Archive for July 2011

Fight for the Right to Roam   Leave a comment

Mark over at Mark’s walking blog has noted that the CRoWA (The Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000) may be under threat from some campaign to reduce government red tape. Seems like a rather thinly veiled attempt by our Conservative leaders to hand things back to their land-owning paymasters (little bit of politics there!). Mark has written a good post about what’s happening so pop over and take a read of the post “Act now to save the ‘Right to Roam’ in our countryside” – a worrying situation if this progresses. Act now!

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Posted July 28, 2011 by surfnslide in Rants

Pembrokeshire – May Half Term 2011- part 2   4 comments

Where was I? Oh yes carrying on from part 1 of our Pembrokeshire trip. There I was, slaving away over my laptop in the heady world of mobile communications while the family enjoyed some late spring sunshine. I took off early on the Friday and met them on Broad Haven South beach again, this time on a stunning clear afternoon baking under a hot sun. Summer it seems was back so I went for a swim.

Water sports at Broad Haven South

Water was crystal clear but flippin’ cold, wish I’d had my snorkelling stuff with me. Had to be satisfied with a swim and a couple of coasteering jumps from the rocks. It would also have been a cracking evening for a meander up the coast in the kayak, exploring the caves, arches and blowholes and getting up close and personal with the sea-birds –  alas the boat was back at the cottage.

Appetite suitably whetted we had some BBQ hot-dogs on the beach (with added quartz minerals as the wind picked up while we were cooking). Sometimes you can’t beat the simple pleasures of sitting on a warm deserted beach under blue sky with great views and some BBQ grub.

Beach BBQ

Beach BBQ

We finished off with a leisurely stroll across the beach in the warm evening sunshine, and it was pushing 9pm when we finally left the beach. Nice finish to the day when I was sat at my desk at home earlier in the day.

Sunset Stroll

The next day looked equally good so it was an easy decision to head to Marloes. The kids love the beach. It has excellent rocks for scrambling about on and there are always big rock pools deep enough for a swim. I’ve never spent a full day on the beach and was hoping for some waves to surf. Unfortunately there was no decent surf – probably just as well as it’s a mile from the car park and a long way to drag the boat. I settled for a day of serious pottering about, building sand castles and having some quality time with the kids

It was glorious when we got there but a quite windy. Luckily we found a sheltered spot out of the wind and while J basked in the sun I took the kids for a walk to the far end of the beach

Marloes

We spent the rest of the day doing nothing in particular, watching the waves, diverting rivers on the beach, making sand castles the usual sort of thing.

Marloes

L was brave enough to go for a swim in the pools and had a fine time running and jumping in the waves (see the videos in the YouTube clip at the bottom)

Water baby

Mini-coasteering

Watching the tide come in

Fun in the sun 1

Fun in the sun 2

It amazes me where the time goes in a day on the beach. Before we knew it, it was 5pm and time to head home. We had planned a BBQ back in the garden and wanted to make the most of it. The view across the beach on the way back to the car park is one of my favourites in the area.

Marloes – tide out

Back at the cottage we had a lovely BBQ, the cottage in Llangwm is one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever stayed. It’s on the Cleddau estuary and just sitting and watching the tide slowly ebb and flow and listening to the birdsong is truly relaxing. We have been so lucky to spend time here

BBQ in the garden

For the last day we had planned to go back to Broad Haven South for a walk on the cliffs. However someone decided that the best day to run the Pembroke half-marathon was on a Sunday in half-term week. This involved closing off most of the main access roads into the town and consequently there was no way to get to the south coast. Frustrated and quite frankly, annoyed, we had to drive back over the toll – for the second time in 15 minutes and head somewhere else (rant over). We headed for the St Ann’s peninsula as I’d never been there. It’s a different style of coast with twisted rock strata of red cliffs rather than the limestone of the South but it provides a great contrast with the blue sky. It was also carpeted with wild flowers and pretty much deserted

St Ann’s Head looking towards Marloes

Little Castle Point and Frenchman’s Bay

The photo below is taken near the lighthouse at the far-end and it’s one of the best examples I’ve seen of folded rock strata. The kids were fascinated by the idea you can “bend and twist” rock.

