Archive for June 2016

A Shropshire Bimble   6 comments

Now here’s a rare treat. A blog post write up within a day of the actual event itself. Can I keep this up? Unlikely as I’m off to the Pyrenees next week for some walking so no doubt I’ll be way behind again for the rest of the summer. I’ll enjoy this moment of freshness of memory while I can.

Despite a promising forecast it was chucking it down when we met up with Uncle Fester and surprisingly (as they said they couldn’t make it) The Hard Man and his apprentice LAC. As luck would have it we’d planned a hearty breakfast at the excellent Lazy Trout cafe on the A49. We spent a happy hour looking at the rain outside while scoffing and it had stopped when we finally arrived in Cardington to begin the walk. Our route was to take in the splendid isolated ridge of The Lawley and finishing over Caer Caradoc and Hope Bowdler Hill

The first part of the walk required linking together several footpaths across the local fields

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As you can imagine this involved fields of long wet grass, overgrown stiles and herds of aggressive cows. What fun!

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The views made up for it as the weather began to brighten and we could see our three target hills in the distance

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The walk through Birch Coppice Wood in the dappled sunlight was particularly fine

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We emerged at the far end of the wood to some fine views of The Lawley

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Its a splendid grassy ridge. Not especially high but as it sits on its own, rising from the southern end of the Cheshire Plain its very dramatic. After another bout of field bashing including some electric fence malarky we were on our way to the summit

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Not for long though. We’d been walking non-stop for  3 hours so it was time for rest. A nice cuppa was well deserved and would have been thoroughly enjoyed if I’d managed to remember the stove 😦

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Still the grass was comfortable and a chill out was enjoyed by all

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On to the summit where we enjoyed a lively debate about the pending EU Referendum

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Alas the EU regulations that have blighted our country also seem to have dictated that hills in Shropshire must conform to a minimum steepness of “bloody steep”. Those unelected bureaucrats from Brussels! (This is my attempt at political irony – I’m voting “Remain”) 🙂

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Poor Uncle Fester was struggling with this steepness rating and we needed a stop halfway up Caer Caradoc.

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At the top the weather was exceedingly fine so we sat again. Its a real mountain in miniature as are many of the Shropshire Hills. Possessing rock tors, crags and brutally steep slopes on all sides. Diminutive in altitude it may be but everything else says “mountain”

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The way down was as you’d expect from a Shropshire Hill – steep. My knees were suffering with the long bouts of flat walking so having climbed back up to the col on Hope Bowdler Hill I decided to leave the out and back to its highest point for another day. The view from the top of Willstone Hill across to the Brown Clee and Titterstone Clee his (Shropshires highest points) was excellent.

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We had thought of extending the walk but time was pressing and the pub in Cardington had a beer with my name on it

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A very respectable 11 miles with an even more respectable 3000 feet of ascent. Not bad for these small hills in rural Shropshire. Very fine walking indeed

The Route Lazily Trodden   6 comments

Our last day in North Wales and the weather dawned even better than the previous one. More sun, more warmth, more abundant blue sky. The kids seemed tired and TJS was still suffering with his toe so we abandoned the plan for a big day in the Carneddau for a lazy day by the river. I’d read that the Afon Cwm Llan that drains the southern side of Snowdon was a fine place for a riverside picnic and a swim. Considering we were late and the car park is the start of the Watkin path up to the summit I was surprised to find a spot. Food packed we headed out. It was a truly glorious day

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I figured that the spot where all the swimming pools are would be busy so we based ourselves in a lovely spot lower down

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The water was crystal clear and icy cold but the weather just perfect. Warm enough to laze in the sun in comfort but not so hot as to be oppressive.

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We sat around for a while and then I went off for an explore

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The walk along by the falls was superb. I’m a real sucker for waterfalls and rivers

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The stretch above the main falls was just picture perfect. A wooded glade with warm flat rocks and the deepest of green pools. Perfect for swimming

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I want back down and dragged everyone up the hill for swim. Alas I was the only one brave enough to take a dip. Icy cold at first but wonderful clear and refreshing

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We watched a party of canyoners and followed them down. Me jumping in the deep pools behind them. No better way to spend a lazy Bank Holiday

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I used the think the Esk Gorge in the Lake District was the top of the list when it came to river swimming but this place runs it very close especially on day as good as this

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We returned to our base camp and scoffed a long and leisurely lunch and lazed about a bit more

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I even managed to sneak up on TJF and catch her unawares – she doesn’t like being photographed

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All too soon it was time to head back to the car and then the campsite to take the trailer down

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It was almost a pleasure to be taking it down on such a glorious afternoon on such a wonderful campsite.

