Archive for the ‘Backpacking’ Category

Night Out in the Black Mountains   16 comments

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I’ve been trying to get out more to wild camp this year and TJS was keen for a last trip before heading off to university. Forecast wasn’t too bad so we gave it a go on a Friday after work.

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It was past 7 when we set off from the car, windy and cold. We had less than an hour of light left. We returned to the same point by Llyn y Fan Fawr where we camped earlier in the summer. The wind made it difficult to put both tents up at the same time so it took a while to get set up. Pitch dark by the time we’d done so a lazy evening drinking tea and chatting.

Next morning was much better. Brighter with wisps of blue sky

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Breakfast in the tent (too windy and cold for an al fresco affair)

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Its a cracking spot though

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TBF readies herself for a day in the mountains

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We left the tents pitched and went for the classic circuit of the Black Mountain range. Same circuit as in the summer but in reverse. I figured as the wind was so strong we’d want it behind us on the higher section

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A view down over Llyn y Fan Fawr

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TJS on the high level traverse under the cliffs

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The old water leat that supplies Llyn y Fan Fach

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One of my favourite south Wales views over Llyn y Fan Fach and Bannau Sir Gaer

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As we walked along the edge we were engulfed in a heavy shower of rain. Luckily it didn’t last long and we had some nice wispy cloud effects

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View from the highest point over Llyn Fan Fawr. Our campsite is in the top left hand corner of the lake

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A view down the prominent gully that splits the crags above the lake

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Time for lunch at the tent. We had to hide behind the tent for shelter such was the force of the wind

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Forecast for the afternoon and next day was very poor so time to get the hell out of there. We packed up and headed down

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The views across to Fforest Fawr were excellent

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Fan Gyhirych looking dark and moody

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There was a lot more water flowing than earlier in the summer

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The sunshine on the small waterfalls was very fetching but the water looked cold. Those hot summer days of wild swimming seem a long time ago

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Chances to sneak away for a wild camp will be limited as winter closes in although it is my intention to get out and do some winter summit overnights if we get some cold frosty weather.

Having been reading and enjoying Ken Browns new music inspired blog I thought I might add some tunes to my post to broaden the scope a little. I used to create a music tracked slideshow but I’ve lost interest in that of late so I’ll just add a tune that I like to each post. I just happened to be listening to this while I finished this post and as its a sublime and chilled track, one of my favourites I’ve discovered in the past 12 months I thought I’d share it. I like the lyric “Didn’t I take you to, higher places you can’t reach without me”

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Another Solo Wild Camp   18 comments

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Back a couple of weeks before the weather turned too hot to venture into the outdoors with a heavy pack, I took another Friday night out in the mountains. I wished for a bit of breeze to keep temperatures and insects at bay and certainly got my wish.

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A glorious evening of clear skies and warm sunshine. I chatted to a lady van-camping in the car park with her very friendly Jack Russell pup chewing my laces. No sign of the promised breeze as I set off.

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It was a hot climb through the fly infested bracken as I headed for a summit pitch on Pen y Gadair Fawr. Still no breeze and I felt that the midges were eying me up for a buffet supper

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As I crested the top, the breeze finally kicked in. Less a breeze than a very significant and very chilly wind that I was struggling to stand up in

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It would have made a superb summit camp, lots of flat thick grass but it was just too cold to enjoy the surroundings. I’d also hoped to pick up some water, figuring that at least one of the numerous springs that rise on the summit would be running. No such luck. I decided press on in the hope of finding a sheltered spot

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Trouble its a pretty exposed spot up here and the wind was roaring and grass is in short supply. The compensation was that it was cool and walking along a high level ridge in the late evening is a simple joy

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The bog cotton was giving everything an almost frost-like feeling. The photos can’t do justice to how beguiling it was

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They have massively improved the paths up here so I made swift progress over Waun Fach without ever finding a respite from the wind. I tried a few grassy groughs, but none were suitable

