Archive for December 2017

Home Sweet Home   16 comments

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I’ve lived down here in Herefordshire for 15 years now and I’ve been blogging since 2011. Occurs to me I’ve never shared any photos of the village I call home so a combination of circumstances allows me to correct that.

When I’m at home either working or lazing I’ve been trying to do a bike ride each day to keep fit and help with knee problems. Last week the cold weather arrived and cycling is not much fun in freezing weather. I changed approach and went for a walk around the village and took a few photos.

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Madley’s most striking feature is its church. On a clear day its a very attractive photo subject and one I can see from my desk where I’m typing this

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The surrounding area is a little bland, mainly muddy arable fields with distant views to the local hills and a glimpse of the Black Mountains.

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Not somewhere you’d drive miles to see but seeing as I can explore without getting in the car it’s not too bad especially on a clear sunny winters day

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The other point of interest is we have a major satellite installation on the outskirts. You can just make out the top of the dishes in the photo below

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You can just make out the first fall off snow on the low hills below and this prompted the day out me and TJS had the following day and subject of my last post

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On the Sunday morning we woke up to this!

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It never snowed especially heavily but it did snow continuously for around 24 hours. We had close to a foot of lying snow once it stopped

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These photos are from almost the same walk as the first one, so you can see the change!

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Many paths were impassable not due to the depth of snow on the ground but the weight of the stuff on the trees and bushes

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It was a weird, white and silent world to walk through. The local wildlife seemed unperturbed

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This is my road and it remained white and slippery well into the week

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The day after, the skies cleared dramatically and it was a glorious day. Well other than the hour I spent digging the cars out!

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It would have been a great day for a mountain walk but the roads were still bad and I was supposed to be at work. I had to be content with a lunchtime walk around the village, again following the same route

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It was magnificent. Snow dusted trees and fields of pristine snow

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I took loads of photos. It’s the first time I’ve seen snow like this (other than mountains) for a long while

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There were lots of people out enjoying the snow. Many businesses were closed as were the schools

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The church looked different with its caps of snow on the roof

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The trees were beginning to shed their snow in the warming sun, a couple of times on my head!

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I’ve repeated the walk a couple of times since and now it’s becoming familiar. You start to notice the finer things and enjoy seeing them again as you return

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The sheep in the field are like old friends (insert your own smutty jokes as required)

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A final view of the church from the meadow behind the house

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And a sunset from the front garden

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Hope you enjoyed the tour and the snow 🙂

Posted December 15, 2017 by surfnslide in Local Walks, Walking

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White on Black   16 comments

Last week, winter arrived in the UK. Temperatures fell and so did the snow. Time to get up early and head out for some winter walking. Me and TJS were off into the Black Mountains for a walk over its highest summits in the hope there would be some snow. There was!

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The drive up the long valley of Gwryne Fawr was very snowy, pleased I took the 4WD and not the small car! The car park was covered and there was deep powdery snow everywhere. Splendid

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We decided to head up the valley first and return over the tops as I prefer a steep descent rather than the other way around

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There was a watery blue sky and some weak sunshine and it felt great be walking on snow. Despite the first snowy weekend there was hardly anyone about

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The valley has a reservoir and dam and it’s always further up here than I remember

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We found a lower path right along the shore that was rather nice and we hoped would take us all the way to the bothy for a look-see (I’ve never been in)

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The path became narrower and much closer to the lake. With all the snow there was a distinct possibility of a slip becoming a rather wet and cold one!

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Eventually the path vanished altogether and we gave up on the bothy and headed back up to the track

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As we reached the northern escarpment of the Black Mountains the wind picked up and we matched with an increased pace. There were a few stretches of path improvements, likely due to the serious damage trail bikes have been doing up here. Even with a covering of snow you could see their tracks. Hopefully the damage can be repaired but it will cost a fortune.

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We reached Waun Fach – highest point in the Black Mountains – paused, and quickly moved on. The skies had turned grey and it’s a pretty bleak spot

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We pushed on towards Pen y Gadair Fawr which despite being more prominent and always looking higher than Waun Fach is actually 30 feet lower. We found a sheltered spot for lunch among the snow-filled groughs

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We’d made very quick time, we were earlier than expected and it was only a short steep drop back down to the car. We’d had our fill though, experienced some winter walking in the snow so were happy. Time to head home for a hot drink and a hearty meal

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Waun Fach

10 miles and 1,900 feet of ascent (courtesy of a high start) in just over four hours including stops. Impressive (for me!)

