Trails from the Rails 1: Romsey to Mottisfont

  • Area: Hampshire
  • Local Train Operators: Great Western Railway/ South West Trains
  • Length: About 6 miles
  • Points of Note: Mottisfont Abbey and Norman Thelwell’s House
  • OS maps – Explorer 131 (1:25,000); Landranger 185 (1:50,000)

Walks between railway stations can be dictated by various elements, including the prevailing gradient, where the sun is likely to be all day, the opening hours of pubs en route and whether paths can be more easily picked up in one direction than the other. In the case of this little walk, the main thing dictating walk direction is the balance of train services. Romsey has a half-hourly service to Southampton on one hand and Salisbury on the other all week; Mottisfont & Dunbridge has a train every hour Mondays to Saturdays and a train every two hours on Sundays.

This guide is therefore the wrong way round. Turn your screen upside down to do the walk in reverse.

___…___

Romsey is a pleasant station to start from. It has platform awnings on both sides for piling off the train in the rain and discussing whether to cancel the walk under; it also retains its listed Classical station building in apparently good condition, although a brief examination will reveal that it is in fact discretely boarded-up using black plywood with white stripes painted across it.

Romsey 1 JPG.jpg

Exits are available on both sides. From platform 1, head straight down the exit ramp at the back of the station to a lane emerging from a cattle creep under the railway north of the buildings. Those arriving on platform 2 need to get under the railway, either using the official subway or via the cattle creep. Having got to the east end of this cattle creep, follow the lane away from it to the Romsey Canal and turn North.

This has an air of the back end of Romsey’s more comfortable suburbs (actually most of Romsey is on this side of the railway and the canal goes through the middle). For a little way it is a tarmaced towpath besides a lightly overgrown non-navigable canal, populated by runners and dog walkers. It then strikes out of town, losing tarmac and houses. Water meadows abound on one side; woods feature on the other. The path slowly dwindles in quality. All is very restful.

Romsey Canal 1 JPG.jpgRomsey Canal 2 JPG.jpg

After working through the woods, the canal comes out into open country and swings across a couple of fields, where someone has made sporadic attempts to upgrade the surface. On a nice day it is rather pleasant that these have not been wholly completed. The canal has, like the path, become progressively less passable.

It abruptly and inconsiderately dies, along with the path, on hitting the A3057. This is not exceptionally busy by the standards of single-carriageway “A” roads, but it still has a fair bit of traffic, no pavement and a need to be followed for 200 yards or so to the right before taking another right turn through a discreet kissing gate. Follow the remains of the hedge across the field to the next road, reflecting on how very “Thelwell Country” the landscape hereabouts is.

Turn left on reaching the lane (which has a pavement – mostly) and follow it back to the A3057 (which also now has a pavement). Turn right and enter Timsbury. Follow the road to the large lay-by with a bus stop at the north end adjacent to the village hall; then cross the road (admittedly easier said than done for a fairly minor deviation; turning right here up the hill and left at the top avoids two road crossings, a church and more of the A3057) and drop down the lane towards Timsbury Manor and the church. Turn right at the end for the church and follow this lane to the church itself, which is a neat little structure in stone with a wooden bell turret. The surroundings (particularly the car park) do not quite set it to best advantage. It is 13th Century in origin, but much rebuilt.

Timsbury Church 1 JPG.jpg

Beyond is a proud set of gates protecting “Herons Mead”, which house (and lake) is carefully hidden by several trees. Its development is described in Thelwell’s A Plank Bridge by a Pool (which is strikingly tender compared to Thelwell’s cartoons). The owners have quite enough Thelwell lovers leaning over for photos, so there is no need to add to the number. Instead follow the footpath around to the right, along the back and then diagonally across a field back to the road.

Continue along the main road to the next road on the right, which leads neatly up through a varied array of houses to Michelmersh. The rectory at the top of the hill is a splendidly grand brick structure. Turn left, rejoining the Timsbury Church-avoiding diversion, and continue climbing, following Haccups Lane and discretely admiring the architecture of the modern mansions on the right. At the T-junction at the end turn right.

Michelmersh 1 JPG.jpg

The lane then swings round a leftward curve to end at a fork. Mottisfont is to the left, down the hill, but a short diversion to the right will take in Michelmersh’s 12th Century church. It is an ordinary enough church in floorplan, but the flint-walled church body combined with a weatherboard tower is less common. It is also much better situated than Timsbury’s, being on top of the hill with views of the Test Valley.

Michelmersh Church 1 JPG.jpg

Return to the previous junction and fork down the hill, enjoying the quiet of the road, its easy, swinging route and the views across the Test towards Mottisfont.

Mottisfont 1 JPG.jpg

At the bottom of the hill, recross the A3057, drop down the path through the hedge and turn left along the cyclepath to the road junction. Here turn right and follow the lane towards Mottisfont past the old “Sprat & Winkle Line” Mottisfont station. (The Sprat & Winkle was an informal nickname after the fish and the water mollusc. It went up the Test Valley to Andover.)

The lane runs straight through a wood and then crosses the Test into the water meadows around Mottisfont Abbey. Several signs around the river crossing inform passers-by that they are being Watched. Beyond the unbreaking surveillance protecting against theft of this bridge is a slightly wider section of road running a little above the plain between iron fences. The Abbey and associated gardens are owned by the National Trust; more Northanger than Tintern, they present a few delightful sightings through the hedge from the passing road and are also responsible for a fair chunk of the traffic that negotiates this lane.

Test at Mottisfont 1 JPG.jpg

Pass the Abbey entrance (unless wishing to stop off here) and head into Mottisfont proper. At the top of a slight hill the road turns right. Continue straight on and follow round to the left, past a Millenium Orchard, and then back round to the right through a gate. Follow this lane gently up the hill for a few hundred yards and then turn left down the footpath.

The usual process for crossing arable fields is to wade through the crop, using rights as a person in the successor lands to the Kingdom of Mercia to follow the assumed route of rights of way until the actual one is found again, or (failing that) walk round the edge. At Mottisfont the farmer decries the practice of walking round the edge and has (wonder of wonders) kept the Public Right of Way clear across the field. This is to be much praised, allowing walkers to navigate the oilseed rape unencumbered by its enthusiastic attitude for overpopulation. At the other end of the field, pass through the kissing gate, note the buildings of Mottisfont & Dunbridge station off to the left and strike down through the cow field towards the road. On reaching the road, turn left to reach the station.

