A repeat of a walk I did with TJS at the same time last year. This time he was off on a school trip to France and TJF was in a actting workshop. Me a TBF had a few hours to complete a walk before we picked her up. It was something of a brisk walk to make sure we got back in time to pick her up but it’s a fine walk. This year we stopped in the churchyard for lunch. There is a full write up at the link here so I’ve just included a few choice photos and slideshow for this version
I like the title of this post as a possible title for a book I will never write. I’ve developed quite a fondness for small hills and this one on my doorstep is real favourite. Located just on the fringes of the Black Mountains, themselves relatively quiet, this hill I guess sees few visitors. I’ve been up many times and rarely seen anyone on its summit or lower slopes.
I’ve posted walks up here a couple of times before (read a post here with more words), so here a few pictures from a winter day when we all grabbed a short walk between the rains that swamped the UK back in January
My mate GM has recently moved south to Worcester and I’d been keen to show off some more of the local mountains. He came down for a weekend just after New Year and the Saturday coincided with decent forecast so together with trusty sidekick, TJS we headed for a day on the high peaks of the Brecon Beacons. Me and TJS had done a similar route about a year ago in snow so a repeat was in order. You can read about that trip here.
There were clouds hugging the summits when we set off in a cold wind but plenty of blue sky filled gaps and our hopes were high. The morning views were grand.
We cut the corner off to hit the edge as direct as we could and although we avoided the bog the slope was lung-bustingly steep. Advantage was that we were quickly up high and to see the summits and sky clearing. It was turning into a cracker.
We made swift progress along the ridge towards Corn Du where we saw the gathering masses. both Corn Du and Pen y Fan were smothered with people but it was far too good a day to be worried about crowds and when you have a 360 blue sky panorama on a crystal sharp day, they seem to melt into the background.
We had a lovely sheltered lunch on the slopes of Pen y Fan, playing plane spotting with my phone app to pass the time
We avoided the crowds on the climb to Cribyn by hugging the northern edge. There is a fine grassy shelf about halfway up that just begs a wild camp (NB, bring water!). The views just got better and clearer as we crested Cribyn and strolled along the edge.
Our plan had been to head down from there, but the weather was so stupendous that we just carried on up to Fan y Big.
As we sat for a snack on the summit we discussed the possible chance that the Northern Lights were supposed to be visible that night. Almost on a whim we decided to stay up high for as long as we could.
We wandered around on the summit and watched the sun turn the whole landscape a mixture of glorious golden reds and browns as it set. The Moon was big in the sky and I managed to get some pretty decent shots including some aircraft shots, not too shabby seeing as I didn’t have a tripod and these were hand-taken.
It was absolutely magnificent. An hour rushed by and I reeled of loads of photos of hills and sunset alike. No sign of the Northern Lights but to be honest they would have had to have been pretty special to beat the light show we were looking at now.
Eventually the cold and ensuing darkness forced us to head down – that and the fact there was a roast dinner waiting for us. The bright moonlight made walking in the dark an easy process although TJS wasn’t all that keen. I kept telling him it was good practice but he didn’t seem to get it :)
We were back at the car in total darkness, tired but massively fulfilled after a terrific day. We watched for the Northern Lights all the way home and from the garden through the evening but never saw them. To be honest they weren’t missed!
Well, it’s April in the real world but January 2nd on my blog, still playing catch up and at the moment I doubt I ever will without some concerted work. Mind you at least a damp dreary and uninspiring weekend at home has given me some writing space and a lack of activity to fall further behind.
January 2nd and another stormy looking day but with the promise of a little more sunshine. With the whole family plus TBFs mum in tow we needed an easy stroll. The hills above Aberedw fit that bill nicely. Check out my previous long walk up here and shorter family stroll from summer 2012.
To make a decent circular I dropped everyone off at the start and drove the car further up the road.
It had rained heavily on the drive but by the time we set off it had stopped. It was going to be a stroke of luck to avoid a soaking at some point in the day. The watery start to the new year was emphasised by the fact that there was water welling up through the tarmac on the road like a spring! A rainbow appeared to cheer me on my way along the brisk 2km walk back down the road to catch up with the family.
