Archive for March 2020

Another New Hill – Burrow   22 comments

My last walk before the lockdowns started to take effect. Looking out of the window at cloudless blue skies and sunshine for the past week, this walk in the midst of the endless days of rain and storms seems a very long time ago not just two weeks back.

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We were on the lookout for a shortish walk in another window between the heavy rains. Strong winds were forecast ruling out the higher mountains so a trip to the wooded hills of Shropshire was the choice. There was a route from Aston on Clun that I’d had in mind for a while taking in a new Marilyn and nice circuit.

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The lower fields and green lanes were as muddy as expected but passable with care to avoid wet feet and excessively muddy trousers!. First summit was the high point of the day, Burrow. Its only just over 1000 feet high but what it lacks in height it makes up for with brutal steepness. Easily as steep a climb (albeit much shorter) than any we did in Scotland the previous weekend.

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Its an old hill fort and the maps showed it to be forested at the top. In fact the trees are very sparse and we timed our arrival for a spell of brighter weather and the views were superb. Out over the Welsh Marches and beyond.

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In fact the summit area was really rather lovely as you can see. The raised earthworks created a maze of small ridges, valleys and paths and save one lone walker (who we saw several times during the day) we had the place to ourselves.

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Views to the Churchstoke Hills as I refer to them.

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And the Shropshire Alps (again my naming convention) around Church Stretton.

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We spent a happy hour wandering around the summit and a stop to take on a few snacks.

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Another very steep descent and re-ascent to pick up the Shropshire Way down to Hopesay Village.

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The fields were a little muddy but some of the views across the green fields were splendid.

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I thought about a walk across the fields to reach Hopesay Common and Hill but I’d had enough of muddy fields for now and the lane looked like a quite and more efficient way to the top.

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Hopesay Hill was fine stretch although the weather turned very gloomy while we were up there. It looked like we were in for a spell of heavy rain but it never arrived fortunately.

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Burrow over to the right.

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We dropped down to the wonderfully named Perry Gutter and thought about finishing off back via the road. We stayed on the paths and glad we did. There was a huge expanse of daffodils in the bottom of the valley and the grassy path across the fields was largely mud free and a very nice finish to the day.

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We clocked up almost 8 miles, not bad for what planned to be a short walk.

So for now, I’m rediscovering my inner cyclist and exploring the lanes and byways of my Herefordshire home to stay fit and healthy. As promised there will be a few blasts from my past to keep the blog juices going.

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Garway Hill Clouds   9 comments

It’s a very different world now to the one when I went on this walk a couple of weeks back. After a day working at home I decided I’d had enough and with the days getting longer headed out to Garway Hill for a brief walk to clear my head.

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Some wonderful cloud effects made it well worthwhile making the effort to head out as well as some welcome fresh air.

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The wild pines kept me company as I was the only person up there. Good practice for the new term of Social Distancing we all are now only too acutely aware of.

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Since then things have escalated quickly and now we are in total lockdown to try and stem the spread of the virus, protect the NHS and above all save lives.

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I went out for a few walks in the weekend leading up to the escalation to full lockdown. We are lucky that our local Black Mountains are quiet and isolated and not widely explored so by careful selection of start points and routes (as well as heading out at 6am for a walk before work) we never met anyone. I won’t be posting about these walks until we are back to normality as I’m still unsure if I did the right thing at the time.

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I have one more walk from a couple of weeks back to write up. After that it will be blog silence for a while. Well, not quite. I’ll be going back into my photo collection from pre-blog days and writing up some of the trips from way back. Nostalgia for me and a chance for people to see what we all looked like when we had hair and hairstyles we’d like to forget! I have some classic holidays and adventures from my youth that I’ve often wanted to share but never found the time. Time is one thing we will all have plenty of in the coming weeks.

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Time to spend quality time with the family, binge watch box sets and lots of cycling around my local lanes. All the very best wishes to everyone and their families in these difficult times.

Posted March 25, 2020 by surfnslide in Local Walks, Walking

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Showers – and – Sunshine!   17 comments

The Sunday didn’t start well with dark skies and regular heavy showers. We figured the further south we headed away from the bulk of the Southern Highlands would give a better chance of drier weather as well as knocking an hour off the journey home.

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We parked up in the village of Luss based on my plan to climb one of the Luss hills, Mid Hill, that seemed to fit the bill for a summit, not too high but with potential for good views. There was even a path marked, always a bonus in Scotland. It rained on and off during the protracted time we spent faffing around in the car park and on the first part of the walk. We did at least start to get some views over the island studded lower part of Loch Lomond.

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However it was still pretty damp and it looked like another day with waterproofs on.

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As we climbed it stopped raining and there was a little more brightness in the sky. Then as if by magic patches of blue appeared.

