A Couple of Short Strolls on Merbach Hill   10 comments

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Merbach Hill has been receiving a lot more of our attention in the past couple of years. Lockdown meant it was one of the few walks we could do and since then we’ve come to appreciate it anew.

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Rather than parking near the top for a short walk I’ve now come up with a longer route that takes in some fine views for more of a half day out from Bredwardine.

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These first few photos are from a walk back in early April when the Prof came home. Seems I forgot to write a post about it.

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The first stretch is through a small forest reserve before picking up the Wye Valley Walk.

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The views out over the Marches are rather excellent.

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And there were still cute little lambs for us to coo at.

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Merbach Hill Summit overlooking the Wye Valley.

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And a chance for our first al fresco breakfast of the year.

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Interlude. A couple of photos from a walk I did a few weeks back with some work mates I hadn’t seen since before the Pandemic. Its from the Cotswold Edges above the Severn Estuary at Coaley.

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It was great to see them and re-kindle the banter we used to enjoy while we worked together at EE/BT. An easy meet up as they both live north of Bristol and I now work in Gloucester. A fine (if overgrown!) walk finished off with a pint and a burger in a local pub.

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Back to Merbach Hill and the same route this time with TBF and her sister S a couple of weeks back. A much sunnier day if a little windy.

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More great views over the Marches

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Everything looking very lush and green.

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Over the River Wye to mid-Wales.

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The grass is long and the wildflowers adding a splash of colour.

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The Black Mountains from the summit.

It took a while to find a sheltered sport out of the wind for another outdoor breakfast tucked into the old quarry workings on the top.

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Out of the wind it was warm and summery. Sadly this route will be out of commission for a few months as many of the paths are already overgrown with bracken and nettles which will only get worse until they die back in the autumn.

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Epilog. As I mentioned, I now work in Gloucester a couple of days a week. The office is in a rather down at heel part of the city but a little exploration has opened a nice walk around some of the nicer parts of the city, the rejuvenated waterfront and of course the magnificent cathedral.

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I walk the circuit on a lunchtime stroll and combined with the 10 min walk each way from the car park gets me close to my hours exercise a day.

Jubilee Weekend Break – Whitby   9 comments

Last part of our little Yorkshire Jubilee trilogy.

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I’ve always fancied seeing Whitby having heard good things about it. Obviously its now very much a tourist hotspot but still a worthwhile day out. Another excellent park and ride service and we were in the town and ready for lunch.

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Seafood is the name of the game in Whitby and I’d noted several places. None took bookings and things weren’t looking hopeful as I saw the queues outside the first few. However The Fisherman’s Wife cafe not only had a table but a window seated one overlooking the sea. The food was fabulous, the service friendly and as an added bonus, we were treated to a show of dolphins playing in the waves just off shore. A great start to the day and we were very lucky indeed to get a table judging by the long queue when we left.

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We took a stroll onto the sands but decided we’d get a better view of the dolphins from up on the pier.

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There are piers on both sides of the harbour and they jut out quite a distance. The dolphins were heading back out to sea but we still had some decent views.

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It was pretty chilly so we walked back into town and around the harbour.

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Despite the crowds its a charming place full of gift shops and many places selling trinkets made from Jet, a local black rock.

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Lots of sweet shops as well to sucker in the willing tourist dollar.

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We wandered out onto a small pier then out onto the long east pier.

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Looking out to both piers, each with its own lighthouse.

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The quaint little street heading out to the East Pier, most of the houses seemed to be tourist rentals which can’t be good for the long term and out of season life of the town.

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The cliffs to the east of town.

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One of the “Pirate” boats heading out on a trip.

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The harbour entry protected by the twin lighthouses.

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The wooden platform on the final stretch had some quite substantial gaps!

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Looking back to the Church of St Mary.

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And back across to the harbour.

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The famous 199 steps that take you up to the church and abbey.

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Superb views across the harbour and to the Cleveland coast.