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We finished off the weekend in style with a meal in the Royal Oak Hotel in Betws y Coed. Its much quieter than the well-known Stable Bar next door but the food is excellent and the staff very friendly. Highly recommended.

If Carlsberg did Bank Holiday camping weekends……

And with that I’m in the unusual position of being up to date having not been out much the past couple of weeks. TJS is mid exams so I don’t want to head out while he’s stuck at home. Weekends of domestic chores, garden BBQs and meals out have taken priority

The Route More Trodden   10 comments

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The next day was a revelation. Gloomy dark clouds were replaced by clear blue skies and warm sunshine. Breakfast outside to start the day albeit later than I wanted

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Having finally fulfilled my promises to take TJS up Snowdon and Scafell Pike it was time to fulfil another promise and take him on one of the UK’s finest mountain walks. The circuit of Tryfan and the Glyders.

We were accompanied by TJS new special friend, the lovely E. 🙂

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The weather was looking worryingly similar to the previous day with bubbling clouds and it was already very warm when we set out from the car. The classic route up Tryfan is its North Ridge, a fine introduction to the art of scrambling for budding mountaineers. Its also good practice for the art of brutally steep climbs right at the start of a hike. Compensation provided by the superb views

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After the lung busting start you emerge onto the ridge and the fun begins. Its pretty much a hands on scramble right to the top. I was a little worried about how E might fare (and TJS for that matter) but she was a natural rock athlete. Many times I had to curb her enthusiasm for the harder options and stick to the well worn route which has more than enough steep pitches to keep everyone entertained

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I should have taken my small camera for some more action shots (my hefty DSLR has to be packed away on the steeper sections) but I got some pretty good shots

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Both TJS and E seemed to be loving the challenge of the scrambling and despite the BH weekend and sunny weather didn’t seem as busy as I expected

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As we’d climbed there had been a freshening breeze keeping us cool. This also seemed to have cleared the air and the darker clouds seemed to have vanished. The views were much more expansive and it was turning into a real cracker of day

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The final summit towers were just splendid in the warm sun. A great feeling to pull up on the warm rock. There is a sense of a real big mountain, almost alpine feel but with no real objective dangers with a little care. I’m a hell of a lot more cautious when I have the kids with me than when I’m on my own but they were equally cautious and responsible. It was almost a shame to arrive on the summit

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The main summit was crowded and E made an aborted attempted to climb onto Adam /Eve. I declined the offer having done that and the leap from one to other in my youth when I was leaner and fitter.

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We headed over to South Peak that was much quieter and sat down in the same spot me and THO had sat in a couple of months ago. Its a very nice grassy perch with a perfectly angled rock to recline against

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Time to move on and down the wider but no less rocky south ridge. TJS seemed to slow markedly and admitted having some discomfort in one of his toes. He seemed to be struggling so I asked if he wanted to go back down. To his credit he battled on, not wanting to spoil the day for the rest of us

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The classic route follows the North Ridge of Tryfan to ascend the Glyders via Bristly Ridge seen in the photo below. Its no harder than Tryfan but it is more exposed and feels a little more serious and committing. Being more circumspect and with TJS’s foot in mind, I suggested we leave it for another day although I wished we’d done it now as it was such a perfect day. Still, it will always be there

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We took the traversing path out to the ridge which is very fine in its own right and gives excellent views back to Tryfan and the eastern end of the Glyders

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As you approach the summit of Glyder Fach you get a splendid view of Bristly Ridge in profile

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The summit of Glyder Fach always makes me think that some almighty being has been building some huge edifice somewhere and dumped all the leftover bits on the summit. Its a huge area of piled boulders capped by the impressive Cantilever Stone that E obviously wanted to climb

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The perched rocks make for more fine scrambling but TJS was really struggling with his foot so we just avoided what we could and satisfied ourselves with the mighty views as the ever clearing weather just seemed to get better

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As you approach the summit of Glyder Fawr the view down Nant Ffrancon is one of classic glacial U-shaped valley

