Archive for September 2021

Never Trust a British Weather Forecast   9 comments

Same weather forecast as the previous days so same result, right? Wrong!

We had the same gloomy start as the previous week, only this time it stayed that way all day. It even drizzled for a short while and the cloud was down on the summits most of the day.

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Shame for the Professor as he declined the walk the previous day when the sun was out. Still, a day in the mountains is always a good day.

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At least the heather was looking very fine.

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We were doing a circuit of the Grwyne Fawr valley starting at the Pont Cadwgan car park. Its always quiet there and this time I found a much better way onto the open fells (rather than my fence-climbing and light trespassing of previous outings). It was more like autumn up top. Time travel it seems is possible as we moved seamlessly from August to November in the space of 24 hours.

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Having enjoyed a brisk walk along the ridge of Chwarel y Fan we headed down to the reservoir for first lunch.

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Such was my confidence in the weather forecast that we’d even put swimming stuff in to take a dip. No chance on this day!

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At least this route gives you the moderately exciting thrill of crossing the dam. View down the valley below.

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And back along the water.

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We then threaded a succession of sheep tracks up steep ground onto the highest of the Black Mountains ridges and the summit of Pen y Gadair Fawr.

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We were in the cloud for a short while on the top before the long ridge walk towards Crug Mawr. The dreary grey day and flat light meant I didn’t take that many photos.

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We stopped for second lunch and decided it really wasn’t worth the extra effort to take in Crug Mawr and settled for a return to the car and the comforts of home.

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A decent stretch of 13 miles and whilst the weather was a disappointment we enjoyed our day. Looking at these peaceful and somewhat lonely views its only just come back to me that this was Bank Holiday Monday. It is possible to avoid the crowds!

A Round of Dyffryn Crawnon   11 comments

Moving into the Bank Holiday Weekend the weather was still stuck in the same pattern of gloomy mornings and sunny afternoons. We took our chances, me and TBF, that the morning gloom would clear again and headed off for a walk in a lesser know corner of the Beacons.

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Parking up in Llangynidr I was taking TBF on a walk I did early in 2020 before all this COVID madness arrived. We struck out across the fields heading for a route that encircles the lonely valley of Dyffryn Crawnon. By now the skies had completely cleared and a blue sky day had arrived.

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Views back to the Black Mountains.

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And Tor y Foel, our target for later in the day.

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Reaching the Access Land the route opens out onto an area capped with limestone outcrops. I picked the higher path this time hoping to avoid the worst of the bracken, a good call.

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The main Beacons summits were still enveloped in cloud.

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I have a fondness for walking in limestone country. The green grassy paths are always so inviting and easy to walk on.

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Time for first lunch in a sheltered hollow (it was a windy day).

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Before continuing along the tops of the small edges, a delightful and carefree stroll.

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Tor y Foel was in our sights all day with its changing perspective as we circled towards it.

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TBF enjoying the sunshine.

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The last time I did this walk I was on a mission to bag a missing Nuttall at the back of the huge quarries. Rather than waste that effort again (its not the most inspiring summit) we chose a path that looked more interesting. One of the old tramways that traverses right around the Dyffryn Crawnon valley. The views were sensational. On the first stretch I had thought that maybe it would make a fine cycle route. However as we went on the path became narrower and rockier, in places quite precarious. No place for a bike but a really superb walking route.

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A Peacock Butterfly posed for me to take a picture.

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We joined up with Beacons Way path towards Tor y Foel.

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The Beacons, now free of cloud, overlooking the Tal y Bont Reservoir.

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The short steep climb had us on top of Tor y Foel in no time.

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It was time for second lunch. An odd day weather-wise. Extremely windy and quite chilly in the open but when we found a sheltered spot it was far too hot! We had to scout for the perfect spot with just enough breeze to keep us cool.

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It’s a solo outlier from the main summits and its isolated position makes it a very fine view point.

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It’s a long and steep drop all the way back down to Llangynidr. This tree was sporting some gorgeous red berries but the photo really doesn’t do it justice.

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We crossed the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal at the bottom. We had hoped to try and reach the River Usk for a swim. However the path was completely impassable and overgrown so we gave up on the idea and thought a beer in the garden would be ample compensation.

