Category Archives: Walks

A walk around the fort at Cabanas. Unwelcome Autumn Changes.

Some of my gloom in this ‘post truth’ world was not just the cloudy autumn weather in Cabanas,  Portugal but the very intimidating fence put up to prevent locals and visitors from walking along the small cliffs at the end of the Cabanas broad walk. It took some time and discussions with some exploration to find out about this no access fence.

These are photos I found from a sunny January a few years back where there had been open access and an established path along the cliff, around the fort and down to the far end off the beach by the majestic old pine trees. We have always enjoyed taking friends along this route too. It is part of the natural beauty at the edge of eastern Cabanas.

Along the Ria Formosa it is designated a nature reserve and national park but the edges along the cliffs do seem to be privately owned. We ventured cautiously along the fence and the cliff edge and came to more space in front of the fort. Here it was the path again but just past the fort there was a fence with big signs up again restricting the route along the top path by the pines.
At the end of the pines there is a route down to the beach area of the river lagoon and another leading back past a farmhouse. No one tends to use that path as there is a farm building and barking big dogs at the end of it! It seems it is the owner of this land who after many many years and at least 15yearsmfor us being in Cabanas, has decided to assert his territorial rights. There have been public meetings in Cabanas and there are also rights of access paths. Sadly, battle lines seem to be being drawn.


We walked by the prickly pear border and the fort and met the manager from the fort. The Cabanas fort has been renovated inside and is a delightful place to stay. We were shown around and I would recommend it as a holiday. The owner has a passion for these old buildings and it has been lovingly restored and the visitor rooms are in keeping but modern. It is also a safe place inside for children to play and have adventures.


As you walk out from the fort there is a way back along the road and back to the board walk. Here there are still the signs of the changes in Cabanas. A little old and neglected traditional house is still there. And behind it are the new but unfinished and unsold developments of a garden village. A swimming pool facility and garden was also supposed to be built. The scrub land provides some opportunities for the wildlife. This is also part of the Eco bike route from Tavira. It is worth walking or cycling from Tavira to Cabanas on this route. It then goes up and back to the main road and then back down to the coast to the charming old village of Cacela Velha.
It is also possible to walk along the beach but the closed path does mean you could get cut off when the tide is high. It seems there are some resolutions in place for this ugly and divisive fence to be moved back a bit to return access to the path in front of the Cabanas fort.

It seems a pity that the coastal cliff path has been broken up by landowners wishing to fence off to the cliff edge. Further up from the fort there are some developments with portocabins and fences to the cliff edge. It is near here that I once stood for ages watching a hoopoe preen itself. The natural world has to cope with the challenges of development, irresponsible tourism, our lovely dogs unleashed also can disturb birds and other creatures too. And the rubbish we leave behind.

Could this cliff path ever become a nature trail? Could it be looked after by conservationists and respected by walkers,dog owners, cyclists? The beach below is protected but the cliff edge awaits exploitation of varying kinds.
I have just experienced a very different kind of fence at Donna Nook in Lincolnshire in the UK and a triumph for the conservation of grey seals on the mudflats of the Humber estuary.
That’s for the next post as I arise from the gloom of wintry weather and political uncertainties for the planet. I have focused a lot of time on revising my novel and the chestnut harvest from our very fruitful old trees at Navasola.

Rhodes; a walking haibun tour!

I am in Rhodes with a longstanding friend who loves the island and visits regularly. More will follow on this beautiful place but I am prompted by Dverse poets to write a haibun about walking.  A haibun is poetic prose followed by a haiku. My friend and I have been fortunate to do a lot of walking together.

In youth, we walked and walked, together. Teenage talks and teenage walks to Barnes pond, along the towpath of the river Thames, across Hammersmith Bridge. We walked our children too into Manchester’s many parks and out to the moors of Derbyshire. We’ve walked in friendship for more than 40 years. And now I finally walk with her in her beloved Rhodes. And we walk and walk.

