North Somerset Coast   6 comments

Back to the Easter break and another weekend in the “van-life” adventures. We’d arranged to meet THO and his missus (and dog!) for a bit of an explore of the North Somerset Coast around Porlock and Minehead.


As we drove in the weather was appalling, heavy rain and low cloud were the order of the day. As we approached the campsite (the very excellent and laid-back Burrowhayes Farm) the rain stopped and there was some semblance of blue sky.


By the time we’d pitched up, side by side in our respective campers it was a glorious sunny late evening.


Time for chilli and beers.


Next morning was a stunner. Cloudless blue skies all round.


I’ve not done much walking around here, in fact, none at all. I was keen to take a look at Selworthy Beacon as its sits over 1000 feet above the sea (and not just because it ticked a Marilyn box for me!). You can drive to the top and as you can see the views are magnificent.


Losts of potential routes and paths including the “Rugged” Coast Path!


Equally good view inland to the hills of Exmoor, here looking at the highest point of Dunkery Beacon.


The view over Porlock Weir and beach and into North Devon.


Bossington Hill.


Looking out over the Bristol Channel.


Our little four legged friend Mac. Reminding me just what a an extra pleasure it is to take a walk with a dog.


We found a wonderful perch overlooking the sea for first lunch.


Before walking along the twists and turns of the SW Coast path.


A fabulous path perched above the sea but never actually particularly rugged.


The contrast between the blues of the sea & sky, the greens of the grass and the bright yellows of the gorse was magnificent.


TBF poses for a photo.


A sharp dip into and out of a little stream filled valley.


We ate up the miles on good paths.


On the way back I took a small detour to claim the summit of Selworthy Beacon. Box ticked!

Superb walk!


Back to the campsite for a BBQ and a very convivial evening comparing VW and Ford Campers!


It was no great surprise that the next day was grey and dreary. The weather for the first 4 months of the year had delivered a seemingly endless pattern of grey days with just the odd day of sunshine.


We took the short drive and walk to claim Dunkery Beacon. Here looking back to our hill from yesterday.


It wasn’t a day to be on the high moors so we finished off the weekend with a trip to the ancient Clapper Bridge at Tarr Steps.


I remember coming here as a kid and loving it. A bit sad therefore to see that winter storms had damaged it and you can’t cross it at the moment. Repairs are planned.


We took a walk along the river Barle whuchg was very fine.


It would be a superb walk on a sunny summers day and there are plenty of spots to take a swim.


We walked back and bid farewell to our van-life companions and headed home. A cracking good weekend and area with loads of stuff to do, return trips are needed.

Easter with the Family – Ludlow Castle   4 comments

I’ve driven past Ludlow, maybe a couple of hundred times over the years either on my way to my Grandparents caravan in Wales when I was a kid or more recently on my way north from Herefordshire.


Despite this I’d never actually stopped in the town or visited the castle. Time to put that right.


We had a short wander around the town and a bite to eat before we headed to the castle.


I’m not entirely sure why, but I always had it in my head that Ludlow castle wasn’t all that good, hence I’d never been.


I was completely misinformed (or my accurately just plain wrong).


Its an excellent castle, loads of interesting stuff and very well presented.


It has its share of towers, spiral staircases (essential!) and battlements.


This is taken from the keep which you can climb to to the top of, looking out over the inner courtyard.


Its placed on a bluff above the River Teme and has some fine views out over the Shropshire countryside.


The battlement at the top of the keep.


The Jones family are always happy exploring a good castle.


The main courtyard is surrounded by several interesting buildings and rooms.


This odd little round tower is part of a church that was located in the middle of the open area.


Most castles have a chapel located within, but I’ve never seen one quite like this before.


Looking back to the keep.


The Chapel round tower.


It took us a good couple of hours to check everything out which is a good thing.


Although as is often the case, we were messing about and behaving like big kids


“Big Chair or Small Person – Discuss”


Satisfied and very happy we headed out for a look at the town.


The River Teme. The setting would have been even finer had the promise of a sunny afternoon from the weather forecast materialised.


On our way back to the car we took a look at a couple of the towns more famous medieval buildings. This one is Ye Olde Bull Ring.


This one is The Feathers Hotel with some very ornate wooden windows and panels.


And what better way to finish off a great family weekend than a slap up meal at our favourite burger restaurant, The Beefy Boys, in Hereford.

Easter with the Family – Fforest Fawr   8 comments

The Saturday looked like the best day of the weekend so we headed out early for an alfresco breakfast by the van and then a long walk.


As he doesn’t get to walk much in south Wales we gave the Prof the choice and he picked Fforest Fawr.


