Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Press Release - Ramblers on Future MLP Plans

The Ramblers Association of Malta has noted with great concern the unilateral direction taken by the leader of the Opposition, Dr Alfred Sant, toward developing more golf courses - two in Malta and one in Gozo - as quoted in several media reports.

RAM is strongly opposed to the idea that more swathes of open countryside and scarce water resources should be sacrificed in such a wasteful way - more so when recent studies, carried out in connection with the now abandoned Xaghra l-Hamra plans, confirmed that a stand-alone course would not be viable.

RAM also questions the Labour Party's stand on two particular sites in Gozo - namely ta Cenc and Hondoq - and would like to remind the Party that its representatives at the Save Gozo environmental protest, held earlier this year, manifestly opposed development at both sites.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

SPTT Wied id-Dis Walk 14th October 2007

San Pawl Tat-Targa Wied id-Dis Walk
14th October 2007

Despite the rainy weather forecast for the day, 105 people turned up for this walk. And they were amply rewarded, as there were only a few drops of rain at the start of the walk. Fortune favours the brave, as the saying goes.

This walk was also the “maiden walk“ of our new walk leader, Jack Vella. The RAM committee hereby extends its thanks to Jack for his time. Unfortunately a lot of people only go as far as making comments and suggestions on how walks should, or should not, be conducted, but only a very few are willing to actually lead a walk or two. If any ramblers are willing to lead walks, you know what you have to do!

From our meeting place near SPTT chapel, we walked down the hill (Telgha T’Alla u Ommu), then turned right towards Gharghur, passing just below Birguma and an active quarry until we hit the Victoria lines. After a short detour to view Ghar San Brincat and Ghar San Pietru, we continued to follow the Victoria lines until we reached Wied id-Dis. We walked up the valley bed for a short distance, then struck up the side of the valley to Gharghur.
From Gharghur it was only a short distance back to our starting point.

Below are some notes on the features seen during this walk, as contributed by Jack.

Walk Leader: Jack
Duration: 3 hours including the breaks.

Captain’s tower

The Captain’s tower was built during the reign of Grand Master La Vallette and prior to the Great Siege of 1565. It was sometimes used by Grand Master La Vallette who used to stay here when he was touring the vicinities. It is named so because the Captain of the Militia (a group that guarded the area) was stationed in this tower. On the other side of the road one can also see a similar tower; Gauci’s tower, which was built round the same time.

In the upper part of the tower one can notice several drop boxes that were used in case of any attacks, when boiling oil was dropped on the enemy. There are also several holes that were used by soldiers to shoot from. It is important to mention that the Naxxar Militia at the time had round about 100 soldiers making it only second to the capital city, Valletta.

It-Torri tal-Kaptan

Pill box

This pill box, formerly known as Defense Post R15, was built in the late 1930’s just before beginning of World War 2. It is located in the upper part of T’ Alla w’ Ommu, and was built to enhance the safety of the area. In fact, before the time of Mount Maghtab, one could easily have a view of the whole area from Salina to Bahar ic- Caghaq. These type of pill boxes used to have two floors, the upper part for the guard and as target box while the lower part served as an accommodation for the soldiers.

Defence Post R15


Il- Widna (acoustic mirror) can be considered as a primitive form of radar. It consists of a curved wall, in the form of a parabola, with a microphone or a person at the focal point. Sound waves, coming from the direction of Sicily would be concentrated at this focal point, providing a sort of amplification of faint sounds normally inaudible to the human ear. The idea was that enemy planes could be heard approaching from the north while they were still far enough to scramble fighters, warn civilians of an impending air raid, and also provide sufficient notice to man the anti-aircraft batteries. Its usefulness was in fact short-lived, as it was soon overtaken by the first radar.

Jack with Mount Maghtab and il-Widna in the background

Ghar San Brincat

This consist of two caves, one of which is relatively small. In other times, when farmers and shepherds were common around the island, these caves were used as means of shelter from the weather. In the smallest cave we can see a frame of Our Saviour’s crucifixion. According to legend this was put up to protect the shepherds from bad spirits who used to haunt and taunt them, sometimes even ending in fatalities, with people being thrown into the valley below. Mass was sometimes said inside this cave during the month of November.

Victoria Lines

The Victoria lines were built as a defense for the southern part of the island against a probable attack from the enemy if they land in the northern part such as Golden Bay, Xemxija or Ghadira bay. Even though Malta is a heavily- fortified island, the majority of the fortifications lie in the Cottonera and Valletta area. The main objective of the Victoria Lines that of offering security against attacks from the north, was never realised. However, they are still considered as part of our heritage. Unfortunately, although some parts have been renovated, many other parts are still in a bad state of repair. We have seen other sections of the Lines on past walks, and will certainly see more on future walks.

