Archive for April 2021

Borrowdale – No, Not That One…   9 comments

Time to take TJS (or Professor Longhair to give him his new moniker) back to University ready for his third year exams. With lockdown rules relaxed we arranged an outdoor meet up with friends requiring a very early start. Looking for somewhere quiet and off the beaten track we settled on Borrowdale. As per the title, not the very popular and busy one near Keswick but valley in the far eastern fells of the Lake District just inside the National Park.

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We managed to squeeze all the cars into a small parking area and after a short road walk started to the climb the fells to the south of the valley. I’d seen the walk in a TGO magazine and it looked a good one. A wander across a series of small fells returning through Borrowdale, of which, I’d read some very positive reviews.

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Despite the fact that these fells are very off the beaten track there was a decent selection of thin grassy paths all the way.

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Heading up to Grayrigg Pike and Forest, the first and highest peaks of the day.

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The initial climb is dominated by the views down to the M6 as it passes through the Tebay gorge. Its quite a feat of engineering when seen from up here. I always liked passing through on our many trips to Scotland. As well as being spectacular it was nearly always a sign we were heading to the Highlands.

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After a brief and chilly first lunch (like a numpty I’d left my fleece behind in the car), we began the twisting route across the many tops along the ridge. Very easy going although the previous few days of sunshine was replaced with a blanket of dense cirrus cloud hence the the rather flat-light views.

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Castle Fell and Mabbin Crag above Borrowdale.

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Looking back to Grayrigg Forest

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You always have to make time for plenty of stops.

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Onwards to Castle Fell.

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And then Mabbin Crag.

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Grayrigg Forest and Whinfell Beacon.

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Breezy on Castle Fell.

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Approaching Ashtead Fell.

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Looking back to Ashtead Fell and Mabbin Crag.

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Despite the lack of height these little hills pack in plenty of small ups and downs. A fact that PL complained bitterly about in this section. Here he is checking his phone for a “how to be indignant” guide. I thought this section with its twisting ridge and small tops framed by trees was rather splendid.

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We dropped down to take the long return through Borrowdale and back to the car. It lived up to all the expectations as its a wonderful valley.

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Wide, open grassy meadows with a meandering river and views back up to our ridge from the first part of the day.

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It would be even better on a warm sunny spring day and unlike its more famous namesake has no road running through it. Further visits are a must.

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It was a superb end to what was quite a stretch of a walk. Some 11 miles and 2,500 feet of ascent.

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Fort us it was an especially long day. A 6am start and not home till 11pm but so worth the effort for such a grand walk and meeting with great friends. Its a cliche but so true that you don’t truly miss something until it’s taken away.

Enjoying the Freedom   7 comments

While I’ve been off work, April has delivered some pretty decent weather (although its grim and chucking it down as I type this). Combined with the relaxation of lockdowns (and here’s hoping that its a true return to normality) I’ve been loving the chance to head back into Wales and some of my favourite local walks.

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The Begwyns is a small stretch of open access land just over the border near Hay on Wye and has always made a great spot when you have a short window of weather or, in this case, a need for a lazy sunny day.

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The grassy collection of small hills makes for a prefect stroll although with the lack of recent rain it was looking rather brown and dry.

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It’s pretty much a linear out and back with plenty of paths to make a circuit of sorts. This time we traversed across the northern slopes and returned along the tops.

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Looking out to the lonely Aberedw and Llanbedr Hills

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The true summit crowned with a small glade of trees known as The Roundabout.

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It was a breezy day but The Roundabout provides a perfect shelter and it was wonderful and warm sitting in the sun for a lazy lunchtime snack and cuppa.

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A pretty much cloudless day with expansive if hazy views.

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The summit Trig Pillar and The Roundabout

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Looking back along our return route.

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The Roundabout has a very nice stone circle bench inside the walls but this day we felt it was better sitting out in the open on the grass. Its a welcome shelter on a cold winter day.

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Distant view back.

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Black Mountains to the South.

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Several small hills to cover.

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And an isolated TBF on the grassy horizon

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A short walk of about 4 miles but we needed to take it easy as we had a long day ahead of us tomorrow.

