Welcome to Martin Knight's Website!
 
          In the Table of Contents listed on the sidebar the first web page is devoted to this year's family news, followed by my observations and reflections on our travels, as viewed through the eyes of a geographer. Finally there are samples of ongoing 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 Anglican, and a family man who enjoys gardening, travelling, hill walking, and updating this Website.  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 Guided Walks, write short articles on local topics, and am increasingly consulted and quoted as 'Dulwich's Effra man'! 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.

2017-18:  Season's 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 2 to 14 years), horizons (and waistlines?) are expanding, and Margaret and I are growing ... er, beginning to feel our age!

     
     Margaret & I have enjoyed the Brecon Beacons for forty years -  now 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 progress at Eliot Bank Primary School, and both adore their little sister, HollyBen's electrical business has taken off; he has put a lot of effort into refurbishing the town house in Forest Hill, and he plays his full part in helping Lizzy juggle her Home Office career with being home-maker and mum.  Andy is successfully leading his OfQual team in Coventry, while retaining close contact with family and friends in London; he and his partner, Sarah Rollason, have now settled into a 3-bedroomed semi between Solihull and Birmingham.
       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, while Bel prepared for a testing D of E Bronze Award expedition in deepest Kent; Ben and Lizzy's family have met Ben's Dad for weekends under canvas and sail in West Sussex, and enjoy cycling. It seems that my lifetime obsession with the 'Great Outdoors' is finally bearing fruit! 
        Mary (-Ann) is kept busy at her  nursery school
in Lewisham, while Sarah continues to combine a top-level career in accountancy with being a mum to Eddy (supported happily by his dad Gerald), while refurbishing house and garden in Lapsewood Walk, and supporting the rest of the family. It is rewarding to us that all our grandchildren so enjoy each others' company, and that Eddy's step sister Grace has become part of the family too: Gerald and Grace enjoyed Talybont again with us this year (in spite of problems getting there - see below), and have already booked themselves in for various family events in 2018!
        Margaret and I have been able to spend more time at the holiday bungalow near Herne Bay this year (see below), and Margaret recovered well from microsurgery on her knee in June. We are still very actively involved with St Stephen's Church, and continue to sing week by week with our Church Choir.
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     Our 2017 Trips and Holidays:-

      
Our first excursion of the year was to Kew Gardens, which we have enjoyed a few times recently, especially with the family for the dazzling Christmas Lights show. T
his time our main objective was the Indian Orchid Festival at the end of February; we also wished to see the huge collection of amazing flower paintings in the Marianne North Gallery which were featured in a BBCtv documentary, and which I had last visited with my father - on our bikes - some 60 years ago!
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         Two foreign holidays had been lined up for the Spring of 2017: a return to North Cyprus in March, and a first visit 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 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, which looked fine on paper, but the hotel was very busy, and access to the chilly beach was via extensive building works.  However,
the next day we thankfully arrived at the friendly Malpas Hotel we had originally booked; this was much more to our liking, especially as we had been allocated a sea view upgrade.
                                

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

          We quickly identified nearby coastal objectives from our balcony, and set out immediately for a small bay and headland that looked promising.  The bay was empty and 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 and finches ...! 


  
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 walking in from the east,
via flower-bedecked country lanes, around the head of the wooded valley whose stream served the village and its water mill, which gave a much more interesting view of the village, the former Abbey and its setting.

  
  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 whose Church is now a Mosque - a casualty, like so many of the former Greek religious and community buildings in northern Cyprus, of the Turkish invasion in 1974 (see my Crete and Cyprus page for more information).
The following day
we drove eastwards in a hire car into the Karpaz Peninsula, via rocky coves that included the secluded Turtle Beach and wave sculpted rock formations of Alagadi Nature Reserve. Driving on we discovered the delightful 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 Basilica almost to ourselves:
early Christians took off their

shoes on entering!            The main road east (is that busy?!);       Bronze Age burials in Toumba's flowery meadow

           Next day we drove westwards to the partly excavated Bronze Age necropolis surrounded by orange groves at Toumba tu Skourou, via the Episcopal Church and monastery of St Mama and a very interesting Museum in the town of Guzelyurt (Morphou to the Greeks).
     