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Eventually I had to plunge a hundred metres or so down the Y Grib Ridge and found a sort of level pitch on a terrace of deep lush grass. What it lacked in comfort it more than made up for with a  superb sunset vista

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There was just enough wind to keep the insects at bay without it being too cold and I sat outside, read and drank many brews of tea before turning in well past 11pm

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Tough to tear yourself away from views like this

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I expected a blazing sun to cook the tent and have me outside early. I awoke at 8am with no sign of the sun. I was in the cloud again. Looking up was clear blue though and the sky was surely to clear and on queue as the water boiled for my last cuppa before I ran out of water, it did

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It was an amazing morning. The east wind had cleared any haze from the air and the sky between the wispy clouds was a deep azure blue. Pen y Fan and Beacons poked above the cloud and I thought of TBF on her 25 mile sponsored walk around the range. She was on Pen y Fan summit round about the time I too this photo

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I decided to walk all around the escarpment to Lord Hereford’s Knob and on a day like this it was amazing. It really puts a spring in the step to have views like this to accompany you and I covered the ground swiftly

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There were several D of E groups out most of whom seemed cheerfully incompetent, walking in various directions none which seemed to be the right one!

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I topped out on the Knob and where the panorama across the Wye valley is breathtaking

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Despite the glorious day I had this very popular and easily accessible summit to myself but it was still very windy and bit chilly. Added to the fact I’d not had breakfast and had no water pushed me onwards to resupply and take on calories

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I had to walk much further down the Nant Bwch stream before the water was flowing sufficiently well to be drinkable. I found a fine spot and set about making my bacon sandwiches and several cups of tea to re-hydrate

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I had thought about dropping down to Capel y Ffin and walking back over the ridge to the car. The fact that out of the wind it was still really hot had me thinking of a better plan. I retraced my steps back toward the edge and the curved off towards the summit of Twyn Talycefn.

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The strong breeze was keeping the skies clear and the temperatures perfect for walking. Much better to be up high in weather like this

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Looking back to the ridge I’d walked the previous evening

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I dropped down to the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir with an idea of a sneaky swim.

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I don’t normally like swimming in reservoirs as they do have their dangers but I found a stunning little spot on the banks and took a short dip without straying too far into the water.

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Another cup of tea seemed in order as I felt like I had the whole place to myself.

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Then it was a simple matter of the long walk back down past the dam to the car

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A nice easy angled path to finish the day with grand views back to the dam and the deep greens of the valley under the still totally clear sky

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Another superb one-nighter although I would have enjoyed a bit of company as I’ve done most of this years trips solo. 15-16 miles over the two days with the aimless wandering I did looking for a pitch and just enjoying being out.

Black Mountain Backpack

May be the last such trip for a while. The last couple of weeks have been just too hot and sultry for walking so I’ve been getting my exercise in the water with some wild swimming, more of which in future posts. Then its holiday time for me and the family as we head to Wales and France for some sociable fun with friends

 

Wild Camp on Cadair Idris   14 comments

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We had a pretty successful wild camp trip last summer with many of the kids and wanted to repeat this year. Unfortunately Mark and his gang couldn’t make it and the Hard Man’s youngest couldn’t be persuaded so it was a more exclusive group this year. I pored over maps and decided that a camp by the wild and rocky Llyn y Gadair under Cadair Idris would be a fine spot so we agreed to meet in Dolgellau for lunch prior to setting off. The forecast wasn’t great but it did say it might stop raining after lunch and Sunday might be ok so we decided to go for it.

We had to start further away than we planned as there is no overnight parking rate at the main car park (why don’t they offer this for backpackers!). We drove down the road to the free car park at Cregennen Lakes, in the end not a bad plan as it’s a fine spot in its own right and the walk back to the climb up to the mountain was rather nice.

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The lakes are dominated by pronounced nose of Pared y Cefn Hir.

