Archive for November 2018

Back to the Mountains – Cadair Idris   20 comments

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Time to head back to the bigger mountains. Settled and sunny weather days at weekends are a rarity at this time of year. MWIS was showing a potential cracker so I set the alarm for 6am and headed west. I had a hankering for a proper rocky mountain and Cadair Idris fitted the bill as my nearest option. Always eager to avoid parking charges I’d planned a new route to the top meaning I could park in the free lay-by halfway up the deep valley that lies to the SE of main ridge. 

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I was walking by just after 8:30. The skies were clear and cold but I wasn’t ready for was just how windy it was even low down. This was not a day for hanging about in bitter conditions. My route was to traverse around to the bottom of the NE ridge and climb to the summit ridge from there. I’ve only ever done the mountain by the classic route around Cwm Cau and always looked longingly at this approach. As I wandered around to the base of the ridge the views expanded as I ascended. It was a cracker of a day if exceptionally windy and cold.

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The lower part of the ridge is steep but there is a faint path if you can find it. From there it is a wonderful climb around a succession of rocky outcrops.

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Looking along to Mynydd Moel.

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As I crested the top of the first peak of Gau Graig the wind was ferocious. Strong enough to blow me off my feet a couple of times.

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Compensation was provided by sensational views. North across the Mawddach estuary to the Rhinogs and Snowdon, south towards Plynlimon, still swimming in the morning mists.

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The next stage of my route.

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I managed to find a small degree of shelter from the wind for a snack. Finding places to stop and shelter today was going to be a challenge.

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Onwards to the next summit and the walking was delightful if tricky in the gusting wind. Aview west across the Dovey Hills to the Arans

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Mynydd Moel is a superb spot with spectacular views across the Cadair range to the sea beyond and a deep sculpted corrie to the north east

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More sensational walking across the broad ridge and along the exposed edges towards the summit. 

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As I approached the summit I saw my first people of the day. I must have walked over 3 hours and several miles with the mountain all to myself. I guess this route gets few footsteps.

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I arrived on the summit, surprised to find only a few people there. Cadair is a very well known and popular mountain and on such a good day I expected more people until I realised my early start had me on the top just after midday, still a little early for the masses to have made it

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I tried a selfie and some panorama shots but I could barely stand in the wind. A view back along the ridge I walked up.

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The summit pillar to prove I made it!

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Llyn Peninsula in the background, Care Fadryn, my favourite small hill just visible on the horizon. I’m always pleased to see it.

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Cadair has a number of small rocky outcrops just below the summit where I found a reasonably sheltered spot for lunch and fresh brew of tea. A view from my picnic spot.

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And back to the summit. I wandered across to take in the view from the summit of Cyfrwy as the weather was so clear, I wanted to stay high as long as possible.

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Looking down to Llyn y Gadair where we’d camped earlier in the summer.

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A steep descent and re-ascent to Craig Cau followed where I started to meet larger crowds of people heading up.

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Its a superb spot with grand views down into the deep heart of Cwm Cau. I would have lingered but there was a large group sitting on most of the summit so I paused briefly and headed down.

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I managed to find a marvellous sheltered spot behind a rocky outcrop. Soft grass, a backrest and mountainous views now under deep and clear late afternoon blue sky.

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I sat here for quite a while just soaking up the sun (it was quite warm out of the wind) and admiring the views. It really is a fabulous mountain on a day like this.

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Reluctantly I headed down. It was still relatively early but I had a long way to go and had an idea I may, if I was lucky retain the sun even down at valley level.

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There were still lots of people heading up although possibly just to Llyn Cau at this point in the day. I managed to catch sun most of the way down through the trees.

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And it was still shining when I reached the valley floor.

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I still had a couple of miles to walk back up the valley to the car. There is wonderful path that follows the base of the valley with the main road high above so you don’t really notice its there.

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My timing was perfect with the sun shining directly along its length just before it set behind the flanks of the mountain. 30 minutes later and I’d likely have walked most of its length in cold shade.

