56b – Littlehampton to Elmer

On our way out of Littlehampton and into Climping, we passed a loopholed wall.  It was some kind of fortification.  What was this, or what did it used to be?  Certainly Littlhampton has its own fort, the Littlehampton Redoubt, built in 1854, to protect the mouth of the River Arun from French attack during the Napoleonic Wars, but that lay back east.  This was something different.  It was made of reinforced concrete; a World War II fortification perhaps?

Fortifications between Littlehampton and AtheringtonWhatever this was, we only spent a short while thinking about it.  My eyes were drawn to other things.  My favourite colour is green, and green was out in force today!

It doesn’t take much green to make all the difference to a landscape, especially when there is a clear blue sky to accentuate it.

Beach at AtheringtonWhen we reached Elmer, Mother Nature showed us that if Man provides the canvas, she’ll provide the paint!

Timber Sea Defences at ElmerThe timber breakwater boards stood battle-weary, waiting patiently to hold back the next tide.

Timber Sea Defences at ElmerThe wearing effect of the sea gives wood beautiful, ornate surfaces.  The breakwaters we found on this walk had come from trees long dead, cut by machines and planed into straight edges, fitted square against each other, giving splinters to those foolhardy enough to glide their hand over the surfaces.  But once fixed in place the sea gets to work, smoothing the hard edges of each slat into random patterns, like fingerprints, no one the same as the other.  The splinters are soothed until the surface of the wood, bleached by the sun, is as smooth as the original living wood of the tree.  It regains its character, perhaps even its soul.  As if to recognise this, the sea provides clothing as the algae takes root and grows on its surface.

Timber Sea Defences at Elmer

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Unknown Ruins:  N 50° 47.943 W 000° 33.989
  • Timber Boards:  N 50° 47.504 W 000° 35.915

Walk #56 Statistics (of which this post forms the second part):

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56a – Littlehampton Part IV

What with birthday parties, descending relatives, a weekend away, Scotland trips and foreign holidays all out of the way (for a short while) we finally had time to get back to our Coastal Path.  We are now travelling for over 4 hours to get to the coast and back each time we venture down for the day.  I was, I admit, feeling a little as if I couldn’t be bothered with the drive, particularly on a Sunday when I had work the next morning.  However, there is no place in our purpose for dark thoughts like these, and as soon as we arrived back at Littlehampton the coast showed me why.  The tide was out – our favourite time to walk along flat expanses of exposed sands.

Littlehampton Breakwater

Early morning at low tide is surely one of my favourite times to walk.  There are only a few other people about at this time and the world is quieter, sharper and crisper at this time of day.  We were presented with the two-tone sand and shingle beach sometimes darkened by the shadow of a passing cloud; the mingled greens of the treeline; the occasional burst of colour from a passer-by.

Jogger on Littlehampton Beach

I was enjoying everything today, from the macro to the micro.

Wormcasts on Littlehampton BeachWhen the day is clear and you can see for miles, it is worth remembering that the world is made up of some very small parts indeed.

Wormcasts on Littlehampton Beach cropped

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Beach West of Littlehampton:  N 50° 48.015 W 000° 32.700

Walk #56 Statistics (of which this post forms the first part):

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The Coastal Path in Antalya – Scuba

Given they are only 10, I was quite proud of the children when they said they wanted to do a scuba diving course.

Scuba DivingOf course, this was only an introductory course in the hotel swimming pool.  They are not yet old enough for open water diving.  Ben in particular enjoyed himself and was most upset to find he would have to wait a few more years to advance any further in the sport.  He is talking about diving around the coast of Britain instead of walking it.  Given the number of estuaries we have to make inland detours round, this may not be such a bad idea…

Points in this post (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Scuba Diving Lessons:  N 36° 51.268 E 030° 51.722
  • Date of Visit: July 2013
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The Coastal Path in Antalya – Beach Pebbles

Our poor old children.  We take them to the coast almost every week, but rarely do they get to play on the beach or swim in the sea.  We decided that we had better take them on a beach holiday somewhere.  We settled for Turkey, and the resort of Lara Beach.

