Archive for the ‘Family Trips’ Category

Takin’ it Easy   14 comments

Early summer has become a time of added pressure for the family over the past couple of years and will continue for a few years yet. As the junior members face up to GCSE’s and A-Levels, May and June are a time of revision and exams. TJS is now mid-A-Level and when he’s off to University the cycle begins again for TJF. The May Spring Bank Holiday was always a main holiday for us but for now we have to be content with weekend breaks that while a good chance to get away normally involve camping and all the hassle that goes with it.

We are therefore lucky indeed to have my good friend Mark, his better half and their kids who invited us up to stay for the weekend. As always it was superb time of walks, play, good fun and laughs aplenty. Just the ticket to break up the school pressures and for me, personally to wind down and just enjoy simpler pleasures

The weather seemed set fair but alas the glorious drive up in broad sunshine on the Friday was a farewell wave (or two fingers up, take your pick) from our fickle British summer.

Saturday was hot and humid and with a forecast of heavy thundery showers on the way. Time to take advantage of the joy of Silverdale with one of its many fine short walks.

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We went down to the cove where some sat and enjoyed the last of the warm sun, while me and the DBs explored the smelly beach caves

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From there we went across the Lots, a lovely open meadow overlooking Morecambe Bay and one of my favourite spots in these parts. We missed the best of the Orchids that flower here so compensated with a windy game of frisbee

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Alas the weather intervened and stopped outdoor play. A succession of heavy thunderstorms and its accompanying electric light show filled the rest of the day.

Sunday looked much better and we had a plan. A walk with a pub for lunch was in order. We had designs on a couple of spots but, rather unsurprisingly, most were fully booked with it being a Sunday on a BH weekend.

No matter, we had a resrve plan that included Garden Centres, cafes and a supermarket as a fail safe. Mark had a walk planned that ticked numerous boxes. After a visit to the Mill at Beetham (and an unsuccessful visit to the Garden Centre Cafe – packed out) we headed to Milnthorpe via Dallam Deer Park

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I like Deer Parks, something about their manicured pastures and woodland, here with some views to the Peaks of the Yorkshire Dales

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And of course Deer, although a little reticent and distant (the specks under the trees in the middle distance)

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Lunch was now becoming a matter of priority. We came across the Bulls Head in Milnthorpe. It wasn’t much to look at either inside or out, all flashing fruit machines and pool tables. We were assured the food was good so gave it a go. What a find, the menu was extensive, the food excellent and staff friendly and capable, coping well with a party of nine arriving mid afternoon expecting top fed unannounced. The prices were reasonable and we all left with happy burps and distended stomachs. Time to work off some of that acquired fat

We walked back through the edge of the deer park along the river Bela. It was exceedingly fine and under a warm sun the walk was a delight

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The river broadens and the path follows it out across the floodplain to where it joins the Kent

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Time for more contrasts as we headed back inland with a short climb up Haverbrack.

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The views across the Kent estuary to the distant Lake District fells was grand

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Even the butterflies looked happy

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Fairy steps was next on the tick list. A narrow passage with some old nonsense about fairies coming and giving you a blessing or doing the ironing for you or some-such if you manage to climb up without touching the sides. Here is Mark having a valiant attempt

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The kids making it look easy

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TBF seeming to enjoy the challenge

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After a pause on the top it was back down through the woods to the car, crossing this magnificent spread of buttercups on the way

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A fine walk and not an unsubstantial 6 miles in the end (a long way with a gang of restless kids I can tell you)

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Mark had suggested we could walk back to the house and collect the car later. Seemed like a good idea in principle but when we reached the car the moment had gone. A much better idea was a late evening walk to the Pepper Pot.

On the way Mark showed us a Woodpecker nest he’d watched the previous week. We were sure the chicks would have flown by now but after a couple minutes one of the youngsters popped his head out and started squawking to be fed – boy are Woodpecker chicks noisy. We could hear the parents in the distance but they never appeared, clearly waiting for us to move before they returned

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As always the view from the top was superb and we sat watching the light fade in peace and quiet before returning in near darkness through the woods. A quite excellent day

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Monday was a washout but only in weather terms. Heavy rain kept us indoors but spirits were high as we filled the day playing a variety of board games of which the Silverdale gang have many. It was in its own way as fine a day as the previous one and it was with a heavy heart that we ate heartily again and bid our hosts farewell

A top notch weekend and as always a huge message of thanks to Mark and the family for putting us up and feeding us like kings and queens. We are an active family, a little too absorbed with doing stuff every minute of every day of holiday for our own good. Sometimes I forget that there is as much pleasure from timeless easy-paced wanders, games, play and just great company. I sometimes return from a holiday fulfilled yet needing a break to recover. A weekend in Silverdale sees me return fulfilled and relaxed in equal measure and isn’t that what a holiday should be

