Author Archive

New Places – Aconbury Hill   Leave a comment

IMG_4246

I’m always on the look out for new places for a walk especially in weather where a day in the mountains is less appealing. I use the OS Mapping software on my various devices and noticed that they can mark a range of hill lists on the map. Mostly the usual Scottish ones, Munros and  Corbetts, but they also mark Marylins, the Relative hills of Britain. As they have strict criteria of 150 feet of ascent regardless of other factors they are both numerous and in many places pretty obscure. Looking at my maps I have several local ones I’ve never done, mostly smaller wooded hills. This seems a perfect excuse to for some new walks and avoid the wild winter weather. As most of these local ones are forested I was hoping my first couple of forays would deliver some autumnal colour.

IMG_4243

First on the list was Aconbury Hill, just outside Hereford and a mere 15 minute drive away. The hill was littered with paths and we parked up and set off into the very damp woods after a few heavy squalls of rain hoping not to get too wet.

IMG_4213

The colours in the trees was wonderful and its a really pleasant walk up to the top of the hill, an old iron age hill fort

IMG_4214

IMG_4215

IMG_4216

 

IMG_4218

There are a myriad of paths around the earthworks on the top and we wandered a bit aimlessly as my OS maps seemed to struggle with the GPS signal.

IMG_4219

IMG_4220

IMG_4221

IMG_4222

Finding a view from the top was a bit of challenge due to all the trees but we did find a spot with a view over Hereford.

IMG_4224

We forged a route down to head back to the car as we had only intended to be out for an hour or so. Showers looked like they were in the ascendency when we left home and we didn’t want to push our luck. When we emerged into the fields the weather looked ok so we decided to extend the walk.

IMG_4225

I’m always reticent to go walking across the fields in Herefordshire. Paths are generally not well walked and you often end up semi-lost with poor signage and overgrown or blocked routes. However the succession of paths we followed were no problem if a little muddy and slick.

IMG_4227

IMG_4228

We dropped down to Aconbury Court and the back up through Wallbrook Wood to Merrivale Farm. This storm cloud was impressive and luckily didn’t dump a heavy shower on us.

IMG_4230

IMG_4232

Glorious sunlight in the green lane past the farm.

IMG_4233

The community of Little Birch and Kings Thorn is spread over a wide area. A collection green lanes, field paths and cottages that was a delight to pick our way through.

IMG_4234

There was plenty of late afternoon sunlight to dress the autumn leaves with bright colours.

IMG_4237

IMG_4239

I liked these three perfectly spaced trees along the field boundary

IMG_4242

Smoke rising from cosy cottages

IMG_4244

IMG_4246

IMG_4248

From a morning of heavy showers and low expectations sprang a really stunning and enjoyable walk full of interest and charm.

 

The first foray into the world of Marylins had been a resounding success.

IMG_4241

I’ve lived in the area for 15 years now – almost exactly 15 years in fact. In all that time I’ve never given Aconbury Hill a second thought. We walked five miles in the end and were out most of the afternoon. One of the delights of the UK is that hidden gems and rewarding walks seem to be endless.

Advertisements

Wet Down by the Wye   14 comments

IMG_4198

Another day and another dismal wet and dreary one. In truth it was an awful day, low cloud, mist and a mix of heavy rain and drizzle. We went out anyway and even convinced TJF for a rare outing involving walking, bribed by the idea of having Mac the dog with us

IMG_4187

The worst of the rain had passed by when we set off from a wet and muddy car park at the now closed for the year Doward Farm Campsite. At least this walk has plenty of interest (as well as having a dog to liven things up). A series of caves, this one King Arthur’s Cave (that bloke really did get about)

IMG_4189

Some splendid mixed woodland

IMG_4190

And from Seven Sisters Rocks, stunning views along the Wye Gorge with lots of Autumnal colours, although it looks better in sunlight

IMG_4191

The soggy travellers

IMG_4193

IMG_4195

Down to Biblins Campsite and the bouncy bridge over the river

IMG_4196

In summer I’d expect to see many people kayaking the river here, no-one braving the wet today.

IMG_4197

IMG_4199

Mac is a hard character to photo as he is in a constant state of motion. This was my best effort

IMG_4201

IMG_4202

Along the river to Symonds Yet and its rapids, where there were some kayakers practising their skills. Me and THO have played about here in the past but these days I prefer surf to rivers. I never really got the hang of river rapids (these are pretty gentle).