Access between platforms here is provided by the half-barrier level crossing at the northern end of the station. The station building, which is typical London & South Western in design, survives in private ownership. A pub on the northbound (platform 2) side provides a form of waiting room. Other shelter is utilitarian, consisting of the old building’s diminutive awning on platform 1 and a verdigris-covered plastic shelter on platform 2. The station is operated by Great Western Railway, but none of their trains stop here nowadays so the timetable is branded with “South West Trains” and waits are interspersed by (largely 3-car) green units shooting past amidst crossing sirens. Dunbridge, which is barely larger than its station, is not the most attractive of places. Still, this means that peaceful summer afternoon waits for a train home are unlikely to be disturbed by other passengers.

Mottisfont 2 JPG.jpg

Upcoming: “Trails from the Rails”

Back in 2015, with an Interesting Election upcoming, I did several blogposts on policies, polls and likely outcomes.

This time the British election looks set to be rather more boring – there’s only so much fun to be had in watching a party react to predictions that it’s going to be reduced to 200 seats that would mostly vote for a baboon if it was wearing a red rosette – and the French one is frankly not much better. (Le Pen is not going to win unless a) Macron implodes and leaves everyone with the exciting question of the semi-fascist or the man you’ve just decided is going to destroy the country, b) someone manages to whip up a campaign that you have to vote for Le Pen if you’re inclusive because she’s a woman or c) everyone who gets polled is worried the pollster will think they’re a racist if they say Le Pen and they’re all saving their actual opinions for the ballot box.)

So this year I’m going to distract from it and write some posts about walks that should be possible to do from the train instead.

Railway-based walks are much more interesting than car-based ones because of the lack of obligation to return to where you started.

The aim will be to provide some ideas for routes with a mix of landscapes, gradients, lengths and areas, largely avoiding dusty roadsides and miles of flat muddy fields.

I was going to call it “Trails from the Track” and then remembered where I found that term in the first place. (Okay, I didn’t remember per se. I remembered it might be out there somewhere and Googled it. Turns out it’s a publication from the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership which I don’t own a copy of because, perhaps oddly for someone writing a series of walk guides, I prefer to eschew walk guides and design my own walks.)

“Trails from Rails” is a search term for putting multi-use non-car routes on old railway lines. This series is an attempt to reclaim the term for a more positive approach. Readers of certain webpages on the Wye Valley Railway will already know my editorial line on such schemes – I am, after all, a rail lobbyist – and will be unsurprised at the absence of such routes from the ensuing series of walks.

Along the way there may be a sudden interruption with a post about why the rail network should be privatised. To avoid this lessening your enjoyment of this politics-free zone, please feel free to ignore it until after the election. (Unless you were planning to vote for a baboon with a red rosette, in which case it will explain why retaining UK Rail under the control of public organisations may cause long-term fare increases, rising costs and poorer service. Owing to a degree of laziness and procrastination, the appearance of this post – ever – is not guaranteed.)

Here is a nice picture to get us started:

Kidwelly Viaduct 1 JPG.jpg

Article 50

Dear World,

I have recently taken the opportunity to read Theresa May’s letter on triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

I would like to take to this soapbox to comment that she has missed the obvious grounds on which to ignore the result of the June 23rd 2016 referendum, which is to point out that on due calm assessment leaving can have no realistically-obtainable overall positive benefit, as is acknowledged openly in her letter. The most beneficial outcome is a non-negative result. This should have been appreciated before the referendum, but as there was no specific “Leave” concept before the referendum the fact that it has only become apparent afterwards is not grounds to ignore it. As the facts become more readily appreciated, one should broaden one’s mind to take this into account.

Two years today, or in 730 days, we will lose direct and automatic access to the European single market – the only market with which we have a land border, which surrounds us on all sides, which is wholly more geographically adjacent to us than any other market (London to the eastern border of Latvia is 1,500 miles; London to Morocco is a little over that; Western Ireland to Newfoundland is just over 2,000) and with which we have and should reasonably continue to have most of our trade. In losing immediate access to this market, we lose the ability to influence its rules. We could, for example, have resolved the “Polish lorry driver” problem by promoting in Europe environmental rules insisting that trans-continental freight traffic should go by rail. There is enough of it and the Poland-UK corridor is long and narrow enough to fill direct freight trains. The EU, in directing the establishment of key transport corridors around the Union, has the high-level authority and funding clout to deliver this sort of scheme continent-wide. In the relatively short-term, this would reduce the need for lorry drivers across the continent, justify rail companies making the co-ordination and investment decisions to meet the logistical needs and improve the continent’s carbon footprint. (Nobody in a low-margin/ loss-making uncertain business like continental European railfreight spends a year lining up train path, wagons, crew and locomotives with the potential to discover that the Day 1 load consists of half a removal van and no authority is willing to provide hard cash until things get better.) As much of Europe has invested in common designs of UK-sized diesel locomotive (if not standard means of supplying electricity to trains for tractive power) this would not actually have been a difficult game to play if anyone had cared enough to use the EU positively in this regard. As an individual state, all we can demand is that Polish lorry drivers trans-ship their goods onto British trains or lorries at Calais. This will increase our costs at negligible benefit to both ourselves and the Union.

The worst-case outcome is a “crash-out” in two years’ time. This will cause a minor humanitarian crisis, as EU citizens risk the potential of being rounded up and deported (and, having finished panicking at the newspapers, deport themselves to save time); threaten the border between the two halves of Ireland, with the possibility of obliging the Government to make reunion arrangements; justify the Scottish National Party holding another referendum on the break-up of the United Kingdom; and, as the Prime Minister points out herself, increase the risk of security problems caused by disjointed policing and a lack of intelligence-sharing.

The withdrawal from the European Atomic Energy Community is a small side-touch that will deprive us of access to a community of technology in a small, complicated sector which brings much high-value development potential to key parts of the UK. On the positive side, it may leave us unable to build any more nuclear power stations.

As a heavyweight power in the EU, providing the largest military heft, offering world-beating security and technological skills and a positive budgetary input, we have a relatively substantial ability to dictate policy – as the EU keeps kindly pointing out by remarking on the enthusiasm shown by our Governments down the years for free trade, to the point where we vetoed punitive taxes on Chinese steel inputs and in the process put our own steelworks out of business. The policies dictated to the EU may not be the policies that we want to dictate as a people, but if our Government is not dictating policy that is in our interests as a nation (or failing to explain why it is in our interests) then that is a problem with the Government which is about to be placed in sole charge of our national development. In a way, the EU offers an opportunity to ensure that our priorities as a friendly ex-Imperial nation can be broadcast internationally. It is not unpatriotic to want to maintain our extensive soft power on the Continent, building alliances and exchanging favours in the clean-air back rooms. If our Governments ran the relationship less as an “us and them” affair, as both John Major and Tony Blair briefly tried to (aiming to convince the population rather than kow-tow to the never-possessed with pseudo token “victories”), it can work very much in our favour. Outside the EU, we will have something less than the international status of Japan, which designs very nice short-life technology, has a terrifying work ethic, is in a constant state of deflation and is usually ignored.

