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Ramblers seek pastures new

“The lonely sea and the sky,” wrote poet John Masefield, and ramblers in Malta feel the urge to be a part of both. The Ramblers’ Association of Malta has just launched its winter walks programme with over 20 circular rambles among the finest and most exhilerating zones around the Maltese islands, including the area of Dwejra in Gozo and the Fungus Rock, pictured above. Photo: Romano Cassar

“The lonely sea and the sky,” wrote poet John Masefield, and ramblers in Malta feel the urge to be a part of both. The Ramblers’ Association of Malta has just launched its winter walks programme with over 20 circular rambles among the finest and most exhilerating zones around the Maltese islands, including the area of Dwejra in Gozo and the Fungus Rock, pictured above. Photo: Romano Cassar

This is undoubtedly the season for country walks and the Ramblers’ Association of Malta has just launched its winter walks programme, which takes us till March, with over 20 circular rambles among the finest and most exhilarating zones.

The routes chosen, encompassing the length and breadth of the Maltese islands, explore the rich archaeological, historical and geological sites that dot our countryside and coastal zone.

An innovative feature this time is the inclusion of remote, off-the beaten track sites like Ta’ Mrejnu, Bajda Ridge or the Miger Ilma cliffs, one of the few restricted walks, alternating with a ramble along the remarkable Cottonera and Victoria lines of fortifications.

This is the ideal time for wilderness rambling when the Maltese archipelago presents a floral paradise as the valleys, hill sides and country lanes burst into a riot of wild flowers in the shape of the yellow cape-sorrel (qarsu), the sweet scented narċis and swathes of red clover.

You walk past the garigue, home of the Maltese honey bee, now richly covered with wild thyme interspersed with a variety of colourful wild plants. You discover strange geological rock formations and small deserted coves and secluded beaches like Mġiebagħ at Selmun or Blata Steps near remote Ras ir-Raħeb.

The February walks take in the idyllic enclaves around the Rabat/Dingli plateau commanding breathtaking views of that Arcadian scenery. Not far from the architectural splendour and sophistication of Mdina lie underground chapels, troglodytic gems, unique in their vernacular architecture and historical import.

Sadly, these subterranean records of our incipient re-Christianisation are being gradually eroded away by the ravages of time and the insensitivity of man. These rural chapels, sprawled all over the Rabat/Dingli rolling countryside, take us to the pastoral serenity of Wied ir-Rum, a very fertile area with Byzantine connections, fed by many natural springs from Qattara Heights, recently magnificently restored by the government through the Aramis project.

Walking along the Binġemma Ridge in winter with the shimmering blue sea stretching as far as Gozo is a fascinating experience.

The Victoria Lines, like its Chinese and Hadrian big brothers, bisect the island into two distinct zones intended mainly to give protection to the harbour area during the early British period.

They cross deep valleys and ascend steep hill sides until they descend on majestic Fomm ir-Riħ.

Undoubtedly, Binġemma Heights are exceptionally suited for wilderness rambling where one can explore the cliffs, honeycombed with cave dwellings.

The Gozo weekend in March has become extremely popular as ramblers explore the unique landscapes, rock formation and the historical, architectural and archaeological gems that dot our sister island.

Some of the trails in the winter programme may be a little demanding and may be too challenging for the beginner but the Ramblers’ Association issues to its members the grading for each walk as follows: very hard – only for hardy ramblers ready to take difficult challenges; hard – for the fit rambler in good physical shape to take on steep inclines and long stretches; moderate – for the average rambler who can take on up to four stretches of walking on uneven surface and easy – for the occasional rambler who prefers leisurely stretches at a slower pace.

For further information contact the Ramblers’ Association of Malta at ram205@gmail.com.

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