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Three Points of the Compass on the GR223

Hiking in Menorca: the GR 223

The Camí de Cavalls, or Horse’s Path

Menorca is a fairly small island in the western Mediterranean Sea. It is one of the Balearic Islands, an archipelago of Spain, near the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula. It offers a fantastic opportunity to walk an ancient and beautiful track.

Mr and Mrs Three Points of the Compass, and daughter when she was younger, have for many years tried to get away to one of the many islands in Europe each year. I have blogged on a few of them in the past. Menorca, smaller than nearby Mallorca, is a terrific holiday destination. It is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and almost half of the island is protected, with two nature reserves: The Nature Park of Albufera des Grau and the Marine Reserve Nord de Menorca. There can be just a small minority of holidaymakers to that lovely island that bother to explore far beyond the resorts, large towns and the usual organised bus and jeep excursions.

Three Points of the Compass on the GR223

Three Points of the Compass enjoying native pine forests on the GR223

Along with some one million annual visitors I have enjoyed my time immensely on Menorca. Some may wonder how as my family and I took a package holiday to a busy hotel district in one of the busiest parts of the island- Son Bou, on the south coast. Many readers would regard such a holiday as anathema. I explored the island by car and bus with my family, we ate too much, we drank too much, and we enjoyed comfortable hotel facilities and weather that us Brits see far too infrequently. However, that was never going to be enough for Three Points of the Compass. This island has a special prize. It is encircled by a path that has uncertain historic roots. The coastal path was probably first built to allow access for the island inhabitants to guard against pirate attacks in the 16th century. Whatever its origin, it is now the GR 223 of the Senderos de Gran Recorrido network in Spain.  Not only did this path get me away from people for much of the day most days. But it also enables access to some of the most beautiful and lonely parts of the island.

I am never going to criticise the majority of holidaymakers who enjoy frequent, affordable holidays in hotels at hundreds of locations across the globe, I am one of them on many an occasion. However, such holidays should be looked on by the hiker as a springboard to walking destinations far from home. Everyone must find their own balance, how much time their spouse is happy with them disappearing from pool side and family duties. I found that the Cami de Cavalls could be accessed pretty well by public transport, buses mostly, and taxis to the most distant and difficult to access points of the island. With careful planning and a couple of early starts, I was able to complete the entire trail during a fortnights holiday. No mean feat as it is 185 km (116 miles). With an understanding partner (unless they are joining you), you could do similar over a ten day or two week break on the island. It would be a push to fit it into a week’s break.

Classic island walking

Classic island walking

The benefits of staying at a popular central resort is that there are good bus links to the centre of the island- Alaior mostly, for onward movement to the start and finish points of each days hike. Two hiking partners with a couple of hire cars could handle the logistics much easier, but that would be damned expensive.

Or there are some holiday providers who can arrange minibus transport to and from. But then you are subject to their itineraries, other passenger requirements, and again, far more expensive. But, it does make the logistics much easier. Three Points of the Compass hasn’t used any of these companies so it is up to you to do the research and see if it suits your needs.

Three Points of the Compass visited Menorca in July, it was mostly hot and dry, as expected. However there is much green vegetation on the dry soils. It gets much drier and browner as the year progresses

Three Points of the Compass visited Menorca in July, it was mostly hot and dry, as expected. However there is much green vegetation on the dry soils. It gets much drier and browner as the year progresses

Fairly typical section of the GR 223 away from the wooded sections. Here between Binisafuller and Son Bou the trail passes between roughly cultivated and walled fields

Fairly typical section of the GR 223 away from the wooded sections. Here between Binisafuller and Son Bou the trail passes between roughly cultivated and walled fields. Bini.. in a name harks back to the Moorish occupation, meaning ‘belonging to the son of…’ from Ben, Arabic for son.

The island measures some 50km from west to east- Ciutadella to Maó and is no more than 20km north to south. But it takes time to travel around, especially by bus. Services away from the resorts are infrequent and very careful planning is required to ensure that connections will be there, especially at the end of the day. I checked online for bus timetables before I left and checked with my hotel for printed timetables when I arrived. A glance at the bus route map online reveals how some parts of the coastline are quite poorly served.

My first two days were simply the first two sections of coast nearest to my hotel, travelling out and walking back to the hotel. On the third day my family were rested and in need of exploration so we all went to Maó for the day. The British moved the capital there from Ciutadella because of its sheltered harbour and it is a lovely seaside town to explore. It was important to also find time to visit Tourist Information and bus station, for more timetables, check out how taxis work and what were reasonable costs, and get a general feel for how reliable the transport network is. Within the confines of the timetables, buses are cheap, clean and pretty reliable. However I made the mistake and found that any advertised buses on Sundays are a tad unreliable. It is best not to rely on buses on Sundays.