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The views were magnificent. The sky deepening its shade of blue and the low sun bringing out all the autumn gold and brown.

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Looking down the valley toward the Tal y Llyn Lake

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And a close up zoom view to finish as I reached the car, still the only car there.

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A fabulous day on a big rock mountain that overlooks the coast on a crisp clear winters day.

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A long day of 12 miles with an early start and a few hours driving. I think it was worth the effort.

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New Places – Wapley Hill and Shobdon Hill   10 comments

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Another day and another Marylin bagging session. Solo this time while the Funsters went to play on a climbing wall. Weather looked rather poor as I drive across and parked up in a deluge. Boots on and the rain had stopped. As I set off the sky was a deep blue and the autumn colours magnificent.

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My first target was Wapley Hill, another Iron Age Hill Fort. The forest was dark in places but in others the clearings gave some spectacular views across the patchwork of fields and the changing colours of the forest. The yellows seem especially vivid this year (or I’ve just never noticed them before).

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The colours were staggering, absolutely stunning.

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The summit of the hill had extensive earthworks and pillow mounds where they apparently reared rabbits (I didn’t think rabbits needed any help to breed).

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I think this is taken from the highest point although the top is very wide and its hard to tell where the exact summit was.

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I wandered along the ramparts but it was overgrown and my feet were getting wet so I reverted to the paths.

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The top is very flat and pretty soggy but it was a nice place to wander and I had it to myself.

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Through the trees I could glimpse more bright coloured trees and views across the Lugg valley.

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A rainbow to remind me the threat of rain was ever present.

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More stunning colours.

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The paths here are numerous and wandering around in my own little private world I neglected to check the map and went down the wrong path! A bit of bashing though the bracken and brambles in the forest and I was back on track.

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The path along the edge was wonderful and peaceful with gorgeous glimpses of pastoral countryside that typifies the Marches.

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On reaching the bottom of the hill the skies were still blue and sunshine abundant so I decided to bag another Marylin across the valley.

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I had a short sharp shower and then long but equally sharp climb back up another hill and along another path that gave superb views.

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A careful eye on the stormy conditions all around.

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And finally reaching the top of Shobdon Hill for my second summit of the day. Just a track through the trees and not terribly inspiring except for the views to the north through a clearance of trees.

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Not bad for hill I didn’t even know was there!

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And a picture of yours truly to mark the event.

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This is the highest point on the hill. Clearly not many people make the pilgrimage to this summit.

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I managed to go wrong again on the way down and had to to do small amount of off piste round these fields to get back on track. I fell over in the nettles for my trouble.

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Emerging from the trees the views were once again magnificent.

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Looking across to Wapley Hill.

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And back up to Shobdon Hill where I’d come from.

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All that was left was a longish walk back up the road to the car. 9 miles in the end and a pretty damn fine walk.

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From a weekend that promised some pretty rank bad weather I extracted two of the finest walks of the year. Shows what pleasures the UK has to offer if you make the effort to seek them out.

Posted November 23, 2018 by surfnslide in Local Walks, Walking

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New Places – Aconbury Hill   14 comments

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I’m always on the look out for new places for a walk especially in weather where a day in the mountains is less appealing. I use the OS Mapping software on my various devices and noticed that they can mark a range of hill lists on the map. Mostly the usual Scottish ones, Munros and  Corbetts, but they also mark Marylins, the Relative hills of Britain. As they have strict criteria of 150 feet of ascent regardless of other factors they are both numerous and in many places pretty obscure. Looking at my maps I have several local ones I’ve never done, mostly smaller wooded hills. This seems a perfect excuse to for some new walks and avoid the wild winter weather. As most of these local ones are forested I was hoping my first couple of forays would deliver some autumnal colour.

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First on the list was Aconbury Hill, just outside Hereford and a mere 15 minute drive away. The hill was littered with paths and we parked up and set off into the very damp woods after a few heavy squalls of rain hoping not to get too wet.

