Last week me, 3 friends & Daisy Marmite hiked to the magnificent fortress Tvrdava Vranovo Brdo, perched high on the cliff tops above Perast.

I knew nothing about the hike before I embarked on it.  Probably best.  If I had read the full description in the hiking guide, I may have faltered… 9 kms up to a height of 720 ms above sea level seems a lot.

Despite horrendous weather the previous day, Friday dawned dry and bright and unfolded into the perfect day for hiking – sunny but not hot, mostly clear skies with enough cloud in the distance to make the mountains look interesting & dramatic and a light mist hovering above the sea to make the Bay look magical (or rather, ‘mistical’?!).

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The view across to Lovcen from above Perast

We had a minor false start when after walking for 5 minutes or so, Berni commented on the fact that we were not going ‘up’ and she definitely remembered the path going up quite steeply, quite quickly.  Plus there were no marks to follow and this trail is well marked.  We re-traced our steps and found a path connecting with the one we should have taken.  From that point if we couldn’t see the marks, we found our way by following the edge of the stone path that was usually visible to some degree and realising that the path was a consistent series of switchbacks.

Half way up there’s a ruined church:

Den's been framed!

Den’s been framed!

The path was moderately difficult – there were some jagged rocks and it wasn’t exactly ‘easy’ on the legs & feet (my calves ached the next day and I had a slightly bruised foot from the uneven terrain); in places the path had fallen away and we were walking very close to the edge of the cliff; and there were a few obstacles to traverse (piled up brash to make an animal barrier).  But the view was consistently stunning and improved the higher we climbed:

Climbing high – probably at about 600 m here…

Sometimes the path wound through wooded, shaded areas and it felt nice to be in dappled light and out of the sun’s glare.  Mostly though the path was very exposed – this is not a hike to do in summer with the full force of the sun beating down on you.

Over 2 hours into the hike & still no sign of the fortress – we weren’t flagging exactly, but we were beginning to wonder exactly how much longer the upward stretch was, always mindful of having to come back down.  At last the fortress came into view!

Walking along the old stone paths, with the fortress finally in sight

Walking along the old stone paths, with the fortress finally in sight

The fortress (aka Sveti Andrija) was extensive & impressive.

Sveti Andrija

Sveti Andrija

This sign, with other great hikes marked on it (including THE biggie – the Coastal Transversal (KT) that runs from the Orijen Masif all the way down to Rumija near the Albanian border and beyond) indicates height as 719 m but by the time you get into the fortress itself we’re at 743 m.

So many hikes yet to do...

So many hikes yet to do…

On reaching the summit we congratulated ourselves with a snack break.  Daisy got treats too and plenty of water.  Hayley generously shared with us chunks of cheddar cheese and Green & Black’s chocolate!  What a treat.  Suitably fuelled, we began the downward hike, but not before a triumphant group shot:

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The fab five! From L-R: Emma, Hayley, Berni, Den & Daisy

Now we were not focused on looking up and getting a glimpse of our destination, we noticed some beautiful flora & fauna.

Shrooms!

Shrooms!

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What a beauty!

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An intriguing plant. Leaves like rosemary, a very pleasant & slightly citrus fragrance and showy bright blue blooms. Does anyone recognise this plant?

I personally find descent more difficult than ascent – it’s a killer on the knees and my ankles feel weaker taking the weight of my body on the downward slope…  We did manage the ascent in around 2 hours so it was slightly quicker but I’m sure this was a lot to do with our confidence in knowing the path, not getting lost and not stopping for photos as much!

As we start the descent, the clouds were building above Lovcen

As we start the descent, the clouds were building above Lovcen

Back at our starting point, 5 hours later and we were very pleased with ourselves!  Daisy was happily panting and couldn’t believe her luck at getting such an extended walk.  We enjoyed food and hot drinks at Conte, in Perast and watched the sunset.  A perfect end to a perfect day…

Bernard Sullivan’s great little book has full details of this hike, entitled “High Over Perast”…

An interesting book, with a variety of great hikes

An interesting book, with a variety of great hikes

 

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Every year I diligently weigh and record the produce we collect from the organic garden, always meaning to share the results and never getting around to adding it all up or posting it.  So, here are the results – finally!