Walking the past. In the present. Future thoughts.

Feet walk over cobbled stones in narrow streets. Above, the eyes take in medieval arches. Thoughts of knights and maybe horses along the wider streets leading to the Grand Palace of the Masters. Castle turrets protected the Order of St John. Stones in piles from pillars fallen. Many battles fought, won, lost. Bright bougainvillea flowers adorn walled gardens within ancient fortress walls. Scents of jasmine waft with sounds of many voices from many places. Scooters dodge the wandering tourists. Greek homes still within the sturdy old town walls from where the deep blue of the sea separates the isle from the mainland mountains of the Turkish coast. So near. So far. Empires have come, empires have gone. This small island a jewel to hold.

We walk along the ancient stadium of ancient Greeks. As women we wonder on the nakedness of men running fast, in the past! No women allowed then. Except for one. The mother of a hero. The broken Acropolis with scaffolding speaks of the need to respect the past but greatness goes. We walk around the ruins of men and there lies the small dragon lizard, still and basking in the warmth of ancient stones. We walk through the streets of modern Greece, the new town, coloured by blooms. Concrete sore we reach a deep valley park. Rodini. A jewel from the Italian rule. Now forgotten, neglected but it’s streams flow with life. Small turtles, egrets, giant carp and butterflies. We cross broken bridges, pass by young lovers. Here the world of green enjoys the lack of human tramping unlike the famous butterfly valley walked through by the multitudes who yearn for green and to see  some wild thing ; the beleaguered tiger moth.

We walk over more pebbled mosaic floors into holy places. Two headed eagles symbols for the Eastern Church. The frankincense and gold of icon painting fill the spaces with a silent sacredness. Behind a city wall a gate opens up into the Jewish synagogue. We walk through this with silent acknowledgement of a persecuted past. Spanish sounds sing songs of their Sephardic roots from Andalucia; my home now.  We walk to connect. So few returned to their island home. Down by the harbour in an old Islamic building we walk past the hopes of new refugees from not so far but far enough across the gleaming blue and treacherous depths. Later, we walk high up a hill, along a path with stations of the cross. From the giant cross, we walk no more but watch Apollo’s sun being guided down to rest beyond the horizon of the west. How long have we got left?

Broken bridges show
The eternal flow below
Walk the heart to know

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My Walk for the Climate Talks in Paris. Woodbrooke Quaker Centre. Bournville, Birmingham.

A wooden finger labyrinth in the Silent Room. An alternative to a walk outside in the cold!
A wooden finger labyrinth in the Silent Room. An alternative to a walk outside in the cold!

With the climate talks coming to an end I am posting one of my own recent walks for peace and climate justice to share with as many as possible.

We were fortunate enough to attend a conference at the Quaker Centre, Woodbrooke in November on Speaking up for Peace. For me, our relationship with nature, the soil, the air and the beauty of our blue and green planet is central to creating and sustaining peace. I also decided to focus on finding information from Syrian people involved in trying to stabilise their war torn region. I travelled through Syria and Lebanon in the 1970s and met so many hospitable and welcoming people. The human tragedy is unspeakable but needs to be heard somehow.

View from Holland house, Woodbrooke, Birmingham
View from Holland house, Woodbrooke, Birmingham

I wish we could all be able to have access to peaceful havens such as Woodbrooke and live in peaceful and tolerant communities.

Here are some of the photos of the gardens and lake in the grounds  of Woodbrooke and of my walk up to Bournville village and Cadbury’s World. The Cadbury family were Quakers and invested in  a village for the people who worked making chocolate. In the past being a Quaker meant being outside the mainstream of established society, often persecuted. Some found alternatives such as being botanists or making chocolate. I’m sure not all were perfect but a social conscience often emerged. Times have  changed and I wonder what the new global corporation of Kraft that now owns Cadbury Chocolate will give back to local communities and the environment. The Cadbury family also gave the house and grounds of Woodbrooke to be an educational centre for Quaker practice.

