Archive for the ‘Wales’ Category

The Long Way Around   12 comments

Last time we had a weekend day seemingly without rain. I was on my own for the day so set out early (by my standards) for a long walk in the Black Mountains. I parked up at Pont Cadwgan and headed up the forest tracks deciding to add in Crug Mawr as an extra option due to the bright morning and the fact its a fine hill.

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Not quite as clear and sunny as the forecast had indicated but dry and that’s what matters especially with the appalling 2-3 weeks of rain that followed.

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Crug Mawr doesn’t seem to attract many walkers and I rarely see more than a couple of people up here or on the long ridge that comes down from the high points of the Black Mountains.

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I has my first sit down for the day, actually quite pleased for the breeze as it had been a bit hot and airless on the walk up.

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Onwards towards those high points I mentioned. This ridge is normally a pretty wet and muddy affair but it was bone dry. Likely it’s returned to business as usual in the meantime.

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A spell of brighter sunnier weather drew me onwards until I reached Pen y Gadair Fawr.

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Time for another stop as its a few miles along from Crug Mawr.

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Next stop Waun Fach, highest of the Black Mountains. They have worked wonders in restoring the grassland up here. The path is now much less boggy and there are huge swathes of grass where once was just black bog. The Trig Pillar on the top used to be lost in sea of peat but now stands proud next to a path through the greenery. Sadly the plague of trail bikes are still leaving their trail of damage elsewhere. The National Park really need to more to do educate and restrict them although I’m not sure how.

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Onwards to the northern escarpment for a bite to eat before turning and taking the long route back down the other side of the Gwryne valley

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This is looking along the ridge to Chwarel y Fan

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It turned quite cloudy and cool for a while so my last stop on the top was a brief one.

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I really like the ridge from here to Bal Mawr. Not narrow but airy enough to expose some grand views.

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A close up shot of Llanthony and its priory.

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Not sure what these trees are – flora and fauna are not my strong point – but they were all in flower all over the lower slopes and looked wonderful both from a distance and close up.

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Just a matter of picking my way down to and through the forest and back to the car feeling weary and foot sore. Hardly surprising as my mapping software said 20 miles! As far as I’ve walked in a day for a very long time. I was quite pleased with myself.

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Wild Camping in the White Hills of the Black Mountains   15 comments

It hasn’t been much of summer so far has it? Seemingly endless days of rain and sunshine a distant memory. Fleeting appearances between showers. Time to call on the isolated good memories from weeks gone by, this one from the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of May. Another weekend that started of grey and wet but a promise of clearing skies on the Sunday prompted us to head our for a quick overnight wild camp. Parking up at the Dan yr Ogof show caves we headed into the limestone hills to the south of the main Black Mountain range.

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It was still raining when we left home but once we set out on foot the skies had cleared to a breezy and sunny late afternoon. Its a quiet part of south Wales at the best of times but this late in the day we had path to ourselves.

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It’s a fine green path across the white stone slopes, easy going is always a bonus when carrying an overnight pack.

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Fine, expansive views across this wild and austere corner of the mountains.

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TBF striding out and enjoying the scenery if not the heavy pack.

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There a numerous sink holes in the area and several are filled with water. One gave us a somewhat harrowing experience of rescue. I paused to wait for TBF to catch up and noticed a sheep near one of these pools. Something about it looked forlorn so I went to have a look and found that it was stuck in the pool, unable to get out. The banks were boggy and the poor thing was shivering and completely out of energy. Between us, me and TBF managed to drag it out of the pool until it sat on the banks. There was little more we could do but leave it alone and hope that it had sufficient reserves of core body heat and energy to recover and survive. Sheep are pretty hardy so we hoped that it would survive. I hope that we at least gave it a fighting chance as it would surely have died in the pool had we not seen it.

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We were headed back to a spot wed camped in a few years back. The Afon Gledd flows into a limestone valley and then disappears. Our spot was just upstream in a fine grassy shelf by the stream.

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We set about making camp in a spell of rather glorious blue sky and sunshine.

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Tea was drunk and evening meal cooked and consumed. No finer way to spend an evening back in the real world – TV and Netflix would be nice though! 🙂

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We had some wonderful late evening sunset views after a short walk to a nearby outcrop to help with digesting the meal.

