There is no ‘bucket list’ - Lynne and I are both well, thank you – but we have arrived at a point in our lives where we have the time, the money and the good health to indulge in a passion for travel. We know how lucky and privileged we are to be able to do this, and we know it won’t last for ever, but while it does…..



Sunday, 24 June 2018

Chişinău, a Modest Capital City: Part 1 of Moldova

Introduction to Chişinău

23/06/18

After a delayed flight we did not reach our city centre hotel until after 9. We entered Chişinău (pronounced Kish-er-now) through the city gates, apartment blocks completed in the dying years of the Soviet Union.

The City Gate, Chişinău
Despite the hour there was plenty of light to gain a first impression: Soviet built apartment blocks have looked grimmer elsewhere, the streets were wide and clean, the traffic orderly and although we were in Europe's poorest country it looked, at first glance, relatively prosperous.

Our hotel was on Strada Eugen Doga, a pedestrian street lined with bars and restaurants, though all seemed eerily quiet for a Saturday night. By 10 (our body clocks said it was 8), we were in the beer cellar adjacent to the hotel ready for food, beer and the second half of Germany v Sweden. There were plenty of seats so we chose a good view of a convenient screen and ordered a couple of beers (Chişinău Brewery’s dark - because everyone else was drinking it) a ‘beer platter' (a pile of salami, basturma, prosciutto and other processed meats) and beef carpaccio, wafer thin slices in lemon and vinegar with flaked parmesan and a pile of dressed rocket - we were grateful for the greenery. The quality was high, as were the prices (though a tad below British pub prices) and judging by the reaction to the goals many of our fellow drinkers/watchers must have been German – perhaps only rich foreigners can afford to drink here. Well, we were in the cellar of a four-star hotel.

When we said we were going to Moldova we received several blank looks, so here is a map. Moldova, the former Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldavia, became independent in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. Landlocked (just, it almost reaches the Black Sea) and sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine it was in 2014, according to Travellers Digest the least visited country in Europe with 11,000 foreign visitors.

Moldova stuck between Romania and Ukraine, almost like an afterthought
And if not everybody could instantly point to Moldova on a map, the vast majority, including me until quite recently, would struggle to locate the capital, Chişinău.

Moldova - Transdniestria (or Transnistria) is a grey area we will visit in a few days time

24/06/2018

The breakfast buffet offered the usual suspects plus Moldovan specialties. Clatite are pancakes with a sweet or savoury filling, in this case minced beef, while pănănaşi are fried discs of sweetened dough and brânză (young, salty, crumbly ewes’ milk cheese). I enjoyed both.

Strada Eugen Doga, Chişinău

N arrived at 10 to conduct a walking tour of Chişinău.

First stop, at the end of the pedestrian street was the memorial to the Chişinău ghetto. Chişinău had a large Jewish population in the 19th century, when Moldova was part of Tsarist Russia, and there was a major pogrom in 1905. After World War One most of Moldova joined Romania but in 1940 it was re-annexed by the USSR under the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. In 1941, when the Nazis invaded the USSR, many Moldovan Jews retreated with the Red Army. Those who remained were collected in a ghetto which stood behind the memorial. Life was hard, many died and the rest were moved to a ‘place of safety’ in Tiraspol, 80km away across the River Dniester. Some sources claim most survived, others that they were transported to Auschwitz.

Chişinău Jewish Ghetto Memorial 
Chişinău’s current Jewish population is either 2,500 or 10,000, depending on source, and is falling as the Israeli government offers inducements to bright young people. One functioning synagogue remains, while a former synagogue on the pedestrian street near the memorial acts as a Jewish cultural centre.

Former synagogue, now Jewish cultural centre, Chişinău
Between the memorial and the cultural centre stands the monument to members of the Comsomol who died fighting fascism.  Born in 1979, N had joined the Young Octobrists aged 7 and moved on to the Pioneers, a Soviet scout-like movement, at 9. Whether she would have later joined the Comsomol, the young Communist League for ages 15 to 28, is a moot point as in 1991 all these organisations disappeared along with the Soviet Union. Most Soviet era statues and monuments have disappeared too, but this is a memorial to young Moldovans who died fighting fascism, so it has stayed. In this, as in many other issues, Moldova was split, but there is no memorial to those who died fighting alongside the fascists in the Romanian Army.

