Sunday 29 June 2014

Katnalu Creek Trek

I have done two treks in the Katnalu creek area – the first one was the Shiva waterfall trek and another in the opposite direction towards Sadhu Pul via Kufri village. Readers should not confuse this Kufri with the touristy location by the same name (the Kufri-Chail-Shimla circuit). This Kufri village is not on the tourist destination radar. While the Shiva Waterfall trek led me through mostly uninhabited areas this trek crisscrossed some villages as well.

Trek amidst the pine forest in Katnalu Creek area

My trek started from the point where the Hail Himalayas camp site is located and after crossing the creek there was a steep climb for the next 15 minutes that took me to the village from where I could see far off Shimla on one side and Sadhu Pul in another.

A huge banyan tree and a small temple

After this there were more gradual rise and falls till I hit the pine forest area. The trees were small and it seems have been planted only a few years back as part of the aforestation drive.

A traditional house

During this trek I saw several new bird species and it definitely should be on the bird-watchers list of places to visit. I saw Black Headed Jay, Blue Whistling Thrush, Orange Flanked Bush Robin, Red Billed Blue Magpie, White Capped Redstart and several others that I could not recognise or could not click as they were too evasive.

A House in a village in Katnalu Creek

The houses that I saw in the villages were all ‘Pucca’ houses and were big in sizes with mostly tiled roofs with the ground floor being used for keeping the animals and the upper floor used for living quarters for the family. This serves two functions specifically in the winters – it provides shelter for the animals and also provides warmth generated by the animals on the upper floor and vice-versa.

Floriculture, Village Kufri

At village Kufri I saw floriculture being practiced as a commercial venture by the locals leading to some additional income generated in an otherwise not so commercially viable agriculture practiced here.

View of Sadhu Pul from Kufri

How to reach: For reaching there the nearest train station is Kalka. To reach beyond Kalka one has to take a detour from the Chandigarh-Shimla road at Kandaghat and go towards Chail and at Sadhupul (about 12 kms from Kandaghat) leave the metallic road and take the dirt track for about 4 kms to reach this as yet unexplored area.

Also read:
My Stay at Hail Himalayas
Birds at Katnalu Creek, Himachal
Sunrise at Madag
Shiva Waterfall Trek, Himachal
Jangchub Rabtenling Monastery, Himachal 

Tuesday 24 June 2014

A Visit to an Organic Farm

I have been to plenty of farms in India and abroad but this time I got an opportunity to visit an organic farm in the Lancashire region in England.

Cows roam freely in the Gazegill Organic Farm

The world over farming is increasingly using chemical fertilizers and pesticides which are harmful for the body. Compared to this the organic farming relies on natural methods and is sustainable and good for the environment as well as the product is good for animal and human consumption. 

A stream with bridge inside the Gazegill Organic Farm

I visited the Gazegill Organic Farm situated a few kilometres from the town of Clitheroe. We were met at the farm by the owner Mr Ian O’Reilly who was kind enough to take us on a tour of his farm. 

The ownder Mr Ian O'Reilley

We put on high gum boots as several parts of the farm had muddy water which would have spoiled out city shoes! The farm is spread over several acres and the grass is probably 700 years old and has not been uprooted since then and is only sheared periodically so that it retains its true value over the years and it is this grass which the cows eat roaming freely in the open instead of tied in a cowshed producing excellent quality of milk. 

Cow with calf in a shed

Only cows with new born calves are kept under a shed. The owner explained that he does not feed anything extra to the cows to increase their milk output by artificial means. There were probably around a hundred cows. He has set up his own milking and chilling unit. Even the meat products that he sells are organic in nature.

A huge pig at the Gazegill Organic Farm

The farm is located in a beautiful undulating area with small streams flowing within the farm and the view of the Pendle Hill in the background adds to the beauty of the area. 

View of the Pendle Hill from the farm

The grass is sheared periodically and I could see bales of grass piled high wrapped in special bags which retain the moisture of the grass inside so that when they are opened to be given to the cows in the winters it is as fresh as when it was cut as it had retained their moisture.