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A final stretch of canal walking back to the car to end a fine day out. It’s a really good and until you reach Tor y Foel, largely deserted, only seeing a couple of people up to that point.

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Table for One   14 comments

In the lead up to the Bank Holiday weekend, I was home alone with the weather in pattern of gloomy days and brighter afternoons. One those brighter afternoons turned into a glorious cloudless evening. On a whim I decided on an evening walk but rather than the usual after tea excursion, I’d take my evening meal with me. I had some spicy pork stew and freshly baked bread so chucked them in various containers and headed out.

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It was a stunning evening, a complete contrast to the grey gloom of the first part of the day.

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The trees and the golden fields of wheat the perfect backdrop to the blue skies.

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I headed up to Merbach Hill as the closest spot to home, an easy and uneventful stroll other than choosing a circular route that included a very nettle-overgrown stretch of path. I seem to have stung my legs more times this summer than any other!

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Once clear of the woodland, itself somewhat swamped with bracken, the views over mid-Wales and the Wye Valley were as impressive as always.

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I found a nice spot overlooking the Black Mountains and distant Brecon Beacons for my repast.

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Of course a meal on the hill wouldn’t be complete without a beer. This is the same brew that we came to love on our trips to Gran Canaria. I’ve been well pleased to find a UK supply.

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I spent a wonderful hour up there enjoying the views and eating most heartily. The only people I saw were a Mum and Daughter from the Wirrall who’d come across the hill in a walking book while on holiday. We chatted and I told them how surprised I was that anyone other locals could find this place as its so out of the way. They seemed very pleased they’d come across it.

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With completely clear skies the sunset wasn’t spectacular but its so good just to watch the day come to a close in such a wonderful spot while eating your fill.

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Not a bad view from the dining table.

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As the summer draws to a close you do notice that once the sun goes down it gets cold pretty quickly and I was glad of my fleece while I packed up my stuff.

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An easy wander back to the car at Arthurs Stone, satisfied with choice of restaurant for the evening.

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Posted September 14, 2021 by surfnslide in herefordshire, Local Walks, Walking

Tagged with , ,

Half Day Hay Bluff   15 comments

Back to the routine of working weeks (for me) and catching a walk at the weekend when weather allows – actually I lied a bit there – the next post is about a midweek walk but we’ll let that slide for now.

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A gloomy looking Hay Bluff.

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Hay Bluff makes a great outing when you need a half day outing, in this case an uncertain forecast and a lazy morning. There is extensive parking high up at its base but we’ve never seen it that busy – the new found fascination with the outdoors continues apace. There was a National Park Ranger on patrol and he came over, we thought, to tell us we couldn’t park on the grass verge but in fact he just wanted to make sure we were properly equipped and knew what we were doing. I can only assume there have been incidents of people getting lost etc. It was good to see his efforts to make sure people were safe and likely not abusing the landscape with litter etc.

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There did seem to be an awful lot of people out walking, most slogging up the steep nose to the top. We normally tackle that route as well but as it was busy we chose to follow Offa’s Dyke that slants up the eastern flank.

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I’m not sure why but I’ve never walked this path before so it was a revelation to realise what a wonderful route it is.

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It has expansive views over our home county and into mid-Wales with the gentle angle allowing enough energy to enjoy them.

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It emerges onto the main ridge about a mile south of the summit so its an easy walk back to the top. Despite the many people about it was deserted on the top. Good timing.

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We followed the thin path that traces the edge itself heading for the Gospel Pass.

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Car park in the centre of the shot, you can see how busy it is. Normally on a day like this I’d expect to see nor more than half a dozen cars.

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Looking out over the Wye Valley to Mid-Wales.

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Lord Hereford’s Knob.

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From the Gospel Pass looking along the length of the Vale of Ewyas.

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We had toyed with the idea of climbing LHK but agreed that we’d had a good walk already and wandered back down the road to the car.

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The Gospel Pass road into the Vale of Ewyas has been closed by a landslide for many months so the road was pretty much free of traffic and its a nice way to complete the walk when its so quiet.

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A Walk and a Pint   14 comments

After we returned from Lancashire we extended our holiday somewhat as TBF’s sister came to stay. They had a nice time while I was back at work and we managed a little Go Karting trip as well.