The Last Post (of 2016)   18 comments

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Well here I am up to date with my blog. More to do with the fact that injury has curtailed my activities but finally no blog-log, blog-age, blog-jam or any other made up words I find childishly amusing. A weekend in Nottinghamshire to help TBF’s mum celebrate her 80th birthday. I’m hoping that I still look as young, fit and sprightly at 80 as she does. The main event was a very nice Sunday lunch in the local pub but the previous day gave us a chance to visit Bradgate Park near Leicester

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An urban park may conjure up images of muddy duck-ponds, battered play areas, graffiti and litter. Bradgate Park was a bit of a revelation.

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I’d visited before on a very cold and bleak October day a few years back and hadn’t retained much of a memory. Its a huge sprawling spread of heathland, forest and lakes that incorporates a deer park. As you’d expect the deer are habituated to humans and are easy to get close to and photograph

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The park is also home to the ruined mansion of Lady Jane Grey, the one who was queen for 9 days until someone got bored and relieved her of her head

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Its a wonderfully open place to stroll and despite the cold we enjoyed a ramble out down the broad lower valley

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Plenty more deer to spy as we walked, often only a few feet away

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We stopped for tea and cake by the lake, as you do on cold winter parkland stroll and then returned by way of the higher ground up to Old John Tower and its war memorial. The views although a little grey were exceedingly fine. I especially like any vantage point where you can look down over a city skyline in this case Leicester

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Light was fading fast as we reached the tower and it was pretty chilly but I was learning to love this marvellous “park” and its many natural and man made features

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The photo below says “cold” with no need for words

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A very fine and relaxing way to spend a birthday afternoon

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And so that’s it for another blog year. We’re off at the weekend to see the rain splatter the windows at a private hostel in Ingleton with friends and then heading straight to the airport to fly out and spend the rest of Xmas break in Tenerife (to watch the sun stream across the poolside patio). That of course means I start the new year several blog posts down so normal service will be resumed

Happy Xmas and New Year to you all!

Touring through the Tarn – Mont Lozere   6 comments

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The Last Post. As it were. Bringing our French trip to a conclusion. After our only day of rain in three weeks (other than the drive from the ferry) we headed out late in the day for quick explore of the Mont Lozere area where the Tarn river has its source. The photo below at Mas Camargue is of the infant Tarn a few miles from that source

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We’d driven up through some wonderful and peaceful rural landscapes and small hamlets of Villeneuve and L’Hopital along some narrow and rough tracks. The feel is very reminiscent of Dartmoor or Bodmin Moor. Lots of grassland, heather and granite tors and boulders

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As the storm was passing and evening rolling in the cloud effects were dramatic. I’m especially proud of this image with dark skies and sunlit buildings

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The views from every corner were awesome and we stopped many times to admire, a welcome relief after being stuck in the camper in the rain for most of the day

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We took a short stroll down to the pool at Gasbiel. It was dark and gloomy but it did look worth a visit on a sunnier day. Watch this space

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The next day was our kayak trip along the gorge but for our last day we decided to pay the area another visit. It was a stunning day of deep blue sky and unbroken sunshine. We first took a walk to see the Cascade des Ruisses. The views from the walk across the upper reaches of the Tarn valley were stunning

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The waterfall itself was equally impressive but hard to capture as its sits in deep tree filled ravine

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Onward and upward we took a stroll and lunch in the peaceful village Le Pont Montvert, also on the banks of the Tarn

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Like most of the valley the village has its own rather splendid collection of natural swimming holes

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We opted to revisit the highest part of Mont Lozere again and this time under the deep blue sky it was majestic

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We walked down to Gasbiel again to laze away the afternoon. It was transformed under a sunny day into an idyllic spot. A deep green pool backed by huge slabs of warm granite just perfect for sunbathing

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It was also quiet with just a handful of families and no-one in the water. I soon worked out why. The water was absolutely freezing! I’d swum comfortably in the river no more than 15 miles downstream the day before. Despite the cold the water was wonderfully clear and refreshing (just not the place for an extended swim). Even at this altitude (around 1300m) the sun was hot and the rocks pleasantly warm.

