It is delightful to feel your bones dry up again under the snug spring sunshine after enduring a stretched soggy spell of a stormy Maltese winter. It is also pleasantly reassuring that nature springs out strong again from the ravaging storms that savagely lashed at it. Mighty trees have been felled, their leaves parched.

Still, the frail buds, the dainty blossoms, the slight song birds, the buzzing bees – all nature comes out renewed with the vigour of spring. The darkness is gone and the sky has cleared, the sun prevails the sky, in celebration of rebirth.

Not so with man-made storms that violate nature and the Maltese islands’ native character.

The assault of speculative development on nature drops trees dead and destroys native landscapes forever. It delivers death instead of rebirth by aborting swathes of nature under blankets of concrete, and now even on valley floors, approved by the State itself.

This winter will wither away only once the Planning Authority is reformed, namely its decision makers – the ‘masterminds’

The light and warmth of the life-giving sun is obscured by unsightly towers casting grave dark shadows, celebrating death. Typical Maltese street­scapes are scarred, soul-less. Spring and rebirth are swapped for an interminable winter of discontent for all but the few making money big time.

This winter will wither away only once the Planning Authority is reformed, namely its decision makers – the ‘masterminds’, not the puppets who are stringed to play ball.

The germ of the malaise may be attributed to the longevity of employment of the handful of decision makers at the authority, who before were case officers but are now at the helm.

But this longevity is dwarfed by the current planning disaster that is Malta, which has been condemned by every worthy local entity, and lately even by the Malta Developers Association itself.

The term ‘master plan’ is an anathema to these masterminds, whose mission is to enjoy the freedom to issue permits as they please, and to appease.

One needs only to look at recent PA policies, such as like the rural policy, the fuel stations policy, the floor area ratio policy, the height limitation adjustment policy, that these masterminds themselves drew up in a pliable way so as to be able to issue development permits to whoever they prefer for one reason or another.

Mind you, the permits are often issued subject to conditions. But how true the words of ex-Mepa director Martin Seychell still sound today: “We at Mepa know that we don’t have the means to enforce conditions. Therefore, attaching conditions is only an insincere way of trying to give credibility to an unacceptable permit.”

Today, unacceptable is the norm in Malta. Clearly something is rotten in the State of Denmark.

Visiting the Victoria Lines fort facing Fomm ir-Riħ.Visiting the Victoria Lines fort facing Fomm ir-Riħ.

April walks

Sunday, April 7 – Nature trail around Naxxar, Mosta and Bidnija (Scenic)

Participants will descend by the Naxxar cart ruts down to St Catherine chapel in Wied il-Għasel to behold beautiful meadows along the valley between Mosta and Burmarrad. The moderate walk then ascends Bidnija hill and proceeds atop the ridge with breathtaking scenic views of the eastern shores of Qawra and Salini.

Duration: Three to four hours

Rating: Moderate

Meeting place: T’Alla u Ommu roundabout in Naxxar

Starting time: 9am

Wednesday, April 10 – Tunnara Museum visit and walk along Marfa ridge (Cultural/scenic).

A cultural visit to the Tunnara Museum, Mellieħa Bay, with detailed explanations about the tuna fishing that used to be practised by fishermen in the bay, followed by a scenic walk along Marfa ridge from L-Aħrax to Il-Qammieħ.

Duration: Three to four hours, including museum visit

Rating: Easy to moderate

Meeting place: It-Tunnara, Għadira

Starting time: 2pm

Scenic view of Ras il-Pellegrin from the Victoria Lines.Scenic view of Ras il-Pellegrin from the Victoria Lines.

Sunday, April 14 – Cold War bunker visit and walk along the central Victoria Lines (Cultural/scenic)

A cultural visit to a British defensive outpost later adapted as a Cold War bunker, followed by a walk in close affinity to nature through Burmarrad, Wied ta’ Għajn Mula, Bidnija, Dwejra, Falka Gap and back to Tarġa Gap.

Duration: About four hours

Rating: Moderate to hard

Meeting point: Tarġa Gap entry road to Ġnien tal-Għarusa tal-Mosta

Starting time: 9am

Saturday, April 20 – Gozo mystery walk (Scenic/geological)                    

A walk mostly on rugged terrain to fully enjoy nature at its best in the spirit of the outdoor. The routes will remain mysterious. Tiny, greener Gozo may still surprise many participants with some lovely views of land and sea.

Duration: About four hours

Rating: Moderate, with some rough terrain

Meeting point: Just outside Mġarr terminal, Gozo

Starting time: 10.15am (Take the 9.45am ferry from Ċirkewwa)

Note: This is a Saturday walk!

Wednesday, April 24 –Siġġiewi countryside (Scenic)

A moderately hard walk along paths in the valleys surrounding the beautiful Siġġiewi countryside, in close touch with nature.

Duration: About four hours

Rating: Moderate

Meeting point: The Limestone Heritage, Siġġiewi bypass

Starting time: 2pm

Sunday, April 28 – Chadwick Lakes and Binġemma Fort  (Cultural/Scenic)

Participants will walk along low lanes through Chadwick Lakes and up high paths behind the Victoria Lines to reach Binġemma Fort. There will be rough terrain and steep inclines but the views are worth the exercise.

Duration: Three to four hours           

Rating: Moderate to hard, with rough terrain and inclines

Meeting point: Busugrilla roundabout, Rabat

Starting time: 9am

Everyone is invited to join the walks but it is important that beginners choose an easy walk to start with and then decide on the harder walks. The Ramblers’ Association takes great care in picking the trail but every participant is free to walk or stop at his/her discretion and is solely responsible for his/her safety. For further information visit the websites below or call 9949 7080.

http://www.ramblersmalta.org

http://www.facebook.com/ramblersmalta

Alex Vella is executive president of the Ramblers’ Association of Malta.

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