Folded rocks on the headland

The end of the peninsula was disappointing with far too much chain link fence and concrete. We were planning to walk up the other side of the peninsula but the Milford Haven Sound is festooned with oil refineries. Another mystery of why such a stunning area is seen as prime territory for industrial development. We satisfied ourselves with a lovely picnic on the cliffs.

Picnic on the cliffs

This part of the coast is renowned for seals and dolphins but we didn’t see any wildlife other than some wild horses and a field of young bulls blocking the path back to the car. We finished off the day and the holiday with another stroll across the beach at Marloes before we headed back to the cottage to pack and go home after a great week

Part 1 of the trip is here if you missed it and you can check out the full set of photos and video in the slide show below or on my Flickr site here

Pembrokeshire – May Half Term 2011- part 1   12 comments

A bit behind the times with this trip which we took over a month ago. J and the kids went for the whole week but I was only able to join them for the two weekends. We are extremely lucky that J has a friend with a lovely little cottage in a place called Llangwm that she lets us have for the whole week including both weekends at a very reasonable rate. We pack alot into our holidays and I go photo and video mad so I’ll split the report into the two weekends I was there.

I travelled down with L late on the Friday night as J and D were staying at home to see Brian Cox at the Hay-on-Wye festival. It was a cold and windy day on the Saturday so we had a very brief wander about on Freshwater West beach looking for crabs and shannys (a kind of fish that seems able to survive out of water between the tides. We caught loads just by turning over rocks and it’s one of mine and L’s favourite activities together. She loves animals of all kinds and I’m like kid when it comes to hunting interesting stuff in rock-pools.

Freshwater West Beach

Local wildlife

Freshwater West

We moved on to the South coast beyond the Army Tank ranges to look at Stack Rocks. If you ever in Pembrokeshire this stretch of coast is a must-see. The sea has eroded the limestone rock into a series of isolated stacks, caves, sea arches and vertical cliffs and it’s truly spectacular. The sea stacks have been colonised by razorbills and guillemots (the largest breeding colonies in Wales) and you can sit on the cliffs and watch them noisily hop about on the rocks and fishing in the sea.

Stack Rocks

Stack Rocks

The “Green Bridge of Wales” is a truly spectacular sea arch. IT’s a shame that the coast 3-4 miles west of here is out-of-bounds as the army use it to practice bombing stuff. Why they have to pick one of the most stunning bits of Britain’s coastline to blow-up is a mystery to me. I’m sure there are more deserving cases that need some “re-design”.

Green Bridge of Wales

The weather had improved so we carried on along the coast which is non less spectacular.

A pretty decent day in the end finished off in style by watching Barcelona run rings around Man Utd in the Champions League final

J and D arrived overnight and as the weather still looked uncertain I convinced everyone we needed another walk along the coast, this time from Broad Haven South. It’s a lovely beach, backed by dunes with the same spectacular coastal features as those near stack rocks.

D on Broad Haven South

Broad Haven South

The walk along the coast is perfect for the family, level and with loads of interesting stuff to look at.

As you round the headland, Barafundle Bay comes into view. It’s a couple of miles from the nearest car park so it’s relatively unspoilt and absolutely stunning – one of the 10 best beaches in the world according to D.

Coast leading to Barafundle Bay

Barafundle Bay

We had a lovely picnic on the beach but the weather too a turn for the worse and started to drizzle so we headed back to the cottage after another day exploring this great bit of coast

The following day it rained on and off all morning but we decided to try to head for the west coast to see if there were any waves. We went to Newgale beach which is a huge strand facing out in to St Brides Bay. The weather improved markedly as we drove out so by the time we got to the beach the sky was blue and the sun was out although it was windy.

Newgale beach

The waves looked promising but they weren’t all that good. I did get out onto the kayak for a while but it wasn’t great. J and L jumped about in the waves and had some fun and I took a bit of video which you can see in the slide show at the end of the post.