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Blue skies seemed to be approaching from the west

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The walk around the lakes and over to the valley that marked our ascent was exceedingly fine

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We had some sunshine and smatterings of blue sky and for a while even the summit of Cadair Idris came out of the clouds. It was however a fleeting appearance and was soon enveloped again never to re-appear, at least for this weekend

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After a short road walk we started the climb

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Steep at first but then easing into a nice day easy angled approach to our target

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As we climbed pretty well all the nearby summits became smothered in dark clouds but there was bright light and sunshine on the lower slopes

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We reached our target, the dramatic corrie that holds Llyn y Gadair. I’ve climbed Cadair Idris many times but always from the south so while I’d seen this place from above I’ve never visited up close and personal

It’s a rocky place and flat spots are very hard to come by. After a little searching around we settled on a spot between the main lake and a smaller sibling. A bit rocky but it did the job and the setting was magnificent

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Unlike our last group camp it was chilly and windy so the midges didn’t bother us

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We made the place our home and cooked tea including a pudding of Guinness flavoured chocolate cake brought up from the cafe.

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Appetites sated we set off on one of the joys of a wild camp, a gentle stroll around the surroundings

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In this case a circuit of the lake and the small knolls and outcrops that surround it

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There wasn’t a sunset as such but there were some interesting light effects and we had a great evening poking about the area, chatting and looking for other potential spots to camp

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We kept hoping that the summit would make an appearance but it never did.

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Still, our wild site and the setting were hard to beat. A real big mountain feel

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We returned to camp for another round of brews before deciding it was too cold to sit outside and turned in for nights sleep, hoping for some clearer weather the next day

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Sadly, that was as good as it got. We were in the cloud when I woke up and while we eating breakfast the light drizzle increased in intensity and set in for the rest of the day. Despite the forecast stating “mainly dry” or words to that effect, the rain was relentless. We took a slightly longer route back and whilst we had the wind behind us and then walked through the trees it wasn’t too bad. When we emerged from the trees and walked into the wind and rain for the last hour back to the car it was utterly miserable and we were soaked through when we reached the car.

Didn’t make much of a dent in the enjoyment of a good trip though, slight disappointment that in the midst of what’s turning into a pretty sunny summer we picked the only wet weekend for a trip out

Only one way to finish off. A return to the superb cafe in Dolgellau, TH Roberts, that we’d started out from. An exceptional range of home-baked cakes and meals, exceptional value and all served with a smile. Well worth seeking out when you are in the area

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I’ve been trying to make more effort to get out and camp this year. This was the third outing for me with another one to come in the next post

A Cheeky Wild Camp in the Arans   12 comments

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I had a Sunday walk planned with a few friends in Shropshire and with a decent forecast thought I could make a proper weekend of things with a one night wild camp and walk in the Arans.  It was pretty gloomy when I parked up with little sign of the promised evening sunshine.

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It was also warm, humid and airless and a very, steep climb into Cwm Cywarch. I was dripping sweat all the way up and bothered by flies and midges whenever I stopped. I feared the lack of wind would continue and I’d be sharing my planned site with tiny unwanted friends. I was beginning to regret the decision to head out and I wasn’t in high spirits.

All that changed as I reached the broad col below Glasgwm. The sun was emerging from below the mask of heavy cloud and throwing some promising sunlight onto the surrounding hills. Even better there was a breeze to blow the flies away and cool me down

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Within minutes there was more abundant sunshine. My mood was lifted immeasurably

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I was heading for the summit of Glasgwm to camp. The climb up to the top is a steep one and on the way up I’d been dreading it. Amazing how sunshine improves your mood and your energy. I fair romped up the steep slopes

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The views just got better and better as I climbed, keeping ahead of the setting sun so it was still out as I reached the summit

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On the top it was just stunning. The summit was swept with swirling mists and low angle sunlight

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The light was fading fast so I had to concentrate as much on setting up  camp as admiring the views (forgetting that even once the sun has gone down, it doesn’t get really dark at this time of year)

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I’d targeted the summit as a good place to camp on a previous visit. Its broad and largely grassy with numerous spots to throw up a tent (although the grass and turf is only a couple of inches thick before hitting rock)

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The small Llyn y Fign provides a useful water source although has no outflow worthy of the name so needs to be boiled or filtered to be safe

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I pitched just below the summit cairn. There is no better feeling than a summit camp especially at sunset

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I made a brew and watched the sun sink and bathe the summit in glory

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It took me a while to set up camp while admiring the views

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I had a very refreshing wash in the lake before I turned in. The views across the lake were amazing with a deep pink sky and thin mist over the water. Alas I hadn’t taken either my phone or my camera so the views went unrecorded other than in my memory.