 
Morphou: St Mama's Church & Tomb and its iconostasis; A modern-looking 12thC BC glazed dish in the Museum 

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:

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

         On our last day with the car we negotiated a narrow, tortuous road (thankfully empty!) into the interior of the Kyrenia Range from the coastal village of Esentepe, to view substantial  medieval wall paintings in a remote, partially preserved monastery that had still been in use until the Turkish invasion:

   
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 (Turkish) part of Cyprus' capital city 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 displayed in the Cyprus Museum. Here there were outstanding artefacts and treasures from all over the island, including Kyrenia, Soli and Vouni which we had just visited, Famagusta, Salamis and Enkomi which we explored last autumn, Paphos which we visited in 2012, and many other sites, including ones we hope to visit near Limassol next spring.
 
   
Girne Gate in Lefcosa (N Nicosia); a Column brought by Venetians from Salamis; Nicosia's former Gothic                                                                                                                                                    Cathedral (with added minaret)
 

  
The laid-back UN Border Crossing; Cyprus Museum: part of Kirni burial cache, & Bronze Age cauldrons from
                                                                                                                                                            Enkomi

We also spent a relaxing day in Kyrenia Town, with its huge Medieval Citadel guarding the original Roman port, and its later Venetian, Ottoman and British embellishments.
 
  
Kyrenia landmarks: 'Five Finger Mountain', and the imposing Venetian Castle; Kyrenia harbour from the Walls

  
   Venetian Great Court inside the Castle;       The lofty Crusader Tower;    Ottoman Mausoleum & graveyard;                                       
          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 warriors (7th century, contemporary with Mohammed himself), whose bodies had been discovered, miraculously preserved, in a sea cave nearby.

 

 
Early Muslim martyrium near Malpas; cave where the bodies were found. View from the valley on our last walk

           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, a walk up and back of about four miles. There were 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 ...

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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 low-key affair because of the different nature of the island itself, and also because of uncertainty about the fitness of Margaret's knee. In the event, we enjoyed the excellent facilities and food in the hotel, managed interesting walks along the coast and into the volcanic hills, and certainly experienced some surprises on the way:

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

 

  
Black basalt along the coast;                            'green' central valley thru' bare hills;    cistern collecting precious rain
 

            We walked the coast south-west of Caleta on two or three occasions, including our last day when we had a celebratory lunch at the restaurant overlooking a cove at Puerta de Carmen Salt Museum.  Another coastal walk took us three miles further, along stony and windswept trails that sensible people seemed only to attempt with wheels!

  Round tower guarding Caleta del Fuste from pirates; performing sea lions; bleak volcanic landscape inland

           In the other direction we explored the modern resort of Caleta, which hardly existed before the International Airport was built nearby in the 199os.  It has a fine white shelly beach, 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 between the north-south coast road and the sea; bizarrely, there were two golf courses behind our hotel, on an island that has no trees, grass or soil, and receives only six inches of rain a year!

 
     Caleta & its golf courses;                              Pre-colonial hut circles?!                      Camels on the beach!

          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.  However, what caught my eye were unexpected rings and lines of part buried stones piled up on the slopes overlooking Caleta (see above).  They 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. Subsequent Web research revealed references to recent archaeological excavations of pre-colonial settlements dating back more than a thousand years; now that was an unexpected highlight of the holiday for me!
 
 


Cruise ship in  Puerta del Rosario harbour;   Antigua: a date palm oasis;           The old volcanic Betancuria ridge 

         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 volcanic 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!
         It didn't take long to walk around Rosario (pop c 25,000) and see its sights, which were mainly a sheltered harbour and cruise ship port of call, a modest colonial era church, some pretentious refurbished administrative buildings, pirate sea caves, and a series of quirky recent statues. Antigua, on the other hand, had history and charm, and its church was one of the oldest in the Canaries, with interesting early features including a fine timbered ceiling that reminded us of some we had seen in Madeira.
          From the village we eventually found our waymarked trek of about 3 miles over a 2000 ft ridge to Betancuria village, the island's former 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. When it entered a Wildlife Conservation Area with an information board showing pictures of very daunting birds of prey Margaret felt she had done enough. We then decided reluctantly to find a bus back  to our hotel in time for a very welcome swim and meal - but overall it was another highlight of the week.