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It was pretty chilly but we managed to sit outside until darkness crept in before retiring for the night.

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Showers were more frequent in the morning so it was breakfast cooked inside.

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As the morning developed so did the sunshine as we packed up for a walk back to the car via the maze of small limestone outcrops that litter the area to the south.

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There are no paths marked and I had thought it might be hard going. In fact there were numerous sheep tracks and flat rock outcrops and apart from one short stretch of tussocks the going was easy.

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In fact the walking was superb, the bright grey rock contrasting with the green grass and the moody clouds and blue sky.

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It would make fine wild camping country if there was some running water. There are a few small tarns but you’d likely need to filter the water carefully as there are no outflows.

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Our target was the unusual hill of Cribarth. Unusual in that its been very heavily quarried, carving some weird outcrops and shapes.

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It was really cold and chilly up here and the only time since we packed up that it rained, albeit just for a few minutes.

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We dropped down to the fields and found a sheltered spot for a picnic lunch and a brew.

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The sun came out to glorious effect while we sat and created some stunning views to the Forest Fawr range and along the Tawe valley.

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A short walk back down to the river and back to the car to complete a superb little outing in this remarkable and unusual corner of the Brecon Beacons.

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Evening Walk – Bryn Arw   16 comments

I was hoping to get out and do more after-work walks this year. A promising start back in early May but since then the weather has been pretty poor and the few days when there has been sunshine hasn’t fallen right.

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Still this one was a good one and my default walk of a circuit of the small and perfectly formed Bryn Arw.

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Its close to my journey home, easy to park and normally deserted, especially late on a weekday evening.

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A beautiful clear and warm evening, superb views over Ysgyryd Fawr and the surrounding pastoral landscape.

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And across to the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons.

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A stop on the top for a cuppa and snack is an essential part of the experience.

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Timing things perfectly for that clarity of light you get as the sun sinks lower.

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I love this view on a day like this, beguiling contrast of colour.

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And a field of bluebells to wish me on my way back to the car and home, the trials of a day at the office banished to the back of my mind.

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Llangors Circuit   16 comments

Always on the look out for a new route in my local hills, the TGO magazine obliged with a circuit of Mynydd Llangorse and Allt yr Esgair around Llangors Lake. I’ve done both hills many times but never as combined circuit. In fact I’ve never been to Llangors Lake itself a very popular spot for fishing, boating and walking.

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From the Lake its a walk along a quiet local lane to reach the pass between Mynydd Llangorse and Mynydd Troed.

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As you climb the views begin open out over the lake (largest in South Wales) towards the Brecon Beacons.

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Mynydd Troed dominates the view in the other direction.

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The climb to the vast summit of Mynydd Llangorse is via the steep ridge of Cockit Hill.

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Beautiful contrast between the green fields and the bracken and heather slopes on Mynydd Troed.

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You can see here the effects of the fire that burnt across the slopes of Mynydd Troed last year. It looks like the damage was severe and may take a few years to recover fully.

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The bucolic Cwm Sorgwm with the Black Mountains behind.

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It was pleasantly warm on the summit so we stopped on the grassy path for lunch. We had these lovely wild ponies and their foals for company.

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After dropping down ready for our second peak of the day we noticed that despite the warm weather there were still storms about. This quite nasty looking one passed us by – in fact they all did and we never needed to suit up for rain.

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It’s a very long and steady climb to the summit of Ally yr Esgair but as a narrow – relatively – ridge the views around are excellent. Looking back to Mynydd Llangorse and Mynydd Troed.

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Over to the Brecon Beacons.

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And Llangors Lake

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By the time we reached the shores of the lake the sun was out in abundance and it was a glorious afternoon.

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You can’t walk next to the shore of the lake as it’s marshy but the green pastures gave a superb finish to our days walk with some wonderful late afternoon sunshine.

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Looking back to Allt yr Esgair.

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Mynydd Troed.

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Brecon Beacons.

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The views across the lake from the boating piers were equally fine and finished off a really fine walk, a respectable 11 miles.

