Archive for the ‘Long Distance Walks’ Category

South West Coast Path – Clothing

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

28th January 2016

As it happened it wasn’t cold despite being January. It was however wet and windy and it was interesting to see whether our clothing was up for it. My Montane jacket made from Event was already leaking during my bike ride to work so I decided to buy a new one. There was a Mountain Equipment jacket made from Gortex Active on sale so I bought that because it was the only one with a decent fitting hood (list £200, sale price £160 ish). Grit had a Mountain Equipment Pro Gortex jacket that was about a year old. It was leaking so badly that she wore a £1.90 poncho under the jacket to try to keep some water out. My brand new jacket also let the water in, firstly on the shoulders then all over. We were both wearing Devold merinos under and they were wonderful. They kept us warm despite being wet. The great thing is that they dry reasonably quickly and they don’t smell at all. I wore Arcteryx high trousers made from Gortex Pro Shell with merino Long Johns under. I was never hot nor cold but in gale force horizontal rain it powered its way through so I wasn’t dry. They cost around £400.00 but are about four year old. My socks were Devold Action Socks and they were amazing. My Mammut boots were waterproof until ploughing through one foot deep flooded roads. The Mountain Equipment gaiters were helpful but a seam ripped apart and needs mending. Grit’s Scarpa Boots did seem to leak but we haven’t tracked down how. My Osprey Rucksack might as well been a string bag as it provided zero protection from the rain. Waterproof dry bags inside did do the trick.

The morale of the story is that we were clothed from head to foot in Gortex and were soaked. Basically it doesn’t seem to be able to cope with really bad weather. Would it have been better to wear loose fitting totally waterproof PVC clothing in these wet conditions? Probably. The merinos however were wonderful.

Having to wear a £1.90 poncho under a £300.00 Pro Gortex jacket seems a bit weird!

Having to wear a £1.90 poncho under a £300.00 Pro Gortex jacket seems a bit weird!

South West Coast Path – Combe Martin to Ilfracombe

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

I have posted this walk upside down and haven’t a clue how to swap it around. It will make more sense if you start on Day One and work your way through chronologically. Sorry about that!

26th January 2016

Day 4 Combe Martin to Ilfracombe

This was just a short walk as we needed to get a bus to Barnstaple and the train back to London. It is not the best section of the coast path as the path has to merge with the road at times however it takes you past the lovely natural harbour of Watermouth. Judging by the hundred or so yachts on the hard this must be a busy sailing spot in the summer. Eventually Ilfracombe comes into view but don’t think it is all over for there is a real best of a climb up Hele Hill before the town is reached. We went to see Damien Hirst’s Verity statue on the port side and had an excellent, although extravagant lunch in his café, which seemed to be the only place open in town. I didn’t think it was over priced for the quality of the food just a bit more than I usually spend on lunch! (£60.00 for two including drinks and puddings yum.)

Another great country bus ride to Barnstaple then the little train to Exeter and the big train to town. The train cost us a staggering £104.00 including using a Network Card – no wonder people fly.

Number of walkers seen on the path – 0

Verity in Ilfracoombe

Verity in Ilfracoombe

Ilfracoombe

Ilfracoombe

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South West Coast Path – Lynmouth to Combe Martin

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

26th January 2016

Day 3 Lynmouth to Combe Martin

We had breakfast at 9 which was a bit late. By the time we were on the road it was probably after 10. Today the tail end of the great storm that struck the East Coast of America was due to hit Britain. It was raining heavily and blowing a gale. I’ll do a separate short description of the clothing we were wearing after this blog but it is not good reading if you are a Gortex fan!

It was a hard walk leaning into the wind and rain which was painful on the face. We decided rather than buying some food we would stop for lunch at the Hunter Inn which is about 6 miles walk. We arrived there very wet! Although it is just about half a mile off this famous coastal path this inn doesn’t seem to recognise the needs of walkers. There wasn’t a single coat hook in sight or a place to de-boot. It seems a shame as it could be an iconic walkers pub. Maybe they are searching for more wealthy clientele. We draped our wet gear over whatever we could find and ordered an excellent bowl of soup and bread and a ploughmans lunch. One of the staff came out with a cloth and started mopping up the little drips of water on the terracotta floor to make us feel guilty.

