Friday 17th Sunday 19th March 2017, Brancaster, Norfolk

The North Norfolk marshes are famous for their wildlife, especially the migratory birds which spend the winter months here. Less conducive for humans however, when a keen northerly wind sweeps across the marshland. So if it is solitude at the seaside that you are after then this should be the place for you. Howsey, our local 'wildlife expert' will able to point out the best spots and perhaps explain the difference between a pink footed goose and a white footed one, or the difference between a porpoise and a dolphin. Whether or not a Siberian Sparrow gets blown in for some additional excitement remains to be seen. Beeley in the Peak District became famous overnight when a rare foreign bird appeared one day.
Brancaster Staithe is a traditional coastal village between Brancaster and Burnham Deepdale a few miles east of Hunstanton. The National Trust own a large Grade II listed flint cottage within the attractive harbour side area and have turned it into a two part Activity Centre. We have booked the self contained upper floor. This has 4 en-suite bedrooms of 22 beds, kitchen, and a 'snug'. Please bring a sleeping bag. Currently (Jan) there is still one spare place.
Finding the Activity Centre is extremely easy as it has been highlighted on the Ordnance Survey map Sheet No 132. Otherwise to locate Dial House on Harbour Way enter the village on the A149. Opposite the Norhshore Sailing Centre drive down Harbour Way for 200 metres or 220 post-Brexit yards and find Dial House on the left.
The nearest pub is the Jolly Sailors. This has won the 'Best Family Pub in the UK' Award, but images of whacky castles should perhaps be cast aside, as it appears to also be home to the Brancaster Brewery. Its provenance cannot be verified at the moment however. Further along the road is the White Horse. Not to be outdone, this boozer has won the 'Best Creative Outdoor Area' Award which would suggest something more than picnic tables and Kronenbourg umbrellas!
Our feathered friends on the marshes can be easily spotted from the Norfolk Coast Footpath which threads its way from Hunstanton to Sheringham. Decent linear walks can be achieved by utilising the regular Coasthopper Bus. The other main attraction in the area is the famous blue plaque identifying Horatio Nelson's birthplace at Burnham Thorpe and then celebrate the great man with a pint in the rather superb Nelson Arms in the village. Little Walsingham is a noted pilgrimage centre, and not because of the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway. Hunstanton has sea cliffs and candy floss, and the Fox and Hounds home brew pub at nearby Heacham. Wells-next-the-sea has an impressive waterfont. Holkham Hall and Sandringham may not be receiving visitors just yet.

Friday 23rd Sunday 25th June 2017, Hardraw, Yorkshire Dales

The mid-summer trip is a return to a venue visited by SHOT many years ago. But things have moved on... The Old School Bunkhouse in Hardraw was formerly owned and used as a Field Study Centre by Manchester Grammar School. It has now been bought and modernised by a couple who use it as an activity centre. This should prove ideal for family groups. Apart from all the usual facilities accommodation consists of 19 beds (possibly 26) in rooms of 9, 8, 6 and 3 beds. For those of us unaffected, two bunkrooms (6 beds each) have been reserved in the nearby Green Dragon pub. There are some very modest catering facilities here, but it is anticipated that everyone staying there will avail themselves of an evening meal and a hearty breakfast in the pub.

Emily, who is currently domiciled at Durham University, has discovered that going undergound and splasing through water is a much safer option than splasing around in water above ground in a small sailing boat with her Dad! She has now become a fully qualified pot holing instructor and has offered to take anyone who is interested on an easy troglodytic exploration. This will necessitate the hire of appropriate equipment from Inglesport in nearby Ingleton. Andy and Helen, who own the Bunkhouse, are also qualified cave instructors and can give discounts to bunkhouse guests. So if anybody is interested you now know what to do. Fortunately, those of us with a Bus Pass are exempt.

