The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Friday 9 November 2018

Botley Hill (270m, TQ387551) and Detling Hill (200m, TQ804586)

Looking at my blog, it looks like I haven't been for a walk since the beginning of August. There has, of course, been some walking, but nothing of a nature worth writing about. Mainly I have been running, including, at the end of September, a trot that earned me a bit of bling (and much proudness for achieving a half-marathon time of which I didn't think myself yet capable):

I'm a bit limited for running routes at home, such that if I want to cover more than 3 miles, then the canal tow path is the obvious place to go. Heading north it is rough, grassy, muddy and rooty; to the south some of it has a reasonable surface. However, I've grown increasingly bored of that canal over the last couple of months (and have got too up close and personal with it on a couple of occasions, arriving home with bloody elbows and knees). So, it's nice to have a change of scene. Yestereday I took myself off along a nice Voie Verte (disused railway line, now a traffic free leisure route) near the town of Neufch√Ętel-en-Bray in Normandy.

There aren't any buildings like this on my local running routes.

Anyway, that's not what this post is meant to be about, which is the fact that on our travels this week I managed to tick off another two Marilyns. 'Tick off' is about the size of it too; neither of these was a hill that has any merit for a special visit other than its presence on a particular list.

The first was Botling Hill, and many a Marilyn-bagger has driven right up to the top. That wasn't a feasible option in Bertie and after a grand tour of the local roads from the comfort of my armchair, via StreetView, we opted to park in Oxted and walk the 1.6 miles each way.

If ignoring the noise of the motorway, it was a pleasant enough walk through farmland and woods, with some good views at one point. As for the summit, it was somewhat lacking in merit:

I do take Mick to some attractive summits!

Mick didn't join me as I trespassed into the adjacent field just incase the ground on the other side of the compound was higher:

Detling Hill, by Maidstone, is another of those 'if I'd known then what I know now' hills, in that we passed within 300m of its summit when we walked Kent to Cape Wrath in 2010. On that basis, I didn't feel too bad about not making this visit into a proper walk, but instead settling for a bagging-raid.

As Maidstone Borough Council has decided that vehicles over 2m high aren't to be trusted in the White Horse Woods car park (even though there are also gates that are closed at night, and substantial banks all around the car park to prevent travellers from accessing the grassed areas), we had to park in the large layby adjacent to the A249 - a road not dissimilar to a busy motorway. There Mick waited whilst I discovered that the nearest public footpath that leads to the summit (only about 100m distant) has obviously been unpassable for quite some years, resulting in a possible bit of trespass and an adventure through brambles and woods. I was glad that no dog walker (or indeed anyone) was passing as I crawled out (quite literally) from under this hawthorn bush:

Having visited the piece of ground that has been adjudged to be marginally higher than that surrounding it...

An even less inspiring summit than Botling Hill
...I opted for a longer return route, via the barred-to-Bertie car park and the verge of the A249.

So, two hills not worthy of this many words, but having put them off for so long on the basis of 'we pass multiple times per year, I can do them any time', I'm glad to have visited them.

Thursday 9 August 2018

Wednesday 8 August - Wasserfallsteig

During a visit to the town of Bad Urach yesterday, we popped into the Tourist Office and picked up some information, including a booklet of local walking routes (in English!).

A panoramic (i.e. bent out of shape) shot of part of the market square in Bad Urach - an attractive little town of half-timbered houses.

We had moved on from Bad Urach by the time I perused the walking options, but they sold them so well that we resolved to return today to sample one of them. The Wasserfallsteig trail looked the joint most interesting, but it won on the basis of having been awarded first place in one of the categories of Wander Magazine's 'Germany's Best Walking Routes 2016'. I have no idea what the quality of that magazine is, but it seemed like a reasonable recommendation.

It must be a popular choice too, as the car park where we left Bertie (€3 per day - the leaflet didn't mention that!) was huge. It was also completely deserted at 10am, although a smaller car park slightly nearer the falls was filling up.