It is wise to pick up any bus timetable you can find when in foreign climes. You can discover practical and useful alternatives that aren't always obvious from scant web-based pages

It is wise to pick up any bus timetable you can find when in foreign climes. You can discover practical and useful alternatives that aren’t always obvious from scant web-based pages. Some buses are purely local and it can be hard to find out up to date, seasonal timings

I was unadventurous for lunch on trail. Rolls and excellent local meats and cheese, bags of nuts, supplemented with occasional bananas spread with peanut butter

My trail lunches were unadventurous. Bread rolls and excellent local meats and cheese, bags of nuts, supplemented with occasional bananas spread with peanut butter. Hydration was far more important

After my first two sections, and now having established transport links and more aware of what I could comfortably manage in a (part) days walk, accepting that many hours were going to be spent travelling to and from my start/finish points, either by a series of buses or a handful of taxis. I was better armed to arrange my subsequent days. I never completed the GR 223 as a continuous linear trek. Instead, I did sections that suited my and my family’s holiday. I had short days occasionally and was back at the hotel by midday so that we could do something together in the afternoon, or longer days with sections joined together and not arriving back at the hotel until early evening. I was working toward the more distant parts of the island and familiarising myself with the logistics for the following day. What worked for me, based at Son Bou, was as below.

Day Stage
From To Distance Ascent Difficulty
One Cala Galdana Son Bou 17.2 km (10.7 mile) 350m Medium-easy-low
Two Binisafúller Son Bou 19.8 km (12.3 mile) 390m Medium-low
Three Binisafúller Maó 21.4 km (13.3 mile) 220m Low-medium
Four Cala Morell Ciutadella 17.5 km (10.8 mile) 300m medium
Five Ciutadella Son Xoriguer 14.7 km (9.1 mile) 50m medium
Six Arenal d’en Castell Es Grau 22.2 km (13.8 mile) 550m Medium-low-becoming easy
Seven Son Xoriguer Cala Galdana 18.2 km (11.3 mile) 320m Medium-low
Eight Binimel·là Arenal d’en Castell 20.4 km (12.7 mile) 170m Medium-low
Nine Binimel·là Cala Morell 24 km (14.9 mile) 850m High-then medium-low
Ten Es Grau Maó 10 km (6.2 mile) 250m Medium-low
185.4 km

(115.1 miles)

Note that difficulty grading by the authorities tends to err on the side of caution
The section between Es Grau and Favàritx leads the hiker into wetlands and the lunar landscape of Cap de Favàritx

The section between Es Grau and Favàritx leads the hiker into wetlands and the lunar landscape of Cap de Favàritx

There is a very useful website offering great info on the trail in a number of languages. This will also point you at the most current map, guidebook and, not that I used them, GPS tracks. I suppose it would be possible to hike the trail without guidebook or map as the trail is mostly quite well signposted, however I found them indispensable for planning purposes. The guidebook only weighs 156g and the map, to a 1;50000 scale, another 60g. There is a handy interactive map online that also has some helpful information on what to expect on the different sections.

Purchased in Mahon (Maó), Three Points of the Compass found the official guide book and map incredibly useful for planning each day's hike

Purchased in Mahon (Maó), Three Points of the Compass found the official guide book and map incredibly useful for planning each day’s hike

The north west corner of the island is known as 'Dry Menorca' for good reason. There is little rainfall and the trail is hard underfoot

The north west corner of the island is known as ‘Dry Menorca’ for good reason. There is little rainfall and the trail is hard underfoot

I didn’t spend time on trail looking out for cafes, they simply aren’t there when you want one, other than while waiting for a bus on occasion. Lunches were simply a roll or two, meats (Ses Tanques) and cheeses (Queso de Mahon) from a local supermarket plus a few nuts. Hydration is another matter. This is a dry island with no rivers and it is very unlikely you will find water should you run out. I carried a minimum of two to three litres with me each day, occasionally more, and still ended up purchasing water in town shops toward the end of a day’s hike.

Obviously a hat and sunscreen are important too. Shorts and trail runners are fine for hiking. It is a hot and dusty trail mostly. Especially in the north west corner of the island between Cala Morell and Ciutadella. There is only scrubby sparse vegetation here and the going is rocky.

Elsewhere, I had a little rain on a couple of days, I carry a light waterproof when hiking anyway so threw that on for an hour or so.

 

19th century Barraca de bestiar. A tiered stone shelter for animals

19th century Barraca de bestiar passed in the north of the island. A tiered stone shelter for animals

One thing I was pleased to have with me was my little monocular. Europe’s only sedentary population of Egyptian Vulture lives on Menorca and I enjoyed fantastic views of them in the north. Other raptors included Booted Eagle, Kestrel, Red Kite and Eleonora’s Falcon. Hoopoo flew along the trail as I approached, Ravens kronked. Shrikes and Pied Flycatchers flitted in the sparse pines. Around the abandoned salt evaporation ponds at Salines de Mongofra, the call of Bee Eaters surrounded me as parties swooped around. Individual birds looking as though they had been dipped in multiple paint pots. 

For much of the GR 223, you will have the paths to yourself, not seeing anyone for hours despite the island teeming with tens of thousands of tourists- elsewhere

For much of the GR 223, you will have the paths to yourself, not seeing anyone for hours despite the island teeming with tens of thousands of tourists- elsewhere

I saw few terrestrial animals, Hermanns Tortoise were often seen on the paths, occasional rabbits, the only Pine Martin was road kill. Butterflies and dragonflies aplenty but sadly none I.D’d.

A welcome cerveza in a cool cafe prior to catching by bus back after a days hiking. The simple pleasures...