Sadly time had passed and it was 2.30pm before we were back on the path. It was tanking it down with rain and the wind was near gale force on the cliff tops. The paths were running like streams and by about 4 pm visibility was dropping. Water was beginning to cascade out of the heath and we were having to jump deeper areas. As the path was due to lose height before the formidable Great Hangman climb we decided that the volume of water and the approach of darkness was a combination which could have been quite tricky. We had seen a sign a a while back pointing to a car park so we decided to retreat and take the road. The road was flooded too and we need to walk through calf deep areas to continue. Gaiters kept a lot of water out but not all. It was a long and rather dire walk into Combe Martin, without decent torches it would have been lethal. We arrived at Combe Martin High Street to learn that it is the longest high street in Britain and we were at the other end! Combe means wooded valley. It seems the whole village life on the High Street. We eventually arrived at Melstock House to a warm greeting by a couple who knew what walkers need. A big plastic tray for the boots, plenty of places to hang things up and a pot of tea to warm us up. They told us tales of rescuing walkers at midnight and sending out search parties. They are on day three of the path and some walkers are really suffering at this stage with nasty blisters from new boots and weary muscles.

Number of walkers seen on the path – 0

Very wet!

Very wet!

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South West Coast Path Day Two Porlock to Lynton

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

25th January 2016

Day 2 Porlock to Lynton

The walk to Lynton was only a little longer at about 14 miles but don’t forget these are hilly miles. Just outside Porlock you walk through the romantic creations of Lord Lovelace. Strange castilated towers and arches were constructed to emulate the gardens he had seen in Italy. These woods were frequented by Coleridge and are referenced in The Rime to the Ancient Mariner, the greatest sea poem ever written. Coleridge not only invented the “Zombie” but also invented the sport of mountaineering. I believe he was the first person to write about climbing for pleasure rather than work. It was the beginning of the “Sublime” era. Soon we came to Culbourne Church, the smallest church in Britain which is only 35 foot deep and 12 foot 4 inches wide. Somehow churches wouldn’t sound right in metric.

After visiting the church (which some people sadly don’t take the trouble to do) the path continues through wooded cliffs which are home to very rare whitebeam trees some species of which are only found along this coast. Eventually Lynmouth comes into view. In 1952 Lynmouth suffered a catastrophic flood when a storm on Exmoor caused an already saturated heath to swell the river sending huge boulders and tree trunks down to destroy the town. 34 people died and hundreds were left homeless. The town has been rebuilt to match the old attractive buildings. Lynton lies a couple of hundred metres above Lynton. There is a cliff railway but it doesn’t operate in January so we tackled the steep zig zag path to the very top. It is a hard climb at the end of a long walk. We asked where the Village Inn was and the man apologised and said it was in Lynmouth at the bottom of the hill! So off we went back down again. The Village Inn is a very friendly pub which serves really excellent evening food and a good breakfast (and a good pint).

Number of walkers seen on the path – 0

 

Culbourne Church

Culbourne Church

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Trees are left to rot where they fall unless they block the path

Trees are left to rot where they fall unless they block the path

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Lynton Pots

Lynton Pots

 

 

South West Coast Path – Minehead to Porlock

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

24th January 2016

Minehead to Porlock

After the Louis Vuitton mast job in Paris and the London Boat Show I needed a bit of a breather and decided to go on a long distance walk. Being mid-January I ruled out anything that could be halted by bad weather and plumped for an old favourite – the first three days of the South West Coast Path, starting at Minehead and walking towards Ilfracombe. Even in January it is unlikely that the weather would be too severe to complete a section. I was wrong there!

We took a train to Taunton and then a bus to Minehead. I love bus rides in the countryside. We booked in at The Waverley bed and breakfast. I’m always impressed how clean B and B’s are nowadays. No beans for breakfast lost them one mark but a minor point.