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“They’re Friends from Work”   12 comments

The fact that I like to hike in the hills seems a source of constant humour for my work colleagues with me the butt of the jokes. I was surprised to find that secretly some of them actually hankered for a hike in the hills so I said I’d lead them out on one my favourite south Wales hikes in the Brecon Beacons.

A little gang of four assembled at the cafe in Talybont on Usk for a fry up before heading for the mountains. (The title of the blog is in reference to one of my favourite lines from the Marvel movies – very topical at this time)

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A round of the Neuadd Reservoirs taking in the highest summits of the Beacons range. We were all rather caught out by just how cold it was.

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Here is the first of our little band posing for a photo. She decided to tone down the colours for this hike!

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Its a short and very steep climb up on to the edges that had is puffing hard. Luckily the sweat was soon removed by the ferocious and icy wind that was blasting at us across the valley.

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The photos don’t really do justice to just how cold and windy it was, enough to blow one our team clean off her feet a few times.

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Whilst the sun disappeared for the rest of the day, the cloud base was high and it stayed dry, which is a much as you can ask for on day planned a long way in advance.

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I had inform my new comrades that a key objective of any hike is make regular and lengthy stops to brew up and eat lots of food. They seemed quite keen on the idea despite the chilly wind, especially when I produced home-made cake that TBF had lovingly prepared.

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We reached the top of Pen y Fan – together with a few dozen other people and posed for a team photo for me on south Wales highest peak.

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Despite blisters and foot problems (this is quite a tough walk by south Wales standards) they agreed to continue the summit bagging and we took in Cribyn as well.

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And another couple of happy looking group shots.

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Including one with yours truly in it, demonstrating an odd pose and leg angle that says very clearly why I try and avoid being photographed in the first place.

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After another brew and scoff stop I convinced them that we could bag one more summit. The fact that my work colleagues share a distinctly smutty sense of humour and that the summit was called Fan y Big had nothing to do with it.

One last summit photo on the rock outcrop on the summit. They look happy that I’ve dragged them out on a bitterly cold day to wander about in the hills when they could have been home watching TV and doing domestic chores.

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And then it was time to head down across grassy slopes and bog and return to the real world.

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I normally walk either on my own or with the family down here so walks can be a little repetitive. I really enjoyed this day immensely for a variety of reasons. It was great to share my passion for both hiking (or should I say mountaineering) and for the Brecon Beacons with new companions. It was equally good to see them really enjoying the day as much as I was (well they said they did anyway) and I have to admit I enjoyed showing off a bit. They have all been out in the mountains before but never as regular thing and seemed to relish the challenge and chance to enjoy the outdoors. This is what keeps me sane through the drudgery of modern life and I really hope they went home with the same feeling of spirits lifted. We certainly laughed a lot on this hike as we always do at work. We are close knit bunch and my working life would likely be intolerable if they weren’t around to make me smile and keep me grounded.

I really hope we can do this more often and hopefully persuade some of my other work friends to join us. Who can’t love a hike!

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Snowdon Horseshoe with The Hardman   21 comments

I’m behind again – just when I’d caught up as well. Back to the last weekend in March for a rare trip out to Snowdonia with The Hardman. He’s planning on a run over the Welsh 3’s and some of his friends haven’t done the narrow ridge of Crib Goch so he wanted a reconnaissance mission. I agreed to join him as the forecast looked like it might be a decent day and worth the 5 hours return trip in the car.

Things didn’t start well. TH wasn’t at the appointed spot we’d agreed to meet (a very handy lay-by that’s free to park and only a few hundred yards from where you have to pay £4). After 45 minutes he still hadn’t arrived and I was worried he might have had some car problems (or maybe just forgotten that the clocks went forward!).

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With no phone signal there was nothing I could do but set off and see what transpired. As I reached the start of the new path up to Pen y Pass from Pen y Gwryd there he was! He’d decided to completely ignore my well written instructions and paid to park. Ah well, times to set off and the increasingly good views soon had us back in tune with the day.

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The weather improved markedly, much more than expected such that by the time we started up the PYG Track there was abundant blue sky. On decent days the path is normally a long train of people but the gloomy start seemed to have kept the crowds at bay.