A welcome cerveza in a cool cafe prior to catching my bus back after a days hiking. The simple pleasures…

Few people shared the trail with me- one cyclist, a few trail runners, I saw just one small party of horse riders. Obviously when I was around some of the beautiful sandy coves, I was often sharing these with hundreds of holidaymakers. At other coves, remote from any habitation or road, I had them all to myself.

Two pages from my Menorca journal

Two pages from my Menorca journal

Read the book, spread the map, walked the trail, now wear the T-shirt...

Read the book, spread the map, walked the trail, now wear the T-shirt…

You may have gathered by now that Three Points of the Compass joined together a few of the sections. It is divided into twenty stages with some form of access being available at start and end points. It would definitely be possible to hike it that way but it would take more time than most holidaymakers would enjoy. I completed the trail in ten days. My longest days were  on the ‘harder’, more distant, sections, but any mildly capable hiker could easily do similar and that does cut down considerably the need to keep accessing more distant parts of the island subsequently.

Would I recommend the GR 223? Absolutely, it is not particularly difficult. It takes you to some stunning parts of the Menorcan coastline that few see. The island countryside and coastline is surprisingly varied with much of interest. The GR 223 passes ancient stone watchtowers and fortresses and provides a welcome escape from the confines of a holiday resort should you require respite.

If you were do just do parts of it, then Three Points of the Compass would definitely recommend the north west and west, however that would miss out the entirely different limestone cliffs and gorges of the south.

Beautiful dusty trails

The GR 223- Beautiful dusty trails

Colin, Annette, Louise and myself prior to my setting back off on trail

A year ago…

On long hikes it is important to take a little time out occasionally. To recharge the batteries.

Exactly a year ago I was setting back off on my five-month Three Points of the Compass walk across mainland UK. I had just completed the 630 mile South West Coast path followed by a wander through Exmoor for another fifty or so miles.

My very good friends Colin and Annette welcomed a smelly hiker into their home, fed me up and washed all my clothes. Mrs Three Points of the Compass came down to join us during my three days break from the 2000 mile trail.

I must confess, I wish I were setting back off on trail, exactly the same, today…

Lone Peak Altras

What gear wears out on a long hike?

 The South West Coast Path is 630 miles long and a challenge in itself. When Three Points of the Compass finished this in 2018 there was still another 1400 miles of trail. Gear had to be carefully selected and be suitable for a wide range of terrain and conditions

The South West Coast Path is 630 miles long and a challenge in itself. When Three Points of the Compass finished this in 2018 there was still another 1400 miles of walking. Gear had to be carefully selected and be suitable for a wide range of terrain and conditions

Lightweight modern gear can be surprisingly tough. With care much of it will last many thousands of trail miles. My 900ml Evernew pan is titanium and flexes with ease. Yet other than being blackened and scratched, with scorched silicon covered handles, it is still in good working order and I expect it to last me many more years. It wasn’t cheap when new but has more than paid for itself. I like it and feel no need to replace it with shinier, newer cook wear.

The heel cups always seem to wear out in my trail shoes. I expected this to happen with my Lone Peaks around the 450 mile point

The heel cups always seem to wear out in my trail shoes. I expected this to happen with my Lone Peaks around the 450 mile point. When they began to fray I would line them with a piece of duct tape

Lone Peak Altras were light, breathable and comfortable. However I knew that I would be lucky to get more than 500-600 miles out of a pair

I find the toes on my trail shoes tend to come unstuck and flap around after a couple of hundred miles. Sometimes I would glue them back with a 1 gm tube of superglue from my ditty bag. Frequently I couldn’t be bothered

Lone Peak Altra trail shoes are light, breathable and comfortable. However I know that I am lucky to get more than 500-600 miles out of a pair. I had purchased four pairs prior to my 2018 hike as they aren’t the easiest to source. I expected my feet to spread and I used pairs a size larger than normal. Just as well, as they did.

The trail was often muddy, especially in the first few weeks in the Spring. Fine silt would work its way through the mesh of the trail shoes and this would build up in the thick pile of my Darn Tuff socks

The trail was often muddy, especially in the first few weeks in the Spring. Fine silt would work its way through the mesh of the trail shoes and this would build up in the thick pile of my Darn Tuff socks

Despite being washed, or at least rinsed, on a daily basis. Socks wore out. I carried tow pairs for walking and alternated them. Both pairs were replaced during the walk.

Despite being washed, or at least rinsed, on a daily basis. Socks wore out as a result of silt. I carried two pairs for walking and alternated them each day. Both pairs were replaced with new during the walk

Needless to say, footwear- socks and trail shoes get a battering. I had the option of wearing boots but have been using lightweight trail runners for years. I prepared spares in advance of my walk for Mrs Three Points of the Compass to send on to me as required. I don’t think a long hike is the time to be changing out to unfamiliar footwear and it made sense to have reserves ‘back-home’. Particularly as I would no doubt be using them on future hikes if they were not required for this trail.