Ultimately the “non-negative” outcome aims to maintain economic and security co-operation, allow maximum certainty for businesses which have to plan ahead, create a Free Trade Agreement covering shared economic sectors and maintain our matched regulatory frameworks and standards. It will presumably therefore seek to maintain these matched regulatory frameworks and standards in the future in order to maintain this Free Trade Agreement, which means that when we change our standards we will have to persuade Europe to do likewise and when Europe changes its standards we will be following suit. Where civil servants currently misinterpret and gold-plate European legislation to ensure compliance with our Treaty obligations, they will instead misinterpret and gold-plate European standards to ensure we remain within the terms of our Free Trade Agreement. On the negative outcome, we will have to follow rules created without our input despite us currently being the second largest nation economically within the EU. On the positive outcome, our opinions will be attended to as befits a country with a population of more than half of the residual states put together. This positive outcome is what we have already. We are about to spend millions, if not billions, on ensuring that we maintain our current mildly dysfunctional but usually beneficial relationship with an organisation that we are purporting to be leaving.

This is the most gratuitous waste of money engaged upon since the construction of the Findhorn Railway, which had the small decency to be carried out at private expense. I wholly resent that my tax money, paid to the Government in the belief that it would go on hospitals, schools, transport development, arts, libraries and culture, strategic support and relief for the Third World, national defence, emptying the municipal bins, supporting the poor and ensuring that traditionally less-prosperous countries in Europe have the skills and infrastructure to trade with us effectively will instead be burned on a renegotiation which will get us nowhere.

This is not a time to come together and support the Government. This is a time to come together and ask, when the NHS is struggling, when our schools are stretched, when the verges outside my house are filling with untidied litter, when libraries are closing and the Public Accounts Committee reckons clean electric trains are now beyond the nation’s budget, why it is that we can afford to pursue the vanity project of a consummate delusional idiot who is so pleased with what he’s achieved that he spends all his time on US television?

Leasehold Mathematics

The Beeb has decided to spend the day explaining why you don’t want to buy a leasehold property.

Recently I picked up a book on the history of housing, which remarked (almost in so many words) that the point of leasehold was that you owned the land, got a house built on it and leased it out for the life expectancy of the house. After the lease was up you got a tatty old house back which you knocked down (or rather your descendants knocked down) and replaced with a new, up-to-date house, maintaining the quality of the area. (And as all the houses would be on the same leasehold they could be knocked down simultaneously.)

This worked fine until someone came up with the idea of lease extensions, with the result that all these cheaply built Georgian leasehold houses remain highly desirable properties on short leases. Despite houses now having a higher life expectancy (it having been realised that a cheap Georgian 5-storey terrace does not fall down after 80 years) leaseholds remain a peculiarly popular way of dealing with perfectly ordinary houses which at first glance look like freehold.

And, of course, they are handy for freehold houses turned into several flats (as not all the flats can own the freehold and the landlord would probably rather it if none of them did).

Which brings us to this week’s sob story. This chap has bought a leasehold flat.

Its lease lasts for 190 years and the lease cost doubles every ten years (and is, of course, on top of the £150k that he paid for the right to live in the flat and pay this lovely lease).

It starts at £250 per annum.

Readers of Murderous Maths (or indeed anyone with a reasonable grasp of arithmetic) will rapidly realise this may be going to get messy (this chap obviously wasn’t brought up on Murderous Maths and Asterix the Gaul) – the total rent he will have paid over the lease is seen here totted up by decade end:

  1. £2,500 (some people pay this in monthly rent);
  2. £7,500 (a slightly excessive annual rent for a flat – but remember this is a total divided over 20 years);
  3. £17,500 (about what I paid in total rent over four years for a flat, but divided over 30 years);
  4. £37,500;
  5. £77,500;
  6. £157,500 (bit more than my mortgage, spread out over 60 years instead of 25);
  7. £317,500;
  8. £637,500;
  9. £1,277,500 (which would currently buy the landlord a technology-stuffed self-powered railway carriage – after 90 years of patient totting-up);
  10. £2,557,500;
  11. £5,117,500;
  12. £10,237,500;
  13. £20,477,500;
  14. £40,957,500;
  15. £81,917,500;
  16. £163,837,500;
  17. £327,677,500;
  18. £655,357,500;
  19. £1,310,717,500 (which will then allow the landlord to spend the total takings by paying the premium for a moderately prosperous intercity rail franchise, and makes an average annual rent of about £6.9million on a flat).

The formula for working out how much will have been paid in total by the end of each decade is something to the effect of:

(2,500 x 2^) – 2,500 

^ represents multiplying the 2 by the power of the decade number (there should really be a little elevated x instead, but that takes mucking around with HTML superscript codes). So for the 7th decade you multiply 2,500 by 2 to the power of 7 (or 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2) (and get 320,000) then subtract 2,500 (which is 317,500).

Put the 2,500 back on again and divide by 2 to work out the amount to be paid over that decade – thusly:

(2,500 x 2^) / 2

or indeed

2,500 x 2^-1

Which for the 7th decade is £160,000, or £16,000 per annum (£250 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 – ignoring the last x 2 in the upper of these two formulas because it’s cancelled out by dividing by 2 – and aren’t formulas neat?)

This formula is very handy for working out how much you’ll have to pay in ground rent for a flat on a leasehold arrangement like this one if you stay there for ten years.

On the other hand, this sort of contract – with its annual rent in the last decade of £250 x 2^18, or £65,536,000 per annum – is a rather nifty bet against inflation.

(If somewhat overkill. £250 in 1826 would officially now be worth (2016 prices) £22,756.58.)

tottenham-house-1-jpgThis is a house, set in several hundred acres of landscaped countryside and possibly actually worth £6.9million (though not per annum).

Optimism Bias

This is worth a glance through (it’s a bit heavy for casual reading, although if readers have nothing else to do):

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rail-infrastructure-optimism-bias-study

The main document is of course the 39-page one.