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The colours in the trees was wonderful and its a really pleasant walk up to the top of the hill, an old iron age hill fort

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There are a myriad of paths around the earthworks on the top and we wandered a bit aimlessly as my OS maps seemed to struggle with the GPS signal.

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Finding a view from the top was a bit of challenge due to all the trees but we did find a spot with a view over Hereford.

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We forged a route down to head back to the car as we had only intended to be out for an hour or so. Showers looked like they were in the ascendency when we left home and we didn’t want to push our luck. When we emerged into the fields the weather looked ok so we decided to extend the walk.

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I’m always reticent to go walking across the fields in Herefordshire. Paths are generally not well walked and you often end up semi-lost with poor signage and overgrown or blocked routes. However the succession of paths we followed were no problem if a little muddy and slick.

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We dropped down to Aconbury Court and the back up through Wallbrook Wood to Merrivale Farm. This storm cloud was impressive and luckily didn’t dump a heavy shower on us.

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Glorious sunlight in the green lane past the farm.

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The community of Little Birch and Kings Thorn is spread over a wide area. A collection green lanes, field paths and cottages that was a delight to pick our way through.

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There was plenty of late afternoon sunlight to dress the autumn leaves with bright colours.

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I liked these three perfectly spaced trees along the field boundary

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Smoke rising from cosy cottages

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From a morning of heavy showers and low expectations sprang a really stunning and enjoyable walk full of interest and charm.

 

The first foray into the world of Marylins had been a resounding success.

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I’ve lived in the area for 15 years now – almost exactly 15 years in fact. In all that time I’ve never given Aconbury Hill a second thought. We walked five miles in the end and were out most of the afternoon. One of the delights of the UK is that hidden gems and rewarding walks seem to be endless.

Wet Down by the Wye   20 comments

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Another day and another dismal wet and dreary one. In truth it was an awful day, low cloud, mist and a mix of heavy rain and drizzle. We went out anyway and even convinced TJF for a rare outing involving walking, bribed by the idea of having Mac the dog with us

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The worst of the rain had passed by when we set off from a wet and muddy car park at the now closed for the year Doward Farm Campsite. At least this walk has plenty of interest (as well as having a dog to liven things up). A series of caves, this one King Arthur’s Cave (that bloke really did get about)

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Some splendid mixed woodland

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And from Seven Sisters Rocks, stunning views along the Wye Gorge with lots of Autumnal colours, although it looks better in sunlight

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The soggy travellers

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Down to Biblins Campsite and the bouncy bridge over the river

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In summer I’d expect to see many people kayaking the river here, no-one braving the wet today.

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Mac is a hard character to photo as he is in a constant state of motion. This was my best effort

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Along the river to Symonds Yet and its rapids, where there were some kayakers practising their skills. Me and THO have played about here in the past but these days I prefer surf to rivers. I never really got the hang of river rapids (these are pretty gentle).

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We came through on our family kayak last year and I realised just how low the water was then. There were rocks protruding from the water all the way down, none of which are visible here even though the water level in not especially high

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You get to cross the river by a small punt-like ferry to add another element of interest to this walk. I once came this way in summer with Mark and his family and the ferry wasn’t running as the river was extremely high and looked like a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. No such problems today

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From Symonds Yat its just a short walk back through more rather lovely (and very soggy) mixed forest back to the car

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We bid a fond farewell to THO and Mac. Not the best weekend of weather but a couple of decent outings and a new friend made

Winter is Over   15 comments

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Normal November service resumed – after a brief cold snap, mild, damp and grey weather has returned. Last weekend we had THO over for the weekend and managed a couple of walks. On the Saturday after a breakfast at Waitrose (I’m so middle class!) we took a walk up Crug Mawr at the south end of the Black Mountains.

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And, we had a new friend with us. This is Mac, THO’s dog and what a lovely little fellow he is. Extremely friendly and sociable it was a pleasure to have him on the walk with us. I’d forgotten how good it is to be accompanied by a dog on a walk. Set us thinking and talking about how and why dogs have forged such a close bond with humans from their wilder origins

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It more than made up for what was really a pretty dismal day. As you can see from the photos it was wet, dark and miserable in terms of weather, but company turned it into a fine outing.

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We didn’t linger long on the summit of Crug Mawr as it was really windy and, well, damp.

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At least most of the smaller tops were out of the cloud to give us something of a view.

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We stopped for lunch at the little church in Patrishow. Despite having walked past many times. I’ve never been inside so we put that right.

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It’s very old and whilst simple is lovely inside.

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The carved wood on the balcony was intricate and would not have looked out-of-place in the Sagrada in Barcelona.

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The odd skeleton picture at the back is apparently there to remind us of our mortality!

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We had lunch in the Lych gate in front of the Church, Mac scurrying around and begging for whatever food he could scrounge with his puppy dog eyes.

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We had plans for a longer walk but we felt satisfied with a walk along the ridge on the other side of the valley and down to the car

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It’s a fine ridge that see’s few visitors but not at its best today

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Crug Mawr

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We headed back to fester at home and enjoy and afternoon and evening watching TV and Mac make himself thoroughly at home in our house.

 

 

 

Posted November 8, 2018 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Wales, Walking

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Winter Was Here   14 comments

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Back a couple of weeks to a time of cold weather, frosts and snow. Time to pack away the summer rucksack, bring out the winter version and fill it with winter mitts, bothy bag and down jacket. Slight overkill for the Black Mountains but you can’t be too careful.

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Started off beautiful clear and frosty with a strong wind and a deep chill in the air.

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The walk along the ridge beyond Castell Dinas is excellent and referred to as the Dragons Back locally. Whilst that’s overstating things a bit, it is a very nice way to reach the main Black Mountains summit of Waun Fach.

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The views back to Mynydd Troed, our target for the second half of the day were superb.

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Looking along the ridge to Waun Fach.

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And down the valley towards Crickhowell.

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See, I told you we needed winter gear!

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Just after we left the summit of Waun Fach we were hit by a serious snow shower. Proper winter conditions in the air if not on the ground (the snow was wet and thin)

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There was a Mountain Marathon in progress with lots of people wandering about in shorts and Lycra in what was a blizzard and temperatures well below freezing with wind-chill. Definitely not the weather to be spending a night in a bivvy bag (or dressed in lycra for that matter).

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The snow melted pretty much immediately, the skies cleared and we found a nice spot behind a wall for lunch.

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I’ve walked this route many times as a shortish half-day but this time wanted to make a longer circuit.

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We picked a route off the hills and along the lanes down to the village of Waun Fach (not the mountain) and up towards Mynydd Troed (my first ever mountain ascent when I was ten for those that don’t know that story).

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There was a major fire on the mountain in the dry summer and you can see traces of it in the left of the shot below.

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And as we climbed up onto the ridge.

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But the scale of the damage wasn’t apparent until we were near the top.

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What used to be a dense covering of knee-deep moss and heather had been stripped bare by the fire. All that remained was the grass on the path which I assumed was fresh re-growth.

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In places there wasn’t even that and it looked desolate and bare. The plants up here are pretty resilient so I hope that in time it will recover.

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The weather had closed in a bit and there wasn’t much in the way of sunshine. We did get some nice sunlight streaming through the clouds over Llangorse Lake and the Brecon Beacons

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We didn’t linger on the top as it was ferociously windy and bitingly cold. We took our leave plunged down the steep NE ridge down to the car

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A good 12 mile stretch of wild winter walking

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I like winter walking and I enjoyed this very early blast of cold and snow. Pity the weekend just gone was back to typical November, all gloom and mild wet drizzle

A Day of Two Halves   12 comments

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The weather on the Sunday following our south Lakes wander was appalling. Cloud right down and heavy slanting rain. We’d arranged to meet friends for a walk in Yorkshire but rang them to postpone by a couple of hours in the hope things might improve later. The Forecast wasn’t promising seeming to indicate a spell of cloud and rain between two longer spells of rain! As we drove over if anything the weather got worse and the car was rather quiet as we looked forward to a soaking. As we met up in Clapham it eased off a bit and we decided to head out anyway in a light drizzle.

