Mallorca – final days

This blog has two days in one, and that will be it until I return to the Isle of Man. And, although I have only been away less than a week I am homesick for the varied vistas and landscapes of the Isle of Man. The mountains of Mallorca are beautiful but one walk looks much like another and all our guided walks have led us around the mountainous outskirts of Sóller and there is only so much of that an IOM islander can take, however stunning the views may be. For me, variety is the spice of life.

And it has been so so hot, I have spent every day soaking wet from head to foot, so, today I have abandoned the group and elected instead to do nothing – although, as you well know, doing nothing does not sit well with me, so I shall no doubt engage in my usual wanderings at some point.

On Wednesday, I forewent the boat trip to the next cove, feeling a need for solitude. My Garmin watch is also playing up so I wanted to see if I could get a replacement battery in Sóller. It was great to get the boots off, give the feet an airing and wear sandals for the short walk around the hills to Soller. I called in at the Port de Sóller tourist information to find out which paths to take – only they weren’t much use as they couldn’t furnish me with any sensible footpath maps. I was however pointed in the direction of footpath no 4, De Figuera, an ancient track leading past a 400 year old house with a tower created for the woman of the house, and featuring many terraces of olives groves, lemon and walnut trees.

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At this point, my track left the tarmac and went to the right, through more olive groves. As I dropped off the hillside I was delighted by a surprise view and the path changed from a wide dirt track to a normal single person footpath.

The footpath was well-marked right up to the roundabout on the main road at Sóller, but what I wasn’t warned about was that although the footpath itself is 3 miles there is still a further 1.5 miles of road walking into the centre of Sóller. I often feel it is interesting to see the hidden suburbs of towns, and in this case, I seemed to be walking through the car repair area! There was garage after garage, more than we have in the whole of the south of the Isle of Man. I went past a museum and made a mental note to return once I had found the battery shop, though by the time I had done that, the museum had shut up shop for the day – at 1pm! I didn’t get my battery though the shop assistant was very helpful and told me what to do. I couldn’t find any park to sit in to have my lunch so sat by the tram station to eat and then returned to Port de Sóller. Sóller does have rather splendid plane trees.

Yesterday’s harder walk started from the hotel with the focal points being the Mirador, a popular scenic viewpoint overlooking the coast and Sóller alike,and Fornalutx, an impressive well-kept village only a stone’s throw across the valley from our drinking hole in Binianarix a couple of days before.

We started on another footpath from Port de Sóller adjacent to the one I had taken on Wednesday, only this one was a lot prettier, a stony footpath with wet vegetation overhanging in many places. This might often be considered a hindrance, but given how hot it was, it was a welcome relief when the leaves brushed onto the skin and clothing and dropped its load on us. This was a shorter path than the one I had taken, but surprisingly the two joined up once round the hill. After stopping for a refreshing orange juice, we started our climb.

Nothing is especially steep or difficult, it’s more that the ascent just goes on and on, and in this heat it was necessary – at least for me – to have several drink and wipe-down stops. Others too were finding it heavy going, and yet others were happy to continue at a reasonable pace without a break. The leader ordered a 10 minute break which was well received by those of us in less of a hurry. To me, if we are out for a full day, there is no reason to rush, especially when it is so very hot and humid.

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I want to stop and stare and not walk blindly on without gazing from side to side, as in the photo above. Taking a step away from the path I was able to appreciate this particular view all by myself. Most of the ascent was along stony tracks through light plantations of holm oaks as we gained height. At the Mirador, the views were enthralling in all directions. There is a restaurant here with a wide terrace and equivalent views.

From here is was all downhill on good paths to the pretty village of Fornalutx, with its colourful flowers and sandy stone houses. It has a small central square and you can imagine this having been a meeting point for locals and lovers for centuries and now for tourists in the two bars.

From here it was a short walk into Sóller and the tram back to Port de Sóller. We passed another washhouse, so I gave my hair a good soaking and it felt great; goodness what I looked like, but I was past caring.  And as the sun went down on our walk, we had a final peek of our high peak of the week as we made our final descent, shown peeping over the slightly lower hills in the cover photo.

It was a good walk, final distance about 10 miles with about 1800 ft of ascent and the same amount of descent.

I shall sign off now from Mallorca and normal service on the Isle of Man will resume next week. I hope you have enjoyed this short interlude. If you want to read the Isle of Man blogs just click on the Easy, Medium & Harder buttons on the side and you will find only Isle of Man walks!

Adios de Mallorca.

Day 4 Mallorca – Puig de l’Ofre, Pilgrim Steps & Sóller

This was by far the best day so far, not necessarily the most demanding but certainly the longest at 10.5 miles, with 1628ft of ascent and a whopping 3,831 ft of descent if my Garmin watch is to be believed. We began walking beside a reservoir called “Embassament de Cuber”. On the map it shows it as its full extent but the lack of rainfall meant it had only a meagre offering of water. At the southwestern end of the reservoir we started to ascend to a col between two groups of mountains, Coma de Son Torrella to the right and a group of three like-minded hills on our left. This region is called Escorca.

At the col we could see our high point of the day, Puig de  l’Ofre at 1090m high and is the one in the far distance with the pointy top. The pinnacle was our objective and it was to involve some steep walking and a little scrambling, always easier to ascend than descend. From the col we skirted around the Puig in the scrubby woodland before the path led us to the bare limestone for our climb and our lunchtime stop.

Then came the descent, which we took steadily, and once off the bare rocks we were back in the woods, looking for Trevor’s telescope. We were expecting a massive structure looking heavenwards picking out the stars but when we found it it was something of a disappointment. It was just one of those things that we have at Niarbyl to look out to sea, and furthermore it didn’t work. Trevor was ribbed the rest of the day for promising and not delivering 🙂

We walked down a valley towards Puig de Na Maria, with its grassy ski slope, expecting to meet the 2000 Pilgrim Steps at any time. The views from this point all the way down are stunning and not to be rushed. We saw many people coming up from Sóller but to my mind this way is the best to get the full panorama again and again as the path twists and turns, dips and drops between the mighty cliff-like rocks.

The Pilgrim Steps is part of a longer trail. There are almost 2000 shallow cobbled steps, with about 2 metres between each step. They are not generally as evenly spaced as they appear on this photo and mostly had a more gentle slope and then a slightly larger step. They wind their way through majestic scenery, sometimes the mountains wide apart and at other times barely narrow enough for the path and stream. The gorge comes as a surprise about half way down, and you can imagine that the non existent stream now would become a torrent with huge waterfalls in the winter-time. The steps become a little tedious and you do have to watch where you put your feet, but time is not of the essence compared with the opportunity to be awe-inspired and captivated by the moment. Photos with a mobile phone cannot do this scenery justice.

At the end just when we were ready for a drink, the quaint village of Biniaraix turns up and delivers. But first of all we could have a bath in the old outdoor wash-house. Having a pint of beer on a relatively empty stomach was bound to cause merriment and we had an enjoyable time walking the remainder of the way to Sóller. There was not time to become tourists here, and indeed no enthusiasm, so we got the tram back to Port de Sóller in time for tea.

 

Day 3 Mallorca Valdemossa

This was the start and end of our 9.45 miles hike, with 2219 ft of ascent and 2225ft of descent. There had been thunder and lightning overnight and the weather forecast suggested we may get significant rain at some point.

The bus journey took 45 minutes and went through very evocative scenery involving a series of hairpin bends and twists and turns. Our walk started in the centre of Valdemossa and we weaved out way through some of its streets to take us to our mountain footpath. We followed a valley uphill along a well trodden footpath through the trees. We had been warned there was 2 and 1/4 hours of ascent. At times, this was quite steep but it was mostly on a comfortable path. I became incredibly hot as I always do, and as I like to take photos I was often towards the back on the uphill stretches, at least to begin with. As we got higher the path became rockier, but still a good footpath. We were meandering along amidst the limestone as other days, but this limestone was not quite as sharp as yesterdays. All the time we were in the woods, the sun shone.

As we reached one of the tops, there was just time to take a photo before the mist descended like Mananan’s cloak, and the ridge walk was mostly undertaken in a linear arrangement, making sure we will didn’t step too far to the right and walk over the sheer escarpment to the west. ‘Man overboard’ would have been tricky for our leader to resolve.