IMG_4203

IMG_4205

We came through on our family kayak last year and I realised just how low the water was then. There were rocks protruding from the water all the way down, none of which are visible here even though the water level in not especially high

IMG_4206

You get to cross the river by a small punt-like ferry to add another element of interest to this walk. I once came this way in summer with Mark and his family and the ferry wasn’t running as the river was extremely high and looked like a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. No such problems today

IMG_4208

IMG_4209

From Symonds Yat its just a short walk back through more rather lovely (and very soggy) mixed forest back to the car

IMG_4210

 

 

IMG_4194

We bid a fond farewell to THO and Mac. Not the best weekend of weather but a couple of decent outings and a new friend made

Winter is Over   13 comments

P1060310

Normal November service resumed – after a brief cold snap, mild, damp and grey weather has returned. Last weekend we had THO over for the weekend and managed a couple of walks. On the Saturday after a breakfast at Waitrose (I’m so middle class!) we took a walk up Crug Mawr at the south end of the Black Mountains.

P1060305

And, we had a new friend with us. This is Mac, THO’s dog and what a lovely little fellow he is. Extremely friendly and sociable it was a pleasure to have him on the walk with us. I’d forgotten how good it is to be accompanied by a dog on a walk. Set us thinking and talking about how and why dogs have forged such a close bond with humans from their wilder origins

P1060306

It more than made up for what was really a pretty dismal day. As you can see from the photos it was wet, dark and miserable in terms of weather, but company turned it into a fine outing.

P1060307

We didn’t linger long on the summit of Crug Mawr as it was really windy and, well, damp.

P1060308

At least most of the smaller tops were out of the cloud to give us something of a view.

P1060309

We stopped for lunch at the little church in Patrishow. Despite having walked past many times. I’ve never been inside so we put that right.

P1060311

It’s very old and whilst simple is lovely inside.

P1060311a

The carved wood on the balcony was intricate and would not have looked out-of-place in the Sagrada in Barcelona.

P1060311b

The odd skeleton picture at the back is apparently there to remind us of our mortality!

P1060311c

We had lunch in the Lych gate in front of the Church, Mac scurrying around and begging for whatever food he could scrounge with his puppy dog eyes.

P1060311d

We had plans for a longer walk but we felt satisfied with a walk along the ridge on the other side of the valley and down to the car

P1060313

It’s a fine ridge that see’s few visitors but not at its best today

P1060314

Crug Mawr

P1060316

We headed back to fester at home and enjoy and afternoon and evening watching TV and Mac make himself thoroughly at home in our house.

 

 

 

Posted November 8, 2018 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Wales, Walking

Tagged with , , ,

Winter Was Here   12 comments

P1060274

Back a couple of weeks to a time of cold weather, frosts and snow. Time to pack away the summer rucksack, bring out the winter version and fill it with winter mitts, bothy bag and down jacket. Slight overkill for the Black Mountains but you can’t be too careful.

P1060267

Started off beautiful clear and frosty with a strong wind and a deep chill in the air.

P1060266

The walk along the ridge beyond Castell Dinas is excellent and referred to as the Dragons Back locally. Whilst that’s overstating things a bit, it is a very nice way to reach the main Black Mountains summit of Waun Fach.

P1060270

The views back to Mynydd Troed, our target for the second half of the day were superb.

P1060271

Looking along the ridge to Waun Fach.

P1060272

And down the valley towards Crickhowell.

P1060273

See, I told you we needed winter gear!

P1060277

Just after we left the summit of Waun Fach we were hit by a serious snow shower. Proper winter conditions in the air if not on the ground (the snow was wet and thin)

P1060278

There was a Mountain Marathon in progress with lots of people wandering about in shorts and Lycra in what was a blizzard and temperatures well below freezing with wind-chill. Definitely not the weather to be spending a night in a bivvy bag (or dressed in lycra for that matter).

P1060279

The snow melted pretty much immediately, the skies cleared and we found a nice spot behind a wall for lunch.

P1060280

I’ve walked this route many times as a shortish half-day but this time wanted to make a longer circuit.

P1060281

We picked a route off the hills and along the lanes down to the village of Waun Fach (not the mountain) and up towards Mynydd Troed (my first ever mountain ascent when I was ten for those that don’t know that story).

P1060282

There was a major fire on the mountain in the dry summer and you can see traces of it in the left of the shot below.

P1060283

And as we climbed up onto the ridge.

P1060289

P1060290

But the scale of the damage wasn’t apparent until we were near the top.

P1060294

What used to be a dense covering of knee-deep moss and heather had been stripped bare by the fire. All that remained was the grass on the path which I assumed was fresh re-growth.

P1060295

In places there wasn’t even that and it looked desolate and bare. The plants up here are pretty resilient so I hope that in time it will recover.

