not a ski holiday


Let's go back to mid March, and a tale of two ski holiday providers.

We'd booked a package deal to Austria with Skiworld, which got cancelled a few days before we were due to go because all the resorts shut. They told us we'd get a complete refund, so we (somewhat foolishly) instead booked a package to France with Crystal, as the resorts there were all insisting they'd still be open as there weren't any outbreaks in that region.  I insisted on package deal because that meant ATOL protection should anything go wrong.  Important!

Flew out to Chambery on a plane that was probably only half full.  Got on a bus and arrived in Les Deux Alpes about an hour after the announcement that everything would be closing.  D'oh.

They told us we'd be going home on Monday - initially the entire way by coach, but then that changed to a flight from Lyon.  No-one seemed to know what time any flights would be, so we spent literally half the day sitting in (or outside) the airport waiting around until eventually boarding just before midnight.  Phew.

Crystal promised they'd refund us in full, even though we'd 'used' the flights/transfers/three nights of hotel etc.

Our one day of "holiday" in a closed ski resort was a bit of weird one.  We did a bit of panic buying at the supermarket, enjoyed a surprisingly nice lunch from the hotel restaurant (our package was full board), wandered around the town, and built a snowman.  Oh, and drank wine.

what to do when there's snow but you can't ski?!

Six weeks later and Crystal have indeed refunded us, by the date they said they would.

Skiworld, on the other hand....  I'm not going to get into the full rant but it seems their customer service is somewhere between "non existent" and "awful".
They went from "you'll get a refund" to "you can have a voucher to book for next year" to "please claim on your travel insurance because it's not our problem".  Originally they weren't even going to be refunding lift passes, but that bit at least has now happened (presumably because everyone went "er no, we know full well the resort have refunded you so give us our money back!!").  I've pretty much lost the will to live trying to deal with them, and we will NOT be booking with them again.

I work in the travel industry (or would if I wasn't furloughed) so I completely understand that this is a horribly difficult situation but there are definitely better ways of handling upset customers than radio silence and having all your email addresses bounce.

Oh well.  Hopefully by next winter the world will be back to something resembling normal so ski holidays can happen again.

Woolhope and Marcle Hill


Another walk, this time from Ben Giles' Wye Valley book.

The book suggests starting at the pub, but after a little googling I discovered that there's much more parking space at Woolhope parish hall just up the road.

Leaving the village, we walked up a lane that turned into a track, and then just a footpath in a field - which also contained some old lime kilns.  After a slight descent, it was back up the hill through more fields until we reached the road along the ridge at Hooper's Oak.

lime kilns near Woolhope
Lime kilns

The views from the ridge weren't bad for a slightly damp December day - Malverns and May Hill clearly visible.  I'm sure it'd be much more spectacular in the sunshine though.

There's one thing you definitely can't miss about Marcle hill - the Ridge Hill TV mast.  Fun fact - I remember when I was growing up we had two aerials on the house - one for whatever the 'local' mast with the best signal was (google says Wenvoe), and one pointing at Ridge Hill so we could get "proper" Channel 4 as well as S4C.  Unless the weather was too crap, anyway.

Also on top of the hill is a trig point! One that's been nicely looked after and repainted recently.  We were on the other side of a fence to it, but the path did seem to jump around between fences so I'm not sure if we could/should have been closer.

trig point on Marcle hill

Shortly after passing the TV mast we left the ridge, turning right and heading down a sunken track towards Sollers Hope.

Several different footpaths radiate out from just beyond the church, and the one we wanted to be on turned out to be on the opposite side of a stream from where we actually were. Signs aren't always as clear as I'd like!  Rather than backtrack, we picked our way to Alford's Mill via other paths and a bit of off piste-ing through some woods.

Just over 10km in total, followed by a drink at the (dog friendly) Crown Inn before heading back to the car, and home.

Nailsworth and Avening


After (literally) months of barely doing anything interesting with our weekends, we were well overdue a 'non local' weekend dog walk.  Though I am enjoying the new Saturday routine of walking to the local community centre coffee shop for tea and cake

We decided on walk #21 from the Cicerone 'Walking in the Cotswolds' book - a 10km loop from Nailsworth. Judging by the name of the matching route I found on OS maps it's also featured in Country Walking magazine at some point.

Starting from the town hall car park in Nailsworth, the walk up Tetbury lane was steep to make my legs complain. Probably just a lack of hill walking fitness!

The route then follows the edge of several fields - where we saw a few pheasants, and a deer in the distance - before dropping down to follow a stream and pop out on the road to Avening.

fields and stream near Avening

Half a mile or so along the road there's a convenient dog friendly pub (The Bell) so we stopped for a drink.

Once you leave the village (again, on a steepish road that turns into a track) it's bridleways all the way back to Nailsworth, past some sort of equestrian centre, and following some very clearly signposted paths through Hazel Wood.

clear footpath/bridleway signs

We saw plenty of other walkers, so it's obviously a popular area.  It's not hard to see why - so easily accessible from the town.