                           2012          2013          2014

  • Courgettes:                  11.5 kg                6.7 kg                10.7 kg
  • Broad Beans:                  1.5 kg
  • Marrow:                        13.2 kg                9.5 kg                  3.3 kg
  • Chillies:                               430                     39                        96
  • Tomatoes:                       41 kg               31.2 kg               59.5 kg
  • Peppers:                               90
  • Onions:                            34 kg                  12 kg              35.5 kg
  • Pumpkin:                            7 kg                 8.8 kg                2.1 kg
  • Aubergines:                 48 (4 kg)
  • Butternut Squash:           2.5 kg
  • Runner beans:                 1.3 kg                5.5 kg               41.5 kg
  • Carrots:                                                     7.4 kg               3.45 kg
  • Peas                                                           1.1kg                 2.4 kg
  • Lettuce                                                                                       45

 

In 2012 we increased our crop of everything from the year before except tomatoes, which had their growing tips picked out prematurely and suffered from not being fed & watered well, an occupational hazard when entrusting gardening duties to volunteers.  It was fascinating to go back over our notes and see the successes of that year – I’d forgotten that we picked 90 peppers!  Then I remembered that those plants had taken up a lot of valuable space in our garden and the peppers were small and lacking flesh.  It didn’t seem sensible to continue to grow this veg, so cheap and readily available in season here anyway, when the space could be better used growing veg with longer shelf lives and more value.  I DO remember the crazy amount of chilies that year.  That was the year I learned that we really didn’t need many plants to yield enough chillies to sustain us until the next growing season.  This year I think we got it about right…

Chillies were one of the HOT winners of 2012!

Chillies were one of the HOT winners of 2012!

Looking back on last year, I felt I worked pretty hard in the garden and tried to get good results but that 2013 was the poorest year for yields for most veg apart from pumpkin.  Even the carrots, which I made a special effort with (lovingly germinating them under damp newspaper, digging sand into the sowing drills…) didn’t top the 2011 figure of just under 10 kg.

Pumpkins were the success story of 2013

Pumpkins were the success story of 2013

2014 was a great year in the garden for most veg apart from the squashes and curcubits.  This is a little galling considering the time & effort I spent picking new locations for these hungry, wandering monsters – digging in lots of fertile ‘muck’, giving them space to stretch their tendrils, watering them well with Comfrey stew and compost tea.  But this is no defence against a wet summer where fruits formed and rotted on the plant so I don’t berate myself…

Our tomatoes this year were a triumph and I’m sure if the rain had stopped in early September the plants would have hung on long enough to carry on cropping into October and topped the 2011 record of 61 kg. Our harvests of tomatoes are usually boosted by the green tomato crop in late Autumn (in 2013 we picked 3.6 kg of green tomatoes on 31st October!) and the green tomatoes were conspicuous by their absence this year as the plants finally caved in against the wet conditions and rotted.  This year was our first year for pink tomatoes – only around 6 of our 60+ plants were of the pink tomato variety and yet they yielded nearly 21 kg of fruit, more than a third of our total crop!

Pink tomatoes were the best cropping variety in 2014

Pink tomatoes were the best cropping variety in 2014

Lettuces were also magnificent this year and I fear we’ll never have quite the success we had this year again, as the salad veg just LOVED the cooler, damper conditions.  I shall definitely be sowing very early next year to see if we can get some established well enough to bear crispy, leafy goodness at least until the end of June.

In 2014 our lettuces were well-formed, plentiful and delicious

In 2014 our lettuces were well-formed, plentiful and delicious

But the real stars of the show in 2014 were of course the runner beans – a whopping 41.5 kg.  Adding up all the previous years harvests, this year’s crop was still 4 times greater!  This record is unlikely to be beaten and indeed I wouldn’t want it to be as we’re sure it was as a direct result of such a soggy summer.  In 2015 I’m going to try a really early crop of beans – sowing the seed in late January and seeing if we can get a decent crop in May – and a late crop, sowing in August for harvest in October/ November.

A record harvest of runner beans in 2014

A record harvest of runner beans in 2014

And whilst we are on the subject of significant numbers… Steve & I celebrated 24 years together this week.  On 11/11/90, we took the leap to being more than just friends – speaking personally, the best decision I ever made.  I believe we love, cherish & fulfill each other more today than ever and feel so incredibly lucky to be able to say that.  I wanted to post a picture of us 24 years ago but all our old photos are in a mate’s attic in the UK so the best I can do is one from our honeymoon 15 years ago (as with all the photos in ‘thumbnail’ view, click on it to see us in full size and marvel at how damned youthful we were back then!!):

The honeymooners at Vera Playa, Spain...

The honeymooners at Vera Playa, Spain…

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