Archive for the ‘North Coast’ Category

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 🙂

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Mountains by the Coast   14 comments

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Coastal walking seems to fall into two types. Stretches of easy walking along the cliff tops punctuated by occasional short drops to the sea. Then there are sections of punishing, relentless climbs and drops like a rollercoaster. We chose one of these for our last day in Cornwall.

We were looking for a section we hadn’t walked before so headed for Port Quin with a view to walking to Port Isaac or Port Gaverne and back.The sunny weather had been replaced by leaden grey skies and rain looked a certainty. Having had two pretty decent days in November, a third would be pushing our luck to the extremes so we weren’t disheartened and coastlines always deliver an experience even on the worst of days

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Port Quin is a tiny settlement barely worthy of a name. Just a few National Trust houses for rent (I think my parents stayed here once) and some run down looking apartments. The cove is tiny in width but long in length. Not unlike Boscastle further north

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The first steep climb of the day gave views across the dark and foreboding coastline

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The section in shot below, across Downgate Cove from Kellan Head, had three climbs of around 250 feet and back down to sea level. Its only about a mile and only a third of the way to where we were going!

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A couple of seals watched us from the water but it was far too gloomy to get a decent image

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Looking back along the first mountainous stretch

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And along the next one, Greengarden Cove. It rained on and off for a while on this stretch but it never materialised into the downpour we expected and we never really got wet all day which was a bonus

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These steps went on forever and would be brutal if walking the other up (we came down)

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Right down to sea level at Pine Haven

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You can see the steep steps in the shot below. Walking the coast path must be really hard work in stretches like this. On a bad day with wind and rain it must be morale sapping to trudge up one steep climb with a heavy pack only to drop back down and have to do it all over again a few minutes later and keep that going for a whole day. This section of the SW coast path is notoriously challenging

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It looked really dark and nasty further north. The “island” on the left hand side below is Tintagel and its castle

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After another steep climb we arrived at Port Isaac. No idea what setting my iPhone drifted on to here. Must be the “colour drained hangover look” setting

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Back to normal exposure

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Port Isaac was lovely even under a grey sky although it was as bright a part of the day as we had. It also had an excellent cafe, The Chapel Cafe. A superb, hearty veggie soup sustained us for the journey back. The Fish Finger sandwich here is legendary and looked awesome but I wasn’t hungry enough to do it justice

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We returned to Port Quin by an inland route. It was one of the muddiest, dreariest routes I’ve walked in a while (apart from coastal views at the start and finish). Long trudges across endless cow-pat spattered fields is not my idea of fun. Reminds you that rural Cornwall (away from the moorland bits) is pretty ordinary. It’s the coastline that’s its star attraction

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To finish on more of high we extended the walk beyond Port Quin to the west to look at Doyden Point and Doyden Castle

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It’s another NT property and you can rent it – must be an interesting place to stay

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It was cold and blustery up here so we didn’t linger but the views were immense

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Port Quin Harbour

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Doyden Castle

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A not too longish walk of 6 miles, in the end but with a mountain-climbing amount of ascent. My OS Maps app says 3,880 feet but that can’t be right. I’d estimate over 2,000 feet though, on very steep slippery paths. Who needs mountains

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We had a cuppa in the car park and headed off to try to see the display of starlings near Bodmin Moor. It was lashing down with rain when we got there and we were a bit late for the main show so I didn’t get any images or video as I wanted. What we did see was spectacular and it is a truly extraordinary sight. If you get chance to see one these displays then make the effort, its amazing

TBF was a little distracted as she thought she’d lost her wedding ring on the walk. It’s a family heirloom and irreplaceable so she was pretty upset. We were sure it was gone for good but luckily it turned up in the boot bag when we got home. It’s now been altered so it doesn’t slip off so easily.  A happy ending to great weekend away

Wild and Windy on the Coast   12 comments

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After the calm clear weather on Dartmoor, the next day was a refreshing change. Still plenty of blue sky around but now mixed with some dark black storm clouds and a keen blustery wind. Perfect for a coastal walk. We parked up at Treyarnon Bay, one of our favourites and headed south for an out and back before lunch.

