Archive for January 2021

Local Walks for Local People   17 comments

So back into Lockdown we went. As with everything this government does with the pandemic the rules and guidelines are vague, ambiguous and confusing. This is especially true when it comes to outdoor exercise. Having checked the legislation, travel and the associated distance to take exercise is not specifically limited. Its just states “local”, wahtever that means – different things to different people. Personally I don’t see an issue at all with a short drive to take a walk, providing you take your common sense with you. Here are two walks on consecutive days to illustrate my point.

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On the Saturday we needed some food shopping and drove into Hereford, our nearest location for Supermarkets. We decided to take a walk while we there, trying to follow the guidelines to keep it local, much as we would have done if we lived in the City. I’d worked out a walk along both banks of the river that would likely be about 3-4 miles and give us some fresh air and exercise on a largely gloomy day. We parked up in a far-flung and quiet corner of the car park.

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Despite having lived in the area for 18 years I know little of the city outside its shopping areas. It was nice to take some time out to see the local sights. Some classic views of the cathedral and old river bridge and this pedestrian crossing, named either the Jubilee or Victoria Bridge depending on who you talk to.

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We were lucky to take the walk when we did as a few days later this entire area was completely underwater after heavy rains. As I write those floodwaters are rising again after another wet weekend.

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Sadly the walk didn’t work out as well as expected. The riverside path on the south bank is no more and looks like its hasn’t been there for years. We had to resort to walking through housing estates, along busy main roads and then cycle paths to reach this, the Canary Bridge (no idea why its called that)

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An unusual construction and not something I even knew existed although TBF uses it a lot as she works round there and uses her bike to get to work some days.

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We squelched back into town across a few very muddy fields (likely they get regular deluges of flood water). There was a path along the north bank but the first section is by a large sewage works so I didn’t fancy that.

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Some more classic views of the cathedral from the Victoria Bridge. Finishing the walk through Castle Green Park and the very pretty back streets that surround it. Again not an area I’ve ever strolled through before.

So keeping it local. Number of people encountered or passed during the walk, I’d estimate around 100.

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Next day we did the unspeakable thing of driving a short distance (around 10 miles, maybe 3-4 miles further than we drive to collect shopping) for a walk from the small village of Longtown. It was a cold and dreary grey day so we planned a walk across the fields and along the base of the Black Mountains ridge and then back.

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While there I took another chance to see a local sight I’ve never visited before. Longtown Castle. Its small and free and would make a very nice spot for a summer picnic.

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There is a local myth that there is an underground passage from the castle to Llanthony Priory on the other side of the Black Mountains ridge. This would be a major acheivement seeing as the castle actually sits on a ridge of its own that falls away a few hundred feet down to the valley floor before the ridge rises. Its a nice story though!

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There are a whole array of paths across the fields so its always something of a voyage of discovery as to how easy they are to find and how muddy they might. The route up was excellent, paths well marked and not all that muddy. This is the path that runs along the bottom of the access land and for a half a mile or so was a rather fine grassy trod.

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It then deteriorated into more of a mud-bath with a built-in water supply so we decided to head back down. The route across the fields from here was the best part of the day with some fine walking across dry grassy fields with expansive views.

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Our planned route down was via the church and riverside walk at Clodock. However one of the fields had a mix of dense crops protected by an electric fence with sheep that had turned the rest of the field into an extreme muddy mess. Not fancying a slide or electrocution, we just headed back down, happy with our walk and the required exercise and fresh air.

So driving 10 miles out into the countryside to take a walk. Number of people encountered or passed during the walk, an exact 4. I know which walk I think was the best and safest option in the circumstances.

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An Hour in Lancaster   10 comments

TJS really needed to be back in Lancaster to study as its not really a suitable study environment here at home. An exhaustive check of both the guidelines and the actual legislation confirmed that returning students to university was allowed so it was a 7 hour round trip to make sure he was home safely.

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Not fancying the prospect of turning the car straight around and heading home after 10 minutes of dropping him off we went for a short walk in Lancaster. TJS lives a brief walk from Lancaster’s large Williamson Park so we headed up there.

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The previous day had seen a heavy fall of snow in the city and the park was busy with people taking their daily exercise and sledging.