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Church of St Mary.

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And Whitby Abbey.

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We headed up to catch the bus via the cliffs to the west. More great views across the beach and piers.

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The church and abbey.

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And back across the harbour and town.

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The Captain Cook memorial. He isn’t actually from Whitby as I thought but he was from North Yorkshire. The memorial is more to the men who built his ships.

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And the Whalebone Arch. Donated to the town from a village somewhere in Alaska although the plaque was a bit vague as to precisely what the link was between the two places.

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A final shot along the west beach while we waited for the bus.

An excellent long weekend away and made me realise I need to come back and explore this part of the world more often.

Jubilee Weekend Break – Scarborough   9 comments

One of the intentions for the weekend was to explore some places we’ve never been. All of us have quite a liking for cheesy seaside resorts so off to Scarborough. A handy park and ride service saved us the hassle of trying to find and then pay for a parking space.

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It made a great contrast to the city sights of York to then be walking on the beach.

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And Scarborough has two very fine beaches indeed. This is the main Town beach, South Bay.

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Its fronted by the usual array of tacky gift shops and slot machine arcades but I really like that. Its very quintessentially British and I liked Scarborough all the more because of it. It also a very nice and pretty harbour, again something I always enjoy a walk around.

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After a chippy lunch we set off on a long walk back across the South Bay beach. The rather grand looking building is the aptly named Grand Hotel. It seems every traditional resort has one of these hotels and they are all struggling to compete with the soul-less modern equivalents. We took a look inside and it would be worth staying just to ascend its magnificent staircase. Sadly looking at reviews it’s need of major investment, likely millions of pounds to restore its glory. I hope it happens some day as from the outside its a stunning building.

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The sun was slowly breaking through as we walked across the beach.

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A superb spread of sand.

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A walk through the bland centre of town (and a stop for ice cream) brought to us a stunning view of the equally impressive and much less touristy North Bay beach. I was immediately taken with this stretch as well.

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Even though we didn’t walk the sands (we didn’t have time) I was impressed by the great looking waves and vowed to come back for some kayak surfing some day.

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Off to another of the towns major attractions, the castle.

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Whilst not the most exciting of ruins to look at (there isn’t much left), its position high on the headland gives superb views across both bays.

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South Bay and Harbour.

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North Bay.

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The castle Keep overlooking a couple of guys putting on a show for the kids. They were superb, really throwing themselves into it and very funny. The small gathering of kids were absolutely loving it and the big kid in me was as well. They deserved a bigger audience.

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We took a wonderful stroll around the grounds and as we did the skies cleared and the sun came out with a vengeance.

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The Cleveland coast.

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After the compulsory deep fried donut (you just have to) we took another long walk across the beach to catch the bus back to the car.

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The Grand Hotel looking even more resplendent in the afternoon sun.

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It was a gorgeous afternoon if a little windy but we were more than satisfied with our day out and Scarborough is a cracking little place.

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The Spa Bridge from the bus stop.

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As the weather was so stunning we decided on a stop for a pint and some food on the way back. A bit of research and we came up with the Stone Trough Inn near Kirkham Abbey. A fab little find, beautiful little valley and cracking pub with nice food and refreshing pint of cider.

Finished off the day with a movie. The weird, surreal, hilarious and touching oddity that is “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once”. Highly recommended!

Jubilee Weekend Break – York   11 comments

No-one had told me but apparently the end of May Bank Holiday had been moved to make a long weekend with the Queen’s Jubilee extra Bank Holiday. Time for a weekend away! I’d thought perhaps accommodation prices might have skyrocketed but a quick search and we found a lovely little house in York for a very reasonable price. A UK city break with a chance to explore a part of the world I don’t know was set.

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Our first day was in York, gorgeously sunny, we took the short walk to the city and were soon on our first walk around the city walls.

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The massive York Minster dominates the skyline.

