Borġ in-Nadur, Wied Żembaq and Wied Qoton

This Harrison Lewis walk was led by Barbara. Although we started by the sea at St George’s bay, Birżebbuġa this was a country walk exploring the quiet valleys of Wied Żembaq (“Jasmine Valley”) and Wied Qoton (“Cotton Valley”.

St Georges Bay, Birżebbuġa, the start of the walk.

The Cross at Borġ in-Nadur

Our first point of interest was the site of the Bronze Age Village at Borġ in-Nadur. This is also the site of a series of visions of the Virgin Mary reported by Angelik Caruana, a resident of Birżebbuġa, from 2005 onwards. Religious meetings are regularly held at this spot.

The view from the Bronze Age village.

The smooth limestone path leading up the edge of Wied Żembaq

Further up Wied Żembaq lie the ruins of a large country house, known as ‘Casa Ippolito’. It was built in 1664 by the Sicilian Baron Ippolito Novantieri who was married to a Maltese lady. The history of the house is the subject of several myths and legends which have been handed down over the generations.

Interior ceiling of the ruined Casa Ippolito

It was a beautiful morning, if a little too hot towards the end, and the landscape, full of wild flowers, was magical.

A typical field of wildflowers

All of today’s pictures were taken using my new toy – the iPhone 4S.

An abundance of poppies.

There are several other ancient sites in this area which is well worth exploring further.

Valetta: Around the Laparelli Bastions

This was a Harrison Lewis group walk led by Andy and Jenny. We circumnavigated Valletta, for most of the way keeping close to the original city bastions.

In addition to a great deal of money, Pope Pius V sent to Grand Master Valette the great military architect, Francesco Laparelli of Cortona to oversee the plans and building of the fortified city of Valletta – the first city in Europe to be build entirely from the drawing board.

Francesco Laparelli 1521-1570

We met at the car park outside the Msida Bastions Cemetery and embarked on a clockwise journey round the city. We descended below the bastions to walk alongside Marsamxett harbour with the great walls towering above us.

The Laparelli Bastions on the Marsamxett side.

We rounded the outside of Fort St Elmo at the end of the peninsula and were fortunate that the workmen allowed us a brief excursion onto the new, as yet incomplete, bridge to the Grand Harbour breakwater.

The new bridge replaces the one destroyed in WW II.

 

The bridge is not yet complete.

The route from St Elmo to the Lower Barraka Gardens is presently unsafe so we had to detour back round St Elmo.

Lower Barraka Gardens

We then walked up to the Upper Barraka Gardens where we missed the Noonday Gun by literally a few seconds! After dropping down by the Malta Central Bank on St James Bastion we had lunch in the lesser-known Herbert Ganado Gardens, formerly the Kalkara Gardens but renamed for the Maltese writer and politician.

We crossed Floriana and descended back to the Msida Bastions Gardens and Cemetery. This was the main Protestant cemetery in Malta from 1806 to 1856. The majority of the graves were of British servicemen, officials and businessmen and their families. Mikiel Anton Vassalli,”the father of the Maltese language” was buried here in 1829, because he was out of favour with the Catholic church, partly because he had translated the New Testament into Maltese.

Mikiel Anton Vassalli Memorial

The cemetery has been lovingly restored in recent years from its previously ruined state and is now managed by Din l’Art Ħelwa. We were fortunate to have the two people mainly responsible for the restoration on the walk today and able to give us a very informative tour!

The peaceful Msida Bastion Garden of Rest

Għar Lapsi Circuit

This was a Harrison Lewis group walk which was led by Dianne and myself. We had agonised somewhat over the route, which was quite challenging We almost called it off the day before because rain was forecast and we were worried about the steep slopes becoming slippery and dangerous in the wet. In the event the weather was mainly sunny and everyone got round safely. Apologies that some of the photos below are from my previous walks in this area. I was too busy concentrating on the route and the other walkers to do much photography today.

A bag of edible snails.

