November 2020 newsletter


November Newsletter


Welcome to the Wiltshire Group November newsletter.  Lots in this edition (well not much walking going on, I  though you would have time for reading), including our first ever serial: Phil Henegan writes about a trip he made to the Himalayas, to be continued next month.  I hope it will transport you to a time when adventures were possible. 

Also messages from Graham and Bruce and another quiz, so boots off, feet up and enjoy



A message from Graham Instrell, Chairman

I'm sure that you'll all understand that there is some doubt about how and indeed whether we might be able to run our Pewsey Downsaround in 2021. The event has been scheduled for 25th April and of course we want to go ahead.

Our National Executive Committee has shown us draft guidelines which realistically deal with the issues of distancing at HQs and checkpoints as well as catering and toilets, plus many others. For example, all gathering points must be outdoors with distancing between marshals as well as walkers, we would not be providing food and drink, as it is expected that in walks of 35 miles or less the participants would be self-sufficient, and any hired portable toilets must be frequently cleaned - the event would be very different.

Your committee will meet on 14th Jan to decide, based on the covid situation, how/whether the PDA can be held and to make plans accordingly.


THE ALTERNATIVE. Other groups are reporting surprisingly-high uptakes for virtual "Anytime" events. We're making back-up plans for an Anytime PDA, in which:

  • entrants are provided with a map or GPX file of the route options
  • a period of a few weeks is allowed to walk the chosen route on any day in line with prevailing covid rules
  • competitive entrants send their completion times to us
  • certificates are offered and
  • a result table is produced.

Dave Purdy has kindly agreed to take charge of the admin for this. The details will be worked out so that we can get started immediately if we find in January that a conventional PDA is not realistic.

We're in touch with the Bath Beat organisers so it may still be possible for walkers to make a weekend of it as usual.

Staging this would keep the PDA fresh in the minds of our loyal following of entrants as well as offering a really good Spring walk.

We think it's a great alternative for this difficult situation. Do talk to us about it on our 6th December walk.


A message from Bruce, Walks Secretary

Once again we find ourselves in lockdown. I have continued to slowly add gpx files of past walks to the walks database.  So these walks will be available for you to follow when exercise in accordance with current guidelines.  These guidelines currently allow you to travel locally to exercise and there is no limit to the time you are allowed out to exercise.


November Quiz.

All the songs have walk or walking in the title,  name the singer.  Answers at the end of the newsletter

  1. Walk on the wild side 1972
  2. Walk a thin line 1979
  3. Walk on by 1964
  4. Walk like an Egyptian 1986
  5. Walk away Renee 1967
  6. Walk this way 1975
  7. Walk right back 1961
  8. Walking on sunshine 1983
  9. I walk the line 1956
  10. Walking the dog 1963
  11. These boots are made for walking 1966
  12. You’ll never walk alone 1963
  13. Walking in the rain 1964
  14. Walking man 1974
  15. Ain’t no mountain high enough 1967 (not quite in the theme, but my favourite song)



Trekking in the Indian Himalaya – September 1987 

Phil Henegan writes:

My brother Michael and I had been taking walking holidays together for a number of years, during which time we had completed the Tour de Mont Blanc twice, been to the Dolomites a couple of times, and walked about half the length of the Pyrenees mountains. It was time to go for the Big One – the Himalaya. Except for some reason Michael decided we would go to the Indian Himalaya, unlike most trekkers who opt for Nepal. This gave rise to our first problem, as India and Pakistan had been at war in Kashmir since Partition, and Kashmir was the only access route for any trek in the Indian side of the Himalaya. In consequence, maps of the region were virtually non-existent, and our only information was an elderly US Air Force aerial reconnaissance photo copy, which consisted of dense contour lines, and very little else.

The war between India and Pakistan was a result of the partition of the region between the largely northern Muslim population, and the Hindus from central and southern India. At that time, the Hindu ruler of the mainly Muslim state of Kashmir hoped to achieve independence from both sides, but as this became impossible, eventually opted to join the Indian state. His subjects disagreed, and encouraged Pakistan to invade from the west of the country in support of their rebellion.  Eventually Kashmir was divided by a cease-fire line between the two parties, which runs across to the north of Srinagar, the principal city in the state. Travel anywhere near the cease-fire line is actively discouraged, by gunfire. Thus trekking in the region requires careful navigation. Combined with the lack of maps and our complete absence of knowledge of the region, we were clearly going to need to hire a guide.

We arrived in Delhi, and took an Air India flight onwards to Srinagar, as the alternative was a two-day bus journey. Air India is one of those airlines on most travellers’ no-no list, as its accident history and time-keeping is pretty poor. However, we had travelled on Indian buses on a previous visit, and were well acquainted with their accident track record from personal experience – no contest. During the flight, I was glued to the window, because the aerial views were stunning, particularly over the mountains. Michael spent time talking to a couple of other passengers, who were the ‘owners’ of houseboats on Dal Lake, close to Srinagar. These houseboats were a consequence of the British wishing to settle in Kashmir. At the time, the ruler was determined to prevent the British from settling in the state, as he had seen this frequently lead to them eventually annexing many other states in India. He therefore banned his subjects from selling or leasing land to foreigners. The British responded by building magnificent cedarwood houseboats on Dal Lake, which is a large shallow lake debouching into the Jhelum River, which flows through Srinagar.  These houseboats were rented to visitors after independence. And surprise, surprise, Michael’s new friends on the plane were willing to rent us one of their houseboats. They even happened to have with them a photographic album showing the boats, and could offer us a really good deal there and then. Afterwards we learned that boat rental agents would habitually take flights from Delhi to Srinagar for this purpose. The good thing about doing this is that we would be transported to the boat from the airport, saving us a lot of effort in finding taxis and accommodation on arrival.