Comsomol Monument, Chişinău
On a lighter note, ‘Valentine’ by Pavel Obreja appeared overnight in October 2017. The young man holds a bunch of flowers in a manner we first observed in Poland in 2002. Eastern European men seem to buy flowers more often than their western counterparts and then carry them pointing straight down, they are activated on presentation by being turning the right way up. The girl is obviously late and has removed her shoes to creep up on him as a surprise, at least that was my interpretation. N disagreed, ruefully observing that nobody can walk in high-heels on these cobbles. And before we left Moldova we did see high-heeled shoes being carried down Strada Eugen Doga by their barefoot owner.

'Valentine' by Pavel Obreja, Strada Eugen Doga, Chişinău
Chişinău City Park

At the top of the Strada we crossed the road to the city park, dominated by the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. The city has a Romanian Orthodox Cathedral too, but although most Moldovans speak Romanian, eat Romanian and are eligible for Romanian citizenship, the overwhelming majority are Russian Orthodox.

Cathedral of the Nativity, Chişinău
The Neo-Classical Cathedral of the Nativity was built during the 1830s. Severely damaged, like much of Chişinău, during the Second World War it has been extensively rebuilt. As an exhibition centre during Soviet times its walls were whitewashed; all the interior painting and gilding dates from 1993 or later.

Inside the Cathedral of the Nativity, Chişinău
Mass in an orthodox church is a performance more than a service, the congregation milling around rather than seated in pews. The singing, from the choir in a balcony above our heads was sublime making all my little neck hairs stand on end. Eastern Orthodox church music does that to me.

Ceiling, Cathedral of the Nativity, Chişinău
Opposite the cathedral is a spring from which holy water is drawn on appropriate occasions and the bell tower, built in 1997 to replace the one destroyed by the communists in 1962.

Spring with globe and cross and the bell tower of  Chişinău Cathedral
The Summer Berry Fair was next to the cathedral. Moldova is a largely agricultural country and produces a lot of soft fruit.

Summer Berry Fair, Chişinău City Park
The warm summers means that fruit ripens earlier than at home and the variety and quality was impressive – blackberries in June!

Summer Berry Fair and the cathedral, Chişinău City Park
The practice of affixing padlocks to gates and fences as symbols of love is more common in China than Europe, but we have never before seen ironwork specifically set up for that purpose.

Hearts looked together for ever, Chişinău City Park
That may feel distinctly un-soviet but along the street the old Soviet practice of publicly displaying newspapers remains alive.

Newspapers, Chişinău City Park
Beyond the bell tower is the Arc de Triomphe (Arcul de Triumf in Romanian). In June 1812, days before Napoleon started his ill-fated march on Moscow, Tsar Alexander I ratified the Treaty of Bucharest annexing Bessarabia (pretty much modern Moldova) from the Principality of Moldavia (similar and confusing name!), a vassal of the Ottoman Empire. You might think that Christian Bessarabia would be happy to swap masters from Islamic Ottomans to Christian Russians but the Ottomans had allowed Moldavia considerably independence and there were misgivings. Russian-Ottoman wars continued through to World War One and the arch commemorates Russia’s victory in the 1828-29 instalment. From 1828 Russia exerted more and more control over Bessarabia, Russifying the region and suppressing the Romanian language. The Arch was built in 1841 as a reminder of who was boss.

Arcel de Triumf, Chisinau with government buildings behind across Stefen the Great Boulevard
Arcul de Triumf, Chişinău
It is a small, modest arch in a small, modest capital with a clock that would look at home in a railway station. Inside is a 6.4t bell cast from melted down Ottoman cannons which chimes the hour with an unmusical ‘dunk’.

The Arch de Triomphe with the bell tower and Cathedral behind, Chişinău
The Boulevard of Stephen the Great and the Saint (formerly Lenin Boulevard)

The front of the Arch is on Bulevardul Ştefan cel Mare şi Sfint, Chişinău’s main drag named for the country’s great hero.

We turned right, passed the National Opera and the World Cup ‘fanzone’ and paused to admire the Ministry of Agriculture building. Not exactly beautiful, it would be unremarkable in most capital cities, but it is the tallest building in Chişinău and hence in Moldova.

Ministry of Agriculture, Chişinău
Chişinău was taken by advancing fascists in 1941 and re-taken by the Red Army in 1944 so buildings predating 1940 are rare and the Church of the Transfiguration, consecrated in 1902, is a survivor. It was deconsecrated after the 1917 revolution but Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering earth orbit in 1961 created a demand for planetariums, and the domes of idle churches were ideal, so the Church of the Transfiguration became a planetarium from 1962 to 1990.  After independence it was returned to the Orthodox Church.