Even so, the ridge walk was splendid. The path is beautifully maintained and relatively easy walking. From here we descended along another path back towards Valdemossa. This was much like the uphill section in reverse. We passed the hermit’s cave, which looked to be quite a glamorous apartment with several rooms cut out of the rocks and a chimney. I don’t know when the hermit finally left, or indeed why he was ever there, but he would have had a reasonably comfortable existence if you like that sort of thing, which presumably he did.

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The rain came and went, came and went, as we descended, and it was noticeable just how a tiny amount of rain on the limestone made it slippery and difficult to keep your footing secure. There were one or two near misses as people slipped about a bit. It was also quite steep in places, but luckily there were odd trees to hang on to. The conversations dimmed at this point as people were concentrating on where they were going.

As we entered Valdemossa the heavens really opened, and as we were ahead of schedule we made our way to the nearest bar. Just as we finished our last glugs, the sun came out, so our leader Linda, took us on a tour of the old town of Valdemossa. It is a really pretty town and it knows it. It has an Italianate feel to it, with its design of houses and narrow streets.

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Day 2 Mallorca – Sóller round

Today’s walk was 9 miles and 1388 ft of ascent, slightly more than in the advertised programme, but the extra 88ft perhaps mainly accounted for by my scrambling about on the limestone rocks whilst the others had their lunch.

This was a circular walk from Port De Sóller, commencing with a half mile walk along the front before turning off onto a B road and then onto footpath number 221. The paths are clearly marked and wide by our standards, and very well maintained. They mainly comprise either cobbles or limestone interspersed with clay soils, so a little uneven. In rainy conditions these could be treacherous but today it was a fine day with only a spattering of rain every now and again. The path eased us into a gentle ascent providing views towards Sóller. However, it was a persistent ascent for some distance and not being a morning person I would have preferred to have taken this at a slower rate, given that we had a full day for this walk and it was very hot and humid. However, another of our party was equally irritated that we weren’t going faster as he was, as he told me, ‘out for a walk’, as opposed to a walk and a chat which is more common with group walks. Who would be a group leader, trying to keep everyone happy? I sidled along at the back most of the time taking photos and admiring the views. I think we were on the path called Torrent de Son Sales unless that is the name of the stream! We were walking around the Serres de Muleta group of hills. Postscript: torrent does mean river, though as you will see on my other posts, the whole of the island rivers seem to be devoid of water right now.

We stopped for elevenses at a cafe/restaurant, that was both scenic and interesting in that it had old machinery, and seating areas on different levels, but as I didn’t want to buy drinks but eat and drink what I had bought with me, I wandered off and found a rock to hide under to eat my pastry. This was the high point between the Sóller valley and the valley to the west with sea views.

When we resumed our walk, it was only for a short distance to take us to a superb vantage point near the coast, and for me this was the highlight of the day at it involved messing about climbing and scrambling over limestone rocks. The others stopped and had their lunch so I could take my time looking at the different types of lichen and being curious about the weathering of the rocks, which are different from the limestone rocks at home. The limestone here is far more jagged and would cut you to pieces if you fell on it. It has little shards of glass-like rock sticking out in places. I found several fossils too. On the map, this is about at the 5 mile marker.

After that we retraced some of our steps to rejoin the inland path, where we were to meet our guide. The olive groves are ancient, gnarled and twisted into different shapes. They have a sculptured look as if some farmer had taken a lifetime pride in developing their contorted shapes. They looked if they could tell a story or two. Some of the olive trees are well over five hundred years old, although it is the 5-10 year old trees that provide the best olive oil.

We met our guide at a junction in the path where a local was selling freshly pressed orange juice. He doesn’t look very happy in my photo though he was doing a nice steady trade. A glass contains 3 large oranges for 3 Euros, and it was worth it. It was delicious and gave me a burst of energy that lasted all the way back.