Day 1 Minehead to Porlock
We set off on Sunday towards Porlock with rain in the forecast but actually it was pretty much a dry day. It is only about 10 miles so there was no hurry. Minehead gets it’s name from the Welsh “Mynedd” which means hill in Welsh. The path starts by climbing the hill that dominates Minehead. It rises in zig zags to around 250 m. It sets the scene for the whole path which eventually finishes in Poole after 630 miles, making it Britain’s longest path. The total ascent is the equivalent of climbing Everest four times – or to put it another way it is very hilly. Once on the top of the cliff we choose to take the alternative rugged path which hugs the coast and enjoyed some pleasant coastal walking before rejoining the main path and dropping down to Porlock Bay. The was no accommodation in our preferred stop at Porlock Weir so we booked in at The Castle Inn in Porlock. We diverted off the Coast Path which runs behind the marsh up into town. The Castle Inn was very smartly decorated with comfy sofas and a modern room. The evening food was pretty mediocre but it was the middle of January so I expect it improves with time. Breakfast was fine, with beans!

Number of walkers seen on the path – 0

In the summer you can arrive in Minehead by stem train

In the summer you can arrive in Minehead by stem train

The hill besides Minehead

The hill besides Minehead

The official start to the South West Coast Path

The official start to the South West Coast Path

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Watch out for the shingle bar if sailing into Minehead

Watch out for the shingle bar if sailing into Minehead

Plenty of moss and lichen

Plenty of moss and lichen

Ferral Goats Roam the Cliffs

Ferral Goats Roam the Cliffs

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South Downs Way

Monday, October 12th, 2015

H

Eastbourne Pier

Eastbourne Pier

10th and 11th October 2015

Sumara is now ashore and work at Arthur Beale will soon be manic so this weekend was to be the last weekend break before Christmas. We choose the South Downs Way because it is within easy reach of London and seemed strange that we hadn’t walked any of it yet. My nephew Alex likes to cycle it and sung its praises too. Selma booked us into a comfy Bed and Breakfast in Eastbourne for Friday night and we set off along the prom at 9am on Saturday morning in glorious sunshine. The forecast was for a cold breeze but it was boiling hot!

Eastbourne Promenade

Eastbourne Promenade

The promenade was familiar territory, having entered the Eastbourne Half Marathon a while back, so I knew what was in store at the end of the prom! Yes, a big long climb up onto the top of the Downs. There is a little café just before the hill so we topped up with water and set off. The ground is fantastic soft short grass just like Tennyson Downs on the Isle of Wight. It would be a lovely run or a great walk for someone recovering from knee trouble. Once at the top the breeze was a bit cooler but not as strong as the mocked up photo shows.

It wasn't really windy

It wasn’t really windy

 

 

We took the north route rather than walking near to Beachy Head. It took us through Jevington where Banoffi Pie was invented.

The Home of Banoffi Pie

The Home of Banoffi Pie

After ten miles we arrived at Alfriston for lunch. It is a very attractive town but inevitably that attracts the tourists and the gift shops which have taken over the high street. There is an amazing book shop worth visiting.

South Downs

South Downs

After sandwiches we set of across rolling downland towards our evening stay at the Youth Hostel based on Itford Farm in Southease. We were impressed with the ingenuity of the padlock bar guarding the multi use aerials.

Very Clever Device!

Very Clever Device!

South Downs

South Downs

he Youth Hostel at Itford Form, Southease.

he Youth Hostel at Itford Form, Southease.

The hostel was an efficient modern place which was clean and friendly although close to a busy road from Newhaven.

In the evening we ate a superb meal at the Cock Inn near to Lewes. I had Banoffi Pie for pudding but I’m not sure that I liked It.

The Cock Inn

The Cock Inn

The first days walk was about 17 miles.

After breakfast we walked through Southease City Centre are were thrilled to spot a church with a round tower. I might join the Church with Round Tower Society one day.

Southease Church

Southease Church

We followed the South Downs for a few miles then diverted south towards Saltdean via a convenient running route with wardens and water stops. Watching the runners was interesting, the first runners looked a bit miserable but they got happier and happier as you moved back through the fleet until the last stragglers who were miserable again. We were only about four miles into the twenty mile run and I am pretty sure some of them wouldn’t make it. We walked along the seafront into Brighton Marina for lunch and then through about 10,000 motorbikes to the station for our train home.

Brighton Marina

Brighton Marina

The second days walk was only about 11 miles.