The Church of the Transfiguration, Chişinău
Crossing the wide boulevard was easy, there was little traffic and Moldovan drivers generally respect crossings. Turning back the way we had come we passed another pre-war survivor, the Urban Villa of Vladimir Herța. Herța was mayor of Chişinău when the Russian Revolution gave Bessarabia the chance to seize independence. In 1920 parliament voted to join with Romania, a union, recognised in western Europe but regarded as an occupation by the USSR. which lasted until 1940.

The Urban Villa of Vladimir Herta, Chişinău
Nextdoor we stood in front of the Moldovan Parliament Building, once home to the Central Committee of the Moldovan branch of the Communist Party of The Soviet Union. Now the Democratic Party of Moldova (social democrats), leads a coalition with a narrow majority among the 101 MPs. Uniquely among former Soviet republics the Communist Party, which now has 6 MPs actually formed the government from 2001-2009.

Moldovan parliament building, Chişinău
Next to the parliament is Stefan the Great Park and Gardens. It has a nice fountain…

Fountain, Stefan the Great Park, Chişinău
…and an avenue of busts of the great and the good. The busts were too small and too far apart for a decent photograph, but there was nobody we had ever heard of – I am sure the same would not be true in France or Germany and perhaps it is an indication of the gulf between Eastern and Western Europe.

Alexander Pushkin, generally regarded as Russia’s greatest poet, gets a spot to himself. Pushkin lived in Chişinău 1820-3; we previously met him in Tblisi were he had earlier settled briefly.

Alexander Pushkin, Stefan the Great Park, Chişinău
But the star is Ştefan cel Mare şi Sfint (Stefan the Great and the Saint), Moldova’s national hero. Prince of Moldavia (a much bigger area than modern Moldova) from 1457 to 1504, his 47-year reign brought stability to a principality surrounded by larger powers, playing off the Ottoman Empire, Poland and Hungary against each other and allegedly resorting to arms only when other means failed, which was quite often as he claimed to have fought 36 battles and won 34. Although a relatively sophisticated late medieval warlord, Stefan was known to use impalement as a punishment – he was an occasional ally of Vlad III Dracula of Wallachia – and imposed slavery on Roma and Tartar prisoners. These were not the acts of a saint, so his 1993 canonization by the Romanian Orthodox Church looks more nationalistic than religious.

Stefan the Great and the Saint looks out over his from his park, Chişinău
A few paces on and we were back outside the huge cabinet offices opposite the Arcul de Triumf. Here, where Lenin once stood, is a strange non-monument. The plaque on the rough marble slab announces that ‘in this place will be placed the monument in memory of the victims of the Soviet occupation and of the totalitarian communist regime.’ It has been like this since 2010. The Soviet annexation in 1940 was followed by mass arrests and 90,000 were deported to Siberia and around 100,000 died in a semi-deliberate post-war famine. But Moldova remains torn, some look west, but others still look east and all acknowledge that the Red Army liberated Moldova from fascism, so the monument remains controversial and absent.

Non-monument outside the government offices, Chişinău
We continued along the boulevard, passing through the nearest Chişinău has to a tourist market – handicrafts, t-shirts and paintings of varying quality - and reached the point from which all distances to Chişinău are measured. London (Londra) is apparently 2,566km distant.

Okm, Chişinău
Lunch at La Plăcinte, Chişinău

Our tour was over and we strolled back with N to the City Park where she recommended we lunch at La Plăcinte, one of a dozen or so branches in the city, on the edge of the park. N told us what not to eat (she knew our lunch menu for tomorrow), made some suggestions and left.

We shared a turkey salad and aubergine puréed with garlic. It may not have been original, but it was very good. Our supermarkets dictate what must be grown, insisting on perfectly shaped, perfectly coloured fruit and veg with a long shelf life. Nowhere do they concern themselves with flavour. It is not like that in Moldova.

Lunch at La Placente, Chişinău
We also discovered that 50cl of beer was 20 lei (£1), less than half the price of the hotel beer cellar.

A Walk and a Demonstration

We had a walk in the afternoon, accidentally finding Pushkin’s house…

Lynne finds Pushkin's House, Chişinău
 …and photographing odd corners that give the flavour of the city.

A corner of Chişinău
We noticed a steady stream of people making their way up Strada Eugen Doga towards the city centre and later heard chanting. The demonstration was against the annulment of the recent mayoral election on a dubious technicality. ‘We make our choice,’ N said later (these are not her exact words), ‘maybe we make a bad decision, but it is our decision, and then America or Russia tells us it must be changed.’ I am unsure about Putin, but I think she overestimates America’s interest. I am not completely sure The Donald could find Europe on a map; I know he could not find Moldova.

