 

LONGRIDGE FELL – UP AND DOWN DUDDEL BROOK FROM RIBCHESTER.

 

Oh, The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men;
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.

And when they were up, they were up,
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only half-way up,
They were neither up nor down.

Today’s walk followed that futile theme and the rhyme filled my head.

Duddel Brook rises quite high on the southern slopes of Longridge Fell and reaches the Ribble in Ribchester. This Brook have carved its way down the hill and created a wooded valley [seen on the OS map as a green caterpillar] for the most part secretive. The other obvious stream is Dean Brook passing through Hurst Green. Their importance in the past was related to the many small mills powered by the rushing waters and hence they are worthy of exploration today.

From near the Roman Museum in Ribchester I set off along the Ribble to where  the Duddel Brook issues close to a Roman bath house whose outline has been excavated. Normally field paths from Stone Bridge would lead across to Gallows Lane but at the moment they are virtually flooded so I followed the main road before turning up the Lane. A mullioned cottage at Lower Dutton is outstanding. I gained access to the brook a little higher and wandered through the beech woods alongside the water. Old mills appeared with signs of mill races, lodges and ruined wheel installations. I believe that bobbin making was the main industry here. Above the deep valley there was a brief view of Dutton Hall a prominent C17 house with a commanding aspect over the Ribble Valley. I crossed the brook on bridges and eventually deep in the valley recrossed by a shallow ford.

Start and finish – Duddel Brook entering the Ribble.

Roman Bath House.

Dutton Hall.
Wikipedia.

The path climbed away from the stream into fields. A lone oak tree, perhaps 300yrs old, was a waymarker across the field. On the road a small wholesale unit purveyed vitamins as well as ‘sweets’, I didn’t 

only half-way up – neither up nor down

  Again I took the easy drier tarmac option, walking up Huntington Hall Lane past several expensively converted houses and barns. After a steep section Huntington Hall itself appeared on the right, a 17century house which has had a lot of money spent on it in recent years. At the road corner I was back into the fields with views back to the Ribble Valley, I meant to say this was a rare, sunny, dry day. Cresting a hill Intack Farm came into view, again a place spending lots of money with a horse arena right across the footpath but the diversion was no problem and well signed – but is it legal? A quick peep into Crowshaw Quarry showed it to be remarkably dry, could be bouldering here later this week. Crossing the road the main forest track was taken eventually leading up to the trig point on Longridge Fell. Chipping Vale and the Bowland Hills were fairly clear but that was not really today’s objective.

Huntingdon Hall.

Longridge Fell Trig point.

when they were up, they were up

 

I came down by the track to Lennox Farm near where the Duddel Brook probably starts life.  A lane took me past Goodshaw Farm where the new lambs were being tended, the farmer told me he had 600 sheep to lamb this year and was concerned about the wet fields he was placing them into. Below the farm was an old barn, Smith Bottom, which on close inspection revealed two perfectly shaped cruck frames thus giving a clue to its medieval age. Down steeply through beech woods overgrown with rhododendrons to a bridge over our brook. This lane leads up to the highly secretive Dutton Manor in its cloak of trees.

A young Duddel Brook.

Smith Bottom cruck barn.

Trees hiding Dutton Manor.

Across the next road was Duddel Farm on its exposed hill. The farmer was feeding cattle in the barns and bemoaning the wet conditions, but despite that remained cheerful and chatty – we had many mutual friends and interests. He was right about the conditions as the next few fields leading back to Ribchester were almost afloat and the mud slowly crept above my knees.

 

I don’t normally take selfies.

I was keen to reach the last two listed buildings at Stydd. First was St. Saviours a simple C12 chapel. Its plane interior has a flagged floor with ancient gravestones, a stone coffin and wooden pulpit and rails. Very evocative. Further down the lane is Stydd Almshouse built in 1728 to house the poorest parishioners. It is an architectural gem with its central staircase and diminutive size.

St. Saviours.

So back to where I started.

when they were down, they were down

 

I would like the challenge of an entire ascent of Duddel Brook – obviously in dry summer conditions and with a good degree of so called trespassing. Watch this space.