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There were some stunning cloud and rainbow effects and some of the clouds looked very angry and full of rain

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The stormy seas, crashing waves and winter light make for great photos. I used the HDR setting on my iPhone for these and it takes a damn fine photo

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This storm had me worried but it passed us bay

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The first stretch to Porthcothan, the next beach along is fairly flat but takes a while to walk as the cliffs are constantly indented by wild, deep and inaccessible coves all with wonderful names.  Pepper, Warren and Fox Coves, Minnows Islands, Will’s Rock

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TBH looking happy with a very angry storm sweeping past. Luckily it only rained for a couple of minutes while we were out and we had some glorious sunshine

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We hoped there might be a cafe or something at Porthcothan but everything was shut for the winter. We pushed on south towards the headland at Park Head

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It was glorious walking if a little wild and windy

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Another cove at Porth Mear

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And looking back north the way we’d come along Tescore Islands

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Time was pressing so we turned around and headed back before we reached the headland

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Porthcothan beach was now exposed by the tide and Will’s Rock was framed in the surf

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From there it was a race against the weather to reach the YHA at Treyarnon Bay for lunch. We won – just – rain battering the windows as we settled in. It’s a really fine cafe and we had a lovely light Tapas style lunch. A walk of over 8 miles so we’d earned it.

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Now the actual plan had been to do some kayak surfing and body-boarding in the afternoon. Sitting in the warmth of the cafe it suddenly seemed like a rather stupid idea. After preparing a detailed list of safety conscious excuses we decided another short stroll along the cliffs and an amble around Padstow was a much more sensible plan

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I think the photos justify that decision

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Padstow is a tourist hotspot and rammed in summer. In November it returns to being a quiet fishing village with a handful of people. Not a great place if you are on a diet though. Its packed with excellent, restaurants, cafes and bakeries selling pasties and the like. We managed to avoid temptation (other than a sneaky millionaire shortbread) as we were eating out in the evening

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The setting sun created some wonderful vistas

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The harbour in particular looked rather fine

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And to finish off, a couple of photos from our B&B bedroom window. Not too shabby

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This is what birthday’s should be about (if you can’t afford a tropical white sand beach anyway)

On Yer Bike – The Camel Trail   15 comments

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A walk on the moors, a walk on the coast, a play in the sea. We needed something else to entertain us on the last day. Some cycling was in order. The Camel Trail runs for 17 miles along the estuary and inland towards the fringes of Bodmin Moor. That would do nicely, we hired bikes, packed a picnic and headed off

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Its a supremely easy and flat ride, busy and very popular with families. There are wide and expansive views across the estuary

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After passing through Wadebridge the character changes and it becomes a wooded trail. Much quieter and in fact for large stretches, deserted

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At the far end near Wenfordbridge we came across this rather nice meadow by the river and had tea, crab sandwiches and cake. Very refined

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And then back the same way rather than a trip through the lanes. To be honest the inland stretch was a bit samey, just long stretches through the trees with not much in the way of views. I think a road return would have added some variety but there is a lot to be said for traffic free cycling

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We returned along the estuary for more fine views and and ever increasing soreness of backside (a problem I find when I don’t have any cause to ride out of the saddle on a longer ride)

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A 34 mile trip took the weekends outdoor distance covered to almost 50 miles. Not bad

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Just a final stroll through Padstow and a quiet sit on the harbour to finish off a superb weekend

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Getting older has its benefits, lets just hope I have plenty more Cornwall weekends left in me! 🙂

Showers and Sunshine around Padstow   14 comments

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Day two of our weekend away in Devon and Cornwall and time to swap high moors for coastal cliffs and beaches. More showers were in the air so it looked like one of those days when waterproofs would be regularly on and off. We planned to repeat a circuit we’d done a few years back when staying in Trevone, cutting across the peninsula and back to Padstow around Stepper Point. The walk across the fields was actually quite pleasant. No muddy corners or overgrown stiles. The first stretch was through a waving field of young wheat or barley

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As we caught first sight of the coast we were hit by the first soaking downpour. Only lasted a few minutes but enough to dampen the spirits a little

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Just as quickly the sun came out, spirits and waterproofs were dried out as we walked down to the sea at Trevone Beach

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Walking out to the headland, we were soaked again!

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This was a short sharp shower and luckily for us the last one of the day. The flowers in the coastal meadow are always a delight in the SW

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We circled Trevone Round Hole, one of several sea caves with a collapsed roof in the area

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The coastline along this stretch is dramatic and the path twists and turns around the small headlands, revealing numerous caves and sea arches. This is Porthmissen Bridge

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This dramatic feature near Gunver Head doesn’t seem to have a name on the map although the parcel split off from the cliffs does, Middle Merope Island

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From there to Stepper Point and its abandoned lighthouse its a less dramatic but glorious walk across wild flower be-decked meadows along grassy paths. In the warming sunshine its was marvellous

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From the headland you get grand views across to Polzeath and back inland along the Camel estuary towards Padstow (hidden from sight)

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The wild flowers in the hedgerows along the path prompted me to take a photo

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We took to the beach at Harbour Cove to walk back towards Padstow.

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The sun came out in full effect and with the gentle clear waters in the sheltered estuary and the pale sand it felt almost tropical

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Without shades, the light was blindingly bright but the scene was a happy one of people strolling and enjoying the simple pleasures of playing with various dogs and kids. I enjoyed this stretch immensely

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Sadly the beach finishes among the rocks and you are forced to rejoin the crowds as you head back into Padstow. It was as busy as always but in a nice way. We enjoyed a pasty from the Chough bakery (the best in Cornwall that I’ve tried) serenaded by a half decent busker

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A pretty decent 8 miles for half a day but that day wasn’t yet over

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Time for some water based fun for TBF at least. Treyarnon Bay is one of our favourites and we headed back again. One of the reasons for visiting Cornwall for my Birthday is for me to catch some waves. Bad news was that my car was in for repairs and I had no way to carry my kayak on the roof of the loan car they gave me. I also had a bad cold and didn’t think splashing about in cold water was a good idea. Last time I was dumb enough to do that I got a nasty sinus infection that I wasn’t keen to repeat

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I took on the role of photographer and beach potterer in chief and spent a happy couple of hours poking about on the sand in the caves and watching TBF body boarding

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I took a final stroll along the path watching a newly wed couple (the bride in a backless dress) having their wedding photos taken in the strong chilly breeze. She looked very cold!

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A superb day finished off with another fine seafood meal at the excellent Prawn on the Lawn

Storm Clouds over Dartmoor   12 comments

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My Birthday treat was a weekend away in Cornwall for some fine dining, walking and wave based fun in Cornwall. A heavy cold put paid to entering the water so plans were amended slightly but we kicked off as before (for TBF’s birthday weekend) with a fine lunch at the Cafe on the Green in Widecombe in the Moor and a walk on Dartmoor. Thanks to the writings of the excellent blog over at Treks and Tors I have an endless list of very fine walks on Dartmoor to experience and this one was based on one of the more recent posts. Its a great blog and well worth checking out.

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The forecast had looked promising with mention of sunshine and “isolated” showers. From up on Dartmoor they were a lot more than isolated! We had a Tor-tour planned and first was Rippon Tor. The views across to Haytor, Dartmoors most famous tor derw us onwards

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First we passed over Saddle Tor, appropriately populated with wild ponies

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All the while the storm clouds gathered, thunder rumbled and lightning flashed

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Haytor was always a favourite spot when I was a kid. We spent many family holidays up at Westward Ho! (only place name in the UK with an exclamation mark) and often came down to Dartmoor for a day out. I always insisted we come up here so I could climb to the top

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I love granite tors with their weathered shapes and weird formations

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Haytor looked especially dramatic today backed by dark storm clouds. I rekindled childhood memories by climbing to the top but decided not to linger, feeling rather like a lightning rod on the exposed summit

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As we passed Haytor quarry in bright sunlight the dark clouds provided an amazing contrast

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The clouds all around were bubbling and boiling and we seemed to be just yards from a soaking

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We found a fine sheltered spot on Smallacombe Rocks for a cuppa and a slice of cake. We didn’t hang around as our luck was running out and spots of rain were in the air

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We walked over one of Dartmoors numerous and very quaint clapper bridges over the Becka Brook

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And then up towards and past Greator rocks.

