Saturday, 31 May 2014

HUBB UK 2014 19th-22nd June

Since our return from Portugal life has largely concentrated on Mum's move to Shropshire with big developments expected shortly.

In between I have enjoyed a memorable ride in the Elan Valley checking up on bothies,





 a soggy farm sit near Brecon and a stunning day on the Carmarthen Fans. 



This was followed by a long walk in superb conditions around the Cotswold Valleys north of Bristol which left us all grateful for a pint after a long hot day.


Excitement was provided by a concrete pour involving a large lorry in a tight site.



Exertion came in the form of various thrashes on the bike around the mid Wales trails of Abergorllech and Halfway. A more leisurely ride along the Millenium Coast path to Pembrey saw major dredging works at Burry Port Inlet which looked like a good day out for the machinery operatives!



The excellent Carwood's up here in Coventry gave the van's turbo an hour's diagnostic check over and pronounced both it and the engine to be in good order - it was refreshing to find a company that did not take the opportunity to make a quick buck as I was fully expecting to have to splash out a fair whack on a replacement : they would not even take payment for the exploratory work.

This weekend has been spent placing spare furniture with first time buyers as Mum will be treating herself to new and putting my presentation photos in order for the forthcoming Horizons Unlimited UK event in 3 weeks time.

It promises to be yet another inspirational weekend so try to find a gap in your diary for at least one day at Donington - get organised before the 12th of June for a useful saving and visit  

www.horizonsunlimited.com/events/hubbuk-2014 

During the 90 minute presentation I shall look back over a decade of travel to Europe, North Africa and Australasia with glimpses further back that cover life before I took to the road and the more recent changes whilst the 45 minute session will focus on the plans, preparation and execution of the Japan, New Zealand and Australia trip. As an appetiser a few of the highlights can be found here, for the rest - see you in the audience.




 

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Pointing at bothies, planes on the ground and placid in Portugal.

After the tumble from the bike I approached the Lluest Cwm Bach work party with caution as my ribs were still a source of concern. Fortunately the estate had loaned us the resourceful Dean and his quad which swiftly delivered a ton of materials and supplies to the bothy across a mile of bog on a warm and sunny day.

Over the weekend a sustained effort by all saw the interior walls fully pointed, drainage trenches dug and even the troublesome loo door finally beaten in to submission. The companionship and atmosphere were again true to the spirit of volunteering with much humour, co-operation and team work. The evening barbecue filled empty stomachs and the fine weather raised everyone's spirits - well done Martin the newly appointed MO. 

If you are inspired to join us on other workparties take a look at www.mountainbothies.org.uk or email me for the latest plans - my contact details lurk in the profile section to avoid the crawler bots!!

On a return from Shropshire where the other parties involved in the purchase of Mum's new home were given a delicate prod I visited the excellent RAF Museum at Cosford ( www.rafmuseum.org.uk/cosford ) which provided several hours of interest. A wide variety of experimental and service aircraft were on display with a wealth of information backing up the sleek and not so sleek machines - seeing the technology involved in close up was fascinating and the long and proud history of British aviation was done justice.

Indeed a week later 3 of us were even closer to said technology as we boarded an Airbus A320 at Bristol bound for Lisbon. A two hour flight dropped us in warm sunshine after good views of the south west of Britain, the north western tip of France and the northern coast of Spain that I had explored at leisure a little over a year ago. 

The hire car was a LH drive manual version of Mum's Up! so seemed immediately familiar and after a speedy crossing of the empty Portuguese interior we were in the Alentejo.
Mum and Pen were intrigued by the large and unruly stork nests astride almost every electricity pole, each containing a couple of leggy chicks whilst for me the green grass and astounding flowers were the biggest contrast to my usual winter visits. Camping Asseiceira looked as idyllic as ever and we received a typically warm and generous welcome from Gary before settling Mum in to the comfortable rooms (preview them in the gallery at www.campingasseiceira.com ) after which Gary, Penny and I went in to Santo Antonio for a few drinks and to see the spectacular fireworks that marked the end of the village festival