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They formed together into larger blue patches and then, miraculously, the sun came out.

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It was fiercely windy but we were happy and surprised just to see sunshine. The forecast wasn’t really promising any but it looked like the decision to head south was paying dividends.

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Even Ben Lomond appeared even though the main Southern Highlands still looked gloomy, dark and stormy.

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Our spirits soared and all was right with the world. The air was clear and the views stupendous. Ben and Loch Lomond make for very fetching views indeed, as do the rest of the Luss Hills range.

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It was a steep climb and very exposed to the wind but with the sun finally appearing we soared up towards the top.

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We were even lucky enough to find a sheltered patch of snow to sit in for lunch. Result.

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The steep ridge ended on the first top Beinn Dubh and onwards to the expansive plateau summit.

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The weather was way better than any of us expected and what had been looking like a bit of a washout weekend was transformed with a superb walk on a little known mountain.

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There are a couple of substantial corries, Coire na h Eanachen and Coire Carlaig that gave a bigger mountain feel.

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Views to Beinn Bhreac that we climbed a couple of trips back.

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Ben Lomond.

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The Trossachs.

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By the time we reached the high point we’d used up all our weather good fortune. We were blasted by a severe and very nasty snow and hail storm you can see approaching below.

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For fifteen minutes it was as nasty a spell as I’ve been out in for a while. We were all coated in icy wet snow and mad a very swift exit down the ridge above Glen Striddle.

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As quickly as the blizzard arrived, it stopped and blue skies came back although not for very long as the rest of the afternoon was punctuated by several short showers.

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We still had our couple of hours in the sunshine and sometimes when the weather in Scotland is in an unsettled phase you have to take that.

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All that was left was to walk/squelch down the ridge to the road and the walk back along Glen Luss to the cars.

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It was a longer day than I thought, over 7 miles and even though we only crested just over 600m, we had started pretty much from sea level and it felt like a proper mountain day with all the weather thrown at us.

In the end a weekend we all look back with fond memories. Sometimes just a couple of hours of sunshine is enough.

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Rain!   13 comments

A short post entirely in proportion to the amount of time we spent outdoors.

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The forecast was biblically bad. Heavy rain from the previous night, all through the day and into the following night. Not a day for high mountains (although a couple mad fools took on a Corbett and got a soaking). We opted for a short walk around Glen Orchy just to make sure we had some fresh air and exercise.

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The rain was as heavy and persistent as promised “near-incessant rain almost everywhere” was the MWIS forecast) That at least meant that the waterfalls on the the River Orchy were very impressive (the one above is the Eas Urchaidh). We kept the good humour going as best we could but in all honesty it was as miserable a day as I’ve been out in since my Dartmoor soaking a couple of years back.

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We had a plan to follow an easy forest trail into the Caledonian Pine Forest Reserve around a lake, and back down to the Glen. We had one very soggy river crossing and then came across this ford on the Allt Coire Thoraidh!

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I imagine in normal weather it would be a rock hop across. Today it was completely impassable and had you fallen in you would have been very lucky to survive. We poked around for a bit looking for anywhere to cross but it was pretty obvious our route for the day was over. On the way back the soggy crossing we’d managed before was now wider and wetter. At least everyone’s feet were equally wet!

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We walked up this track a couple of years back in the Beast from the East, walking alongside the Allt Broighleachan. I barely remember it but today it was a deafening torrent!

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Back at the car the Orchy had risen several more feet while we’d been out. Where the were rocks and falls was now just once crashing torrent water. I thought I had a comparison photo from when we crossed earlier. Unfortunately one of my friends thought it would be a laugh to bounce the bridge while I was leaning over to take the photo and it came out rather blurred – lucky I didn’t drop my phone. Funny eh!

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The river Orchy is a big one but I’ve never seen it even remotely this high in numerous visits over the years.

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The forecast for the next day, whilst better, was still not terribly encouraging but we were hopeful and we had a nice hotel bar to relax in.

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Back on Skis!   6 comments

Several hours in the car and it’s time for our annual highland gathering up at Bridge of Orchy. No shortage of the white stuff on the first day before most people arrived so time for a day on skis.

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Me, THO and The Plant Scientist parked up at the Kingshouse (next to the swanky new building which isn’t as much of a eyesore as I’d been told) and loaded very heavy packs with winter mountain gear and ski gear for a couple of miles up the track to Black Corries Lodge to reach the snow.

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Cloudy day but it was largely dry and wind-free which is much as you can hope for in Scotland. Buachaille Etive Mor and the Blackmount looked very impressive.

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The snow was pretty much down to Black Corries Lodge so we strapped the skis on and headed up. The snow was frozen after the overnight frost but a couple of guys walking nearby seemed to be post-holing and struggling. Skis come in to their own in these conditions, gliding over the surface (although you lose the time gained taking them on and off and removing/putting on skins).