We met at the car park near the Neolithic temple at Ħaġar Qim. I arrived early and met a Maltese couple who were returning from a successful foray on the cliff top with two bags of edible snails!

 

Mnajdra Temple Complex.

We by-passed the entrance to the temple and walked down the slope towards the Mnajdra temple complex, departing the path at about the mid point and walking up to the Neoilithic water cisterns of il-Misqa (“water trough”), where we paused to take in the antiquity of the construction well over 5000 years old. Flora, the only dog on the walk today, had a surprise when she flopped into one of the cisterns, imagining it to be a puddle! They are very deep.

Il-Misqa Water Cisterns (Credit: Electric Youniverse)

From il-Misqa, we took an interesting and unusual route past the quarries to the Għar Lapsi road. Not many know of its existence and Dianne and I only discovered it through some careful scouting of the route. Without it, a circular walk via Għar Lapsi would not have been viable.

A modern goatherd.

There followed quite a long stretch, about an hour’s walking, on the road. But this was no hardship as it is a quiet road with spectacular sea views out to the island of Filfla. At the junction with the road from Siġġiewi we encountered a herd of goats, with some sheep, being moved to pasture. Goats, which used to be so common on the the island, are a rare sight nowadays. We had picked up a stray dog on the way but he was finally turned back by the aged pack which guards the entrance to Għar Lapsi.

Looking back to Għar Lapsi from Ras il-Ħanżir

We looked at the remains of the massive rock fall which occurred at Għar Lapsi towards the end of 2011. It was a good point at which to engage in a safety talk about the rough terrain ahead. It was especially important to avoid the tempting path which skirts the edge of the cliff on the approach to Ras il-Hanżir (“Pig’s Head”).

Lunch on the slopes under Mnajdra cliffs.

We made out way Southwards along the undercliff, enjoying wonderful views along the rugged coastline towards the Ħamrija tower. Some of us had to divest layers as the sun came out to warm the day up. We enjoyed a lunch stop on the slopes overlooking the Magħlaq Fault – which runs along the South coast of Malta from Bengħisa to the North West. The displacement is quite dramatic – 210 metres – at this point.

Magħlaq Fault

After lunch we came to the cliff ascent just before the Ħamrija tower. This was quite safe in the dry conditions but still a strenuous climb. Most felt it best to abandon walking sticks and use both hands for the scramble. We all had a sense of achievement when we arrived at the top to be greeted by the Congreve Memorial.

The ascent to the Congreve Memorial

His Excellency Sir Walter Congreve VC KCB MVO, is one of my hobby-horses and I couldn’t resist saying a few words (well maybe more than a few) about him to the assembled company. He was a true hero in the grand tradition, as were his two sons who were both killed in action. He and his eldest son, William, are one of only two father-son pairs to win the Victoria Cross.

Congreve Memorial with Filfla in the background.

We walked on past the Ħamrija tower up to the point where progress is terminated by Wied Ħoxt (“Rough Valley”). We turned left up the edge of the wied and shortly arrived back at the Ħaġar Qim car park. It had been a strenuous morning and I hope everyone has forgiven me for the steep cliff ascent!  Certainly, apart from one longstanding member of the Harrison Lewis group, this walk was a first for everyone. I’m not sure if we will repeat it next year though….

Ħamrija Tower.

Xemxija Hill and Mistra Bay

Roman Apiary

This Harrison Lewis walk was led by Anne. The route was from Xemxija, at the innermost point of St Paul’s Bay, up onto the hill behind the village, where we encountered a range of interesting features:

  • 3 Punic/Roman apiaries
  • Arguably the oldest tree in Malta, a carob over a thousand years old.
  • A Roman road.
  • Some troglodyte cave dwellings, complete with fireplace and animal compounds.
  • A Punic Tomb cut into the hillside.
  • Six Neolithic “shaft & chamber” tombs cut into the rock, each having a vertical shaft leading down to one or more side chambers. In use in 3100 BC.
  • A Second World War defense post.
  • Roman baths.

