Twixt Here'nThere

A spasmodic, serendipitous, journal to show what's happening or not in England, Spain, Portugal and wherever else perchance to roam. Travel, languages, sailing, religion, sex and politics, living abroad, the Pacific Ocean including Easter Island. News from: 'Navasola', in the hills of Aracena at Fuenteheridos; Cabanas de Tavira in Portugal; the cool cool banks of the muddy Humber; and from Pedro (Coelho), Max (Happydays), Tigger, Georgina (my Georgi girl) and Theo and friends in the Great Wen.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Updated Navasola Nature home page today with revised details of our April 2007 Natural History of the Sierra de Aracena tour. Watched the BBC's "Galapagos" last night, missing the first 20 minutes of the fascinating geological history.

However, as I've now changed my flight to Spain tomorrow to the 8th of October, perhaps I'll be able to watch next week's episode. I guess Georgi and I would be somewhat envious of Teresa's opportunity to go there by leading a tour. But, with Georgi's brother having been one of the first 'guinea-pigs' to visit Vorovoro in Fiji with the tribewanted 'escapade?' - pictured in last week's Guardian Travel, and our desire to visit both the Galapagos and Easter Island as well as other parts of the Pacific and perhaps the other Trevor Bending in Tonga, perhaps we'll get there one day!

Just run that last sentence past the Word grammar-checker!
And out of the blue this morning, Vic rang me from Plymouth about driving to Spain via Santander and enquired if I'd be interested in cycling (from Plymouth) to southern Spain or the Algarve next May. He may be over 70, but I'll need to give that some thought!

Now, I really must get on with that tax return and 'packing' for next week, or I'll have that nervous breakdown anyway.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Spent the weekend in Bath with Bill, Kevin, Mike, Pete, Jean and Bet (+Will and Simon) from 4SK days. Will see if I can add a picture later (being organised to do all this across two computers is tedious and time-consuming).

On Sunday afternoon Georgi arrived and we later went to Westonbirt arboretum where pleased to discover that my 'Kew' card, unused since last January, gained us free admission. Time is now running out to do all the jobs I ought to before leaving for Spain on Sunday next. Coincidentally, Bet, (see above) will be in Seville (and Cordoba and Granada) from 26th October, so perhaps we can try and meet up.


Just a quick note that my home page has been updated to show Navasola Nature which, amongst other things, links back to the post below concerning the wildlife course in April 2007
Navasola Nature at

Monday, September 18, 2006

lucidez embriagada
Another fantastic opportunity to practise my Portuguese, from Brazil I think
Um outra opportunidade fantastica a practicar o meu Portugues, creio que e do Brasil. Se faz favor, corrige o Portugues!

Barton on Humber
As I've just put together an edited version of a forthcoming webpage to use as a promotional flyer for a first Navasola course or tour, I guess I might as well post it here - see post below.

Otherwise it's time to go!

Navasola Nature
Living with Nature Breaks
Courses - Holidays - Retreats
Natural History of the Sierra de Aracena
Spring flowers, birds and more in Western Andalucía
(including visits to Doñana, Extremadura and Portugal’s Alentejo)
2007 Dates:
Sat 14 April - Sat 21 April
This week will be our first based in Fuenteheridos, for which we are delighted to be accompanied by guest leader Teresa Farino:
As you will know , the success of any special interest holiday depends crucially on the abilities and experience of the tutor or course leader. Teresa lives in the Picos de Europa, in northern Spain, and has been leading very successful wildlife tours in Spain and Portugal since 1989, for some of the leading companies in this field. Teresa knows Andalucia well and amongst her many publications is Travellers' Nature Guides: Spain (co-authored with Mike Lockwood), which was published by Oxford University Press in 2004. She describes herself as "probably a botanist first and foremost", but is very knowledgeable about all aspects of Iberian wildlife, particularly butterflies and moths.

The Sierra de Aracena Natural Park lies at the extreme western end of the Sierra Morena Biosphere Reserve, abutting Portugal to the west and Extremadura to the north.

During our week in the Sierra we will visit all the principal habitats of the park from our base in Fuenteheridos. An exploration of Trevor’s quietly secluded finca nearby will give us a good introduction to the flora and fauna of the chestnut groves and evergreen forest. We will be ranging further afield to take in the colourful limestone vegetation of the Peña de Arias Montano, the evergreen oak dehesas (wood-pastures) of the Sierra de las Contiendas and the riverside pastures of the Río Múrtiga and the Rivera de Huelva.

