Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Wednesday 29 April 2015

Madeira: Levadas and cascades

Levadas are the irrigation channels built to take mountain springs and streams down into the supply system for Madeira's farms and people.

They provide a network of routes in and around the moutain slopes to various scenic viewpoints, so walking along them is a popular attraction for visitors.

Not all of them have a handy beaten path running alongside, like this one, so group walks with a guide are a useful way for the visitor to find their way safely.

To get to and from the roads, there may be steps up and own, of varying heights and surfaces (sometimes sharp-edged cobbles, sometimes flat stone that gets slippy in the mists).

The path may be wide and well-gravelled,  or require you to inch your way along the narrow stone sill beside the channel, with nothing but a wire fence to protect you from the drop, or to hop or clamber over curiously shaped roots across the path.

In a dripping mist, the atmosphere can be almost other-worldly, which is only increased when you're told those arching branches and huge roots are actually a variety of heather.

Everywhere lichens coat the trees and bushes, and occasionally a view of distant ravines and mountains will open out. But it's wiser to keep a close eye on the next piece of tricky ground to cover, until at last you reach the destination, in this case a particular set of cascades.

And if looking at falling water begins to pall, the local population has learnt this is a good place to come and pose for photographs, in the hope of some treats:

Friday 24 April 2015

Places, common or otherwise

Time was, people kept commonplace books, to collect quotations and extracts that struck them as memorable, for whatever reason: a discipline that eluded me. Instead, the round of bits and bobs I've been posting here have come to seem commonplace in the other sense, and repetitive: which is why (Ms. Scarlett please note, and thank you for your kind enquiry) there hasn't been much activity here lately.

Still and all,if you don't mind fixing a polite smile on and suppressing any urge to yawn, here are some holiday snaps. Back in February, a friend was offered the free use of someone else's timeshare in Madeira, and asked me along. It would have been churlish to refuse....................

Madeira's an island of mountains, ravines and rocky inlets, out in the Atlantic between the Canaries and the Azores, with narrow coastal strips that don't allow much, if any, space for bucket-and-spade beaches.

Funchal, the capital, like many a Mediterranean island town, has its harbour/marina/cruise terminal and its its traditional fishing village core. Along the shoreline, cliffs of modern hotels and apartments spread out to either side to maximise the opportunities for seaviews and exposure to sunshine. But the solid mass of suburban development is punctuated with occasional gaps: the terraced plots of bananas that cover so many of the steep slopes behind retain a foothold right down to busy boulevards and shopping centres that, otherwise, might be anywhere.

What pulls the tourists is in and around its centre, with its market, fancy mosaic pavingflamboyant cathedral interior, museums and grand town hall, arty displays and other distractions and entertainments for the visitor:

Saturday 4 April 2015

The swans have nested on Millwall Dock once more and have another brood of five eggs on the way.

In the best spirit of make do and mend, they were busy building up their nest with any old debris they could find floating round about.

In the process, they were spiritedly trying to persuade themselves the telephone cables serving the houseboats were simply very long and whippy twigs:

Friday 3 April 2015

When the cupboard doors need an elastic band to keep them (nearly) closed), that ought to be a sign that some decluttering is in order.

Some day, soon......