A steady stream of demonstrators towards the centre, Chişinău
The demonstration was peaceful and around five the crowds were heading the other way. We followed them down to the place were the trolley buses turn as they headed for home.

Trolley buses taking the demonstrators home, Chişinău
We dined at a pub across the road from our hotel. Grilled meat and vegetables were simple but good and we dipped our toes into the world of Moldovan wine. A rosé made from Merlot and Saperavi, a dark red Georgian variety, was inexpensive, dry and crisp with an intriguing honeyed finish. Good start.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

A Collection of Arcs de Triomphe (none of them in Paris)

Originally published on April 1st 2014, as ‘Four Arcs de Triomphe (none of them in Paris), I have updated this post to include arches I have encountered since. I hope to further update it as and when I encounter more.

It is not always easy to decide what is or is not a Triumphal Arch. I have not included monumental gates; the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and London’s Marble Arch (original intended as a gate for Buckingham Palace) are not Triumphal Arches. Triumphal Arches celebrate victory - they do not commemorate the dead and they are not war memorials. I have thus reluctantly removed Lutyen’s India Gate, despite including it in the original post, not because it is a gate (it isn’t) but because it was built as a memorial to the 90,000 Indians who died serving the British Empire in the First World War.

All these arches owe a debt to the Parisian Arch, because it was the first modern Arc de Triomphe; but it was not, of course, the original. Like so much in Europe, Triumphal Arches are a Roman idea.

We visited Libya in 2006, the home of two well preserved/restored Roman arches. The Arch of Marcus Aurelius in Tripoli was built in 165AD to commemorate the victory of his adopted brother, Lucius Verus, over the Parthians. It seems a thin excuse for building an arch so far away from the events, but perhaps Marcus felt in need of a monument.

The Arch of Marcus Aurelius, Tripoli
The ruins of Leptis Magna lie 130km to the East. Septimius Severus, Rome’s only African emperor, was born here in 145AD. He became emperor in 193 and ruled until he fell ill attempting to conquer Caledonia and died in York in 211. He is honoured by an arch in Rome commemorating his victory over the Parthians (it seems Lucius Verus failed to finish them off) and this one in his home town.

The Arch of Septimius Severus, Leptis Magna
After the Romans, triumphal arches went out of fashion until the days of Napoleon who rather fancied himself as a latter day Roman emperor. The wonderfully camp statue below is in Bastia the capital of northern Corsica. Napoleon was born in Ajaccio, the capital of southern Corsica – is it possible that Bastia was taking the mickey out of their rival’s favourite son?
 
Napoleon in a toga, Bastia
Planning the Paris Arc de Triomphe started in 1806 but it was not completed until 1836 by which time some of the shine had come off Napoleon’s triumphs. That did not deter the Parisians, nor indeed many others, as where Paris led the rest followed. St Petersburg has one (1829), as do New York (1892) and Mexico City (1938). London hopped on the bandwagon early - the Wellington Arch in Green Park dates from 1826 - though before I began researching triumphal arches I had never heard of it.

So, in order of construction....

The Arch of Bender. Built 1807, 27th June 2018 (Full story coming soon)

Bender (or Bendery, sometimes Tighina) is a city on the right bank of the River Dniester in the unrecognised Republic of Transnistria. It was on the front line in many of the wars between the Russian and Ottoman Empires, its fortress being taken by the Russians in 1779, 1789 and 1806. The arch commemorates the 1806 Russian victory and is contemporary with the Parisian Arch though it was finished much more quickly (and not just because it is smaller). The Russian-Turkish Wars continued, on and off, until 1918, but the fighting had moved away from Bender.

The Arch of Bender
Arcul de Triumf, Chişinău. Built 1841 24th June 2018

The modest capital of Moldova has an appropriately modest triumphal Arch, 13m high and sporting a clock that would not look out of place on a railway station.

Arcul de Triumf
Designed by Luca Zauşkevici it commemorates the Russian victory in the 1828-9 version of the Russian-Turkish fixture. It was built to house a 6.4t bell made from melted down Ottoman cannons originally intended for cathedral bell tower (the predecessor of the one in this picture), but would not fit. It strikes the hour with a rather unmusical ‘dunk’.

Arc de Tromf, Barcelona. Built 1888 29th March 2008

A whimsical piece of modernista architecture with Islamic-style brickwork, Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf was designed by Josep Vilaseca and built in 1888 as the entrance to the Barcelona World Fair.

