The Cats Back – no idea where it went   24 comments

The last part of our New Year walking trilogy. GM and S decided to stay an extra day so that meant another potential day in the hills. As before we were up late as the forecast wasn’t great but in fact the day looked promising with blue sky about and dark storm clouds over the Black Mountains. Me and GM decided to leave the kids and ladies behind and made a swift exit to try to make the most of the day. I’d been keen to show GM some of the best of what the Black Mountains has to offer so I chose one of my favourites, a round of the Olchon Valley to Hay Bluff and back over Black Hill and the Cats Back ridge. I’ve blogged this route before in the summer and you can read that version of events here

9 miles, 2,500 feet of ascent

When we arrived at the car park it was heaving with a whole mass of cars slithering around in the mud trying to grab a parking space. Luckily most people just head straight up the ridge and as we were heading the other way we would soon leave the crowds behind. It was much colder and still windy and as we prepared to set off we were hit by a heavy fall of sleet – nice!


Sleet to start

Didn’t last long mind and we soon had the lovely Olchon valley to ourself, picking up another of those long grassy paths up onto the main ridge.


Olchon Valley and up to the main ridge


Raking path to the ridge

As we hit the ridge I realised that a T-shirt wasn’t suitable attire what with a biting cold wind and ice particles in the air. The views were impressive with a bright blue sky out east and dark stormy clouds to the west…….


The clouds gather

Yes, the west where the weather predominantly comes from and we were suddenly enveloped in a biting cold snow shower. In a perverse kind of way I like weather like this. We were high enough up for the snow to be dry and it’s kind of exhilarating to be out in the storm. I tried to capture the mood in some photos but I’m not sure it does the whole vibe justice.



The main ridge makes for really easy walking and we made swift progress along to Hay Bluff without a pause with some stunning winter light to pull us along.


Golden winter glow

The summit of Hay Bluff was bitingly cold. We thought perhaps we could sit on the B&Q picnic table and chairs someone appears to have carted up there but settled for a rapid lunch in a drafty hollow. The views were tremendous but it just wasn’t a day for stopping and we started back along to Black Hill tracing a narrow path along the edge of the cliffs overlooking Cusop Dingle.


Above Cusop Dingle

As we reached Black Hill I pointed out the Satellite Earth Station a mile from my house that were lit up by the winter sun.


Home - well close enough


Pen y Gadair Fawr

The highlight of the walk is the Cats Back Ridge, narrow by Black Mountain standards with small rocky outcrops and a wonderful airy view over Herefordshire. Alas we timed our walk along it to coincide with a much longer, heavier and altogether wetter snow shower so we just romped back along it to the now empty car park.


Snow on the Cats Back

It was a cracker of winter jaunt, and I was pleased to give GM a flavour of the area on this and the other days. For me it was the end of happy period of increased outdoor action as I regularly skived off my dying job at Nokia to go walking. The next day saw the start of my new job and a proper 5 day a  week commitment. At least I still work in Bristol so come Spring I’ll be able to get out in the week after work again on my home

Big thanks to GM and S for making it another great new year, enjoy the slide show


24 responses to “The Cats Back – no idea where it went

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  1. One of those wild days that you enjoy despite, or maybe because of the weather?
    Johnny Cash – who’d have thought! If I ever get round to sorting out how to put these things together I shall definitely be using ‘Big River’.


    • There is probably free software about but I use a tool called Cyberlink Power Director. Video editing is an involved bit of work so needs dcent software if you want to make it look good. Problem is you need a lot of memory to run it properly. Strangely enpugh I don’t have that many tracks with cat in the title – should have grabbed the classic “Stray Cat Strut” 🙂


      • That’s the software I did my recent Meikle Bin video on – great fun to use 😀 !


        Where the Fatdog Walks
        • Took me a while to get the hang of it but I can knock up a slideshow and a bit of video in around 30 minutes now. They look pretty impressive on the big screen in the Lounge though I say it myself. Particularly proud of my surf kayak footage from the summer.

          Self Promotion over


          • Andy looks like you might need to go to your “discussions” settings and alter the “enable threaded “nested” comments” to greater than 5 – I’m not getting an option to reply on one of the comment threads. Of course you might not want to do this and have therefore the opportunity to tell me to b****r off! 😉

            I was going to add that your surf kayak footage was excellent…so you might want to alter the comment nesting situation after all. 😀


            Where the Fatdog Walks
  2. Those look great little ridges you’ve been walking! 😀 The weather looked a wee bit variable to say the least – one photo blue sky the next grey and gloomy. Beginning to wonder about your choice of music for the past couple of videos though…suggestions of a land inhabited by 6 fingered banjo players 😆

    I’ve at last sorted out my subscription to your blog Andy – thought I had a couple of months back. Again having “followed” your blog (top wordpress menu bar) I assumed I would get updates – nope. Thought you hadn’t been posting. Have to click the email subscription to get updates. Embarrassing error on my part – given that I’ve got a WordPress blog too. 😳


    Where the Fatdog Walks
    • Yes – what is the point of that WordPress ‘follow’ thingy? Is it just going one better then like? Personally, I just suscribe on Google Reader.


      • That comes into the “bu****ed if I know Category”, Mark. 😆 I’ve just been trying to re-organise my “feedly” which provides a pretty good magazine look to all my subscriptions. I only just remembered about it tonight – after about 6 months! It was very…full. 😦 and very out of date.


        Where the Fatdog Walks
        • I use Google Reader as well and I have 50 unread posts to get through. I always take the e-mail subscription option when it’s there – I notice e-mails more. Now if I could get a job reading and writing blogs full-time………


    • Considering the weather was pretty poor over xmas and new year I had a few decent days. The change from blue to grey to white was very rapid but I love winter wild weather – not wired in the head properly me.

      The standard greeting in Herefordshire is the “High Six”. I may have to include “Duelling Banjos” in one of my little productions now.

      You haven’t missed much of my posts last few weeks, after a frenetic burst of posts in the autumn I’ve scaled back – I have to work for a living again now 😦


  3. Some enjoyable days there, the wild parts can be perversely rewarding as you say. These days I can’t be arsed to get the car out for single day walks but that’s almost enough to persuade me.
    Cats Back (Black Hill) is one we’ve never done in the Black Mountains, Hergest Ridge too – it makes a change to see somewhere new.


    • Thanks Geoff – I really pine for some more backpacking. It was always one of my loves but with the family it’s not easy to get away. I’m hoping to do some one nighters once the weather improves so I can just spend a night on the hills at least. Your site gives me my fix as well a whole bunch of ideas for mid-Wales

      Cats Back is one of the more popular routes but it is really good. I’ve also spotted a pretty decent wild camp spot up on the ridge for a quick overnight which I’m keen to try


  4. we’ve got a “cats back” just half a dozen miles down the road from us. Not quite as airy looking as yours though.

    (have experimented with Opera’s Reader, but didn’t get on with it and have gone back to Google reader myself. I think I may have lost some of my feeds though 😦
    Feedly looks good Ken, but is not supported by Opera Browser…)


    • It’s very much out of character with the rest of the Black Mountains and it’s also about the closest walk to my home so I’ve been up dozens of times. Good for the kids as well in the summer when they can scramble on the rocks


  5. Excellent music again to go with the excellent photos! I think we must own just about every Johnny Cash CD going – and you’d better not tell Ken, but I have a banjo too…(that doesn’t mean I can play it very well mind!).


    • Mark is a big JC fan as well. He pointed me at the “American Recordings” which is huge multi-volume set. Cheers for the praise – I’m humble 🙂

      Blues, blue-grass, and the like make excellent video and photo scores


  6. Aha! 😆

    Sadly I have a banjo too 😦 …given to me by a mate with whom I used to play the folk clubs – just before he emigrated to Poland a few years ago.


    Where the Fatdog Walks
    • Judging by the phrase ‘used to play the folk clubs’, there is obviously a vast difference between your banjo skills and mine! I inherited my banjo off my dad about 7 years ago and I’d never picked one up at all before then, in fact I still sound like I’ve hardly ever picked one up…


      • I’m finding lots of stuff here, Chrissie’s helicopters, Ken (and Chrissies) Banjo talents. Anyone else got any secret hobbies and hidden talents


        • Since Christmas I have a guitar and a ukele to add to the piano, trumpet and didgerido which I own and can’t play!
          I’m applying for planning permsion to add an extension to my week – I reckon if I can maybe have 12 days instead of 7 I might almost fit in all of the things I’d like to do.


          • I’ll “see” your guitar and piano and raise you another 6 string guitar,12 string guitar, 1 electric guitar, 1 bouzouki, 1 mandolin, 1 mandola, 1 cittern (an oversized 10 string mandolin with a short guitar neck) 1 bodhran – I can knock a tune out of most other than that quair Irish drum thingy. There are recorders, mouth organs and various other bits and pieces long since forgotten.

            Also in the house there are (not mine) a violin and a flute.

            I need an extension to the house as well as the week : week:


            Where the Fatdog Walks
            • I can’t really compete with all that but feel as though I need to make an effort…I’ve played the piano since I was about 6 years old (constantly in demand for school assemblies and concerts) and also have a violin (lessons in my teens for 7 years – still sound like a strangled cat), descant recorder, tenor recorder and guitar. I do find though that I’ve had to try and forget the guitar totally since I started learning the banjo. Geoff also has a mouth organ, but the only thing he can play on that is ‘The Streets of Laredo’.


              • Oh dear, I think I’ll have to fold. I have absolutely no musical talent whatsoever. However I do more than make up for it by talking alot, all the time in fact. Mark will vouch for that 🙂


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