Quaker Meetings are held in silence and all are equal in giving some words or ministry if there is inspiration to share. Equality and ‘that of God in everyone’ has been the cornerstone of Quaker practice. Respect for all people and the environment are the way Quakers use ideas from over the past 350 years as testimonies to acting for Peace, Truth, Simplicity and Sustainability.

Reflection of Woodbrooke in lake
Reflection of Woodbrooke in lake

it is good to know that the major religions are also trying to stand up and speak out at the climate talks. Maybe rather late  but we do need to secure a better future for this planet. It is not just being idealistic to wish for this; it will be a matter of practical action for peace and prosperity  and  hopefully for all species. The talks in Paris seem to be constantly overshadowed by the politics of war, prejudice and now flooding misery for folk in the North West of the UK. More extreme weather and more extreme views seem to be dominating but my insights from social media and alternative journalism seem to suggest that there are more  people willing to take action to create peace with non violent and justice central to solutions for challenging problems.

Boat house by lake
Boat house by lake

 

View through to Cadbury World, Chocolate factory!
View through to Cadbury World, Chocolate factory!
Tourist information Centre and shop for Carilion visits in Bournville Village
Tourist information Centre and shop for Carilion visits in Bournville Village
Blue skies and tall pine for blue sky thinking!
Blue skies and tall pine for blue sky thinking!

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Holland House from walled garden, Woodbrooke
Holland House from walled garden, Woodbrooke

An Autumn Walk in the Sierra Aracena. The falling leaves of the ancient trees. The photography and Art of Ruth Koenigsberger

Old chestnut trees in the Sierra Aracena
Old chestnut trees in the Sierra Aracena

I am so pleased I have the opportunity to share the photography and links to art work of my friend and neighbour Ruth. Her photographs come from walking around the countryside with her dog, the lovely Lotti. ( featured in previous posts and a surrogate dog for me at present!) When I can I walk with her and breathe in the beauty of the changing seasons we have here. I have also shown her garden with all the poppies in my previous post and haiku to Liberty, Love and Light. The link is to her art work at the Artagora Galeria Virtual Ruth Koenigsberger. I love the way she can capture both colour and light. For me there is a deep link to nature in her work and a spiritual light within her creative art. Try the link on her name and walk round a virtual art gallery too! There are  castano trees, ancient chestnuts from the Sierra and the Caldera in La Palma but also some imaginative interpretations of our world from the inner eye of an artist.

I miss all my friends in the Sierra Aracena as I have to be in the UK for a short while. Many there live a peaceful lifestyle that can bring them close to the natural world through organic gardening, permaculture, spiritual practices, yoga and of course the creative arts. It is almost a year since I wrote Bats on my Birthday and have found blogging useful to warm up my writing muscles. I hope to write more stories and poems to help us come closer to this wonderful and diverse world of nature.

For this week I want to highlight the need to care for the living systems on the planet. There are so many people who want to rise above the atrocities in Paris and send a message that we must change the way we live in this world or the living planet will suffer and not be able to give us and all other creatures the habitats and food sources we need to thrive.

As I cannot walk on the Climate Change March  on the eve of the talks in Paris I will try some virtual walks like this one in the Sierra Aracena. Let’s hold the Climate Change talks in the light  and where possible petition and campaign for the change our planet needs.

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The lovely Lotti
The lovely Lotti
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Hollyhock and black carpenter bee in Ruth’s garden. October 2015

A Flutterby of Butterflies. Summer 2015 in the Sierra Aracena.