It is pure miles and miles of hiking, washing gear in streams, sinks and shower trays. Sun, rain, hot and cold. Brambles, thorns, heather, gorse, barbed wire and rocks, that all combine to wear down the daily trekking clothing. Wear good quality gear from reputable manufacturers that have tested their gear over tens of thousands of miles. Clothing will wear out, of course it will, but I found that Champion 365 shorts or Montane Terra pants, Rohan merino polo shirt and synthetic ExOfficio baselayers lasted fine months of hiking. Black Mountains, Offa's Dyke, Jun 2018

It is pure miles and miles of hiking, washing gear in streams, sinks and shower trays. Sun, rain, hot and cold. Brambles, thorns, heather, gorse, barbed wire and rocks, that all combine to wear down the daily trekking clothing and other items carried. Wear good quality gear from reputable manufacturers that have tested this over tens of thousands of miles. Clothing will wear out, of course it will, but I found that Champion 365 shorts or Montane Terra pants, Rohan merino polo shirt and synthetic ExOfficio baselayers lasted fine months of hiking. Black Mountains, Offa’s Dyke, Jun 2018

It is pure miles and miles of hiking, washing gear in streams, sinks and shower trays. Sun, rain, hot and cold, brambles, thorns, heather, gorse, barbed wire and rocks, that all combine to wear down the daily trekking clothing. Wear good quality gear from reputable manufacturers that have tested their gear over tens of thousands of miles. Clothing will wear out, of course it will, but I found that Montane Terra pants, Rohan merino polo shirt and synthetic baselayers lasted the fine months

My pack of choice was the Gossamer Gear Mariposa. I found it a comfortable pack if a little ‘saggy’ if not carrying much food. There were tears and abrasions and the hip belt began slipping in the final two hundred miles. It put up with much abuse and I will be buying another exactly like it. Caithness

The curved Kylesku bridge was crossed in Sutherland. Wind was extraordinary and resulted in one particular unexpected gear failure

The curved Kylesku bridge was crossed in Sutherland. Wind was extraordinary as I crossed the Loch a’ Chàirn Bhàin and resulted in one particular unexpected gear failure

Three Points of the Compass has been a fan of the Montane Lite-Speed wind jacket for many years of hiking. The intense winds crossing the Kylesku bridge ripped out the sticthing in the back of the neck

Three Points of the Compass has been a fan of the Montane Lite-Speed wind jacket for many years of hiking. The intense winds crossing the Kylesku bridge ripped out the stitching in the back of the neck

I carried a small selection of repair materials. The aforementioned mini tube of superglue, a carefully thought out sewing kit, patches for Thermarest sleeping mat and self adhesive tenacious tape and cuben dyneema. Everything was put to use at some point and tape was replenished twice.

A more extensive repair kit was carried than on my normal one or two weeks hikes

A more extensive repair kit was carried than on my normal one or two weeks hikes

Sewing the crotch of my trekking shorts on a zero day

Sewing the crotch of my Champion 365 training- 9 inch inseam trekking shorts on a zero day

It is a wise hiker that stays on top of repairs on a long hike. Gear has to be working in order to put in the miles

It is a wise hiker that stays on top of repairs on a long hike. Gear has to be working well in order to put in the miles

Three Points of the Compass invariably uses a BeFree water filter for purifying water. However thought it prudent to pack along a few Chlorine Dioxide tabs in case of failure or filter freezing. As it was, due to carelessness, I lost my entire hydration kit at one point- bottle, bladders and filter. Fortunate that I was able to switch to tablets with a couple of half litre bottles purchased two days later.

Filtering water on trail. My walk coincided with one of the hottest UK summers on record

Filtering water on trail. My walk coincided with one of the hottest UK summers on record

A change from filtration to chemical purification was made in Scotland. But not due to gear failure

A change from filtration to chemical purification was made in Scotland. But not due to gear failure

MSR Pocket Rocket and Torjet lighter were part of my cook kit. Both tried and trusted items

MSR Pocket Rocket2 and Torjet lighter were part of my cook kit. Both tried and trusted items. However the lighter did rust badly

I never expected to have problems with the reliable stove however found the windshield trivet kept falling off. I always had to keep an eye on this to ensure it wasn't lost

I never expected to have problems with the previously reliable MSR stove however found the windshield trivet kept falling off from half way through my hike. I always had to keep an eye on this to ensure it wasn’t lost

Possibly the only piece of gear that I had selected for my hike that properly failed was a bespoke pack liner that I had commissioned. It simply wasn't up to handling the deluges in Scotland and at Fort William I swapped out to a heavier but watertight Sea to Summit roll top liner

Possibly the only piece of gear that I had selected for my hike that properly failed was a bespoke pack liner that I had commissioned. It simply wasn’t up to handling the deluges in Scotland and at Fort William I swapped out to a heavier but watertight Sea to Summit roll top liner

One of the most exciting materials that has found its way into hiking gear in recent years is cuben fibre, more recently known as dyneema composite fabric. Very strong, very light. Also very expensive. I carry a few items made of this but was well aware of this materials biggest drawback. It doesn’t suffer abrasion well. The only cuben items I used were a few stuff sacks (a big fan of these as I like to compartmentalise) and my shelter.

cuben stuffsacks wore badly if they abraded

cuben stuffsacks wore badly if they abraded

My Z packs chest pouch was one of my favourite pieces of gear and took a lot of hammering. It leaked like a sieve by the end however purely as a result of wear to the cuben