 

 lime kilns along the coast essential for farming the acid soils, also used as lookouts;  our later, quiet balcony view

          We thoroughly enjoyed our week in Fuerteventura, and would like to go again and see more.  However, not everything was quite as we had expected: the resort was busy, only a couple of miles from the airport, and right under the flight path. Our allotted hotel room was disappointing too: our balcony was over the kitchen delivery yard and hotel recycling area with noise, flies and smells from 5 0'clock in the morning until 11 at night! 
But we asked to move to a new room, which was mercifully quiet, with a view of the sea. I suppose you can't expect everything, but they did give us vouchers for a free a la carte meal with which to celebrate my birthday ... !                                                                                                                                                                                                                     . . . . ___ . . . .                                                                                 
 
       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?) :-

 
'Up in the gods' for Verdi's Don Carlo; admiring the new shed at Studd Hill; family celebration meal in Wales

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       Our annual family week in the Brecon Beacons at the end of July was our third year at Gilestone Farm in Talybont-on-Usk, the village with which we had enjoyed such a long association through my former school's Field Study Centre in the Old Village Hall (see my 'Wilson's School Connection'  web page). There were to be 15 of us, including five young children.
       We had an unfortunate start when Gerald's car seized up ten miles before he had even got there and he had to abandon it while we ferried him, nine year old Grace, and all their luggage (including bikes) to Talybont late at night in pouring rain. That meant we were one car down all week. Also the weather was not very kind: we had a lot of rain showers and low cloud, and it was not as warm as usual. The weather, the transport problem, and the ages of the children (9, 6, 4, 2 and 2), rather skewed the activities away from the traditional hill walking, mountain biking and longer drives around South Wales towards gentler and shorter local visits and rides. However, the children loved it, and we adults still managed to get in some different actvities, at both new and familiar sites. The weather certainly made the rivers and hillsides very challenging, even if we couldn't get near the caves, or even climb Pen y fan!
 
Ready for the off at the farm; crossing the Dam up the Caerfanell Valley; scrambling & sliding down the side of                                                                                                                                                                        Craig cerrig gleisiad


Exploring the limestone near Glyn Neath; hauling the buggy in Taf fechan Forest; Grace at the waterfall bridge

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         There has been much family activity also at Studd Hill (Herne Bay) this past year, including surgery on the big old poplar tree in our garden, and some much needed plumbing: the latter carried out, by chance, through a former pupil of mine (free of charge, at his insistance!). We also moved the small garden shed to make room for a larger new one for storing patio furniture and bikes, the first stage in a bigger project to clear and demolish the unsightly caravan that had been languish- ing for forty years at the front of the house:
 
The new shed under the lopped tree; the old caravan during demolition; the whole family BBQ-ing on the beach
     
          Gerald (with Grace) and Gary (Ben's Dad, with his partner Wendy) came down to help us with the demolition and disposal, on the same August weekend as Herne Bay's highly ambitious Air Show, and we all had a barbecue on the beach and watched the impressive aerial displays. There were acrobatic biplanes, a veteran Spitfire and Hurricane, two vintage Vampire jets, a 'James Bond' Girocopter, and a helicopter that saw service in the Falklands War; the displays were topped off in the evening by the RAF 'Red Arrows' and air-borne fireworks!
          That was quite a weekend, but everyone loved it!      

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        In mid-September I published an article in our Church Magazine on the 'Vicar's Oak' Boundaries Project at Crystal Palace. I became involved through my Effra in Dulwich researches (see adjoining webpage), and because our Parish was the successor to one of four medieval parishes (and modern Boroughs) that met there. I have been asked to submit further articles for the Magazine during 2018.
Margaret and I were also pleased to revisit childhood memories of the amazing brick subway that once connected Joseph Paxton's re-erected and enlarged 'Crystal Palace' to Charles Barry's elaborate High Level Railway Station under the Palace Parade.
At the end of the month we escorted Catriona, our disabled friend from Church, on an excellent visit with Dulwich's 'Out and About' Club to Bletchley Park, where Alan Turing and others helped to break the German 'Enigma' Codes during the Second World War:


Site of the Vicars Oak Memorial Path; Barry's 1865 Crystal Palace Subway; Top Brass arrive at Bletchley Park to                                                                                                                                                   review Turing's decoding of Enigma

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         In early October we enjoyed our third holiday in two years in Madeira, this time at Machico on the east coast. The journey out was testing to say the least: the plane was delayed and couldn't land at Funchal because of gusty winds, so we were diverted to the island of Porto Santo, and we didn't finally arrive at our hotel until gone 11pm, the whole journey by bus, plane, coach, ferry and taxi having taken 21 hours from home!