J and L having fun at Newgale

After an hour we’d had enough and headed up to the cliffs out of the wind and in the sun for a picnic. We decided that we might get some shelter at Marloes, one of our favourite beaches in the area. By the time we got there the tide was full in so there wasn’t much sand left but had a nice couple of hours sitting in the sun at the end of the day watching the tide come in.

Marloes

D & L at Marloes

L in mid-air - Marloes

Marloes - tide in

We avoided the rain all day and it turned out to be a cracker. We headed back to the cottage and enjoyed the calm serenity of watching the tide go out on the estuary at the bottom of the garden.

View from the garden of the cottage

Unfortunately I had to head home and go back to work, leaving the rest of the family to enjoy further days out at Marloes and Oakwood theme park and I would rejoin them on Friday back at Broad Haven South. The second part of the story can be seen in part 2 but the full set of photos on flickr is here and a selection and some video is in the slideshow below.

Arans – time to go back   8 comments

Before we begin, let me take you back to a Sunday in November of 1983. I was a mere 18 and in my formative outdoor years, carrying a canvas rucksack and full of youthful enthusiasm. We’d been on a university club trip to the youth hostel at Corris. It was grey and wet day but we decided to try the Arans ridge. In those days the only access was from the North or South so the only option was a full traverse. We climbed the lower slopes in the rain but as we reached the upper slopes it stopped and a tiny patch of blue sky appeared. “Excellent” I shouted it’s going to clear up and be nice. Within seconds it was raining even heavier than before and continued without cessation until we got back to coach in the dark some 8 hours later. J was on the walk with us and I spent most of day desperately encouraging her to carry on through the rain and tears. We weren’t a couple in those days so god knows why she has been my partner for some 27 years. In all of the hundreds of days on the hills I’ve had since this still remains one of the worst days of weather I’ve ever been out in. Morals of this story are:

1. Mountain clouds do not have silver linings

2. A truly awful day in the Arans is no substitute for a romantic meal

And we’re back in the room! I tried a couple of further attempts at the Arans a few years after that one but without much success so they have been high on my wish list over the last couple of years. I got an early start and headed to Cwm Cywarch to try out what my guide-book reckoned was one of the classic Aran routes. It was a stunning clear morning and the view into Cwm Cywarch was awesome enough for me stop the car and jump out for a photo. It’s completely hidden from the main roads and it’s an absolute gem.

Cwm Cywarch

Cwm Cywarch

I was the only car in the car park and I was underway before 9am. The crags of Craig Cywarch are magnificent and the path climbs up a stunning picture-perfect valley with a babbling stream.

Upper reaches of Cwm Cywarch

I needed to back early as J was going out but it was too gorgeous not to pause by the stream for a drink and a pause while I had the valley to myself. Once up the Rhydymain col, the climb up to Glascwm looked inviting I hoped to get some good views towards the coast. The views were good but it was a steep climb of 800 feet to the top. There is small tarn, Llyn y Fign right on the summit and it would be a superb summit campsite. The views out to Cadair Idris, the Rhinogs, Snowdon, the Arenigs and the Arans under a clear blue sky were sensational.

Cadair Idris and Llyn y Fign from Glascwm

Dovey Hills and Llyn y Fign from Glascwm

Arans from Glascwm

Conscious of the time I pressed on returned to collect my sack and then took off across some of the deepest heather and tussocks it’s ever been my misfortune to encounter. Although the Arans have now been opened up for access, much of the terrain is still incredibly wild with few well-defined paths. I was heading for Gwaun y Llwyni as my book said the views were great. I wasn’t disappointed especially with the eagle ey view over Cwm Cywarch.

Cwm Cywarch

After battling through the vegetation I was pleased to pick up a faint path on the ridge that I followed all the may round (pausing for lunch on the summit) to the cairn at Drws Bach that commemorates an RAF airman who died walking in the area. From there the path continues as the ground becomes increasingly rocky up on to the summit ridge of Aran Fawddwy and across to the summit perched above the lake of Craiglyn Dyfi.