Entrance to Punic Tomb

We made a brief detour to see some wild narcissi and then descended into the Wied tal-Mistra from whence we emerged into Mistra bay. After a pleasant stop for lunch overlooking the bay we ascended the Rdum tal-Kalkara (“lime-kiln cliffs”)and made our way back along the coast to Xemxija.

I will eventually be passing  Mistra Bay on the circumnavigation, and will take lots of picture then, so today’s three photos are inland shots.

Wild Narcissi

Thanks to “electrobleme” of everythingselectric.com for the map below of Xemxija Hill, showing the main sites.

Xemxija Hill SItes

Red Tower & Paradise Bay

This was another excellent Harrison Lewis walk led by James.

The Red Tower on a January Morning

We met at the St Agatha’s Tower, more commonly referred to as the Red Tower. This tower is more like a mini-fort, built in the style of the Wignacourt Towers, and was completed by Grand Master Lascaris in 1649. It holds a commanding position on Malta’s most northerly ridge (Marfa Ridge) with 360 degree views over Gozo, Comino and Northern Malta.

Steep ascent soon to be rewarded by lunch stop.

We made our way down the steep Northern slopes of Marfa Ridge and across to the cliffs overlooking Paradise Bay. Then south along the line of the cliffs, stopping for lunch on the way, before ascending to join Triq tad-Dahar (“Back Road”). We turned right to visit the rather alarmingly-named Ras tal-Qammieħ (“Jumper’s Head”) a high clifftop overlooking well-kept undercliff farmland.

The view South from Ras il-Qammieħ

Most of the group returned along Triq tad-Dahar to the red tower but a few hardy souls descended to the farmland and climbed back up to the tower by the pleasantly wooded slopes.

Cottonera Lines

This Harrison Lewis group walk was led by Colin whose intimate knowledge of the area made for a fascinating journey.

Grand Master Nicholas Cotoner 1608-1680

We met at the Cospicua bus terminus outside the new main gate into Birgu. We followed the perimeter of the massive defenses erected circa 1669 by Grand Master Nicholas Cotoner .

Cottonera Lines

 

After passing around the fortifications in an anti-clockwise direction as far as we could go, we dropped down to visit the Capuccini Naval Cemetery on the Southern outskirts of Kalkara. We spent some time there and, despite its designation as a “Naval Cemetery”, it contains RAF and Army graves, in addition to those of foreign nationalities.

Fort Ricasoli, South Gate

We walked up to the front gate of Fort Ricasoli and then around Rinella Creek before lunching at the seafront on Kalkara creek and returning through Birgu to our starting point.

Kalkara Creek

Bajda Ridge

This was another enjoyable Harrison Lewis walk led by Carol and Caroline.

We met at Golden Bay and walked up the Western end of the Bajda Ridge (“White Ridge”, though it is not named on current Malta maps). This is the area which makes up the Il-Majjistral Nature Park and has wonderful views out to sea from Ras il-Wahx (“Ogre’s Head”) and Rdum Majesa.

View from Ras il-Wahx

View from Ras il-Wahx

After passing under the old aqueduct in the bottom of the valley on the Manikata to Mellieħa road we passed through some quiet woodlands where we had lunch.  Then back along the Southern flank of the ridge, through Manikata and back to Golden Bay.

Baħrija-Mtaħleb Circuit

This was a circular Harrison Lewis walk from Baħrija and was led by Brian and Sue.

Site of Bronze Age settlement at Il-Qlejgħa

We visited the site of the bronze age village at the crag of Il-Qlejħa before lunching with fantastic views over the Wied Miġra l-Ferħa to the sea. Then on to the clifftop Mtaħleb chapel after passing a Roman quarry at Tal-Merħla. We returned by an inland route past the masts of Wied Rini maritime radio station.

Roman Quarry at Tal-Merħla

A very enjoyable walk in excellent company, it was particularly interesting for me as it lies on the route of the next stage of my own Malta circumnavigation walk.