We also managed a walk in Shropshire around the Church Stretton Hills. One thing we’ve missed in COVID times was a walk that takes in a pub for a lunchtime pint. These hills are prefect for that with a couple of excellent pubs in Little Stretton.

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Keen to avoid the crowds (and paying to park) I’ve discovered a new spot to park at Plush Hill near All Stretton. Its a lovely quiet spot in a little walked section of moorland and valley’s and has some superb views.

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The Wrekin and The Lawley.

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Caer Caradoc and Hope Bowdler Hill.

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Looking out over Jonathan’s Hollow.

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It wasn’t the sunniest day but it was bright and the clouds were moody and impressive.

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Best part of this walk is the superb valley of Ashes Hollow, somewhere that would not be out of place in Scotland. We found a nice grassy hollow and had an early lunch. Flasks of hot chicken stew and fresh bread. The professor spent most of the day wandering in a half asleep daze having gone to bed far too late!

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Refreshment was beckoning so we continued down this wonderful valley, more families playing by the river as we went further down.

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We picked the Ragleth Inn for our pint. A cold glass of local cider went down very well.

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A very pretty ecclesiastical building of some sort in Little Stretton.

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Sadly a lunchtime pint is not the ideal preparation for the hardest part of the day. The brutally steep climb up Ragleth Hill.

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Worth it though, one of my favourite small hills.

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Looking back across Little Stretton to Ashes Hollow and the Long Mynd.

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South over the Marches, Black Mountains in the far distance.

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We took the chance for another cuppa and snack. Cracking views over Caer Caradoc and Hope Bowdler Hills although we left them out on this day.

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We took a number of paths back down and through Church Stretton and out through the Hollows to the north of the town to get back to the car.

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Not walked that stretch before and these are more really lovely valleys with grand views and none of the crowds of nearby Cardingmill Valley. View out to The Lawley and Wrekin.

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Lower reaches of Jonathan’s Hollow.

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A final steep climb back up to the car finished off a fine day out and some new parts of this superb walking area explored.

The Age of the Train   19 comments

The weather had turned in the second half of our week in Silverdale. Winds, grey skies and showers were the order of the day and the enthusiasm to get out had waned. We did however have a cunning plan that we’d discussed on our last visit to do Hampsfell above Grange Over Sands but from the house and by train.

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As someone welded to his car I was very taken with this plan. There is still something rather exciting about undertaking any journey by train (even by Northern Rail!) especially if it involves a walk. The station in Silverdale is a short and very nice walk across fields and the Golf Course and I was excited enough to take a picture of the train like a sad git. Weak Lemon Drink anyone?

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Our plan was to walk from Cark and Cartmel Station, only three stops down the line, over Hampsfell and back to pick up the train home from Grange. You get the added bonus of travelling over the Arnside viaduct, something I’ve looked at many times but never crossed. Looking back to the Knott from just over the other side of the estuary.

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There wasn’t much keen-ness for the walk with the weather looking so grey and unsettled and I was certain we’d get a soaking at some point. It was just me, Mark and TBF who set out. Hampsfell (seen in the distance here) is a fell I’ve always wanted to do and never have so I was pleased to be able to do it at last (its a new Wainwright as well, box ticked!)

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The best thing about these lower level walks is that they are easy paced and leave lots of time for nattering which we did most of the afternoon. Makes a very sociable sort of day.

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This is the Scout Hut at Cartmel. I took the photo as I have a very fond memory of a night here on Mark’s stag do. We had a happy day wandering the lanes (it was the foot and mouth time so the hills and paths were closed) and drinking in local pubs. There were maybe 20 to 30 of us all sleeping on the floor and at night it was quite astonishingly dark. Cue laughter as many people went for a pee and then couldn’t find their way back. Mark’s brother was seen wandering about using only the very minimal glow from his phone screen (in the days when phone screens were about 1″ square”). Happy times.

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Back to the story. We stopped off in Cartmel for a look around and bought some cake to eat later.

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And took a look around the very impressive priory.

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Its stunning inside with some lovely stained glass windows.

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And this window missing most of its stained glass. I think it was pilfered over the years and has never been replaced.