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Our guide told us about how the countryside is protected from the elements, including rock falls, by creating terraces made of limestone walls all the way down the mountain. It also enables them to guide the water in a controlled way as in winter there is more than ample rainfall toppling down these hillsides which would dislodge the soil and create mini landslides. We came across a lime pit – it is a lime kiln, but that would conjure a different image. This is a dug out section of land which is filled with layers of limestone and vegetation and topped with pine, the fuel to burn the lime.  It is repeatedly heated and churned over to produce lime that can be used not only on the fields but also for white washing houses. It acts both as a firebreak and a disinfectant and therefore is often painted onto Mallorca kitchen walls.

A short climb took us to the Refugi de Muleta. According to the Collins English Dictionary, the word ‘muleta’ refers to  the small cape attached to a stick used by the matador during the final stages of a bullfight, so quite why it is called this I don’t know, except this could refer to the shape of the rocks on the top of the hill perhaps.  Beside the hostelry is a lighthouse here called Cap Gros. From here we descended most boringly all the way back to the hotel for almost 2 miles entirely on road. I say ‘we’ but at this point another guest and I independently left the party to walk at our own pace, and I didn’t see him or the party again for the rest of the walk, though I understand they stopped and very sensibly partook of the local beverages on the way home. The views of the bay as you curve round are wonderful, but its one of those walks that once you have done it you probably wouldn’t bother again because of the amount of road walking.

Tomorrow’s walk will be a challenge for me as it is 8-9 miles and over 2000ft ascent, never mind the descent. So, the most challenging walk since I recovered from my chronic illness.

 

Arrival in Mallorca Sat 8 September- not the Isle of Man.

My first glimpse of Mallorca was from the plane as we skirted over the hills from the north to south of the island. The craggy beige hills were speckled with green shrub and trees dropping steeply into the sea and seemed to go on for ever. This looked promising.

Landing at Palma was less exciting. The view here was of an extended low level plateau to which the city of Palma owed its living. Our host, Trevor, told us about the hundreds of water wheels that adorn the plateau, mainly drawing water. The adored hills and mountains rose from its edges rather like a pastry crust. There aren’t high rise flats in Palma as we are used to seeing, but many apartments of 7 or 8 floors, with the same balconies, awnings and shutters, all very consistent and synchronised with their environment. As we edged out of Palma there were more hamlets with bungalow style houses and many had small enclosures for sheep, goats and hens. The scrubland gave way to lemon trees, olive groves and walnut trees.  As I was on a bus, and on the wrong side of the road, it was impossible to take many useful photos.

We travelled through Sóller after barely 30 minutes and soon arrived at our hotel at Port De Sóller. We passed many an island in the road and each one had some kind of statue or stone ornament, until I wanted to take a photo for you and then there were just trees on the islands.

 

 

A port it may be, but I am yet to see the ‘sea’ as by the time we arrived it was late. The Sóller Beach hotel is very lovely, and the food out of this world – I was in my 7th heaven, eating my perfect kind of food and not having to cook it for myself! However, I was expecting to see sea for miles around, but that isn’t the case.

After dinner, I took a stroll and visited the local supermarket. It is a very relaxing village with a lot and I mean a lot of boats, of all sizes. The hills rise from the lagoon shaped harbour and with the evening lights and entertainment what’s not to like. A local musician was strumming away by the quayside and the local drinkers and eaters were suitably appreciative of his laidback style of music.

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So tomorrow, there will be daylight and our first walk of 8 miles and 1300ft of ascent. And for once I won’t do it in 3-4 hours as I would on the Isle of Man and shall enjoy a leisurely day soaking up the delights of Mallorca.

Figure of 8, Cronk Ny Arrey Laa, Tuesday 4 Sept 2018, 8.78 miles, 1533 ft of ascent

This is a walk of endless possibilities and permutations. Well maybe not endless, but there is a wide variety of starting and finishing points. If you prefer to finish with a downhill section, then start at the Sloc, as virutally any other path will mean a long uphill section at the end.

I started where the road turns to the right and a farm track continues to Dalby close to the top of Cronk ny Arrey Laa ( a regular parking spot for walkers), then descended south along the permissive path to the Sloc. It was interesting to see that the heather and gorse on the eastern side had virtually finished, whereas it was still in full bloom on the south side. On the eastern side, several shallow drainage ditches have been dug, and even though we haven’t had a lot of rain, every one on the eastern side was working well, with water in them flowing off the hillside.