I had to nip back and change my footwear at this point ;-)

To give the first set of falls the benefit of the doubt, this dry summer may not have been the best time to view them. That said, it did rain yesterday afternoon and again before we set off this morning, so maybe they are never impressive. They were more 'dripping moss' than 'impressive fall':

I'm sure a lot of people only walk as far as the falls, and if I'd paid €3 for that, I would have felt a little cheated. Happily, we still had other features to see and they made up for the disappointing falls.

Limestone cliffs, across the top of which we were later to walk

Beyond the falls, the path lost its surface and became a narrow dirt line, clinging to the side of the steep hillside, as it cut through the trees. It seemed for a while as if trees were going to obscure all views, but we did find a couple of viewpoints along this section, including one that required a small out-and-back detour:

Mick caught me edging my way cautiously to peer over the edge

Whereas Mick just had a sit down, with his legs swinging over the abyss

We only had a bit more ascending to do from there, before we found outselves at the top of those impressive limestone cliffs. Viewpoints abounded along that section of path...

...all of them bearing some type of bench:

I've mentioned before the number of benches we have found on all of our walks in Germany, and this paragraph in the walks booklet clarifies that they (along with picnic areas and Grillplatz) are officially essential ingredients for a good walk:

A zig-zagging descent through another patch of forest took us to the second waterfall of the outing. This one was even more 'drippy moss' in its nature than the first - so much so that I couldn't even get a photograph that shows anything that looks remotely like a waterfall.

The leaflet didn't make it look like there was anything to see bar one more viewpoint on the rest of the route, so we chose to take a short cut, to take us past something marked as a point of interest on the map:

A grand farm of half-timbered buildings

We weren't entirely sure whether we trespassed a few paces to get onto their driveway, which we followed along its avenue of apple trees, back to our start point.

Our version of the route came in at 8km with 300m of ascent, and it certainly was attractive and worthwhile, even if it was not, even in our limited experience, the best Germany has to offer.

Monday 8 June - a Swabian Stroll

On Sunday afternoon we found ourselves in a car park in a green valley flanked by forested slopes broken up by limestone cliffs and outcrops - not unlike we experienced around Beuron on the Danube a few weeks ago, but on a smaller scale. We have now left the Danube, after a few weeks spent often within a stone's throw of its waters, and are currently journeying northwards, through the Swabian Alps.

My only expectations of Sunday's car park were that it would be quiet and in pleasant surroundings. It surpassed those expectations (although we did have to wait for the 'quiet' attribute, having arrived at a time of day when it was absolutely rammed with picnickers and families enjoying the river, with cars squeezed into every available spot on all of the local roads and tracks).

A map board in the car park set out two walks in the area, one being 6.8km long, the other 239km, and it wasn't a difficult decision to stick around on Monday and walk the former, complete with its advertised 11 points of interest.

The route took us easily along the flat bottom of the valley, where a small river meanders its way...

...before a turn had us puffing our way steeply up to the structure we had spotted high up above us.

The signposts had this down as a ruin, but when we got there we found a sturdy, reconstructed tower, complete with an external spiral staircase giving access to the top:

The views weren't too shoddy...

...but with a lack of shade on the top, we didn't pause at the bench there for elevenses, deciding instead to wait until a Grillplatz we knew we would pass once we got back down to the river.

It took us much longer than anticipated to get there, because a signpost to another ruin, further up the valley, had us impulsively take a detour. Alas, this ruin was less impressive. In fact, we wouldn't have noticed that we were standing inside of it, if it hadn't been for the small 'this is your location' sign on a finger post.

Route finding to get from there back down to the river proved a little tricky, but after a bit of back-and-forthing we found the way, and popped out on the valley floor right in the middle of a summer camp group of early-teens. We soon left them behind as they waited for the laggards at the bridge that took us onto the other side of the valley.

A late elevenses was finally had in a substantial shelter at the Grillplatz, thus affording us some shade. Then, shunning the perfectly good riverside track, up into the forest we went.