Mountains by the Coast   14 comments

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Coastal walking seems to fall into two types. Stretches of easy walking along the cliff tops punctuated by occasional short drops to the sea. Then there are sections of punishing, relentless climbs and drops like a rollercoaster. We chose one of these for our last day in Cornwall.

We were looking for a section we hadn’t walked before so headed for Port Quin with a view to walking to Port Isaac or Port Gaverne and back.The sunny weather had been replaced by leaden grey skies and rain looked a certainty. Having had two pretty decent days in November, a third would be pushing our luck to the extremes so we weren’t disheartened and coastlines always deliver an experience even on the worst of days

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Port Quin is a tiny settlement barely worthy of a name. Just a few National Trust houses for rent (I think my parents stayed here once) and some run down looking apartments. The cove is tiny in width but long in length. Not unlike Boscastle further north

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The first steep climb of the day gave views across the dark and foreboding coastline

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The section in shot below, across Downgate Cove from Kellan Head, had three climbs of around 250 feet and back down to sea level. Its only about a mile and only a third of the way to where we were going!

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A couple of seals watched us from the water but it was far too gloomy to get a decent image

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Looking back along the first mountainous stretch

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And along the next one, Greengarden Cove. It rained on and off for a while on this stretch but it never materialised into the downpour we expected and we never really got wet all day which was a bonus

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These steps went on forever and would be brutal if walking the other up (we came down)

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Right down to sea level at Pine Haven

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You can see the steep steps in the shot below. Walking the coast path must be really hard work in stretches like this. On a bad day with wind and rain it must be morale sapping to trudge up one steep climb with a heavy pack only to drop back down and have to do it all over again a few minutes later and keep that going for a whole day. This section of the SW coast path is notoriously challenging

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It looked really dark and nasty further north. The “island” on the left hand side below is Tintagel and its castle

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After another steep climb we arrived at Port Isaac. No idea what setting my iPhone drifted on to here. Must be the “colour drained hangover look” setting

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Back to normal exposure

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Port Isaac was lovely even under a grey sky although it was as bright a part of the day as we had. It also had an excellent cafe, The Chapel Cafe. A superb, hearty veggie soup sustained us for the journey back. The Fish Finger sandwich here is legendary and looked awesome but I wasn’t hungry enough to do it justice

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We returned to Port Quin by an inland route. It was one of the muddiest, dreariest routes I’ve walked in a while (apart from coastal views at the start and finish). Long trudges across endless cow-pat spattered fields is not my idea of fun. Reminds you that rural Cornwall (away from the moorland bits) is pretty ordinary. It’s the coastline that’s its star attraction

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To finish on more of high we extended the walk beyond Port Quin to the west to look at Doyden Point and Doyden Castle

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It’s another NT property and you can rent it – must be an interesting place to stay

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It was cold and blustery up here so we didn’t linger but the views were immense

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Port Quin Harbour

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Doyden Castle

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A not too longish walk of 6 miles, in the end but with a mountain-climbing amount of ascent. My OS Maps app says 3,880 feet but that can’t be right. I’d estimate over 2,000 feet though, on very steep slippery paths. Who needs mountains

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We had a cuppa in the car park and headed off to try to see the display of starlings near Bodmin Moor. It was lashing down with rain when we got there and we were a bit late for the main show so I didn’t get any images or video as I wanted. What we did see was spectacular and it is a truly extraordinary sight. If you get chance to see one these displays then make the effort, its amazing

TBF was a little distracted as she thought she’d lost her wedding ring on the walk. It’s a family heirloom and irreplaceable so she was pretty upset. We were sure it was gone for good but luckily it turned up in the boot bag when we got home. It’s now been altered so it doesn’t slip off so easily.  A happy ending to great weekend away

Wild and Windy on the Coast   12 comments

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After the calm clear weather on Dartmoor, the next day was a refreshing change. Still plenty of blue sky around but now mixed with some dark black storm clouds and a keen blustery wind. Perfect for a coastal walk. We parked up at Treyarnon Bay, one of our favourites and headed south for an out and back before lunch.