We will finish the South Downs Way  another day!

 

Walk from Weymouth to Worth Matravers

Monday, March 16th, 2015

14th March 2015 Dorset Coast – South West Coast Path The much needed weekend break had arrived and we were on the 1800 train to Weymouth. As John works with train sets we were treated to first class and the journey was very civilised. Selma greeted us at Weymouth and, despite our large snack en route, we were soon tucking into a fine tandoori meal served by one of the most polite waiters I have ever come across. I think the restaurant was called Weymouth Tandoori – not very imaginative but worth finding. The walk back to the B and B was the dark side of Weymouth with lots of drug and alcohol crazed rather menacing people hanging around the streets. The cleverly named B and B – called Weymouth B and B was modern, clean and served up a good breakfast. The view from our room perhaps wasn’t the best. (Cost about £80.00 for a double room)

Inspiring View from B and B Window - if you like Bricks

Inspiring View from B and B Window – if you like Bricks

Weymouth is a handy place to start a walk as it can be reached swiftly by train from London. Our first day was to be a short walk to Lulworth Cove – about 12 miles away. We set off at a lazy 10 am on Saturday morning. Sadly Selma wasn’t to join us for the walk as she is recovering from an ankle injury so John, Grit and myself pushed off along the grand sea front towards the hills. We called in at a busy little café at the end of the beach to buy some sandwiches for lunch but they would only sell things with bacon so we had a cup of coffee and pushed on up the hill. There we found a really splendid café called The Lookout who would make us some sarnies for lunch. It had a very appetising menu. Next time we will have coffee here!

The Lookout in Weymouth

The Lookout in Weymouth

The imposing white Riviera Hotel in a Spanish style looks slightly smaller as you get closer. Soon a rather splendid outdoor centre looms beside the path. There are some long and intricate zip wires and diabolical swings which must be pretty character building for the hard hatted children who looked like they were enjoying the experience. The path is not for people who don’t like hills. Although this section is less arduous than the North Somerset and Devon sections it is nevertheless very hilly indeed. One year I was walking it and there was an ultra marathon taking place. They were so knackered that we were able to overtake most of them by walking at a brisk pace. It is said that the South West Path has the same ascents as climbing Everest twice. I believe it is Europe’s longest continuous path but I could be wrong. For March it was quite cold dropping to 2 degrees at night and only touching 7 during the day. Add a bit of wind and you can soon chill off. I wore a pair of merino long Johns with Montane technical trousers on top and two Devold merino tops with a Montane Event jacket on top. A merino hat, Devold wool mitts and merino snood were donned when necessary. It was a good choice as I never got cold or hot. I had a Rab belay jacket and waistcoat for when we stopped for lunch. At Osmington Mills there is a normally very attractive pub but on this occasion masses of flood defence work was being carried out and the place looked like a bomb site. I’m sure it will get restored to it’s former glory soon As we approached Burning Cliff we found a little wooden church. It was rather Norwegian. The cliffs around here have been known to catch fire. In 1826 this cliff burnt for a year. Soon we were climbing to White Nothe and preparing ourselves for some splendid walking along the whalebacks of this wonderful coast. Durdle Door is a popular spot for tourists and in this case almost entirely Indian visitors – not sure why! After Durdle Door there are just a few more beautiful miles before reaching Lulworth Cove where we once again met Selma at about 4 pm. We were booked into the very posh Lulworth Inn which was quite a treat compared to some places I’ve stayed in. (cost about £105.00 for a double room) John and I decided to do a bit of hill running before our evening meal. In the morning we left at about 9.30am as we had intentions of getting to Worth Matravers for lunch. If we had bothered to think about it we would have realised that that was virtually impossible without running shoes. The path from the bay was closed due to a cliff collapse so we walked back through the village and over the fields. In fact we could have saved ourselves a big hill by walking around the beach! Mupe is a lovely anchorage sheltered from the South West by a ridge of rocks. Soon we were in the Ministry of Defence firing range where we were attracted to a sign saying danger keep off hanging on a tank with the inevitable consequence. This section of the path is more demanding than the day before with some corking great hills. Those Ultra Runners must have been crestfallen when they saw some of the paths, many of which need steps to achieve the gradient. At Kimmeridge the surf was up and about 50 surfers were out there enjoying the waves. There was a group of kayakers riding the waves too. The oily stone at Kimmeridge can be turned on a lathe to make unattractive ornaments. There is a working oil well on the cliff. Once we reached Chapmans Pool we needed to turn away from the gorgeous Dorset Coast and head inland. Chapmans Pool can be a good overnight anchorage but nowadays the Sunseekers from Poole Harbour tend to snatch the space before the slow yachts can get there. Just a few more miles inland and we arrived at what must be one of Britain’s finest pubs – the Square and Compass. What a heavenly pie (and a pasty) and tasty pint! Can life get better?

