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This is just a short post – we’re busy getting ready for France.  We fly out on Saturday morning from Leeds Bradford Airport to Nice.  We’re catching the train to Agay down the coast from Cannes. We’ll be there for three days walking in the  Esterel region which is by the coast.  Then on the Tuesday we’re heading back to Nice to catch the Chemin de Fer du Provence which is a narrow gauge railway up to Digne Les Bains.  There we’re picking up a hire car and driving down to Castellane – for the rest of the week.  We’re going to do some walking down, in and around the Gorge Du Verdon which is the biggest canyon in Europe.  I’m really looking forward to a good break and some interesting walking.  I don’t think it will be much warmer than here and some of it is quite high so we’re taking lots of warm clothes.

On a separate note, the first Conference Post is on Inclusive Learning.  We have a twitter stream and hash-tag for the event – #jiscrscnw09.

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For the last four or five weeks, we’ve been walking in the Dales most weekends.  While recording the latest elearning stuff podcast last week, we had a brief discussion on the use of animoto so thought I’d use some of the photos from the last trip up Great Knoutberry Hill to do a short video.

Yes I know – too many sunrise and Hellifield Station photos, but I like it.

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that we had just returned from Nice.  What a fabulous place and it is easy to see why the rich and famous and not so rich or famous head there.  We arrived to a rather cloudy overcast day  but at least it was warm – about 26 degrees.  The hotel was right on the Promenade des Anglais and our room overlooked the sea.

View from Hotel room

View from Hotel Room

The following day we decided to walk round the headland to the West of the town from Villefranche sur Mer.  We stepped off the train and within a few hundred yards were on a superb little beach with a diving pontoon and a swimming area bouyed off from the boats coming out of the marina.  It sort of set the tone for the whole holiday.  Walk a bit, head round a corner, ‘Oh that looks a nice beach’ swim, sunbathe, potter on a little further.  Walking in the Dales is nothing like this!

The old town of Nice is a warren of small streets full of restaurants, bars and shops.  We ate there a couple of times but it is not cheap – £7 a pint of lager!

Vieux Ville

On the Saturday we took a trip to an island just south of Cannes.  It’s called Isle St Marguerite and is just 4 Km long and about one Km wide.  It has no vehicles and is even no smoking!  The trip took about an hour and was quite bumpy across the bay.  We walked along the coast stopping every so often then on the South side found a fantastic little cove.  It was about 15 ft wide and just exqusite.  I swam out of the cove with Stephen’s camera, which is waterproof to take a photo of ‘our beach’ and will post the photos along with loads of others onto the flickr site when they’ve been downloaded.  It was just idyllic and I could have spent all day just taking photos of yet another beautiful view.  The island is covered in pine and eucalyptus trees making the air scented and delicious.

Isle St Marguerite

Isle St Marguerite

It wasn’t all sun, sea and beaches though, we did visit the Museum of Modern Art and the Matisse Museum which are all free.  The Matisse is held in a beautiful 17th century mansion surrounded by olive trees in a park to the North of the city and is worth the visit.   I also managed to get the timer to work on my phone camera so here are the happy couple on the steps of the Museum of Modern Art.

Lisa and Stephen

Lisa and Stephen

All in all a fantastic holiday the best ever!

Rotterdam is very Dutch – well the rest of the Netherlands is too but I’m here so it holds my attention.  I got here on Sunday after a very quick and pretty uneventful flight – though a few questions come to mind every time I go through an airport.  What is it that makes people think it is fine to sit and drink pints of beer at 7 in the morning because they are going on holiday?  Why are books at airport bookshops 50% bigger than books on the high street and what is the point of handing out packets of tuc biscuits in an attempt to make you think you have been fed? 

The train from Schipol to Rotterdam was fast and smooth and sadly not one of the very exciting double decker ones.  It was great to be met by eldest daughter and once I’d dumped my bags we headed off into the city centre.  There are some intersting buildings including the cube house.

Cube Houses - disorientating inside surely.

Cube Houses - disorientating inside surely.

Yesterday I was up North to Amsterdam.  I spent the whole day there and battled round the Van Gogh museum – I was delighted to see a handful of Gaugain pictures as well as some by Millet and Monet.  Amsterdam is beautiful and there is another delicious view round every corner.