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There were some stunning cloud and rainbow effects and some of the clouds looked very angry and full of rain

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The stormy seas, crashing waves and winter light make for great photos. I used the HDR setting on my iPhone for these and it takes a damn fine photo

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This storm had me worried but it passed us bay

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The first stretch to Porthcothan, the next beach along is fairly flat but takes a while to walk as the cliffs are constantly indented by wild, deep and inaccessible coves all with wonderful names.  Pepper, Warren and Fox Coves, Minnows Islands, Will’s Rock

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TBH looking happy with a very angry storm sweeping past. Luckily it only rained for a couple of minutes while we were out and we had some glorious sunshine

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We hoped there might be a cafe or something at Porthcothan but everything was shut for the winter. We pushed on south towards the headland at Park Head

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It was glorious walking if a little wild and windy

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Another cove at Porth Mear

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And looking back north the way we’d come along Tescore Islands

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Time was pressing so we turned around and headed back before we reached the headland

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Porthcothan beach was now exposed by the tide and Will’s Rock was framed in the surf

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From there it was a race against the weather to reach the YHA at Treyarnon Bay for lunch. We won – just – rain battering the windows as we settled in. It’s a really fine cafe and we had a lovely light Tapas style lunch. A walk of over 8 miles so we’d earned it.

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Now the actual plan had been to do some kayak surfing and body-boarding in the afternoon. Sitting in the warmth of the cafe it suddenly seemed like a rather stupid idea. After preparing a detailed list of safety conscious excuses we decided another short stroll along the cliffs and an amble around Padstow was a much more sensible plan

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I think the photos justify that decision

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Padstow is a tourist hotspot and rammed in summer. In November it returns to being a quiet fishing village with a handful of people. Not a great place if you are on a diet though. Its packed with excellent, restaurants, cafes and bakeries selling pasties and the like. We managed to avoid temptation (other than a sneaky millionaire shortbread) as we were eating out in the evening

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The setting sun created some wonderful vistas

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The harbour in particular looked rather fine

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And to finish off, a couple of photos from our B&B bedroom window. Not too shabby

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This is what birthday’s should be about (if you can’t afford a tropical white sand beach anyway)

A Dartmoor Stroll   10 comments

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The Jones family mantra is do nice stuff rather than have nice stuff when it comes to Birthday’s etc. Past couple of years we’ve gone for holidays and trips away in lieu of pressies and much the better for it. As a birthday treat me and TBF leave the kids behind and take a trip to Cornwall. It’s the perfect combination of hill and coastal walking together with a chance to get dressed up (barely in my case) and have a nice meal. We pick November for TBF as it’s always a low time of year between holidays and cheers us up.

We took in what seems to have become a routine now, lunch in the excellent Cafe on the Green in Widecombe on Dartmoor followed by an afternoon walk. We’ve been lucky so far and had a couple of fabulous walks and this time was even better, a clear still sunny day in November, a real slice of luck. As always I took inspiration from Steve over at Treks and Tors and a recent walk he did near Burrator Reservoir. We didn’t have time for the full walk as November days are short but it is another superb area and we had a cracking walk

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It took a bit of aimless wandering in the forest before we found the access onto open ground. The autumn light on the bare trees was stunning

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It’s a pretty steep climb up on to Sheeps Tor but the views back across the reservoir to Leather Tor and Sharpitor made things a little easier to cope with

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The Dartmoor ponies welcomed us up on to the top

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TBF was enjoying seeing the views through new glasses, she’s gone all varifocal

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The panorama from the top is stunning. As its near the outer edge you can see down to the coast at Plymouth and across to Bodmin Moor and Cornwall as well as back towards the expanse and tors of Dartmoor itself

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We pressed on as we reckoned we could take in a route back along the other side of the valley over Combshead Tor and Down Tor

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There were some very soggy patches and a good deal of bashing through the dwindling bracken.

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The brown autumn colours in the low sun were sublime

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We stopped for a brew on Combshead Tor while we still had sunlight to keep us warm

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I love the way the sun picks out the features in the rocks and the contrast in views looking straight into the sun

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The sun dipped behind the clouds and there was an instant drop in temperature so we packed up quickly and pressed on

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There is an impressive stone circle and stone row but it was half in shadow and sun and almost impossible to take a decent photo

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Down Tor was a fine summit and we’d have lingered had darkness not been creeping, or indeed racing in

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The setting sun was playing nicely with the clouds as we walked quickly back to the car

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Thanks to Steve, a great idea for a walk and a fine start to our weekend away

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Off to Padstow, checked into our B&B and out for a fine meal, slightly sullied by the fact it was still and cloudless on the walk down and blowing a gale and hammering it down when we walked back. Fickle British weather!

My classic local walk   12 comments

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I have a handful of walks that I would say are classics of South Wales and this is one of them. The Black Mountain has all the grandeur of the Beacons yet sees almost none of its busy summits. On this day we saw probably no more than 10 people for the whole walk on a wild, windy and spectacular day. I’m claiming this walk as my own as I’ve never seen this walk in a guide-book or anyone even mention the path under the edges. I found it, therefore its my walk! 🙂

I devised this walk by accident (albeit in the other direction) not long after I moved down here. I was on a supposedly short walk to one of the lakes looking for a wild camp and I just carried on across the tops, discovering the paths below the cliffs on my way back

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As with the previous walk it was a laze in bed late start and as before a gloomy start developed into a cracker of day.