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The views down the Llanberis Pass and across to the Glyders were amazing.

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And of course Crib Goch looms large and dramatic in the view from here. East Ridge (our route) on the left, North Ridge on the right.

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Fine views across Llyn Llydaw and to Y Lliwedd from Bwlch y Moch.

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Onwards with the steep climb up to Crib Goch. A tough undertaking at the best of times but at Hardman pace even more so! The rocky spur halfway up gives some great, easy scrambling.

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The final section of the ridge pulls you up towards the summit.

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The summit is one of the few in England or Wales with a real sense of narrow exposure. This is looking down the North Ridge. I did this one a couple of years back. Harder and narrower than the East Ridge but its a real pain to get to.

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And the the highlight of the day, the narrow crest of the ridge. In my youth I was able to hop along the crest, mostly only a foot wide but in these less nimble days I prefer the handrail approach.

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It really is quite narrow and exposed and you’d have to head to Lochaber or Skye to find anything quite as challenging in the UK.

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Looking back from the final pinnacle.

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The Hardman on the short steep (and exposed scramble) over the final pinnacle.

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A brief stop for first lunch and onwards to the ridge of Crib y Ddysgl, not as narrow but with plenty of interesting scrambling moves of its own.

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Over the summit of Garnedd Ugain and on to to join the masses on the main Snowdon routes to the summit.

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Not as crowded as it can be, but still the usual comical mixture of under-equipped and unhappy people clearly surprised by just what a long climb it is and how cold it was up there. We didn’t linger and just walked straight over the top heading away from the crowds and towards the other half of the horseshoe (the full route enclosing the dramatic east corries of Snowdon).

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The distant views were a bit hazy and for most of the day we were under a cap of dark cloud. However it was localised and as the sun dropped into the western sky where clouds were less we had some extensive sunny spells and dramatic light effects. The route down to Bwlch Ciliau is still under improvement and the final section is very loose and unpleasant.

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As we reached the bottom the sun came out and we stopped for lunch number two.

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Y Lliwedd is a wonderful peak but its always quiet whenever I’ve done it no matter how busy Snowdon is. Probably its just too much extra effort for the main mob and possibly as its not over 3000 feet. Whatever the climb up its west ridge is a delight with lots of scrambling if you have the energy to seek it out.

Looking back to Crib Goch.

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And Snowdon.

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Watching you, watching Crib Goch.

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The ridge is not narrow but the views from the edge are magnificent and precipitous.

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And our two heroes on the final summit.

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Moel Siabod cast in sunshine in the distance.

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Just the matter of a long descent back to the car.

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And see final sunshine on the Glyders to finish an awesome day on one of the UK’s finest (if not its quietest) mountaineering routes.

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I drew the route into my OS Map software. It told me there was over 6000 feet of ascent so I’m now rather unsure of any figures it comes up with. The the 10 miles distance seems about right though at least.

Thanks to TH for convincing me it was worth the drive.

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A Day By the Seaside   2 comments

Seems a bit crazy to want to spend time in the sea in mid-March but that’s the kind of thing I like to do. A decent surf forecast saw me and THO, accompanied by TBF plan a day in the surf in South Wales.

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The weather had been appalling all week but Sunday was bright and sunny if a little windy and cold. Rest Bay is our usual hang out but it was open to the wind and the waves were a bit scary. After a very fine breakfast in our new favourite cafe we headed to the Town beach behind the harbour wall where the waves were more manageable.

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Safe to say we didn’t stay in long even though we had some superb long rides in pretty much prefect conditions. The beach was very busy as was the Theme Park and we finished the day off in style with Waffles and Ice Cream on the sea front before the rain returned.

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Perfect except for the fact that the water was staggeringly cold.

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This was especially noticeable when taking a dunk, water cold enough to make your head ache and feel rather light headed.

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Regardless of activity and the pains to achieve it, I always enjoy a spell of outdoor fun and it most definitely clears the head of any lingering post work lassitude.

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More surfing planned but maybe when the water is not quite as close to freezing!

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Posted March 25, 2019 by surfnslide in Kayaking, Surf Kayaking, Wales

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