This year from May to early July has not only been a feast of wild flowers for me to discover and try to identify but also of so many different butterflies. My working walk into my allotment area is bordered with wild scabious which I had decided not to cut back. I was rewarded with being able to walk back and forth through butterflies resting and sometimes arguing over key flowers. It seems to be the wild scabious that they love. With its long stems it bounces up and down as you pass. It also moves gently with the butterflies and the wind and this does not make for easy photographs. A lot have been blurred. After my working walk with the wheelbarrow and scythe I walked up to the Era in the early evening.here we can check on water levels in the deposit and decide whether to pump up more before I start to water. I was flabbergasted by the flutterby of so many more butterflies up there. But then there were so many more flowers. More field scabious, but also pink centuary, and yellow curry plant and many different grasses. The Era had been a levelled out stony threshing area for grain. Possibly used back in the 1920s. We had cleared it several years ago, strimmed and scythed. However, as there were so many flowers on this area last year I decided to do nothing in September. This year I have been rewarded with more flowers and a terrific range of butterflies, albeit with photos all mainly on the scabious. Apart from the swallowtail which seems to like the bushes near the house and the cement left over from the water butt. Hopefully, it will not be a casualty of human so called progress. We hope we are nearly done with any more awful cement mixing and will have a fairly sustainable way of life and comfortable house.   .

The era meadow with house roof
The era above the house. Once used for threshing and now seems to be a butterfly haven.
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Painted Lady on Scabious.
Blog B or wild flowers Scabious and Wall brown or meadow brownEnd of May 2015 Finca flowers 043
Wall or Meadow Brown?
yellow butterfly on era
Clouded Yellow
Larger fritillary on era
Cardinal, large on Scabious!
Large yellow white butterfly
Brimstone on Scabious
yellow butterfly
Probably a clouded yellow as can see the dots!
Swallowtail butterfly
Scarce swallowtail.
small yellow on scabious
Must be our favourite flower. Wild Field Scabious in Southern Spain. Sierra Aracena.

One butterfly missing from the photo shoot is the two tailed pasha . This beautiful butterfly needs the madrono, arbutus unedo, as a place for its eggs. There are plenty of these around the house but maybe this year there have been too many disturbances. There are also many more places for this bewitching butterfly and its peculiar desire for urine. One of my last photos some years ago were of it drinking my dog’s pee. And sorry can’t find that one to add to the collection. However quite pleased with the LUMIX camera and the details. But can’t get hold of the photo editing to crop it and show the eyes and delicate wings yet. Life here in the Sierra is far more comfortable with our solar power but we still haven’t solved our wifi access unless in a bar or the local library. But the library is a cool break as the heat of the summer is rising well into the mid 30s here.

Honeymoon Highs and Lows. A Garden trail at Woburn, Bedfordhire, UK. Ipad photos, Sequoias and smiles!

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View towards house from Japanese Gardens.

When finding myself magically whisked away up the M1 motorway to Bedford we were then happy to stroll along the river and old market town and just relax after some weeks of busyness in London. I was also pleased to find Woburn Abbey nearby which I hadn’t visited since a childhood camping trip with my parents on the trusty steed, my father’s Harley D and side car. My love of the countryside was born from many of these family outings. The highlights were finding ourselves on the garden trail of Woburn Abbey Gardens, the low, the light was overcast and a cold wind and no camera. But I decided to try the iPad. So the following are my attempts on a more tricky and slippery camera in low light conditions. Inspiration to post was thinking about the blog of GardenWalk and GardenTalk and being on the trail of many of her fascinating blogs based in the USA. http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com  There are so many wonderful gardens in wet and green old England and of course, Scotland and Wales. So here is a share on this one while in the UK. Woburn was one of the first stately homes to open to the public in the 1960s and the estate and gardens had been designed by one of the first and foremost landscape designers Humphrey Repton in the 1800s.  Another high was to see some ‘young’ giant redwoods, very tall and planted in the late 1800s when it became a fashion and they were named after Wellington.  Low down I found some of the wild dead nettles ( slightly different from my wild ones in Spain in earlier post) and a tiny cone from the mighty tall tree. This has set me off on some research on Redwoods. In 1999 I visited the Coastal Redwoods near San Francisco when I didn’t know much about John Muir or the different types of redwood. We enjoyed the cathedral of redwoods but I remembering wondering why they weren’t as gigantic girth wise as seen on old pictures! I now realise why.  On exploring these trees in the UK a few years ago we found an avenue planted not far from Windsor in memory of Wellington. His name was to be used in the latin and the trees in the UK are sometimes referred to as Wellingtonia but Sequoia  has prevailed. There is a fascinating website on Redwoods in the UK. This can help you find some of these great trees but at present none will achieve the width of the mighty ones in the USA. They can live for 1000s of years! The Kew Gardens website also helped me understand the differences between these species, leaves and cones. It is always useful for identification or confusion over names and of course Kew also has one of these giants. The walk through the gardens was fascinating and showed the love of plants and trees collected and planted out in different ways. Influences from China, USA, Japan, blossoms and Tulip trees. The ancient weeping beech grove, hornbeam maze and sculptures. We just managed to see the Camellias still blooming in the conservatory. A special day.