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It was pushing 11pm and quite chilly so just lay inside the tent watching the sky darken

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The sense of peace when wild camping is quite hard to explain and I drifted off to sleep in happy mood

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The fickleness of the weather brought me back to reality with overnight rain and unzipping the tent to realise I was in the cloud

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Still I had my feast of Bacon and Eggs to cheer me up and it was still a fine if rather blank spot in the cloud

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As morning progressed it kept threatening to clear and then mist up again but after an amble about the summit area looking for other possible pitches for future visits it did clear

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The photo below was taken from the summit cairn at 772m and shows the green and expansive summit plateau. Sadly being more focused on views than where I was putting the tent meant it wasn’t quite as flat as it appears!

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I packed up and headed off for a stroll around the Arans

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It was another warm and muggy day but there was a breeze to keep me cool and the day became sunnier as the morning ticked over into afternoon

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As always I rejected the main path for an off piste route to the top of Gwaun y LLwyni. It’s a very rough walk and a short steep grassy climb but worth the effort as the views across the deep Hengwm Valley and Cwm Cywarch are immense.

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A quiet grassy path leads along a broad ridge and then along the edge to Drws Bach

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On Drws Bach I stopped for lunch and the sun came out in force

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The views across to the main Arans ridge were superb and I felt I had to make the effort to make the summit. I hid the pack and went briskly two the summit unencumbered.

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I have a fondness for the Arans as they have a proper, rocky big mountain feel without being difficult or busy. I only saw a handful of people on this day. Looking north to Arenig Fawr

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West to Cadair Idris

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North along the ridge to Bala and its lake

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And east over Craiglyn Dyfi

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Selfie to prove I didn’t steal the shots from the Interweb

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I headed down in the best weather of the day as blue skies took centre stage

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Hengwm valley

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Gwaun y LLwyni & Drws Bach

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Looking back up Hengwm

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And full circle to my route of ascent the previous evening

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A cracking little over-nighter and reward for taking a chance on the weather. One of the best sunsets of I’ve seen in the mountains for a while. Time to head off to meet up with good friends for the second half of my weekend

Bank Holiday Backpack in the Black Mountain   25 comments

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My good friend the Hard Man and his two kids came to pay us a visit over the recent BH weekend. They were spending the week in South Wales doing touristy stuff and seeing relatives and took a chance to come see us and try to convince me to go walking in the rain. The Hard Man seems to have taken over the mantle of blind weather optimism from my friend EWO and always sees good weather prospects in the worst of forecasts. On this occasion we were faced with a forecast of heavy thundery showers, not exactly ideal weather to be sitting in a small tent. He even tried to convince that the tent poles would act as some sort of Faraday Cage if we got struck. Deluded!

Anyway as the weekend progressed the forecast improved and seemed to indicate we might get a dry evening on the Sunday and a dry albeit cloudy Monday. Against my better judgement we decided go for it. Packing up on Sunday morning it seemed like a very bad idea. We had the lot. Torrential rain, thunder, lightning, hail. We set off in an almighty downpour that had us dodging several pretty serious floods. Most of us looked out of the window with severe trepidation. The Hard Man simply looked happy that he’d at least got us in the car. We shopped like aristocrats in Waitrose and it had stopped raining by the time we were done. Shortly afterwards the sun came out. It didn’t rain again for the rest of the weekend.

Before the backpacking festivities we took a short stroll to Henrhyd Falls. I’ve never been to these (this corner of South Wales has loads of waterfalls) and very fine they were too.