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The city walls are excellent, complete about 70% round with just a few bits of road walking to complete the circuit. In most places the grassy banks have been left to grow wild with lots of flowers, adds an additional charm to the walk.

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This is the Red Tower, some kind of guard tower and the only building on the walls that’s brick-built.

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It was a lovely morning to stroll around the walls.

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Cliffords Tower

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The river Ouse.

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The Multangular Tower

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Bootham Bar, one of the many impressive gateways into the city.

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Its the start of my favourite section of the walls that encloses the Minster on one side with fantastic views over its lawns and gardens.

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We walked this section several times.

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The Minster itself is a massive construction. Sadly poor planning and bit of poor weather on the last day meant we were unable to take a look inside. Excuse to come back and all that.

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We occupied the rest of the day with an excellent lunch in the Guy Fawkes Inn, more wanders along the wall and an extended stop for a couple of afternoon beers from a pub on college Green.

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We went further afield over the next couple of days (to come in later posts) planning another day to explore York on our last day. Sadly the weather forecast was poor and it was raining by the time we were up about. TJF was struck down with a cold so stayed in bed for the morning. The rest of us went out for a walk in the rain. Bootham Bar from the other side.

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It stopped raining once we reached the city so we went for a long walk along both banks of the Ouse.

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A fine walk through parkland and grassy tree-lined paths.

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We took another circuit of the walls on our way to the house.

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I would really enjoy this as a regular daily walk if I lived in the city.

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One of York’s many narrow central streets. Its most famous is The Shambles but was way too crowded for photos. Its quaint in a twee sort of way but it has a couple of Harry Potter themed shops that people were queuing to get into that was adding to the general melee – not quite sure why you’d want to queue for that.

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This is Monk Bar that we used many times to access the walls.

After a fine lunch in Italian restaurant just down the road from there we decided to head home as the weather looked like was turning for the worst (indeed it rained most of the drive home). A great city and we have plenty of unfinished business (the Minster, Cliffords Tower, Castle Museum etc) there to make a return very worthwhile and as you’ll see from the next couple of posts plenty of excursions nearby.

Breakfast in the Beacons   10 comments

A sunny day forecast and time for al fresco eating. Taking breakfast stuff on a walk means an earlier start, more chance of a parking space and of course, eating outside is a pleasure.

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One of favourite Beacons route was the choice with a perfect breakfast stop a few minutes walk from the car.

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It was quite chilly when we set off, concerns that it might be a cold breakfast. Luckily that few minutes is very steeply up hill to warm you up.

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This is a walk with plenty of waterfalls, this is one of the one’s on the Nant Bwrefwr (yes, you try and pronounce that one!)

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Superb morning views as we arrived at our chosen spot.

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Perfection – grassy seat (although I brought my own), sparkling stream, warm sunshine and sheltered from the wind.

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Bacon and egg sandwich and a cuppa is a great way to start a hike.

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Repast over it was time to climb the steep path on to the edges above the Caerfanell Valley.

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Sadly we timed it badly, there was (shock) a running event on (there seems to be one every day in. summer) so we shared the path hundreds of sweaty athletes. I remember the days when taking to the hills was to relax and savour the scenery rather than a competition.

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Luckily we only had to put up with the crowds for about 30 mins before we struck off on the Beacons Way. I’ve come to love the path that cuts the corner over towards Fan y Big. It can be soggy, but its quiet and has some oustanding views over the Heads of the Valleys and out to the Bristol Channel.

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You arrive suddenly on the north facing escarpment and this fabulous view over the perfect U-shaped glacial valley of Cwm Oergwn.

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The views back across to Fan y Big, Cribyn, Pen y Fan and Corn Du were also rather grand. We decided against the out and back to Fan y Big, choosing to create a time window for another long food and brew stop. The edge that heads east towards Waun Rydd and Carn Pica is one of my favourites, easy level strolling above a steep drop and spectacular views out into mid-Wales

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We chose the equally fine edges to the south of Carn Pica for our break. Hardly anyone walks this part so we had it to ourselves save for a very pleasant couple and their gorgeous and very friendly greyhound called Biscuit who we met on the top.