The waterfalls in Clapham looked nice after all the rain.

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We took a route to avoid the walk up Clapham Beck as they charge you for it! We headed to Trow Gill as it’s a top spot even on wet and miserable day.

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We re-lived a memory from university days on a walk with very deep snow. In those days the top of the gorge had a stile to cross and me and my mischievous friends had realised an opportunity for fun and games. The narrow stile was a perfect ambush opportunity so we raced ahead, made a pile of snowballs and pelted everyone that came through. Of course once past that point meant that the next person through had one more person to be pelted by. Someone had to be last and one of our party took that role. I can still hear the sound of dozens of snowballs pelting him and the surrounding rocks to this day! Childish but fun.

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Back to the present day. We emerged onto the open moors above Trow Gill and turned to make our way over towards Crummack Dale, the main target of our walk. Whilst it was still damp and grey it had stopped raining.

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There was even sunshine back towards Clapham.

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We found a spot out of the wind for a bite to eat and a brew looking over the rather nice and splendidly named Clapham Bottoms.

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If we look a bit wet it’s because we were. As we finished up it started raining again sadly and we thought that was it for the day.

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Looking back to Trow Gill.

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However it soon stopped and from there things began to improve.

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Cloud started to lift and Pen-y-Ghent appeared from the clouds.

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From Sulber Gate, the view over Thieves Moss and its wet limestone catching the sun (yes it was starting to put in an appearance) was superb.

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As we crossed Beggars Stile, the magnificent expanse of Crummack Dale came into view. I’ve wanted to come back here for a long time as I’ve only ever walked it in the dusk and darkness many years ago.

 

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The heavens clearly understood my longing and the sun suddenly came out in full force lighting up the crags magnificently.

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The day and mood were transformed and there was a real spring in the step as we walked down through the dale on wonderful grassy paths.

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There is something special about the grassy paths through limestone areas that I just love. Whether it’s just the ease of walking or bright vivid green colour I’m not sure.

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The views were sensational – an incredible contrast to the damp and wet gloom of the previous 24 hours.

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Mark recommended we cut across to the Pennine Bridleway by way of the Norber Erratics under Robin Procters Scar.

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A good call. A fine path through interesting limestone edges littered with glacial erratics (boulders of a different rock type picked up elsewhere and dropped by receding glaciers).

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Superb views out across the valley towards the Forest of Bowland and Pendle Hill.

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Maybe TJS needs glasses?

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The crags of Robin Proctors Scar. Much as I love my local mountains in South Wales, they do lack large crags and rock bands so my camera was trained on these for the rest of the walk.

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One more treat in store as we wandered along the Pennine Bridleway back to Clapham. The sun came out between the clouds in full force.

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The low angle lit up the fields and crags to stunning effect.

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I was captivated by the scene and stopped many times to take photos. No-one else seemed to have noticed as when I looked up they were all out of sight. Their loss!

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The sign on the way down warned cyclist of steep slopes and tunnels so I was surprised to find these on the way down.

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Back to Clapham after a surprisingly long walk of 10 miles.

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One of those days when deciding to go out in the worst of weather delivers substantial rewards. Sometimes you just have to give it a go. Sometimes (like my walk on Dartmoor in January) it delivers a miserable soaking. Sometimes you are treated to glorious views like this. The weather in the UK is fickle and unpredictable but when you gaze on a view like the one above it makes you glad for all that uncertainty.

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Back to Mark’s for another one of his slap up meals (a lamb roast that was everything you could want after a day in the hills). A top weekend (thanks to Mark and the gang for putting us up) and a chance to see TJS before he really settles into to his first term at Lancaster

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