After clearing customs, we rejoined our ‘friends’ and were introduced to our transport to the lake by what was reported to be a new Ambassador, which is an extremely common Indian-produced car using the old British Morris Oxford design and tooling. I mention it was a new car, because as the front seat passenger, I felt it was fitted with square wheels. Additionally, the driver seemed to be having difficulty steering in a straight line, which in the midst of the crowds of bicycles and people occupying the road was somewhat fraught. No doubt the tooling was completely worn out before they even started making cars with it in India. Eventually, we arrived at the lake, and took a shikara (punt-like water taxi) to the houseboat. I have to say I was impressed. The houseboats are moored end on to the bank, with a covered veranda facing the water, offering a view across the lake. This is a hive of activity, with shikaras travelling in all directions carrying passengers, floating shops, barbers, and all manner of goods and services. There is even a tailor, travelling with his sewing machine and cloth samples. Behind the veranda, there are two quite large rooms and a bathroom. The Brits knew how to make themselves comfortable.


We stayed for three days in Srinagar. On the first day, we walked around the town to get our bearings and ask about trekking in the mountains. Amongst other things, it became clear that most of the places marked on our map were springs or other natural features, and not villages offering food and shelter. Apart from a few shepherds, there was no-one living in the Indian section of the Himalaya, and we would need to carry everything we required for the trip. We would also need pack animals and a guide. We bought copious supplies of tinned and dried food, and a couple of substantial hampers to carry the stuff. Many of the tins were labelled in local script which, later on, made meals something of a ‘lucky dip’.

I decided (unwisely) to have a haircut, and the barber’s premises were open fronted and raised a few feet above the road, like most of the shops in the town. I quickly became a popular spectacle for the crowd passing in the street, and the man cutting my hair began making exaggerated gestures for each snip of the scissors. This was received by cheers on each occasion, until I became concerned I would finish completely bald.

We rented a couple of bikes, which surely must have been the worst bikes ever, and rode around Dal Lake. The lake is divided into two parts by a raised track, which has a line of trees for part of its length. The trees were crowded with electric blue kingfishers, making a wonderfully colourful sight.

All the foreign tourists we met were on the hippy trail from Delhi through Srinagar, Kargil, and on to Leh in Ladakh province, travelling by bus. Ladakh was once part of Tibet, and is very Tibetan in customs, language and dress. The journey to Leh is only possible between late May/early June and September, as the mountain passes are usually blocked at other times. We would have liked to have made the journey, but it was two days each way by bus, and we could not afford the time. We did travel to Sonamarg, which is the first ‘town’ on the route, to investigate trek guides. Sonamarg consisted mainly of wooden, very basic hotels for travellers on the Leh road, and closed down when the buses stop going through. We did manage to find a trekking guide, or rather he found us. There were plenty of men at the bus station looking for possible customers, and one of the younger ones got our attention. We agreed to a trek of 3 or 4 days, and he went off to get supplies and borrow another horse, as he only owned one and needed two to carry the food and gear.

Eventually, we set out on what the guide called a ‘baby’ trek, travelling north from Sonamarg. As expected, the landscape was bare of people and animals, otherwise similar to European mountain areas, but on a heroic scale. The views were superb, the climbs long and steep but do-able. The most noticeable effect was that each time we walked in the shade the temperature plummeted, and we donned our coats. Each time we walked in the sun, the temperature shot up, and we took them off again.  This can get very tiresome after a few hours. The young guide had no such problem, as he did not have a coat. We stopped to put up the tent and make an evening meal fairly early each day, as when the sun went down it got very cold very quickly, and we put on all the clothes we were carrying. Each morning, our start was delayed until the guide had found the horses, which were left to graze in the evening and inevitably wandered off. Our final day was marked by a tremendous rainstorm, accompanied by deafening peals of thunder echoing through the mountains, and jagged lightning flashes, which terrified the horses and was quite frightening for us. We struggled down through trees to a lower level and arrived at a small village, where we paid off the guide and put up the tent in the first flat space we could find. In the morning, we realized this was someone’s front garden. Eventually, we took the jam-packed local bus back to Srinagar sitting on the engine cowling, where an elderly lady tried to insist I took her seat.

After our return to Srinagar, we had a scary experience when walking back to the houseboat from the town one evening. Before reaching Dal Lake, the road runs straight for about half a mile to the jetty for the shikaras, with no alternative route. The whole length of the road was occupied by hundreds of Shia Muslims, chanting and beating themselves with rods, chains or clubs. On either side of these penitents there was a line of armed police, holding lathis in their hands and clearly looking for an excuse to wade in and beat up a few Muslims.  To reach the jetty, we had to push our way between these two groups, all the time praying we were not going to give one side or the other a reason to start fighting.  Subsequently, we learned it was the Shia Mourning of Muharram, to mark the death of the grandson of Muhammed at the battle of Karbala. Sensible people stay off the roads at this time.

We decided we were now sufficiently adjusted to the altitude to embark on a longer trek…………………………….(to be continued)

Quiz answers. 1.Lou Reed   2. Fleetwood Mac  3.Dionne Warwick 4.The Bangles 5.Four Tops 6.Aerosmith 7.Everly Brothers 8.Katrina and the Waves 9.Johnny Cash 10.Rufus Thomas 11.Nancy Sinatra 12.Jerry and the Pacemakers 13.The Ronettes 14.James Taylor 15.Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell

Wiltshire LDWA -