December Newsletter

December Newsletter
December Newsletter

Welcome to the Wiltshire Group November Newsletter which contains the second instalment of Phil Henegan’s Himalayan adventure. As mentioned in the last newsletter the committee will meet most probably virtually on 14th January to decide whether to go ahead with the Pewsey Downsaround and if so in which format it should take place. In this edition Graham appeals for volunteers in order gauge the amount of support the event will have.


You will have seen that I am taking over from Carol as the group Secretary and Rosie Nelstrop will take over from me as Walks Secretary. Initially there will be some overlap between Rosie and myself while Rosie familiarises herself with the Walks Secretary role. In addition for the next month Rosie will be in Cornwall with no internet connection.


There is also a message from me regarding the walks program.




Call for 2021 Pewsey Downsaround volunteers


Your committee needs to know whether we will have enough volunteers to run a normal PDA on Sunday 25th April. This will help us with our decision on 14th Jan on whether we can be sure of running it or should replace it with an "anytime" PDA.

Please use your own judgement based on your expectations of how the Covid situation will affect you in April. Inevitably there would need to be some big changes to the event to protect all - I'm sorry, but it's too early for us to know what these will be in April, only that the full guidelines presently applying would make it very difficult to go ahead. 

If you feel that you can give a commitment, based on a Covid-secure plan, please let Bruce   or me   have your and any colleagues' names with a phone number by 7th January latest.

Many thanks,




A piece on P7 of December's Strider told us of Mike (Dorset Group) Childs', recovery from a cardiac arrest.

Many of us know Mike so I've been in touch to send our best wishes and am very pleased to say that he tells me he's doing better since that report and can now walk 7 miles. Perhaps I'll ask for a warning when he can reach the Wilts border!"




Despite the difficulties we faced during the year when we have been allowed to walk we have managed to have full walks programme and I would like to thank all of those who volunteered and led walks.


Rosie takes over a programme that is pretty well full to the end of April and several of the leaders have already provided details well in advance of their walks. There are a couple of slots that need filling because members who had previously volunteered have had to drop out due to changed circumstances. Therefore we are looking for volunteers to lead walks on 17th January and 15th April. If you would like to lead on one or both of these date contact Rosie or myself


Now for the second part of Phil’s adventure.


We decided we were now sufficiently adjusted to the altitude to embark on a longer trek, so we stocked up on supplies and caught the bus to Pahalgam, which is a major trekking centre. Our vaguely defined objective was to reach the Zanskar valley, a little known region over a 4500 metre pass from our starting point. This time we hired two older men with two horses. They wanted an upfront advance in order to pay for their food on the journey, following which one of them went off to purchase the supplies. Eventually we set out on the route, which in the early stages follows the line of the Amarnath Cave pilgrimage, so it has the very occasional shepherd’s village. One of these had a teahouse, a strange two-storey wooden structure, and we decided to stop for tea and cake.  This turned out to be a serious mistake, as both of us experienced stomach pains and diarrhoea for several days afterwards, making hard work of the trek. Having crossed the Mahagunas pass at 4200 metres, we were also suffering from the altitude, so we reset our course to reach the Amarnath Cave and abandon thoughts of Zanskar. The Cave is situated at 3962 metres, and is a major Hindu shrine, visited by 100,000 pilgrims annually in July/August, although we had the place to ourselves due to the time of the year. Over 100 usually die on route, which is not surprising given the elevation, remoteness, and arduous nature of the journey. 

On the way down, we came to the top of a valley stretching at least a mile ahead, with the visible path curving down below us for hundreds of feet. On the path coming up, there was a long cavalcade of men and animals, which gradually became more clearly defined as the distance between us reduced. Eventually, we could make out a party of 10 to 20 people, with horses, donkeys, and large quantities of supplies loaded on the animals including live chickens. It looked distinctly like a caravan from a past era of travel. I had read ‘A short walk in the Hindu Kush’ by Eric Newby not long before this trek, which I found very amusing. In the book, the two companions are returning to civilization from their ill-prepared trip in the mountains, and meet a similar major expedition coming towards them. The leader of this expedition turns out to be the legendary explorer Wilfred Thesiger, and the comparison with our own affair seemed very apt.

Before reaching ‘civilization’, we came across an open air pub. Seemingly miles from anywhere, a man stood beside a small fast-flowing stream, in which there were bottles of Kingfisher beer. Naturally, we could not pass the spot without encouraging this enterprise, and bought some for immediate consumption. Usually I don’t care for the taste of Kingfisher beer, but it was delicious on this occasion. 

On arriving back in Srinagar, we rented a houseboat moored on the Jhelum River, which was owned and manned by an ex-Indian Army batman from the British colonial era. Michael was feeling distinctly unwell, and took to his bed for the next couple of days. The batman was delighted with this opportunity to look after an ‘English Officer’ once again. I spent the time wandering around Srinagar enjoying the sights, such as three men and a horse pulling a lawnmower in the park, and negotiating purchases I never actually intended to make in the carpet shops. We decided to return to Delhi, after a daylight shoot-out between the police and a group of men holed up in a two storey building in the town, who were accused of throwing a grenade at them. A pity, because Srinagar and the rest of Kashmir are really beautiful places.

We walked around central Delhi, and visited the old city of the Moghul emperors on the outskirts. We bought a map and list of treks in Kashmir, which would have been really useful if we had done so before we went. One of the fascinating sights in the centre of the city was the snake charmers running around with their cloth bags and pipes, which they dropped on the ground in front of you and started playing. Almost immediately, the snake would rise up from the bag, swaying in time with the music. If you ignored the men and walked on, they would stuff the snake back in the bag, run in front of you, sit down, and start all over again. In addition to the various street performers, trinket sellers and food stalls, there were many beggars in the streets, some with terrible injuries or disfigurements. It was rumoured that some of these were self-inflicted or deliberately made to others, so they would be more effective in their appeals for money.

Naturally, being so close to Agra, we took a bus trip there, and spent time viewing the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal. As many people have written extensively about both of these fabulous places in detail, I am not likely to add anything by describing the buildings. I can add one small impression on the Taj Mahal, of an unusual nature. During our visit to the Taj, we were closely hemmed in by hundreds of Indian tourists flocking to see the tomb, which is down a staircase to the crypt below the well-known white marble structure. As they are somewhat shorter on average than Europeans, they had no problem, but I struck a resounding blow with my forehead on a low marble lintel at the bottom of the staircase.

Finally the day arrived for our early evening flight back to the UK. We packed our belongings, checked out of the hotel, and spent our remaining cash on a few gifts, before taking the bus to the airport. Consternation followed, when at the departure check-in we were informed that we were a day early, and should return the next day. Throwing ourselves to the floor, we pleaded for mercy, and eventually obtained seats on a flight going to the UK later that night.  We took the bus back to Delhi and found a restaurant accepting credit cards, before returning to the airport the same evening for the journey home.


Below is a list of photographs that Phil included in his article but the bulk email system cannot cope with them. If you would like to see these photographs ask Phil to send them to you. ED.




Photo 1: On the baby trek, travelling north from Sonamarg


Photo 2: Houseboats on Dal Lake


Photo 3: Our guides and horses on Amarnath trek


Photo 4: Look no hand rail!


Photo 7: Our houseboat on the Jhelum River


Photo 8: Lounging in a shikara

Wiltshire LDWA -