A trip to the Gruta de las Maravillas in Aracena itself is a must, where water trickling through the subterranean limestone cave system for millennia has given rise to crystalline deposits, stalagmites and stalactites, forming one of the most spectacular caves in Europe. We will also visit some of the more picturesque villages, hamlets and chapels of the park.

In spring, the Sierra de Aracena bursts into life. Chestnut groves and dehesas are carpeted with drifts of western peony, pink, blue and yellow lupins, Spanish bluebell and Barbary nut iris, Fritillaria hispanica, mirror ophrys and conical and naked man orchids. Colourful migrant birds have already arrived by April, with bee-eaters busy staking out their nest sites in roadside banks, and red-rumped swallows investigating the many stone bridges of the park.
The chestnut groves are teeming with migrant passerines at this time of year, and are renowned for their breeding lesser spotted woodpecker, woodlark, Iberian chiffchaff, redstart and rock sparrow, while the dehesa harbours black-eared wheatear, crested tit, short-toed treecreeper, woodchat shrike, Iberian azure-winged magpie and cirl bunting.

Black storks feed in the marshy grasslands along the River Múrtiga, to the background accompaniment of myriad nightingales and Cetti’s warblers, while in the skies above, the huge silhouettes of black vultures are a frequent sight, on foraging expeditions from their stronghold in the nearby Sierra Pelada.
Griffon and Egyptian vultures, black and red kites and booted and short-toed eagles are also seen regularly, with other vertebrate denizens of the park commonly encountered including Iberian hare, large psammodromus and Bosca’s newt. Butterflies on the wing at this time of year include the delightful Spanish festoon.

As a complete contrast of habitat, one day will be spent in the internationally renowned Doñana National Park, where the bird-rich wetlands support spoonbill, glossy ibis, squacco and purple herons, purple gallinule and marsh harrier, and we will also visit the extensive arable plains of Extremadura, close to the Portuguese border, in search of lesser kestrel, Montagu’s harrier, great bustard and roller.

Price: £699, to include en-suite bed and breakfast accommodation in Fuenteheridos, evening meal, picnic lunches, minibus/4WD transport throughout, all entry fees and the services of Teresa Farino and Trevor Bending as leaders. Two persons sharing (twin or double) qualify for a 10% discount, taking the price per person to £629, with a 5% discount applicable to two or more bookings in single rooms (£664).

This is a land-based tour (Seville-Seville). Flights and travel insurance (obligatory) are the responsibility of the client.
Pick-up details: The tour will commence at Seville airport on Saturday 14 April. Trevor will meet evening Iberia and Ryanair flights from Heathrow, Liverpool and Stansted, subject to schedules (available in the autumn of 2006, in the case of Ryanair), which currently arrive in Seville between 20.20 and 21.00. It may also be possible to meet clients arriving on earlier flights, who would then spend the afternoon in Seville. Please do not book flights until final course booking is confirmed in December/January.

On the return trip on Saturday 21 April, Trevor will drop clients at Seville airport at lunchtime, to connect with Iberia flight IB4144, which departs at 14.05, arriving at Heathrow at 15.40. Clients travelling on later flights may spend the afternoon in Seville. (Please enquire for further details once schedules are published and before booking your flights.) Find out about flights on the Iberia and Ryanair websites - and
Alternatively, those travelling to Fuenteheridos or Aracena independently can arrange to meet the group on the first evening.
Group size: maximum 7 persons.
Booking information: please contact Teresa Farino or Trevor Bending for further details and a booking form, or if you have any queries about this tour.
Trevor Bending
Office phone (UK): 0208 572 6790
Mobile phone (Spain):00 34 690 747987
70 Westbrook Road
London TW5 0NG    UK

Teresa Farino
Office phone: 00 34 942 735154
Mobile phone: 00 34 656 337129
Apartado de Correos 59
39570 Potes
Cantabria, Spain

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Barton on Humber
Thanks to Graciela for her reply from Argentina which I'll forward to Georgina for her to read Plan de fuego. By coincidence, we have to have a plan de fuego (or more precisely Un Plan Contra-incendio) for Navasola in Spain

Thanks also to the Otley and West Yorkshire branch of the Dry-stone walling association and the Friends of Calverley Woods for the day spent walling at Calverley in Leeds on Saturday.