I passed yet another large group of trail bikes destroying another section of path. It’s becoming a rare day around here when you don’t see or hear these infernal machines on a hill walk. The damage they cause is immense. An issue that is really starting to bother me enormously. :(
I rejoined the rest of the clan and we wandered up onto the moors. The lower slopes were a soup of mud and water but the views, dark stormy clouds and sunshine were great lighting up the browns of the common to great effect.
The usual brew up was just about completed before everyone got too cold and we followed the edge of the low cliffs to the small lake at the heart of the moor.
As we wandered along the moors the weather improved and the low light was sublime.
TJF is not the fastest of hikers and I began to wonder if we could reach the car before it got dark. It was further along the path past Farlan Pool and on to Glannau Pool than I remember. The pace was a little slower than I’d have liked but she seemed to be enjoying the walk which is the main thing.
I’d planned to follow a long raking path that returned to the road along a huge zig-zag. Unsurprisingly in such a little-walked area, the first section was vague in the extreme, and the second non-existent. We just headed straight down hoping that we wouldn’t become entangled in trees and undergrowth and luckily it worked and we were back at the car in the last vestiges of daylight. Luck had indeed given us a stroke as we remained dry
Other than an absolute soaking on Garway Hill when I went out on the last day of the holiday just to escape the maddening bore of being stuck at home in ceaseless rain that was the end of my New Year walks. Considering how awful the weather was, I didn’t do too badly :)
More rain over New Year but another day of morning rain followed by a promising afternoon. I needed another quick jaunt close by. I recalled mention by James over at Backpackingbongos that The Begwyns were rather fine although I had no idea where they were. A quick look at the map revealed they were close by (just north of Hay on Wye), low in height and high in car parking – perfect!
I parked at the eastern end and planned an easy out and back to the high point. By the time I set off the morning deluge had been replaced with glorious clear sky and stunning low angled winter sunshine. The way it lights up the bracken and grass is mesmerising, more than making up for the lack of flowering colour at this time of year
The views north to the mysterious Gladestry and Llanbedr and Glascwm hills and south to the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons were stupendous
The ground underfoot was completely sodden but I fair glided across the grass. There is something just smugly satisfying about a dramatic change in weather and the good fortune to be able to take advantage of it.
There are numerous small humps and bumps and I wandered with no particular direction taking in whatever I felt like, figuring I could vary the route on the way back by taking in some slightly different humps and bumps. The close cropped grass is excellent for such a stroll and the whole area would make a wonderful warm place for a laze on the grass (in fact we did just that last weekend up here – post to follow – well, whenever!)
The crowning point of the Begwyns is a patch of pine trees completely surrounded by a stone wall. Called The Roundabout it’s not clear what it’s for or why it’s there. There was a information board but no mention of it. If anyone out there knows it’s history I’d appreciate some insight
I wandered about snapping photos but the clouds were rolling in again and light was fading. I pushed on back to the car taking in the fantastic light and some lovely reflections of the ponds to the south.
It was pretty much dark as I reached the car.
The continuing theme of short afternoons over New Year continued and I was quite enjoying it. Nice to have a long lazy lie in and still get out for a walk – sometimes I wonder if I’m cut out for the big mountain days :)
Those nice people at GO Outdoors sent me through a pair of North Ridge Agility Pro Trousers to review so here’s my thoughts.
A fairly standard pair of soft-shell walking trousers and first impressions were good. Manufacturing quality was excellent. Well shaped with a lighter material around the knee for easier stretching. The waistband is also comfortable with a softer more cushioned feel and a sturdy belt and fixing. I’ve noticed with a few trousers that I’ve bought that the belt is thin and can cut into you. It’s also almost completely enclosed that holds the trousers up well although this also has some disadvantages which I’ll come to later.