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I particularly like the way the tower is offset by 45 degrees making and unusual looking building.

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Off to climb Hampsfell – after a short delay for Mark to go back to priory to collect his umbrella (despite the gloomy skies and forecast it didn’t rain all afternoon)

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Views back down from the climb up Hampsfell to Cartmel and its priory.

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It was seriously windy up top – more like November than August but its a lovely area of open limestone and grassy paths.

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This is the Hospice that crowns the summit, unusual name for an unusual building.

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A very steep set of stone and metal steps takes you to the top and an expansive view.

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Panorama looking from the top over Morecambe Bay (click to enlarge)

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We had planned on tea and cake on the top but it was cold and windy and time was pressing on if we were to catch our train home in time for tea.

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View across the Kent estuary towards Arnside, the Knott in the right of shot.

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To catch the train we had a walk along the Promenade back to the station in Grange. I’m sure its an even better stroll on a sunny day.

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And a last shot across the estuary from the train.

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A grand day out as Wallace would have said to Gromit. Including the walk to Silverdale station and back likely around 7 miles. I’ve been scanning maps ever since looking for ways to use public transport to create walking routes.

Lakes and Hills   14 comments

It was time for another day out and after our brief visit to Coniston Water a couple of days earlier we feltit deserved a full day’s attention. Despite an early start and arriving just after 9am, the Brown Howe car park and adjacent lay-bys were already full. Luckily we’d scanned the roads on Google Maps and the next lay-by had some spaces.

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After a busy 30 minutes inflating SUPs and kayaks and transferring our vast amounts of stuff to the beach we were ready for breakfast.

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A stunning morning and Coniston has quickly become my favourite of the major lakes.

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As well as facilitating an earlier start, nothing beats an alfresco breakfast. The chef looks especially happy!

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We spent a wonderful few hours, swimming and messing about on inflatable craft.

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Me and TBF took an extended paddle across the lake to Peel Island (made famous in the “Swallows and Amazons” book)

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The views across the water to the Coniston Fells were superb.

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We did a lazy circuit of Peel Island.

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Views towards what I think were the Hellvellyn range and the Fairfield horseshoe.

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This little Bay was full of kids jumping off rocks and generally having fun.

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TJF really has got the hang of the SUP and did a couple of full circuits of Peel Island.

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After more food me and TJS took a paddle back to the bay with the DBs and TBB for jumping fun. TJS is much more at home looking cool and relaxed!

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The water below these rocks was deep enough – just – for some decent jumps.

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DB Senior.

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TBB

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A little video clip of a couple of jumps.

I did some jumps myself. View from the top of the rocks. Mark actually swam all the way across which was pretty impressive. He wasn’t 100% sure he could make it all the way back so after ferrying TJF back I came back to pick him up.

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Time for a change of activity. Me, TJS and TBF went for a walk up the nearby Beacon Fell.

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It was a pretty hot and sultry climb through the bracken.

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But the views were magnificent.

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Its a great vantage point for the Coniston Fells.

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As well as Coniston Water itself.

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South towards Morecambe Bay and the South Lakes Peninsulas.

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Beacon Tarn. I had toyed with idea of walking down there for a swim but it was hot and we had a perfectly good lake to swim in already.

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We wandered back over the top and started to make our way down.

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As we did we started getting messages that DB Junior had taken a shuttlecock in the eye and had gone to casualty as he couldn’t see out of it. We were all very worried as he seemed very upset, very disconcerting as the DBs are normally pretty robust and take their many bumps and scrapes in their stride. He looked shaken when we saw him later that evening and went to bed with a headache and badly impaired vision. Later on he came back down looking much better and brighter and after a couple of days and more consultations with the specialists, all was on the mend. Much relief all round.

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Not quite the ending to the day we were all hoping for but everything ok in the end. We had a last little swim and a cuppa while the sun began to hide behind the fells, packed up and headed home.

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Still a fabulous day out and the memories of fun and frolics will live long in the memory.

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Serendipity   13 comments

Serendipity: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

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After our antics of the day before we had an easy day at home and an immense BBQ lunch in the garden. An afternoon walk and swim seemed in order and we headed off towards High Dam. Its a place I’ve never been and its a well known and popular wild swimming spot. We figured a late afternoon visit would be quieter and a better chance of parking.