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In truth most of the snow was gone. People seemed to be sledging on the thin veneer of polished ice on the paths or simply on the mud!

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Some of the “runs” seemed terrifyingly fast, often ending in bushes, hedges, near misses with lamposts or just in deep muddy holes.

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For our part we kept our distance and viewed the action from afar, preferring to enjoy the views which from this high spot were exceedingly fine.

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The park is dominated by the Ashton Memorial and its a fetching sight.

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It’s looks especially grand when the setting sun lights it up.

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It made for a nice break and welcome fresh air before another 3.5 hours spent cooped up in the car. Mixed emotions as it was good to see him back where he wanted to be, continuing his studies as best he can and mixing in a limited fashion with his friends. Sad that, most likely, I won’t see him again in person until Easter.

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Posted January 24, 2021 by surfnslide in Lancashire

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End of the Festivities   10 comments

Last day of the Xmas break, another gloomy start to the day, replaced by blue skies after lunch. Time to head out for another short walk.

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Back to Kington and Hergest Ridge, busier than I’ve ever seen it, forcing us to park right at the bottom of the road. When we emerged from the darkness of the trees, the skies were equally dark. What looked like a very heavy shower was on its way.

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As luck would have it, it was bitterly cold, the ground pretty much frozen solid and micro-spikes a great idea if only I’d remembered them!

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What came out of the sky was snow, which at these cold temperatures was dry and powdery and despite the dark clouds not very heavy.

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I was pretty sure I could see brightness behind and the snow stopped as quickly as its started.

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Patches of blue appeared with the remaining flakes of snow. It was all rather pretty.

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However the eye-catching features in the sky were the clouds. Huge booming shapes, racing across the skies and catching the late afternoon light.

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The small glade of Monkey Puzzle Trees on the summit.

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Time was short so just a trip to the highest point today, no visit to Hanter Hill this time.

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Another massive cloud formation tearing across the sky.

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The frozen summit pond, clearly some people had braved wet feet to test the thickness of the ice.

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Looking out over the Radnor Hills.

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And a view into the lonely hills of mid-Wales from the summit high point.

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Time to head back and hope for some more light shows from the setting sun.

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You can feel the cold seeping into your bones from these photos!

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We got our wish as the light show behind the glade of trees was wonderful.

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I was left along way behind my family team while I took loads of photos.

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And a selfie.

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Looking across to the sunlit uplands of Bradnor and Herrock Hills from my last outing. Most of the snow had gone over the intervening couple of days.

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And this last shot – “Fire in the Sky”

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A short walk, a little over an hour but a fine way to finish of the holiday break

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Happier, Sunnier, Snowier Times   15 comments

It’s been a grey couple of weeks since the Xmas Break both in weather and mood. Lockdown is back, seeing friends and family (other than by video link) a distant memory. Lets cheer things up a bit a bit with sunny and snowy pics from a couple of weeks back.

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An afternoon when the sun came out so we made a quick dart to Kington Golf Club with plenty of open parking and nice high start just on the snow line. With its close cropped grass the light snowfall meant a complete cover of snow. Bad for golf but great for sledging. There were several families out enjoying themselves and it was great to see.

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We took on one of recent favourite local walks around Offa’s Dyke and Rushock, Herrock and Bradnor Hills.

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Once away from the sledging action we hardly saw another soul.

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It was perfect walking, the snow was only a couple of inches deep but a deep freeze gave that wonderful crisp crunch underfoot.

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The sun actually hid behind this small patch of cirrus for almost the whole walk but it gave wonderful lighting effects and wasn’t thick enough to stop it feeling sunny. I had my shades on most of the day.

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Its a fine walk across some huge fields of grass and whilst the views are not dramatic they are expansive.

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Looking out towards the Marches, Cotswolds and Malvern Hills.

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Plenty of sheep for company.

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The top of Rushock Hill.

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Looking back towards the Golf Course and Bradnor Hill.

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You follow Offa’s Dyke for a mile or so, one of the many places where its actually visible on the ground as a feature.

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Looking across to the Radnor Hills, in Wales and out of bounds.

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A view into the valley of the Lugg and Arrow from the top of Herrock Hill.