Our hotel had its own private bit of beach, which was not really private at all; you could walk over to it from any of the other hotels along this stretch.  Of course, all the other hotels all had their private bit of beach too, so very few people bothered to cross between hotels.

The beach was sandy, but the shallows were shingle.  This shingle was brightly coloured.  Blacks, whites, yellows, reds, greens, oranges – grab a handful and all these colours would glint up at you in the bright sun.  My favourite pebbles were striped.

Striped Pebbles

To find out how these stripes were formed I did a Google image search.  For the second time (the first time was a few weeks ago, to identify a headless fish) I was taken straight to a blog which I already follow, Jessica’s Nature Blog.  Jessica had found some similar stones in the UK, formed in the Jurassic period.  The white lines of her pebbles were calcite, formed between limestone layers.  In her pebbles, the calcite bands often stood proud of the surface of the pebbles.  In our pebbles, however, the white bands were mostly sunken, presumably meaning they erode more quickly.  Perhaps our pebbles are made of something other than limestone and/or calcite?  Geology is not one of my stronger subjects…

Calcite BandsIt took a long time to amass any significant number of these pebbles.  As the waves rolled in we would have to reach down to the shingle floor, ducking our heads under the water, to bring up a handful of pebbles.  We might find a striped one every three or four handfuls or so.  Over the course of a few days we found enough to fill a couple of small water bottles.  We brought them home and will find a glass dish, basket, or something similar to display them in.

Points in this post (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Pebble Collecting Point:  N 36° 51.103 E 030° 51.730
  • Date of Visit: July 2013

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The Coastal Path in Scotland – Beinn Liath Mhor

The main reason for my second June trip to Scotland was to meet up with some friends and bag a Munro.  One of these friends was Mark, an occasional guest walker on our main Coastal Path.  On the day of our walk rain was forecast, but in the event there was only a light drizzle at best.  Moisture hung in the air, suspended in the silence of the hills.  As we walked it clung to our clothes.  I put on waterproofs.  The moisture already clinging to me warmed up and added an uncomfortable humidity underneath the membrane of my jacket.  I took the waterproofs off again.  The moisture clung to my clothes again.  I put the waterproofs back on.  And so the cycle continued, until I eventually decided that leaving them off was the way to go, and that the body heat generated by my climb would evaporate the worst of the water; I had my own personal water cycle in full flow!

Our Munro was Beinn Liath Mhor, meaning “Big Grey Hill”, in the Torridons.  It stands at 3,034 ft, meaning it only just qualifies as a Munro (to be a Munro a mountain has to stand at over 3,000 ft).

Beinn Liath Mhor has notable hummocks!  Here is a self-portrait (waterproofs on in this shot) as the others skirt round the edge of one such hummock.

HummockThese hummocks are remnants from the last ice age, some 14,000 years ago.  Huge ice sheets covered most of northern Europe at that time.  As the ice slowly moved, it formed valleys, ripping up rocks and other debris from the valley floor as it went.  As the climate warmed and melted the ice, this debris, known as moraine, was deposited in piles – these piles are the hummocks.  There are literally hundreds of them.  Can you spot them in this next picture?

Spot the HummockAs you can probably see, the cloud hung low in the valleys.  We made it to the top of Beinn Liath Mhor, however, were granted no views today.  But that’s Scotland for you, and there are plenty of other Munros to climb.

Summit of Beinn Liath Mhor

Points on this walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Car Park at Start:  N 57° 33.315 W 005° 24.902
  • Hummocks:  N 57° 32.850 W 005° 24.850
  • Summit of Beinn Liath Mhor:  N 57° 30.727 W 005° 24.038

Walk Statistics:

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The Coatal Path in Scotland – Loch Ewe Distillery

Towards the end of my drive from Inverness to Gairloch I stopped at Drumchork.  Drumchork lies on the eastern shore of Loch Ewe, and I wanted to visit a place I had heard about when on Islay a couple of weeks earlier.  As a Whisky Tourist, I was told, I should not miss the Loch Ewe Distillery.

