Welcome to Martin Knight's Website!
 
             In the Table of Contents listed on the left you will see that the first web pages are devoted to recent pictures and news of the family; these are followed by observations and reflections on our travels, then samples of ongoing geographical research interests of mine in South London, North Kent, and South Wales. 
             As well as having been a keen geographer and teacher all my working life, I am a committed Christian (Anglican by tradition and inclination but ecumenical in outlook), and a family man who enjoys gardening, travelling, hill walking, and a burgeoning collection of family photographs, colour slides, and holiday images.  In my retirement I continue to have a keen practical interest in landscape and photography, local history and archaeology, and geology and ecology. I research and lead local Guided Walks (I am increasingly consulted as 'Dulwich's Effra man'!) while Margaret manages our family properties and her shares and investment portfolio, and researches our holidays on the Web. The above interests are all reflected on different pages of this website.


2016-17 - Greetings from leafy Dulwich! 

Our family is still growing - in every sense of the word! We have a widening  extended family, the grandchildren are growing fast (five now, ranging from 13 years to 18 months), horizons (and waistlines?) are expanding, and Margaret and I are growing ... er, beginning to feel our age!

     
     Margaret & I still enjoy the Brecon Beacons - especially with the newer & younger family members
 
 Family matters:    Bel is gearing up for next year's GCSEs at Sydenham High School, Katie and Abi are making very good early progress at Eliot Bank Primary School, and both adore their little sister, HollyBen's electrical business has taken off, and he plays his full part in helping Lizzy juggle her Home Office career with being home-maker and mum.  Andy is successful in his work with OfQual in Coventry, while retaining close contact with family and friends in London; he and his girlfriend, Sarah Rollason, are currently looking to buy a property in the Birmingham area.
       In July, Andy and a group of friends pushed wheelchair-bound Luke Dolan (a contemporary from Dulwich College days) up Snowdon as part of a national charity event; meanwhile Bel prepared for a testing D of E Bronze Award expedition in deepest Kent, while Ben and Lizzy's family joined Ben's Dad for a weekend under canvas in West Sussex. It seems that my lifetime obsession with the great outdoors is finally bearing fruit! 
        Mary (-Ann) is very busy running her  nursery school
in Lewisham, while Sarah continues to combine a successful career in accountancy with being a mum to Eddy, refurbishing house and garden in Lapsewood Walk, and supporting Margaret and the rest of the family. It is rewarding to us that all our grandchildren so enjoy playing together, and that Eddy's Dad Gerald and step sister Grace have become part of the family too: Gerald and Grace were introduced to the Talybont experience last summer, and are looking forward to going again in 2017.
        Margaret and I are hoping to be able to spend more time at the holiday bungalow near Herne Bay this year, particularly while Margaret recovers from the microsurgery on her knee she underwent recently: the initial signs look very encouraging. We are still very actively involved with St Stephen's Church, and continue to sing week by week with our Church Choir. We are always particularly busy during Passion and Easter Weeks and in the Advent and Christmas Seasons, with both family and church commitments.
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              In 2016 Margaret and I looked back on many memorable Trips: to the Holy Land in February*, Crete in June, Talybont-on Usk with the family in July, and Crete again in September with long-standing friends Enid and David. In October half term we accompanied Sarah, Eddy, Bel, and Mary to north Cyprus.

*
My 2016 reflections on the Holy Land are on the Pilgrimages page of this website; our June 2016 Cretan adventure is featured on the Crete and Cyprus page, as is the late 2016 trip to North Cyprus.
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                But now for 2017!

      
Our first excursion of the year was to Kew Gardens, which we have enjoyed a few times recently, especially with the whole family for their Christmas Lights show.

 This time our main objective was the Indian Orchid Festival at the end of February, but we also wished to see the flower paintings in the Marianne North Gallery which were featured in a recent TV documentary, and which I had last visited with my father some 60 years ago!
The day did not disappoint, in spite of the fact that we went on probably the wettest day of the winter.  The orchids (hundreds of them, not counting the cut flowers and petals) were spectacular and colourful, the displays were beautifully arranged, and there was much interesting information - geographical and historical as well as botanical.

In spite of the rain and soggy ground, we managed to walk around most of the grounds and enjoy the hothouses and other attractions, often accompanied by curious but welcome avian residents (except for the Temperate House which was being refurbished, and the Xstrata 'TreeTops Walkway'  which Margaret 's knees would not allow her to attempt!)

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Two foreign holidays had been lined up for the Spring of 2017, notwithstanding Margaret's dodgy knee: a return to North Cyprus in March, and a week at the end of April to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands.
           
           In the very early hours of Friday March 17th we flew out of Stanstead for a ten day half-board stay near
KYRENIA (Girne to the Turkish Cypriots) on Cyprus's north coast. The holiday package included airport transfers and shuttles to the city centre and the nearby beaches, three days' car hire, and a guided tour of Nicosia (Lefkosa), the island's divided capital. We had visited Kyrenia and Nicosia once before, but only for half day tours; now we would have the time and means to explore more widely and fully (except where the Turkish military held sway!). We were close to the Kyrenia Mountains, whose medieval castles overlook the north coast beaches that include the Alagadi Nature Reserve and the site of the 1974 Turkish army landings near our hotel, and the quieter and more remote countryside of the Karpaz Peninsula in the east. Also we hoped to visit ancient sites at Soli and Vouni in the west, enjoy Kyrenia's picturesque town, castle and harbour, and admire the contents of Nicosia's fine Cyprus Museum, as well as sampling beautiful holy places and evocative burial sites that our previous researches had highlighted.

                    
            The holiday started uncertainly, with cool, cloudy weather and the worrying news that our promised hotel had been overbooked! Substitute rooms with meals had been hastily arranged in the large Acapulco Beach Resort nearby for the first night. This looked fine on paper, but the hotel was very busy, access to the chilly beach was via extensive building works, and our room was in a block 5 to 10 minutes walk up quite a steep hill from the restaurant and the reception; we effectively lost a day of our holiday as there was very limited access to anywhere attractive or of interest, and of course we were 'living out of a suitcase'.  However,
the next day we thankfully arrived at the smaller Malpas Hotel we had originally booked, which was much more to our liking, especially as we had been allocated a sea view upgrade (albeit north-facing and therefore rather chilly in March).
                                

Margaret on the bleak Acapulco Beach;    Hotel Malpas the next day;     Girne (Kyrenia) from our Malpas balcony

           Our three day car hire, and the minibus trips to Nicosia and Kyrenia were scheduled for the middle of our holiday, but the Hotel's excellent location between the coast and the mountains, its winding lanes through productive countryside, and the brilliant colours of the wild flowers in the spring sunshine, encouraged us immediately to start exploring on foot.
We quickly identified nearby coastal objectives from our balcony, and set out on an afternoon perambulation towards a small bay and headland that looked promising. Once we had crossed the busy main coast road we had the streets serving well-kept villas and gardens down to the sea virtually to ourselves.  The bay was mainly sandy, and backed by old sand hills that were carpeted with a myriad wild flowers and shrubs in full bloom, including bee orchids, rock rose, cyclamen,  miniature iris, poppies, and so much more; and then there were the butterflies ...!  The only disappointment was that we could not get onto the low grassy headland beyond (which the map suggested might have Bronze Age remains) because it was controlled by the military.

  
Margaret in the quiet bay below Malpas;  Malpas & Buffavento Castle from the bay; Iris reticulata on the beach

The next day we decided on an 8 km walk westwards into the hills south of Kyrenia, to the former Greek Cypriot village of Bel Pais, featured in Lawrence Durell's book 'Bitter Lemons'.  We had visited the village and its former medieval abbey briefly in 2014, but as part of a coach party that drove up from Kyrenia via the main tourist road, and who were more interested in the tourist shops, restaurants and bars than the countryside. This time we were approaching from the east,
via flower bedecked country lanes around the head of the wooded valley whose stream served the village and its water mill, and gave a much more interesting view of the village and its location.

  
  Bel Pais Abbey across the valley head, and from Durell's 'Tree of Idleness';  Margaret chats with the mill owner.

We walked back via Catalkoy (pron. 'shuttlecock'?! - the nearest village to our Hotel) whose Church is now a Mosque - a casualty, like so many of the Greek Orthodox religious and community buildings in northern Cyprus, of the Turkish invasion in 1974 (see my Crete and Cyprus page for more information).  Other local walks around Malpas and Catalkoy, and the excursions to Nicosia and Kyrenia, would have to wait until after the 3 days' car hire we had booked, since we wanted to use the car to search out more distant and less accessible destinations. 
Eastwards we drove (
via rocky coves that included the Turtle Beach and wave sculpted rock formations of Alagadi Nature Reserve) into the long finger of quiet countryside that makes up the Karpaz Peninsula, to discover the mosaics and geometric tiled floors of the Byzantine Trias Basilica open to the skies in a meadow near Yenierenkoy: 

        We had the Alagadi Beach Reserve, and the Agia Trias Byzantine Basilica almost to ourselves;
Early Christians 


had to remove shoes on entering; the busy main coast road (!); Toumba Bronze Age burials in a flowery meadow;

             Westwards we drove  to the partly excavated Bronze Age necropolis surrounded by orange groves at Toumba tu Skourou, and via the Episcopal Church and monastery of St Mama and a very interesting Museum in the town of Guzelyurt (Morphou to the Greeks). From there we drove on to the Roman city of Soli with its outstanding Early Christian Basilica, and the Greek Palace of Vouni with its Temple of Athena and unique well system, perched 300m above the Mediterranean Sea:
     
 
Morphou: St Mama's Church & Tomb and its iconostasis; A modern-looking 12thC BC glazed dish in the Museum 

 
     
Early Christian Basilica at Soli with its famous 'Swan' Mosaic; Well head in the Courtyard of Palace of Vouni 

         We also negotiated a narrow, tortuous road (thankfully empty!) into the interior of the Kyrenia Range from the nearby village of Esentepe to view substantial exposures of medieval wall paintings and frescoes in a remote, partially preserved monastery that was still in use less than 50 years ago:

   
Colourful and enigmatic wall paintings in remote St Chrystassis Monastery; a late Roman fountain in Esentepe

        
We had a free day's guided tour of North Nicosia pre-booked. Although we had been on a short tour of the northern part of Cyprus' capital city before (in 2014), we decided to take the opportunity this time to cross the UN monitored 'Green Line' into the Greek Cypriot controlled south, so that we could view the substantial archaeological collections that were displyed in the Cyprus Museum. We were not disappointed; there were outstanding artefacts and treasures from all over the island, including Kyrenia, Soli and Vouni which we were seeing now, Famagusta, Salamis and Enkomi which we explored last autumn, Paphos which we visited in 2012, and many other sites besides. It was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the holiday.
         
 
   
Girne Gate in Lefcosa (N Nicosia);Venetian Column (brought from Salamis); Nicosia's former Gothic Cathedral 
                                                                                                                                                                    with added minaret;
 

  
'Green Line' (UN) Border Crossing; Cyprus Museum: part of Kirni burial cache, & bronze cauldrons from
                                                                                                                                                            Enkomi


  
Prominent Kyrenia landmarks: 'Five Finger Mountain' from the south, and the Venetian Castle from the sea

  
Pretty Kyrenia harbour from the Castle;    Venetian Great Court from the Walls;         The lofty Crusader Tower

    
Ottoman Mausoleum & graveyard;  St Andrew's Anglican Church by the port; famous 3rdC Kyrenia shipwreck                                     
          The last two days we reverted to local walks around Catalkoy. Firstly we walked to another small bay below the village, where there was a rare shrine to six very early Muslim soldiers (7th Century, contemporary with Mohammed himself), whose bodies had been discovered, miraculously preserved, in a sea cave nearby. From there we walked back to Malpas along the coast via jetties built to export carob beans and molasses in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

 

      
   Catalkoy Mosque (former church);  Early Muslim martyrium near Malpas; cave where the bodies were found

            Finally, we walked inland from the village into the foothills of the Kyrenia Range, via a stony track that gave access to local quarries, goat farms, and freshwater springs. This was a walk there and back of about four miles, with dramatic views up the steep valley towards 'Five Finger Mountain', along the wooded face of the craggy scarp, and down to the colourful coast we had been exploring all week: a fitting end to an active and stimulating holiday ...