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Like all the very best waterfalls you can walk behind them

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It’s a popular spot and there were plenty of people about so we didn’t linger

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There were mountains to be climbed and wild campsites to be occupied

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Our route was a local classic. A camp by the wonderful Llyn y Fan Fawr and a walk along the edges the next day. The summits looked dark and gloomy as we set off (after a monumental faff by the family Hard Man).

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It’s a relatively easy walk up to the tarn now I’ve finally discovered a way through the boggiest bits

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As we climbed up the clouds parted and there was sunshine aplenty. It’s a really fine spot for a night in the hills

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After a little deliberation we found a great spot by a small beach on the Lake. We set up camp and basked in sunshine. The pointing is showing TJS that the sun was shining as he’d mocked us when we left about how wet we were going to get. I even managed a very quick and very cold swim to wash away the grime of the walk in

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The Hard Man returns from a water gathering exercise

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The wind had dropped and the water was stunningly calm and mirror-like

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The downside of warm weather, no wind and clouds is obvious. Midges! That’s the reason TBF has her hood up by way of protection. They were not even close to the scale and numbers of a Scottish midge attack but there was enough to be irritating while trying to cook

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As evening drew in and the temperature dropped they went back to their evil lair for the night and we enjoyed a pleasant late evening stroll to collect some fresh running water to save having to filter the lake water

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The moon was dazzlingly bright. Not a bad picture with a handheld zoom

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The next morning we were shrouded in cloud when we woke. It was a still a nice peaceful spot so I still got up and cooked my breakfast early and alone before the midges came out. As everyone else stirred and came to life the cloud began to break and we saw the first tentative rays of sunshine (and the first of the midges)

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It soon turned into a quite amazing morning with expansive and clear blue skies interspersed with mist. Stunning. Way better than anything forecast had us believing.

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Nice that the Hard Man purchased a tent that blends so well into the landscape you can barely see it!

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We set off for a walk and the views were amazing. It’s rare to walk in the UK without so much as a breath of wind and see such a mirror like calm on a lake surface

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It was quite mesmerizing. Our pitch is at the far end of the lake towards the right

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As we crested the top there was a welcome puff of breeze – it was exceptionally hot for May. The fickleness of British weather never fails to amaze me. We camped by the lake a few years back in July and it was too cold to eat outside the tent!

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Whilst we weren’t above the cloud there was a bank of it seemingly all around that gave a similar vibe

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The highest point of the Black Mountain, Fan Brycheiniog

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It’s a classic walk and the first time for the Hard Man for many a year (he spent a good part of his youth in these parts)

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Heading off for Bannau Sir Gaer

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We hoped to have a first lunch somewhere on the summit but as always seems to be the case it was overrun with flies despite the wind which seemed to be blowing them in. The walk along the edges, normally so wonderful was an unpleasant affair as we picked flies from every facial orifice. We did manage to find a windy spot to keep them at bay for a while until it dropped, the midges came out in force and we ran for cover

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The walk back to the tents along the base of the cliffs is one of my favourites and in baking sunshine it was a joy

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We returned to base camp for more food and to think about packing up. It had been a hot walk and all that I’d been thinking about was a swim.

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It was fabulous if very cold but so refreshing after a hot and sweaty hike. Yours truly enjoying the cold clear water

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TBF joined in as well

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As we packed up the clouds started to bubble and we heard a few rumbles of thunder. Time to get the hell out of there

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As we followed the stream back to the car we turned and saw that the clouds had completely enveloped the summits again and all looked very threatening. It appeared we caught the weather window perfectly. The sun shines on the righteous and all that

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Luckily the mindless and delusional optimism of the Hard Man had worked wonders and we had a cracking little trip out. Another weekend out planned in a couple of weeks time so more of the same will be in order

A Review of 2017   18 comments

I’ve read quite a few blog post in the past few days reviewing other peoples 2017 exploits. I enjoyed them so much I thought I’d do the same. Good excuse to look back through my photos and remember what we got up to. At my age I need help remembering stuff!.