Loch Ewe Distillery is not your traditional distillery.  It is part of the Drumchork Lodge Hotel and is housed, quite literally, in a garage.

Loch Ewe DistilleryEach whisky distillery has its claim to fame.  Highland Park, for example, is the northernmost (though not for much longer, as there is a new distillery planned on Shetland).  Bruichladdich (and I am sipping a Bruichladdich as I type this) makes the most heavily peated whisky in the world.  Each distillery has its own unique feature and selling point.  Loch Ewe Distillery’s claim to fame is that it uses the smallest stills of any licensed distillery.  The minimum still size required to produce whisky in the UK is 1800 litres.  Loch Ewe’s stills are 120 litres.  They also have tiny 5 and 1 litre stills!  Here is their (unused) 1800 litre still with a 5 litre still in the background.

Loch Ewe's Stills

John, the distillery owner, tells the tale of the battle he had with the authorities to get his production licence.  He exploited a loophole in the law, he says, but the government were not happy about that and wanted to close the loophole without granting him a licence.  After months of negotiation and dispute they finally relented, offering him a licence if he would please shut up, go away, and allow them to close the loophole.  He agreed, got his licence, and the loophole was closed.  Perhaps this is a tall story. embellished like an over-dressed Christmas tree, the decorations hiding the true trunk of the story – who knows?  Not I, so I shall accept and enjoy the story as John tells it.

The main production area is well-themed to say the least!  That’s their well in the foreground and the 120 litre stills in the background.

Loch Ewe Distillery Production AreaMost distilleries have washbacks made of Oregon pine or stainless steel.  Loch Ewe’s is more…improvised!

Loch Ewe's WashbackAs you might expect, the bonded warehouse is also on the smaller scale.

Loch Ewe's Bonded WarehouseThe casks in this warehouse are so small that the new spirit is not left to mature for long at all.  Eight weeks seems to be the general rule.  In fact, this means that it is not technically whisky, for the spirit has to be matured for three years before it can be given that name.  John told me that he matures his spirit with various finishes.  To give it a rum finish, for example, he will pour a bottle of rum into an empty cask, and then sloosh it round once every morning and once every night for two weeks, allowing the liquid to seep into the wood.  He then pours out the rum and pours in the new spirit.  Eight weeks of maturation later he has the finished product.  I tried some of it – it was almost as if I were chewing on coconut!  New spirit tends not to be too pleasant, but this stuff was pretty good.  So good, in fact, that I bought three bottles of it there and then.  Three?!?!  Well, Loch Ewe only sells their products in bottles of 10cl.  This was very convenient as it meant I could carry it as hand luggage on the plane back south.  Airport security took a keen interest but eventually decided to let me through…

There was another treat in store at Loch Ewe – as far as I am aware it is the only distillery in Scotland where you can distill your own new spirit and take the bottle home.  What a novelty!  Under John’s supervision I was introduced to the 5 litre still.  I poured in the spirit from a first distillation and turned on the gas.  Regulating the flow of cold water into the condensing coil, I slowly put the spirit through its second distillation.

Distilling at Loch EweAfter the distillation water was added to taste.  I settled at 50%.  John then bottled my effort and gave it to me as a souvenir.  It was not the only thing I took away from Loch Ewe – I am now the proud owner of my very own 1 litre still and cask!  Here they are, with my bottle of new spirit.