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I find cairns make fantastic foreground shots on a sunny day and I never resist the temptation to include them

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This short photo reverie fortified me for the very steep descent down towards the Caerfanell waterfalls.

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Looking up to that very steep descent.

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And up to the edges we walked with the runners earlier in the day.

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Caerfanell valley is stunning with lots of small falls.

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TBF decided a swim was in order although in truth it wasn’t really deep enough. The sun had gone in so I took the role of official photographer.

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The walk has a little sting in the tale, requiring a short and steep climb back up to the car. More waterfalls but they are hidden deep in the forest. One day I must try and bushwhack along the stream and take a closer look.

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A fine view through the trees as we finished the walk. A classic, one of our favourites and all the better for the breakfast by the stream.

Sugar Loaf Return   7 comments

Second solo walk of that weekend and this time up early to catch what I thought, would be the best of the weather and an outdoor breakfast.

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I’d not been up the Sugar Loaf for about a year so that was the choice.

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Started out well with some blue sky and sunshine.

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But soon the clouds started to thicken.

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And there was a gloomy band of low cloud and mist that seemed to be inching its way towards me.

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It was a humid and sweaty climb to the top, all the while looking like rain was imminent.

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I didn’t linger long on the top and figured if I was going to have a dry breakfast I’d better do it quick.

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I hunkered down behind a wall with spits of rain in the air but still enjoyed my cheese and chorizo quesadillas and cuppa.

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I thought as rain was clearly coming I’d head down into the woods of St Mary’s Vale for shelter and as I’d never been there before.

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It was a lovely section and one I’m surprised its taken me almost 20 years of walking these parts to discover.

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When I emerged from the forest half an hour later, the rain clouds had completely disappeared.

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And the blue skies and sunshine had returned.

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Hard to feel bitter about missing a sunny breakfast when you have the cute little wild foals and their spindly little legs for company.

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The last stretch back to the car along Mynydd Llanwenarth was lovely on the broad grassy paths.

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The Beacons were now clear of cloud.

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The gloom that I thought was ending the dry part of the day had just vanished. It was quite odd in a way.

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The mighty Blorenge.

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And the Clydach Gorge above Gilwern. Back home just after lunch to mow the lawn and watch a nerve shredding game of football.

Stanner Rocks   8 comments

First of a couple of short posts from when I was Home Alone while the Funsters visited the Mom-in-Law.

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Weather was showery and uncertain so a short walk was in order in case I got a soaking (which I never did).

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I repeated (or tried to) a walk me and TBF had done last year to take in the interesting little summit of Stanner Rocks.

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All was going to plan (after what is becoming a recurring theme of Andy vs Nettles on Old Radnor Hill) until I realised that the freshly baked scone I’d bought to enjoy with my afternoon cuppa on the summit was still in the car. Cue an amendment to the route to return to the car (hoping none of the locals noticed me returning to the car and then heading off again. From there I just did my planned route in reverse, skirting the base of Worsell Woods (where I saw a fox – very exciting) before climbing to the top of Stanner Rocks.

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The views were as always, excellent. Hergest Ridge and Hanter Hill.

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Bradnor Hill and Herrock Hill.

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And along the valley towards Kington.

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I was happy, I promise. Never seem to able to smile on a selfie even though I’d scoffed the scone which was excellent.

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I was disappointed that Red Wood didn’t seem to have the same display of bluebells as last year but the walk through the woods was nice.

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The final stretch back to the car across the fields was another frustrating affair. Every stile completely overgrown with nettles (why do they seem to like stiles so much). Cue much bashing with whatever sticks I could find but still raw legs by the time I was done even though I had trousers on. I lost a pair of crappy old sunglasses in the melee as well.

Oh well – not a bad if rather skin-irritated walk.