Acutely conscious of the modern trend for these awful “round robin” letters you get at Xmas (we get one of these smugograms every year) I tried to select photos that bring back a particular memory for me so its more a personal, family introspection on outdoorsy stuff, than a blow by blow account of the year. As its based on my photo collection if I didn’t photograph it, it ain’t here!

January

We started the year off in Tenerife and New Years Day was spent on this rather splendid beach (the earlier part of the day was in the mountains but I cocked up the photos from that part of the day!)

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Returning to the British winter, a walk along the Cats Back in the Black Mountains with TBF, memorable for a cloud inversion after a very wet morning. A reminder that despite our travels we are lucky to have some stunning scenery on our doorstep

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A solo day out in the Brecon Beacons, the first snowy walk near to home and pretty much the only one with significant snow during the early part of the year (made up for it at the end)

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A glorious day out in the Black Mountains with TJS and a cooked breakfast on a cold Table Mountain. I like this photo though as it has Mynydd Troed in centre shot, my very first mountain climbed when I was about 10

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And my usual skiing trip (only a weekend this year) to finish off the month. Snow was a bit rubbish but we had a laugh nonetheless

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February

Another solo day on Fan Fawr in the Brecon Beacons. I remember this day for a very mild Friday afternoon (16C) and snow in the mountains 18 hours later

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A short walk with TBF on Hatterall Hill

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March

The first weekend of the month is always spent in Scotland with friends of long standing. A new location at Bridge of Orchy and a two out of three days were magnificent winter days. The walk along this ridge high above Rannoch Moor on the first day was superb

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Me and TJS also managed a cheeky backpack into the Black Mountains. Straight from work on the Friday for a one nighter in my new tent. Need to do more of these this year

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2017 is the year I rediscovered cycling – mainly to help my knee and also to be less of a lazy layabout during the week. The Hardman – a VERY keen and VERY fit cyclist caught wind and insisted we meet up in the Peak for a trip along a couple of the old railway trails. A cracking sunny day and I survived cycling with the Hardman!

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And we finally managed a meet up in the Berwyns with Uncle Fester after a few aborted attempts

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April

More cycling and solo trip through the Brecon Beacons on the “Gap” route. Cycling to over 600m was a first for me and I started to feel that I almost, might, actually enjoy cycling.

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Easter and a major backpacking trip with TJS to the Cairngorms. The weather was wild and windy but we had a couple of superb wild camps and TJS bagged his first Scottish 4000 footer

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I even coaxed TJF out for a bike ride along the Brecon and Usk canal

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May Day weekend was mostly in April. Mixed weather but we had a fine gaggle of friends on a hike around Greendale, taking in Buckbarrow and Seatallan

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May

No finer way to celebrate a birthday than a lunchtime hike. This one was on one of my local hills, Bryn Arw with TBF

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Followed by a weekend away in Cornwall. It almost felt tropical on the white sands just north of Padstow on one of our walks

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Whitsun weekend was spent with our good friends in Silverdale. The Sunday was a real winner with a long but easy stroll and a fantastic pub lunch. Weather was mixed the rest of the time but great company, many laughs and a chance to relax

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June

A different walk from the usual mountains. One of the small hills that overlook Gloucester and across to the Cotswolds. Not something I’d do every day but a nice change

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One of the highlights of the year was the long-planned backpacking trip with the kids into the Howgills. Despite poor weather we gave it a go and it was a huge success. The kids really enjoyed the adventure and I’m hoping they have caught the wild camping bug

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July

After the backpack trip I was out of action for a few weeks recuperating and resting after a minor knee op. Didn’t affect my water based fun though, a nice albeit far too long trip down the river Wye

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By the end of July I was back in the hills again (the knee op has been a great success I’m pleased to say). A fine evening stroll with TBF and TJS on Ysgyryd Fawr (we even took a cheeky cold beer to drink on the top)

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Another “local walk for local people” – this time Garway Hill where we reached the top, saw this nasty storm approaching and raced it back to the car. We won.

