Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Backpackers Wyre Forest weekend

This weekend was very much a repeat of one held last year. The weather was cold but no rain was forecast. There were about fifteen of us. Saturday got off to rather a slow start as the group I was walking with were delayed by a visit to the Wyre Forest Centre where the cafe serves excellent bacon rolls and coffee in front of a log burning stove. Moving on from here, we walked on wide trails through the forest northwards to Buttonbridge and thence to Upper Arley where we stopped for a hot drink at the cafe on the station. This looked so familiar and I'm sure it must have been used in countless TV programmes and films.

We moved on from here to our pitch for the night at Pound Green. Once again, I disappeared into the wood alongside the field where others were settling into tents and hung my hammock between two trees, putting my Neo-Air inflatable mattress between the two layers of the hammock (not having the luxury of an underquilt). Rain wasn't forecast so I left my tarp packed away.

Anyway, around 12.15am I was awoken to light snowfall so I hurriedly pitched the tarp over me. Some time later, I woke again feeling thoroughly chilled and with a really cold right foot to find that the Neo-Air had moved up into the side of the hammock so that it wasn't underneath me. The temperature was below freezing. I righted this but it happened again after a while and I didn't sleep at all well. Eventually, I dropped the hammock to the ground and slept on it much more comfortably.

Getting up quite early and looking forward to a steaming mug of real coffee, my gas ran out very quickly with a splutter so I was glad to get moving just to warm up.

Walking through the forest I was taken by surprise by three deer breaking cover about two hundred yards away. One was a white antlered stag. I'd never seen one before and it seems that they are very rare. Of course, there's no way that I'd have got my camera out in time so I didn't even try. According to Wikipedia, "a white stag or white deer is a red deer with a condition known as leucism that causes its hair and skin to lose its natural colour. The white stag has played a prominent role in many cultures' mythology."

It was a good weekend though in good company.

The Harz Mountains

The book Walking in the Harz Mountains arrived the day before I was due to travel to Hahnenklee in the Harz (with my wife on a rail holiday with Treyn) travelling from home virtually all the way from home by rail, which was a first. Excursions during the week included journeys on narrow gauge railways. The first was from Wernigerode, a town full of timber-framed buildings, on the Harzquerbahn (the Trans-Harz Railway) to the top of Brocken Mountain (3,743ft/1,141m), the highest peak in the Harz, a trip of some one and a half hours. Much fun was had before the train left exploring the station area and admiring the various old steam engines.

The weather was very mild in the town but as the train wended its way gradually around the perimeter of the mountain it started to snow until, on reaching the summit, there were near blizzard conditions and it was icy and bitterly cold. The line, first opened in 1898, was used by the military during the Cold war, but re-opened to the public in 1991. Until then, the Brocken was used as a military communications post as this part of Germany was part of the GDR.

The other excursion was from Quedlinburg (a town with UNESCO World Heritage status) on the Seketalbahn passing through dense forests and great scenery.

A free day presented the opportunity of a hike (which is largely what this blog is all about). I caught a bus from Hahnenklee to Goslar, about ten miles away. I was then able to walk back to Hahnenklee. The route climbed out of Goslar and passed by the Rammelsberg Mine, dating back to the tenth century when silver was discovered here. It is now a regional mining museum and attracts many visitors. Unfortunately, time didn't permit a visit here so I pressed on. The path then climbed up the Herzberg where I joined the Herzberger Way, a well waymarked route through coniferous forest. I stopped for lunch at a mountain hut.

 Shortly after, snow started to fall and, in no time at all, I was enveloped by a blizzard and walking through snow. I followed a route known as the Schalkeweg, below the summit of the Schalke, where I stopped in another mountain hut for a while. Here, there was a viewing tower where, according to the book, I could "enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding hills". Quite, but not today. I didn't bother to go up. Descending from here, I called in at the Auerhahn (Capercaillie in English), a welcoming pub on the road where I enjoyed a glass of excellent German beer and was able to warm up and dry out a bit before returning to Hahnenklee.

This is a part of Germany that requires a return visit.

Cicerone book sale

A short time ago I received an email from Cicerone books. They were having a sale of old stock. For £3.00 each including postage (instead of the full price of £8.99-£12.95) I was able to obtain:
  • The Greater Ridgeway - From Lyme Regis to Hunstanton
  • Walking the River Rhine Trail
  • Germany's Romantic Road
  • Walking in the Harz Mountains
At that price, they were an absolute steal with plenty to occupy me in the future.