A New Circuit of Fforest Fawr   6 comments

When you need a walk in south Wales, away from the crowds, Fforest Fawr is the place to go. Empty car parks, empty hills and wide grassy summits for easy strolling on a summer Saturday.

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I reckon I’d found a nice long circuit from the small and pretty parking area at the base of Fan Llia and Fan Nedd and we set off along the Beacons Way on a day tailor made for walking, warm and with a pleasant cooling breeze.

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We were soon gaining height and onto the summit of Fan Llia.

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A beautiful day with only ourselves and few runners in an event for company.

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Looking across top Pen y Fan and Corn Du.

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Its never too early for a food and brew stop (even if I had forgotten the milk).

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Looking at the next summit Fan Nedd, the only really steep climb of the day.

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Rewarded for the effort with fine views of the Afon Senni valley.

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Looking back to Fan Nedd.

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The perfect curves on the east face of Fan Gyhirych. Still struggling with the correct pronunciation of this one!

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We stopped for another long lunch break to enjoy the views.

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The summit is a featureless expanse of grass and bog but the edges that surround it are wonderful and worthy of the effort to follow them around.

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Looking down to the Cray reservoir.

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And out to the Black Mountain.

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Heading south the scenery changes as you enter Limestone country. All sink holes and caves (and a fab little wild camp spot earmarked for another day).

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We took a succession of small tracks and paths heading for the Beacons Way, coming across an oddly dressed group of cavers in the middle of nowhere.

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The weather was wonderfully clear, setting off the green lawns and white limestone outcrops to perfection.

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It was turning into quite a long walk with some serious miles to cover and a couple of valleys to walk through to reach the car. On a day like this just a delight.

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A final climb back up onto Sarn Helen, an old Roman Road and we were heading back to the car, over 13 footsore and happy miles in the bank.

Nether Wasdale – The Rest of the Weekend   11 comments

Sadly, the weather the rest of the weekend didn’t quite live up to the promise of the first day. However we are nothing if not resilient and still managed to pack in plenty of good stuff.

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On the Saturday we planned a hike over Muncaster Fell. Its a great little hill, small in stature but big in views and interest and being off the main drag, very quiet.

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We parked up at Muncaster Castle and started up the ridge. This is the very fine Muncaster Tarn.

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As befits our Modus Operandi, we stopped on the top for a very long lunch and to chat/bicker/banter!

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It was bright when we set off but the forecast was for rain moving in through the afternoon so the views began to disappear into murky cloud as the walk and the day progressed.

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When out in a large group with an uncertain forecast, what you need is an easy trouble free walk and Muncaster Fell delivers that perfectly.

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The view along Eskdale to a disappearing Scafell range.

We’d had a plan to either walk all the way back to Nether Wasdale or take in circuit back to the car via the Castle grounds and parkland. As the weather was deteriorating, most of us took the circuit option and a few brave souls took on the longer walk back.

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The walk back was interesting if unspectacular save for the glorious display of rhododendrons at the castle. I know they are invasive and dominant over our native species and can completely take over, but they do look nice.

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The rain started properly as we reached the car and didn’t stop for pretty much 24 hours!

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The Sunday was gloomy and damp so we did what we normally do and headed to the superb Mawsons cafe in Seascale for a slap up lunch of mainly ice cream! I have a fondness for Seascale even though it looks a little bleak and tired but it’s friendly and welcoming.

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We took a stroll along the beach, through the golf course and back along the coast to work off some of those ice cream calories.

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When we got back to the campsite the weather had improved a little so we went for a short walk up to Wast Water.

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Not exactly wall to wall blue sky but more pleasant than the previous 24 hours of rain.

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And to finish the day off the weather improved sufficiently for a very happy and convivial BBQ. Only in Britain can you see cheery people dressed in fleeces and waterproofs enjoying an outdoor meal!