Posted April 28, 2021 by surfnslide in Mid Wales, Wales, Walking

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The Cotswold Edges   4 comments

Through the various lockdowns and especially while Wales has been out of bounds I’ve been scouring maps for some new areas to walk. One of these was the Cotswold Edges above Gloucester and Cheltenham and I reckoned I could fashion a decent circular. I remember the spectacular view from the Barrow Wake car park and thought it would be an ideal kick off point. I hadn’t met up with THO for the best part of year and as this spot was pretty much halfway between our two homes was a perfect chance for re-acquaintance.

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Another gorgeous if rather chilly day. The views from our start point as good as I remembered. A superb 180 view from the Black Mountains to the Malverns.

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Only downside of this walk is the extremely busy A417 runs behind Birdlip. We had to cross it a couple of times and to say it was difficult and not a little edgy would be an understatement. All that was soon forgotten as we entered Crickley Hill Country Park.

Looking back to where the cars were parked.

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The mountain bike park.

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The distant Malverns across the Severn Valley.

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THO brought his little friend Mac with him. He’s a lovely, friendly little fella (perhaps a little too friendly when the lunch appears!) and it always reminds me how much more fun a walk is when you have the company of a dog.

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Crickley Hill is a great spot for a short walk but we had grander plans.

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The edge is a mix of open grassland and woodland and makes for easy level walking. Perfect for catching up with friends not seen for ages.

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Distant and close up views of the volcanic spine of the Malverns.

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Looking back to Wales and the Black Mountains.

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Next spot on the list was Leckhampton Hill. A rather decent spot for first lunch.

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The interesting rock pinnacle of the Devils Chimney. I’d seen it marked on the map but had no idea it was so impressive.

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A view over the town of Cheltenham. I’m sure you know by now that I’m endlessly fascinated by views over towns and cities.

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The large, spaceship looking structure in the photo is GCHQ. Seems at odds to have a spot where Secret Squirrel stuff happens to be so obvious but there you go.

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After reaching the end of the edges at Hawthorn Hill we were faced with a few miles across the fields back to our start point. You are never quite sure what these paths will be like and I feared an endless session of tedious arable and ploughed fields. What we got was an hour of exceptionally pleasant walking. Firstly through the pretty village of Coberley (not sure why I didn’t take a picture) and then through the stunning little valley of Coldwell Bottom.

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A really delightful little spot.

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So good we decided to stop for second lunch.

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The upper reaches were just as good.

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Long grassy meadows full of new-born lambs.

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In truth the last mile wasn’t great as the ploughed fields appeared and we had another scary crossing of the A417. This part of the route needs a bit more thought.

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We ended the walk by visiting The Peak for more grand views before completing a fine circuit back to the car. The Cotswold Edges are very much on my radar now with plenty of other walk options both north and south of this point.

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Another day, another 11 miles clocked up in the walk-bank!

Offa’s Dyke Knighton to Kington   4 comments

Now that Wales was open for business it was time for a walk we’d had our eye on for a while. Offa’s Dyke runs for 14 miles between the two market towns of Kington and Knighton, the latter in Wales. An excellent (and cheap) bus service runs between the two towns making a linear walk easily achievable. With the relative bus times and a wish to do the bus part first (avoids any need to rush to catch the return) we parked up in Kington, took the bus to Knighton and set off in abundant sunshine.

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The walk kicks in immediately with a steep climb from the town centre through woodland up to the Golf Course (this walks starts and finishes from hillside golf courses!). No time to warm those stiff leg muscles. The woodland was alive with squirrels and birds and in the dappled sunlight helped to ease that initial struggle!

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Once out of the woods the pattern of the walk begins. easy walking across open fields and meadows with the occasional patch of woodland. Its all very fine indeed.

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Views across to the gentle hills of mid-Wales.

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Plenty of livestock, young and old.

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Looking back along the first section. It was really lovely up here in the sunshine.

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After a short stretch of road we headed for the wooded Hawthorn Hill.

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Not sure what this monument was for or indeed why it wasn’t located on or near the path. I thought about wandering over to take a look until I realised it was likely a tribute to some long-passed local someone who liked the view and therefore I couldn’t be bothered.

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The top of Hawthorn Hill is the highest point on the walk, just clipping the 400m contour. We agreed that this would be a perfect spot for lunch, sheltered from the breeze by the trees, sitting on the Dyke itself and with a splendid view of the Radnor Hills.