There are two side pockets but these are unzipped. I was about to say that this could be a disadvantage in wet weather but seeing as I rarely do the zips up on my other trousers and never get water in that way I doubt it’s a real issue. There is a zipped back pocket but personal preference is for one on the side – I often use that to hold my compact camera or phone if it’s not raining. I rarely use rear pockets as – ahem – there isn’t much in them when my ample behind is also in that space. :)
The leg has a zipped section at the foot to fit over gaiters or larger boots. All the zips have a good solid, well made feel. I have a real dislike for trousers that sag, leaving that cold gap between shirt and waist so I like trousers either with braces or some loops to attach them to. These trousers (and most makes to be fair) don’t have these but you can usually fit them around the belt. Except here as the aforementioned enclosed belt precludes that
In terms of comfort well these are a big win. I have to say they are the most comfortable walking trousers I’ve ever worn with a soft feel. Some other non-lined trousers can be a bit harsh, almost abrasive but these are like a second skin.
Now onto the most important outdoor criteria, wind resistance, durability and waterproofing. I always try to be fair with my reviews setting my comments in the context of the manufacturers claims and the price point. RRP for these is about £70 but they are much cheaper in most instances. That places them firmly in the mid-range end. However in use when compared to the description the performance does not quite live up to expectations. They are described as wind and water “resistant” so what was the problem
I gave these a thorough work-out on a very windy and wet 1 hour walk on the coast of mid-Wales. The wind seemed to go straight through them and worse they were in no way water resistant. The water pretty much came straight through with no evidence of any beading of water at all. I’ve since washed them in waterproofing solution that has improved this a little. After an hour they were completely sodden with water running down my legs and into my socks which were also sodden. Whilst for less than £50 you can’t expect great things, the fact that they failed so badly even to keep a minimum amount of water out was very disappointing. End result is I’m reluctant to wear them when there is a threat of heavy rain. I did try them out in less heavy rain but they still gave me no water protection at all. Their light weight also means I’d wear a thermal layer beneath them in cold winter conditions although again to be fair they don’t claim to be 4 season.
In terms of durability I’ve worn them maybe a dozen times and they still look like new so good marks there. However due to their lightweight construction I am a little sceptical about the terms “active technical use” and “rigours of scrambling” but to be fair in terms of durability they haven’t let me down yet.
Comfort, Well Made, Light Weight
Poor water resistance, poor wind proofing, no braces or attaching loops
In summary if they could just improve the water resistance (or play down the claims a little) these would be an excellent 3 season soft-shell trouser and I plan on using them alot more over the coming months (the fact that this has been the wettest winter on record has meant I haven’t used them as much as I’d like). Considering the price I would have been giving these a 5 star rating had they been at least moderately rain resistant. However in light of that one aspect I’d have to drop this down to only 3 stars.
Thanks to GO Outdoors for giving me a pair to try out. I didn’t include any photos as there are some on the website and to be honest most walking trousers especially blacks ones aren’t exactly Hollywood. You can check them out for yourself on the Go Outdoors page and their full range of walking trousers are in the web links below:
And rain it did. We had a day of solid rain and after another morning of it I was going stir crazy. 1pm it stopped and I reckoned I had enough time for a very quick blast into the Black Mountains. The nearest spot is Black Hill at the end of the Cats Back ridge so the plan formed itself as I only had a couple of hours daylight. I’ve done this walk and it’s derivatives many times before in many seasons so you can read about previous visits in May 2011, January 2012, July 2012, May 2013
This time I decided to walk up the road to the path at the head of the Olchon Valley and return along the ridge in the hope that the clearing weather would be at it’s best just as it was getting dark. It was dark stormy and very windy when I set off.
Now for reasons that escape me I had decided that trail shoes would be ideal for these conditions. Within 5 minutes I had reached a flood that filled the road completely. Being something of an agile sort I fashioned a technical route around by hanging onto a fence above the water. Being something of a clumsy sort I promptly fell off into the water. No need to worry about how waterproof my trail shoes were as the water was shin deep.
I squelched on safe in the knowledge that I had the answer to a question I’d posed myself as to what trail shoes are like in winter when your feet are wet. Answer = wet (and cold).
There were a few hardy souls out but in essence I had the mountains to myself. The streams were roaring to compete with the howling wind.
The photos show I hope the flavour of the afternoon, essentially very dark with the threat of storms in all directions
Still, after a couple of days indoors I enjoyed the bracing air and the sense of challenge from walking in wild conditions with light fading. I was back at the car before dark, glad to get my soaking trail shoes off and head home for the warm comforts and couch potato fulfilling activities that I’m best known for