My Z packs chest pouch was one of my favourite pieces of gear and took a lot of hammering. It leaked like a sieve by the end however purely as a result of wear to the cuben

My shelter was the Z Packs Duplex. I loved this tent. Huge interior and only weighed 637 grams. However it will never see another hike with me

My shelter was the Z Packs Duplex. I loved this tent. Huge interior and only weighed 637 grams. However it will never see another hike with me. Strath na Sealga, Scotland

Strong winds saw a guy tie out ripped off a side wall. A cuben repair patch sorted things out

Strong winds saw a guy tie out ripped off a side wall. A cuben repair patch sorted things out

I put cuben 'stitches' across some seams that appeared to be under strain but there was never any actual failure

I put cuben ‘stitches’ across some seams that appeared to be under strain but there was never any actual failure

Some points of particular strain, such as the tent door tie outs, suffered badly over the miles but never failed entirely

Some points of particular strain, such as the tent door tie outs, suffered badly over the miles but never failed entirely

Three Points of the Compass used Pacer Poles not only for trekking but also as supports for my shelter. I like their raked, moulded grips and find them comfortable to use. I am not a fan of their twist locks though and found these bound up over time and frequently couldn’t loosen them Rocky steep paths on the Cape Wrath Trail put a bend in one of them. Unable to separate the sections I was unable to fly home with them at the end of my trail and, reluctantly, I was forced to leave them at John O’Groats. Despite their faults, I have bought another pair since my return.

2018 08 29_5990

It is doubtful that I could have completed my 2000 mile Three Points of the Compass hike without my Pacer Poles. At the end they were missing much of the paint on their shafts, one tip had been replaced mid-trail, the sections couldn’t be separated and one pole was bent like a banana. Nonetheless I was saddened to leave them behind

Duncansby Head- the end of my trail

Duncansby Head- the end of my trail. August 2018

Dark chocolate, nuts and Sea Salt Kind bar

Trail snacks- Kind bars

Kind Protein bar. 50g bar containing 59% peanuts provides 12g of protein and 252kcal

Kind Protein bar. 50g bar containing 59% peanuts and 15% peanut butter coating provides 12g of protein and 252kcal

Like most hikers, Three Points of the Compass does enjoy a snack on trail. Easily my favourite are the various Kind Bars. Made in the U.S. by Mintel and first available in 2004, they are almost exclusively made from unadulterated foodstuffs that have undergone a minimum of processing. Stuff like nuts, fruits and spice. Oh yes, often a decent amount of dark chocolate too.

Multipacks

Just a few of the varieties of Kind bar available

Just a few of the varieties of Kind bar available

Obviously there are any number of alternative bars available on the supermarket shelves but if I can find them, then Kind bars are my number one choice. Decent taste, decent amount of calories, decent hit of protein too. Kind proudly boast- Kosher, gluten free, dairy free and no artificial colours, flavour or preservatives.

I am pretty sure that every one of the varieties I have come across contains nuts. Bad news for Mrs Three Points of the Compass as she can’t handle them. All the more for me. The minimum amount of nut content I have seen is 49%, the most 73% and we all know that nuts are the hiker snack of choice. The Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate bars were recently awarded Taste Test Winner in Good Housekeeping magazine. There are also 50g Kind Protein varieties with 12g of protein mostly derived from peanuts.

If you can find them, the 20g Kind Minis each provide around a 100 calories

If you can find them, the 20g Kind Minis each provide around a 100 calories

It is hard for me to nail down my absolute favourite amongst the twelve or so varieties I have come across, but if forced to choose, I would go for the dark chocolate, nuts and sea salt bar shown above. The 40g bar provides 197kcal.

The contents of my food bag photographed midway through the 177 mile Offas Dyke in 2018. I see that I had managed to locate Kind bars somewhere and a solitary one remains as a treat

The contents of my food bag photographed midway along the 177 mile Offa’s Dyke in 2018. This was sufficient for around three days.  I see that I had managed to locate Kind bars somewhere and a solitary one remains as a treat alongside Snickers and bars of dark chocolate

 

 

Edwardian gentlemen

Organised outdoor activity in the UK- Britain’s first holiday camp

“Only youths and men of good moral character are eligible for admission to this

Holiday Camp and should anyone unfortunately prove, by word or deed, to be otherwise,

he will be liable to instant expulsion”

Joseph Cunningham, M.L.C., J.P., C.P.

Joseph Cunningham, M.L.C., J.P., C.P. Founder of the Cunningham Holiday Camp

Amongst the first public campsites in the World opened on the Isle of Man in 1894. The venture came about due to the frustrations experienced by Joseph Cunningham and his wife when, employed as the superintendent of The Florence Institute in Toxteth, Liverpool, he arranged annual week-long youth camps at Laxey on the Isle of Man in 1892/3. The following year the annual camp was held at nearby Howstrake. Unprofitable at this juncture, Joseph left the institute and he and Elizabeth went it alone, running the next camp at Howstrake themselves as a much expanded and more ambitious enterprise. Within a few years up to 600 men were staying at the ‘tent city’ each week. Open during the finer months, from May to October, the Cunningham’s considerable business acumen ensured the success of the camp and demand quickly outgrew the capacity of the site. However the Cunningham’s were tenants only and sought better control of the facilities they wished to provide.