That was until a major accident closed the South Lakes road and we were forced into a rethink while driving. We followed Mark and realised he was heading to a parking spot and a walk up to a small reservoir above Staveley called Gurnal Dubs where he’d swum a couple of weeks before. After a challenging bit of parking on the narrow road we set off up the hill.

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It was becoming apparent that this was indeed a serendipitous turn of events. The late afternoon light was stunning with wide and expansive views of the this quiet and little known corner of Lakeland. By comparison, High Dam is largely in the forest and we’d have missed all the glorious sunshine.

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As we climbed the views just got better and better.

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After a steep pull, the angle eases as you reach the open fells, wonderful easy walking on grassy paths.

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I’d even managed to convince TJF to join us on the promise it was a short walk (this one was slightly longer than we had planned). I think that’s a smile!

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You first pass Potter Tarn and whilst it looks ok for swim there is much better further up the path.

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Crossing a wall our target came into view.

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It’s a wonderfully named tarn and much bigger than it would appear to be on the map. Just as well as there were a few groups enjoying its delights although the lateness of the hour meant we had the place to ourselves after a few minutes.

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Most of us went in for a relaxing swim although only me and Mark stayed in for than a couple of minutes (it was quite cold)

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As the photographs show its a quite superb spot for a swim and you can swim quite a distance. I even managed a small jump from the wall near the boathouse.

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After the swim we settled for an evening brew and snacks.

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A more pleasurable hour I haven’t spent in ages. The situation was superb. Warm evening sunshine, an idyllic spot and great company. I was very happy indeed.

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We were just wondering if we should begin our journey back when the local midge population decided the buffet was open. We packed rather more hurriedly than we’d have liked but once in motion the midges left us alone.

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The evening views were still gorgeous. The heather and bracken setting off the lake and the blue skies above.

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Views across to the Howgills.

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And the Coniston Fells.

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I’ve never walked in this area and it clearly deserves more of my attention. The mix of small tarns, grassy paths and small outcrops is alluring.

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A panorama shot (click to enlarge)

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Potter Tarn again.

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Looking peaceful under the setting sun.

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Our happy little band enjoying the walk down in the evening light.

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One of the highlights of the whole summer for me. Sometimes unexpected changes to plans can deliver huge rewards.

Birthday Day Out For The Junior Funster   8 comments

One of the best features of our stay in Silverdale was that it coincided with TJFs 18th Birthday. This meant we could organise a full day out and be able to share that day with our good friends. Even though we’d been to GoApe the week before it seemed appropriate that this was the best way to celebrate the Birthday. Apart from Mark and TBH we all love the tree top adventures. All we needed was a good day of weather which was delivered in great fashion.

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We picked Grizedale as the closest option, a good choice as it had the best selection of obstacles and zip wires in particular, that we’ve done in the UK. Grizedale forest is also rather lovely so while the others took to the e-Bikes for a ride around the forest we went to play in the forest.

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This is how us oldies always ended up at the bottom of the zip wires.

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And this is how the more elegant members of the party (TJF in this case) managed to simply walk in!

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As mentioned, the zip wires are excellent. Two really long ones that sweep from one side of the valley to the other at a considerable height. A succession of shots of the Tree Top Team making their way back across the second one.

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DB Junior in action.

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DB Senior (enjoying himself despite his painful knee injury)

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And the Professor (cheating at this point I should add)!

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The trick with these bridges is to either run across or walk across without holding the cable. I chose neither!

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Another backwards effort by TBF.

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And another elegant walk in by TJF.

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We all agreed that the best part was the Tarzan Swing. The platform is actually higher than the net so for the first split second you actually free fall until the rope becomes tight. Even then its quite a swing and you hit the cargo net at quite a speed. Quite a rush! A little video compilation of some of our efforts. The Professor bottled it and we took the pi55 royally for the rest of the day.

Satisfied with our adventures we had some time to kill before our evening meal so we headed to Coniston Water for a brief stop and swim. By now the weather was stunning.

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We had a wonderful swim which also served as a makeshift wash before the meal!

