After Work on Bryn Arw   Leave a comment

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Its been a couple of years since I managed to take a walk on my way home from work. A spell of excellent weather in May prompted me to do what I should do all the time which is to keep my walking gear in the back of the car so I can take a hike whenever the weather is suitable. I have a range of short walks I can do on the way home and this is one of the best. A small hill, a short walk with fine views and always deserted at such an unusual time of day. I saw not a soul up here on such a glorious evening

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It was pretty much the perfect weather, time of year and time of day to be out in the hills

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The sky and the air clarity was exceptional. The sun at just the right angle in the sky to bring out the colours. The trees and fields that verdant shade of green that comes with late spring and the peak of growth

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Whilst I have a love of many place across Europe and beyond I often hear the comment that Britain is one of the most beautiful. Looking through these images its hard to argue with that

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Bryn Arw is also a fine viewpoint for many of my favourite walks a good number of which are my targets for post work stretches. Blorenge in the background below. Ysgyryd Mawr and the Sugar Loaf in the panorama above

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Garway Hill middle distance

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There is always time for a brew on a walk and even though I no doubt had an impatient TJS back home waiting for me to cook his tea, he could wait another 15 minutes!

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Selfie time

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Hatterrall Hill, another favourite

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I like using cairns as foreground in photos

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The Sugar Loaf, another classic after work target

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I think I’ve taken a photo of this tree every time I’ve done this walk

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And I think this shot as well. At this time of day and year the lushness and vivid green of these trees always makes me smile and get the camera out – or phone in this case

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After a long day stuck in a bland office this was a walk to really lift the spirits.

Bryn Arw

 

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Posted May 26, 2018 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Wales, Walking

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Around the Caerfanell Valley   9 comments

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One of my favourites. High edges, streams, waterfalls , a blue sky and breakfast outdoors. A perfect combination.

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The weather forecast was for a reasonable day with some sunshine. We hadn’t expected a clear blue sky morning. It was glorious

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Although the large waterfall at the start of the walk was in shadow

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The Caerfanell valley is a beauty and on a clear morning in spring the combination of blue sky, green trees and a bubbling stream is enchanting

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Even after a dry spell the path is a muddy one but with views like this, hardly a chore

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Small waterfalls cascade line the route and as I always do here I went a bit crazy with the camera. Not a bad excuse though

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We were out early – for us anyway – so the whole place was deserted

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The reason for such keen-ness? Another outdoor breakfast. Life is pretty good under a warm sun, eating a bacon and egg sandwich with a fresh cuppa

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Alas such a good day deserved a high level walk so there was some hard work to be done

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The walk directly up the slopes at the back of the photo below is one of the steepest I know but it does deliver you to a high and little frequented edge that is a real joy

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TJS was again my muse for the day

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These edges are a feature everywhere in the South Wales mountains but these are almost always deserted and have extensive and expansive views. On a clear day like this its hard to imagine a better walk

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As you reach Carn Pica (sadly with its impressive cairn now collapsed) the view open out to the high peaks of the Brecon Beacons. Corn Du and Pen y Fan always stand proud

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With the weather being so stunning we extended the walk by carrying on towards Fan y Big. After almost 3 hours walk/breakfasting from the car it was only here that we started to see people

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These edges are equally fine with equally expansive and extensive views to the north. In fact due to the peculiar geography you can make an almost a 360 circuit of the high ground along edges

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We cut back across the plateau to the southern edges again following the Beacons Way. I’ve never walked that part before and expected a bash through heather and bog but in fact it was well-marked and actually quite delightful with some new vistas

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All that walking deserved another stop for second lunch and another brew, this time perched high up on the edges

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From there it was pretty much straight down past another succession of pretty waterfalls.

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We could have stayed out longer but the forecast mentioned heavy showers that in the end never materialised. Still it was a fine walk and we’d enjoyed the best part of the day having gone out early. I’m liking the outdoor breakfasts, well worth the effort to carry the larger stove and fuel around

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Caerfanell

No idea how long the walk was as I forgot to turn off the mapping apps so it added on the 40 mile drive home. I’m guessing around 9 miles of magnificent entertainment.

At Large in London – Mixed Bag   10 comments

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For our last day we managed an eclectic mix of sights and travel. Heading first to The City we hopped off the tube at Monument, named after the – well – the Monument to the Great Fire of London. It didn’t start here but the height of the tower is the same distance from the spot where they think it started (a bakery in Pudding Lane)

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We’ve been up before and have to say the views are not that great as its overshadowed by most buildings in the area.

Our main reason for hitting The City was a trip to the top of the Sky Garden, this rather striking building also known locally as the “Walkie-Talkie”. More on that in a moment.