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Almost unnoticed we moved from partial to total snow cover as we headed up towards the summit ridge.

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Our target was Beinn a Chrulaiste but we thought we may as well bag the top at the eastern end, Meall Nan Ruadhag. Pleasingly its a HUMP so one one more done in my quest to complete all 3000+!

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Time for a short downhill stretch into the col before the climb to the middle twin summits of Meall Bhalach.

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We stopped on the top while it was fairly benign for lunch

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Another nice but short downhill stretch before the steep climb to the main summit.

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We were pleased we stopped earlier as it was far from benign on the top. In fact it was a complete white-out and we had something of a challenge finding our way back off the top without plopping through a cornice.

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The descent at the top would have been superb had we been able to see anything but care dictated skiing in pitches and slow careful progress. As we came out of the cloud we dropped into Coire Bhalach for a wonderful easy paced cruise over deep and complete snow cover.

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A few action shots of me courtesy of THO.

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Inevitably as we approached the car park the snow cover thinned and what snow there was was wet, patchy and punctuated with rocks. After falling over 2 or 3 times in the pace of a few yards I decided that was enough, strapped my skis to my pack and began the short walk down to the car. TPS also went one turn too far and ended up in a heap in the bog.

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We’d done pretty well, with just a couple of miles walk up the track to reach the end of the ridge and no more than a few hundred yards back to the car (although it was an outrageously boggy few hundred yards). We’d kept skis on for almost the whole day and it had been a pretty good tour.

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As we reached the car we even had some patches of blue and little watery sunshine.

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Perhaps the forecast could be wrong and Saturday might not be that bad. A quick pint back in the hotel bar, outside to return to my room and it was chucking it down. A taster of things to come!

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Winter on Crug Mawr   12 comments

It may not look wintry in the photos, but trust me, it was bitterly cold, ferociously windy and I was blasted by a couple of very nasty snow and hail showers.

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After yet more rain the Grwyne Fawr river was higher than I’ve ever seen it at the Pont Cadwgan car park where I start my walk to take in Crug Mawr. It’s another of my favourite walks when I need a shorter outing, here grabbing another short window in the foul weather. Sunny intervals and very heavy showers was the flavour of the day. As I strode out through the forest I noticed how tall the trees are in here, having looked up to admire some rare blue sky.

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Its a steep and dark climb through dense woods to summit ridge and I timed my arrival perfectly coinciding with a spell of clear skies and sunshine albeit very windy.

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A tumult of clouds whisked past in the sunny skies and there were clearly very heavy showers and squalls pushing through.

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It’s the big advantage of days like this when the breaks deliver a clarity to the air unmatched in other conditions.

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Taking photos from the top was a challenging task. The wind was blowing me off my feet and several images had to be deleted as they looked somewhat off kilter and blurred – natures inebriation.

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Not a day for lingering and I legged it off the summit lest one of those showers catch me in the most exposed spot of the walk.

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One of said showers tracking over Ysgyryd Fawr as I descended.

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This walk is perfect for a day like this. The beautiful old church at Patrishow sits at the halfway mark. It offers plenty of spots to shelter out of the wind which I did to have a cuppa and some lunch.

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A muddy descent to the road and back up to the ridge on the other side of the valley before I was blasted with a vicious hail and snow shower for 10 minutes. You can just see the melting remnants in the next couple of photos.

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This stretch of path that traverse across the flanks of the ridge used to be one of my favourites. I say used to be, sadly the trail bike plague has discovered it and churned large stretches into a muddy mess. I had walk up on the bank by the wall to avoid most parts. I’m not sure what the answer is here, it must be near impossible to enforce a ban. What I can say with certainty is that they they are tearing the Black Mountains apart with their selfish activity.

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The sun was out again and all was glorious once more.

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Well for a while anyway as more heavy showers raced across the sky.

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I tried a slightly different route to avoid a soggy section near the car park. All it meant was I found a different one. I’m learning quickly just to take each route as it comes, trying to avoid the soggy mess this winter has left behind is near impossible. Trail shoes and socks dry out eventually. Not a bad day, another one to file under “glad I made the effort”

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Another Quick Dash to the Hills   15 comments

Another day, another poor forecast but another window in the weather. In fact quite a decent window as it happened. I could have gone out for a much longer walk if I’d realised, but no matter I was pleased just to see some glimpses of sunshine albeit backed by a ferocious wind.

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Another high start needed to keep the walk manageable and unmuddied so Blorenge it was, parking at just short of 500m.

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Moody clouds and lake reflections set things off to a good start and a popular walk was very quiet after the very poor weather of late.

