Archive for November 2020

Above the Clouds!   18 comments

Its not very often I’m in a position to, have the time or the inclination to post about a walk the same day it took place. I’m making an exception today.

It was a dreadfully dreary day at home. There had been talk online of cloud inversions in the Brecon Beacons but they are out of bounds for us. We headed for Kington and Hergest Ridge as its the furthest west and highest point I could think of still in England.

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When we set off from the car, already at a thousand feet, we weren’t hopeful as water dripped off the trees. Our thoughts were very much of just enjoying being out and at least out of the trees it was dry and calm. As we climbed higher we began to see vague impressions of the sun and blue sky directly above. However we were near the highest point and it didn’t look like we’d be able to get high enough to see anything dramatic.

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We were taking our usual tour of the Hergest Ridge “sights” and as we reached the small summit pond the sun started to appear more clearly.

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We saw lots of wild ponies today who were all quite frisky and noisy, bless ’em!

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Directly above the skies cleared but at ground level it was still swirling mist, still impressive in an ethereal sort of way.

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It was very atmospheric and by now we were pretty happy at how the day had turned out

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The summit Trig Pillar.

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And a Fog-Bow that was following us around.

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As we approached the true summit, the skies above started to really clear and we caught a few tantalising glimpses of distant hills above what was now an obvious and dramatic cloud inversion.

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We still were not high enough to see all its splendour but what we had was fantastic as the mist swirled around use creating ghostly images at ground level before vanishing again.

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From the truly miserable conditions at home, a speculative walk was turning into a rather good one.

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As we weren’t sure if this sunny spell was going to last we decided to head out to Hanter Hill first and return here later in the hope we could catch a little more sun for our lunch stop. Hanter Hill is a bit lower than Hergest Ridge so I wasn’t hopeful we’d get the same sunny effects.

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Walking back down into the gloom the temperatures dropped. We hadn’t really noticed how much warmer that thin veil of sunshine was. It’s a steep climb to the summit. As I crested the final slopes, this was my reward.

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A full on cloud inversion! Looking back here to Hergest Ridge, now clear of cloud.

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It was breathtaking. We stood aghast for several minutes. I’ve not seen a cloud inversion for many years and this was a cracker as we were only a few metres above the cloud layer.

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Llanfihangel Hill where I’d walked a few weeks back, floating on the cloud sea.

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We took a wander out to the other end of the summit where the views were just as good.

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As we watched the cloud layer seemed to drop a little and the mist cleared further. The Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons also appeared above the cloud.

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The cloud in the valley to the north appeared to breaking up and we could see the farmland below.

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We walked back to main top to pick up our packs as the other end appeared be sunnier and a better stop for lunch.

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The cloud sea out east was dramatic and above you could see the higher cloud that I think has blanketed most of the UK

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Looking 180 degrees to the west and above the inversion the sky was cloudless.

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It suddenly occurred to me that conditions and our location were perfect for the other grand feature of a cloud inversion. A few steps away from the summit and we added Brocken Spectres and Glories to our tick list.

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As if the day couldn’t get any better!

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We found a spot to sit down and enjoyed a most magnificent 40 minutes or so.

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It was completely calm, the sun was warm and of course the views just amazing.

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You can see the summit of Pen y Fan, far on the horizon just left of centre in the image below.

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Looking out over to the Radnor Hills.

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And a cleanly shaven (head and face) selfie.

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I took another wander around wanting to absorb the memories of a stunning day. Another Brocken Spectre and Glory.

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It had looked like the inversion was breaking up but as I wandered about we were treated to a different show, watching the fog thicken and rise again.

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It was clear the show was nearly over so we packed up and moved on. Our timing could not have been better, or indeed, luckier. Our one hour on the summit coincided exactly with the clearest spell of sunshine and of inversion drama. To say I was feeling smug at this point is an understatement.

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We returned to the top of Hergest Ridge hoping for another sunny spell. The small summit pond had a trio of wild ponies around and in it and made a nice photo subject.