P1060299

The weather had closed in a bit and there wasn’t much in the way of sunshine. We did get some nice sunlight streaming through the clouds over Llangorse Lake and the Brecon Beacons

P1060300

P1060302

P1060303

We didn’t linger on the top as it was ferociously windy and bitingly cold. We took our leave plunged down the steep NE ridge down to the car

P1060304

A good 12 mile stretch of wild winter walking

Mynydd Troed

P1060275

I like winter walking and I enjoyed this very early blast of cold and snow. Pity the weekend just gone was back to typical November, all gloom and mild wet drizzle

A Day of Two Halves   12 comments

IMG_4159

The weather on the Sunday following our south Lakes wander was appalling. Cloud right down and heavy slanting rain. We’d arranged to meet friends for a walk in Yorkshire but rang them to postpone by a couple of hours in the hope things might improve later. The Forecast wasn’t promising seeming to indicate a spell of cloud and rain between two longer spells of rain! As we drove over if anything the weather got worse and the car was rather quiet as we looked forward to a soaking. As we met up in Clapham it eased off a bit and we decided to head out anyway in a light drizzle.

The waterfalls in Clapham looked nice after all the rain.

IMG_4106

We took a route to avoid the walk up Clapham Beck as they charge you for it! We headed to Trow Gill as it’s a top spot even on wet and miserable day.

IMG_4108

We re-lived a memory from university days on a walk with very deep snow. In those days the top of the gorge had a stile to cross and me and my mischievous friends had realised an opportunity for fun and games. The narrow stile was a perfect ambush opportunity so we raced ahead, made a pile of snowballs and pelted everyone that came through. Of course once past that point meant that the next person through had one more person to be pelted by. Someone had to be last and one of our party took that role. I can still hear the sound of dozens of snowballs pelting him and the surrounding rocks to this day! Childish but fun.

IMG_4110

Back to the present day. We emerged onto the open moors above Trow Gill and turned to make our way over towards Crummack Dale, the main target of our walk. Whilst it was still damp and grey it had stopped raining.

IMG_4111

There was even sunshine back towards Clapham.

IMG_4112

We found a spot out of the wind for a bite to eat and a brew looking over the rather nice and splendidly named Clapham Bottoms.

IMG_4113

If we look a bit wet it’s because we were. As we finished up it started raining again sadly and we thought that was it for the day.

IMG_4114

Looking back to Trow Gill.

IMG_4116

However it soon stopped and from there things began to improve.

IMG_4117

Cloud started to lift and Pen-y-Ghent appeared from the clouds.

IMG_4119

From Sulber Gate, the view over Thieves Moss and its wet limestone catching the sun (yes it was starting to put in an appearance) was superb.

IMG_4121

As we crossed Beggars Stile, the magnificent expanse of Crummack Dale came into view. I’ve wanted to come back here for a long time as I’ve only ever walked it in the dusk and darkness many years ago.

 

IMG_4134

The heavens clearly understood my longing and the sun suddenly came out in full force lighting up the crags magnificently.

IMG_4135

IMG_4136

The day and mood were transformed and there was a real spring in the step as we walked down through the dale on wonderful grassy paths.

IMG_4137

There is something special about the grassy paths through limestone areas that I just love. Whether it’s just the ease of walking or bright vivid green colour I’m not sure.

IMG_4138

The views were sensational – an incredible contrast to the damp and wet gloom of the previous 24 hours.

IMG_4139

IMG_4140

IMG_4141

Mark recommended we cut across to the Pennine Bridleway by way of the Norber Erratics under Robin Procters Scar.

IMG_4142

A good call. A fine path through interesting limestone edges littered with glacial erratics (boulders of a different rock type picked up elsewhere and dropped by receding glaciers).

IMG_4143

Superb views out across the valley towards the Forest of Bowland and Pendle Hill.

IMG_4144

Maybe TJS needs glasses?

IMG_4146

IMG_4147

The crags of Robin Proctors Scar. Much as I love my local mountains in South Wales, they do lack large crags and rock bands so my camera was trained on these for the rest of the walk.

IMG_4148

One more treat in store as we wandered along the Pennine Bridleway back to Clapham. The sun came out between the clouds in full force.

IMG_4151

IMG_4152

The low angle lit up the fields and crags to stunning effect.

IMG_4153

I was captivated by the scene and stopped many times to take photos. No-one else seemed to have noticed as when I looked up they were all out of sight. Their loss!

IMG_4162

IMG_4158

IMG_4164

The sign on the way down warned cyclist of steep slopes and tunnels so I was surprised to find these on the way down.

IMG_4165

Back to Clapham after a surprisingly long walk of 10 miles.

IMG_4163

One of those days when deciding to go out in the worst of weather delivers substantial rewards. Sometimes you just have to give it a go. Sometimes (like my walk on Dartmoor in January) it delivers a miserable soaking. Sometimes you are treated to glorious views like this. The weather in the UK is fickle and unpredictable but when you gaze on a view like the one above it makes you glad for all that uncertainty.