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I think my iPhone camera had moved itself into some kind of vivid mode for these first couple of shots as we headed up to Llyn y Fan Fawr

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As we climbed the dark clouds started to dissipate and the views to the east opened out to the sky

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The clouds were still shrouding the summits but I was confident it would clear. Thinking it might take an hour or so I decided to follow the lower route under the edges first to give it some time. Not a day for dallying. It was bitterly cold and there had been some light snow cover the past couple of days

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It’s a beautiful lake and one of my favourites

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There were dark clouds and storms all around but we seemed to miss them all

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The walk under the cliffs is always a delight but on a winter’s day under brooding clouds its pretty dark for decent photos

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We found a sheltered spot behind a wall by Llyn y Fan Fach for some lunch before pushing on.

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It’s quite a long walk for a short winter day with a late start but the going is so easy and the views so superb that you cover the ground swiftly

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Once up on the edges the wind was ferocious but the sky and the air stunningly clear. Pin sharp clarity

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I was in my element, an even better day than the last outing. Much colder and windier but that’s no bad thing

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The sun was perfect for catching the edges

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Looking east

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And West

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The sun was already low and we still had a way to go but at least the wind was behind us, another good reason to walk this way around

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On top of Bannau sir Gaer we decided not to risk coming down the last boggy slopes to the car in the dark and cut the corner off direct to Fan Brycheiniog. It misses a couple of airy summits but saves a couple of miles

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Time to head down and another of those afternoons where its hard to drag yourself away. The views were immense and once you drop down you know that’s the end of the sunshine for the day

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We lingered as long as we dared and could stand the cold before leaving this lonely wonderland behind

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The skies then took over as the centre of attention.

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Pale blues and sheets and streaks of pink as the sun receded and night drew in

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After the last outing and its dark end this one was perfectly planned and we finished in the last of the afternoon light

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Black Mountain

8 miles and 2,400 feet of ascent and pure wind-blown, sun-soaked joy

Back to Winter   12 comments

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Well, that’s enough of city breaks for 2017. Time to get back to main feature of the blog namely out and about in the mountains. The weekend after our Barcelona trip and a decent Sunday forecast had us out in the Black Mountains. I’m always looking for a different take or a new route having explored the area extensively since I’ve lived in Herefordshire. I’d done both of today’s summits many times before but never on the same walk.

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A late start, possibly because I saw that the forecast was improving, more likely I just stayed in bed too long

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It was a cold and windy day with showers scudding over some of the tops. As ever though, sunshine and showers delivers crystal clear clarity to the air and the views

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The Sugar Loaf is a fine mountain I’ve been up many times but this is only the second time I’ve been up from the east side

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The views from the way up and the top were superb

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Not a day for dallying on the summit in an icy wind that I’m sure would have dropped as snow if we’d been caught in a shower

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We pushed on down with several mountain bikers on their way up. Too steep for me and a bike I have to say. We had a few drops of rain but nothing much and the skies cleared magnificently afterwards

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The last few leaves were still clinging to the trees as Autumn faded away

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The steep roads onto the open hillside of Crug Mawr warmed us up sufficiently to take in a short stop for a cuppa and a bite to eat. A grand view along the Grwyne Fechan valley to enjoy

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We didn’t linger long as it was pretty cold and we still had long way to walk and the sun was going down

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As we approached the summit of Crug Mawr the sun was turning the mountains a deep golden brown

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It’s the best time to be on the mountains, late in the day as the sun sets. No-one around but clear skies and gorgeous contrasts picked out by the low angled sun

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We briefly enjoyed the summit panoramas before heading off into the approaching darkness

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The price to pay for these views was a long walk back along the lanes to the car. TJS was not best pleased by this turn of events and castigated me for my poor planning in having to walk in the dark. I tried to inform him that hiking is not an exact science, that we were well off the hills before it got dark and our reward were some stunning views. He wasn’t placated by this and stomped off to the car. If he’s going to carry on hiking with his old man he better get used to this as I often linger on hills in winter to make the most of  day and end up coming down in darkness

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A long walk in the end of almost 12 miles but a good one for the future. Most of the road walking could be avoided on valley paths but not a great idea trying to find stiles and gates in the dark. Winter was back, sunny cities a thing of the past. I love my city trips but my heart will always belong to the mountains

 

Posted December 5, 2017 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Wales, Walking

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