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We didn’t get any more sunshine so headed back home into the dank gloom, but with spirits lifted by one of natures most fabulous outdoor experiences. If ever there is a lesson to head out even when things don’t look promising, then this is it.

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Back Out in the Black Mountains   10 comments

After a month of dreary, grey and wet weekends, punctuated with short walks whenever we could, we finally had a decent day forecast. Back in Lockdown again and Wales still out of bounds. Luckily the eastern edge of the Black Mountains is less than 30 minutes away by car and in England so the obvious choice for a walk.

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Said forecast was for dry weather with occasional sunshine and as we wet off a blanket of cloud passed over. I decided to avoid the well known car park at the base of the Cats Back ridge and headed to the less popular spot at the base of the Black Darren landslip. Such is the new found desire among many to head to the mountains, even at just after 9am there were a few cars parked in this very lonely and isolated spot.

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The plan was a long circuit of the Olchon Valley, following Offa’s Dyke along the border with Wales before returning via the Cats Back. The Black Darren is a fascinating little spot and for us a very popular target when a short walk is needed. I normally tackle the “ridge” created by the landslip and its short steep scramble. On a cold damp winter day it was less appealing and we followed the boulder filled “valley” left behind.

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Views across south Herefordshire and Monmouthshire.

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And back across the the skyline of our planned route.

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As we emerged onto the broad ridge we were bathed in bright sunshine which stayed with us most of the day. From a promising forecast delivered a super, albeit very cold and raw day.

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It’s a surprisingly long way along the ridge to northern end. The broadness of the ridge restricts the views and its therefore not a walk I make very often as there are numerous better paths and routes. However in these challenging and restricted times I was grateful to have an opportunity just to walk high in the mountains and the broad path makes for an easy, uncomplicated stroll.

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Even though the path through the wetter parts have been slabbed, some of them were under water after the autumn rains.

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Even on such a glorious day with access limited we saw barely a handful of people along the five miles of the ridge.

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Looking across to Lord Hereford’s Knob.

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Out towards Hay Bluff, a lot less distinct that its steep northern aspect.

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Hay Bluff is a fine viewpoint and we had thought about the out and back to the top. On such a cold raw day and the likelihood there would be lots of people up there (we could see them in the distance) we decided to start our return route. Just as well as the walk we did turned out to be plenty long enough.

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The traversing path back towards Black Hill is the extreme eastern edge of the South Wales mountains and affords fantastic views over the spreads of rural Herefordshire and beyond.

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North to the mountains of mid-Wales.

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We managed to find a sheltered spot and settled down for the customary, indeed, compulsory, lunch and fresh brew of tea. Looking over to Black Hill from our dinner table.

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The day seemed to be getting clearer and sunnier as we progressed.

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This was very much in order as the Cats Back ridge is a very fine walk indeed. On a winters afternoon the contrast between the sunny and shady side was stark.

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Out towards the Marches and Malvern Hills.

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The narrow section of ridge.

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A fellow walker providing me with a nice pose for a photo.

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There were a few more people on this section as its very well known. Everybody (apart from the inevitable trail bikes) were respecting the social distancing and party number rules.

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Sadly, at the bottom of the ridge, we dipped into the shade and that was the last of the sun for the day as it dropped below the mountains. A steep and muddy drop into the valley and out again and a trudge down the road back to the car.

Much like the first lockdown, I’ve been cycling more than walking for several weeks. Great for the fitness levels bit not for the legs. The last mile or so down the road was uncomfortable as various muscles, more used to pushing pedals than carrying weight protested. Still, a thoroughly enjoyable day out. My local wooded hills have provided salvation through this year but you can’t beat a mountain walk in winter sunshine.

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A Short Burst of Sunshine – Arthurs Stone   11 comments

A couple of weeks back and another weekend of what seemed like endless drizzle and showers.

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I always head out each weekend, regardless of conditions to enjoy the fresh air and I’m learning to love/like/tolerate walking in the rain to make sure we treasure that outdoor time. The first part of this walk was pretty grim. Heavy, cold rain such that I had to shelter behind a tree for some respite from it. As we neared the car the rain stopped and the tentative strands of blue sky suddenly broadened into a quite glorious 30 minutes of sunshine.