Howstrake camp on the Isle of Man

Howstrake camp on the Isle of Man

In 1904 they opened a new camp just a couple of miles south at ‘Little Switzerland’. The larger five-acre site they had acquired had room for not only around 1500 tents but also a large dining pavilion where ‘up to 3000 can be accommodated at a time’. The new Cunningham Young Men’s Holiday Camp was originally open March to October but by 1933 this had changed to May to September. The camp at Howstrake continued under separate management.

The Cunningham Camp at Little Switzerland on the Isle of Man had 1500 tents and bungalow accommodation

The Cunningham Camp at Little Switzerland on the Isle of Man had 1500 tents and bungalow accommodation

The 'Camp Herald' was an annual publication that included photographs and reviews of the holiday camp, listed excursions and facilities and included a booking form, 1933

The ‘Camp Herald’ was an annual publication that included photographs and reviews of the holiday camp, listed excursions and facilities and included a booking form, 1933

The camp is usually considered the first holiday camp though some argue that it should be discounted as accommodation was within tents at first. Within a few years wooden huts supplemented the ex- army bell tents. Tents were eventually replaced with more substantial chalets built by WWI internees. The description of these as ‘holiday bungalows’ may be somewhat stretching but, by account, most holidaymakers enjoyed their stays immensely, returning year on year. Reading and writing rooms were provided. There was a 90 feet long swimming bath, lawn tennis and badminton courts, putting and bowling greens, and sports field, at which medals were awarded on the weekly Sports Day.

Bungalows and tents had electric lighting and could each accommodate up to four campers. The same fee was charged for each.  Tents came with wooden floors. ‘spring bedstead and comfortable bed’. More luxurious accommodation was provided in the camp’s ambitiously entitled Snaefell Mansions.

“Use of intoxicants, gambling and improper

language are strictly prohibited”

 

Menu board at Camp Cunningham

Menu board at Camp Cunningham

A programme of daily outings and entertainment was provided, as were three meals a day and an evening ‘supper’ for each camper. The camp had its own bakehouse, laundry, ‘refrigerating apparatus’, electricity generators and workshops.  A ‘camp orchestra’ kept diners entertained at mealtimes. There was a camp farm at Crosby, some five miles away. This grew fruit and vegetable for the kitchen and had pigs and a herd of 130 cows. While the local milk produce was appreciated, young men were forbidden some pleasures, for Liverpudlian Cunningham was a Presbyterian and strict abstainer from alcohol. Though no doubt many took advantage of certain off-camp establishments when away for the day.

Keep Fit Class at Cunningham Camp

Keep Fit Class at Cunningham Camp

Campers could sign up to be bussed to various points on the island. Alternatively, hikes were organised, cameras could be hired and trumpets issued along with song sheets so that groups of walkers could sing while tramping, alongside a ‘merry tune’ from anyone that was musically inclined.

The camp was taken over during both World Wars. In 1914 as an internment camp and as a Royal Navy training school- HMS St. George, during WWII. Following the war the family declined to continue with the camp and it was sold to a Blackpool businessman. Joseph Cunningham himself had died 4th September 1924.

The Concert Hall cleared for a dance

The Concert Hall cleared for a dance

Three Points of the Compass has not, as yet, visited the Isle of Man but has stayed at many a holiday camp as a youth. Various Butlins camps were visited by the family each year as we grew up, they were (relatively) affordable and provided the diversity of entertainment required for a large family with wide age ranges and gave my hard working parents the break they deserved. I am told that we never visited the two main rival institutions- Warners and Pontins, but other smaller independent camps were also occasional destinations. Either alone, or with one or two of my siblings, I would wander off exploring dunes, cliffs, woods and beaches. Rock-pooling and fishing. I invariably had a great time, got sun burnt, sustained multiple scrapes on rocks and thorns, startled adders in the bracken and pulled wrasse from the pools left stranded by retreating tide.

DisclaimerThree Points of the Compass is well aware that the title to this blog is incorrect. The inhabitants of the Isle of Man are British, however the island is not part of the United Kingdom. The Isle of Man, situated between Great Britain and Ireland, has an independent administration and government. However the establishment of this first holiday camp is so closely linked to that which evolved in the UK that it cannot be ignored.

 

Three Points of the Compass enjoys a lentil curry as the sun sets over Sandwood Bay. Cape Wrath Trail. August 2018

Trail food- lentil curry

South Downs Way in winter. A hot meal of lentil curry being prepared

Three Points of the Compass on the South Downs Way in winter. A hot meal of lentil curry being prepared. The zip lock freezer bag containing this is sitting beneath my down beenie

Three Points of the Compass was talking to another long distance hiker a couple of days ago and I was asked what I favoured as an evening meal on trail. That was easy to answer. Lightweight, easy to prepare, plenty of flavour, cheap and loads of carbs and protein- Lentil curry. A perfect backpacker’s meal. That is what I am eating above as I watch the sun setting over Sandwood Bay on the Cape Wrath Trail in 2018.