Bales of grass stacked in special moisture retaining bags

Mr Ian O’Reilly had a good knowledge of the flowers and herbs that were growing naturally on his farm. The grass with flowers and herbs when eaten by the cows produce high quality of milk.

Monday 16 June 2014

Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, Scotland is a treat to one's eyes. The Garden is just a couple of miles away from the city centre and can be reached either by cab or bus.

Beautifully landscaped Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

The Garden remains open from 10 Am to 6 PM in summers. There is no entry fees for the garden and only the entry to the glasshouse has a charge of 5 GBP. Within the garden one is transported from various different climates from equatorial to Scottish Highs.

The Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

If one gets tired while walking within this 70 acre of beautifully maintained garden then there are plenty of benches spread all over the garden to sit and relax. Else if you want to grab a bite then there are three restaurants/coffee houses.

Flowers in the Garden

The landscaping has been done in such a manner that there is a small stream flowing within this garden with waterfalls and lakes in between. The lakes have several ducks . The garden is also host to several bird species.

A waterfall within the Botanic Garden in Edinburgh

I saw some plants whose single leaf was as big as an adult human being. There are various kind of cherry  plants as well as rhododendrons.

A Place to sit & relax? But how do you reach it?

In one of the lakes I saw this platform with a few chairs on it but I wondered how does one go there or is it only ornamental? Of course the reflection it created in the water was very pleasing. There is a big section devoted to Chinese plants with Chinese huts also built for an added effect. Within the gardens are the huge beech hedges reminding me of the Harry Potter movie.

Cherries in the Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

The Inverleith House within the gardens normally is the venue of exhibitions for the new works of artists though no exhibition was on during my visit. The Royal Botanic Garden was opened in 1670 and in the previous century three regional gardens were acquired. These are the Benmore, Dawyck and Logan gardens.

The Temperate Palm House

The tall glasshouse (about 72 feet high) contains some very tall palms. Within the glasshouse ten different climate zones have been recreated so the overall experience is not only soothing to the eyes but educational as well.

Also read:
Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh
Edinburgh's Calton Hill - Athens of the North
Old Calton Cemetery

Sunday 8 June 2014

A Walk in the LAKES – The Grasmere Walk

The Lake District in England is probably the most beautiful in the whole country for outdoor activities be it trekking, cycling, mountaineering, hiking or just walking.

St. Oswald Church & Cemetery, Grasmere - resting place of Wordsworth

While coming down from Keswick I got down at Grasmere to spend some time here walking in and around the village by the same name as well as the beautiful lake.

St. Oswald Church, Grasmere

Grasmere is not only famous for its natural beauty but also because it was also home to the famous writer and poet William Wordsworth. His grave is part of the St. Oswald Church and the adjoining cemetery. 

Grasmere Street with hotel Wordsworth

The church is small and looks quite old but has beautiful surroundings and it is just nice to sit inside as well as outside the church for some time to soak in and enjoy the tranquility of the place. There is even a hotel by the name of Wordsworth Hotel & Spa to attract the tourists! 

Rothay River Walk, Grasmere

Next to the St. Oswald Church I took the Rothay River Walk which is a small but beautiful walk one can have. After this I just followed the banks of the lake and continued walking in the general direction that will take me towards Ambleside. 

Ducks next to the Grasmere Lake

Next to the lake I saw several large ducks and I was able to go quite close to them. The lake is about 1.5 km long and more than half a km wide. 

Grasmere Lake

It is fed by the Rothay river which flows through the village before entering the lake waters. The path took me to some forested area. 

Grasmere Walk 

I came out of the forested area next to a small water channel where some persons were deeply engrossed in their hobby of angling. 

Angling in Grasmere

I ultimately came out of the woods and crossed a road and saw this small waterfall very close to the bus stop from where I took the bus reluctantly for my next destination – Ambleside.