Hardraw itself is a small, attractive, quiet village on the opposite side of Wensleydale from the much busier touristy village of Hawes. The Pennine Way leaves the valley bottom here on the long approach up Great Shunner Fell and over to Thwaite at the top end of Swaledale. Both dales are connected by a spectacular narrow road over the Buttertubs Pass. Plenty of opportunities exist to devise any number of walks through typical Dales limestone/millstone grit scenary with perhaps a chance to savour some local Wensleydale Cheese in Walace and Gromit style in Hawes. The Green Dragon has its own special delight with Hardaw Force only accessible (with payment) through its back garden, where it is possible to walk behind this very attractive waterfall in its own little ampitheatre. Save yourself an entrance fee by imbibing in the pub and sneaking out for a quick perusal in the evening. The quietness of the village, will however be disrupted for a while on Saturday, as it will be a staging post for the Coast to Coast Bike Race. Garish lycra and expensive pushbikes will dominate for a period.

Hardraw is very easy to find as it is situated across the River Ure from Hawes. Leave the road for Swaledale and the Buttertubs Pass at the second junction once you have crossed the river. Enter the village. The Green Dragon is on the right before the bridge across Hardraw Beck. The Bunkhouse is the obvious old village school building also on the right just after the bridge.

Friday 13th Sunday 15th October 2017, Hathersage, Peak District

Whether Robin Hood was myth or historical fact is open to conjecture, but his compatriot Little John is buried in the churchyard of Hathersage church. The Shotlets could borrow Julian as a measuring guide to work out how tall Little John really was. The men in green tights have long since been replaced by the more garishly coloured crag rats who festoon the nearby famous millstone grit edges of the two mile long Stanage Edge which overlooks Hathersage.

Farmers have also needed to diversify since those early days, and as a result our base at Thorpe Farm, on the outskirts of Hathersage, has moved into the ice cream market and become a tourist accommodation provider. Four redundant farm buildings have been converted into bunkhouses. We have booked two of them. The Shippon has 32 beds ( 2x12 and 2x4 beds), and the Byre has 10 beds (1x4 and 1x6 beds).They both have all the usual facilities. Please bring a sleeping bag and plenty of money for ice cream.Thorpe Farm can be visited on www. There are two pubs in Hathersage for food and drink (plus many outdoor shops). A swift 20 min walk down hill will lead to the Little John Inn. The much better Scotsman's Pack is further away on the other side of the village near the church. It will be a much slower 20 min on the return walk back uphill.

Apart from the aforementioned Stanage Edge, good walking also exists in the near vicinity on the gritstone of the lesser known Burbage Edge, Froggatt Edge, Higger Tor and the ancient fortified Carl Wark. Spot some of the discarded millstone wheels below Burbage Edge. On the opposite side of the Derwent Valley there is another pocket of millstone grit country on the Abney and Offerton Moors- very pleasant, good viewpoint and much less frequented. A short drive up the valley will lead to Castleton,Edale and the Derwent Dams, and down the valley towards Chatsworth and Bakewell for more touristy attractions.

Thorpe Farm is conveniently highlighted with a red square on the OS Dark Peak Outdoor Leisure Map (GR 223 824) less than one mile from the main cross roads in the centre of Hathersage. Folk driving in from the Sheffield direction on the A6187 passing through the village must watch out for the rather grand stone built George Hotel on the right which is diagonally opposite the less grand Little John Inn on the other side of the cross roads. Proceed past the George Hotel and take the next right up Jaggers Lane.Take the second turning also on the right (after 200m) up Coggers Lane. This goes around a steep left hand bend and within 400m reaches a little lane on the left signed for Thorpe Farm and/or Hope Valley Ice Cream. If you miss this turn and reach another tarmacced junction with Birley Lane within 100m then you have gone too far. People coming from the Manchester direction, also on the A6187, pass under a railway bridge as the first houses of Hathersage are reached. Turn left up Jaggers Lane after 150m before you reach the Little John Inn at the cross roads, and then continue onwards like the Sheffield folk.

Thursday 30th November Sunday 1st December 2017, Bratislava, Slovakia