Its become a firm favourite, what it lacks in dramatic edges it more than makes up for with wild lonely valleys and summits that see very few visitors.


Me and TBF did a long and satisfying walk around these hills last summer and felt a repeat was well worth our time.


The Prof on the first summit of Fan Llia


Small quarries on the summit of Fan Dringarth – these would make a fine spot for a wild camp with views across to Pen y Fan and Corn Du


Heading across the very soggy valley en route to the road and the climb to Fan Nedd.


The views down the Senni Valley from up here are joyous.


The climb up to Fan Nedd is the only really steep climb of the day. We had lunch near the top before moving on.


Looking back to Fan Nedd


The highest point in the range is Fan Gyhirych (tricky one to pronounce).


There are some wide bulldozed tracks that most people seem to follow but those in the know follow the faint grassy path that follows the perfect curve of the east face.


I love this part of the walk.


The path continues all the ay along the east edge and a short hop across the end of the plateau like summit brings you over to a similar and equally fine path along the west edge.


Grand views across to the Black Mountain.


The rest of the day became a little overcast so I seem not to have taken any more photos other than this one of the Maen Madoc standing stone near the end. Its a fine walk back through Limestone country (we stopped off for a second lunch by a cave entrance) but you’ll have to check out my previous post of this route for some photos of that part. Still a fine if long day at around 14 miles.

Easter with the Family – Llangorse Lake   4 comments

I have a lot of blog catching up to do – well over a month behind now.


The Prof came home for Easter weekend so we had a few plans for some local-ish days out.


Kicking off on Good Friday with a breakfast at a very fine cafe in Hereford, The Bookshop. Bacon and Chorizo Eggs Benedict!


Then over to Herefordshire Raceway for a bit of Go-Karting.


Great fun as always at this excellent and well run facility. Just a bit sad that TJF had a bad headache and could only manage one very slow set of laps.


Speeding fix satisfied it was time to take the excitement down a notch and we headed over to Llangorse Lake for a BBQ.


It was just about warm enough but it was sunny and clear and al-fresco eating is always a good thing in my book.


A feast with a few beers was laid on and a good time was had by all.


The photos don’t really convey just how wet and soggy the grass was. We watched as several cars managed to get stuck and had great difficulty extracting themselves. You could argue we should have had sympathy but it was pretty obvious just how wet things were and there were plenty of spaces on the gravel parts.


View to Mynydd Troed.


And a last shot across the wet meadows towards the Beacons. Or Bannau Brycheiniog to give the National Park its new Welsh name. Its caused a great deal of debate and controversy down here although I have no idea why anyone should have an issue with it (other than its now much harder to pronounce!). I’m. sure most people will still refer to the area as “The Beacons” regardless

Into the Wilds (of Mid-Wales)   15 comments

Slowly getting further and further behind with blog (probably just as well its been a pretty dismal winter and spring so far or I’d be miles behind!)


Back to March for our second little adventure in the van. We were heading to Llyn Brianne having never been before and there looked like some decent spots for an off grid overnight.


We stopped off en-route at the Irfon Pool, a spot I’ve wanted to visit for a while as its in my wild swimming guide book.


And a fabulous little spot it is. A narrow gorge with deep pools and a much broader pool just at the gorge exit.


Even for a short stop, the van really comes into its own, allowing us to make a cuppa with lunch and retreat inside in comfort when the odd shower came over.


We spent a happy hour here exploring the river bank and enjoying some spells of bright sunshine.


Being out in the middle of nowhere and still in the closing days of winter we had the place to ourself.


Chilly weather, ice cold water and a river in spate meant swimming was not yet on the cards.


We had a drive around the narrow roads and valleys that surround Llyn Brianne, spying out numerous possible overnight spots before eventually pitching up at the car park near the dam. The weather had been a bit grim while driving but as we parked it looked a little brighter so we took a short walk.


Unlike the Elan Valley reservoirs, the dam here is earth with a broad and rather dramatic overflow channel. We walked over the bridge at the base, mesmerised by watching the “waves” flow down.


We scrambled up the edge of the dam and walked back across to the bridge at the top for a different perspective.


Looking back to the reservoir.


I’ve found videos of people kayaking down this although the water is very shallow. They were old videos so I’m guessing they discourage you from attempting it. One of those occasions when the signs warning how dangerous it is are correct. I’ve even seen videos of people cycling down it when its dry. Madness!


There was a small hill below the dam so we managed to find a way through the woods and bracken to the top. Great views back to the dam and reservoir.


And further south to the hill of Dinas which we’d visit later in the weekend.