Looking back up to the tower from by the Grillplatz. An information sign here showed how the tower was just one part of a large set of defensive buildings on this valleyside.

Mick did question whether there was any purpose to the indirect forest-bound route. I didn't know, having understood as much of the information sign as he had, but I figured there must be something of interest up there, to have made the trail planners take the route that way. I was wrong. There was nothing of interest about that detour, although it was nice to pop out into a meadow at one point, and find it full of sunflowers:

We have been seeing fields of wild-flowers all trip, but most of the varieties are now dying off, just as the sunflowers have come into bloom.

A lack of concentration had us walk a few minutes in the wrong direction at this point, winessed by a chap in a BMW that didn't look like it was designed to be driving up a rudimentary grassy track like this one (the grass in the middle was feet high). Perhaps he had taken a wrong turn and couldn't find anywhere to turn around?

Putting ourselves right was easy, and down we went, to rejoin the riverside track that, in hindsight, we shouldn't have left in the first place (I ran that track on Tuesday morning and can confirm that it was far more interesting than the forest route).

Back at our start point, we had walked 9km with 220m of ascent and had noted just one point of interest, rather than the eleven advertised. Examining the information board again, I came to the conclusion that most of the claimed points of interest were, to my mind, just nice surroundings (the meandering river, the riverside meadows, cliffs, etc). Still, it was all lovely and a good way to spend our morning.

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Wednesday 25 July - Around Bad Schussenried

Arriving in the small town of Bad Schussenried yesterday, I thought we would only stay a day. Then, during yesterday afternoon's wander around the town, I came across a map of local walks. That, in turn, led me to do some Googling, resulting in me downloading a booklet from the local Tourist Office, setting out 8 walking routes, all with the common start point of the Market Square.

Our stay thus got extended, and having perused the routes, I selected No. 5 ('Panoramaweg') as looking the most interesting.

We didn't get off to a flying start. Initially a missing waymarker had us going back and forth around the old monastery...

...and once I'd consulted the map and got us onto the right line, we were faced with this:

Perhaps that explains the missing waymarker, as we clearly couldn't go that way.

Not to be defeated, I set about navigating us around the closure, adding about 1.5km onto the route in the process - a good job it was a relatively short route to start with.

With the sun beating down on us, we were more than ready for a bit of shade as we started ascending gently (and not for long; this is not a hilly area) to a bit of woodland. I was a little jealous of the swimmers I could see in a nearby lake. Their exercise looked far more sensible than ours in today's heat.

Leaving the tarmac behind us is usually a good thing, but today it marked the point where we started encountering horseflies. Hungry horseflies.

The occasional sound of a slap was accompanied by an exclamation of 'You bastard!' and we both incurred multiple bites.

In view of the insect activity, it seemed unlikely that we would be able to stop for elevenses, but when a bench-with-a-view appeared before us, nicely in the shade, it didn't seem to be blighted by flies. Appearances can be deceptive. Mick got three more bites whilst we were there.

My most painful bite came as we stood at a viewpoint a while later...

...from where none of the Alps were visible on this sunny, but hazy, day.

Coming to a level crossing a while later, the sign posts didn't just point across it, but also along the lines. This is a disused railway, and whilst the tracks haven't been removed, a footpath has been instated alongside them:

We abandoned Route 5 for a few hundred metres here and took to the tracks instead, rather than wiggling through the adjacent woodland.

Arriving back in town we had walked 10.5km, against the advertised 8.8 (the closure at the beginning accounting for most of the discrepancy; the out-and-back from Bertie to the start/end point accounts for the rest), with very little ascent.

It's not going to go down as one of the most interesting walks of the trip, but (aside from the biting insects) there was nothing offensive about the countryside and woodland through which we walked. I'm not tempted to sample any more of the local routes, though; tomorrow we will move on.

Saturday 21 July 2018

Friday 20 July - Around Beuron

About 4km into today's walk, I questioned whether it had any point to it. We had been weaving our way uphill through the trees, and unlike Wednesday's outing just up the road, these were dull forest tracks through conifers, rather than nice paths through mixed woodland.

Happily, the route did then redeem itself, firstly, on the north side of the valley, with a couple of viewpoints, one of which was particularly good.

There were two sets of buildings (castles?) atop tall limestone outcrops visible from this viewpoint. Not sure whether either of them show up in this snap.

We paused on a bench at the second one for elevenses, being entertained by a family whose four young children were, we decided, quads. I can't imaging the effort and level of vigilance that must be involved in taking your four 3-4 year old children out on a walk!

Having dropped from there down into the valley to cross the river (yep, still the Danube)...

...I expected to climb back up the other side. That expectation was based upon the gpx file I had downloaded, which turned out not to be the route we were following. So, instead of climbing significantly, we undulated along the river on nice paths, through interesting woodland (alive with butterflies!), taking in two caves as we went:

The first cave - I following a tunnel off it until it dead-ended at a gate. Don't worry Kay, there's not a chance that I would follow any tunnel where I can't proceed in a vertical stance!

The second one was only accessible due to the installation of a staircase

It was quite a size and had a natural chimney over to one side of it.

We arrived back at the Abbey at Beuron having covered just over 12km, with around 375m ascent and (as far as we can yet tell) without a single insect bite. Until we met the Danube, insects hadn't been troubling us. Then on the Donausinkungstelle outing we were, in places, beseiged - mainly be annoying-but-non-biting flies, but also by horseflies. I finished that day with one minor horsefly bite (minor because I felt it the moment it bit and reacted quickly). Horseflies have been around on sections of the last two walks too, but they haven't been in full-on attack mode. Then there's the ticks; fortunately, I've pulled all bar one off us before they've had chance to latch on.

Thursday 19 July 2018

Wednesday 18 July - The Danube, by Fridingen

The last walk upon which I reported was a 'Donauwellen' route. In trying to find some information about that route before we embarked on it, I downloaded the 'Donauwellen' leaflet that set out a series of routes around the Danube and I said that we would likely sample another one or two as we journeyed along.

You may recall that my verdict on our first such route was that it was perfectly pleasant, but spent a lot of time wiggling through woodland, over the course of 13km, whilst only passing two notable points of interest.

When I downloaded a gpx file for today's route from, the comment that had been left by the originator of that file said (via Google Translate):
"First section to ruin Kallenberg is really nice with great viewpoints
The second part is unfortunately almost only in the woods on the way.
Only the castle Bronnen and the rocks at the hunting lodge are worth seeing on this section."

I thus had the expectation that it would be very much like last week's walk, only longer.

We were most pleasantly surprised! To the east of Fridingen the Danube runs along a valley flanked by limestone cliffs and outcrops, and it is really spectacular. Our route started on the north side of the valley and passed through forest and meadows, with some stunning viewpoints, before dropping down to cross the river.

A ruined castle/keep was visible across the valley from this viewpoint and we were to pass it on our route.

We knew we had to ascend again once we had crossed the river, but first we followed close beside the water for a while. The ascent, once it came, didn't feel as bad as I had expected. My hill fitness from May in Scotland must still be lingering.

Being amongst forest there was no vantage point from where I could get a snap of the whole of the castle ruins, so this is just a relatively uninteresting shot of the tower. The view from the surrounding wall was excellent - but unshaded, so we didn't stop here for elevenses.

A bench had been passed at 11.02, but as we were still on the north side of the river at that point, with most of the walk still ahead of us, it felt a little early for elevenses. Benches have been everywhere on our German walks to date, so we thought we'd stop at the first nice one we came to on the south side of the river. Admittedly, we did accidentally miss out one viewpoint (took the indirect forest loop path, but annoyingly missed the short out-and-back to the viewpoint itself) and that one may have been festooned with benches, but the next one we found was at gone 12.30. Elevenses became lunch.

Lunchtime view

Zoom of lunchtime view.

The first thing we did after lunch was to drop a chunk of height, on a path that zig-zagged own a remarkably steep slope, before contouring for a while. It wasn't a wide path, and you wouldn't have wanted to trip over one of the many tree roots, or slip on a piece of polished limestone:

I doubt this conveys the steepness. Photos never do, do they?

Our descent and reascent was accompanied by the sound of a male voice choir. They were part of a large group of ramblers who, by good timing, we encountered just as the path crossed a track at the bottom of this side valley. Had we been a couple of minutes ahead of ourselves, it would have been 'interesting' to squeeze past them on the equally narrow path that ascended the other side of the dip.

The route continued to weave (horizontally as well as vertically) through the trees, but they were nice paths through pleasant woodland, so it was enjoyable even in between the viewpoints.
Finally, as we reached the castle that we had looked at during our lunchbreak, we started our final descent, to recross the Danube, for our return to Bertie. I'd forgotten about the photos on the route leaflet (which included this next feature), so it was a surprise when we passed a large cave in the base of the rock upon which the castle was perched.

Again, because of the trees and the inaccessibility of the steep slope, I couldn't get a snap that included the mouth of the cave. It was large!

The castle sits upon the rock to the right of this shot.

Crossing back over the river on a rickety bridge (we could have used stepping stones, but there were lots of people in the restaurant just behind us, which would have almost guaranteed that one of us would fall off them) we just had one final ascent, on an easy forest track, to get back to Bertie, and our final viewpoint that sat just behind him:

See that huge building a little way along the valley? It's a Benedictine Monastery and we're currently sitting in the motorhome parking area next to it, ready for another walk tomorrow.

The stats came in at almost exactly 15km with 650m of ascent.

Friday 13 July 2018

Friday 13 July - Donausinkungstelle

The car park in which Bertie is currently residing is one of the start points for a walking circuit, taking in three points of interest, thus it was easy to choose what to do with ourselves today.

I didn't find a gpx file to download, so this photo was our main point of reference for where we were going.

The start of the route (which we chose to tackle anti-clockwise) was a short but sharp shock as we ascended (only a modest 80m) at a gradient that got the heart and lungs working. There then ensued much wiggling through the forest, on paths and tracks, until we reached the first point of interest:

Initially we though it was a quarry, then decided it was a vast sink hole, then we found an information board that (with the assistance of Google Translate) confirmed our original assessment. Basalt was mined here from the turn of the 20th century until 1979.

There had been a dearth of picnic (or indeed any) benches up to this point (unusual!), so an early elevenses was had when we found one one, sitting next to the quarry:

A substantial construction, as picnic benches go

Of course, many more such facilities were then found, some at impressive viewpoints.

The waymarking on this entire route, in both directions, was outstanding. Even so, shortly after the quarry, whilst looking at an information board (making a quick fly-by assessment whether it was worth stopping to try to understand it) we both not only failed to spot a finger post, but we also failed to see the junction it was marking. It was only when we got to the next turn that the position of the arrows made me suspicious that we shouldn't have arrived from our direction of approach. A bit more looking around had me realise that we had been at that very junction before - in overshooting our turn, we'd completed a loop, back to our outward route. A backtrack put us right.

The second point of interest on the itinerary was (to our eyes) wholly uninteresting. A sink hole that was was so small and so covered in undergrowth that it didn't stir even the smallest 'wow' or 'gosh'. In fact, we would have unknowingly strode straight past if it hadn't been for the information board.

Much more wiggling around through forest (definitely in the 'perfectly pleasant but not spectacular' category of walking) brought us to the final point of interest, but this one we had already seen, having walked a small circuit from the car park late yesterday afternoon. This is, as far as we can make out, the main reason that people visit this place. It's the Donausinkuntstelle - the place where (due to limestone channels and chambers) the Danube disappears below ground in summer:

Where the Danube abruptly stops and dry river bed takes over

If our understanding is correct, it flows below ground for, on average, around 155 days per year.

These three photos were taken yesterday. We didn't cross the stepping stones today (or the dry river bed) keeping to the right bank instead.

The whole outing came in at 13km, with 300m of ascent and, to our surprise, until the last 1km, we met only two other people. Between the Donausingkungstelle and where Bertie was parked, people were out in force.

I downloaded a leaflet yesterday that sets out a number of these Danube-based circuits, and it's possible we may visit another one or two as we continue on our journey.

Tuesday 10 July 2018

Monday 6 July - Along the River Wutach at Bachheim

I don't know whether this region is saturated with good walks, or whether by random chance we just keep hitting the good ones. Either way, we had another nice little outing today.

I hadn't seen an elevation profile in advance, but I suppose it stood to reason that, as we were going to be walking alongside a river, there would likely be some descent to reach it. It turned out to be 170m, which isn't much, but was made to feel more so by being covered in a relatively short distance (plus the knowledge that at some point we were going to have to regain it).

Once we reached the waterway the initial section alongside it was pleasant but not overly remarkable. Then we reached the first bridge:

See the 'window' in the rock face on the other side of the bridge?

From there we were walking along the very base of a limestone cliff, from under which, at a couple of points, there were streams gushing out:

It was a lovely and interesting place to be - nicely shaded on a hot and sunny afternoon.

Even when not under the cliffs, it was a steep sided valley, and in one place nature had won, by taking out the path with a land-slip. No problem, said the path maintainers, we'll just chuck in a couple of rustic bridges and everyone can continue to enjoy the walk as normal:

It was a small diversion to the other bank of the river - you can see both of the temporary bridges in this snap. Judging by her yelp, the woman just ahead of us was taken by surprise by the bounciness of the first.

The bridge that was to take us back across the river for the final time, for the return leg of our circuit, was a more substantial affair:

Why the roof? No idea!

A short distance up a side stream started our re-ascent, which then took us through forest and meadows. The sky was starting to cloud over by the time we got back to within sight of Bertie, but it was still another hour or so before the sun was obscured and the day started to cool.

Whereas our last walk was advertised as 8km but came out as 10, today's was advertised as 8 but came out at 6.5km (including the bit we added by way of an exploration of the area immediately surrounding our nightstop).

Sunday 8 July 2018

Sunday 8 July - Blumberg

This post doesn't belong on this blog - it's not remotely related to walking. However, I thought the main subject deserved a bigger audience than it would get on our daily travels blog, so I'm duplicating it here.

Where's Bertie? He's still at the Stellplatz at Blumberg.
Weather: Mainly sunny, with some cloud. Warm.

It was a mundane sort of a start to the day. After a run (7.5 miles off-road alongside the railway track; just me - Mick's still injured), it was time to take advantage of having electricity, with haircuts for us both as well as strimming of legs and beard (should I clarify that was for me and Mick respectively?!). All electronics were charged and I was just about to start on boiling water to fill the flasks, ready to move on, when Mick said that he'd like to stay here a second night and visit the art festival today. So we did.

Below is a small snapshot of the creations on display, all created with chalk directly onto the surface of the road. There were 99 2D works and 10 (?) 3D. The quality varied enormously from amateur to 'Master' and I would say that about a dozen were extraordinary.

Having intially walked through starting late this morning, we returned at 5pm to see the finished works. I didn't take as many photos this afternoon, hence many of the snaps above are of works in progress.

We did, of course, pay the €4 each entrance fee today (as today we were there to join in, not just to find a pub with a TV) and it was worth every cent.

Now we wonder what happens to all of the art. Do they send a street sweeper in overnight and erase all that hard work, or is it left to wear off by the passage of traffic? Either way, a lot of work has been put in by a lot of people (in hot, sunny conditions, but all things considered, hot is better than rain!) for a very temporary exhibition.

And now, as the day marches into 'late evening' we are hoping for a quieter night. Last night was blighted by boy racers nearby. The squealing tyres would have been bad enough, but these were accompanied by much tooting and yelling. After today's exertions, I'm after a good kip tonight!