Around Wardija

The Harrison Lewis walking group is a small group of walkers in Malta, limited in size so that numbers on any walk rarely exceed the teens. They are named after the group’s founder, Harrison Lewis, who is often erroneously referred to as a former “American ambassador to Malta”. In fact he pre-dated the first formal ambassador. Until 1964 Malta had been a British possession. Malta gained full independence on September 21, 1964. The United States recognized the new nation and established full diplomatic relations on September 21, 1964, with Harrison Lewis as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim until George J Feldman presented his credentials as the United States’ first Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary on 5th October 1965. Harrison Lewis, a retired Foreign Service officer, died on December 21, 1986 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

I joined the Harrison Lewis group for a circular walk from Burmarrad via Wardija hilltop village. This was my first group walk since arriving in Malta and was very enjoyable. Everyone made me feel very welcome and the time seemed to fly by.

Walking with a group is rather different from the solo walking that I have become used to. I found myself cheerily chatting to other members of the group only to find that five minutes had gone by without me noticing anything about my surroundings!

This particular walk introduced me to an interesting rural part of Malta that I had not previously visited and I shall certainly go back there again.

A Chameleon on the Path

We met at 9:45am in the car park of Scott’s supermarket in Burmarrad and set off along the main road towards Buġibba. After a short time we turned left along a track and began a gradual climb up to the hilltop of Ġebel Għawżara, occasionally turning onto a different or occasionally leaving tracks behind and skirting the edges of fields.

In the middle of one of the tracks we found a good-sized chameleon which was very lucky not be be trodden on before someone spotted it.

Soon we reached the top of Ġebel Għawżara, with spectacular views over St Paul’s Bay. It was very interesting to see the gun emplacements, dating, I assumed, from the Second World War period.

View over St Paul's Bay

We then descended down a rough path to Wied Qannotta and up to the Wardija road.  We circumnavigated the hilltop in a clockwise direction stopping for lunch above the cliffs which lie under the Wardija Hilltop Village development of 25 apartments. The latter are built in the style of a traditional Maltese village and fit quite well into the landscape.

After lunch we passed the Castello Sultan tas-Sultan. It is known as Tas-Sultan, in remembrance of Grand Master Ramon Perellos y Roccaful for whom this was his favourite spot on the Island. Castello Sultan is one of Jaqui’s favourite houses on the Island. It is currently the private home of Count Alfred Manduca. The chapel attached to the house dates from the time of Roccaful and is dedicated to the Madonna tal-Abbandunati (Madonna of the Abandoned).

Wardija Hilltop Village

We then made our way back down to Burmarrad.

Round Għajn Tuffieħa

I dropped Jaqui off at the Radisson hotel in Golden Bay. She was visiting the spa for a “beauty session” so I took the opportunity for a walk around the area of Għajn Tuffieħa.

Looking out of Ġnejna Bay. Slopes of Il-Karrabar to the right.

Għajn Tuffieħa literally translates as “Eye Apple” so I guess could be loosely said to mean “Apple of the Eye”. Alternatively “Għajn” can also mean a “spring” rather than “eye”. (Update: Reader A Puli, in a comment on another post, writes “It is true that Għajn is spring and Tuffieħa is an apple. But it is incorrect to translate it as Apple’s Spring. This is because the name Tuffieħa is also an arabic name written “tofiħa” So it was a spring that belonged to Tofiha. The name of this bay dates back to the Arabic period.”)

Whichever translation, it is indeed a very attractive area, consisting of three separate bays, Golden Bay, Għajn Tuffieħa Bay and Ġnejna Bay, each of which has a very different character from the others. They are separated by two headlands, one the striking Il-Karraba and the other containing a fine lookout tower, one of the five commissioned by Grandmaster Juan de Lascaris-Castellar between 1637 and 1640. These towers are known as the “Lascaris Towers: and predate the great siege of 1565.

We will be coming through this area again on the circumnavigation of Malta, but this is a nice foretaste. See the captions on the photo-journey for more details.

Għajn Tuffieħa Tower