Archive for July 2013

Breakfast on the Caerfanell Circuit   8 comments

Some brief words on a little stroll we had in June. I’ve done this walk a couple of times, clockwise a couple of summer’s ago, anticlockwise last autumn. You can look at maps and lots of my wittering stream of written consciousness if you follow the links to the previous visits. You can see from those posts and the photos below that this is a little cracker of a walk.

Nant Bwrefwr

Waterfalls on the Nant Bwrefwr

Nant Bwrefwr

“Oh what a beautiful morning”

This was another clockwise journey with TJS and TBF. We took advantage of TJF staying at a friends for an early start. As a special treat I cooked me and TJS a bacon sandwich halfway up the hill by the stream. It was a lovely spot and great start to the day

Nant Bwrefwr

Nant Bwrefwr

Still time for a lesson learned though. Even with the little pot stand the heat given off by a Jetboil stove is ferocious. Enough to warp a Trangia frying pan, burn off its non-stick coating and melt the end of my daughter’s pink spork – she was not amused. Worth it for a cooked breakfast under a clear blue sky 🙂

Nant Bwrefwr

Breakfast by the Nant Bwrefwr

We had to get back for a Scouts event for D so it was a brisk walk from there. It was a perfect day for walking, clear skies, abundant sunshine and a brisk wind to keep us cool

Craig-y-Fan Ddu

TBF on Craig-y-Fan Ddu

Caerfanell, Craig-y-Fan Ddu

Caerfanell valley & Craig-y-Fan Ddu

The walk along the long edge above the Caerfanell Valley was simply superb

Caerfanell, Craig-y-Fan Ddu

Caerfanell valley & Craig-y-Fan Ddu

Pen y Fan, Corn Du, Cribyn

Pen y Fan, Corn Du & Cribyn

The views across to the high summits of the Brecons and north to the perfect northern u-shaped valleys was as good as I can remember

Waun Rydd

North from Waun Rydd

Pen y Fan, Corn Du, Cribyn, Waun Rydd

Happy Walkers

Even the boggy bits were dry 🙂

Pen y Fan, Corn Du, Cribyn, Waun Rydd

Pen y Fan, Corn Du and Cribyn from Waun Rydd

Allt Llwyd, Sugar Loaf, Talybont Reservoir

Allt Llwyd, Sugar Loaf and Talybont Reservoir

As the route switches from the edges on both sides of the ridge so the views and aspect changes to great effect. The sense of height and space from these edges is something to behold. I love it up here

Gwalciau’r Cwm, Craig-y-Fan

Edge from Gwalciau’r Cwm to Craig-y-Fan

As ever despite the perfect weather and the fact it was Saturday we saw hardly anyone. Pen y Fan would we mobbed on a day like this

Gwalciau’r Cwm, Waun yr Gorlan

Gwalciau’r Cwm from Waun yr Gorlan

The Caerfanell river and it’s waterfalls were as special as ever. Had we not been in a bit of a hurry I could have sat by the banks for hours.

Caerfanell

Caerfanell Waterfalls

Caerfanell

Delicately poised

Caerfanell

Caerfanell Waterfalls

At the bottom of the falls there were several families playing in the river with some light gorge scrambling. Something to remember when I need some water based fun in the summer. The usual sting in the tail of this walk is the steep climb through the trees back up to the car. It was pretty hot by then and we were all suffering a little from the brisk pace. This waterfall with its carpet of bluebells gave us a fitting finale to the walk

Caerfanell

Bluebells by the waterfalls

Short and sweet but I’m now only 2 weekends behind in my posts. A couple of great backpacking trips to write-up. Shame I’m off to Wales for a week and then France for 3 weeks. Looks like I’ll be writing in the past for a couple of months yet 🙂

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At Home with our friends from the North   8 comments

After our nice weekend down in the Gower we had friends coming to stay. My mate Mark of Beating the Bounds fame (of sorts) was bringing his family down for another visit to my adopted Herefordshire home. They paid us a visit last year and despite the worst of the weather that a British summer can throw at you, we had a great time. They were so impressed they bought the T-shirt and decided to do it all over again.

The signs were not promising. After heavy rain forced us to abandon our Gower trip half a day early, it carried on raining through the night and the rest of the next day. It was still raining when they arrived to much rolling of eyes. Surely it couldn’t be that bad again. The next day was a carbon copy of the previous year, dull, cold, dreary and wet. Corners of mouths were very much down. We got lucky however and the rain stopped just long enough for a short drive and walk up on Garway Hill.