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The views of Snowdon were equally fine and my route from the day before perfectly outlined (follow the ridge in the shot below from right to left to the summit and then back across Crib Goch)

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The summit of Glyder Fawr is a mass of tors and rock piles. The view from the summit presenting the two faces of the ridge, grassy to the west, rocky to the east

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I’d decided that that descending via the path into Cwm Idwal was a better bet. TJS found the steep scree descent from the summit a tough one but you are reward with a visit to one of the UK finest spots seen here from the top of the Devils Kitchen. Under a blue sky and with vegetation still dressed in spring green next to deep blue water its a wonderful place

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From below the surrounding towers of rock add a majesty unequalled outside some of the wilder parts of Scotland

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The Idwal Slabs are a mecca for climbers and there were several people on its crags even at the late hour

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Only downside is its proximity to the A5 (about a 15 minute walk) so its always busy but it’s huge and away from the main path you can always find a quiet corner. Its a wonderful spot

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I’d left the other two behind so I could walk back to collect the car. The short off piste trip cuts a huge corner and affords a classic view of Tryfan with the North Ridge in profile on the left

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The walk back along the road was a pleasure despite the traffic with the sky now almost completely cloud free and a deep shade of blue

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I collected the waifs and strays and headed back to the campsite. We dined  on a truly excellent BBQ, washed down with ice cold beers,  amongst the happy convivial family atmosphere of the campsite where its seemed everyone was doing the same and waft of sizzling meat and wisps of smoke spread across the site

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An appropriate point to mention the fantastic Rynys Farm Campsite. A real find. Some of the campsites in Snowdonia can be a little rowdy and overcrowded. Carol, the lovely owner has this one just perfect. Set amongst rolling fields in the forest above Betws-y-Coed they don’t pack the tents in and even though it was full there was plenty of space. Facilities were perfect, simple but clean with lovely touches like spare BBQ’s and kitchen stuff for anything you forgot. Best of all Carol promotes a friendly family feel that’s irresistible. Its a treat to pitch up somewhere the owners main focus is making sure everyone has a great time rather than just a commercial exercise. And of course a view to die for as well.

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We watched the sun set to end a high quality day indeed

The Route Less Trodden   14 comments

Bank Holiday Weekend and a family trip to Snowdonia. I arrived a day early so had the Saturday to myself. Weather forecast was for a sunny day with “occasional” showers in the afternoon so I was up early and parked up just after eight.

I had route planned around Snowdon but even at this early hour spaces were at a premium. If you are ever planning a Snowdon walk from near Pen-y-Pass I have a few tips. Don’t bother trying to park at Pen-y-Pass itself. Your chances of finding a space are pretty much zero and even if you did its a whopping £10 a day! Much better to park down at Pen-y-Gwryd especially now that there is a rather nice path back up to Pen-y-Pass rather than the scary walk back up the busy road. They charge you now to park in the lay-bys here (£4 a day) however if you walk towards Capel Curig a few hundred yards, and into the Local Authority next door, the lay-bys are completely free – all for the sake of an extra 5-10 minutes walk. Don’t ever say my blog isn’t informative 🙂

Anyway the gloomy conditions of earlier were replaced by extending patches of blue sky and sunshine

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The new path up to Pen-y-Pass is rather nice and a huge improvement over the road option. That is until you emerge into the rowdy chaos that is the car park and join the hundreds of other people looking to attempt the summit. The views were some compensation and it was exceedingly warm even at this early hour

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The path was a constant stream of people some of whom were already struggling within 30 minutes of leaving the car park. I don’t think they have any idea that even from the high start its a pretty long and tough trek to the summit. I had other ideas though and was planning a route taking in Crib Goch by its little used North Ridge. Its the one on the right in the photo below (the ridge on the left is the more common East Ridge)

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My guide book said there is a cairned path that leaves the PYG Track but I never found it. As soon as you branch off you are instantly in a different world of peace and quiet in amongst the wild hollows of Cwm Beudy Mawr. I was alone, save for the traffic in the Llanberis Pass far below me. It’s a very rough route that traverses this wild corrie, across the top of Dinas Mot and up towards Cwm Uchaf below Crib Goch. There were only a smattering of sheep tracks and no sign of the promised path. It was hot and humid and hard work but the rewards when reaching Cwm Uchaf were worthwhile