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Coniston Water is a wonderful expanse and largely free of the motorised craft that plague Windermere.

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It was an all too brief stay but we had places to go.

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TJF loves an Italian meal so I was well pleased to find one with decent reviews just down the road in Ulverston called Bettulas. What a find! A fabulous and wide ranging menu with plenty of Vegan options, lovely cosy atmosphere, great service and the food was just superb. We had a great evening, many laughs, some cocktails. A great way to finish a fabulous day out and I hope one to remember for TJF on her 18th Birthday!

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Costa del Silverdale   11 comments

After a day home following the Towyn trip (frantically trying to dry everything out) we were off on the second part of our summer holiday trip.

For TJF it has been, as for most teenagers, a very difficult year. Learning has been massively disrupted and in the case of exams, farcically mismanaged by what passes for our government who gave a fireplace salesman the job of overseeing our education system. The vast majority of students have coped brilliantly with the changes and have sacrificed so much to support the national effort to see us through this crisis. The Teaching profession across the board have worked miracles in keeping everything going and adapting quickly to the new way of learning, sadly in spite of, rather than supported by, our pathetically inept government.

For TJF, further education represented an escape from classroom boredom into a Performing Arts Course at the local college. She was thriving and loving the course – and then COVID came along. Whilst my heart goes out to each and every student for that disrupted learning, the lessons by Zoom, lack of interaction with teachers/lecturers and their peers, for TJF there was no real way to continue a Performing Arts course remotely. To all intents and purposes the course stopped for 6 months. It was heartbreaking for me to see all that she was looking forward to taken away, although to her utter credit, she never once complained. On top of that, this summer, the holiday in Italy she had been so looking forward to was also cancelled

It had been a constant worry as to what I could do to try and bring her some cheer through the holidays. For me, TBF and TJS staying in the UK is easy enough. We love the outdoors and hiking etc and can tolerate the kind of weather a British summer can throw about. For TJS her loves are in simple relaxation in the sunshine or experiencing the cultural aspects of our city break trips, none of which were practical in the current circumstances.

One of the most important things to have come out of this dreadful period is the importance of family and friendship. Into my concerns for our summer holiday plans stepped our friends from Silverdale who offered us the chance to take a week’s holiday with them. It was a wonderful gesture, and very gratefully accepted. We spend many weekends with them where the focus is on the simple pleasures of games both indoors and outdoors, eating (a lot!) and easy days of walks, swims and most importantly great company. I couldn’t have come up with a better plan.

So after that long preamble and little rant off my chest, back to the real purpose of this post (and the next few) is around the great stuff we got up to. This first post is set around a number of local walks from the door with some of the more involved trips out worthy of their own post.

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After settling into our holiday accommodation and enjoying the first of many great meals we headed out for an evening walk under blue skies and a setting sun.

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We were heading up to Eaves Wood and the Pepperpot where we came across this fellow, a slow-worm. He wasn’t moving much so we hoped he was ok and left him alone.

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The view from the Pepperpot was majestic as always.

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We headed down to the Cove where TBH assured us the sand was dry enough to walk on. It wasn’t! The mud was wet and sticky and I was near tears as my brand new, unused trainers collected a nice covering smelly estuary mud. 🤣

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We did notice the deep red glow on the horizon just above Grange.

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Whilst not expansive it was mesmerising and I took several photos which I don’t think does it justice.

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We continued our walk across the Lots as the light faded.

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I love an evening walk in the summer and this classic round was a great way to kick off the week.

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The real classic walk in the area is around the coast to Arnside and back over Arnside Knott. Later in the week we managed to fit it in.

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It was just the 5 of us, and I don’t seem to have taken many pictures. As I recall we were deep in conversation most of the way which probably explains why photos were not a priority.

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On our last day we took the walk out to Jenny Brown’s Point. Last time we were here in May it was gloriously sunny and hot. This time it was grey, cloudy and windy, more November than August.

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Dark clouds over the mountains.

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And a choppy and grey looking sea.

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It’s always a superb walk in any conditions, one of the list of “classics” that we always try to fit in when we visit.

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Just before we headed home we had one final walk to the Pepperpot. We even managed to convince TJF to join us!

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Lots more adventures to come in the next few posts.

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