When I reached the Sloc, I decided to blaze a trail to the top of Cronk Ny Arrey Laa, taking in the hillocks on the cliff line – cliffocks? – which are avoided by taking the standard path.  Clearly others have done the same from the footprints and loosely made  paths that I followed from time to time, but this was entirely new to me. It was quite thrilling and provided me with views that are usually unattainable. I did see one gentleman on the traditional path looking quizzically up at me. I couldn’t decide whether he thought I was just bonkers or whether he quite fancied traipsing through the heather himself. For me, it was worth the extra ascent and descent, but as he didn’t join me he obviously thought I was bonkers.

 

 

On reaching the highest point of the day, Cronk My Arrey Laa (437m), I descended via the steep coastal footpath which, once off the stony Manx group, crosses the wide and boggy moors towards Eary Cushlin and Dalby Mountain.

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Here I was meeting the Manx Wildlife Trust again, this time to assist with the project “Bouncing Bogs”. I say “assist” but I am really not a lot of use, but I am learning a lot, and in time I may be of some use! I was late because I had got the time wrong, but it was neither here not there, as is usually the case with Manx time-keeping, and they hadn’t started. Dawn showed us bog asphodel in its orange burst of autumn glory, bog cotton, sheep’s bit scabious, eyebright, tormentil, purple knapweed to name but a few. She showed the children how to strip the soft rush to create rush lights and plucked and flicked thelicopter seeds from the nearby sycamore trees providing amusement for the children, though it has to be said the most fun was had by jumping about in the bogs. The gooiest thing of the day was a very ugly and slimy slug, which rather delighted Dawn. One thing we sadly didn’t see was the sundew which is common here, but maybe a little late in the year to show itself off. I havent included this section in my walk stats as this was an extra.

I then proceeded along the Bayr ny Skeddan towards Glen Maye, another route I had never walked before. It was just lovely, with continuous changing views across to South Barrule. The path is easy and flat until the end when it descends steeply to the river Rushen. This path is accessible from Eary Cushlin /Dalby Mountain car parks and is worth a walk on its own. You can see the mines, the river valley,  and the moutains  from a unique angle. Unfortunately, at this point, I ran out of battery – again – but I will revisit this area another time I am sure and take more photos.

 

I stopped for ‘lunch’ when I crossed the river Rushen. There are a couple of good places to have a picnic lunch here, either at the bridge sitting on the stones, or if raining, just a little further upstream there is a gate leading to a grassy and tree-d area where there is a confluence of streams. I sat by the bridge for a while. The sun was beaming down and the water trickling over the rocks, and I didn’t want to move.

From here, I ascended using the farm track to Round Table. It is reasonably steep initially and then becomes a softer climb, but it is all up hill. From Round Table, I continued across the moorland which does seem to go on forever, although it is no more than a mile or so. You can see the cars parked at Cronk Ny Arrey Laa from Round Table and they look deceptively close. This path was quite boggy and slippery and of course, still uphill.

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I can throughly recommend this walk; you maybe don’t want to do it all. If you did the first half of the figure of 8 to Eary Cushlin you could join the Dalby track back to the car and this would be no more than 5 miles. Or, you could start by walking down the Dalby track and just do the second part of the figure of 8, and that would be about 5 miles too.

So that’s my long walk for this week. I am off on my hols to Majorca in a few days and work has to take precedence now until I go. I shall have my Garmin watch with me on my walks in Majorca so I may do a Majorca blog while I am away if I have an internet connection.

A walk on the wild side – Saturday 1st September 8.6 miles, 583 ft elevation

I was awoken by the sound of cows mooing this morning – which is a little strange given that I live on a housing estate. Little was I to know that cows would feature prominently in my activities today. Or maybe I was hallucinating having had so little sleep thanks to Homestay guest, who after a night of liquid indulgence and jollities had thought fit to walk some complete strangers home up to Bradda and then take a rest on the way back to listen to the waves crashing on the beach from a wall at Spaldrick. He was so relaxed, recumbent on his hammock wall, that he fell peacefully asleep there until the early hours, unknowingly perched precariously next to the significant drop leading down to the beach. My text message at 1.37am appears to have woken him up, so he drowsily got himself together and staggered back to his lodgings where he indulged in a couple of slices of toast and jam at 2am and regaled me with his stories until 3am.