Aran Fawddwy summit ridge looking North

Aran Fawddwy summit ridge looking South

At 907m it’s the highest point in Wales outside the main Snowdonia massif. another 7 or so metres would make climbing the Welsh 3000’s a distinctly harder task. I saw my first people of the day and found a quiet spot in the sun to relax for an hour. The cloud had bubbled up but there was still plenty of sunshine and the views were still out of the top drawer. I had thought about an out and back to the other main summit Aran Benllyn  (the one named after the famous brand of cough medicine) but I wasn’t sure I had time and it was nice to just to sit in my own world on the top.

Aran Benllyn from Aran Fawddwy

Sitting on the summit is one of the joys of hiking and mountaineering and I don’t subscribe to the route-march approach. I’ll happily sacrifice that extra peak or valley for a long lunch in the sun. Still the time was pressing and I headed back the way I’d come towards Drws Bach and Drysgol and down towards the Hengwm valley.

Aran Fawddwy, Aran Benllyn and Creiglyn Dyfi from Drysgol

I had a half a mind to walk along the next ridge to Pen yr Allt Uchaf but it would have a seriously steep descent directly down or re-trace my steps to the head of Hengwm. I decided to save it for another day. Hengwn is a stunning grass valley with the most perfect descent path I’ve yet found. It traverses steadily and in a direct line all most of the way back to Cwm Cywarch. I stopped for a break halfway down to admire the rim of the corrie bounded by Gwaun y Llwyni and Drws Bach where I walked in the morning.

Hengwm

As neared the bottom Craig Cywarch came into full view and with the clouds breaking again and the sun out it was a fine finish to a cracking day.

Craig Cywarch

9.3 miles and 4000 feet of ascent was quite a trek and I was pleased I’d completed it about 7 hours including my sunbathing stops.

Next time I’ll try the northern circuit to take in Aran Benllyn but there are plenty of other great looking routes. As Arnie once said –  I’ll be back (in the divorce courts). Flickr photos here or you can look through the slide show below

I’ve been busy!   2 comments

I’ve been neglecting my blog for the past few weeks. What with being away in Pembrokeshire and Cornwall for holidays and, well, just being a lazy git I just haven’t given it the loving care and attention it needs and I can tell the general public are growing restless at the lack of surfnslide antics. Well some people, well a few, well one, my friend GM but I suspect he was being sarcastic.

Anyway while I get round to some major updates for my family holidays and a cracking trip to the Arans in mid-Wales, here is a quick report on another of my post work jaunts. It’s a little gem called Bryn Arw just north of the Sugar Loaf. It’s only 300m high but in the dozen or so times I’ve been up it I’ve never seen a soul up there. It’s only a short walk but it’s perfect for a half a day stroll or when the higher summits are in the cloud.

The first section is along the road. Having read the blogs over at Beating the Bounds and Rambling On, I’m trying to pay more attention to the wildflowers when I’m out walking. On this evening it really struck me not only how much variety there is in our hedgerows but how just looking a little closer can turn what I used to see as a road trudge into a walk of discovery. I found myself stopping every few yards to look at the various plants – and in this case – fruit by the roadside.

Wild Strawberry

Honeysuckle

It’s a short steep climb up on to the ridge with several options and a pleasant mile along a broad grassy ridge with views across the Ysgyryd Fawr, Sugar Loaf, Hatterall Hill and the rest of the Black Mountains

Ysgyryd Fawr

Summit ridge

Sugar Loaf

Hatterall Hill

The late evening light gives some great effects on the clouds and the weathered trees

Evening sky

Spooky tree

If you are planning this walk just remember that during July and August the bracken completely swamps the lower slopes and as the paths are little walked they can become hard to bash through.

The walk is a mere 3.5 miles and 850 feet of ascent but its quality not quantity.

Full set of Flickr photos here

Posted July 8, 2011 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Walking

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