For our reader in Gomersal ;) , it will be great to see you in Spain in November!

Friday, September 15, 2006

murderfreejamaica - and this I have to put in by subterfuage as somehow it didn't have the vital 'Blog This!' button - I wonder why?
But let's wish it/them all the luck it deserves. Then before my transformation into a frog/pumpkin/glass slipper is complete (gone midnight here) I'm off to bed. Goodnight!

Well, it seems Graciella might be from Argentina - her website at

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Well, like I said, the 'next blog' that's fascinating. Here's one for Georgi - is it an Italian agony aunt that's writing in Spanish? Guess I should comment? and hope for an answer?

Barton on Humber
Oops, crumbs, crikey and other 30's talk. After the picture of the cat, obligingly called 'tigger', what else is there to keep going on a blog?
I'm beginning to think it's a crazy idea.
So much less flexible than a webpage with its rigid linear chronological structure (all the interesting stuff that's now beyond the limit of anyone's scrolling patience).
If it's a diary (notes to onesself from a small place) do you (does one?) want anyone else to read it before I'm dead?
At leat I'm so old that 'mum' has passed on so she can't read it. But then sprogs might read it (offspring for our large overseas audience) - so still have to be careful what you say.
Then, will it help all those skulking stripy jersey computery identity thief types crawling out of their hard-drives?
Will anyone chancing upon this entry find it as fascinating as I sometimes find those I chance on by hitting blogspot's 'next blog' button?
Anyway, the radiator's been fixed on the car in Spain. I've been put down for a 'batty walk' (bats I think) at Barnes wetlands next Thursday and might be doing some dry-stone walling in Leeds on Saturday. Which reminds me I've forgotten to ring ...
and to renew my WWOOFing membership, and am I/are we going to Bath next weekend etc. etc.
Now this peculiar rendition in 'Safari' has now popped up with the editing options but I still can't see the html option.
Let's go!

Saturday, September 02, 2006


A week in Aldeburgh.

Did we try to do too much in six days spent in this leisured (or bank holiday frenetic?) little town on the Suffolk coast? That there is so much to do (or that can be done) here and hereabouts is remarkable. Family visitors on our first day came via Snape Maltings. Perhaps they didn't want to risk too much time in our company after a longish drive and preferred to squeeze in a visit to Snape with coffee and probably advance Christmas shopping. In our week we didn't make it to Snape, even for coffee, just passing through on our way back from Orford on our last full day.

We did manage the shops and galleries with our visitors in Aldeburgh and they bought quantities of fresh fish from the beach and we all bought some marsh samphire (of the glasswort variety). Later we walked Lettie my cousin's ancient Labrador near the "sea shell on the seashore" - looking through all the 'literature' we brought back with us now I can't find any guide for Aldeburgh let alone the sea shell sculpture - perhaps it's in the car, the guide that is. I was spared the queue for the "world famous fish and chip shop" (like the sailor's girl, there's one in every port) but back at the cottage (some people stay in cottages in Aldeburgh rather than ranches) the fish and chips was worth waiting for when they finally got back. We didn't need the salad or tuna and potato mayonnaise lunch left-overs but tea and strawberries and yogurt (with a few sharp red-currants) from the new Co-op just short of town rounded off supper very well.Then it was time for visitors to leave as Mike had to get up early on Sunday to take his sister for a short flight in his ancient Cessna recently licensed after importation from America.

Adding some informative links to this later should be interesting - we'll see.

Sunday was to be the day of rest and by and large it was with extra time in bed, reading papers, a third visit to 'Peter Williams' selling his excellent paintings and prints in the High Street and a look round the photographic exhibition at the Slaughden (Quay?) Sailing club before a walk round the sea-wall and back via town with detour in search of sculptures and an alternative route for future reference. The weather continued blustery and showery but the umbrella just survived. We saw an egret, probably a little egret I learnt later, apparently larger than the Cattle egret I had surmised. And a swan attacking a dog which had swum too close with a cygnet nearby.

Monday was Minsmere day. We bought a couple of prints from Peter Williams and then travelled across country (ie. not on the main roads) via Eastbridge to Minsmere where we eventually spent the rest of the day. Having been a member of the RSPB aged 10, it had taken me 50 years to get to Minsmere (but I'm not a member now so entrance was quite expensive though I did take advantage of a 'senior citizen' ticket.) It was useful to be able to examine various binoculars and discuss their merits in the shop as I need to buy a new pair of at least half-decent lightweight binoculars suitable for wildlife watching. It seems probable that a pair from about £150 might do, rather than the £1000 it is possible to spend, but not those at about £100. We visited most of the hides but got caught in rain showers a couple of times as heavy storm cells kept passing through at half-hour intervals. Whilst in the hides the downpours were torrential at times and later in the tea-room and shop we heard they were quite exceptional as the steps from the car-park had never before turned into a waterfall.

Young Marsh Harriers perched on posts proved to be quite different in colour (with lots of gold) and much smaller than the enormous dark adults I'm used to from the Humber. Otherwise we saw Canada geese, Barnacle geese, Greylag, a White-fronted goose, heron, tufted duck, one ruddy-duck (the RSPB's favourite bird), cormorant, Great-crested grebe, little grebe, and others too common to mention. My highlight was seeing a kingfisher hovering in the fading light although we did also see a hobby. Brooding over the scene in the distance the great white dome and square block of Sizewell nuclear power station. In the tea-room we shared a table with a woman also from Humberside (so yes, it's a small world) but with local Suffolk connections. the nearby bird-feeders were very well patonised by greenfinches, chaffinches, blue-tits, great-tits, robin and possibly coal-tits. On the way back we caught sight of a muntjac deer foraging in the bushes behind the roadside verge.

The next day we visited the Otter Trust at Earsham and found the British and the Asian short-clawed otters enthralling whilst we also saw the wallabies, muntjac and a pair of tiny harvest mice in a glass cage who seemed quite happy and relaxed though quite what these have got to do with otters isn't clear. (Well, if you consider the hand-tame fallow deer too it's quite clear, educational or not, it enhances the day out and encourages the paying public needed to raise the funds.) After lunch we drove north of Norwich and visited the villages of Sparham, Reepham and Cawston which Georgina thinks were the birthplaces of her maternal great-great grandmother's family before they moved to Sheffield. On the journey home we came via Caister on Sea - a bleak bit of sand behind the sea wall and very run down village, before calling in at Great Yarmouth whose neon-lit sea-front is clearly the perfect seaside holiday location for some, if not for us.

On Wednesday (the 30th) we managed a very slightly earlier than usual start (about 11!) to go to Orford and take the boat to Orfordness. What a truly weird and wonderful place this is. First World War fighter airfields and bombing test ranges; the birthplace of Radar and Radio Direction finding; World War Two bombing tests and navigation developments; test sites for all the non-nuclear (they claim) components of Britain's first atomic and hydrogen bombs including bombing tests (these obviously were non-nuclear!); a 'top secret' "over the horizon backscatter radar" operated by the US/UK until 1973 with its huge fan shaped array of aerials (radar antennae) and large building which even today houses the BBC World Service transmitters. All this surrounded by miles of shingle and marsh seemingly in the middle of nowhere with an all-round horizon of sea, marsh, shingle and river which provide habitats for a wide range of rare plants, animals and birds. For me it was too much to take in all the detail and sufficient to feel the place as a whole - I forgot to mention the 800 year plus history from Henry II who drained the marshes for grazing and built nearby Orford Castle to defend the realm from foreign invaders. Today, the views of Orford Castle and church and the numerous sailing yachts on the River Ore add charm to an otherwise surreal landscape. Far to the north can be glimpsed Aldeburgh and beyond that the white dome of Sizewell.

Catching the last boat back at 5pm we were encouraged by the boatman to visit the newly opened tea-room (where it looked as if you would need to paddle on a high spring tide) and later watched a catch of lobsters, skate and Dover sole being landed on the quay (from a small rowing boat). We returned via Rendlesham forest and visited the TM building site in Rendlesham where a group of East-West facing houses have been built on Vedic principles. In the evening we queued for an unbooked table at the Regatta restaurant in Aldeburgh where we argued about the order - oh dear!

The Thursday took us to the Oasis Camelid Centre at Linstead Magna (IP19 0DT). Llamas, alpacas and Bactrian camels one of which had an ageing deformed bullock reminiscent of a minotaur as its soulmate. We met the owner Ray Smith and learnt about his passion for camels and his llama trekking and breeding activities. In the afternoon we continued to Diss to spend a few hours with an elderly aunt and uncle whose farm lies alongside the Waveney at Wortham.