Garway Hill

Garway Hill

The views from up here on a clear day are expansive but despite the sun and some blue sky putting in appearance it was clearly just a small window in the wet. The dark clouds completely surrounded us and closed in. We timed it nicely though, reaching the car just as the rain started up again. At least we’d got out and had a stroll and some air. Tomorrow would be better surely

Garway Hill

Summiting Garway Hill

It wasn’t. It was still dull and cloudy with frequent showers. TJS had been telling us that the weather was due to improve but he has a habit of using the BBC Weather website for his forecasts. Anyone who has ever been led down that particular garden path knows just how unreliable it is. Still we thought we had to get out and I handed out the options to the kids and they unsurprisingly chose the castle one. White Castle to be precise, quite close to home and somewhere I haven’t been for a few years. When we got there the weather looked brighter than it had done for a few days. Our luck had finally turned, we wouldn’t see rain again for the rest of the week

White Castle

White Castle

White Castle as you can see isn’t white at all but a rather fetching dark brown (or grey if you listen to TJS). In terms of the classic castle features of stairways and passages it’s a bit lacking and quite small. However it is very picturesque, tucked away in the quiet hills and off the beaten track, and it has a proper moat, something any self respecting castle should have. Even in holiday week we were pretty much the only visitors

White Castle

White Castle

It doesn’t take all that long to wander around the inner and outer courtyard and climb it’s only tower where there is a splendid view across to the nearby Black Mountains and Forest of Dean

White Castle, Ysygyrd Fawr

Ysygyrd Fawr from White Castle

The kids were having fun though and there was bags of space to run around in and play medieval games of death

White Castle

White Castle

It’s a very tranquil place which more than makes up for it’s lack of spiral staircases (something else all castles should have if you ask me)

White Castle

White Castle moat

The view across the moat is particularly evocative

White Castle

White Castle

After an hour of wandering and play it was time for lunch. I have to say that castle courtyards make very fine places for a picnic. The sun came out from time to time and we all spent a happy hour playing games and eating, or in my TBF’s case lying down on the picnic rug

White Castle

TJS and The Dangerous Brothers

White Castle

TJS & A

White Castle

ED/TBF & DB Jr

Our castle fix fully satisfied we needed another place to fill the gap before tea. We headed for Rowlestone Court, home to a rather fine ice cream making facility and an adventure playground in the woods. After gorging ourselves on large cones we headed off to play. The rain of the previous days had turned the place into a mud-path (the farmer kindly scraped the slurry from the path for us where it crossed the farm track). Just the sort of place for sandals or so ED thought 🙂

The zip wire provided fun for all ages. Me and ED are far above such tomfoolery and kept a respectful distance.

Rowlestone Court

DB Sr zipping it

Rowlestone Court

TJS zips along

Rowlestone Court

TBF having fun!

A pile of tyres full of muddy water provided a degree of fun out of proportion with its appeal. Together with the zip wire, a couple of climbing walls and some monkey bars we passed a happy couple of hours before it was time squelch back to the car.

Rowlestone Court

Tyre’d out 🙂

TJS promise of good weather was finally delivered. The next day dawned warm and sunny and I declared it officially “play in the garden” day. Out came the paddling pool and the waterslide and the kids were as happy as pigs in mud. Which was just as well as all that water on top of a soggy lawn turned my garden into something approximating a pig pen. Still the kids and TBF’s seemed happy and content so I put the second part of my plan into action. ED needed, I felt, to see the local hills so off we sneaked for a swift stroll. I decided that the classic round of the Olchon Valley, returning via the Cats Back ridge would give him the flavour of the Black Mountains with the added advantage that its only 30 minutes from my front door. I’ve walked this route many times so just head to my categories section and you’ll find 3 or 4 posts, winter and summer that follow this route

Olchon valley

ED, Olchon Valley

Olchon valley, Cats Back Ridge

Olchon valley & the Cats Back Ridge

We followed the usual route down to the river and then steadily upwards through the sparse woods and bracken onto the edge. It really was quite hot, which came as a surprise to both of us. Rather than cut up to Offa’s Dyke and along the centre of the ridge we followed a succession of sheep tracks that kept close to the edge. I’ve never walked this part before so I rather enjoyed the change of scene. We put the world to rights, moaned about each of our work issues and generally talked about nothing in particular, the perfect way to spend a day in fact.