Clapham

Back to Mark’s for another one of his slap up meals (a lamb roast that was everything you could want after a day in the hills). A top weekend (thanks to Mark and the gang for putting us up) and a chance to see TJS before he really settles into to his first term at Lancaster

A Damp Day in the South Lakes   19 comments

IMG_4082

TJS had only been away at University for 3 weeks but as it was his Birthday we decided to go and see him. Mark and his family were kind enough to let us stay, mess up their house and eat all their food – again! The forecast for Saturday had looked pretty decent but alas it dawned grey, dreary and overcast with a light drizzle in the air. Not a day for a high level walk as I’d planned and it was left to just me, Mark TBF and TJS to form a hike party

IMG_4080

We planned a route around the small hills and pastures near the south end of Windermere to take in the small but very prominent summit of Gummer’s How which despite hundreds of visits to the Lakes, I’d never been up. As it was in the cloud when we parked up near the base we decided to save it for the end of the walk hoping it would be out of the cloud

IMG_4081

Despite the gloomy conditions it was a really good walk. What the area lacks in mountainous peaks it more than makes up for with interesting stuff.  The forest is packed with small tarns like this one, Middle Tarn

IMG_4083

Whilst this may look like a barn it is in fact a Quaker meeting-house, Heights Cottage

IMG_4084

IMG_4085

IMG_4087

From there its a short walk across to Raven’s Barrow and its prominent cairn overlooking the valley of the Winster river and down to Arnside, Arnside Knott and beyond to Morecambe Bay. The line of brightness shows the split in the weather beyond which all was blue skies further south and east. Despite our hopes it never reached us

IMG_4088

IMG_4089

On our way to a lunchtime stop we passed the church on the slopes of Cartmell Fell (Mark will step in and give out its real name when he reads and comments I hope. He knows the area very well and is a useful companion on these walks to take you on a tour of the interesting sites like this.)

IMG_4091

Its been rendered on the outside and looks quite plain but on the inside its stunning. It’s very, very old and the stained glass contains fragments taken from other churches

IMG_4092

I particularly liked the wooden roof beams

IMG_4093

The area is packed with wonderful converted farm buildings and cottages and wanted to live in every one. This one in particular caught my eye although I suspect I’d need to perform a Hatton Garden style robbery to afford it

IMG_4094

Of course its proximity to one of Lakelands finest pubs had nothing to do with my enthusiasm to live here. The Masons Arms is an old favourite serving a range of beers that includes Belgian fruit beer (raspberry today). Very tasty it was too.

IMG_4095

The food was also very good and we enjoyed a light lunch of Black Pudding, Poached Egg and Potatoes. We sat outside under cover and our stay coincided with a spell of heavy drizzle that stopped as we packed up to leave.

IMG_4096

From there a steep climb up Whinny Knott

IMG_4097

And into the Birch Fell Forest (or should that be Fanghorn Forest, home of the Ents)

IMG_4098

From there we had to bash through the undergrowth and very wet grass and Bracken to reach the top of Gummer’s How

IMG_4099

We were just out of the cloud so its famed views were somewhat limited. Still, there were great views down over the southern end of the lake.

IMG_4100

The line of brightness had crept a little closer but not close enough

IMG_4101

IMG_4102

Despite that, I enjoyed our visit to the summit and look forward to a return sometime in sunshine. It is only a 15 minute walk from the car after all

IMG_4105

Gummer's How

IMG_4104

A fine walk regardless and one where we never donned waterproofs which seems pretty miraculous considering the weather. Back home for a slap up takeaway curry to finish the day

Down By the Seaside   12 comments

PA140466

A weekend of storms, high winds and heavy rain put pay to a plan for a weekend with The Hairy Oatcake down in the Gower for some kayak surfing. Instead Sunday looked better so we planned a day out. High quality weather forecasts let us down as always and Sunday dawned just as wet and miserable as the previous couple days but we went anyway. After a lunch in Porthcawl the rain stopped and there was tentative sunshine. The waves looked especially promising and into the water we went

PA140460

It turned into a wonderful afternoon. Offshore winds created near perfect waves and eventually we were treated to abundant blue skies and warm sunshine.

Kayaking selfie

PA140462

THO in action on the waves

PA140465

PA140468

Taking a break under blue skies

PA140469

PA140470

Hard to believe the torrential rain we’d driven down in a few hours earlier. Fickleness of the British weather never ceases to amaze me.

PA140472

After a cracking afternoon riding some of the best waves in many a year, time to return to the THO camper van for a brew

IMG_4077

And some fine late evening shots across the Bristol Channel to North Devon and along to the Gower

IMG_4078

IMG_4079

PA140467

Oh I do love to be beside the seaside (and on the sea)

Posted October 24, 2018 by surfnslide in Gower, Kayaking, Surf Kayaking, Wales

Tagged with , , ,

%d bloggers like this: