Archive for the ‘Wales’ Category

Riverside to Moorland and Back   13 comments

A forecast of sunshine and showers, less wet in the east had me scouring the maps for somewhere different to walk. With all the recent heavy rains I figured a bit of riverside to see what the Wye was like was in order. I came across Erwood between Hay and Builth Wells which has free parking, a tick in the box for River Wye views and what looked like easy access to the quiet Llandeilo Hill (where I’ve walked a few times before) but from a different direction. Plan formed.


The riverside path wasn’t very riverside to start with only the sound of the rushing water through the trees. It did have some nice views over the fields to the higher ground by way of compensation.


The path did drop down the river and in fact passed right by the water. The Wye, normally quite benign was a raging torrent. Not exactly a day for a wild swim.


In fact the path at this point was only a matter of inches above the water. Had the river been any higheer we wouldn’t have got through (and probably wouldn’t have done 24 hours earlier).


Satisfied with our river views we headed upwards into the low hills above. Showers seemed to be in short supply, sunshine and blue sky were in abundance.


The grassy paths between the retreating bracken were wonderful if a little damp.


The pretty tarn of Henlllyn Mawr.


Bracken is a real pain in the rear through the summer, but it does provide a nice splash of golden colour as it dies back in the autumn.


This area is marked with numerous small outcrops like this one that creates further contrast and interest within the rest of the slopes.


Another small un-named tarn.


We stopped for first lunch here. A gorgeous little quiet spot with wide ranging views across to the Black Mountains.


The hills above Builth Wells.


And the distant Brecon Beacons.


Our route for the next hour was towards the highest point of Llandeilo Hill in the distance.


Looking back on our idyllic little lunch spot.


Looking down to the village of Aberedw.


We had more wild ponies than people for company on this walk. We only saw two people the whole day once we left the riverside path.


We cut back towards the river via another little tarn also named Henllyn. These green paths are a feature of these hills. Sadly many (including this one until this point) have been badly trashed by trail bikes. This path was just three or four eroded ditches of mud and water that are difficult to walk along. Something needs to be done about this plague of indiscriminate destruction although I’m not sure what.


Luckily it was only a mile so of trashed paths and most of the walk was on pristine grass and delight to walk across.


Black Mountains living up to their name.


Storm clouds gathering behind TBF although it didn’t actually rain all day, at least not on us.


The Begwyns.


We had our only minor inconvenience of the day heading for this this hill – Twyn y Garth – as it looked like it might be nice. Sadly the right of way had fallen into disrepair and there were no stiles and barbed wire where the path went so we had to abandon the idea.


Turned out to be a good thing. We followed quiet lanes and came across this little church in the middle of nowhere at at Llandeilo Graban.


And this rather gorgeous little spot for second lunch overlooking the Wye Valley (once a group of noisy trail bikers had passed through).


Looking back to our hills from earlier in the day


A fine little circuit that I’ll be doing again. So much for me grumbling about a grey autumn in my last post!

Grey Autumn   14 comments

Short post from a short walk on a grey day. Grey seems to be the over-riding colour for this autumn. Probably a little unfair as my previous post was sunny and my next one will be. Probably my impression is coloured by my efforts to take outdoor exercise every day so I see a lot of grey as it were!


Bryn Arw is a favourite for this sort of outing when you need a short walk or the day just doesn’t justify a full outing.


Small, perfectly formed and with great views of the surrounding mountains.


It still surprises me that on dozens of walks up here I rarely see anyone else. I suspect everyone heads for the more popular hills of Ysgyryd Fawr and Sugar Loaf. The latter in the background here.


Distant brightness beyond the Forest of Dean, likely Avon or Somerset.


The aforementioned Ysgyryd Fawr.


The grassy path along the summit ridge is always a pleasure to walk even on a grey, cool and windy day like this one.


The highest summits of the Black Mountains.


And on our way back, a Dovecote with some real Doves resting on the roof! I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen that before


Posted October 31, 2021 by surfnslide in Black Mountain, Wales, Walking

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A Distant Memory of Sunshine   20 comments

It’s been a pretty dismal autumn so far. I’ve been waiting for some cold, clear frosty weather or some days of sunshine, showers and booming clouds but its been uniformly grey and dreary ever since I went to Scotland.

Apart from one day a couple of weeks ago. We were up late as the forecast only promised some possible sunny intervals later in the day when in fact it was a stunning clear blue day, warm enough to feel like summer.


We headed out to the Radnor Hills as TBF hasn’t been there for a while. I’d also found some new paths from my last visit which I was keen to share. We parked up in New Radnor by what I thought was an elaborate war memorial but was in fact just a monument to some local nob and landowner from days of yore.


Across the fields and into Mutton Dingle.


Stunning views on a gorgeous morning.


The new paths I found took us up through forests dappled with sunlight until you emerge near Whinyard Rocks and this fabulous views over Herefordshire towards the Kington Hills and the Marches.


A steep climb to the pointy little hill of Whimble.


Whinyard Rocks and Bache Hill.


Views out to the Black Mountains and the Beacons.


Time for first lunch on the summit.


Views down towards Harley Dingle.


Onwards to Black Mixen and its attendant Transmitter.


This lone pine always catches my eye for a photo.


The route round to Great Rhos used to involve a laborious trudge around a boggy forest. That forest has now been cleared and opened up an excellent path that takes a more direct route to the top.


Great Rhos is the highest point but as you can see, highest doesn’t always equal excitement and the best views!


It’s a lonely and soggy plateau of heather and grass with paths that seems to meander about without truly heading in any particular direction. In part this is due to the fact that Harley Dingle below is a privately owned shooting range that I think caters to MOD exercises. They have recently expanded the area you’re not supposed to venture into that now encompasses the obvious path to and from the summit of Great Rhos. Quite how that was allowed, and to encroach even further into Access Land I don’t know. Like the responsible and dutiful citizen I am, I ignored the keep out signs and just followed the path as I’ve always done (after some heather bashing to get to it).


A distant and zoom image of the distinct summit of Whimble where we had first lunch.


That in turn inspired us to stop for second lunch.


Looking out over south Herefordshire to the Forest of Dean and the Cotswolds.


Harley Dingle and Whimble. You can see the buildings of the firing range.


As you can see it’s something of a tragedy that Harley Dingle is completely inaccessible to walkers. It must be one of the most stunning valley’s in mid-Wales. In Dartmoor, they close off certain areas of the moors on certain days and you plan accordingly. Harley Dingle is permanently closed to any access at all times. Its very sad.


Luckily, the path back to New Radnor from the bottom of the valley is stunning with little risk of being shot or blown up. The late afternoon light was especially fine.


The path that traverses the hillside back to the village is the real highlight of the walk, especially at the closing of a sunny autumn day.


New Radnor Church just before we reached the car.


The map below is pretty close to the route we took, just ignore the little detour to Bache Hill (no longer required now I’ve bagged i! 🤣) and the pointless little dalliance with missing out the summit of Great Rhos!

Oldies and Goodies   12 comments

Having lived in this part of the world for nearly 20 years now, we have a list of favourite walks for most types of day. When the weather is uncertain and you need a short day (to account for the Professors need for a lie-in) then Blorenge is always high on the list. A high start and an easy level stroll with expansive views, easy to see why we take this route on a regular basis.


This time, to add some variety we did the route the other way round top our normal approach.


Starting off by going over the high moorland part first.


Past the transmitters near the top. I quite like them as photos subjects depending on where the sun is and the cloud formations.


Today it was largely cloudy but a ghost of the sun behind the veil.


Looking out over the Severn Estuary in the distance


The Black Mountains.


The Brecon Beacons.


TBF and the Professor.


And the best part, the airy views over Abergavenny to Ysgyryd Fawr from the edges where sat down for afternoon tea.


I’ve been meaning to bake my own scones for a while and this weekend was the time. Not a bad effort I reckon. We took them, the jam and the clotted cream to eat outdoors with a fresh brew.


TBF conducting a scientific experiment to determine whether the Devon or Cornwall approach is best!


Not a bad spot for afternoon cream tea.


Looking back along the edge.


TBF had her swimming stuff with her, intending to take a dip in the pool by the car park. It was very busy with kayakers and paddle-boarders and the water had been stirred into a murky brown. It was also rather chilly so she decided against it. She has swam here before but I reckon it always looks a bit manky for my taste.


A couple of bonus photos to finish off. A long awaited lunch with the family and my parents – the oldies!


And a rather impressive double rainbow over our garden shed.

The Dawn of the E-Bike   11 comments

Whenever we visit our friends in Silverdale there is always little light-hearted competitive envy around recent purchases, normally kitchen gadgets or food related. Often within a few days of a return home we have an Amazon delivery with a new kitchen gadget in it or delivery of suspect looking brown dust from the supermarket.

This year the ante has been upped somewhat. Firstly their rather wonderful new dining lounger chairs finally pushed us to replace our battered and, let’s be honest, scabby lounge suite that had already seen years of use before I free-loaded them off my parents! Have to wait a while for the new one though – world shortage of foam apparently (anyone else had problems buying kitchen scouring sponges?)

On our last visit we were given the chance to try out their E-Bikes. TBF was immediately hooked. A few weeks later she was the proud owner of a very fine (and expensive!) E-Bike. Have to say I quite liked it as well, I was able to use it for a few days while my conventionally powered bike was in for service. However I’ll stick to conventional power as part of my proper exercise regime.