Nearest beach to Malpas looking east;  We walked up this valley into the Kyrenia Mountains on our last day

Now I could look forward to my birthday on St George's Day, to be celebrated a week early with the family, followed by a relaxing holiday with Margaret in the Canary Isles!
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           The week in late April at Caleta del Fuste, south of Puerto del Rosario, on the island of FUERTEVENTURA, was always going to be a more low-key affair than most of our previous foreign trips, partly because of the different nature of the island itself, but also because of uncertainty about the fitness of Margaret's knee. In the event, we enjoyed the excellent facilities and food in the hotel and its resort, managed interesting walks along the coast and into the volcanic hills, and certainly experienced some surprises on the way:

 
The pools from our Hotel Reception; a walk on the wild side of the Atlantic ; Surprise #1 :chipmunks everywhere 
                                                                                                                                              (they are Barbary ground squirrels)

         Fuertaventura is the second largest of the Canary Islands, at a latitude of 30 deg north
, and only about 65 miles from the west coast of the Sahara in Morocco; it is in the Atlantic subtropical high pressure zone, dominated by hot trade winds in the summer, and it is sunny and dry most of the year. Its limited natural flora and fauna is wind and water borne, mainly from Africa, augmented by exotic introductions from Europe and the Caribbean, brought by European (mainly Spanish) traders and colonisers. 
         The Canaries are the remains of sea floor volcanoes resulting from the upwelling of magma (lava) where fractured sections of oceanic crust carried by continental drift passed over deep planetary 'hotspots' 20 million years ago or more. Fuertaventura would have been one of the first to erupt but is now extinct, whereas those on the other islands may only be dormant. The lava flows which make up the foundation for the landforms and soils of the whole island are composed of black basalts - tough and angular, but with many joints and fissures which allow water and gases (including air) to penetrate and weather the rocks, to produce freshwater springs and pockets of thin acid soil in the bottoms of valleys inland. The island was too low and too near the tropics ever to have been glaciated, but the higher parts show signs of water erosion, frost weathering, and wind action. Atlantic storms still modify the landscape and attack the coast from time to time, particularly in winter.

   
Black basalt on the coast;  'green' valley thru' bare hills in the interior; cisterns like this collect precious rain water
      
 
The modern working part of the Carmen Saltworks Museum; and an aerial view from about 20 years ago.
 
We walked this part of the coast south-west of Caleta on two or three occasions, including our last day when we had a celebratory lunch at the restaurant in the village overlooking the cove in the picture above. Our main coastal walk took us another three miles further along the stony and windswept trails that everyone else seemed to cycle or drive in 4x4s!

  
Gaunt 19thC tower guarding Calesta del Fuste from pirates; 
Surprise #2: performing sea lions in the harbour!

           In the other direction we explored the modern resort of Caleta, which hardly existed before the El Matorral Airport was built 3 miles to the north in the 199os.  It has one of the fine white shelly beaches Fuerteventura is well-known for, and a small harbour protected by a circular castle tower complete with wooden drawbridge. It was noticeable that the tourist development was largely concentrated in a narrow strip a quarter of a mile wide between the north-south coast road and the sea; there have been only occasional 'urbanisaciones' on the inland side - mainly identikit bungalows and apartments for holiday makers and ex-pats. They often look like shanty towns from the coast and seemed largely unoccupied while we were there. Bizarrely, there were two golf courses behind our hotel, on an island that has no trees, little grass or soil, and receives only six inches of rain a year!


Bleak volcanic landscape by the sea; 
Surprise #3: Caleta & its golf courses;  Surprise #4: pre-colonial hut circles!     

          One morning we walked up a track skirting the golf courses and urbanisations onto the dry and almost featureless local hills to get a feel for the volcanic landscape, and to see the views into the interior and along the coast.  However, what caught my eye were unexpected rings and lines of part buried stones piled up on the slopes overlooking Caleta (see photo above).  They were in a form that immediately reminded me of ancient Iron and Bronze Age settlements I knew from the Brecon Beacons and Dartmoor, and others which we had visited more recently in Cyprus. I could not be sure of their age at the time, but subsequent Web research revealed references to recent archaeological excavations in that area of pre-colonial settlements dating back more than a thousand years; now that was an unexpected highlight of the holiday for me!
 