Another Hill

Another Hill

Yet Another Hill!

Yet Another Hill!

Oil Well

Oil Well

John and Myself on a Tank

John and Myself on a Tank

Durdle Door

Durdle Door

Burning Cliff Church

Burning Cliff Church

Mupe Bay - A lovely anchorage

Mupe Bay – A lovely anchorage

Along the Dorset Coast

Along the Dorset Coast

 

Walking from Dover to Deal

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

10 miles

Sunday 18th August

One of the good things about bad sailing weather is that it is often good walking weather. When the forecast appeared rather uncertain for bringing Sumara up the Thames Estuary we decided to go for a walk instead. Poor Sumara hasn’t been used so much this year and I was amazed at the growth of weed. Luckily it just wiped off with my soft broom. We forgot to throw out the rubbish too so it was a worthwhile clean up visit.

This “Walk” was actually going to be a “Run”. Grit and I set off walking along the seafront from Wellington Dock with the intention of starting to run once we hit the path. The path started in a part of Dover that I have never visited before tucked behind the main ferry port in the eastern part of the dock. In a very picturesque street there stood the sad site of a closed down Shepherd Neame pub. Once we eyeballed the path leading straight up the cliff it was decided to continue walking then begin the run at the top. The path was pleasantly busy on what ended up being a fair and sunny day. Our run was rather short lived. Grit didn’t have her heart in it and would have preferred to have walked the whole path so she could take in the views. I ran on to the lighthouse and doubled back. There is a café at the Lighthouse called Mrs Knots Tearoom which looked good and seems to pick up five star reviews.We walked down to The Coastguard Pub in St Margaret’s Bay and were just in time (1430) to order lunch. All the food looked very good and our fish and chips was first class. We sat outside in the lee of the cliffs and could watch the ships in the channel and some yachts heading south. One was under full sail looking splendid but the two motor-sailing were looking very awkward in the surprisingly bumpy se with their mainsails flapping as they pinched to hard on the wind.

We walked on. By now the path was less busy. On reaching Walmer we turned down a narrow street with pretty cottages to find the sea again, and The Zetland Arms. We didn’t stop but the following week Philip Main invited us for dinner there. Coincidently he lives in one of the cottages. The pub has recently been taken over by Shepherd Neame and it was bustling with people enjoying evening meals. My Steak and Ale pie was one of the best I’ve had. So in just one 10 mile walk there are two great pubs.

The final stretch of the walk is flatter and takes you on to Deal which was heaving with people enjoying themselves listening to live music.

We saw the old Time Ball used to set the chronographs on the ship at anchor in the Downs. Time was against us to explore any more. We caught the eight minutes past hourly train back to Dover. The train was full of suntanned ramblers.

A great, varied and easy walk and a potentially good hill run.