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Late July brings the annual camping trip to Towyn Farm on the Llyn Peninsula. We packed in lots of walks and beach fun in a very mixed few days of weather. My abiding memory though was this game of Kubb which was huge fun with both adults and kids alike taking it far too seriously and larking about in equal measure. A happy afternoon

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August

The big family trip of the year, a rail trip around some of Europe’s finest cities. An real change from our usual outdoor camping trips and it was real success. We all took took to the city life rather well you might say. One of my best ever holidays. A few photos that made me smile

One of the many fountains in Paris (we called this one the fountain of throttled fish)

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A monster thunderstorm in Turin

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My favourite seafront walk in Venice

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The Colloseum in Rome – of course

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Schloss Belvedere in Vienna (courtesy of an unplanned extra couple of hours from a very late train)

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The thermal baths in Budapest – “like taking a bath in a wedding cake”

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A stroll along the Spree river in Berlin on a sunny Sunday afternoon

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And the railway bridge over the Rhine in Cologne

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September

Back to earth with a bump. A few days after the heat and sun of Europe we were walking in the Black Mountains in driving rain and cold winds!

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But there was still enough warm weather left for a round of the hills near the Talybont Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons

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October

A walk with friends in the Roaches on the dreariest day of the year (when everywhere else was sunny – I’m not bitter)

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More evidence of my new found cycling passion (probably too strong a word). A ride around the tracks of the New Forest while TJS took a look around Southampton University

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And why settle for one trip to see major cities when you can do it twice. As a special treat for TJS 18th Birthday we spent a week in Barcelona. Probably my favourite city but despite all its famous sights, this little known hill and its view overlooking the city was my favourite spot

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November

After sunshine comes the reality of winter. A couple of cold but beautiful days. One in the Black Mountains on the Sugar Loaf and Crug Mawr

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And one of my favourite walks in the Black Mountain

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A delayed birthday treat weekend for TBF saw us in Padstow for a couple of nice meals and walks along the Cornish coast and Dartmoor

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December

And last into the proper depths of winter. The first snows saw me and TJS head into the highest peaks of the Black Mountains

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The day after saw the biggest dump of snow I’ve seen in my own backyard for many a year. Walks around my village in deep snow under crisp blue skies were wonderful

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The start of the Xmas holidays is marked with an annual get together of my University friends and their families. Always great fun but this year we could climb the hills in snow (rather than wet rain) and play at snowballs

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Finally coming full circle with a return to the Canary Islands to spend Xmas in Lanzarote and Xmas Day sunning ourselves on the beach

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Well I enjoyed looking through my photos, choosing a few and reliving a great year. Hope you enjoyed it too. All the best for 2018 🙂

Wild Camping – The Next Generation   17 comments

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The delights of Wild Camping are not always obvious to the younger members of the family. We’ve been hatching a plan for a couple of years to get more of the kids involved after Mark took A out on a couple of trips and me, TJS, the Hardman and his eldest did the same last year

To coordinate a weekend is easier said than done so we just picked a date and agreed to decide closer to the time to see if was a goer.

Right on cue the forecast was really poor. I almost bailed out, not fancying spending a weekend in the rain with grumpy kids. However it was said kids who convinced me I was the grumpy one and we decided to give it a go. We had planned a trip to upper Eskdale but the weather looked truly awful so we plumped on a less ambitious route into the Howgills.

The Saturday morning was as horrid as the forecast, several hours of ceaseless rain had us lounging about Mark’s place while he filled us up with a nourishing soup. We headed out anyway and as luck would have it got delayed by a traffic jam on the M6 long enough for the rain to have pretty much stopped by the time we parked up. All packed and ready to go we headed for the hills

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The original plan had been to walk up Carlingill Beck. Its a superb valley and has possible camp spots at the far end. The wet weather had the streams in spate though and crossing them would have been a challenge. We changed tack and headed up and around the head of Carlingill by going over Linghaw and picking up an interesting looking traversing path high above the waterfalls at the head of the valley

