So here we are in April and what have we been up to? Due to travel restrictions, we haven’t been able to host volunteers this year until now, with the arrival of Joe who is from the Lebanon, lives in the US and studying environmental studies in Germany! He is strong and makes light of lifting and cutting. So far we have tidied up the Sendoukia Adventure trail and around the Mikalakis Water Mill, the short path behind Episkopi and the old main route out of town – Aloupi to Kangelia/Raches. This trail has really been abused over the years; dug up by OTE and not put back so cement was dumped here and there, dug up by the water company and a pipe unprofessionally installed leaving a huge gully and holes everywhere plus the inevitable bulldozer damage resulting in mounds of soil to be sermounted. Very heavy work with lots of brambles and full sun. It does have lovely views of the Stafilos valley though.
In spite of the obvious disadvantages encountered in 2000, we still managed to reinstate 4 old trails as well as maintenance work.
In February our first volunteer arrived; Kiki Kamo from Japan. Due to transit problems she was here for just ten days but we were able to carry out maintenance at least.
Next up was Avery and Julia from the USA. However, their stay, 7-10 March, was curtailed due to the first lockdown. We made a start on the huge Mikalaki clearing project plus the Loutsa tower project which I finished off alone during lockdown.
In May, I was lucky to have the help of Zoe and Leo from France. They had decided to spend the lockdown here on the island. During that time we reopened an old trail from Pera Karia up to Sendoukia. It took us 5 days and included not only the clearing of vegetation and fallen trees but also the installation of ropes to help hikers up/down steep cliff faces.
There was a long break until the arrival of Emanuel from Romania, who stayed 3-30 September. Emanuel was an amazing volunteer. He didn’t want any days off or feeding and arrived by car with 4 hand made metal gates ready for installation. Emanuel has his own forge in Romania. During his stay we had the use of a forge, kindly put at our disposal by the Patsis family. The gates replaced fences at Kimissia and Ag Marina and Emanuel worked very hard installing them. He also worked extremely hard in flighting through to expose the beautiful aqueduct bridge at Mikalaki.
From 12 October-1 December, Camille and Aris from France became part of the furniture (one month intended and then extended due to Covid restrictions.) During that time, we also hosted Vailva from Lithuania (26 October-23 November). Here is the list of work that was carried out during that time:
4 days at The Mill, clearing away more vegetation, exposing walls plus an old path beyond the aqueduct. We also attempted to find the spring water source.
6 days clearing the Palouki forest trails between the examini, Ag Triatha turning and Ag Anna turning.
3 days reopening 147m of blocked trail near Ag Iannis Kambos.
2 days of trail maintenance at Abuzali – 359m.
3 days back at The Mill Mikalakis
2 days maintenance behind the Episkopi monastery – 105m
3 days in the area of Tjelili near the deer enclosure plus on the valley floor towards Glysteri – 576m
4 days maintenance at Diakopi – 299m
2 days maintenance on the Tower Loutsa trail – 374m
6 days maintenance at Ypermaxou
I also had a few hours local help from Maria Papavasiliou, Nana Kobra, Turid Stokkeland, Lefki Sohou, Kerasia Tamouridou, Ioanna Petsa, Georgos Papadavid, Silje Kramer plus a young French girl called Sofia! Thank you all! Thanks also to Peter Broadley for allowing us to use his home for volunteer accommodation. It made a huge difference and helped enormously.
Another busy month. Firstly Ariside & Camille arrived from France. We continued reopening the path at the mill and removed vast amounts of foliage. We have done all we can from the plane tree to the watermill aqueduct.
We then started on, what I have called the Palouki Forest Trail, which runs between the examini (water tank) Ag Triada and Ag Anna junction. This is a beautiful, shady trail which gets the hiker off the dirt road.
Vaiva from Lithuania arrived on 26th, in time to celebrate the completion of the PFT.
We then went back and completed a sweet stretch of trail that I used to take years ago but had got completely blocked situated between Ag Iannis Kambos and a lane that takes one eventually to The Watermill. This was a particularly difficult trail to clear due to its narrowness and nowhere to throw the clippings.