Crossing Wied il-Faham

The Master Antenna

The master antenna in Gharghur is the main telecommunication antenna on The Maltese Islands. The main TV stations as well as other telephony companies make direct use of this antenna. This antenna was built in 1960’s, and, forty years later, it Is still being used for the same purpose. The antenna is the highest point in the Maltese Islands, as Gharghur is at about the same height as Dingli & Rabat, with only few metres difference. In fact the motto of the village is “Excelsior”, which means the highest.

Wied id-Dis and Santa Marija taz- Zellieqa

This valley is one of the most beautiful and extensive in Malta, with its trees and the renowned seven arched bridge. This bridge was not so long ago used for abseiling. It is also home to robins during their season.

Wied id-Dis


The current population of Gharghur is around 2700 people. Its history dates back to Roman times. Remains dating from Roman times were found in the main street, St. John Street, in 1955. In fact the olive crusher exhibited in the Domus Romana, was actually found in Gharghur. In 1436, with some 700 people living (200 families), the process started that would finally detach Gharghur from the neighbouring village of Naxxar. It was at this time that the first chapel dedicated to St. Bartholomew was built. Even so, it was not until 1598 that the village made its request to officially separate itself from Naxxar, finding harsh opposition from the parish priest of Naxxar, Fr. Julian Borg. And in fact it was not before 1610, following his death, that this request was finally accepted, with the villagers losing no more time to start building the present-day church, a project that took 28 years to finish. In 1734 some major alterations were made to the fa├žade, lasting to the present day.

Needless to say Gharghur is one of the most beautiful villages in Malta, having kept its identity throughout the centuries and, as far as I am concerned, the most important, as I was born here.

Climbing from Wied id-Dis to Gharghur

Jack Vella

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

The Three Palaces

Wednesday - 3rd October 2007

101 assembled. No, they were not Dalmations but a pure breed of genuine ramblers that challenged the heat to start off from St. Dominic Church and up to Tal Virtu. The quiet suburb was soon alive as the start of a new season of walks gripped all and sundry in a flurry of excitement. Once through the gate that lies at the extreme western corner of the perimeter of the Seminary grounds, the country lane was followed down into Il-Wied tal-Isqof, where a hunter displaying his shotgun greeted us amicably and also showed us the way up to the old and derelict summer place that the bishop of Malta had built for himself in the first half of the 17th century. After a close look at the dampish cave under the lush cliff, which still displays a large stone table and a vivid spring of fresh water, the group were welcomed by the President, Lino Bugeja, who then proceeded to give the historical details of the derelict site. It appears the Bishop of Malta at the time envied the Grandmaster and the Inquisitor who both had built a summer residence for themselves in the vicinity.

Ramblers in the grounds of Verdala palaceThe group then walked past the Chapel dedicated to St Lucy and St Nicholas of Bari at Gnien il-Far, a justapatronatus of the Testaferrata Viani family, which served as a refugee centre during the last war. And then on to the Verdala Palace grounds, which were thrown open to us by courtesy of the President (unfortunately the palace itself is undergoing restoration and maintenance) and the quaint chapel of St Anthony the Abbot, which was amply detailed by the caretaker there, Mr Mifsud.
Mr Mifsud was kind enough to let us through the back gate that leads to the Buskett forest and through this path all could admire the west fa?de of the palace with its imposing staircase.

We were running very late and it was only at noon that we arrived at the third palace, the Inquisitor?s at Girgenti. Mr Robert Cutajar from the OPM welcomed the Ramblers and gave a brief description of the place. The Secretary thanked him warmly as he was instrumental to render possible the visits to both palaces. He also explained that Mr Cutajar is the person entrusted by the Prime Minister to liaise with the RAM where difficult people or situations are encountered in the countryside.

All ears to the commentary by Mr Mifsud inside the Chapel of St Anthony the AbbotFifteen persons at a time were permitted to tour the halls and view the rooms of the prime-minister?s residence, so well over an hour was spent there. It was at this point that the intended visit to Ghar il-Kbir and Clapham?s Junction was decided to be forsaken. After taking a group photo the ramblers took the road back to Buskett , which was crossed from south to north, and thence on the tarmaced road back to San Duminku, arriving there at around 2.00pm.

The numerous turnout, the interesting talks at all the three ?palaces? and the engaging walkabouts there did slacken the walk enough to force the cancellation of the visit to the last site. However none was sorry for it as there was more thrown in than any had been bargained for.

Group photo