From Loch Ewe

Points in this post (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Loch Ewe Distillery:  N 57° 50.069 W 005° 34.451
  • Date of Visit: 26 June 2013

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The Coastal Path in Scotland – Gruinard Bay

Having arrived back home from Scotland in the second week of June, I turned around and went straight back in the fourth week.  This was a lightning quick trip to bag a Munro with some friends who were staying in Gairloch, on the west coast of the Highlands.  I flew in to Inverness, on the east coast, and hired a car to drive over.  The journey is only supposed to take two hours.  I somehow took five.  I did not get lost, though I did lose myself in the beauty of the drive.  The further west I ventured, the more beautiful the landscape became.  I kept stopping to take in the view – that was the problem.

As a coastal walker, I was particularly interested in the stretches of coastline I was able to see, and which I hope to be walking in the years to come.  Here is Little Loch Broom with Beinn Ghobhlach in the background.  Little Loch Broom is a small inlet, 10 miles in length, which we are going to have to walk down and then back out of again.

Looking Across Little Loch Broom

Best of all was a 360-degree vantage point just to the east of Little Gruinard.  This gave expansive views of the coastline.

Gruinard BayGruinard Bay at low tide looked like exactly the sort of walk we love.

Gruinard BayTo the north was Gruinard Island, also known as “Anthrax Island”.  It was requisitioned by the government during World War II for the purpose of carrying out anthrax tests.  The intention was to examine the possibility of developing a biological weapon for use against the enemy.  Eighty sheep were taken to the island, and anthrax “bombs” dropped.  Within days the sheep were dying.  None survived.  There are tales that one of the carcasses floated across to the mainland and infected livestock there, but that the incident was hushed up.

It was concluded that anthrax would make a rather effective biological weapon.  I cannot imagine the devastation it would have caused had it been used.  The fatality rate is estimated at 95%, even with treatment.

Anthrax Island

Gruinard Island was requisitioned in 1942.  It was quarantined for 48 years before being declared safe.  Even that was after an extensive decontamination programme which included the removal of topsoil.  Can you imagine the effect if anthrax had been used as a weapon?

The poor owner of the island did not get to see it returned in their lifetime.  Its derequisition was requested in 1945, but the government realised it was unsafe.  An agreement was reached whereby the Crown acquired the island, and that it would be returned when safe for a sum of £500.  The return eventually took place on 1 May 1990, to an heir of the original owner.

Points in this post (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Little Loch Broom:  N 57° 53.000 W 005° 20.000
  • My 360 Degree Vantage Point:  N 57° 51.294 W 005° 28.418
  • Gruinard Bay:  N 57° 51.300 W 005° 27.400
  • Anthrax Island:  N 57° 53.400 W 005° 28.200
  • Date of Visit: 26 June 2013
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The Coastal Path in Scotland – Islay

In June I visited Islay on a combined business/pleasure trip.  It is not in our rules that we have to walk around the coast of the islands of Britain as well as its mainland.  That was a good thing, because there were far too many distilleries to visit to allow much walking!  Luckily, they tend to be at the water’s edge so we got to see quite a bit of the coast.  Laphroaig in particular occupied a very pretty setting.

The View from Laphroaig DistilleryMind you, the view from Lagavulin across its bay was worth seeing.

The View from Lagavulin DistilleryLaphroaig and Lagavulin are neighbours.  They are close enough to walk between.  The route between the two took us inland rather than along the coast.  Still, I was not complaining.  We walked along an old forest track where ancient moss grew on the dry stone walls and bluebells prettied the scene.

The path to LagavulinDo you believe in Treefolk?  I didn’t, but I do now, because I’ve seen one.  Look at the next photo very closely.  Do you see the tree closest to the wall?  Do you see the face half way up?  Do you see the moss cap, and the moss clothes covering the torso?  Is it just me?

TreefolkLaphroaig and Lagavulin are not the only distilleries in beautiful settings.  Bowmore has it pretty good too.

Bowmore DistilleryThe sunset I got to see off Bowmore was the richest, most beautifully peaceful I have ever experienced.

Sunset from BowmoreAs the sun dipped below the horizon, it left a brief, warm glow to the underside of the clouds, before that glow finally disappeared too.