On the way through we’d spotted what looked like a perfect overnight spot ona spur above the reservoir. I was worried someone might have bagged it but we managed to secure it for ourselves, likely as the weather was so grey and dreary.


There was another spot down by the shore that was also in my swimming book so we took a wander down the lane for a look.


It was a lovely little spot for a picnic and water based fun in summer. However on a wet and drizzly day we decided we’d park that idea and headed back to the van for the evening.


Another cosy and peaceful night, snug and warm, a nice chicken stew and a beer or two. The van is really delivering for us in terms of impromptu little breaks to break up the long winter.


Next morning was still damp and grey but we were happy in our quiet isolated spot


After breakfast we took a stroll around the forest tracks and down to lake shore.


The weather improved a little and we had some grand views along this little known yet pretty large and imposing body of water.


We found another little beach that would make a great spot for a swim.


We also tried to follow what looked like a path to the top of the crags overlooking our camp spot. It quickly disappeared into a tangle of trees and brambles so we gave up that idea.


A much better use of our time to have lunch.


With a cracking view from our “pitch” overlooking the lake.


After lunch we drove to the Nature Reserve that surrounds Dinas Hill.


There looked like a nice path that followed the river and so it proved


The river Tywi is a pretty dramatic sight, flowing through a steep sided valley and tumbling over boulders creating frothing pools and small falls.


An awkward walk in places with handrails and a great place to explore and possibly take a swim on a warmer summers day.


It was a fine walk to fill the after-lunch period and one that’s well worth the effort to seek out.


We took the little side excursion up steep steps to visit Ogof Twm Sion Cati. Its a cave used as a hideaway for some kind of local Robin Hood figure. This wasn’t really worth the effort though, just a damp and muddy hole without a roof. I’d hoped to maybe force a way to the top of the hill from here but the summit seemed to be surrounded by cliffs all the way round and I never saw anything resembling a path to the top.

Still a fine end to a great little weekend break.

Winter Remembrance   8 comments

Short little post-ette from a snowy walk up on Hergest Ridge above Kington.


I thought this walk was from way back in the deep mid-winter but looking at the photo dates it was March 11th, only a few weeks back.


As I’m a few weeks behind I thought when I got around to writing this it would be in warmer weather thinking back to cold winter. Seems that warm weather is taking its time to arrive this year.


This was a bitterly cold Saturday morning, all deep snow, drifts and icicles on the trees and all that.


By the afternoon the temperatures had risen and the thaw was well underway, all gone by the following morning.


Its not been a great winter, weather-wise, at least in the Shire. Largely grey and damp/wet, not much in the way of clear frosty days or proper winter snows.


I’m ready now for some warm sunshine, outdoor eating, beers in the garden etc.

Posted April 17, 2023 by surfnslide in Herefordshire, Local Walks

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Off Grid With the New Toy   13 comments

It was time to play properly with our new purchase!


We really wanted to go for an off grid night and the area around the Nant-y-Moch reservoir in the mid Wales Cambrian Mountains seemed to provide lots of options.


The weather forecast was pretty poor but we didn’t really care as we were just looking to spend time cosied up in the van. When we arrived the weather was worse than forecast with a persistent drizzle and we were in the cloud with a chilly wind. No matter, we found a sheltered lay-by at the far NW end of the reservoir and had a relaxed lunch.


We did head out for a walk for a couple of hours but it was pretty grim. We were in the cloud the entire time although it was a decent stroll anyway. Things enlivened by a stream in the forest we had to wade through! This was the scene just before we settled down in the van for the evening.


Our home in the wilds of Wales for the night.


It was great! We put the heater on and cooked up some soup for evening meal.


We felt we were the only people out here (and most likely were on such a wet and dreary night) and we enjoyed a great supper.


Chores to be done.


And then time to relax and chill while the mist swirled around us.


We had a great nights sleep and the van is so much warmer and cosier than the trailer tent.


By morning, the weather had improved and we were no longer in the clouds.


After a leisurely breakfast we headed out for a walk. There are several small Marilyns out here I haven’t climbed so a good time to tick one off. We headed out along the broad track around the lake shore. You can make out the van in the middle of the photo, just below the trees.


Whilst still a grey day it was at least bright.


And Nant-y-Moch makes for a good photo subject and views when its full in the winter. Reservoirs can look a little ugly and something of scar on the landscape as they empty through a dry summer.


Our target for the day, the small and perfectly formed hill of Drosgol.


I was scouting out and looking for the easiest way to break through the tussocks (they can be a real challenge in this largely trackless and untamed part of Wales). We found a quad track that seemed to be taking us through the lower levels and in fact twisted and turned its way pretty much to the top making for an easy ascent.


Considering how poor the weather had been the previous day the views were pretty good.


And we had a view from the summit, something of a surprise after such a grey couple of days even at this modest height of 550m. The summit has a rather odd spiral cairn.


The weather seemed to be turning again, cloud lowering and drizzle in the air.


Time to head down.

A circular route wasn’t an option as the fingers of the reservoir are long and sinuous and stepping off the path involves bog and tussocks in irresistible combination.


Back to the van for another warm and cosy lunch before heading home. When we bought the van we agreed that we needed to use it regularly and through the winter to justify the expense. As we keep it well stocked and “trip ready” it only takes an hour to pack and be ready for a short overnight trip. This first outing was a resounding success and we’re looking forward to many more short trips like this as well as our usual longer camping trips through the year

Solo Around the Beacons   11 comments

After returning from my ski trip I was at leisure on my own at home and took a trip out in the van to the Brecon Beacons.


Even just for a day out its great to park up and cook breakfast in warm comfort before heading out to the hills.


A gloomy start to the day but with some hope that maybe it might clear away from the summits.


Its still a grand promenade along the edges to the south of Corn Du. The crowds began to gather as I approached the twin main summits. The usual collection of poorly equipped and dressed people and on this occasion two different parties asking me if this was Pen y Fan when I was stood on Corn Du. I set them straight. Another couple spent at least 20 mins wandering about on Pen y Fan looking for their way down without seeming to have a clue which was the right way or even where their car was! They did have a map and compass but it didn’t seem to be helping them much.


I was able to watch this unfold as I waited around in the vain hope the clouds might clear and I’d get some spectacular views. Whilst it tried very hard to clear and there were glimpses of clear blue sky but this was as good as it got and then, only for a couple of seconds.


When I decided I’d been daft enough sitting around in the cold foggy wind for too long I headed down. Once below the clouds scudding over the summit the views did improve.


And the blue sky did appear – just not above me.


As luck would have it, Cribyn is a brutally steep climb that warmed me up after the chills on Pen y Fan.


As I wandered away down the ridge (the summit was also busy), I was treated to my first proper sunshine of the day, looking back towards the summit.


The perfect glacial valley of Cwm Cwnwyn.


After a well earned lunch stop I was quickly up onto Fan y Big.


A great viewpoint to admire the mass of Cribyn and its edge.


The ridge of Cefn Cyff.


These are the edges that run eastwards from Fan y Big and one of my favourite stretches in the National Park.


The wild valley of Cwm Oergwm.


Looking back to the high summits, Pen y Fan still re-assuringly cloud capped, justifying my decision not to hang around.


I cut across the Beacons Way to another superb edge, Craig y Fan Ddu above the deep Caerfanell valley.


By this point, the clouds had really begun to clear and there was more abundant blue sky and sunshine.


The views from this edge are fantastic, another of my favourite stretches of path and much quieter than the main routes in the Beacons.


Reluctantly I headed back down as the sun began to sink and the light fade.


Time for some arty sun/tree shots.


And a brief sit down by the stream to pause for thought and then head back to the van for a post walk cuppa in comfort.

Winter in the Alps   10 comments


Tired of the endless grey skies of the past few weeks? Let me cheer you up with some pictures of snow-capped Alpine mountains under blue skies from my ski trip a few weeks back.


A (very) early morning flight from Bristol!


High Alpine peaks above the clouds.


Snow covered peaks of the Jura mountains below them.


The swirling clouds looked fabulous from the aircraft but delivered a very cold and grey day for our day’s journey to Moutiers via Annecy before heading up to the resort.


When we left Moutiers for the short drive up to Mottaret it was -1C. When we got out of the car 45 mins later it was -14C!


Compensation in the form of a truly stunning cloudless blue sky day above with a sea of clouds beneath us.


We didn’t have any fresh snow during our week’s stay which is always a disappointment.


But we did have the best week of weather I can remember on a ski trip, 8 straight days of blue skies and sunshine, cold enough to keep the snow in good condition.


A view from the top floor of our apartment block while we waited for the cleaners to finish up.


And our apartment, right on the slopes, top of the column of 4 balconies in the middle of the phtoto.


Skiing is hungry work. We eat a lot on these weeks, A LOT!


One of my favourite views from the summit of Saulire.


And the joy of easy skiing with good mates.