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The final day was much the same, grey with low clouds but dry at least. We went for a walk up to Whin Rigg. I’ve never walked past the top of Greathall Gill before and its really impressive. Would make an interesting way up if you can get past the steeper sections at the bottom.

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As we reached the top the weather finally began to improve and we were treated to some pretty decent views.

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The edge between Whin Rigg and Illgill Head is spectacular with some sensational drops down to the loose, vegetated crags and gullies.

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Had we not had a long drive home ahead of us we would have stayed longer for a brew but the clock was starting to tick towards the final whistle of the weekend.

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We were more than satisfied with the walk and ended things on a high after a pretty miserable 24 hours in the middle.

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When all is said and done, it was great just to be back in one of our favourite places in good company and 3 walkable days out of 4 in the Lakes is not a bad return.

Yewbarrow and Red Pike   16 comments

Like everyone we’ve had trips, holidays and weekends away affected by the dreaded “C”. Our annual trip with friends to Wasdale at May Day was the one that was most affected and we had to cancel it for two years running so this was a long time coming. Last year was especially disappointing as we’d have been there on my Birthday.

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The usual long drive and late evening set up had us hoping for a good day on the Friday while everyone else travelled up. We weren’t disappointed.

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The day dawned with crystal clear blue skies and sunshine. We couldn’t wait to get going so left all the washing up and final unpacking until later and set off.

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We picked the small and shapely peak of Yewbarrow for our main event as I’ve not been up for many years.

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It’s a steep climb from the car park at the bottom of Over Beck. Yewbarrow looks quite a challenge, somewhat impregnable.

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Luckily the views were magnificent to help pull us to the top, here looking out over the Wast Water Screes, Ill Gill Head and Wast Water.

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Seatallan and Middle Fell.

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Its an excellent path with a little mild scrambling that delivers you to the broad summit ridge.

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Stupendous views over the Scafell range.

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But its Great Gable that really holds the gaze, here partnered with Kirk Fell.

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Summit ridge with Red Pike behind.

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Summit selfie.

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The easy stroll along the summit ridge was a joy.

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All the while on the look out for an early lunch stop.

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Looking back to the summit from the top of Stirrup Crag.

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That was where we decided was best placed for a spectacular stop overlooking a mountain panorama.

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We did what we do best and stopped for a very long lunch break.

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Red Pike and Pillar.

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Time to finish up and move on.

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Classic Great Gable.

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And the patchwork of fields down in Wasdale, looked over by the Scafell range.

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The descent of Stirrup Crag is tricky and awkward without ever being truly difficult. Just takes a bit of time and care.

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Be a nasty fall if you did make a mistake though.

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Looking back up at Stirrup Crag from Dore Head.

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From there it’s a long climb to the top of Red Pike but its never steep and with a good path and the superb views continuing to pull us along we were soon on its summit.

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It’s a spectacular perch above Mosedale and it seemed appropriate that we stopped for another cuppa and a long rest.

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There were quite a few people up here now but I was surprised how many were just following the path that skirts the top and misses out these wonderful, airy views and perches on the edge.

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From here, Great Gable takes on its distinctive square-topped shape.

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Not a bad lunch place!

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Time to move on. I’d had an idea we could tag on some more tops but we’d been enjoying a leisurely pace and decided on a easy plod back to the car via Scoat Tarn.

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I have fond memories of this place as I’ve wild camped here a couple of times. One of the best tarns in Lakeland if you ask me.

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Our route back to the car took us down a long ridge with numerous small outcrops and over Blackbeck Knotts and Knot Ends.

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Haycock.

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Low Tarn, Yewbarrow and Scafell range behind, now better picked out by the afternoon sun.

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We threaded together a number of sheep tracks and while I suspect the ridge is soggy and boggy in wet weather, after a dry spell it proved an excellent descent route.

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Side on view of Yewbarrow.

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And Red Pike to complete our peak views.

A wonderful start to the weekend finished off by a great meal in the pub with a whole gang of friends. It was good to be back.

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