Surprisingly TBF went in for a swim. She’s smiling in the last photo so she must have enjoyed it

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TJS was feeling a little under the weather so was content to simply enjoy some quiet time

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I took another swim and explored the other pools. It was another of my favourite spots of the holiday

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Me and TBF took a short stroll along the river and across the meadows

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This little abandoned dwelling caught my eye and was very photogenic

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The smell and colour of heather was everywhere, again reminding me of home, fitting as this was our last day before returning

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A wonderful last day finished off with another evening picnic by the river at the campsite.

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Happy memories of a fantastic holiday but still tinged with a little sadness that TJS wasn’t with us. Back to the real world now and time to catch up on my activities since we got home. Some pretty good one’s too

Touring through the Tarn – Home from Home   6 comments

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Onwards to our final destination. The Gorges du Tarn is an area we’ve always visited on journeys to southern France but we’ve only stayed a day to take a kayak trip down the river. Its a stunning area and we thought it deserved a longer stay

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Rather than stay in the busy main sections we opted for the upstream and less well known area near Florac. I’m so glad we did. I found Camping Chantmerle on the Cool Camping website and what a find. Alongside the river Tarn its quiet peaceful with excellent facilities and never felt in any way busy or crowded. Run by the lovely Nicole the atmosphere is pretty much perfect for our needs, relaxed, friendly and unhurried

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It has its own natural river swimming area beneath the bridge and the splendid church in the village of Bedoues is close by and is a stunning building perched in the woodland

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You’d never know but the campsite is in the trees on the left of the photo below

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The site even has resident beavers but apparently the latest generation are very shy and rarely seen. Previously they were commonly seen swimming in the river by the pitches. We had to make do with the resident birds and dragonflies which were stunning. I even saw a small snake swimming in the river.

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Our pitch was right next to the river and the views were stunning especially late evening

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You’ll know from many of my posts that I love river swimming and this area is packed with swimming holes both on the Tarn and elsewhere. The campsite swimming hole is a little shallow for my more adventurous spirit but a 10 minute walk upstream takes you to this stunning spot with narrow gorges, waterfalls and rock ledges to jump from

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However the crowning glory was our little patch of sun warmed rocks just below the camper. We spent pretty much every evening down there either reading, relaxing, eating or just enjoying the peace and stunning views until the sun went down. In a trip with many new spots to treasure, this one was my favourite

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A wonderfully tranquil corner of France

Vistas in the Verdon – Into the Heart of the Canyon   6 comments

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I promised TJF some proper water based adventures that this area specialises in. We had planned a proper canyoning adventure (all jumps, ropes and abseils) but TJF opted for something a little more sedate. We booked an “Aqua Randonee” trip into the famous Samson Couloir in the Gorges du Verdon.

Firstly you have get dressed for the part. This involves thick heavy wet suits and helmets which are just a trifle uncomfortable when its already 25C. I promised TJF I wouldn’t take any embarrassing photos but…..

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To keep things fair, here’s a deeply unflattering selfie of me in my get-up

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After a short bus-ride and walk we were at the end of the gorge and ready to start

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This is just a wet walk as it were involving lots of floating downstream in fast moving water, with some added jumps and other fun stuff

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Here’s the first jump. TJF declined the jumps preferring the swimming option. I took on all the jumps of course!

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There are a few sections where you have to walk but that just gives you a chance to appreciate the magnificence of the gorge itself. The trip allows you to see parts of the gorge that you don’t see from the path. The walking route uses tunnels to get through this extremely narrow section with just a couple of viewing windows

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The overhang here was amazing and we swam right under it

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As we progressed the gorge widened a little enough to let the sun appear. It feels almost cave-like and gloomy in the early part and you forget it’s actually a hot cloudless day in the wider world

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I remember this section as a particularly splendid sunny float

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Some of the sections were much more “rapid” than others but it was always easy, no objective dangers and just a few dunks to keep you on your toes

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There was one section (avoidable) where you had to duck under a rock fully immersed, only a foot or so before you pop out again and great fun. I’ve done this caving before and its a whole lot more scary underground when you can’t see the other side

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Another fun section through a mini rock arch. Have to say I’m in my element doing this sort of stuff

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As we approached the finish we had the option of varying sizes of jumps or (as below) a slide down a narrow rock channel into a deep pool

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Naturally I chose the jump, TJF chose the swim

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All too soon it was over and we had the long walk back to the bus. Most of the walk was through the two tunnels (one short, one pretty long), which kept us cool in our wet suits

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There were a couple of fine view points in the tunnel so we could look at the route we’d taken from a different perspective. A fantastic and fun outing, highly recommended – if you like this sort of thing

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Again! Again!