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And a closer view of the Radnor Hills.

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This was actually New Years Eve so even at 3pm the light was starting to fade.

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A steep climb brings you back onto the access land of Bradnor Hill and this lonely tree that always catches my eye.

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There are lots of fine paths around the Golf Course and its a friendly co-existence with walkers.

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Not sure which hole this is but there can’t be many tee shots with a finer view than this.

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Looking out Hergest Ridge and Hanter Hill.

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The walk back across the Golf Course was a delight. Wonderful crisp, icy snow and an almost cloudless blue sky under a setting sun.

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Obviously the Golf Course was closed. Putting on the greens might be something of a challenge!

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The Black Mountains visible on the horizon as the sun went down.

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As we reached the car there were still plenty of people out sledging and there were some decent long runs to be had. I should have brought my skis!

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To say 2020 has been a bad year is an exercise in fatuous understatement and 2021 is hardly off to a flier. At least our last day of walking of the year wasn’t a bad one.

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Posted January 17, 2021 by surfnslide in herefordshire, Walking

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White on Black (Hill)   14 comments

Our return from confinement coincided with the arrival of winter. We don’t see snow all that often down here, even less often to have it coincide with holidays or weekends. With plenty of the white stuff around we’d normally have head to the Welsh Mountains but they are out of bounds again for a while. Luckily the eastern side of the Black Mountains are in England so we headed to the base of the Cats Back ridge on Black Hill to take in some winter walking.

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The snow line was perfectly placed at just above car park height! Driving the narrow lanes in this part of the county can be a challenge in winter conditions (as the minibus driver who got stuck as we parked up found out!)

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A steep start had us quickly onto the Cats Back ridge and into the surprisingly deep and crisp snow.

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The clouds and watery sunshine setting off the scene perfectly.

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I’ve walked up here many times but never in snow. It’s a narrow ridge by south Wales standards, never difficult at any point but the compacted snow gave it a new sense of enhanced seriousness.

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Not exactly Crib Goch, Striding Edge or the Cuillin but a fabulous walk none the less.

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Its one to really savour in the right conditions as once you reach the start its pretty much level going for over a mile easy walking over the small rocky steps. To do so in snowy conditions was magnificent and a rarity in these globally warmed southern climes.

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Looking back down from near the summit of Black Hill.

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It’s a popular walk and most people turn back at the Trig point. We pressed on with a vague intention to reach the top of Hay Bluff.

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However as hardly anyone had walked this far, the compacted snow was replaced by deep drifts and it became hard going. The clouds and low angled light more than compensated for the exaggerated effort.

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We passed a couple and their very lively labrador who was having enormous fun in the snow, doing “zoomies” around us while we chatted.

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We decided that it would be a long and tiresome challenge to reach Hay Bluff in these conditions so we found a sheltered spot for lunch and decided to return down the Olchon Valley.

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No hardship in that, it’s a fine valley and very quiet. The steep section near the top took some care with the snow and icy rocks.

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The real care was needed near the bottom where the wet snow on the slick muddy ground increased the risk of an unwanted mud-slide!

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Our luck was in with self-isolation done, time at home and snowy conditions on our local hills to enjoy!

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Posted January 3, 2021 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Walking

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Released Back Into the Wild   14 comments

After a period of self isolation for the family over Xmas (everyone all now fit, healthy and no major symptoms) we’ve been allowed back out into the world. A short post from a little celebratory stroll up on our local Merbach Hill.

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Some nice winter colours in the forest but it was extremely soggy and slick with mud in there. A far cry from the bluebell displays when we were up here in the early summer during lockdown 1.

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Views out to mid-Wales from the summit.

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And back towards the Marches, Worcestershire and Shropshire.

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Out to the Black Mountains.

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Looking back to the summit from the pastures on the way back. The sun was out by this time. Seems a different world than when we sat up here on my Birthday in May enjoying an al fresco breakfast in the warm summer sunshine.

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Winter trees always attract my photographic eye.

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This tree on the road back to the car at Arthurs Stone is always striking whatever the season.

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Posted January 1, 2021 by surfnslide in herefordshire, Local Walks, Walking

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