We don’t often cycle together as I’m generally faster and TBF’s old bike was well past its best. However with the E-Bike those days are over. Time for a proper long bike ride, and with a warm sunny day forecast, we headed to the Elan Valley.


They have converted an old railway line into a cycle track that runs pretty much the full length of the valley. Its a stunning ride (other than the regular stiles you have to keep stopping for!).


Here’s TBF with her trusty new steed.


Caban Coch – the first dam and reservoir.


Garreg Coch Reservoir.


The bridge that takes the road to the Claerwen Dam and Reservoir.


The cycling along the shore here was especially fine.


Penygarreg Dam and Reservoir. The water levels were really low. Last time we visited the water was cascading down over all of the dams!


When I said that the cycle path runs all the way to the top of the valley, it doesn’t at the moment. Just where this picture was taken it runs through a small cutting where there has been a very serious rockfall. It was a nice day so we thought it was worth a look to see if we could get past knowing we might have to go back. In the end we found the cutting comprehensively fenced off (good job, it looked highly dangerous). There was a thin path that skirted round and whilst I could have pushed my bike past, I didn’t fancy trying it with the E-Bike (they are VERY heavy!)


We consoled ourselves with a swim in the reservoir near the spot above. It was wonderfully clear and refreshing.

There has been much press about swimming in reservoirs and how “dangerous” they are. In truth these are nanny-state tactics in a world where you get sued at the drop of a hat (this is the reason water companies don’t want you swimming in their waters – they don’t care about your safety – if they did they wouldn’t pump raw sewage into rivers like they do all too often but that’s a different rant). Its people that are stupid – jumping into icy cold water on hot days, jumping from great heights into shallow water, swimming near outflows and huge reservoir dams, swollen rivers etc. You only have to look at the current laughable situation with fuel and the pandemic panic buying to see common-sense is a rare commodity in the UK these days. Rather than putting signs up saying “Don’t swim in Reservoirs – they are dangerous”, it would be much better to put up signs that say “Don’t be a dick”. There are active campaigns to ensure reservoirs are opened up for swimming as they should be, where safe and reasonable.

These signs were in evidence in the Elan Valley. We ignored them and were able, using our common sense, to take a safe dip about a mile from the dam, swimming along the shore.


Back to the story. We returned to the bottom of the dam and cycled to the next one at Craig Goch along the road.


There, we enjoyed a wonderful picnic by the shore.


Other than the reservoirs and road it’s wild country out here. Leave the few tracks that traverse the hills and you are in a land where bog and tussocks are king.


The rocky gorge above is normally underwater, just a long extended finger of the middle reservoir.


We decided to carry on and make a circuit back to the car via the mountain road. This is where the E-Bike comes into its own and conventionally powered cyclists feel inadequate and lonely. Quite dispiriting as you struggle up the steep hairpins from the Pont ar Elan, to see your partner cruising off into the distance to the top of the pass, barely breaking sweat.


Luckily, the spectacular views kept me going on the very long climb.


At least I made it to the top without a break (500m no less!) and TBF had the good grace to wait for me to catch up and catch my breath.


Of course the big advantage of a big up hill climb is a nice fast descent down the other side!


I had another swim spot in mind, a couple of miles out-and-back along the River Wye.


There was a small pool just about deep enough for a swim and a small rocky gorge to explore.


I would have swum and played longer in the gorge, had I a) had some company (DBs would have enjoyed it) and b) had the water not been so startlingly cold! No idea what that sign on the right is all about.


A cold swim was followed by a nice hot brew to warm up.


Looking downstream towards Rhayader.


Our swimming and cycling desires satisfied we cycled back to the car and headed home. A really superb day out that will become a regular summer cycle outing I think. Around 23-25 miles depending on whether you believe my phone software, the trip computer on TBF’s bike or my drawn map below. I’m going with the longer option of course!

Never Trust a British Weather Forecast   9 comments

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

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


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


At least the heather was looking very fine.


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


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


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


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


And back along the water.


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


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


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


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

A Round of Dyffryn Crawnon   11 comments

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


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


Views back to the Black Mountains.


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


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


The main Beacons summits were still enveloped in cloud.


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


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


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


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


TBF enjoying the sunshine.


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


A Peacock Butterfly posed for me to take a picture.


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


Half Day Hay Bluff   15 comments

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


A gloomy looking Hay Bluff.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Looking out over the Wye Valley to Mid-Wales.


Lord Hereford’s Knob.


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


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


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


Back on the Llyn Peninsula – Walks   12 comments

There is more to the Llyn Peninsula than just beaches. It has some superb coastal walks and small mountains to climb. Let’s take a look…..


On our first day we set off early from home so we could make the most of a good forecast and pitch the trailer in good time. Before that hard work we took a stroll along the coast.