Arc de Triomf, Barcelona
The arch represents no military triumph, real or imagined, and the sculpture on the front frieze is called Barcelona rep les nacions (Barcelona welcomes the nations). Perhaps it should not be included but it feels an altogether healthier expression of national (in this case Catalan) pride than any of the other Arches de Triomphe.

Monumento a la Revolución, Mexico City Built 1936 18th November 2011

Intended as a neo-classical home for the Federal Legislative Palace, building started in 1910 but was halted two years later by the revolution. In 1938 the completed first stage was adapted as a monument to the revolution that halted the building and it now contains the tombs of five revolutionary heroes including Pancho Villa.

Monument a la Revolucion, Mexico City
Transforming the core of a parliament building into a triumphal arch altered the neo-classical intention into something that has been described as Mexican socialist realism. Whatever the label, I think it’s ugly (sorry Mexico). At 75m high it is the world’s highest triumphal arch, but please don’t tell Kim Jong Un, he would only make his bigger


Patouxai, Vientiane. Built 1957-68 1st of March 2014

Ironically, this Arc de Triomphe was built to commemorate triumph over the French. Laos gained its independence in 1954 after the first Indo-China War and Patouxi (Victory Arch) was built in the late 1950s. Less reverently it is known as ‘The Vertical Runway’ as there is a story that it was built from concrete donated by the Americans for airport construction.

Patouxai (Victory Arch), Vientiane
There are stairs inside and shops at three levels. From the top there is a good view over the gardens below one way and down Lan Xang Avenue – Vientiane’s Champs Elysées the other.

The Arch of Triumph, Pyongyang.  Built 1982 9thSeptember 2013

North Korea’s Arch of Triumph, in Triumphant Return Square, commemorates Kim Il Sung's return to the capital (in 1948) and his founding of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea  after almost single-handedly driving the Japanese colonialists from his country (DPRK history avoids mentioning the global conflict and ignores contributions made by other combatants, including the Chinese, British and the hated Americans).

It was built in 1982 to celebrate his 70th birthday and is is blatant rip off of the French ‘original’. Two interesting details are that a) it is 10m taller than the Parisian Arch and b) that fact was the first thing we were told when we arrived in the square. Delusions of grandeur and a chip on the shoulder are the most obvious attributes of Kim Il Sung and the dynasty he founded.
 
Arch of Triumph, Pyongyang
Pyongyang’s sparse traffic means that it is perfectly safe to stand in the middle of the ‘Champs Elysées’ to take a photograph.

Porta Macedonia, Skopje. Built 2011 27th May 2015

The Porta Macedonia was designed by Valentina Stefanovska as part of the then Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s ‘Skopje 2014’ project which saddled the capital with a series of grandiose monuments at great expense. Despite its name it is not a gate, nor is it a war memorial, but the design is classic Triumphal Arch, so that is what it must be, though apart from commemorating 20 years of Macedonian independence it is unclear what the ‘triumph’ was.

Porta Macedonia
I am unconvinced that spending €4.4m on a triumphal arch was the best use of money, which is not overabundant in Skopje. Gruevski was prime minister from 2006 until forced to resign in 2016. In May 2018 he started a two years prison sentence for corruption.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Ugborough to Ringmore, In Sight of the Sea: Day 33 Of the South West Odyssey (English Branch)

The South West Odyssey is a long distance walk.
Five like-minded people started in 2008 from the Cardingmill Valley in Shropshire and by walking three days a year have now (April 2018) reached Ringmore on the South Devon Coast (almost).

In the morning I followed Mike down to Ringmore on the coast (nearly) to bring him back after he had parked his car. The weather looked more promising than the last two days, the walk was shorter (it is a long drive home from South Devon) and the coastal South Hams, while undulating, does not involve repeated steep up-and-downs like the rest of non-moorland Devon. It would be the easiest of our three days.

The South West Odyssey, Day 33 (in purple)
But first - after breakfast, anyway - we had to drive down to the end of yesterday’s walk in Ugborough and then follow a route which climbed back up to our B&B, called Annapurna. That suggests a fearsome ascent, but fortunately the owners named it, they said, not for its mountainous location but because, when they bought the rambling old farmhouse it had required ‘a huge mountain of work’.

If not actually Himalayan, the climb from Ugborough had seemed forbidding yesterday and looked no less worrying as Brian drove us down it this morning. Alison surveyed the fields on the hillside opposite. ‘It’s like a huge battenburg,’ she said, and indeed it was, but where is the marzipan? That’s the best bit.