On first glance it’s tempting to argue that figure E-1 (page 4) is shown wrong; the main budget should be remaining the same across all the stages and the optimism top-up reducing (rather than a consistent total cost as the estimate eats the optimism bias). After all, the optimism bias is an accounting trick to stop the project bankrupting the funder; the budget is the project manager’s estimate. The project manager, being a manager, should, one feels, have a rough idea of how long the project will take and at what cost; as development work goes on this should be proved right unless unexpected problems arise. Unfortunately the chart on page 19 goes on to show that the modal project involves starting with a figure, adding the optimism bias and then spending both. (Evidently railway projects involve a lot of unexpected problems.)

Recommendation 2 on page 29 also adds some amusement. The fact that most projects spend almost exactly the estimate and the optimism bias leads to an immediate conclusion that the optimism bias is encouraging slack spending. (“There’s money left, perhaps if we bought some nice gardens for our new station/ put in that crossover the operator wanted and we said they couldn’t have/ cleaned a few culverts while we’re here.”) The footnote then points out that equally the optimism bias might be inadequate and the project is being pruned to stop it going over that budget. (“There’s no money left, so let’s drop the second culvert/ push that bit of commissioning into someone else’s possession/ remove that crossover that the whole thing won’t work without.”)

It’s slightly scary to reflect that actually this does mirror my own workload, where I had four or five little tasks after Christmas that I intended to complete in a couple of weeks which have turned into big tasks that aren’t done (happily one has been overtaken by events and has gone away – not that the deadline’s passed, merely that someone has decided the work doesn’t need doing). It is with this sort of thing in mind that it might be worth tossing this unusually interesting Government report in the direction of anyone involved in workload management.

Corsica

An obvious subject for the middle of December is Corsica in September…

marine-de-sant-ambrogio-1-jpg… seen onshore and offshore…

North of Bastia 1 JPG.jpg

Corsica is an island off the west coast of Italy. To the south lies Sardinia. Sardinia belongs to Italy. Corsica, in a spirit of balance, belongs to France.

This concept of belonging to France is not one that always appeals to Corsica. Around the beginning of the 19th Century it could be reasonably said that France belonged to Corsica – the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Ajaccio on the island’s south-west coast. The first removal of Napoleon from power exiled him to Elba, which is located between Corsica and the Italian province of Tuscany (it is visible from ferries between the island and Livorno). When he was removed again, a trifle over a year later, he was sent rather further from home to the island of St Helena. Since then Corsica has had a few doubts about the precise benefits of the arrangement.

The island is oval in general shape, with a mountainous spine down the middle and an arm sticking out the top. It is about half the size of Sardinia. The eastern shore – the Plaine Orientale – is cut quite straight, mostly with a flattish bit along the seaside. The western shore is more rugged, with many inlets and rather more vertical landscape. The northern shore is a bit of a compromise, with a few flat bits scattered along the edge of the hills. Corsica has no southern shore worth speaking of.

Flying Machine 1 JPG.jpg

Corsica is too far off the Italian shore for a bridge, so access is by boat and plane. Above is a picture of a plane coming in to land on Corsica. Below are a couple of the boat option.

Bastia 1 JPG.jpgThe approach to Bastia, the island’s northern port, with the town scattered up the mountainous flanks above it.

MV Pascal Paoli @ Bastia 1 JPG.jpgThe large, red form of the MV Pascal Paoli, docked in Bastia.

MV Moby Vincent @ Bastia 1 JPG.jpgThe roll-on/ roll-off Moby Ferries vessel Moby Vincent, with her loud Bugs Bunny-themed square sides, rests by the Bastia quayside having arrived from Livorno. Moby and Corsica Ferries boats leave Livorno around the same time each morning and, after turnarounds taking about the same amount of time, work home shortly after lunch. Departure from Livorno is too early for hotel breakfasts or coming in from further afield (say Pisa). Not that a lack of breakfast will worry the paranoid mal de mer sufferer.

Place Saint Nicolas 1 JPG.jpgPalm trees provide welcome shade over the Place Saint Nicolas, above the seafront in the centre of Bastia.

Church Bastia 1 JPG.jpgThe Church of St Felicity and St Lucy, perched on the end of a ridge high above Bastia, as seen from the railway station.

Bastia Station 1 JPG.jpgYes, railway station. Much of Corsica can be explored by rail using the metre-gauge network. This is encouraged by the 7-day “Carte-Zoom” Rover tickets. Two of the modern AMG800 units operated by the island’s railway authority stand in Bastia’s rather basic station (815/ 816 on the left and 823/ 824 on the right; each car is numbered individually, but they operate in consecutive pairs). The basic livery is grey and white with red doors, but several units carry additional vinyls. (Not to mention the considerable variety on cab-front branding, which sometimes seems to double as a means of identifying units.) The section forward of the doors is largely laid out like an auditorium, with forward-facing seats stepping gently downwards for a panoramic view through the windscreen. This is obscured by full-height frosted glass panels around the back of the cab (a relatively recent development). The units have conventional central buffers (standard for narrow-gauge) and screw-link chain couplings. Since their arrival there has been the usual embarrassing increase in passenger numbers, making it feel like a third coach would be a good idea. Still, the loadings don’t detract much from the scenery and the journey is accordingly recommended by the Compilers of the European Rail Timetable. After a rapid trot down the coast to Casamozza, through Bastia’s suburbs and alongside the main road, the line abruptly leaves the east coast (and its long-abandoned mainline) and climbs up a delightful part-wooded, part-rocky valley into the heart of the island.

Corte 1 JPG.jpgThe railway having found its way with only minor difficulty into the centre of the island, the trains, if not already packed, fill up at Corte. This is the main town for the interior, guarded by a citadel on a rock at the head of the town (seen centre). In gloomy weather Corte is not an attractive place; it is a very urbanised small town that does good impressions of a much larger one. While Bastia is laid back and Riviera, Corte has a shabbier air reminiscent of the island’s Genoese backstory. Matters are not helped by the harsh landscape above the town. In good weather it seems to have more of a rugged glow, though how much the modern flats can ever be softened is debatable.

Corte 2 JPG.jpgThe centre of Corte, with its jumble of tall, shuttered, hard-used buildings around the main square. It was a warm evening, though had come cloudy mid-afternoon. The weather can be rather changeable in the centre of Corsica (and in Corsica generally, but particularly in the centre).

Corte 3 JPG.jpgCorte station, one of the main stations on the island in terms of layout and facilities. The loop is used as a matter of course because of the basic signalling system, but relatively few trains cross here. Most prefer to do so at Venaco. Car hire is available. The line makes an easy southwards departure and then rapidly becomes more difficult to push through the hills. Ignoring the struggles of the rumbling 800s, this makes the line scenically far more interesting. Unusually (for Corsica) the station has two wide platforms facing each other, rather than one “main” platform and a narrow island between the two running lines.