Dengie Peninsular

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Approach to St Peters

St Peter’s Chapel, Bradwell on Sea

The Sea Wall protecting the Dengie Peninsular

Salt Marsh on the Dengie Peninsular

Maldon Mud

Maldon

The Jolly Sailor Maldon

John on the Sea Wall

Heybridge Basin

The Green Man Bradwell on Sea

Dunlins on the mud

Dunlins Flocking

Dengie Mud

BAe Base Station

John and I set off on the 0855 train from Liverpool Street to Burnham on Crouch and just over an hour later we were tucking into a full breakfast in a little café by the seafront. It is incredible to think that you can walk for 14 miles from here without coming across any houses or shops. This is the Dengie Peninsular which is perhaps the wildest place you can get to in an hour from London.  Apparently it was the inspiration for both H G Wells “War of the Worlds” which features Maldon and for Hitchcock’s “The Birds”. In just a few minutes you have walked past the posh yacht clubs and are on the sea wall with reclaimed land to the left and mud and estuary to the right. Soon the few moored boats disappear into the mist and the mud turns to salt marsh. We had prepared ourselves for a fairly bleak walk and in some respects we weren’t let down. It was flat and grey but surprisingly interesting walking along the wall. A few twitchers strolled by. We were entertained by flocks of thousands of dunlins. Second world war pill boxes were strategically placed and eventually we came across what seems to be a secret radio establishment owned by BAe with strange ariel structures. At this point we turned inland towards Bradwell. We wanted to save visiting St Peters Church until Saturday when we would be joined by Selma and Grit. We would have walked 14 miles and it was quite enough for the first day.
We booked into the Green Man Pub where we had one absolutely massive room and one very much smaller one. There was a roaring log fire and we had a tasty meal. The Apprentice Ale was top notch. Altogether a good place to stay but perhaps a bit expensive for a simple walking holiday (Large double £80, small twin £70).
On Saturday we walked out to St Peter’s Church. It is Britain’s oldest church (654) and was apparently built in Syrian style! It is a simple square building which was once used as a farmers barn. Nearby is a small Christian Community built as a place of peace after the war. Anyone can stay there of any religion or no religion. After a brief stop at the church we carried on to the sea wall. There is a small copse and a sheltered Bird Watching Sanctury with benches overlooking the salt marshes. The salt marshes are gradually eroding and old barges have been sunk to act as wave breaks.
We strolled along the wall as far as the radio ariels, this time approaching from the north. We turned inland along the St Peter’s Way. The area is a Ramsar Site, named after a convention in Iran in 1971 to protect wetlands of international importance. The area is also an SSI, a special protection area, and a special area of conservation. Soon we found ourselves in Tillingham where a pub tempted us for lunch.
We stayed a bit too long and so we needed to keep up a fair pace as far as Maylansea briskly walking across some rolling low hills overlooking the Blackwater Estuary. We had walked for at least 11 miles and it was clear that it would be dark by the time we reach Maldon. Selma decided to sensibly opt for the bus while we plodded on. Instead of following the winding coastal path we decided to carve our own way through the field paths. To our surprise the paths all existed and even in the dark we found our way across ploughed fields to the bridges across the many ditches. The last field was the site of the Battle of Maldon. The Vikings were camped on Northey Island so Brythnoth decided to get an army assembled to defend Maldon from attack. It was easy to defend Maldon because the Vikings could not get across the causeway from the island. The Vikings complained that it wasn’t fair and they should be allowed into the field to have a proper battle and Brythnoth made the poor tactical decision to allow them across. They went on to defeat Brythnoth’s army but were too weakened to attack Maldon. They went on to attack Sheppy. I learnt this tale and lots of others from Peter Caton’s book “Essex Coast Walk”. The book is so entertaining that I intend to read it cover to cover over the winter. Highly recommended to anyone intending to walk around Essex.
Bang on time, we walked into The Jolly Sailor, Maldon to be greeted by Peter and Mara as well as Selma. After two pints of Doom Bar we headed of for a meal at a restaurant called something Italian. The meal was really enjoyable but no thanks to the food. My sardine starter was appalling and Peter complained about his courgette and lobster. The carrots were rock solid and the steak and wine was poor. I was ill afterwards and didn’t fully recover until Sunday evening. However the staff were a laugh and the company was wonderful.
The rooms in the Jolly Sailor were clean and good value. The beds were strangely low with a solid edge. I suspect IKEA has tried to redesign a standard bed to produce a less satisfactory version. Breakfast was great but the Full English for the third day was beginning to be too much of a good thing. We met up with Peter and Mara for coffee and persuaded them to join us for a gentle stroll to Heybridge Basin and along the canal. We decided not to continue to Tollesbury, or Witham, or Colchester as originally planned.
After a gentle four mile circular walk admiring the Thames barges we got a taxi back to Bradwell to pick up Selma’s car. A very pleasant and interesting weekend.