Cadover bridge to Shaugh bridge (and back)

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to get out on the moors as I’ve been away (see previous blogs) however the idea of getting a walk in on the moors was irresistible. The forecast was promising (I wonder how often my blogs contain those words) and we decided to walk up the river Plym from Cadover bridge. It’s a walk we have done a few times before and allows plenty of variation in route between Cadover and Plym head. The day was bright however we realised as we got close to Cadover that it was a little windy. When we opened the car door we realised that it was very very windy. Anyway given the fact it was a while since we’d had a walk we set off. After about 30 minutes of walking into the teeth of a gale and with no obvious shelter around for some way, we looked at one another and turned around. We decided the best prospect was to go along the river Plym in the opposite direction heading down the valley to the Dewerstone and Shaugh bridge. The valley is quite deep in this area and is wooded so we felt that there might be some protection from the wind.

Walking down the valley was positively peaceful compared to the conditions on the open moors. It’s been a few years since we have walked this way and so it felt quite “new”. A fair bit of the walk down on the east side is in the trees however the valley drops away and the views improve. You get to a point where you are opposite the Dewerstone rocks and they stand out clearly as can be seen in one of the images above.  Fairly soon after this point the path starts to drop quite quickly down to Shaugh bridge.  There is a car park there although the road to it is fairly minor and there are often minibuses parked there with the occupants having headed to the Dewerstone to climb.

It seemed like a good place to stop for some lunch so we sat and watched the water flow by. The bonus was that we also saw a pair of Dippers feeding in the river around the bridge. While they are not uncommon it is great to simply watch them.  It had been a fairly dry month when we went up there and that can be seen from the relatively low level of the river.  At times it can be far deeper and faster flowing however in these conditions walking across was very easy indeed.  On the basis that we prefer not to return the way we came when that is possible we set off back up the western bank of the river Plym not fully sure where the path ran.  We passed the base of the Dewerstone and there were groups of climbers in a number of places.  From below you do not really can a feeling of the scale of the rock faces there.  After that the path became quite indistinct.  We felt that there was probably a higher path that we could have taken however that would have meant retracing our steps so we continued along mostly at river level.  Some parts were more challenging and we reached a point where the path seemed to have disappeared.  Fortunately it was easy to cross the river here and make our way back the fairly short remaining distance on the eastern bank.  Arriving at the carpark at Cadover bridge we were a little surprised at just how windy it still was and realised we had definitely made the right decision to walk in the woods that day rather than on the open moors.

At Beynac and Le Bec-Hellouin

After leaving Spain (the previous blog is here) we headed into France from the south west corner towards the general area of the Lot and Dordogne.  It’s an area I’ve had holidays in for many years now and a part of France I’ll always be happy to return to.  While there is plenty of wine (well grapes at least) in the lower areas of the rivers I personally prefer it when you move into areas that have some height in the landscape.  We found a site quite near the old town of Sarlat and were delighted to find that you could look out of the motorhome window and see the Château at Beynac (strictly Beynac-et-Cazenac).

The walk into Beynac from the campsite was on paths and quite short so a couple of the days we were there we wandered in and looked around and had a coffee. I guess in the main season the village would be seething with tourists however in March it was pleasantly quiet though the weather was not always good.  The views from the Château were great and you can look along the Dordogne to the east and the west. Indeed there are at least 3 or four châteaux within an easy walk along the river in this area.

We did take the motorhome into Sarlat on one of the days we were there (there was no public transport sadly) and found it easy to park at that time of the year. Again I imagine that the town – the old section of which is lovely – would be rather overcrowded in higher season. Getting back to the campsite we were treated to a good sunset around the Château. We certainly enjoyed our time there and, if not at that site, I’m sure we will be back in the Dordogne area again.

After this we were on the run back to Calais and stayed at one or two sites just overnight. However we did stop at one spot which we found interesting and that was a site in southern Normandy near the village of Le Bec-Hellouin.  The campsite was a short walk through some woodlands from this pleasant and very old village.  It is fair to say that there is not much other than a rather picturesque village there although a new cycle track has just opened than runs along the valley from there to Evereux.  A little sadly there was some fairly major construction work going on in the village while we were there too so we probably didn’t see it at its best but it was a charming spot.

The other major feature of Le Bec-Hellouin is the old abbey of Bec Abbey. This dates back to 1034 however it was left in ruins after the French Revolution. It came into use again in 1948 and was worth a look around. As with so many of these ancient places there was a real feeling of tranquillity in the grounds.  There are some ruins to see however mostly the abbey is fairly new.  However the tower there is part of the remains of the medieval abbey.  So from here it was back to the UK for now however the plan is to head off again so this blog should keep going for a bit.

Inland in north east Spain

Continuing from the previous blog when we were based on the Spanish coast which is here we decided to move inland. We’ve seen some parts of inland Spain in the past and always wanted to explore a little more so this seemed like a good opportunity.  Initially we only moved 10 or so miles from the coast however the difference was profound.  Gone were the large apartment blocks and we were in a campsite set in an old olive grove.  Very peaceful and beautifully kept, another one of the best ones on the trip and again one we will hope to return to sometime. It was in Castellón province and there was a small town, Càlig, less than a 15 minute walk away.  While the town was not busy it had enough basic shopping facilities for our needs and at least one pleasant cafe.

