Archive for June 2011

To Legislate or Educate – That is the question?   2 comments

There is an excellent post over at Scottish Mountains about the increasing problem with people using wild camping spots in the highlands – in this instance Loch Lomond – as a location for a drunken party. The response has been ban camping there which is worrying step in an erosion of our access rights but as I commented on the post I don’t have an answer to this problem as clearly something has to be done. This could be the thin end of a worrying wedge so take a read of the post and the linked articles. Whatever your views on this, the situation and the possible actions to remedy it are something anyone with a passion for the outdoors should be concerned about

Posted June 15, 2011 by surfnslide in Rants

Hanging with the Prof.   4 comments

The family are now formally part of the celebrity scene. D and his best friend went to see the their hero Professor Brian Cox do a talk at the Hay on Wye Book Festival a couple of weekends ago and they were lucky enough to meet him briefly and get their books autographed and the like. They are both massively into their science, space and astronomy so you can imagine how thrilled they were. I was down in Pembrokeshire with L (post to follow) so I missed this chance to mingle with the stars. My own celebrity encounters are still, sadly, limited to seeing Michael Aspel in Heathrow airport and working with a guy whose family were once on “Family Fortunes”. Apparently the Prof was top bloke although he did walk off with my wife’s pen and refused to give an impromptu rendition of “Things can only get better” (he was in D-ream don’t ya know). Celebrities eh!

Posted June 12, 2011 by surfnslide in Other

Virtual Outdoors aka “Where the **** is summer?”   3 comments

I was supposed to be meeting some friends for a long-awaited trip to the Berwyns today. UK weather put a stop to that. It’s been raining all day since early hours and at 4:30 pm it still is. In fact my fingers and feet are cold and I even came close to putting the heating on – what is going on. Oh how we enjoyed those heady days of warm sunshine in April and early May. Boy are we paying a price for it now!

I’ve been sitting at my PC all day playing with the look and feel of my blog pages and taking some time to take a look at what else is out there and adding some links to my blogroll and signing up for some updates and the like. So much great stuff out there from amusing anecdotes to trip reports (so much to do and see, so little time to do it) to the more serious side, especially the continuing tale of the efforts of the UK governments and landowners to cover every square inch of the outdoors with wind turbines. I was wondering what to do with myself today (no walking, no surf, no snow, no kids around) but the time has flown by just reading everyone elses blogs. It never fails to amaze and impress me at the sheer quantity and quality of the outdoor world online. I need to set aside a few hours a week to keep up to date as well as keeping my own blog going

Despite vowing never to register on Facebook (or even Twitter) I may even give it go later – in name of work related research you understand. I work for Nokia Services so I guess I should try to “get” the whole social networking thing

I hope some of you have managed to find some decent weather today and avoid the washout that I’ve been looking out of the window at all day

 

Posted June 12, 2011 by surfnslide in Other

Untrodden Brecon Beacons (for me)   5 comments

I was planning to go to Berwyns with a few friends on the Sunday and spend the Saturday at home festering in front of the TV while J and the kids are away. I woke early to a cloudless sky and with a very poor forecast for Sunday on my mind I decided I’d better head out and make the most of the day. One area I’ve never been to since I moved to the area was the SW of the Brecon Beacons near Tal y Bont . My route guides have a couple of walks in that area and one in particular combining new hills and ridges with waterfalls (I love waterfall walks) at the end around the Caerfanell valley so that ticked the boxes. The weather was still great as I set off and there are some lovely waterfalls right next to the car park and some stonking rest and picnic stops by the lower reaches of the river.

Waterfall near car park

From there it’s an unrelentingly steep climb to Craig y Fan Ddu with views to the south over the Welsh valleys and as far as the Somerset and North Devon coast opening up.

Looking towards the Welsh Valleys

Looking towards the Vale of Neath

From the top of the climb the walk levels out along the edge of steep sandstone escarpment which typifies much of the Brecon Beacons. This one, unlike the flesh pot of Pen y Fan was nearly deserted and gives a wonderful high-level stroll (once the steep stuff has been beaten). Already I could see the clouds bubbling up so I quickened my pace. No way did I want to get caught in a similar cloud-burst to the one I had to dash through at the supermarket the day before. The moorland was covered in bog cotton and the views to the high summits looked dark and threatening rather than warm and welcoming as they did when I drove past on my way in the car.

Pen y Fan and Corn Ddu

When I reached the main north facing escarpment the views were great and I had thought I might do an out and back along to Fan y Big. One look north at the long line of black clouds convinced me I’d better keep moving on my main circuit – it didn’t look the day to linger too long and push my luck.

Looking back along the Craig y Fan Ddu escarpment

Pen y Fan and Corn Ddu

Storm clouds gathering

Over the peat hags to Carn Pica for a brief brunch stop. There is a massive well-built cairn perched on the edge here with cracking views over to the Black Mountains and to my trusted friends, Ysgyryd Fawr and the Sugar Loaf.

