Pencilled in my calendar for the first weekend of June was a camping and walking weekend with Abi. Obviously 2020 has been busy ruining everyone's plans over the last few months, but the easing of lockdown guidelines meant we were able to go for a small group walk.
Bredon Hill is about half an hour away from Gloucester, and though I've cycled up it a couple of times I've never walked there.
Our route was taken from the Cicerone 'Walking in the Cotswolds' book, and clocked in at about 15km.
We all met up outside the church in Overbury (can go walking - can't share lifts. Sorry environment...) From here we walked to Kemerton, then ascended to the tower/viewpoint via well used footpaths. The weather was a little all over the place and we had a short soaking about half way up, but it seems the worst of the day's rain occurred when I was driving there so perhaps it was a good thing we went for afternoon walk instead of one with a lunch stop.
Malverns through barbed wire. A comment on lockdown, or me trying to be arty?
From the tower we walked along the ridge, following the Wychavon Way all the way down to Ashton. Interestingly this is marked differently on my paper OS map, as the route was modified in 2012.
As we walked back uphill from Ashton we spotted these two deer chilling out a couple of fields away. They wandered off as we got closer. We think we also may have seen a hare, and I'm reliably informed that the birds of prey we'd seen on the initial ascent were Red Kites.
Our last bit of uphill was through a field with a lot of sheep in it. I was a bit worried about how Tilly might react as obviously I didn't want her barking or trying to chase anything. She was on the lead at that point, of course, and I think actually she was a bit overwhelmed by the number of sheep so behaved herself very well.
Overall, a really nice walk - and a very welcome change of scenery and company.
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.
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.
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.
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.