Brighton’s best free-bee

The whole world always seems to be enjoying the flat, wide, street level promenades stretching for miles to Worthing in the west and Saltdean in the east, especially close to the fabulous pier, aquarium and lido.  The beach level walk with its many amenities is currently buzzing with Olympic fans being treated to a mega-screen treat but how many know about the relatively quiet undercliff walk past the Marina Village?  The village centre has shops and restaurants for every purse and taste but the board walk along the dual yacht basins is stunning.  Leaving the double-decker be-terraced Wetherspoons (they know how to do it!) pedestrians pass rival tempting outdoor/indoor restaurants leading between exclusive apartment blocks and hundreds of motor or sailing boats.  South-facing seats stud the walk allowing space to stop and stare or plan how to raise the asking price for those for sale (£4000 to £600,000 yesterday).  Fishing boats dominate the second basin.  There is always plenty happening: maintenance, comings and goings of boats and crew.  Visitors can park free and buses come every few minutes to central Brighton or towards Eastbourne. The board walk is an all-age treat, a living ‘museum’ which is free and away from the usual ice-cream etc seaside temptations.  Continuing the walk to Saltdean under the white chalk cliffs with tea shops enroute makes a perfect day-out in any weather. 

Amazingly warm Emley walk

don’t miss Emley Show on August 4th

The full 6 mile walk was written by John Lieberg and Douglas Cossar but it felt much longer because of the numerous stiles and huge clods of dried earth needing negotiating near many gates.  However all 17 of us agreed it was well worth the effort.  Starting from Church Street (free) car park behind the Post Office it leads across many fields of crops and cows to the bottom of the West Yorkshire Sculpture Park at Bretton and back again via Thorncliffe Grange Farm into Emley again. You could have a really quick look at the glorious countryside from either the starting or finishing points on Church Street.  Take School Lane, a track and footpath (newly strimmed) into a road, turning right along it to find a path opposite behind some cottages.  Just walk straight ahead keeping the hedge on your left until you reach the first stile, surrounded by open countryside.  That’s where the fun begins if the mixed herd of curious calves decides to stalk you!  Alternatively walk down Church Street past School Lane following your nose or asking someone for directions to the narrow road leading downhill  to the farmyard.  Go through it and over the first stile to see more open country with fields of barley, wheat and what looked like corn without any cobs.  Don’t forget to pop into Emley Farm Shop afterwards for their renowned meat pies and freshest of vegetables.

agonising contrasts from Aleppo

It’s shocking to see it being wilfully destroyed by Assad’s military might on TV every day.  It was such a vibrant city when we visited in 2000, borrowing a British Council flat in a newish block for a few days.  We followed T.E. Lawrence’s footsteps into the Baron Hotel and enjoyed the old bar with its photographs telling the story of how he earned his ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ title.  He even looked like Omar Sharif who played him in the beautifully shot film.  Our stony desert surroundings in Deir Ezzour did not have the same glamour as its dunes and whenever we travelled through sand we were forced to stop by ‘whirling dirvishes’ which were distinctly unglamorous.  Aleppo’s souks were the same madhouse as ever but we made friends with a local family and were priviledged to see something of their home life including their Turkish origins on a wonderful trip into a hill village.  The strength of middle eastern tribal backgrounds is hard to grasp for ‘westerners’ like ourselves in 2012  but the current BBC ‘Hollow Crown’ Shakespeare History Plays reminds us of similar power struggles between the English aristocracy and their private armies in the Middle Ages. How Syrians must all be suffering now, whichever side they are on of the civil war.  Every day brings fresh news of regime defectors and speculation that the government will crumble but what will replace it? And how long will it take to rebuild homes, livelihoods and grieving families?   

more rock carving at Pennine vantage point

Parking in the popular Lower Royal George pub on the A640 just past Outlane village we crossed over to the Colne Valley viewpoints via Pole Moor and Pole Hill onto Rocking Stones, passing the 1302 brewery, now a private house.  There are many paths around here so you can easily vary the route but ours began at 7.15pm after fairly continuous rain so every field was really sodden as hay-making hadn’t started.  The views more than made up for that as we climbed Rocking Stone Hill to Wholestone Moor where the whole of the Pennines towards Ripponden and Halifax were laid out beneath us, just as sun set in a patchy blue sky to the West.  The huge stone on top was donated and engraved ‘I will raise up mine eyes unto the sky’ by Johnson’s Quarry in 2003.  Some say you can see the Ural mountains in Russia on rare days from here!  Returning downhill couldn’t be easier as the pub lies just underneath here.  A lovely walk in any weather with several well-placed isolated seats.

Damascus on the day Assad’s father died

We were excited about seeing city life, staying in a teaching colleague’s flat until our flight home, and had been to a hillside cafe for lunch to catch a glimpse of the Golan heights.  Returning via a bus we walked past the eerily quiet Government HQ and noticed that shops were pulling down their shutters just when they should have been reopening.  I remember hearing bells but T. disagrees and thinks the Mosques were calling Muslims to prayer.  Taxis started flying past in all directions, one with a giant photo of the President draped over its bonnet.  Someone told us the President had died so we walked back to the flat as quickly as possible.  Luckily we had visited the Omayyad Mosque that morning and had met colleagues at the British Council  ‘pub’ the night before because we were telephoned and ordered to stay indoors until the driver collected us for the airport early the following day.  Officials were worried that riots might break out but civil unrest was nowhere near being sufficiently well organised in 2000.  All we can recall is some groups gathering underneath the flat in a popular shopping area, nothing to stop us from venturing out but we still obeyed because our 10 week contract with the oil technicians at Deir Ezzour had convinced us that Syrians were right to remember the 10-2000 dissenters killed for opposing the regime.  You can imagine our family’s relief when we touched down at Heathrow the next day but now we can see the tragic cost of the Syrian people’s silence on the day when they might have managed to stage a coup and avoid the dictatorship of the next 12 years.     

Manchester bargain lunch and Poetry on the Pennine Way

The Britannia Hotel did us proud with a relaxed £6.50 3 course carvery just off Piccadilly Gradens but booking is essential on Fridays.  Next time we’ll visit the Town Hall and Football Museum, both free and highly recommended by locals.  Manchester is less than 30 minutes by train and just full of wonderful old buildings not to mention the Salford Quays’ Imperial War Museum, The Lowry and new BBC centre. Ideal for rainy days in any season.

Our 6 mile 3 reservoir walk from Blackstone Edge on the A58 from Ripponden had horizontal rain, brisk winds and Pennine Way Poetry!  Simon Armitage’s Rain is carved into a Millstone Grit Tor about a mile along from the White House pub.  It’s a gem, reflecting exactly how we felt about catching a raindrop and letting the ‘front of the mind’ deal with the ‘brunt of the world’ at this marvellous viewpoint on top of the moor.  The walk was flat and easy along a paved path before turning back through somewhat boggy heather clumps…sticks were useful.  Must revisit one fine day and that might happen soon as the jet stream controlling our recent rainy depressions is apparently moving North to allow high pressure in from the Continent!  Hooray!  In time for school holidays.   

Manchester bargain lunch and Poetry on the Pennine Way

The Britannia Hotel did us proud with a relaxed £6.50 3 course carvery just off Piccadilly Gradens but booking is essential on Fridays.  Next time we’ll visit the Town Hall and Football Museum, both free and highly recommended by locals.  Manchester is less than 30 minutes by train and just full of wonderful old buildings not to mention the Salford Quays’ Imperial War Museum, The Lowry and new BBC centre. Ideal for rainy days in any season.

Our 6 mile 3 reservoir walk from Blackstone Edge on the A58 from Ripponden had horizontal rain, brisk winds and Pennine Way Poetry!  Simon Armitage’s Rain is carved into a Millstone Grit Tor about a mile along from the White House pub.  It’s a gem, reflecting exactly how we felt about catching a raindrop and letting the ‘front of the mind’ deal with the ‘brunt of the world’ at this marvellous viewpoint on top of the moor.  The walk was flat and easy along a paved path before turning back through somewhat boggy heather clumps…sticks were useful.  Must revisit one fine day and that might happen soon as the jet stream controlling our recent rainy depressions is apparently moving North to allow high pressure in from the Continent!  Hooray!  In time for school holidays.