Corte 4 JPG.jpgIt also has two watertowers, seen here in the distance beyond 807/ 808 waiting with a train to Bastia (the nearer tank is blue, with a concrete one beyond). Sulky mountains gaze down on the station, which has the air of having undergone a budget overhaul and then been forgotten about.

Casanova 1 JPG.jpgThis is the main road as it sails into Casanova from the south, on its way north to Corte, leaving the village of Santo Pietro de Venaco in the process. Most of Casanova is just off the main road and slightly down the hill. It is a pleasant little village which, after a brief knot by the junction, scatters on down one of the lanes that heads to the Poggio-di-Venaco promontory. 

poggio-1-jpgPoggio-di-Venaco; Poggio for short, as it sounds much friendlier (and this is the name given on the end of the station building too). A tightly-packed village, it lies on the upper ridge of a rocky outcrop with its church perched on a knoll at the west (mountain) end. Scattered around the village are some helpful bilingual signs (French and Italian) explaining the history of civilisation on this rock and passing comment on its climate (“exposed to the winds, but benefitting from exceptional levels of sunshine”).

View from Poggio 1 JPG.jpgThe outcrop gives splendid views north, south and east across the Corsican interior. This is the view northwards towards Corte. The valley is used by the Avon Tavignano, which quietly flows far below down from Corte to its mouth on the east coast near Aleria.

View from Poggio 2 JPG.jpgAnother view from Poggio, this time looking south-eastwards off the church steps as a bird flies overhead. The steps, leading up to a church perched on a rock on top of a lump on top of a narrow outcrop, can create a certain feeling of vertigo. The Tavignano works its way off under the hazy blue sky into the distance.

Poggio 2 JPG.jpgPoggio-Riventosa station, now a request stop, seen from the church steps (not a hot air balloon). To the south of the village, it is a mere 100 metres below the community it purports to serve and reached by a kilometre walk down a back road. Vehicles come down occasionally, realise there is nothing much to see, and go away. Most stations on the Corsican rail network were laid out much the same way (excluding Corte and other large places) – a two-storey house provides booking office and staff accommodation, while a few yards a way a 1¾-storey warehouse looks after the goods traffic. Loops were provided for trains to pass with a siding or two running up to the goods shed. The goods sheds had an awning on each side provided by extending the roof down away from the building. More important stations also had a water tower or two – most of these towers remain standing. Time has been unkind to Poggio’s station. The station building is abandoned (and barely secured); the goods shed has lost its awnings on both sides; the sidings have gone and the loop has been removed (although, close up, its route can just be made out). A single plain line bustles past a vague attempt to maintain a platform; the platform is hidden from view here by a tree. Riventosa is another small Corsican community, 80 metres above Poggio and a half-kilometre to the south-west.

Poggio 3 JPG.jpgPoggio station road, as train 5 growls through without stopping (there were no passengers, a usual state of affairs). The church sits high above, burnt out in the lunchtime light contrast.

Santo-Pietro-di-Venaco 1 JPG.jpgSanto-Pietro-di-Venaco, south-west of Poggio. The village is located on a ridge of land two hundred metres above and a kilometre to the north of Venaco itself. It is seen here from the southern side, with the church tower sticking up a little on the right of the skyline.

Santo-Pietro-di-Venaco 2 JPG.jpgSanto-Pietro centres on a little square outside its church. One road leads east, sloping down the promontory to where the main road makes a slightly lower crossing on its way north. One leads west, into the mountains. To the south is Venaco. This is the road headed north, sloping down to join the main road at Sambuco, just south of Casanova.

Santo-Pietro-di-Venaco 4 JPG.jpgThe road to the west, scrambling on up the ridge. Woodland cloaks the lower slopes of the mountains as they rise, eventually exposed, rocky and barren, to form the flanks of Punta Lattiniccia (2,413 metres, and hidden behind its relative foothills).

Santo-Pietro-di-Venaco 3 JPG.jpgThe church, with its well in the right foreground, stands stark in the morning sun set against a clear sky. Behind is the peak of Pinzo Corbino, less than 300 metres above the village and about two-thirds of a kilometre away.

Venaco 3 JPG.jpgSunrise over the mountains to the east of Venaco, from a window of one of the village’s hotels. Venaco is located high up in the mountains of Corsica, roughly halfway along the railway and main road which link Bastia with Ajaccio. On the continent such a road would have been diverted at enormous expense to avoid passing through the middle of Venaco. In Corsica, it has had a couple of the nastier curves smoothed but otherwise works its way noisily up narrow streets and past the front doors of restaurants. Not that this is as bad as it sounds. There’s not that much traffic anyway. 

Venaco 6 JPG.jpgVenaco, seen from the south on a horrible morning. The area looks particularly lush; there is a passing air of the Darjeeling area of the Himalayas. A side road drops sharply down and swings below the town at lower right. The main road clambers round the hillside to the left and crosses the upper centre of the picture (below a large, prominent orange three-storey building). The railway slides through centre left. This is merely the southern flank of the southern promontory; the town continues in the dell on the other side. Santo Pietro is on the very distant ridge top right, lost in the mist.

Venaco viaduct 1 JPG.jpgThe railway has a rather awkward route into Venaco from Ajaccio and the south; after passing over a ridge of land and through the former halt at Piscine d’Venaco, it crosses a viaduct, goes through a tunnel, swings around the hillside between two roads, uses a second viaduct to pass over a gully (centre-left of previous picture), cuts into a second tunnel amongst back lanes and houses and then crosses a third viaduct before rising through a cutting to Venaco station. Such is the tight nature of the landscape that all this is over in a few seconds. Access from Bastia, Corte and the north is gained more simply by a pair of tunnels through relatively open country. Here an AMG800 pairing scuttles over the more southerly viaduct, with the site of Piscine d’Venaco just beyond the trees in the background. This viaduct crosses a small indentation in the hillside; the road goes around the inside of the indentation and passes under the railway. Behind the camera the two run briefly side-by-side; then the road climbs over the railway and the railway dives into its tunnel.

Venaco 4 JPG.jpgVenaco station. A small, agreeable place perched high on the mountainside, gazed upon by rocky summits. 824 is leading 823 in with train 4, the 08:12 from Ajaccio which reaches Venaco at 10:02 and Bastia at 11:56. An old goods van from the days when freight went by rail hides by the goods shed. Venaco’s goods shed has had its awning pruned on the platform side, though the stubs of the timbers remain. The main line, running between the side and island platforms, has been allowed to become grassy despite this being the main crossing loop. The station building doubles as the station house and is still used as a booking office.