Vistas in the Verdon – Lac de Sainte Croix and Bauduen   2 comments

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We’ve visited this part of Provence many times but never explored the shores of the Lac de Sainte Croix. My Wild Swimming guide was fulsome in its praise and it wasn’t misplaced. Its superb. A wild and remote coastline away from the road and a wonderful Provencal village of Bauduen on its shores. After our first kayak trip into the Verdon we took a drive long the rough track from Bauduen and went for a swim

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The beaches are wild, untamed and rocky but the water is clear and perfect for a dip. It was a little cloudy and cool but the light effects were tremendous

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We left TJF to read while me and Beach Funster Senior went for a walk up the coast. There is a well known spot where a dramatic rock juts out into the deep water. Braver souls than me jump from the high point into the water. Its a perfect spot

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The skies began to clear as we walked back to the car and the views were superb out across the lake and along the wild and rocky shore

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We liked the area so much we went back a couple of days later to visit the village of Bauduen itself. The village has an excellent beach complete with rocks to swim around and jump off into the exceptionally deep and opaquely clear water

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Its a perfect family spot with calm easy swimming and lots of fun to be had. The funsters of course are in their element lazing in the hot sun

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We had a memorable time just alternating long swims with sunbathing on the beach

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The village is stunning, a typical Provencal affair with narrow twisting streets and golden houses. The walk along the lake-front was especially rewarding

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We enjoyed it so much we went back again a couple of days later and spent the whole day on the beach this time (we’d headed off to go kayaking after lunch the first time)

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There was something rather wonderful about this spot. Busy in a happy sort of way without being overcrowded, as much of Provence is. Every swim was a pleasure and I especially enjoyed the scrambles to the top of the rocks and the jumps in to the deep cool water

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A place to return to in future visits

Vistas in the Verdon – Kayaking the Gorges   4 comments

Well, you lucky people now get two “kayaking on rivers in France” posts for the price of one. Aren’t you lucky

First off is one of the classic trips in the area into the western end of the Gorges du Verdon from where it enters the Lac de Sainte Croix

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We’ve done this many times before although on a rented pedalo. This normally involves a long queue and significant cost and this was the primary driver for the purchase of the new kayak (and pedalos are a little un-cool)

I had an idea that we could attach an inflatable to the back and tow TJF along and she loved the idea. As you can see she was in her element!

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Its a spectacular trip with the sheer walls of the gorge rising up over 1000 feet. In truth its less the Verdon river and more just an extension of the lake into the lower part of the gorge.

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There is still a current though and paddling a kayak upstream towing a dead-weight person in a large rubber ring is hard work!

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The views were as spectacular as ever and me and TJF enjoyed a swim halfway down where the cascade tumbles into the gorge

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Its very well known, with several places to rent water craft and extremely popular. Quite brash and noisy but well worth a couple of hours on a hot sunny day

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TBF took on the more challenging swim, half a mile back to the shore across the open water of the lake from the bridge

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Our second trip a couple of days later was down at the opposite end of the Lac de Sainte Croix. The lake itself I’ve overlooked in the past but as you can see from the photo below (taken from the roadside) and from later posts to come, its a wonderful spot.

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Our trip was along the Gorges de Baudinard from the Pont Sylvestre. The weather was stunning and the start point where the gorge opens out to a small lake and campsite was sublime

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Its still the Verdon river but its southern outflow from the Lac de Sainte Croix. Whilst not as deep or awe inspiring as the main gorge, its no less wonderful.

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After a short stretch of shallow gorge it opens out into medium sized lake (and a much easier place to launch than where we did)

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We had TJF in tow once more

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After passing through the lake its a long leisurely paddle back up to the dam at the end of the Lac de Sainte Croix. Being little known its much quieter and sedate than the main gorge. Just a handful of boats from the rental place at the campsite

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There are numerous overhangs and caves to explore

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As you reach the end the walls narrow dramatically and are dripping with lush foliage, terms and water. With water feeding in through the rocks and little sunlight the water is markedly colder than the lake

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Being the only one in the party who can control a kayak properly, I did threaten to take everyone under the dripping water for an ice cold shower. An ice cold look from TBF made me think better of it

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We returned back down the gorge to enjoy the views again

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You can’t float down a river this stunning and not take a dip in its cool, clear water. Or should I say cold, clear water. Even out in the open the water here was sharply cold, verging on freezing. We both took turns taking a swim. Once used to the temperature the swim was superb. The water was crystal clear and refreshing and the outside temperature still near 30C so easy to warm up. TBF after an initial shock loved the swim and again took a long stretch down the gorge

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Another big thank you to the “Wild Swimming” guide for finding us such a stunning and peaceful spot in the tourist mecca that is Provence. Well worth seeking out and one of my new favourite places

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