Resupply at Fort William prior to setting off on the Cape Wrath Trail.. Included are the makings of six-eight lentil curries with a variety of carbs- instant mash, couscous and noodles. July 2018

Resupply at Fort William prior to setting off on the Cape Wrath Trail. Included are the makings of six-eight lentil curries with a variety of carbs- instant mash, couscous and noodles. July 2018

Boiling up beside Loch Shiel. Cape Wrath Trail, August 2018

I make most meals on trail in ‘pour ‘n’ store’ freezer bags. These will take boiling water, will sit flat with a gusset base and can be simply sealed up after a meal until reused if there is no opportunity to wash out, or water is limited.

After a days hiking I want a good filling meal with the least amount of hassle. Also, to use the minimum amount of fuel in preparing it.

Tubes of tomato and garlic puree are easily found in most supermarkets. Garlic puree is 55% garlic and remainder mostly sunflower oil. Tomato puree is 65% tomatoes and the remainder different oils and flavourings

Tubes of tomato and garlic puree are easily found in most supermarkets. Garlic puree is 55% garlic and remainder mostly sunflower oil. Tomato puree is 65% tomatoes and the remainder different oils and flavourings

Lentil curry with noodles. Cashel. West Highland Way. July 2018

Lentil curry with noodles. Cashel. West Highland Way. July 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All I do is heat an almost full 900ml Evernew pan of water, Once boiled, pour over four handfuls of split red lentils in a freezer bag and seal the top. This then sits in my reflectex cozy with either a hat over it or wrapped in a puffy jacket or something else. The remainder of the water goes to making a tea or oxo. Then I simply rest and wait for around twenty-five minutes. I might munch on a block of cheese or something while waiting.

We can never say that fried onions are a healthy choice, but they add flavour, crunch and calories to a meal

We can never say that fried onions are a healthy choice, but they add flavour, crunch and calories to a meal

Once the lentils have continued cooking in the boiled water, I test them, almost always soft though I will tolerate al dente if in a hurry. A quick squirt of garlic puree and rather more of tomato puree along with two or three good spoonfuls of madras curry powder. A brief stir then I add a carb to the water. This is either a couscous or instant mashed potato (my favourite), less frequently, I drain a little water and add scrunched noodles. I don’t like doing the latter as it wastes precious water. I have sometimes added both noodles and potato. Another stir and, if I have them, a handful of dried fried onions. I have found that these are not the easiest of foodstuffs to be found in lonelier spots of the country but if it is just a week’s hike then a small ziplock containing a few handfuls weighs very little, and that, is that…

Lentils curry with couscous, Sandwood Bay. Cape Wrath Trail. August 2018

Lentil curry with couscous, Sandwood Bay. Cape Wrath Trail. August 2018

Another resupply. This time at Ullapool on the Cape Wrath Trail. Again, the makings of lentil curry's for the evening meals are the preferred option. August 2018

Another resupply. This time at Ullapool on the Cape Wrath Trail. Again, the makings of lentil curries for the evening meals are the preferred option. There are around four to five days supplies here. August 2018

1927 advert for the Co-operative Holidays Association

Organised outdoor activity in the UK- Arthur Leonard and the Co-operative Holidays Association

There are some movers and shakers from the earliest days of organised outdoor activity that are barely known today. Mention their name to anyone on the hills and and only a handful would know who you are referring to and how connected they are to the activity that they are enjoying. One such individual is T. A. Leonard.

T.A. Leonard, a Congregational Church minister from Colne, Lancashire

T.A. Leonard, a Congregational Church minister from Colne, Lancashire

Thomas Arthur Leonard, OBE, 1864-1948, was born in London. His father, a watchmaker, died when he was five and his mother raised him almost alone. She ran a boarding house and, being the daughter of a Congregationalist minister, it is not surprising that this influenced the young Thomas enrolling as a student at the Congregational Institute in 1884.

Marrying in 1888, he took pastoral roles in Barrow-in-Furness and Colne. It wasn’t long before another influence guided his movements and energies for the remainder of his life. In June 1891 he arranged for 32 male members of his Young Men’s Social Guild to holiday in the English Lake District. Just four days long, this was a great success and he believed that encouraging working males to holiday together in the countryside, with no alcohol and enjoying simple, spartan pleasures, daily walks and, most importantly, group singing, was the way forward.

Factory workers in the north of England, in common with the lower paid workers elsewhere had only recently had conditions slightly improved by the various Factory Acts, a series of UK labour law Acts, that sought to improve the conditions of industrial employment. Workers sought to escape the confines of still dangerous and unpleasant work environments. Rambling became a respite and popular recreation amongst the working class. In addition to this, mills and factories would close down on an annual basis for maintenance. ‘Wakes weeks’ had their roots in the Industrial Revolution and were particularly prevalent in the north of England and industrialised areas of the Midlands. They started as unpaid holiday and poorly paid workers had little choice on how to spend their newly found leisure time. There was little or no work to be had elsewhere as almost all industrial works within a locality coincided their closure period. This was the root of the annual summer holiday and entire families would decamp to spend their wakes week elsewhere, such as at the increasingly popular large coastal towns as sea bathing was held in high regard for its perceived health benefits.