So, the morning started slowly as neither of us had any get up and go, though go he eventually did to Jurby. I had planned out a short walk for myself. It was a dull damp day with nothing to commend it, so I opted for a low level country route. It started promisingly with an unexpected trip on the steam train to Ballabeg. This did add on an extra 1/2 mile but that didn’t bother me as I was only doing a short walk, but you could get the bus to Ballabeg and get off at the corner.

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Walking up the road out of Ballabeg I had spotted what looked like a tiny circular road on the map which looked interesting and it would get me off the ‘main road’. I followed this track for about half a mile before it then gave up the ghost and did not continue on where it was shown on the map. Being the explorer that I am, I thought if I hop over this fence and walk to the edge of the field then I should be able to join another footpath. It was quite misty so no-one would see me, except the minute I got in the field a herd of cows came over to say ‘hello’. Having convinced them that I was not of any interest to them they trotted off  into the mist. I was now in a large field and unable to see a thing, so I got my compass out to at least make sure I was going in the right direction. When I got to the edge of the field there was no exit and the many cows reappeared and were keen to enquire as to what my business was in their field. It was daunting having 15 or so cows staring eyeball to eyeball with me and I did not feel inclined to test their humour by taking any photos of them. It was a case of who could stare the other out for longest. Eventually they got bored and went off, so I made a fairly hasty retreat as soon as I knew I was incognito in the mist. I climbed back over the fence and retraced my steps all the way back to the road. Interestingly, the Garmin map showing my route does not show the path that is on the 1:25000 so the latters appears to be out of date.

It was now raining quite hard and I followed the road until I met the footpath/track I had been trying to locate earlier. This is not an interesting path, but I did see my cows again, this time from the safety of being the other side of the hedge. In fact, this is a very boring path, but it does have its moment. At a farmyard, there were dozens of squawking ducks and geese which came as quite a surprise.

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The footpath here was shown to deviate from the main track at this point, but it looked so overgrown that I thought it wasn’t going to be possible to continue. But the map showed the footbridge and this being the way,  I tried again and ignored the wild boar in the enclosure. I found a very very rickety stile completely overgrown leading into the ancient woodland. How ancient it is I don’t know, but it wasn’t one full of conifers.  This became my lunch stop out of the rain. Coming out of the boggy woodland I was surprised and delighted by the river winding its way through the enchanted trees. I could imagine this being a place for story-telling and fairies.

 

Crossing the bridge led to another fence /stile to climb over that was even more unstable than the last one  – the gate didn’t open and the wooden structure swayed as I stood on it. I was now on the track up to the Grenaby / Ballabeg road. I turned right and walked a short distance to the marked footpath on the left that would take me to Billown. This was waymarked but not easy walking as the turf had been dug up by the cows’ hooves, and yes, you guessed it, some more cows thought I was the most interesting thing they had seen today and started to move rapidly towards me. This time, though, I was one step ahead of them and stood on top of the stile to take their mugshots.

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I couldn’t find the exit path from this field, that thankfully had no wildlife in it, so I opened a gate rather than climbed over it (there’s a novelty) and another, and walked through Upper Billown farm.  I followed the track, but being tired and dim from the last evening’s festivities I took a wrong path. It didn’t take me long to discover my error and I was soon back on track and eventually joined the Ballmodha Straight for a very short distance before turning left by the milestone onto the track that would take me to Ballasalla. And of course, a dog had to come out to greet me very noisily at a farm, and more cows followed my every step before my day was done.

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Not a great walk; not one I shall do again in a hurry, but it did have its moments, especially the enchanted forest where the Silverburn really begins its epic venture to the sea. If you were to do it in a straight line, without unnecessary detours, it would probably be about 7 miles altogether.

Tomorrow, I am on duty at the Scarlett Visitor Centre so no danger of any intimidating cows there!

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