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Views over to the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons showed quite a bright day, very much better than anything the forecast had promised.

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The fine views over the Forest and Dean and Abergavenny.

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The summit walk was very soggy indeed but I enjoyed being out in the wild weather so it was no real hardship on such a brief outing.

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The trig pillar has been given a lick of red paint for some reason. Makes it a more photogenic foreground I think.

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It was just such a relief to get out. I was going stir crazy at home!

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Tour of Hergest Ridge   15 comments

Another week of wet weather back in February and another weekend that looked a write-off for a walk. Saturday came up with a short break in the heavy rain and I dashed out. Needing a short walk with a high start and no farmland, Hergest Ridge above Kington fitted the bill.

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Fiercely windy and with dark scudding clouds everywhere I didn’t want to be out long and snag a soaking. Just a short tour of the “sights” as it were.

The Grove of Monkey Puzzle Trees.

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The summit ponds.

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A view out over mid-Wales and its brooding clouds from the summit (I did visit the Trig Pillar as well but neglected to grab photographic evidence).

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The steep side peak of Hanter Hill.

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Views across to Herrock Hill and Bradnor Hill where I’d visited a few weeks prior.

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The Whet Stone (supposedly it wanders down into Kington every night for a drink!)

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And then back to the car. Only out for an hour but cobwebs thoroughly blown away and fresh air in the lungs and through the brain.

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Water! Water! Everywhere!   6 comments

The journey back home from the airport after my ski trip through some truly appalling weather, some the heaviest rain I’ve ever seen in the UK, was a taste of things to come.

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February was a dreadful month with seemingly endless rain, storms and in the case of my county, floods. After two weeks of this we finally had chance for a stroll round our village to check out the water levels.

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These photos were of three of the five routes out of the village. The other two were just as bad, effectively cutting off the village for anyone without a 4WD or SUV.

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Whilst we are relatively near the river Wye all of these floods are just a result of excessive rain, blocked ditches and a high water table. You would never walk around the village in summer and think it was an area prone to floods.

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Flood damage in Madley was limited but the Wye in Herefordshire broke all existing records going back a couple of centuries by over half a metre! The damage in the towns of Ross and Hereford has been very sad to witness, businesses will likely be finished as a result.

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Our usual walk around the fields is a very muddy one at present, sections are impassable.

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This grove of trees normally has just a babbling brook running through it.

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The water table is effectively at the surface so even if we get a spell of a few days without rain, one spell of rain and it’s all back again. It’s hard to tell if the fields will dry out any time soo.

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Makes for some nice images but what I’d give to be able to walk round and not see huge expanses of mud and water.

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Posted March 9, 2020 by surfnslide in Local Walks, Walking

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A Little White Relief   4 comments

Let me take you away from all the grey skies, rain, floods and mud in the UK. First week of February is ski week for me and my ski buddies and we were back in our usual resort, The Three Valleys in France and our usual apartment in Mottaret.

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The weather let us down again this year. We had very mild temperatures and 24 hours of rain over the first few days. We even had to spend a whole day indoors – skiing in the rain is no fun at all. After the rain the temperatures dropped, the wet snow froze solid and the fresh snow we had just blew off the top leaving icy slopes behind for the rest of the week.

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We managed to stay positive by regular visits to our local and very friendly bar for a few beers.

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We had a decent half day on the Monday before more snow arrived.

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This was the view from the apartment on the Tuesday.

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Time to practice Avalanche rescue in the slopes outside the apartment. You bury a Transceiver in the snow and take it in turns trying to find it.

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Despite the fact you can’t bury it very deep and its pretty obvious roughly where it is, it’s much, much harder than it looks. Its a vital skill that we should really practice every year but often don’t.

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Whilst the skiing wasn’t as good as in previous years at least the weather was much better in the second half of the week.

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No fresh powder to play in but the area is huge and its always good to travel around on skis and just enjoy the crisp, clear, cold mountain air.

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Hopefully the photos give you a little bit of lift. They are working for me!

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My favourite view across to Mont Blanc.

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Plenty of laughs.

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Seriously huge amounts of food consumed.

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A really great trip with good company and always highlight of my holiday year.

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The trip home provided almost as much excitement as the skiing. We flew home in the middle of storm Ciara. Me and UF flew into Liverpool and it was a very bouncy affair indeed. I’m pretty good at handling bumpy flights but this one had me a little anxious, palms sweating. I’ve never felt an aircraft lurch so dramatically before. The Pilot was a star. He gave us regular updates and seemed completely unruffled – at least his tone was! Despite the wind the landing was close to perfect and he earned his round of applause from the Passengers. THO only just made it into Bristol. MM didn’t make it to Birmingham at all. His flight was turned back to Geneva and he had to make it home by train over two days!

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