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The horses kept us company clearly waiting for us to disappear so they could get up to mischief, more of this later

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Considering how poor the forecast had been the weather wasn’t all that bad. It had stopped raining and whilst it was windy, the cloud lifted a bit and we had views of a sort

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We easily picked up the high level traversing path and what a find (thanks to Mark). Even in gloomy weather it was a real delight, easy, yet elevated high above the deep cleft of Carlingill Beck

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We even had a few glimpses of sunshine on the valley below

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The path cut across the top of the dramatic Black Force

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The kids seemed in great spirits and were enjoying the challenge of the walk into the wilds

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There were even steam crossings to delight and amuse for young and old alike

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It was just a short walk from there to Blakethwaite Bottom, our intended pitch, having read favourable reviews online as a great spot. It was seriously windy and exposed but we found a great spot on the far side sheltered enough to make sitting outside the tents quite pleasent.

The Hardman had a new tent to try out, an enormous 3 -person Vango affair, in a discrete scarlet colour

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I lent Mark my large Lightwave 3 person tent for him and two of his dangerous offspring. He was very taken with it. So taken I’ve lent it to him long term as his kids are really taking to the wild camping and this tent really hits that 3 person spot. I don’t have much use for it any more (TJS prefers to sleep solo when there’s the three of us – I snore apparently as well) and I’d much rather see it in use than under my bed gathering dust

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We had a really enjoyable time cooking tea, messing about and having a laugh. The kids seemed to really enjoy themselves and being outdoors with a trio of middle-aged grey hikers

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We even had some brief sunny spells and decided to take an evening walk up Uldale Head

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It was brutally steep and when crested the top, amazingly windy.

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We had a few fleeting views but the real fun was had from surfing in the wind. The smiles on the faces below tell how much we all enjoyed being kids. We also discovered that turning cagoules inside out made a fairly effective parachute to drag us around the summit. I forgot to take photos alas

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It had been cracking day, all the better for the fact we hadn’t expected to get much out of it other than a soaking and long periods sat in the tent. In the event we only went under canvas when it was time for bed after an improvised game of Petanques with rocks, many brews of tea and lots of biscuits

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We woke the next morning with company. A small gathering of wild horses and ponies on our doorstep. A bacon breakfast got the day off to a grand start

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Soon there was celebrity death-match between some cows and the horses. The cows won and spent an age just stood close by looking at us curiously, nudging each other out the way for a closer look. Very comical. I’ve had a few run ins with cows recently but these were harmless if a little disconcerting but soon dispersed with a little encouragement

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We didn’t want to hang around as the forecast was for strengthening winds and rain in the afternoon. We packed up and headed back down but were hit by the only bad weather of the weekend. We walked straight into a cold deluge that had us all soaked within seconds and for a short period it was deeply unpleasent. It stopped soon enough though and apart from a few short sprinkles we stayed dry the rest of the day

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We dropped back down to Carlingill Beck by the side of Black Force. An impressive ravine and extremely steep so we took our time. Again I think the kids enjoyed the challenge and the rain hadn’t doused their spirits in any way

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We had a brief lunch by the river and embraced the challenge of a couple of river crossings

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The walk along Carlingill Beck is superb and provided a fitting finish to what was a superb if short trip out to the wilds

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I wasn’t sure how the kids would take to a wild camp in less than perfect conditions but they were all superb company. My abiding memory of the weekend was smiles and laughter. They took everything in their stride and were a pleasure to be with from start to finish. For me, there was a real sense of pride that they enjoyed it far more than I hoped and seemed to share in the simple pleasures of just being out in the mountains. Their youthful enthusiasm was infectious and I hope we can do this on a much more regular basis. Cracking stuff. If only those pesky ponies I mentioned hadn’t sheltered by my car and barged into it, denting the front wing, the little pests. Still that’s why we have insurance I guess

 

That brings my blog back up to date. I’m out of action for a few weeks having just had some minor surgery on my left knee. All went well and healing nicely so blog service will be resumed in a couple of weeks

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