 

 

Surprise #5: Camels on the Beach!; Cruise ship in  Puerta del Rosario harbour; Antigua: the main village inland

 
        Our other main excursion of the week was to the 15th century village of Antigua in the broad valley right in the centre of the island, where various trekking routes met. From here we could venture onto the island's upland spine, and see something of the rural interior which had been undergoing depopulation since the early 1800s. To get there we had to use rather uncertain local buses, firstly to Puerto del Rosario via the airport, then inland via we weren't sure where! The bus timetables gave the times the buses departed at each end of their journey, but only listed the main stops on the way, and no-one seemed to have any idea of intermediate times or routes, or even what number they might be displaying!  So we found we had two hours to kill in Rosario (perhaps), and heaven knows how much time in Antigua when (or if) we got there. 
         It didn't take long to walk around Rosario (pop c 25,000) and see its main sights, which were mainly a sheltered harbour and Atlantic port of call, a modest colonial era church, some pretentious refurbished administrative buildings, and a series of quirky recent statues.  It has always been the main harbour on Fuertaventura, but only became the capital in the 1890s, and has no real holiday potential ( the beaches are outside the town).  Antigua, on the other hand, had history and charm, and its church was one of the earliest in the Canaries, with interesting early features including a fine timbered ceiling that reminded us of some of the best we had seen in Madeira. And there was a very pleasant palm-shaded square with a cafe bar where we later relaxed over coffee and ice cream while trying to find out where the returning bus would stop, and at roughly what time (this was largely unsuccessful as it turned out!).
          From the village we eventually found the track we wanted (after a lengthy false start: their directions are as vague as their timing!), and made for the hills to the west. The waymarked Trek was initially of about 3 miles over a 2000 ft ridge to Betancuria village on the other side that used to be the island's capital.  It started as a gentle made up road through old fields of cereals and prickly pears (home of the cochineal beetle they used to harvest for dyeing cloth), then it became a steeper stony track which began to tax Margaret's dodgy knees. Where it entered a Wildlife Conservation Area with an information board showing pictures of rather daunting birds of prey Margaret felt she had done enough. She stopped and chatted with one or two other hikers while I went on up the steep zig-zag path a short way to admire the views and take photographs. But then I came back to Margaret before reaching the top, and we decided reluctantly to go back down (not least because we still didn't know about the buses back home).  We did eventually get back to our hotel (having shared a bus shelter for half an hour with some bored local youths) in time for a very welcome swim - but overall it was another highlight of the week.


Old volcanic landscape; old lime kilns along the coast were essential for farming on the acid soils: these were on
                                                                                                                                           the beach right by our hotel

          We thoroughly enjoyed our week in Fuerteventura, and would like to go again and see more.  However, not everything was quite as I had expected: The resort was busy, only a couple of miles from the airport, and right under the flight path. We had known this beforehand, but we were surprised that the flights were about every 15 to 20 minutes or so at times, and aircraft noise was present anywhere near the coast. We also drew the short straw once again with our allocated hotel room: our balcony was over the kitchen delivery yard and hotel recycling area with noise, flies and smells from 5 0'clock in the morning! It faced the scorching afternoon sun, and only had a partial view inland beyond the hypermarket car park next door (which was another surprise). We do like to sit out on our hotel balcony (especially with a glass of wine in the afternoon and evening), so after three uncomfortable days and nights, we asked to move to a new room higher up on the opposite side, which was quiet, and had a partial view of the sea. I suppose you can't expect everything, and we had at least been given vouchers for a free a la carte meal with which to celebrate my birthday ... !

Our free meal in the hotel's Arrecife Restaurant; a plane taking off over the hotel; our improved balcony view.
 
      
         Here's to the next time ... (Covent Garden Opera House for our Wedding Anniversary? Herne Bay for some gardening in the sunshine? Talybont in July?):-

 
We were 'up in the gods' for Verdi's Don Carlo;  the girls admired the new shed in the garden at Studd Hill
 

         Thank you for your forbearance and support!

Martin and Margaret