Sunset from Bowmore

Points in this post (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Laphroaig Distillery:  N 55° 37.772 W 006° 09.135
  • Lagavulin Distillery:  N 55° 38.130 W 006° 07.575
  • Bowmore Distillery:  N 55° 45.420 W 006° 17.450

  • Date of Visit: 10 June 2013

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55g – Littlehampton Part III

Having reached Littlehampton’s harbour mouth, we had to walk inland, alongside the River Arun, in order to find a suitable crossing point.  This is known as the “Riverside Walk”, which for the most part runs alongside riverside developments of blocks of flats.

Riverside WalkThe walk to the nearest crossing point was about three quarters of a mile – not too bad considering some of the other inland detours we have encountered.  The worst of these was the combined inland walk around the Thames, Medway and Swale.  From leaving the sea to getting back to it took over 200 miles.  We were feeling quite appreciative, therefore, that our detour at Littlehampton totalled only a mile and a half.  That was due to its footbridge.

Footbridge over the River ArunThe footbridge gave us some good views back along the river, although the sea itself was out of sight.

Looking Back Down the River ArunIt was only when we got to the far side of the bridge that we realised it was on rails, sliding backwards and forwards to let shipping through.

Rails of the Littlehampton FootbridgeWe set off back along the River, back towards the coast.  This side of the river could not have been more different from the eastern side.  Gone were the brick pavers and residential developments.  The west bank was dominated by silt, ship yards, and commercial jetties.  Not all the vessels were in tip top condition.  Is it just me, or does this one look like old fish bones?

Is it me or does this look like fish bonesEventually, we reached the open sea again.  There were the lighthouse and the harbour arm on the opposite side of the river.  On this side there was a convenient car park.  Time to call it a day, we decided.

Back to the Coast

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Sliding Footbridge:  N 50° 48.614 W 000° 33.005
  • Boat Carcass:  N 50° 48.444 W 000° 32.857
  • Car Park at Journey’s End:  N 50° 48.135 W 000° 32.600

Walk #55 Statistics (of which this post forms the final part):

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55f – Littlehampton Part II

We walked across to Littlehampton’s harbour mouth.  At the foot of the east harbour arm the lighthouse stared out to sea with it’s single letterbox eye.

Littlehampton LighthouseBehind us, the mouth of the river stretched back towards the town.  We would have to walk alongside the harbour walls to get to a crossing point.

Littlehampton HarbourBefore we headed inland, however, we were drawn to the Harbour Park Amusements – the Lure of the Log Flume proved too much for us!  My wife stationed herself safely behind the protective glass barriers, ready for the action shot.

The first log flume we took the children on was at Sea World in San Diego.  It is a combined log flume and coaster.  At one point, the car goes into an enclosed room and stops.  All the lights go out.  The car is then raised up by something like three stories, all in the dark.  At the top the doors open in front and the passengers suddenly find themselves at the pinnacle of an enormous roller coaster drop.  My son was quite young at the time.  With his eyes bulging out of his head in aghast terror, he looked over the side of the car in search of safe ground.  He was too small to see over the side, and so stood up to actually lean over, not realising that the car was just starting its drop.  It was at about this point that my terror equalled that of my son’s!  I was sat in the car behind him; I grabbed him and pulled him down.  Poor old Ben – for a year or so after that he could not be persuaded to go on any log flumes!

These days, both he and Catherine seem to be quite at ease, throwing their arms out and screaming more for effect than for terror.  In fact, I seem to be the only one clutching the side in this photo!  I comfort myself in the knowledge that at least I was in the car and not cowering behind the protective screens like the person who took this shot!

Littlehampton Log Flume croppedThe Littehampton log flume is, I can safely say, one of the wetter ones we have experienced.

Littlehampton Log Flume - The After-Effects cropped

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Littlehampton Lighthouse:  N 50° 48.124 W 000° 32.523
  • Log Flume:  N 50° 48.178 W 000° 32.515

Walk #55 Statistics (of which this post forms the sixth part):

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