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Its a stunning spot. Crib Goch and Crib y Ddysgl tower above, Llanberis nestles beneath. This was one of the spots we’d hoped to camp on the aborted Easter trip a couple of months ago. I can now confirm that its perfect if you can find a dry pitch (it was pretty soggy). I found a large flat rock to sunbathe on and catch my breath

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I’d also wanted to look at the lake of Llyn Glas but I ended up far above it as its decidedly hard to find. It has a small island and someone was camped on it

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Getting onto the North Ridge involves a short tedious pull up a loose scree slope very reminiscent of Tenerife. The North Ridge is much narrower than the common East Ridge and actually pretty exposed in places. However having it all to myself made the extra effort to reach it all the more worthwhile

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On reaching the summit the views across Snowdonia were mighty fine although dark clouds were beginning to build

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Photos never quite do justice to just how narrow and exposed the main the ridge of Crib Goch actually is. I’ve done it many times and whilst technically its very easy with only a few places needing hands, you do need a head for heights. Several people turned back while I sat and took in the views, all bearing the look of people who hadn’t expected this sort of thing

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I enjoyed the scrambling and was quickly onto the less narrow but equally rocky and scrambly ridge of Crib y Ddysgl. However rain was now in the air and by the time I reached its summit it was heavy enough for waterproofs. Having said that, such was the humidity I was dripping wet with sweat anyway.

You are suddenly transported back into chaos as you reach the point where four of the main routes up Snowdon converge. There is little point walking the extra ten minutes to the summit to share a summit I’ve done many times, with no view and with five hundred strangers so I headed down. I passed through hundreds of people on the way up. Most were poorly equipped and most looked decidedly unhappy at the turn of weather. As I descended I came out of the cloud and the sun came out. Glaslyn looked like an ideal spot for a stop

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I found a quiet spot on the far side of the lake away from the crowds and lazed in the sunshine for an hour enjoying my lunch and a brew. Snowdon eventually peeped from its cap of cloud and suddenly all was very fine indeed

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Then I headed down and and everything went pear-shaped. It started to rain, light drizzle at first but within a few minutes it was a heavy downpour that lasted the best part of an hour until I squelched back into Pen-y-Pass car park. I was completely soaked through although I suppose one heavy shower, albeit an hour long classifies as “occasional”.

The sun came out on the way back to the car and I was pretty done in by the time I reached it. Not surprising as I’d done 11 miles and fair amount of ascent

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I was still soggy enough to need plastic bags on the seats to drive back to the campsite!

Then another “occasional” shower. Well cloud-burst would be more accurate. The A5 became a river as I drove past the Swallow Falls. For around ten minutes it all went dark and was like the end of world. Back at the campsite it wasn’t as bad but it rained pretty incessantly until around 8pm. In contrast to the heat and humidity of the morning, I was now cold enough to need the heater on in the camper.

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The rest of the family turned up later in the evening, their arrival seemingly forcing the rain to stop. The day finished with some fetching views across the campsite and we hoped for better weather the rest of the weekend

Post Walk Amble – Bryn Arw   6 comments

Talking a walk after work is a perfect way to unwind and my drive home from Bristol where I work has plenty of options. Over the past couple of years I don’t seem to have managed it as much as I should. A couple of weeks back I got an opportunity and grabbed it.

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Bryn Arw is one of my favourites and I’ve walked and blogged this route many times. Its perfect for an after work jaunt. Relatively short but with a small mountain feel and superb views.

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It does have a short road section but at this time of year the hedgerows are alive with wild flowers so its hardly a chore. Best of all and for reasons I can’t explain its deserted. I can’t recall seeing more than a couple of other people in the many times I’ve been up here and on an evening as grand as this one I still found it surprising that I saw no-one else.

Ysgyryd Fawr always catches the eye

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It was bright and sunny but cooler than it looked but I managed to find a sheltered spot for the obligatory mountain top cuppa

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The Sugar Loaf also looks good from the summit ridge

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And as this seems to be the age of the selfie……

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Looking back at these photos I’m amazed again at the marvel of modern technology. All these photos were taken with my smartphone. Amazing clarity and image quality from such a small multi-purpose device

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Makes the long days at work feel a little less of a drag when you can take in a walk as good as this on the way home

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