Our first volunteer since March arrived last week; Emanuel from Rumania. He can work with iron and so I asked if he could make me some gates. So he did, and drove them here! We will have the use of a forge on Wednesday when he’ll start making the frame from liberated iron rods we found at the scrapyard. The gates are for Kimissia where a farmer has erected an illegal fence across the trail. I don’t want to fight with people so its easier to just put in an easy use door for hikers (and the farmer) to use,
SENTOUKIA ADVENTURE TRAIL – 3km – 490m to Pera Karia
This trail first appeared in the Skopelos Trails 1st edition 2001 and 2nd edition 2004 but excluded from the 3rd edition 2011. I found it initially having noticed yellow painted AEs on the rocks. I simply followed them.
In 2019 a rekkie was carried out where no evidence of a trail was found. In spite of this, with great difficulty, we managed to clamber our way from the summit down to Karia.
On 15 March 2020, solo, I started to clear, following a small gully from the Karia end having had confirmation of the trail head from Giannis Varetaios.
Together with volunteers Zoe and Leo, we worked for seven days between 19 May and 1 June, clearing away shrubs and fallen trees. We worked towards a dropped pin previously gps’ed on the summit. This was our only guide.
When zig zagging was not possible, we installed ropes to enable hikers to ascent and descend the boulders easier.
Completed 1 June 2020. Signs and ropes installed.
Our plan is to clear the next portion from Pera Karia, passing near Analipsos and continuing down to the EU asphalt road. At some point in the future it is hoped that funding will allow us to reopen the valley trail between Djelili and Kriavrissi. Our trail would then connect with it.
An interesting observation was that in a 24 hour period, ants had made holes and particially eaten the orange eco marker tape. There was no evidence that they were carrying bits away. So if you see an ant with hiccups and orange poop, you’ll know why!
In spite of the obvious handicap, Skopelos Trails has managed to clear four routes: Taxiarches monastery, Palouki summit area T trail, Loutsa to the tower and Sentoukia to Karia. We also cleared around a water tank at Michalaki and carried out some general maintenance.
From 14-23 February, Kiki Kamo from Japan volunteered, 7-19 March we hosted Avery and Julia from the USA and more recently, Zoe and Leo from France (who were in fact on lockdown here). I’ve also had some help from Maria from Skopelos Supermarket and Nana and Silja from Norway.
I’m trying to find out some information about the Tower at Loutsa as it’s rather an enigma. I gather the structure was never completed due to the death of the owner.
There are five ways of getting from Skopelos town up to Raches/Ag Paraskavi/Pefkias: Kokala to the heliport, Kimissia to Pefkias, Kambos to Polimistria Aloupi to Ag Paraskavi and Abuzali to Raches. There are two extensions; Pefkias to Vromoneri and back to Ag Paraskavi and Polimistria to Petrovrissi then Aloupi or Abuzali. There’s also an alternative between Aloupi/Papathemou. All five have now been cleared so you can make short walks by going up one and down another in series or passing one by and taking the next to make a longer one. I’ve called these routes collectively The Five Kamares. I’m in the process of GPSing them and they’ll be available to download via the Skopelos Trails app.
2019 was a very busy year for Skopelos Trails. We started work on 12 January and continued through until 18 December (except July/August). We cleared some 30 trails, installed 3 flights of steps and hosted 39 volunteers from 13 different countries. Our sponsors #RigasHotelSkopelos and Pension Kyr Sotos continued to provide accommodation, Wolf Garden provided equipment, Nikos Orfanos kept the loppers sharp, Anne Perry helped me with this WP account Agapi Karamanli (Anna’s) and Machi Ambelakia provided a banquet, Gusto provided a giant pizza and Eva Karras donated some food. I thank you all!
There are exciting plans ahead of us. Let’s hope we can make them happen!
This field guide, written by Doctors Brian & Elizabeth Ridout and Philip Insall, is now available by mail order. It includes geology, water, butterflies & moths, beetles, flies, wasps and spiders.