A big battenburg in the fields beside Ugborough (picture: Alison)
Ignoring Francis’ directions Brian took his own route into Ugborough and again parked in the central square. Once booted up Francis set off out of Ugborough by the route Brian had driven in, the rest of us following like sheep though it was obviously the wrong way for pedestrians.

Following Francis out of Ugborough the wrong way
Light eventually dawned, we stopped, returned to the square and departed in the right direction.

Following Francis out of Ugborough the right way
In Devon climbs are routinely preceded by a hidden extra descent, in this case to cross the River Erme. Once over the Erme, and A3121, a minor road started the steady climb.

Minor road at the start of the climb from Ugborough. It was steeper than it looks - honest.
To reach the top of the ridge at Mary Cross required over 3km of road walking shortened slightly but field paths cutting off a couple of corners. On one of these we encountered a field of sheep with lambs a month or two old. Sheep normally ignore walkers, or run away, but the lambs rushed over to us, clearly expected to be fed. They were, I suppose, quite cute, though I had to speak sharply to one that thought it appropriate to nibble the corner of my unfastened jacket. They followed us across the field, Francis being particularly attractive.


Francis leads his little flock, and Brian has a couple of followers, too
In a field corner spring was at work, but the bluebells on the bank behind the broom were still too sparse to make a good photo.

Broom in bloom
From the end of the field we paused to look back to Ugborough. After 40 minutes climbing it was not far below us, but the dip before the the ascent accounts for that.

Looking back to Ugborough from Shilston (picture: Francis)
The gradients were more modest than I had expected and interspersed with several flat sections, even one small descent to the Shilston Brook. I include the photo below largely to amuse Lucinda W but could a 24t truck even get on to this bridge?

Shilston Bridge
The ascent was accomplished without undue pain in just under the hour. We turned right towards Modbury, passed the pub where we dined last night and continued to the town centre. Four roads converge on Modbury town centre, one descending gently, the other three swooping down.

Modbury town centre
Everywhere from Modbury is up and if we did not entirely take the route we intended we did find our way up the hill to the south to a minor road where a convenient pallet in a farm gateway proved more enticing than lingering in a Modbury coffee shop – well why waste a good thermos?

Pull up a pallet. Above Modbury
The minor road took a looping detour to arrive at Hunts Cross, so we planned to cut off the loop by taking a field path up the hill opposite to a farm and then return to the road via the farm drive. Alison then noticed the right of way turned sharply at the farm without linking to the drive, which may or may not have been a problem, but if it was it would be a far longer detour than using the road. Unwilling to risk it, we trudged along the road which at first rose almost as sharply as the field path,…


The road rises towards Hunts Cross
… giving good views back over Modbury.

Looking back to Modbury (picture: Francis)
The weather had behaved far better today, there was no rain and even a little warmth in the sunshine. During the climbs and in the lee of hedges I would happily have removed my jacket, but there was a keen wind in more exposed sections, so I left it on.

We soon reached Hunts Cross and a kilometre later Seven Stones Cross - not all of Devon’s little crossroads have names, but a lot do.

Here we turned right towards the village of Kingston, its pub only 2km distant. Why, somebody asked, would we walk 2km to Kingston, and then 2km more to Ringmore when perfectly good paths would take us straight to Ringmore, which also has a pub, and was only 3km away?

The logic was unanswerable. We left the road to follow field paths skirting round some growing crops…


Field paths near Kington
….and then picked up Renton Lane which we followed for a kilometre to Marwell.

Renton Lane (photo: Francis)
A brief return to road walking was followed by an odd semi-circular field margin which deposited us on the road to Ringmore with only a few hundred metres to go. Here a permissive footpath had been mowed along a field boundary (thank you, whoever is responsible) so we could approach the end of the walk with the sea in sight and grass beneath our feet.

Approaching Ringmore and with the sea in sight
Mike’s car was parked at the village entrance, so we changed footwear and strolled through the delightful village to the appropriately named Journey’s End Inn.

Ringmore
And that, at 1.45pm, was indeed the end of the journey for this year, all that remained was to take a glass or cup of refreshment, return to Ugborough and start the long journey home. For all except Brian, it was a long journey, too, as delays on the M6 led to detours and arrival times around 8 pm.

The appropriately named Journey's End Inn, Ringmore
There is one more year left of this Odyssey, and then, after 12 years it will be over. And what next?

The South West Odyssey (English Branch)