Amsterdam Canal

Amsterdam Canal

So a great day spent doing art, shopping and sitting about reading – bliss.  Oh and finally – Happy Birthday Kate! 

On Sunday last we decided to attempt Pen-y-Ghent the final of the Yorkshire Dales ‘Three Peaks’ that we still had to climb.  We took the train to Horton in Ribblesdale which is only 20 minutes from my village and we set off along a gently sloping stony path.  We had decided to do the longer walk rather than the straight up and down to the top and back so were going to walk the full length of the fell, climb the ridge and then walk along the top back to the summit.  The weather was showery and despite having been soaked to the skin on Ingleborough a couple of weeks ago we still didn’t have over trousers (£100 is a lot of money!).  The guide book mentions a couple of pot holes and we could see these by the side of the path.  Then as we approached what seemed to be a dip in the path it very quickly opened up to a 20 m chasm.  This is not for the faint hearted.  It is unfenced and just appears in front of you.  Hull Pot as it is called is said to be the largest natural hole in England.  There is no way down it other than abseiling.  The river normally disappears before it reaches the pot and emerges half way down the wall but as we had had so much rain it cascaded dramatically into the bottom.

It was a real treat and a complete and rather un-nerving surprise.  We trudged on as the showers got heavier and more horizontal and we were repeatedly soaked.  As we got to the bottom of Plover Hill at the far end of the walk I was having problems staying upright in the wind and the prospect of walking into the wind on the ridge on the way back wasn’t too appealing – so I ahem, suggested we re-think and come back another day to get to the top – when it isn’t so windy.  And perhaps we should check the forecast in the Pen-y-Ghent cafe which warned of ‘significant buffeting’ and winds of up to 45 mph.  So we retired hurt to a pint of tea and to dry out.

Hull Pot Beck disappearing

Hull Pot Beck disappearing

Last weekend I fulfilled an ambition I’d had for a long time.  We walked across Morecambe Bay at low tide.  This is a very dangerous place and it shouldn’t be attempted without guidance so we had phoned in advance to book onto a pre-arranged walk.  The chap on the phone sounded very friendly so we were looking forward to it.  Unfortunately, Northern Rail had other ideas and their 9.02 service arrived nearly an hour late.  I rang the organiser again and he said he would send his wife to Carnforth station to meet us with the car.  With this amount of friendliness and informality I had imagined a relatively small affair.  How wrong can you be? She drove us to Hest Bank where the walk had already started – you can’t wait for tides, and we were astonished to see a long line of about 200 people setting off.  We had prepared in advance and had slapped on sunscreen all over and by the first channel had to decide – shoes on or off.  We decided to do it bare foot so the shoes went in the bags.

The walk is the original drovers passage from Hest Bank to Flookburgh.  We in fact went to Grange over Sands as there was some sort of steam festival in Flookburgh.  There is an official Queen’s guide to the sands but he no longer does the Hest Bank route.

Route was from Hest Bank to Grange over Sands

Route was from Hest Bank to Grange over Sands

We set off and quickly caught up with the rest of the party.  It was very very well organised with a number of supporting walkers, two tractors and about 4 quad bikes.  If anyone was stuggling to keep up they could have a ride on the tractor.  We crossed a couple of small channels and the group stopped every hour or so to muster everyone together.  Eventually we made it to the Kent Channel which is essentially where the River Kent drains into the Bay.  One of the leaders went ahead with a long stick and checked that the ground under the water was safe and once we were all together we set off.  It was quite fast flowing at times and the deepest it got was sort of mid-thigh.  I don’t think anyone took the tractor option.

Standing in the middle of Kent's Channel

Standing in the middle of Kent's Channel

We followed the course of the channel along its bank for quite a way as we moved towards Grange.  Once there it was such a relief to sit down as by the nature of the Bay you are on your feet the whole time and there is no opportunity for rest breaks (of any kind!).  We had walked 9 miles in bare feet over soft sand, hard sand, rippled sand, mud, samphire and grass.  We then discovered that sun can penetrate through sea water and burn the top of your feet – the one bit without sunscreen!  The organisers had also added a transport option and for an extra £3 you could get a very welcome coach back.  It was a really unique experience, quite hard work and great fun.

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