  
Porto Santo beach: it's a breeze here!  The ferry finally came at sunset;  Funchal port at last, but our luggage ...?                                                                                                                                                           ...  and where's Machico?
         From then on, the holiday was delightful.  The hotel was at one end of a wide promenade fronting a beach that was part imported golden sand, with a spectacular cliff behind. Our room faced south, with a view of both the sea and the cliff, and there was a beautiful chapel below that was floodlit at night. The town itself dated back to the very earliest Portuguese adventurers, and served a verdant, prosperous and well-populated valley behind. There were plenty of walks from there (if steep!), and the bus station gave us good access to a number of other, more challenging, walks and visits, along the north coast and into the hills:

 
Our hotel overlooking the seafront; we walked the pretty Levada do Canical, and the spectacular coast of the                                                                                                                                                       Sao Lourenco Peninsula         

             After two days finding our way around the historic town (it was the 1419 landing site of the first Portuguese colonists on Madeira) and sampling the views from the roads and byways in the valley, we embarked on the first of our main objectives: a bus up the valley to the village of Marocos, to start a walk along a Levada (artificial water channel) contouring around the perimeter of the Machico Valley, and back down the steep valley side to our hotel. It was a delightful walk above productive, terraced hillsides, lined with colourful shrubs and flowers and an array of ripe fruit trees and vegetables, and the views were impressive at every turn.
 
Machico Bay from the valley side; the Levada above Ribeiro Seca; excess water released down the steep roadside

               Encouraged by our experiences in the valley, we decided to take the bus early one morning to walk the Peninsula of Sao Lourenco on the north-easternmost corner of Madeira. This was more challenging, as it was composed of rocky lava fields, in parts narrow, high and steep, with no shade and little shelter from Atlantic winds. The main objective was a Nature Reserve at the far end (two miles away), and the coastal scenery was certainly spectacular.  We started when the sun was barely up and had the path almost to ourselves, but we were being overtaken by experienced hikers when we were about half way. Margaret's arthritic knees had caused her no problems, but she now began to experience vertigo, and it was decided reluctantly that she would sit by the path, and watch me continue the walk. I carried on to the start of the Nature Reserve, but as it was now midday and I was getting very hot and thirsty I decided I would not venture any further, but would return to check on Margaret.

 
Ponta da Sao Lourenco at sunrise; spectacular volcanic formations; the Nature Reserve at the end of the Trail

          We met more and more tourist groups (showing varying levels of fitness, interest and awareness) on our way back to the bus park, and were actually very glad to have started early and not to be sharing the path with them.  Margaret spent the rest of the afternoon by the hotel pool, while I went for a walk up the steep cliff track across the road to take more pictures!
          We used the buses on two other occasions: to see more of the interior, and to visit remote  village resorts along the north coast. We were amazed at the skill (and daring) of the bus drivers, who seemed to make a point of driving their long-suffering buses up and down every steep hill, round every hairpin, and through every village at impossible speed: it was exhilirating, but bone-shaking and exhausting!
                                                                                                                                                               
  
Porto Cruz on the north coast, reached via hairy bus rides in the hills; a viewpoint we climbed to above Faial: the                                                                                                                                                        cove is only reached by boat

             We had heard that the Madeirans were great ones for Festivals, but what we witnessed over the weekend of October 8th and 9th took us completely by surprise. They celebrated the island's Republic Day, combined with the local festival of the 'Lords of the Miracles'. Its centrepiece was a moving candlelit procession around the town on the Sunday, culminating in a late-night Barbecue Fair on the front, which attracted crowds of people who drove, bussed or walked in to the town from miles around. The next morning there was a Band Parade and Flag Raising Ceremony at the Town Hall, and in the late afternoon another procession commemorating the miraculous recovery from the waters of Machico Bay of a much revered Crucifix that had been swept out to sea in a great storm over a century earlier. The storm had flooded the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miracles that was originally built in memory of two young English lovers who had set sail from Bristol in a small boat in the early 15th century, were swept far out sea, and shipwrecked three weeks later in Machico Bay, only to die tragically in each others' arms. We were struck by how reverently the locals of all ages, gender and background took part in the Processions, and we felt moved, and privileged, to join in too. The Madeirans obviously take their seaborne heritage very seriously, so we could understand why they were understandably nervous about recent hurricane activity further west in the Atlantic.

Machico's 'Lord of the Miracles' Candlelit Procession + Veneration of the Cross.  Sea & sky view from as Hurricane                                                                                                                                                   Ophelia approached on our last day!

Our return to London was mercifully troublefree, and we looked forward to quietly celebrating Margaret's birthday! 
         We have subsequently booked two further foreign holidays for Spring 2018: to Limassol (Cyprus) in March, and Igalo (Montenegro) for my birthday in April.
But first there is the busy run up to Christmas, which includes lots of singing, Rigoletto at Covent Garden, and another visit to Kew for their dazzling Seasonal Light Show - courtesy of the family, of course!
    
 Meanwhile, we wish you a very Happy Christmas, and a Peaceful and Healthy New Year, and we thank you for your continuing interest and support!

Martin and Margaret