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The Dyke is a constant companion on the walk and clearly evident for most of the way.

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Onwards across the wide meadows of Furrow Hill.

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This was another superb stretch of easy grassy walking.

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A view into the valley of the River Lugg.

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Looking back to Furrow Hill with the trees of Hawthorn Hill where we had lunch just left of centre.

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Whilst the upland strolling is easy this walk packs a deal of punch. There are three very distinct hills to cover, each one over a thousand feet and each one requiring a return to the valley and a steep climb out. In total the walk is almost 14 miles with 2,500 feet of climbing. A pretty decent workout.

This is the first valley at Dolley Old Bridge over the Lugg. It would be a fine picnic and wild swimming spot on a warm summer day.

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The next steep climb alongside the Dyke to the summit of Pen Offa.

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We took another stop for a snack as the clouds began to darken. The prominent pointy hill is Whimble.

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As we dropped down into the next valley before our final climb there was a brief light shower. It soon passed (here disappearing over Herrock Hill) and after that the sunshine and blue skies returned.

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A view back to the iron age hill fort of Burfa Bank, a HUMP I need to return to bag at some point.

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The view along the valley of the Hindwell Brook is superb from the final climb onto Rushock Hill. We had thought about adding Herrock Hill but as it was getting late and it wasn’t on the “true line” of the walk we gave it a miss.

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We felt time was better spent with a final snack and brew stop on Rushock Hill, the Dyke again providing shelter from the breeze.

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We were back on very familiar territory now, having walked here many times from Kington in the past 12 months.

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The Dyke our constant companion.

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A final shot before it takes its own way into Herefordshire and the path turns towards Kington.

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The walk over the fields of Rushock Hill were sublime in the evening sunshine as our legs tired.

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All that was left was the easy stroll across the Golf Course and down the steep trail into Kington to the car.

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A really superb walk and even though this was still the Easter break we barely saw a soul outside the two towns. Even though it’s easy rural walking it does add an air of excitement, commitment and challenge to step off the bus and have to walk 14 miles back to the car. Since then I’ve been scouring maps and bus times to see what other linear walks I can fashion to match this one. Its a highly recommended route with the bus service, a well marked and easy to follow trail and a variety of scenery with great views

Across the Border   8 comments

At last – we were allowed back into Wales! We’ve walked over the border a couple of times but this was our first chance to drive there and start a walk. Combining a short walk with a shopping collection we handed the choice to TJS and he selected Blorenge.

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Easy, level walk with a high start and some expansive views was just what was needed. Starting off at the Pony Pond near Blaenavon for a classic circuit.

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Fab views out across the Black Mountains.

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The Sugar Loaf

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Ysgyryd Fawr – all hills we haven’t walked for many long months.

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The steep edges that overlook Abergavenny deliver some dizzying views.

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Even the rather boggy path that runs across to the summit was bone dry – never seen it like that in the many times I’ve done this walk.

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And a final shot of the Pony Pond as the clouds gathered and a brave couple took a swim – rather them than me! It was good to be back and another small step on the road to what we all hope is our eventual freedom from this dreadful virus.

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Peaceful Shropshire   4 comments

We had TBF’s sister over to stay for a few days at Easter and managed a few walks. This wasn’t the best of the weather spell so most walks were short, local and under grey skies with a threat of showers.

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We did manage to get one longer walk. A forecast of a bright sunny morning with afternoon heavy showers had us up early and heading into Shropshire and a repeat of a fine walk me and TBF did just before Lockdown last year.

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Shropshire is packed with small hills, as yet undiscovered by the masses that frequent Stiperstones and the Long Mynd. Burrow and Hopesay Hill fit this category and make a fine circuit. A quiet empty car park at Aston on Clun makes a great base.

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This time we reversed the direction and started with the very fine traverse path that leads towards the base of Hopesay Hill. We figured we’d reach the summit of Burrow in good time for lunch. The views across the rolling fields to Burrow and Hopesay Village were grand.

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A short steep climb leads up onto Hopesay Hill and Common. Last time we were here it was turning to rain and a bit soggy. This time it was dry and sunny and its a really fine little hill.