Olchon valley

Head of the Olchon valley

At the head of the valley (having followed a group of sheep along the track for a couple of miles) we stopped for a flask of soup and a cuppa. We lazed on the grass and soaked up the sun, a pleasant change from the rain we’d soaked up the year before. We both love our kids to bits but sometimes it is nice to just enjoy a walk at your own pace without the constant nagging from one or other of them 🙂

Olchon valley

Head of the Olchon Valley

Time was pressing and we’d promised everyone a BBQ. We decided against an out and back to Hay Bluff and settled for the glorious and easy stroll that is the Cats Back. I never fail to tire of this ridge. Black Mountains to the west and the carpet of green and fertile countryside that is Herefordshire to the east. I hope ED was impressed, nothing better than showing off your own favourites to an appreciative audience

Olchon valley, Cats Back Ridge

ED on the Cats Back Ridge

Olchon valley, Cats Back Ridge

Cats Back Ridge

Over all too soon and back to the madness of the family. We had a fine BBQ in the warm sunshine in the garden. A pretty good day if you ask me.

Onto the next day and sun was still shining so I plumped for a day out in the Elan Valley. Me and TJS had walked down the Rhiwnant Valley back in the winter and had decided it would be a fine place for a sunny stroll, picnic and a swim in the pool at the far end. Unfortunately whilst it was sunny it, the temperature had been removed for the day and it was more like March. Not a day for swimming. Undeterred, we walked up the valley for lunch.

Rhiwnant Valley, Elan Valley

Rhiwnant Valley, Elan Valley

We sat by the river, huddled in various nooks and crannies trying to stay out of the chill wind. Not exactly lazing on the grass sunning ourselves like I’d imagined the previous day but there you go. After lunch we decided to walk to the end of the valley by one of the old mining tracks

Rhiwnant Valley, Elan Valley

Climbing the Miners path

It was a really fine route with expansive views across the Rhiwnant Valley and to the wild and empty moorland above

Rhiwnant Valley, Elan Valley

High above the Rhiwnant Valley

The path had it’s interesting sections. In several spots it clung to the cliffs and was exposed enough to need a little care. In others, bog and tussocks cascaded down the hill like a waterfall making for some “challenging” walking (or wet feet to put it another way)

Rhiwnant Valley, Elan Valley

Bog Waterfall

Rhiwnant Valley, Elan Valley

Line up

Rhiwnant Valley, Elan Valley

Rhiwnant Valley

The path ends abruptly where it meets a narrow stream that tumbles down to the Rhiwnant in a series of dramatic gorges and waterfalls. Just my kind of playground, I need to come back in warmer weather and do some serious gorge scrambling here

Rhiwnant Valley, Elan Valley

Waterfalls at the head of the valley

The water empties into a stunning pool at the bottom, deep and clear and perfect for a wild swim if it hadn’t been so cold! Still it was warm enough to sit for a snack and brew and to allow the kids off the leash.

Rhiwnant Valley, Elan Valley

Swimming hole

The junior Dangerous Brother seemed intent of trying to fall into each and every wet spot but to my amazement he never did. All the kids seemed to find the place interesting

Rhiwnant Valley, Elan Valley

DB Jr at play

Rhiwnant Valley, Elan Valley

Happy Families

It’s become one of my favourite spots in the UK. Don’t tell anyone about it!

Rhiwnant Valley, Elan Valley

Picnic in the sun

Rhiwnant Valley, Elan Valley

Upper Valley

Rhiwnant Valley, Elan Valley

Perfect Spot

It was time to head home, back through the mine workings where the kids all found some wonderful minerals and crystals

Rhiwnant Valley, Elan Valley

Rhiwnant Valley

Rhiwnant Valley, Elan Valley

DB Jr and the Rhiwnant Valley

Time for our friends to head home but ED had an idea to pay a visit to Stokesey Castle on the way. It’s less than an hour from home but I’ve never been. It was still warm and sunny so we took little persuading to make another day of things

Stokesey Castle

Stokesey Castle

It’s a splendid little spot, more a fortified manor house than castle. English Heritage do a great a line in audio commentaries at their properties and this was no exception. They can be a little cheesy but it really brings the place to life

Stokesey Castle

Inner courtyard

In most castles you have to try and use your own imagination to visualise them as proper lived-in dwellings. In a well preserved place like Stokesey it’s so much easier and we spent a happy hour wandering into all it’s rooms and sharing in the passion for the various owners who have cared for and restored it over the years. It even has a tower and some steep stairs from the top of which are fine views across the Shropshire countryside