Vivario 1 JPG.jpgAt Venaco, train 4 crosses train 3 (the 07:54 from Bastia); the latter is seen here pulling out of Vivario on its way to Ajaccio, which it will reach at 11:45. 811/ 812 were doing the honours – and very popular they were too, with the train being full and standing to extremes as it growled away from Vivario. The train helps to emphasise the multi-cultural wonders of tourism and the homogenising effect that it ultimately has on humanity. When a German tourist and a young Corsican sharing a vestibule on a Corsican train wish to discuss their favourite football team they do so in their common language which is (of course) English (as indeed was the football team). Vivario has recently been refurbished and the goods shed smartened up, with both awnings tidily removed. From Venaco the line has to climb hard to its summit at Vizzavona – Venaco is 566 metres above sea level, while Vizzavona, 13km as the crow flies, is 910. En route, it has to cross the River Vecchio at Pont du Vecchio, which obliges the line to drop from Venaco to 520m to cross Gustav Eiffel’s viaduct. This gives a little over 7km for a climb of 400m, so the line circles around Vivario to gain height. Combined with local geography, this makes for some interesting photos…

Vivario 2 JPG.jpg40 seconds after leaving Vivario station, the pair of 800s glint in the sun as they scramble up the hill opposite the station. Below is the road, which is climbing the hill in the opposite direction and passes beneath the railway by Vivario station. On the peak of the hill can just be seen the ruined castle at Pasciolo.

Vivario 3 JPG.jpgThis is Vivario station, seen from a northbound train, with the road scrambling up below (note modern platform awning and water tower)…

Vivario 4 JPG.jpgAnd this is the railway below the railway, seen through a slightly grubby window, pressing northwards into one of the route’s many tunnels on its way to Venaco. (Unlike certain Swiss railways, the Darjeeling Himalayan  and the Ffestiniog at Dduallt, the Corsican line does not do a full spiral and cross itself. The climb makes do with a 270-degree bend at its south-eastern extremity.)

Vivario 5 JPG.jpgThis is Vivario proper, not too far from the station – albeit up a busy road. A variation to the Mare Nord long-distance footpath (there are several such paths on Corsica) passes through the community. The road snakes through it eastward, rising steadily, hairpins round at the east end and comes back above it. The railway can be swinging round a curve bottom left as it heads southwards on its northerly journey towards Venaco. This twirling section of route is called the “Vivario Boucle” and takes 8 kilometres to cover a few hundred metres.

Vivario Tortoise 1 JPG.jpgThis is a tortoise, pottering through the long grass by a footpath above Vivario with its house in a tortoise-like manner. Upon finding itself observed it began to retreat inside.

Fortin de Pasciolo 1 JPG.jpgAnother view of the hill hosting the “Fortin de Pasciolo”, a now rather unimpressive square stone block not quite far enough along its promontory to offer views of Eiffel’s viaduct. To the left is the Punta Corsica (820m). Straight ahead is the Pointe de Cervello (1075m). Between us and them is the gorge of the Vecchio, finding its rocky way up to the head of the valley at Vizzavona.

Vizzavona Forest 1 JPG.jpgAnd then, after a bit of rumbling along the side of a cliff, the view disappears from the train as it rumbles into the peace of the Forest of Vizzavona. This is a large expanse of larchwood around the head of the Vecchio. The railway wanders amongst the rocks and the sweet smell of larchneedles.

Tattone 1 JPG.jpgIn the middle of this wood is the well-preserved station at Tattone. The loop is out of use, but remains in place. The siding is used for storing metre-gauge permanent way vehicles – sundry-kit-carrying wagons, ballast wagons, sleeper wagons and a diminutive metre-gauge tamper. For the railway historian, it demonstrates what the goods sheds were supposed to look like – tall thin buildings with well-balanced roofs. The station provides access to campsites and an array of footpaths amongst the mountains. There is also a “Hopital” nearby. Tattone itself is a few houses scattered on the main road, which crosses the line at the south end of the station.

Vizzavona 1 JPG.jpg Vizzavona station sits at the summit of the line and the north end of the line’s main tunnel. Maps show it as dead straight; the fact that the south portal isn’t visible from the north end likely reflects the gradient within the tunnel. 805 brings up the rear of the afternoon train to Ajaccio. Several bits of trackwork remain intact here, including a wagon turntable (left centre – too short for modern wagons to use). This is where the mainline crosses the primary Corsican long-distance path – the famous GR20. Specifically the main route of the path goes over the line a couple of hundred metres beyond the tunnel portal. Accordingly the station has something of an air of a major station on a UK heritage railway – a constant supply of people wandering around, using the restaurants and generally maintaining an air of life even when a train isn’t due for a couple of hours. Other Corsican stations have a more conventional air involving people turning up shortly before it appears. Two conventional restaurants on the building side of the line are augmented by a cheaper camping supplies shop by the campsite on the other side of the tracks. Note the ruins of the Grand Hotel de la Foret at top left.

Vizzavona Hotel 1 JPG.jpgFenced off, although not exactly inaccessible, the Grand Hotel of the Forest at Vizzavona has been derelict for a very long time now. One can only gaze on and wonder when it will fall down. Not a window frame survives; it is a mere shell perched on a little plateau, built back into the hillside, above the little bustle of the station. It was intended for British tourists who took a liking to Vizzavona and the nearby Falls. The market for luxury Mediterranean destinations for British people slid away in the ’50s and for whatever reason nobody has decided to try to revive it. Not that this building would offer much scope for modern comforts without about as much work as needed to build a new one anyway. 

Corsica Interior 1 JPG.jpg Once through the mountain at Vizzavona, the railway has a simpler descent down the valley side to sea level at Ajaccio. Along the way, it offers views out of the trees across wooded valleys and terracotta-red roofs to the high rugged peaks across the way – all with their hats on.

Corsica Interior 2 JPG.jpgAnd on into deeper wilds – the forested hills sail by as the train sweeps over embankments, across viaducts and through tunnels.

Ajaccio 2 JPG.jpgAjaccio station, at the end of the line; 824 has worked Train 3’s 3hr 51m journey across from Bastia (a little longer, journey-time-wise, than London to Berwick-upon-Tweed). The large station building, set across the platform ends, has been refurbished with a standard modern interior that could be almost any booking office on any corporate railway. The station is nicely-situated for the town centre, with easy access down the high street or a couple of back roads to the central squares and the stalls, shops and museums. Ajaccio is about two-thirds of the way down the west coast of the island; the railway goes no further. The old eastern line briefly got down to Porto Vecchio, much further down the island and almost within view of Sardinia, but this was destroyed in the fierce fighting for the island in the Second World War.