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Looking back over Hopesay village to Burrow.

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Strolling along the top with the main Shropshire Hills in the distance.

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This another of those Shropshire small hills, this one the delightfully named Wart Hill. It has some access paths and next time I think I’ll take a wander to the top. This time we had our eye on the weather so pressed on.

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Another shot of Burrow that shows its isolated position.

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I varied the route and took the path over the fields rather than along the lane. Sometimes these field paths can be muddy ploughed affairs with poor signposting so I’m always a little reluctant to try them. This one was however very well marked and grassy, giving fine views across these cracking little hills.

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Looking across to Hopesay Common where we were an hour before.

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Its a long drop and steep climb into and out of Hopesay village towards Burrow (including some extra legwork due to the way the paths work their way around). Indeed Burrow itself has no rights of way but there are plenty of paths and welcoming signs that encourage a visit.

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Those showers I mentioned were starting to gather and there were flakes of snow in the air as we approached the summit.

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We were lucky that the sun came out while settled down for lunch.

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Some of these hills are shrouded in dense forest but Burrow has never had such a cover (or its been cleared) and its a superb spot for an extended lunch. Its an Iron Age hill fort so the ditches and dykes provide excellent shelter and grassy hollows to relax in.

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Not that we were entirely relaxed. There was a huge snow storm a few miles north that we thought might catch us out. It blitzed the Church Stretton area but we missed it by a couple of miles with nothing other than a few light flakes.

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Here’s that same storm covering the Clee Hills

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Thanking our luck we decided to head down as there seemed to be showers massing in every direction and we couldn’t possibly escape them all.

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The views both of and from the summit of this grand little hill were superb.

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These trees and grassy hollows would make a fine place for a quiet wild camp – so noted!

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We were back at the car just as another dark cloud started blowing flakes of snow at us. Perfect timing. Perfect little walk.

The Return of Winter   6 comments

Easter was over. Winter wasn’t.

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With the ongoing relaxation in the rules we arranged to meet up with a small group of friends for a “Birthday Hill” for Mark. Its a tradition of his and he was keen to keep it going and despite a very early start and bit of a long drive we were more than happy to support the plan. As the nearest bit of upland to the M6, The Roaches is an obvious choice.

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It was stunningly clear and sunny when we parked up but bitterly cold. Hat and gloves from the car, sort of cold. Winter was still in play.

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It does deliver some amazingly clear views though and with some rocky scrambling on the Roaches edge it was a fabulous morning.

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Looking out over Hen Cloud. I regaled the younger members with stories of the Wallabies that used to live here (escapees from a local private collection) but were sadly wiped out by a bitter winter in the 80’s. There are still rumours that some survived but I think that’s wishful thinking. Not sure if they believed me. Paying the price for endless wind-ups while they’ve been growing up.

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The crags on the Roaches are some of the most impressive in the Dark Peak and home to some very famous climbs.

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The Dangerous Brothers trying out some moves.

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Looking across Gun and The Cloud to the Cheshire Plain.

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The Birthday boy himself.

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The rock features are superb especially illuminated by a bright morning sun against a blue sky.

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Once the scrambling fun is over its a wonderful easy stroll along the edge.

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Views out across the Staffordshire and Derbyshire Moorland.

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A distant Shutlingsloe – the Peak District Matterhorn.

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My partners in crime – The Dangerous Brothers.

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And the less dangerous members of the gang.

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The rest of the group were keen to see Lud’s Church. I was less keen after a rather wet and VERY muddy experience the last time I visited.

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It is rather impressive though.

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After another lunch stop the weather began to turn – and quite rapidly at that.

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Blue skies were replaced with black ones and after a short stop for a cuppa it began to snow. Lightly at first.

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And then with a real vengeance.

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For an hour it was full winter conditions, squeeky snow underfoot and blizzard-like conditions. A day of complete contrasts.

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Sadly we decided it was not worth the extra effort to see Ramshaw Rocks. A shame as they are even more impressive than the Roaches themselves.

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Just when we though that was our lot for the day, suddenly the skies cleared and we were treated to some truly amazing skies.

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Deep abundant blue skies.

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Backed by dramatic storm clouds and heavy snow showers.

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This one in particular caught my eye.