Stokesey Castle

View north from the keep

Stokesey Castle

Gatehouse from the keep

Stokesey Castle

Ready for lunch

The story of the how the castle came to prominence and then fell into decline and dis-repair is a fascinating one. Luckily the right people came into ownership at just the right time to restore to what we see today. How many other similar places have not been so lucky have fallen into dereliction or worse, simply crumbled to dust. Sobering thought that so much history is likely to have been lost forever

Stokesey Castle

The Keep

Stokesey Castle

Courtyard

Still we enjoyed the castle and returned to the grassy lawns outside for lunch

Stokesey Castle

Picnic time

We concluded the day with a gentle stroll around the dry moat, providing an opportunity to view the castle from another angle. In DB Jr’s case to view it from a patch of nettles

Stokesey Castle

Main Hall from the dry moat

Stokesey Castle

The moat walk

P1190218

TJS and ED on the final leg

An ice cream in the garden finished of the day perfectly but it was with a sad and heavy heart that we waved our guests goodbye. It’s great having them all down to stay, the kids get on really well and creates a lovely relaxed atmosphere that made the house feel rather empty when we got home. We’d had a really great week and the weather had been really good to us. There was so much more I wanted to show them but there will be other times I hope. To our friends from the North, thanks for being such great guests and we hope you enjoyed the stay. Reciprocation next year I hope 🙂

Help from my fellow bloggers needed!   12 comments

Need some help folks!

Looks like Akismet, WordPress spam filter seems for some reason to have identified my comments as spam. None of my recent comments on other WordPress blogs are appearing and one kind reader has told me my comment turned up in his spam folder. I’ve tried to contact Akismet to tell them to put back me on the real person list but I’ve no idea if this will work. I have however read that if my comments are marked as not spam that Akismet will “learn” and automatically treat my comments as genuine again.

I will keep commenting on everyone’s blogs so I would really appreciate if any of you could check your spam folders and mark my comments as not spam and hopefully things will return to normal. I’d be gutted if wasn’t able to add my voice anymore, it would probably stop me from continuing with my own blog

If anyone else has hit this problem and solved it I’d like to know

Thanks everyone

Andy

Posted July 10, 2013 by surfnslide in Uncategorized

Family Time – Gower Beaches and Coastal Walking   7 comments

Sigh! Yes I know I’m still way behind with the blog posts but I’m getting there. This will take you back to May Spring Bank Holiday weekend and a little trip away down at the Gower peninsula in South Wales. Like last year we took advantage of the Premier Inn special offers and got a family room including breakfast for all of us for £50 a night. Llanelli is not exactly the Cote D’Azure but the hotel is handily placed and does the job for a short stay

The previous few days had been cold and windy but there was promise of a sunny couple of days so we headed down to the beach at Caswell Bay just outside Swansea.

Caswell Bay, Gower

Caswell Bay, Gower

It was cool but the sun shone for most of the day and we spent a leisurely day of family stuff, digging in the sand, playing in the shallows, tide-pooling and in my case snoozing on the rug and getting sunburnt legs for my trouble

Caswell Bay, Gower

TBF by name, TBF by nature

Caswell Bay, Gower

TJF by name, TJF by nature

Caswell Bay, Gower

Funsters and Sherpas

Entertainment was provided by a local rugby club who set up just in front of us for a game of touch rugby – they really were rather good and I thoroughly enjoyed watching them

Caswell Bay, Gower

View from the shoreline

Caswell Bay, Gower

Caswell Bay

Both my kids are now old enough to be left on their own for a short while so me and TBF took a short stroll west along the coast. The sky was clear and the gorse was in full flower making for a very colour-filled experience

Caswell Bay, Gower

East across the beach

Caswell Bay, Gower

TBF on a cosatal stroll

We went a mile or so down the coast to the view across Pwll Du Bay before heading back in case the kids had murdered each other – luckily they’d amused themselves without winding each other up

Pwlldu Bay

Pwlldu Bay

Caswell Bay, Gower

Solo

It was our first proper day on the beach for the year and a fine one it was

Caswell Bay, Gower

The tide comes in

The tide comes in very fast here and we shuffled our way up the beach as the waves advanced before late in the day it consumed most of the sand and we headed off for a slap up meal in the pub

We were all keen for another look at Worms Head. We’d visited last year on a thoroughly miserable day of low cloud and rain and our prayers were answered when we woke to clear blue sky, packed a picnic courtesy of Morrisons and headed off. Most of the UK had the same idea and the car park was occupying several fields. There had only been about 20 cars last year. I hadn’t realised this place was so well-known and there were visitors from all over the world. The views were simply spectacular