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We had half an hour to kill so took a wander around the district. On a Bank Holiday Monday its eerily deserted

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There are several new glass towers going up including one called “The Scalpel” clearly trying to cut the opposition down to size!

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I have to say I really like skyscrapers and especially the Gherkin. As tall office buildings full of office types and bankers ruining the country go, its a fine one (apologies to anyone who does work in there – I have no idea what they get up to)

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This is the infamous Lloyds building, the one that looks like an oversized air conditioning unit. You can imagine the drunken conversation at the Architects Guild when someone with too much Pinot Grigio in his system opined “I know, lets put all the ducting and pipework on the OUTSIDE!”. It’s a grotesque building but oddly eye-catching

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As was this rather unusual sculpture

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Back to the Sky Garden. Apparently its very unpopular with locals but I really like it. It has a form that’s graceful and sleek although it does dominate the skyline almost as much as The Shard

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What’s even better, you can go up for free (you have to pre-book your slot a week in advance though)

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The views from the top are superb. It’s a mandate of mine that all tall buildings should have the top floor dedicated to a viewing platform and that it should be free. It should be a planning condition. The Sky Garden has a place in my heart for doing just that. By comparison, the viewing platform on The Shard is not much higher and costs the best part of £100 for a family of four

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HMS Belfast

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St Pauls Cathedral

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The Shard

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Canary Wharf

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The viewing platform is only partly open air so all the photos are through glass hence the reflections spoiling the images a bit

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Tower Bridge

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The space is really well thought out, lots of light, plenty of space, views all round with a garden of indoor plants. The booking system (providing you know about it) means that its never crowded

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We spent a very happy hour up here

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As you can imagine, all that glass means it’s effectively a Greenhouse so it was getting hot and time for lunch

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A supermarket sandwich lunch by the river followed by a stroll along the Thames to catch another DLR journey to the East End

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Tower Bridge again

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The Tower of London

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The Shard

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This vista caught my eye as a juxtaposition of the very old and the very new

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Canary Wharf while we waited for a train

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Our next spot was the Olympic Park. We got off at what we thought was the shorter walk but it was eerily deserted and edgy. The Stadium was equally deserted but we could hear crowds of people.

This is the Arcelormittal Orbit, the tallest sculpture in the world (if you don’t see it as a Tower!) The very thin silver line snaking down the tower is actually a slide. It looked fun until I realised how much of a dent in my wallet it would make and thought better of it

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The crowds were actually hundreds of kids playing in the fountains on the approach from the Westfields Shopping Mall

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This is the Olympic Swimming Complex. I thought it was stunning

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More travel out to the east end. To look at these gentrified water-side houses and….

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Take a trip on the Emirates cable car across the Thames

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The queues didn’t look too bad but they insisted on not filling the cars as it was “too hot”. Much better to have people stand in the sun in a queue without any seats for almost an hour! You can imagine my thoughts on this decision!

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This did mean we got a cabin to ourselves and luckily it was worth the wait. It’s a short trip but it does go pretty high over the river and the views are excellent

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I was pleased to see the Thames Barrier for the first time

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Over all too soon and then we were off again, back past the Millennium Dome and onto another tube journey. You can climb to the top of the dome. I thought it sounded fun until  I worked out they wanted the best part of £150 for the family. Just to walk up on the roof of a tent. I passed on the idea

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One final riverside stroll along the South Bank past some now familiar landmarks

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After a nice pasta meal we took our final walk over the Millennium Bridge

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With the sun low in the sky the views were majestic

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The sun sets on fabulous weekend away

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With a last lingering look at London’s tallest building – for now anyway

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Amazing weekend and one we all enjoyed together as a family

 

At Large in London – Greenwich and Parkland   6 comments

Day two and a visit to one of the suburban villages. The trip out to Greenwich was always a popular one when I lived in London and we repeated this classic with a few enhancements on another glorious, cloudless sunny day.

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A trip on the always fun Docklands Light Railway, complete with driver-less trains to get us to the river near Canary Wharf. A view across the Thames, to ships old and new, from Island Gardens

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Under the river via the foot tunnel

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And back across to where we’d come from, the domed red brick building centre-right in the photo is the tunnel entrance on the far side

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To work up an appetite for lunch we took a walk into Greenwich Park. London has some stunning parks and this is one of the best. It has huge expanses of open grassy meadows and wooded glades with fabulous views over the eastern part of the city. Whilst there were plenty of people it never feels crowded even on a sunny bank holiday weekend

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We found a suitable spot and sat for a while to enjoy some warm sunshine and a bit of shade

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The rear of the impressive Royal Naval College

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We walked back along the river to the centre of town. A group of kayakers out on the Thames, the Millennium Dome in the background

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The Cutty Sark, now fully restored and looking as good as new after the fire

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Another market based lunch. Greenwich Market had a fine array of street food stalls and we took our fill of wraps and cakes. The nice people of the Naval College allow you to picnic on their expansive lawns.

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After all that food I felt that a beer by the river was in order so we walked back through the grounds for a very fine pint of wheat beer in the sun

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It’s an impressive building with fine views

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The best way to reach or return from Greenwich is by boat. As you can imagine its popular and we had to queue for a short while to get on a boat but well worth it.

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Past the every developing collection of towers at Canary Wharf

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Gentrified old river-side houses.

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Under Tower Bridge

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The Sky Garden and Southwark Bridge

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The Tate Modern and The Shard

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The also ever-expanding skyline of the City

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I like this shot (even if the horizon went off kilter – I blame the boat). St Pauls, The City, Waterloo Bridge and a red bus all in shot

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The London Eye and County Hall

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Seeing as we hopped off the boat at Westminster we thought we’d take a look at the Abbey

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It’s a fine building but in my minds-eye its the same colour, a golden brown, as the Houses of Parliament seen in the background. Clearly it’s not so I’ve no idea why I’ve always thought that

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The sun was in just the right place to light up its features

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We stopped off for another sit down in St James Park before walking past Buckingham Palace. The flag seemed to indicate Lizzie was at home watching TV but she didn’t return my cheery wave. Perhaps she was worried about which hat to wear at the wedding

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We continued our parkland stroll through Green Park and into Hyde Park. We had thought of walking through to the end of Hyde Park but it was hot and we felt we’d be much better served by a curry

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So an interesting mix of tube and overground trains took us to London’s curry capital at Brick Lane. Needless to say curry-holics like me and TJS were in heaven and we found a very fine curry house. TBF enlivened the chat by remarking how amazing it was that they kept the windows behind us so clean in a city. Not the most observant of people, she’d failed to notice they were patio style windows and were wide open to the street!

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Suitably refreshed we headed for home. The walk through the streets past Spitalfields Market in the setting sun was a joy

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Christ Church of Spitalfields looked very fetching in the evening light

 

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And I liked this view to the office blocks near Liverpool Street Station

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Great day out mixing rural charm with the grittier delights of east London

 

At Large in London – The South Bank   14 comments

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Regular readers know that May Bank Holiday is time for camping and gathering with old friends of long-standing. In fact we’ve been doing that for well over twenty years. This year for a variety of reasons but primarily family unity and togetherness we did something different. TJF is not much of a fan of the walking and outdoor weekends and with TJS approaching A-Levels we felt it would be better so stay closer to home. I’m also acutely aware of the fact that family holidays are coming to an end and both me and TBF wanted a trip that we could all enjoy together. After the huge successes of trips around European cities last year we decided on a long weekend away in London.

We rented an apartment in Hammersmith and with a huge slice of luck we didn’t see a cloud for the whole three days. On our first day we took in the classic South Bank area kicking off with a walk past the Tower of London and over Tower Bridge.

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The views from, and of, what is in my opinion London’s most iconic landmark were breathtaking. Along the Thames….

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Over to the City

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And City Hall and the Shard

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As if that wasn’t enough we were lucky enough to see them raise the bridge a couple of minutes after we walked across

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A fine view back across the Thames to Tower Bridge

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And the Tower of London

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Lunch was beckoning and we hit Borough Market. I love food markets and the quantity of sumptuous treats was amazing. We feasted on burgers, wraps, paella, fruit, cakes and fudge – along with about a million other people it seemed. It’s not the place to avoid the crowds.

Southwark Cathedral where I planned to eat our picnic but they don’t let you take food through to the gardens any more 😦

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Time to work off that lunch with a walk along the South Bank. One of the best city walks. I remember a visit to London in the late 80’s and walking along here, thinking how down-beat and edgy it was. Nowadays its a stunning parkland style walk with plenty of sights all with views across and along the river.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

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St Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge

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We took a walk over the bridge to take a closer look at the cathedral

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It looked stunning, gleaming white under a clear blue sky

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We took a trip to the roof garden of a shopping mall (don’t remember the name) from where you get a good close up view

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Then back across the river to the impressive Tate Modern. Since I was last here they have opened a new viewing platform and its wonderful. Considering its free and open to all it offers a superb view across the city

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We decided not to look at the art. As I’ve described before, proper culture is wasted on us and besides it was too nice a day to sit inside

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Having said that we were on our way to an indoor visit. I’d deliberately avoided the usual tourist hot spots as the weather was so good and I was reluctant spend money! We continued our walk along the South Bank towards Westminster

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Past the London Eye and County Hall. London is always busy but it was mental around here

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And over to the Houses of Parliament. I actually had no idea you can take a tour on Saturdays and Sundays and expected it to be booked up months in advance but easily managed to book a self guided audio tour. It was excellent, really informative and comprehensive. Having seen the various rooms, chambers, House of Lords and House of Commons many times it was pretty cool to be able to see them close up. Our enjoyment was further enhanced when TJS told us he’d mistakenly been given a child audio tour by mistake! 🙂

Its well worth the trouble to take a tour if you are in London over a weekend. You can’t take photos inside unfortunately so you’ll have to take my word for it that its fabulous inside

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We finished off the day with a walk along the Mall to Trafalgar Square and a slap up Chinese Meal in Chinatown

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I think we walked further than if we’d been out in the mountains as usual

Down a Few Degrees on Hergest Ridge   14 comments

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A week after summer seem to have arrived, all warm weather, shorts and clear blue skies we took a stroll on Hergest Ridge. A nice easy Sunday afternoon wander. What the photos don’t show was just how bitterly cold it was. In this maddest of weather years so far temperatures fell from the low 20’s to cold enough for snow in less than a week.

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We wrapped up warm, winter clothing on and walked briskly from one end of the ridge at Kington to the other at Gladestry

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The mountains were dark and gloomy and we had several spots of rain that threatened a burst of heavier stuff but it stayed dry

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I liked these moody looking clouds

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Just before we reached the car and seemingly from nowhere (no more than 15 minutes after the moody cloud shot) we were treated to a sudden and expansive patch of blue sky and sunshine

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It was actually quite warm in the sun – more weather madness

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We didn’t stop for any of the 6 mile walk – it was far too cold other than this short spell

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Out and back from the car in less than two hours for for a dose of warm/cold winter/spring/summer weather. Hard to know what season we are in at times

Hergest Ridge

Posted May 15, 2018 by surfnslide in Mid Wales, Wales, Walking

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Breakfast in the Sun   15 comments

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I’m a bit behind on the blog again so let me take you back to the recent spell of hot weather. No, not that one, the one before that, must have been mid-April, maybe. Anyway a few days of hot sunny weather had us planning a some wild camping but forecasts of heavy storms put me off. The best of weather seemed to be Saturday morning and we didn’t want to waste it driving and packing. Me and Sherpa Junior were up and out early with plans to have breakfast on Table Mountain. The day began with a relentless and steep climb to Table Mountain

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There were clouds gathering and I feared that the promised storms were on their way earlier than predicted

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Not before we reached Table Mountain though where the skies were clear again and after a wander about we settled down for a feast

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I’ve often thought about camping up here but its not nearly as flat as it looks from a distance. In fact its extremely lumpy and you’d do well to find a spot flat enough for one person to sleep in comfort

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Its a fine place though and this early in the morning we had it to ourselves.

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The views across the Usk valley to the Brecon Beacons are superb

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We feasted on freshly cooked bacon and egg butties and homemade bread. TJS was sceptical that I could both transport safely and then fry an egg on a  camping stove but I am a man of many skills and managed both without even breaking the yolk. Masterful

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Suitably stuffed we headed off to burn off the calories we’d just consumed.

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Looking back to the very distinctive Table Mountain

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It’s a long high stroll across the two summits of Pen Cerrig Calch and Pen All Mawr, the former with the distinction of a Limestone cap above the more resistant rocks. White limestone boulders seem oddly out of place amongst peat and heather

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We arrived on the latter and bid good morning to a couple of backpackers. They looked a little unhappy, possibly due to the enormous packs they were carrying and the fact they looked dressed for winter (waterproofs, woolly hats etc). It was hot and sultry and most definitely shorts and t-shirt weather.

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The views were hazy now but it was still warm and we sat on the summit and had a brief rest and power-nap

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The clouds rolled in and we were treated to a brief light shower that seemed to herald the storms. A few minutes later it was clear again and blue skies were back in the ascendency. We ambled down the long ridge of Tal Trwynau, one of my favourites.

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Rather than trudge back down the road to the car we climbed halfway back up the hillside to the fine traversing path across the flanks of the hills we’d been up earlier. A little navigational incompetence from me added some unexpected fences and walls to cross but otherwise a fine finish as the clouds started to look threatening again (although the storms never amounted to much and we’d have been fine camping out)

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A good 10 miles under the belt and pushing towards 3,000 feet of ascent.

Table Mountain

 

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