Ajaccio Petit Train 1 JPG.jpgSome Corsican towns are not wholly content with having a real railway and also have road trains, or “Petit Trains”, which drive around the backstreets carrying passengers for moderate sums. As none of the towns are that big it is nonetheless tempting to take the view that after several hours stuck in a real train (quite a busy one) it is nice to enjoy a leg stretch instead – with pauses to browse the stalls, buy lunch and try to work out if the Napoleon exhibition is open on Tuesdays.

Ajaccio Cactus 1 JPG.jpgAnd, of course, doing your own walk provides an opportunity to study things that the Petit Train will sail past or not climb up to at all, like this very happy roadside cactus plant at the top of Ajaccio.

Ajaccio 1 JPG.jpgSo Bastia is Riviera, Corte is Genoese, Vizzavona is fallen grandeur and Ajaccio…? Ajaccio has an air of a modern Med town, proud and fresh, with blocks of flats and hotels scattered along the waterfront around two-storey retaining walls or swept behind the main road across the head of the bay. The main road out of town has the relatively unusual feature of being worked around a railway. We are beyond the end of the railway here, amongst a seaside park on the west side of Ajaccio, looking through the palms at one of the modernist blocks that make up this part of town.

Venaco 7 JPG.jpgBack at Venaco at ten past 5 and fleet doyenne 801 is leading 802 out on Train 7, which will be in Ajaccio at 18:55. As well as the watertower Venaco has a subsidiary watercrane (which 801 is just passing). There also used to be an inspection pit under where 801 is passing; this has been filled in. The stationmistress/ booking clerk/ dispatcher can now turn her attention to sending 823/ 824 away northwards. 

venaco-2-jpg One of the heavily-branded units trots out of Venaco over the first viaduct south of the station, heading for Ajaccio in the early evening, with the many-channelled form of the mountains above Noceta in the background.

Venaco 5 JPG.jpgVenaco from high above, seen at dusk.

Ponte Leccia 1 JPG.jpgPonte Leccia. There is not too much in the way of large-scale community here, at the top of the valley from Casamozza, but the station is nonetheless important – for this is the start of the Calvi branch. Generally a quiet spot, it provides much opportunity for complex railway working. The branch has its own dedicated bay platform from which two trains leave daily for intermediate stations to PK79+800, Ile Rousse, Algajola and Calvi. On weekdays, one of these trains is a through service from Bastia; the other starts here. Both trains to Calvi provide connections from Bastia and Ajaccio, meaning that at 18:00 three trains can be seen lined up here (specifically trains 8 and 9 on the mainline, and the set which has come up on 102 and is returning to Calvi as 103 on the branch). The station is seen looking quiet and peaceful shortly after 09:00 one Monday morning following departure of trains to and from Ajaccio (train 2 northbound, 3 southbound). The Calvi – Bastia through service (train 100) is in residence out of view to the left, waiting for the section to Ponte Novu to clear. Train 2 was late that morning, which at least emptied out of the Calvi train all the people who decided to make the unplanned connection (into a train which then borrowed the ex-Calvi train’s path to get to Bastia). It also meant that trains 2 and 3 had met here instead of doing their booked crossing at Ponte Novu. The timetable allows train 2 to get clear of train 100 and train 3 to make a nice connection out of 100. For whatever reason the designer of the paper timetables has chosen to show Calvi and Ajaccio trains in separate tables so train 100 doesn’t show amongst the main block of services into Bastia.

Ile Rousse 1 JPG.jpg823 trails 824 as they work train 105 into Ile Rousse from Ponte Leccia (Saturday trains do not run through to Bastia). The railway swings along the waterfront of Ile Rousse (Red Isle – usually given its full name of L’Ile Rousse, incorporating a definite article, but the railway is more informal). The road runs around the inside, between railway and shops. While traffic is relatively heavy along here, it is made to look particularly heavy by the presence of a level crossing behind the tree where the road strikes out towards Ile Rousse’s headland and causeway. In the background, docked at the Port de L’Ile Rousse, is the vehicle ferry Monte D’Ord, registered in Bastia.

Ile Rousse 6 JPG.jpgIle Rousse, the first station to actually be in somewhere since Porte Leccia, has the air of returning to civilisation at long last. The remaining leg of the line, the Tramway de Balagne, to Calvi has a more homely manner than the cross-country branch, which is aided by its local service. This is a historically summer-only operation (now generally operated in winter too) that runs in addition to the two trains from Ponte Leccia and avoids requiring capital expenditure on an extra trainset by using second-hand stock displaced by the last new-train order for the rest of the network. Currently this involves power-trailer pairs of 1980s vehicles in their classic white and blue livery. Although not much smaller than the AMG800s, they have a much more diminutive appearance (and a more angular one, and lack through gangways). They feature on the cover of the Tramway’s timetable. Ile Rousse station, the eastern extremity of this service, is seen here hiding away on the far side of a car park below the town’s ramparts. Freshly painted, it keeps a well-presented aspect and is convenient for the town.

Ile Rousse 2 JPG.jpgBoules – with an air, to this non-expert, of specifically being Petanque – in Ile Rousse. This warm September Saturday was given over to the clack of balls across the town, all in nicely marked out rectangles. Boules is very popular along the north coast (less seen in the interior) and L’Ile Rousse’s main square offers plenty of room for it. The aim is to throw heavy balls at a small previously-thrown target ball. The town also has a neat covered market just off the main square and the usual array of souvenir shops.

Ile Rousse 3 JPG.jpgA batch of not very red islands off the town of Ile Rousse are now linked to the mainland by causeway, forming the port on the sheltered (eastern) side. When the sea is enjoying the aftermath of a storm-tossed night, as on this particular morning, the waves splash onto the western side of the causeway and spray across road and ferry-waiting-area hardstanding. The high rock beyond plays host to a neat, low-lying white lighthouse, accessed by a narrow road that twists up the inland side of the rock. At the top is a fresh breeze. 

Ile Rousse 4 JPG.jpgThe twirling roadway heads down from the rock. Beyond, across the rolling blue Med, are the tumbling mountains of the Corsican north coast stretching away to Algajola and Calvi.

Ile Rousse 5 JPG.jpgThe view from the train as it heads west along the Tramway de Balagne – scrub-ground, rocky headlands, hidden coves and blue sea making foam-coated landings on the shore-line.

