The UK government is indicating a return to a more normal life from summer 2021, but we will have to wait and see. Regrettably I have lost a year of travel and of writing, so my forthcoming Spanish Trails books are as yet not ready for publication.
If the vaccine programmes are effective, and if travel regulations across borders are relaxed, I intend to get back to normal working during 2021. And if that happens you can expect to see books 4 and 5 of my series of books hitting the websites and bookshelves before too long.
Meantime my 3 books (Picos de Europa; Mountains of Madrid; and Sierra Almijara (near Cómpeta) remain available, either by contacting me or from the usual book distributors online.
The Spanish authorities have a system for marking certain paths within national and natural parks. There are two categories of officially-marked path, the GR (Gran Recorrido, or long distance) routes, and the PR (Pequeno Recorrido, or short distance) routes.
GR routes are indicated with red and white markers, and PR routes with yellow and white. To confuse matters, there are often other colours marking local routes.
In one review of my Picos de Europa book on Amazon, a reviewer has complained that I do not reference the “national” trails. There are several reasons for this.
Very often the official routes do not take the optimum route. For example, in one area of Andalucia, the GR 249 follows a main road for several kilometres, ignoring an excellent (but more strenuous) footpath which follows a similar route at a higher level. These routes often take the easiest way from A to B, which may not be the most interesting route.
One or two of my walks include a small amount of walking on surfaced roads, but only where there is no real alternative. The official routes use surfaced roads more frequently.
Some of the official markings can be difficult to follow. For instance, only two weeks ago I followed a PR route in the Picos from Arenas de Cabrales to Tielve. The paint marks which were made a few years ago had in many cases almost disappeared.
The routes in my books are intended to provide good geographical coverage and a range of easy to difficult walks, through the most interesting parts of the terrain. Although I do not often reference the official waymarks, I believe that my walks are more interesting, and often lead you to less popular places. The directions for my walks should stand on their own merits. If you find that they do not do so, feel free to let me know.
I have just spent almost a month in the Picos de Europa, re-visiting some of the routes in my book. The first lesson you learn when publishing a guide book is that when it is published it is already out of date. Things are constantly changing. I try to keep my information up to date but it is difficult. So if you are using my book and find any inaccuracies, please let me know. I include updates here, and also in future reprints of the book.
The main thing I noticed on this visit was that the national park authorities have been working hard improving paths. For instance, in Walk 31 there is now a definitive path up the scree slope in the Canal de la Chavida, and in Walk 29 the path towards Jario from Dobres has recently been cleared and is much easier going. However, in that same walk the ascent to Samaya has deteriorated, and although it remains passable it is hard going through scrub which can be chest high.
Any feedback you have from doing these walks is welcome.
I am returning soon to the Sierra de Guadarrama, near Madrid, to complete my research for Book Three. Few people in the UK have heard of the Guadarrama, so it will be called “The Mountains of Madrid”. I have the help of Tim Price, a young Englishman who was born and bred in Madrid. We aim to have the book on the shelves before the end of 2019.
This is a brilliant walking area, with lots of easy, moderate and strenuous routes taking you to over 2,400 metres altitude. The views are long-distance and brilliant. And you get the chance to visit the famous capital city of Spain as well.
In the spring of 2020 I will be leading a group, as often, from the wonderful Finca el Cerrillo in Canillas de Albaida. I will be taking the group on from there to Granada where they will walk in the Alpujarras, in the city of Granada, and in the Sierra Sub-Betica, which is half way between Granada and Córdoba. I am looking forward to returning to some of my old walking routes for the first time in a little while.
I am pleased to say that I have recently received the following message from a person who bought my Picos de Europa book. The printers had made a mess of the third reprint, and had to print it over again.
“I arrived home today to find
your book delivered as promised.
I have to say a big thank you
for your exceptional customer service.
I am visiting the Picos in
early summer and am looking forward to walking a few of the routes
I spent a few days in the Sierra de Guadarrama over new year, working on Spanish Trails Book Three, “The Mountains of Madrid”. Then I headed south to lead another walking group in the Sierra Almijara.
The weather has been fantastic. Scarcely a cloud in the sky for over three weeks.
Yesterday I explored two routes I have not previously done. Firstly the ascent from Acebuchal to El Fuerte, and then up once more to Cerro Verde. The path to El Fuerte is now a good one, although somebody has put up large ugly signs saying private property. However, the path has been recently cleared and cairned, so at this stage I don’t understand this. I will need to make some enquiries, as this is a fabulous ascent which I would like to use again.
I am on my way back to the Sierra Almijara and Tejeda, to the east of Málaga and inland from Nerja. I am honouring a long-standing commitment to guide some walkers from the wonderful Hotel Finca el Cerrillo, near Canillas de Albaida.
You can see information about the hotel at www.hotelfinca.com. This is a special place, owned by Sue and Gordon, an English couple who converted a disused olive mill to turn it into a private hotel, with a beautiful Mediterranean garden in the foothills of the mountains and looking down towards the sea.
I don’t claim any degree of perfection in my work. Anybody can make mistakes! But it is gratifying to receive some compliments about my work, and here are some extracts from emails I have received recently.
“I bought your book ……………… and it arrived this morning. I have had a good read through it and it is so good I have booked a 2 week walking and learning Spanish course through PeakMe in Panes for the second and third week in October.”
“…. book one is very, very good and I look forward to being able to get your follow on books and doing some of the walks.”
“ I only did one walk from your book ……….. that was the Sedo de Mabro option to Walk 26 (Cares Gorge). The only addition I would make is in the last paragraph and it’s for reassurance to say that you cross the stream about half way down then re-cross it 3 times more by the bottom. I loved it.
“ many thanks for your book, i had bought it at Stanfords, London, and i really appreciated it. the descriptions are very clear, i also liked a lot the hand-drawn sketches ……. we combined some of your itineraries extending and joining them through a simple map-reading, and spent several wonderful days up there. i also appreciated how the book is organized (the subdivision according to access points, the difficulty rating, the overall information, etc).”
From Ontario, Canada:
“ …… thank you for your wonderful Spanish Trails book. It has been our most essential tool in planning our trip to Spain this September. We are so very excited for our upcoming travels and exploring the Picos de Europa.”
From Amazon’s website:
“ Really useful guide. Forgot the map one day and the directions and descriptions were accurate to the cm. Really useful. I wish there was one of these for every place I visit.”
“This book is easy to read and follow and brings to life the beauty of the Picos. Excellent!”