Sequoiadendron giganteum
Wild dead nettle and Wellingtonia cone.
Magnolia time
M Magnolia time
Where's the bee? There is one!
Where’s the bee?
Heather and blossoms
Heather and blossoms and IPad cover getting in the way and cold hands!
Humphry Repton
Humphry Repton
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Grove of weeping beech trees and wild cowslip
Camellia in Camellia conservatory
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Selfie in Woburn Abbey Gardens.
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Some Victoriana and shelter from the rain and chilly wind.

Misstery Bird, Missing binoculars, Missing Birds. How many birds will we miss?

My first ventures at bird photography with the LUMIX was more successful than the dear old iPhone. It was also quite good to zoom in on birds to identify them as our binoculars have gone walkabout. In this photo I was trying to identify a large looking  egret but missed seeing the other two. It was only later, on the computer, I spotted the two other birds.

Photo of egret but includes a mystery bird camoflaged on the shore; largish with possibly long beak; curlew? and small wader paddling. Perhaps the zoom on the camera is better than the binoculars we have left in London!
Photo of Little Egret  but includes a mystery bird camoflaged on the shore; largish with possibly long beak; curlew? and small wader paddling!
Ringed plover
Ringed plover little, Charadrius dubius

I never thought how important binoculars would be some years ago when I tried using them and couldn’t focus at first. But the distinct colours and antics of birds became so vivid that now I feel lost without them. I remember the little brown bird in my garden, a dunnock,with its tawny golden streaked feathers.

Grey plover in adult winter plumage. Pluvialis squatarola.
Grey plover in adult winter plumage. Pluvialis squatarola.arden.
Another curlew on a sand bank
Another curlew on a sand bank, numenius arquata

In 2010 we walked along this stretch of the Ria Formosa by Cabanas Fort. This is a sandy dune habitat and a protected place for conservation of a range of habitats and seabirds. My eyes were opened to the variety of birds and trying to look for the leg or beak colours. This was another eye opener to the amazing range of birds I had never really thought about before.

But the curlew had always been a part of my imagination. A book read long ago in childhood described the haunting cry of the curlew. Now we need to listen to their plaintive cries and protect their habitats. Maybe the mystery bird is a curlew?  But could it be a whimbrel, a godwit or one of those green or red shanks… .? It was far too far  away to see and when I saw the photo it was also well camouflaged on the shoreline.  A bird to haunt me!

Now for the missing binoculars, not just one but two pairs. Is this what happens travelling between UK, Spain and Portugal? Unfortunately am still looking and having to use the camera to zoom in and capture a little bird.

More of a concern than the binoculars are the decline in bird numbers. How many different birds will we miss if we have never known the amazing variety that there are?    Just for starters…. Kentish plover, Ringed plover, Little ringed plover, Golden plover, Grey plover, Dotterel and let’s not confuse Dunlin, Sanderling and Knot or take a Stint or two.

Maybe they all deserve a poem or a shipping forecast with their amazing names.