Algajola 4 JPG.jpgAlgajola is the main intermediate settlement between Ille Rousse and Calvi. Several hotels and cafes fill the small town centre; one of these hotels has been adapted from a castle. The railway cuts across the inside of the little knob of rock that hosts the old town. More recent development has expanded up the hill behind the railway, seen here in the early hours of the morning awaiting the arrival of train 100.  The moon still peers down out of the clear blue sky onto the quiet modern houses, with their pseudo-traditional designs, balconies and blue shutters.

Algajola 5 JPG.jpgThe castle, carefully restored with a balcony disguised as battlements, perches its ramparts on the rocks of Algajola’s little headland.

Algajola 3 JPG.jpgThe weather had been relatively fierce the previous night and the Mediterranean was still breaking hard on the shore at Algajola at 10 o’clock the next morning. Most of the north coast is beachless; the scrub simply ends in yellow rocks which fall into the tideless sea.  

Punta Spano 1 JPG.jpgBetween Algajola and the outskirts of Calvi the coastal line goes through some very wild country. With the rocky shores of the Punta Spano nature reserve in the foreground, powercar 97054 propels trailer 9701 around the distant hillside on their way from Calvi to Ile Rousse. Footpaths trickle though the scrub country, dipping onto gravelly beaches and clambering over headlands towards the hamlet at Ondari.

Punta Spano 2 JPG.jpgThe Punto Spano also hosts one of Corsica’s coastal towers, which stand on the clifftop gazing out across the waves. This one grows rather neatly out of the rubbley rock of the seashore.

Corsican Renault 1 JPG.jpgA lot of pictures of the Corsican Railways feature some marvellously imposingly fat railcars with a certain air of solidity, bulk, capacity and permanence (at time of writing, the support website still opens with a picture of one). They were built by Renault rather a long time ago to replace steam traction and some rather small Billard railcars. Renault built a lot of railcars through the 1930s for railways around France which all had the semi-streamlined styling so beloved of the era, even for lumbering railcars. Despite the longevity of their train productions, Renault seem to now prefer concentrating on cars. In their later years the Corsican Renault railcars fulfilled the role of the obsolete rolling stock deployed on the Tramway while the neater, angular 1970s/ 1980s cars worked the mainline services. After the arrival of the AMG800s the 1980s vehicles took over the Tramway. The Renaults are now out of use. This is the remains of railcar 204, dumped at Camp Raffalli.

Corsican Renault 2 JPG.jpgThe engine-room end of 204, with smashed cab window. The higher roof surrounds the exhaust pipes and radiator. Behind is the two-window engine compartment. Behind the cab at the far end is luggage space. The actual passenger saloon is the five intermediate windows. For all their bulk, they are not large vehicles internally. A utilitarian interior featured five bays of small leather armchairs on a linoleum floor (4 seats to a bay; 1 bay each side; capacity 40. It seems there were another four seats tucked away somewhere). The cab interior was seemingly designed to consider any possible creature comforts and remove them. Usually the Renaults hauled a disproportionately smaller trailer car.

Calvi 1 JPG.jpgThe citadel at Calvi, high on its rock at the end of the town conveniently sheltering the bay behind. It is a marvellous citadel, much bigger on the inside than it looks like it ought to be, with a maze of streets that feel like they offer opportunities for getting lost for hours (although the constant glimpses of the sea, even from the citadel’s heart, actually make this a very difficult exercise.) Calvi claims to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus (with the consequence that a man funded by Spanish monarchs but of generally Italian background is now French). The pub quiz question for Calvi is its connection to London – the answer being that both use the Cross of St George as a coat of arms.

Tennis Club (Corsica) 1 JPG.jpgOne of the Tramway trains swings out of the woods onto the beach-head to offer its passengers the view above. This is the powercar, with bodyside radiator grills; the trailer is coupled behind. Both are fitted with cabs, so the trailer will be pushed back to Ile Rousse. It will shortly stop at Tennis Club station, the second of a line of four Calvi “suburban” stations which take being named after the places they serve very seriously. (They are Club Olympique, Tennis Club, Balagne Orizontenovu and Lido.) Some enterprising person has filled the woods hereabouts with aerial ropeways, walkways and climbing frames in the general style of one of the UK’s “Go Ape” sites. Campsites dot the remaining parts of this coastline, which provides a great draw for visiting tourists with its long sandy beach.

Calvi 2 JPG.jpgTwo generations of Corsican train at Calvi – the 1980s set to the right (trailer 9701 leading) and a 21st-century machine in the main platform to the left (823 nearest with 824 beyond). The main body of the station building is fairly standard Corsica, although with an extra window bay and an awning. The more recent extension houses ticket office and toilets. The original layout featured the standard island platform and loop, although this has always been the terminus. Various remodellings fixed the bufferstops at the platform end. Prior to remodelling in 2007 there were three platform roads, with the centre track ending by a stub platform. The furthest track has now been removed, leaving two tracks between two wide platforms. 

Calvi 3 JPG.jpgCalvi from the citadel, looking down on the town. The straight road ahead leads up from the station, serving the post office, newsagents and various shops. Down by the wall is the entrance to the old lanes – Calvi’s version of York’s Shambles. A brace of tight, twisting, crowded lanes work their way along the slope above the harbour back to the station. They are agreeable lanes in themselves, though mostly populated with more touristy/ souvenir shops with several cafes. Beyond that is the marina, which is populated by expensive yachts and overlooked by restaurants. Off to the right is the residential part of town, which is pleasant enough to amble through but not overly different in concept to any other European suburban destination. Housing scatters out into the countryside to the south and leads up the foothills of Capu Miglione.

Calvi Citadel 1 JPG.jpgInside Calvi’s citadel. Tall, interestingly-shaped buildings blend with awkward staircases, military installations and crazy paving. A procession has just emerged from the Church and is making its way down to the square to find another church. Leading are four priests, who were trying to read the words of their holy dirge from a sheet of paper that was being blown about in the breeze. The active military installation occupies the tower leaning in on the left (plus associated fort buildings and a couple more towers) and comes in the form of the Second Foreign Parachute Regiment of the French Foreign Legion.

Algajola 2 JPG.jpgSunset over the beach at Algajola.

How To… Get Sacked from the Government

Apparently if ministers leak Government plans for Brexit then they’ll be sacked.

This is a good idea.

It suggests to the population that the Government has a plan available to leak, and will therefore calm fears that there is no plan.

The document setting this out also helpfully provided the Lord High Leaker with something to leak to round off the week.

Meanwhile here is a picture of a beach at sunset to make it look like this post has content.

Algajola 1 JPG.jpg(It’s on the north coast of Corsica at Algajola in case anyone cares.)