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As we passed into Holwell Lawn we came across one of the most stunning displays of bluebells I’ve ever seen

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All across open hillside they carpeted the floor in a swathe of purple-blue. Its rare to be able to catch the real sense of colour in a photo. They never seem to be as dense through a lens as they are to the naked eye

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Here, that task was easy

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We pressed on for more tors over at Bonehill Rocks

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Leaving them behind we set off for our final tor, Top Tor

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We got a proper soaking in a heavy rain and hail shower that dusted the hills we’d walked on earlier in drifts of white while thunder rumbled and crackled around us. Short-lived, and sunny spells returned for the top and while we finished our fine 6.5 mile back to the car

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My second Dartmoor walk in the past year and its wonderful, packed with interesting stuff and a huge variety of landscapes. It deserves a full weekend or holiday all its own or a wild camp to appreciate its austere charms

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Satisfied and in need of a little luxury, we headed off to the Althea Library for our weekend stay, with same wonderful room and warm welcome as before

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I took a brief stroll around Padstow before our evening out to clear my head (I had a bit of dizzy spell when I arrived) and to enjoy Padstow without the the crowds when it reverts to a peaceful fishing village rather than a tourist fleshpot

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Ending the day with a fine curry at The Journeyman restaurant was the perfect finale to a fine first day of my Birthday treat 🙂

Funster Birthday Weekend – Padstow, Tintagel and Rough Tor   14 comments

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Onto our final day of the birthday weekend. A much soggier and wet outlook plus the need for a waterproof for me, having forgotten to bring one, saw us head into Padstow.

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Despite the commercialism I like Padstow and out of season it returns to being a quiet Cornish fishing village

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We took an easy stroll around the harbour and up towards the war memorial. The views over the Camel estuary, Doom Bar and Daymer Bay were superb

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Dark clouds were billowing and heading our way so we had to turn and flee. Not before this rather fine shot of storms approaching while we grabbed the last rays of sun

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My new cagoule got a try out but heavy rain put a stop to Padstow fun, so we moved on, figuring driving through the rain was better than walking in it. On  whim we went to Tintagel as I’d not been there since I was a kid. By the time we got there the sun was out again and all was fine. We declined the offer of over £20 to look around the castle. Whilst the position is dramatic and evocative the word “castle” somewhat overplays the hand of English Heritage. Lots of steps and a few sparse walls sums up this monument plus a few “King Arthur had a pee against this rock” plaques is pretty much all you get. The views and the coast are undeniably superb but so is the coastal path to the north which is free so that’s where we went

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Its a magnificent walk around Barras Nose to Willapark

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These are The Sisters

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Willapark was superb and completely deserted, we had the whole place to ourselves

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The views north towards Boscastle were especially fine

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The cliffs on the south side are frighteningly sheer, one of those places you feel you could step off the edge and fall straight into deep water. We stayed dry as well, always a bonus

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Afternoon was pressing on and there were showers in the air. Most people would have decided to head home but we are better than that. Never ones to waste precious winter daylight we took a short drive to the edge of Bodmin Moor with a view to a final walk up Rough Tor. We pass by this summit on our way to and from Cornwall holidays so I was keen to take a look. We brewed up in the car waiting for a window in the weather which duly arrived

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It was memorable walk to finish the weekend, just a short walk from the car to numerous granite tors that spread across the summit

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The light was fading and not easy for photography but I was able to capture some nice shadows and spooky outlines

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I was in my element scrambling about the rocks but the light was fading fast and the cold seeping into the soul. We enjoyed a few more shafts of sunlight and brooding views before we headed down to begin the long drive home

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A weekend that started on the granite tors of Dartmoor finished with an equally fine walk on the Bodmin variety

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We had one final treat in store. As we drove away from the car park we noticed that a huge flock of starlings was gathering in a nearby wood to roost. We pulled over and watched mesmerised as thousands of birds swooped no more than a couple of feet over the car and swirled above our heads. They put on show for 10 minutes or so and we were so entranced it never occurred to me to take any photos or video.

A birthday treat for TBF to remember and I quite enjoyed it as well

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