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Its hard to imagine from these photos just how nasty it was 10 minutes earlier.

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The low angled sun and some dark brooding clouds made for some gorgeous images.

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Green stuff growing in the fields.

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Brown stuff – also known as leaves – on the trees.

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Merbach Hill was one of our go-to places in our early days living in Herefordshire but we always parked near the road end. That was until I got my car stuck in the mud and had to get towed out by the local farmer. This year with the travel restrictions from COVID we rediscovered it and realised that the walk down the lane from a much better parking place was quite pleasant.

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This parking spot is at Arthurs Stone. We never really explored it until this year and its an interesting spot and a fine viewpoint.

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Its actually a Neolithic burial mound but as we all know, good old Arthur on his many travels obviously stopped off here. Where did he find the time.

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The conditions made for some fine photo opportunities.

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Stormy clouds.

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Mysterious stones.

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The lesson is that there is always a chance of fleeting moments of quality on the wettest of winter days. Not always of course – plenty of ceaseless soakings in the memory bank – but enough to make you head out even when the day looks bleak.

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Posted November 26, 2020 by surfnslide in herefordshire, Local Walks, Walking

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A Tale of n Hills – Wapley Hill   10 comments

Probably should have thought more about the titles for last couple of posts. With another lockdown in place and Wales out of bounds again, hills will be the focus of my outdoor activity for a while rather than mountains. Wapley Hill was one I discovered a few years back when looking at Marilyns.

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Its a fine little wooded hill with a old ditch and rampart settlement on the top. On my previous visit it was in glorious autumnal garb but we missed it by a week or so this time.

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The weekend had promised some better weather but in truth it turned out less than hoped. This day was rather dull and grey and the next, another day of ceaseless drizzle.

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Nice to get out for some fresh air and a stretch of the legs though.

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Looking out to Shobdon Hill, the next Marilyn along.

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Some of the paths are a little overgrown even though its the “Herefordshire Way”. If you ever plan to walk it, be warned that as well as being poorly maintained its also poorly signed.

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Posted November 21, 2020 by surfnslide in herefordshire, Local Walks, Walking

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A Tale of Two Hills – Coppet Hill   13 comments

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Second weekend day of grey skies and rain, second hill to climb.

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A return to a walk I did many times while TJF was with her acting group in Goodrich Village Hall. A variation by the following the usual route the other way, first following the River Wye and then climbing Coppet Hill. Dictated by the fact it was chucking it down when we set off.

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Despite another poor forecast we actually had some very watery sunshine and it was quite a pleasant stroll along the river and very quiet.

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The river was running very high after several days rain but the fields wre not too muddy.

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Over the top of Coppet Hill the clouds drew back in and the rain started again so not a day for summit photos.

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Another walk I was glad I made the effort for. You have to take whatever chances you can to enjoy a walk in these troubled times.

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Posted November 10, 2020 by surfnslide in Walking, Wye Valley

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A Tale of Two Hills – Aconbury Hill   16 comments

Not a terribly good weekend for the outdoor life – at least that’s what the forecast seemed to tell me. In the end the weather wasn’t anything like as apocalyptically bad as it said. Probably could have done a decent longer walk. Still managed a couple of short walks to make sure we didn’t go stir crazy.

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First up, Aconbury Hill. Discovered whilst looking at Hill Lists and a very good discovery it was. Only 15 mins drive, handy car park and a nice woodland walk, all good when there are heavy showers and strong winds about.

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The autumn colours were still in evidence as were plenty of chestnuts on the ground. A few collected to put in a stew later in the week.

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The skies looked dark and threatening but I escaped without getting wet and saw plenty of sunshine through the trees.

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Some decent views through the trees over the Shire.

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And a fine rainbow to finish off the day. Only just noticed when looking closely that it was a double rainbow.

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Forecast looking better for the coming weekend. Time to head further afield and sample the wider delights of the UK countryside. Oh, hang on…… 😥

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Posted November 3, 2020 by surfnslide in herefordshire, Local Walks, Walking

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