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A very moody looking Hen Cloud.

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And a very major storm passing over the Tittesworth Reservoir.

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It had been superb day, all the more impressive for the contrast between blue skies, sunshine and these afternoon snow-storms. What was even better was sharing it with our great friends. We’ve been diligent in staying in touch with weekly Zoom quizzes but nothing beats face to face contact. Despite all the difficulties of COVID, it has, I think strengthened ever more the bonds of friendship we all have. It makes you treasure all the good times from 30 years past and appreciate every possible chance top continue building those memories.

More Garway Hill   10 comments

Quick post from another morning stroll up Garway Hill, a firm favourite when a short outing is required.

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Stunning clear morning after our Stiperstones walk.

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Reversing the usual direction of the walk to finish on the summit. The fields that were sodden just a few short weeks ago now dry and a perfect walking carpet.

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The trees along the lane looking superb against the blue sky backdrop.

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Out into the open on Garway Hill Common.

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Hazy views over the Black Mountains and Sugar Loaf

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And no finer way to celebrate a warm spring morning than a fresh brew of tea on the summit.

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Easter “staycation” (I hate that word) working out rather well.

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Posted April 19, 2021 by surfnslide in herefordshire, Local Walks, Walking

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Stiperstones   11 comments

Next day in our Easter Staycation. Forecast was promising a similar sunny day so we were out early and I was encouraged to wear shorts for the first time outdoors this year. We were greeted in the car park at The Bog with cloudy skies and and a temperature of 3C!

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After the south section past Nipstone Rock and walking into a very chilly wind we decided to tackle the rest of the route the other way round than planned. We dropped to the western side of the main Stiperstones ridge, out of the wind, hoping that by the time we climbed back up the sun may have broken through and we’d have the wind behind us on the ridge.

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The plan worked to perfection and just as we started the climb into the lovely Crows Nest Dingle, the sun started to break through and blue skies appeared.

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We stopped for a cooked lunch of bacon and eggs.

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Before pressing onwards on the rest of the route.

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The next incision into this side of the ridge is Mytton Dingle.

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Its hugely impressive, deep and steep sided.

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I’d noticed a path that traversed the headwall as it were and it turned out to be a superb and airy traverse across this superb feature.

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All the focus of the Stiperstones is its rocky tors but Mytton Dingle is as impressive as any of them and of course, being off the main track, is pretty much deserted.

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Back onto the ridge for the main classic walk along the top bristling with rocky tors.

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The Devils Chair – a little chilly today to tempt me to scramble its challenging ridge.

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The extremely awkward and knobbly path, is a challenge in its own way.

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Manstone Rock with the Trig Pillar perched on top.

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Finding the best path through the rocks and heather.

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Families enjoying the sun on Cranberry Rock.

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Distant hazy views to Corndon Hill.

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And the final grassy stretch down to the car, now in abundant sunshine

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A classic walk that always delivers.

New Beginnings   12 comments

31st March represented a change of circumstances for me. After over 9 years (with a couple of breaks), I completed my project and program at EE and decided it was time to move on to something new. I’ll be looking for work over the next couple of months but for now it was time for a break and spend some time with the family over Easter.

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Good Friday looked dull and cloudy but late morning saw the skies start to clear so we decided to head out for a short walk. By the time we’d parked up it had turned into a glorious day of sunshine and cloudless blue skies, if a little chilly in the brisk wind.

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Time for classic short circuit around the Black Darren land slip, short stretch of the ridge along Offa’s Dyke and back to the car.

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The little ridge looked fantastic on such a clear day.

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The views were stunningly clear.

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Me and TBF decided to tackle the short steep scramble while TJS preferred the easier walking option.

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It’s a grand little ridge with some interesting moves although over all too quickly.

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TBF in action.

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And posing for the photo after the crux move.

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The little grassy ridge that follows is a delight, expansive views and much like the Cats Back ridge (seen here in the background to the right) very much out of character with the rest of the range.

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Magnificent views across the Shire.

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TJS playing catch up.

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Ascending the final path to the broad ridge.

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The little pool that marks the point where you follow the thin paths back down to the road.

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Looking back to our way up.

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And a final view across to the Olchon Valley and Cats Back ridge. Easter and my own brave new world off to a great start.

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