The area around the campsite, while quite well used for olives and fruit crops, still felt fairly quiet and remote.  The old paths through the groves of trees were accessible from the campsite and made for pleasant and easy walking.  You could just see the coastal strip from the area of the campsite however that just served to enhance its tranquility though I guess it would not appeal to everyone.  In general the weather remained very good though an odd day felt a bit thundery with some heavier clouds around.  Having visited one or two other areas of inland Spain for walking holidays this landscape felt quite familiar although we’d not been to this actual area before.  We would certainly return here in the future to simply chill out.

On the Mar d'Aragon

Our original plan was to head back up the eastern coast of Spain reversing our journey down. However some stories about the autoroute around Barcelona and a tendency we have not not retrace our steps if possible made us look at alternative plans. We were already aware that many motorhomers come to Spain via the west coast of France and the western edge of the Pyrenees so going back that way seemed worth trying out for future reference if nothing else. Looking at ways to break up the trip we found a campsite that looked interesting towards Zaragoza from where we were on the coast. It said it was on the edge of the Mar d’Aragon – not somewhere we knew anything about or had even heard of. Some research both at the time and since we’ve come back means we now know it is also called the Mequinenza reservoir and it is 100 kilometres long meaning it is on a scale I’ve not seen for a man made body of water. In practice the river Ebro was dammed for hydroelectric purposes and the “lake” is the result.

I’ve often found such stretches of man made water rather sterile in the past however this area was spectacular on a number of levels. The views walking along the reservoir were excellent – the GR99 which runs the length of the river Ebro runs within a metre of the campsite so there was good walking there. While we didn’t see much in the way of small birds we did see a number of high level raptors and just loved walking in the area. In practice fishing is really the done thing from the campsite and we were probably the only ones there without much interest in fishing but it didn’t bother us or the others there.

A real bonus both with the run up from down by the coast, which was mostly along the valley of the Ebro, and the area around the campsite and Caspe (the local town) was the fact that the cherry trees were in blossom. The contrast between the very rugged landscape and the vast areas of cherry blossom is something I’ll remember for a long time.  The photographs above were taken just outside the campsite and, particularly in the early evening light, the trees looked stunning.  After this site we headed up to the northern Spanish coast near Bilbao and crossing central Spain left us with a wish to explore inland Spain far more even if some parts were far less interesting than others.  We hit far less good weather when we got to the north coast and the pictures from then may be quite memorable however I can offer pictures of coasts in grey stormy weather from places nearer home!  The next blog covers the run back up through France and is here.

On the east coast of Spain – March 2015

This blog follows on from the one I wrote about the journey through France to the Spanish border here.  Leaving France we decided to use the (paid) autoroute for a while at least.  The drive over the edge of the Pyrenees is easier on the autoroute and, to a degree, so is getting around Barcelona.  We did actually hear a story about attempted theft from a vehicle on that autoroute later so it might not be a route we would choose again.  The original plan would have put us at the border some 4/5 days earlier than we managed and we had no real plan at all for the rest of the trip – something we love about trips in the motorhome.  In the end we decided we would head on down the coast past Tarragona to a campsite that had good reviews.

We would not realise until rather later in the trip just how lucky the decision to stop at Estanyet was.The welcome was very warm and there was a reasonable number of pitches free.  Really our only reservation about this campsite would be that getting on and off pitches in a larger unit might be rather challenging however we found ourselves one easily enough.  The campsite is situated about a kilometre from the small (& working) fishing village of Les Cases d’Alcanar.  The walk to the village is along a flat promenade and, although small, the village had all the shopping basics we needed.

One of the things mentioned in a number of reviews was the quality of the food in the restaurant so we decided to try it as soon as possible. We were not disappointed! There was also a pleasant bar and a good swimming pool that was open. Throw in a “7 nights for 6″ deal and we decided we would stay a week anyway. The campsite was literally the width of a road from the sea so it was great to be able to stroll along there and also to just pop out for quick photographs too.

We enjoyed walking the coast in both directions from the campsite and shopped in the village most days.  We also walked inland to the town of Alcanar.  Parts of it were very old and it was worth a look around.  The land between the coast and the town (& much of the coastal plain generally) had very large areas of fruit trees of various sorts.  The bonus was that oranges, tangerines and the like were easily and cheaply available in both small shops and the supermarkets and were very enjoyable.  We would certainly return to the campsite (Estanyet) again for the welcome, the location and the food!

After our time there were moved a little further down the coast to Peniscola. It really was something of a shock to the system. Having left a tranquil site on an undeveloped coastal strip we arrived at something quite the opposite. The coastal strip at Peniscola is fairly well developed with high rise apartments extending quite a long way. However the beach there really was long and lovely and the old town of Peniscola was really worth wandering around. The castle there featured in the film El Cid.  The campsite there was perfectly adequate and very inexpensive (the cheapest of the whole trip) but really didn’t have the charm of Estanyet.  However the fact that Peniscola was a much larger town meant the there were plenty of cafes, restaurants and shops around.  For the whole of the time of this section of coast we enjoyed really quite good weather.  Although it was not warm in the mornings the afternoons tended to be quite hot – lovely for March.  We decided to move inland a bit from here and that blog for that section of the trip is here.

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