Sadly between the times the above two photos were taken, I took a bit of a fall. Quite innocuous compared to some of my more spectacular falls but I seemed to have done some damage and lay in the snow in pain for several minutes. After a lunch and a large beer I felt better and skied not only the rest of the day but the rest of the week. On returning home and after X-Rays and MRI Scans, it was confirmed I’d fractured part of my shoulder blade in several places (the Corocoid Process if you’re interested). I’m now facing several months of discomfort while it heals itself. Perhaps I’m getting too old for this kind of tomfoolery.


I took things a little easier (although not much easier) the rest of the week.


I was lucky in as much as the weather was perfect and had there been any fresh snow I wouldn’t have risked skiing off piste.


The ski area is the Three Valleys but the name is outdated as for many years its had a fourth valley. This is the long wild blue run that feeds into it. Another of my favourite spots.


Looking out over the peaks of the Ecrins Massif.


And the Vanoise National Park


Mont Blanc dominates the northern skyline. Standing high and proud as the highest mountain in Europe should.


Skiing is also thirsty work, especially after a laborious trip to the supermarket. Our favourite little bar.


And it’d resident dog, who, if you’re lucky will drop a piece of chewed unpleasantness on your shoe.


The rocky peaks at the summit of Saulire and entrance to some seriously steep and scary runs.


THO enjoying the sunny slopes


And yours truly smiling through the pain.


The view out over the glaciers from the summit of Mont Vallon, one of the highest points in the area.


And looking north towards Lyon and Geneva.


Mont Vallon itself.


Late afternoon light.


More eating, this time in the apartment.


Thats Val Thorens in the left of shot, highest resort in the area and in Europe.


View south from the summit of La Masse


MM preparing for run home at the end of the day.


THO from the same spot, different day.


Towards the end of the week we had another, above the clouds, morning.


Skiing just above it and then through it was spellbinding.


Me and MM taking it all in.


Stunning pink Alpenglow from the Apartment balcony


We were really winning on the weather front if not on the fresh snow one.


Our final day and yet another sensational clear blue sky day.


The peaks of Saulire.


And one the World Cup runs that started the day after we left.


And so the trip came to a close. Just one more gluttonous extravaganza in the great little hotel in Annecy.


Flight home enhanced by some great views. Lake Geneva.


High Alpine peaks above the lake and the clouds.


A fitting end to a great trip.


Homeward bound with views over the Severn Estuary and its two bridges as we approach Bristol Airport.


And finally back home with the family as the sun sets on another memorable trip.

Winter In the Radnor Hills   10 comments

The day after my little trip back up to Yorkshire and a forecast that seemed to indicate the possibility of a cloud inversion.


We headed out to the Radnor Hills in the van as a late start meant we needed somewhere with no parking problems.


We parked up in New Radnor, heading through Mutton Dingle towards Whinyard Rocks and the shapely little summit of Whimble. This little gang followed us through the first field until they realised we hadn’t come to feed them!


It was a calm and pleasant day and whilst the fog wasn’t especially dense there didn’t look much like it was going to clear or that we’d walk through and above it.


As we started the climb to Whimble we had our first patches of blue sky.


With fleeting glimpses of Whinyard Rocks.


As we reached the summit we were still in thick cloud but as we were looking around for somewhere to sit and have lunch things began to clear and the sun came out.


We found a sheltered little alcove for a break but as the clouds drifted around us we spent most of the time wandering about admiring the ever expanding views.


We weren’t quite high enough to be truly above the clouds but this was just as impressive as hillsides appeared and the disappeared, all the while under clear blue skies above and bright sunshine.


Whimble summit.


Looking out towards the Beacons and Black Mountains.


Black Mixen and its Communications Tower.


The view directly south and east gave the best impression of the sea of cloud beneath.


Summit selfie.


Wispy clouds in Harley Dingle.


TBF strolling the summit.


And posing on the summit. We must have spent well over an hour before being compelled to move on. Fabulous stuff.


We headed back down Whimble.


And cut across the fine grassy paths and fields over to Bache Hill.


And its small cairn on a mound which I’m guessing is some sort of ancient burial site.


There seemed to be quite a bit more snow at this slightly higher elevation.


This fence creating some quite deep drifts and nice photo subjects.


Always a pleasure to walk in the snow under a sunny blue sky.


Looking along the deep valley towards Whimble.


We took a wander up to the top of Black Mixen hoping for some more above the cloud views but whilst the ethereal views of the sun through the thin clouds was unusual we didn’t see much else.


We enjoyed a bit of a potter about in the snow and started the walk back down.


The walk along the valley towards Whimble was wonderful as we dipped in and out of the clouds.


As we descended the cloud became thicker and the sunshine less frequent.


Although we did get this fine sunny view up to Whimble before we started the long drop back into New Radnor.

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