Rhossili, Rhossili Down, The Beacon

Rhossili Beach, Rhossili Down & The Beacon

Worms Head

Worms Head

The coastal walk and cliffs is just superb with sweeping views across Rhossili Bay and over to Worms head. The cliffs are sheer and precipitous with a bird’s eye view down to the numerous shipwrecks in the sands. You can make out a couple in the centre of the photo below

Worms Head

Shipwreck

I should warn you that spectacular though the views are you won’t have it to yourself but it’s a price worth paying to see this special place on such a clear day

Rhossili, Rhossili Down, The Beacon

Sherpas and Funsters enjoying the sun

Worms Head

Cliffs and Gorse

You can pick your way through the gorse and along the edge of the cliffs to miss the worst of the crowds

Rhossili, Rhossili Down, The Beacon

Across the cliffs to the beach

Worms Head itself is connected to the mainland by a natural causeway. The tide was in our favour so we headed off to see the worm. The causeway itself is great for tide-pooling with loads of stuff to see, fish crabs, sea urchins and star-fish

Worms Head, Inner Head

Worms Head, Inner Head

We took our time making our way over, poking about and getting wet feet in the process

Worms Head, Inner Head

Inner Head across the Causeway

We scrambled up to the top of the Inner Head and found a sheltered spot for a picnic overlooking the bay. We kept a watch for the seals we saw last year but no joy. Clearly they were just sheltering from the stormy weather last time

Worms Head, Inner Head

Causeway from the Inner Head

We were enjoying our spot until a group of noisy, irritating and self-absorbed teenagers plonked themselves down next to us – and I mean RIGHT NEXT TO US. There is an acre of space up there so why they chose to sit so close and regale us with a commentary on the usual crap reality TV shows is a mystery. One of them sat so close to TBF he was pretty much sitting on her face (no jokes please). Young people today 🙂

Worms Head, Inner Head

Lunch on the Inner Head

I was keen to walk right out to the Outer Head and cross the Devils Bridge (just visible in the centre right of this photo). However nobody else seemed keen so we returned to the mainland

Worms Head, Inner Head, Outer Head, Devils Bridge, Low Neck

Outer Head, Devils Bridge and Low Neck

It was still early so we wandered off to look at the next pair of beaches along the coast. As soon as we stepped away from the headland we lost the crowds and we had the path pretty much to ourselves. The coast was just as stunning and the views again just superb.

Worms Head

Heading east towards Mewslade Bay

Fall bay and Mewslade Bay looked amazing, backed by their own collection of cliffs and towers. We scrambled down onto the beach and realised what a gem this was.

Fall Bay, Mewslade Bay

Fall Bay & Mewslade Bay

The limestone cliffs resemble a castle and as we got nearer it was clear that it was plastered with rock climbers of all ages.

Fall Bay, Mewslade Bay

Cliffs on Fall Bay

Fall Bay, Mewslade Bay

Rock Climbing at Fall Bay

We spent a good while just watching the climbers, it looked a great place to practice in a quite superb setting on a wonderful day.

Fall Bay, Mewslade Bay

Rock Tower

We wanted to wander along to Mewslade Bay but the tide was heading in fast, cutting off the access over the rocks and time was pushing on. We wandered back across Fall Bay and had a picnic tea and a cuppa on the grass at the back of the beach before we reversed the route back along the coast. The views were still magnificent and the crowds a little lighter now that the tide had cut off access to Worms Head

Worms Head

Worms Head from the West

Rhossili, Rhossili Down, The Beacon

Heading back

Worms Head

Worms Head

The air was full of paragliders above The Beacon. Must be great on a day like this but leaping off a hill attached to a duvet cover is not something I’m ever likely to do 🙂

Rhossili, Rhossili Down, The Beacon

Rhossili Beach

Absolutely cracking day. Next time we’ll just head straight to the beaches at Fall and Mewslade Bays and spend the day there. If you can tolerate the crowds though Worms Head really is a must see when in the area

We had one day left before heading home but the weather had turned and was cold, cloudy and windy with a poor forecast. We headed over to Rest Bay where I hoped to find some waves to take out the kayak. I’d like to be able to tell you that the weather held off and that the waves were great but I’d be lying. We lasted on the beach about 30 minutes longer than most sensible people would have done, had our lunch in the car in the rain and drove home. If you want to see Rest Bay in much milder and more pleasant conditions – in January – then check out my post here.

A fine weekend nonetheless and great set up to more fun in the week to come….

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