Category Archives: walks and hikes

A leisurely day

One of the joys of revisiting the Cotswolds (and England in general) is that we are not driven to see, see, see, so today was a relaxed day.  We wandered through Stow after breakfast, visiting the market cross in the square (thanks, Alamy), about which more later,

stopped by St. Edward’s church with its amazing door,  said to have inspired Tolkien’s Doors of Durin,visited the pharmacy for AO’s ear (stopped up due to the plane?), a lovely little shop where we bought socks for various people, and the bookstore, where I bought a walks guide for Northleach and area. 

Then I left AO to her own devices while I took a little walk suggested in the Stow Walks booklet. The first part, through town and then along a rough track through the village of Maugersbury, was very pleasant, with beautiful views of the landscape and Icomb Hill,  said  to  have  been  the  site  of  a neolithic  hill  fort.The next bit was along the the ancient Fosse Way,  but in this section the Fosse Way goes along the A429, a very busy two-lane road.  Luckily there was a sidewalk for pedestrians but still, some of those trucks came barreling down the hill at a great rate.  Then away from the highway and through a cemetery, along the allotments with these beautiful dahlias, and then to a confusing bit. A friendly fellow pedestrian offered help, so I followed her through a little ture or snicket or alley and found myself back in the town. 

Fortified with the delicious baguettes we had bought earlier, we set out for a mild little trip to Northleach, where our friends Peggy and Eddie spend a few weeks every spring.  The church is a classic perpendicular, and inside were several brasses featuring worthies standing on wool sacks,  from  which  local  fortunes  were  made.  You  can  see  that  they  are  protected  by  these  rugs  most  of  the  time.Shades of Angela Thirkell! The chatty woman at the info desk has children in the US and spoke admiringly of our country – except for the frequent random murders, of course…  We also stopped briefly near Sherborne, where P&E rent their National Trust house. Doesn’t it look ghostly with the autumn grasses?  You get there down a long, long one-lane road, luckily with a few turnouts for oncoming traffic. Beautiful, but I wouldn’t want to be driving down there in the dark!

Next on to Burford in search of the garden centre that Peggy touted.  The main street was so congested, and we were not sure of the location, that I finally turned on my phone ($10!!) to get directions.  The centre was a mix of high-end home furnishings and the best garden shop in the world.I picked up some seed packets, and Alison found a darling little bird for her windowsill.

Our final stop was Minster Lovell, a small village along the banks of the Windrush, which we would call a creek or stream rather than a river.  Charming, but nowhere to stop and admire it so we went down the road to the church. Small and nice and obviously hard to maintain, with a shrinking number of congregants and an ancient building in need of maintenance.  But the interior seemed well used and busy. No stained glass, thanks a lot, Henry VIII!

Back towards home, planning to stop at a gas station to top up the air in one of the tires, which causes the car to display exclamation marks.  Unfortunately, even though we got the tire up to 32 psi, the car is still unhappy. Maybe tomorrow. We came back to Stow and the promised roadworks meant we couldn’t take our usual route in, so we ended up in Lower Swell (because once you’re on a road, there’s almost no place to pull over or turn around).  Reversing and retracing our route, we finally found our familiar Sheep Street and home. Driving is always harder at the end of the day. Dinner tonight at The Bell was the best dinner of the trip so far: Lamb for AO, sausages and a rocket salad with pickled shallots for me, both imaginatively cooked. 

Costa Rica wildlife

If I were maintaining this blog for fame or fortune, I’d be in the gutter by now!  But since it’s just for me (and a few of mine), I will randomly post a list of the birds we saw in Costa Rica back in 2016.

Beth, Bill and I took several lovely walks near their house, which was nestled in the side of a hill and looked out over a thickly wooded ridge (they’ve since moved).  Sitting on the deck, we had a great view of all kinds of birds.  We also walked up to the Cloudbridge Nature Reserve, and took another walk near their previous house, through a small village and through the woods.  However, it was very windy the couple days that I was there, so we didn’t see quite as many birds as we might have.

Here’s a list, along with pictures that are mostly not from me.

Scarlet-thighed dacnisdacnis

and my far less good picture

toucanet (emerald)  – this is such a classic tropical bird that it was very exciting to see it!

emerald-toucanet

lance-billed hummingbird (thanks to the birdcraft website for this one because we were peering and following it but never got this close a look)

sulfur-winged parakeets (thanks, Sherms Photos)

turkey vultures (we all know what they look like)

Baltimore oriole (ditto)

Squirrel cuckoo

A long walk on a wet day

Thursday was our free day to walk and we spent quite some time determining which walk to do.  An out and back at Loch Muick (pronounced Mick) on the Balmoral estate?  A walk up behind Crathie Church?  Around Ballater?  At breakfast it came to me: we would do the Muir of Dinnet walk around the loch, flat, 3.7 miles, pretty straightforward. Amanda, Martin’s wife, cheerfully seconded the idea and we were off.

Clouds were lowering but it was not raining when we set off from the visitors center on the signposted Duck path that goes around the loch.  Along the trail was  what I gradually realized was bracken.  (On this trip I’ve seen bracken, gorse, monkey puzzle trees, a Vauxhall (the car we rented in Aberdeen), a railway embankment, rooks (heard them, too), and who knows what else from every English book I’ve ever read.)  There were lovely views, too.

Moving along… We saw an elegant black slug along the path, wearing sleek black leather above and finely pleated silk below.  On the lochs, some kind of ducks – goldeneyes? – birch trees, 

stone walls made of rounded stones, and, unrecorded by camera, hares in a field, and birds on a stone wall in that same field that I think were lapwings, I could see a plume on their heads and they seemed to be black and white primarily.  

We followed the path around and around the loch, seeming never to get closer to the end.  I was looking out for the Pictish cross and we finally found it, quietly impressive partway up a field.  I was sure that the path continued below, along the banks of the loch, so off we went.  The path became stonier and more boggy as we picked our way along, and we finally came to a broken down fence and thought, this is wrong.  Looking more carefully at the map we realized that we should have walked up the hill above the cross, so we retraced our steps and found ourselves on a wide path next to a field (where we saw the hares and lapwings).  

As we came to the end of the field, there was a danger sign about ADDERS, the only poisonous snake in Scotland.  This has got to be one of the best danger signs we’ve seen over the years.

Of course, by the time we saw the sign, we had already walked through the danger!

On and on we trudged, and although it was lovely it was also the longest 3.7 miles I’ve ever walked.  Just at the end it began to sprinkle, so our timing was perfect.  Back at the visitor center, we hopped into the car and drove to the Loch Kinard Hotel not far away.  A quick peek at the garden revealed these cheerful lilies blooming in the rain.

Inside we had the soup of the day – leek and potato – and shared a cheddar and chutney panino.  Very warm and comforting as the rain began to pelt down outside.  

Home to the room with its jacuzzi, which we both thought was nice but something we would never use.  Well, guess again – we both enjoyed taking hot baths and having the jets swirl about our aching legs.  Perfect!

 

Dinner tonight was booked at the Rothesay (pronounced Rossy) restaurant, started by Prince Charles, with all profits to benefit Ballater, which survived a terrible sudden flood on December 30, 2015.  The dinner was quite good and the service very friendly.  We found ourselves having sticky toffee pudding for dessert – delicious!  And here’s a beautiful bit of salted butter to enjoy: