Great Wood, South Downs National Park

Great Wood, South Downs National Park

Chilly hike in a brisk north wind out from Preston Park, Brighton to Great Wood in the South Downs National Park. It’s a privilege to wander amongst the many big old trees in Great Wood; they’re mostly beech and many have to be more than a century old.

More photos: Great Wood, South Downs National Park

Wimbledon Common
Wimbledon Common

Putney Heath
Putney Heath

Sunday stroll through Fulham, Putney and Wimbledon. But it is hard not to see just my lockdown routes in this area close to home. We all did them, these permitted daily exercise walks, desperate to escape the four walls that we call “home” but also anxious to “stop the spread” or catch Covid and be part of the problem.

Read more: Exorcising lockdown walk routes

Panoramic view from Roche Courbe
Panoramic view from Roche Courbe (1938 m.)

View hiking to the Col d'Aspres

An exceptional hike from Corps to the limestone ridge between the Pointe de Rogne (1651 m.), the Col d’Aspres (1758 m.) and the Roche Courbe (1938 m.). Wonderfully diverse flowers and wildlife along the ridge path and in the alpages leading to it. The Sentier des Crêtes overlooks the valley of the River Drac up towards the Col de Manse (1251 m.), then the Alps of Haut Provence, and over towards the Dévoluy Massif and the Valgaudemar. The Route Napoléon weaves its way alongside the river. In the other direction, the Lac du Sautet and its dam, then the Vercors plateau in clouds.
Not the easiest climb: steep and once the path became indistinct in the alpages, a matter of “always up”. But a rewarding walk both in terms of the visual opportunities and not having had as long a hike for several years. I hope you enjoy my journey through my photos.

More photos: Le Grand Journal - Col d’Aspres - Roche Courbe (1938 m.)

Skiddaw House, Cumbria

Skiddaw House, Cumbria

Sights and shapes on the paths to Skiddaw House hostel (470 m.), round the back of Skiddaw (931 m.) and Lonscale Fell (715 m.), it’s accessible on the Cumbria Way from Mosedale, Glenderaterra or Candleseaves Bog.
Skiddaw House was built circa 1829 as the gamekeeper’s lodge for Skiddaw Forest (hunting reserve), then it was run by the YHA as “Britain’s highest hostel”, currently it is open to private groups only. Skiddaw House is out of sight of towns and villages so it seems a long way from anywhere, plus the facilities are basic. Even now it is well out of the range of the mobile phone networks, which - rather charmingly - peter out just beyond the gate to the fells. You do indeed feel you are “At the back o’ beyond” as the slogan on the YHA’s Skiddaw House postcard used to say.

More photos: At the back o’ beyond: Skiddaw House (470 m.)

La Grande Tête de l'Obiou - Dévoluy

GR94 above Col du Festre, Dévoluy

A dramatic dawn over L’Obiou (2789 m.) that you see from the Route Napoléon near Corps. but clear enough to set off. Hiking up a section of the GR94 from the Col du Festre (1430 m.) above Agnières-en-Dévoluy for a couple of hours I found I was facing the final descent of an organised trail run. There’s a vicarious pleasure in seeing others do what I can no longer do, ie trail running and working in pairs “bînomes”, but I still wish I could still run downhill like that, hands flailing.
Meanwhile the clouds were gathering, the berger and his dogs were bringing his flock of sheep down to lower pastures. The first spots of drizzle started as I reached the upper valley which leads to the Col des Aiguilles and it was a full on cold shower for most of the way downwards. It’s an old saying that there are no hot showers in the mountains, neither out on the rock nor in mountain refuges, bunkhouses and Alpine huts. Still true today. Nonetheless a pleasure to hike on the rocks above the tree line for the first time after so long in the thick air down near sea level during the lockdowns. Onwards and upwards!

The Col des Aiguilles (2003 m.) is one of the cols in sunlight to the extreme left of my dawn photo.

More photos: Vallon des Aiguilles (1829 m.) - GR94 - Dévoluy