A warm and sunny morning saw us heading to nearby Valencia de Alcantara across in Spain to shop in the local market where fresh fruit, olives, vegetables, cheeses and meat cost a fraction of the UK prices.
Back in Portugal we topped up with other goodies at the Pingo Doce near Castelo De Vide followed by a walk round the quiet streets and castle of Marvao and a glass of wine or two to celebrate our good fortune.
Over the next week we enjoyed hot sunny days, blue skies, and cool beers. The slow rural pace of life took over as we walked the local lanes, visited old favourites of mine and made new friends amongst the locals and the multinational ex - pat community.

We were impressed by the ambitious plans of a young family from Lisbon who are setting up a guest house in the old station at Beira (the last trains have run but I hope they will be able to preserve the painted tiles and other features of the historic buildings) and enjoyed a nose around the free camping provision at a local reservoir before stopping to enjoy views over Castelo de Vide from a small hill top chapel.

Penny and I explored an old village that was gradually abandonned in recent years after the EEC borders were opened up and an illicit trade in smuggling evaporated almost overnight. Wild bees were starting a hive in one old building and two huge clay jars sat forlornly in a collapsed kitchen that sported a vast wood fired oven. The stream that marked the border provided refreshment for hot soles and souls and we returned as the afternoon heat eased passing an old farmer spreading muck from a donkey and cart.

A good meal out introduced us to a lass from Nottingham whose rural retreat we visited later in the week - 5 dogs, 3 donkeys, a number of sheep and assorted poultry plus a few acres of olives and vines keep her busy and I may well return later in the year for a couple of weeks to give her a long overdue break.

Castelo de Vide's  impressive church dominated the square where we enjoyed lunch outside before climbing to the castle ramparts which gave good views across the terracotta roofs, white walls and flat plains that led mainly to Spain. To the west we could see the tiny chapel that faces the town across the valley whilst to the south lay the highest point in the Serra de Mamede and to the north the snow capped tops of the Estrellas.



A day out to Estremoz introduced us to an area of Portugal that supplies exquisite marble and the handsome product adorned many of the grand churches and castles as well as the more humble homes and businesses - the actual quarries were surrounded by huge shimmering spoil heaps as yet again the sun shone and temperatures rose. Evoramonte's striking castle provided a cooler, loftier place for lunch before we followed a delightful back road to Elvas for a visit to its castle and aquaduct.

After a final relaxing Saturday we were away on the Sunday and an efficient combination of private and public transport arrangements saw us rather surreally back in Coventry within 12 hours. The take off from Lisbon gave us a superb view of the compact capital and even Bristol and South Wales were visible as we approached over Exmoor.

Without wishing to embarass anyone I would like to thank both Mum and Penny for entering in to the holiday spirit with such enthusiasm and good humour and also Gary for such superb hospitality - this traditional and unspoilt corner of Portugal is a calm and sunny haven that deserves a visit and the options available at Asseiceira would meet any requirements or budget, I look forward to my return in the near future.

Back home the van received an oil change, fan belt adjustment and additional fog and reversing lights as it approaches 300,000 miles on the clock and I prepare for a short farm sitting break near Brecon.

The June Horizons Unlimited meet is a little over a month away - if you are bitten by the travel bug then it would be well worth a visit so have a look at www.horizonsunlimited.com/events/hubbuk-2014

When you have time click HERE for some piccies and HERE for my occasional whereabouts.

Now that the blog has been running for almost 5 years there are a lot of posts to trawl back through so why not utilise the search facility on the RH side if there is a particular place or event you wish to find quickly?

Finally given the large number of viewers from various corners of the globe I have added a translation gadget to the blog which I hope assists international interest - as ever I was aware of my linguistic limitations when confronted with the Portuguese language which to my ears sounds like Russian and was humbled by the abilities of various museum guides, restaurant owners and Gary's friends to communicate in a familiar tongue - obrigado!

PS if you have a smartphone definitely download the Google translate app - seriously useful.....