CHA pin badge

CHA pin badge

In 1893 Leonard introduced the Co-operative Holidays Association (CHA). His holidays provided cheap, simple accommodation and an itinerary of walks, singing and evening lectures. Experts would instruct on geology, wildlife and botany. Later, painting, climbing and other pursuits were introduced. Leonard believed that the holidays that he provided were not an indulgence, but a necessity. A holiday was subject to strict itinerary however, communal activities were not only provided but participation was a requirement.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, those fortunate enough to reside in the towns and villages of the Lakes, regarded with suspicion those who sought simply to visit and ramble in ‘their’ hills. Any such influx was resisted. John Ruskin, amongst others, penned numerous letters to the local press decrying any influx of working class holiday makers. But, obviously, this was a tide that could not be stemmed.

By 1907, workers in the Lancashire mills were guaranteed 12 days annual leave, including Bank Holidays. This had increased to 15 days by 1915. Many would take time off in Blackpool and Morecambe, drink too much, party too hard and generally get up to various activities that Leonard and his fellow ministers frowned upon. Leonard believed that a simple communal life, with compulsory daily walks was far preferable.

At first, holidays were mostly based in the Lake District but quickly spread further afield. The Co-operative Holidays Association moved beyond the English Lakes, beyond Snowdonia and the Peak District, in to Europe, to bring travel, exploration, camaraderie across ethnic, social and class barriers, an ethos, and singing, to thousands. This was an entirely new form of ‘holiday movement’ that led the way for other similar businesses and organisations. Near derelict buildings were rebuilt and restored. This was also an era where large country mansions were put on the market and some were purchased at relatively low cost. However, modest income struggled to meet the upkeep of large houses and grounds.

Daily walks of 18-20 miles were compulsory. Sing-alongs were encouraged, both on the walks and each evening. An official songbook was produced. At first these were mostly psalms but over time became more secular. Everyone would join in and rounds were part of the routine. Despite the best efforts of the organisation however, such group singing had become less popular by the inter-war years. Alcohol was only permitted from the 1960s though no doubt there were those who flaunted such restriction prior.There were many walking and cycling groups and societies starting up and the social and physical aspect of these was invigorated by those who had just returned from a week’s rambling with the CHA in the company of like-minded souls. The idea of escaping to the hills once escaped from the collieries, factories and  dark satanic mills had been propagated.

Postcard showing the Moor Gate guest house owned and operated by the Co-operative Holiday Association

Postcard showing the Moor Gate guest house in Derbyshire, owned and operated by the Co-operative Holidays Association

By 1913 the Co-operative Holidays Association had 13 British holiday centres which catered for over 13,000 guests annually. This increased to 30 centres attracting 30,000 guests by the 1960s. However Leonard had long before become disaffected with the organisation. Leonard was an idealist who quickly became disillusioned with projects and his life choices when he felt that outward influences were compromising his ethics. He took up and resigned his position as a congregational minister three times, serving as a minister for just eight years in all. He dismayed at improper dress and attitudes on the fells. Anything that smacked of elitism and excluded the working classes was, he believed, to be resisted. Middle class workers expected the comforts of home, hot water, boots polished for them and no chores to perform while on holiday, however such things came at a price. Both figuratively and practically. This did not hold with other practices such as the offering of free or subsidised holidays to people who could not afford the fees that were still out of reach of those most disadvantaged.

The Co-operative Holidays Association committee began to aim its advertising at the middle-class rather than the working-class. The advertisement at the head of this post dates from 1927. Believing that the Co-operative Holidays Association was heading away from his ideals and wanting to spread his vision still further on the international stage, Leonard distanced himself from it to start another, back-to-basics, organisation- The Holiday Fellowship.

A group photograph of a happy bunch of people enjoying a weeks holiday with the Co-operative Holiday Association at Grasmere in 1958

A group photograph of a happy bunch of people enjoying a weeks holiday with the Co-operative Holidays Association at Grasmere in 1958. Few, if any, of these would have been working class and the organisation had by this time moved away from its roots

Referred to simply as the ‘CHA’, there were now as many women as men attending their holidays and despite fraternising between the sexes being slightly frowned upon, particularly amongst unmarried youngsters, there were those who referred to the organisation as the ‘Catch a Husband Association’!

The Co-operative Holidays Association was renamed Countrywide Holidays Association in 1964, operated independently until 2002 and stopped providing holidays the same year.

Leonard himself wasn’t finished with organised outdoors activity. The CHA had been encouraging youngsters in to the outdoors from early on, decades before the Youth Hostel Association and Leonard was involved in the formation of the YHA, standing as its first vice-president. He was president of the Ramblers Association from 1935-46. He founded the Friends of the Lake District in 1934 and worked with a number of different organisations increasing access to the outdoors and holidays for the poor or disadvantaged. He was made an OBE in 1937 and died in Conway in 1965. There is a memorial plaque, now by-passed by a redirected path, on Catbells, near Keswick in the Lake District. On this, Leonard is hailed as the-

founder of co-operative and communal holidays

and

“father” of the open-air movement in this country

There is a timeline of many of the most important or influential UK outdoor organisations over on my main website. I will occasionally write on a few more of these over the coming months.