Bog Cotton

I turned south and followed another escarpment around to Gwalciau’r Cwm. These lonely almost level escarpments really make for terrific walking – I don’t know why I’ve neglected them for so long. As always I spent my time looking for other possible routes. I reckon a long walk along the long ridge to the little hill of Tor y Foel to the South would be nice.

Tor y Foel and Tal y Bont Reservoir

I started down a ridiculously steep descent towards the Caerfanell river (remind me NOT to do this route in reverse). The walk then continues by the riverbank past numerous little cascades and waterfalls and some more lovely stopping places.

Caerfanell River

It was a little disappointing as the path keeps high up above the river and it’s difficult to see the falls. Still it’s a lovely valley and you can get up close to the main waterfall at the bottom.

Caerfanell Waterfall

Even better if you don’t try to hop across the boulders in front of a bunch of people and fall ar*e over t*t. My finger still hurts like hell. To get back to the car it’s a steep climb past another set of waterfalls.

More Waterfalls

More Waterfalls

The path is strewn with fallen trees, either nature has vindictive streak or someone in the Forestry Commission is having a laugh as they are crisscrossed over the path in a disturbingly regular pattern making progress extremely tedious. Or am I just paranoid. By the time I reached the car it was raining but I’d not been given the soaking I expected earlier. Top quality route and strongly recommended for anyone who wants to see the best of the Beacons without the crowds. 5.5 miles and 1,500 feet of ascent in 3 hours. On a more promising day I’d take longer with plenty of rest stops to soak up the views.

Full set of Flickr photos here

Posted June 11, 2011 by surfnslide in Brecon Beacons, Walking

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Wye Valley Walking   3 comments

My normal drive home from Bristol takes me along the Wye valley between Chepstow (one of my Slovakian colleagues at work once called it Chickenstowe!) and Monmouth so time for a change from mountain climbing. . The Wynd Cliffe area I was in has some great views over the lower reaches of the valley. Having left the car at Upper Wynd Cliffe I walked down to the view-point at Lower Wynd Cliffe. There is a lot of forest in these parts so expansive views are few and far between but when they appear they are pretty decent.

Wye Valley from Lower Wynd Cliffe

Wye Valley from Lower Wynd Cliffe

You then have to climb back up to the top again along a steep path with handrails and metal steps called the “365 steps”. I counted them. There were less than 365. I feel cheated. I’m over it now though! At the top you reach a lookout called predictably, Eagles Nest, although the views over the valley, Chepstow (racecourse and castle both visible if you look closely in the photos) and especially of the two Severn bridges.

Chepstow and Severn Estuary from Eagles Nest

Second Severn Crossing from Eagles Nest

Severn Bridge from Eagles Nest

From there it’s a long steady walk through the woods along the Wye Valley Walk. J & D did this section last year and whilst there are no views there were plenty of grey squirrels and blackbirds to keep me company. The Wye Valley Walk heads down into Tintern but my route took me back across the meadows to the car, lovely in the evening sunshine and deserted.

I hadn’t seen a soul all evening on my 3.8 mile walk.

Full set of Flickr photos here

Posted June 11, 2011 by surfnslide in Walking, Wye Valley

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Ysgyryd Fawr May 2011   2 comments

Short post with some photos of an after-work stroll. while J and the kids were away in Pembrokeshire (post to follow). Ysgyryd Fawr is a prominant sight right across the Black Mountains and in its isolated position provides a quality viewpoint across the Black Mountains, the Forest of Dean, and across Herefordshire to the Malverns and beyond. Its diminutive size makes it the perfect candidate for a short mountain walk. It’s only 2.5 miles round trip to the summit with 1,00 feet of ascent so as I drove home the lure was irresistable and as I now keep my boots and pack in the car I took the 2 mile detour to the car park pretty much on a whim.

The bottom section is through the trees and the last time I was here on Xmas eve it was like the Cresta Run.

Blorenge

Once on the top the snow was fortunately absent but it was still unseasonably cool and windy but the ridge is absolutely terrific and a pleasure to walk along.

View across White Castle and the Forest of Dean

Summit Ridge

It’s a popular hill and I saw several parties on the way down but by the time I reached the top I had it to myself. The views in the late evening sun were as good as any I’ve had up here and I took time out to lie in hollow out of the wind and soak it in.

Herefordshire and across to the Malverns

There were some great views across to Hatterall Hill and the Sugar Loaf where I’ve been in the last couple of weeks.

Hatterall Hill

Black Mountains

Sugar Loaf

I headed back down the ridge with a real spring in my step – no better way to work off the frustrations of a work day – marvellous!

Flickr photos here. The photos are taken with my Nokia E7 phone – not too bad although it’s not keen on the dark foreground for these late evening shots

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