Breezy but a clear blue sunny day made the beaches and water look very inviting.


Gave us our first chance to meet the Professor’s girlfriend and very lovely she is too. Fitted in well with the gang and joined in all the usual fun as well as enjoying the outdoor walk side of things.


Set us up in grand style for a great week.


No visit would be complete without a trip to the far end of the peninsula and a coastal walk taking in the highest point of Mynydd Anelog (seen here in the background).


The weather was very odd, hot and sweaty in the sun but with layers of mist along the coast and here, between the mainland and the island of Bardsey.


The walk to Mynydd Anelog is typical coastal walking, namely a lot more ascent and descent than you’d like!


However with views like this, its well worth the effort (if a little hazy on this day)


Approaching the top of Mynydd Anelog.


Looking back over the headland of Mynydd Mawr to Bardsey.


And looking back towards Snowdonia where the weather looked very much more unsettled.


As we continued our walk the banks of low cloud rolled back in.


After we stopped for an ice cream (and in my case a chilled cider) that mist enveloped us and created some rather weird effects.


In the sunshine it was still really hot but when the mist rolled in it was instantly cold.


At times where the breeze was blowing it in, it was like standing in front of an air conditioning unit.


Some of our party took a longer walk and reported back that they managed to get above the cloud. Sadly we’d headed back to the beach by then. Still, an impressive walk in unusual conditions.


And of course anyone who’s been reading my blog since the start (way back in 2011) knows my love for Carn Fadryn.


This is its baby sibling.


We walk up here every time we visit and as its DB Juniors birthday around the time of our usual trip we’ve climbed it on his birthday a few times – we always refer to it as birthday hill and here is the birthday boy in question.


The heather was in full bloom and looking magnificent although this picture doesn’t really capture it.


Views opening out as we climb.


I’ve come to love and seek out those small hills that deliver expansive views (indeed me and Mark are planning a book on the subject that we will never write). I have a wide list now but Carn Fadryn is easily the pick of the bunch, for me anyway. Me and Mark debate this regularly, always coming down to choice between Carn Fadryn and Arnside Knott. Mark always chooses the latter as its his local hill he can walk from home and he knows every path and corner. Whilst I’ve grown to love it as well having climbed it many times myself, my heart will always belong to Carn Fadryn. Its even featured in a recent TGO magazine article by Jim Perrin.

With views like this its not hard to see why we love it so much. In one direction you have the distant mountains of Snowdonia.


In the other a view along the peninsula, both coastlines visible.This day we also had the clearest view of the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland that I can remember.


We spread out across the top to enjoy a leisurely brew and snacks.


Mark managed to find enough space to lie down!


We spent a good hour up here despite the strong breeze blowing. On a perfect day of clear views and brooding distant clouds its hard to tear yourself away.


That’s it from part 1 of our holidays. Part 2 coming up in the next few posts

Back on the Llyn Peninsula – Beach Fun   8 comments

Last summer our usual gathering at Towyn Farm on the Llyn Peninsula couldn’t go ahead due to COVID, the first year we’d missed it since 2006. This year we were determined to make it and after a bit of negotiation with owners managed to secure a few nights to meet up with friends, play some games and generally get up to all the stuff kids and adults pretending to be kids do when by the beach.


Our encampment on the site at sunset.


And on a sunny day. The forecast was very mixed but apart from a couple of wet nights we had plentiful sunshine and blue sky and in the UK you can’t argue with that.


Communal eating and drinking.


And our trailer tent looking resplendent as always.


Our good friend J-Dog taking a nap – all this activity proving a bit much for her.


We were very lucky this rather nasty looking storm passed us by!


Allowing us to complete a manic game of multi-frisbee.


The main focus is of course the beach and we spent many happy hours down there on a variety of water-craft as well as some excellent snorkelling.


This year, even UF graced us with his presence. I think he became accustomed to us sitting on the beach all day when the kids were small so he stopped coming. Now that beach sports and campsite games are more in order he decided to return and seemed to have a great time.


A couple of wobbly shots from me on the SUP.


TBF prefers a more leisurely pace of life


Second half of the week we even had some pretty decent waves for body surfing and inflatable antics. I even managed to surf the SUP, (albeit in kayak mode)


No trip to Towyn would be complete with our wooden blocks games – this one is Molke.


One of the highlights for me, our wanders down to the beach at sunset to enjoy the peace and quiet and play games in near darkness.


This one was an improvised game of bowls using beach rocks.


The sunsets here are spectacular.


A different evening visit.


For a few brief moments the sun illuminated the coast in glorious colour.


The dark shadow of our old friend Carn Fadryn.


Footprints in the sand.


Beach cricket until bad light stopped play.


EWO waiting for the next blue patch.


We’ve traveled far and wide over the years but there will always be a special place in my heart for Towyn Farm campsite and its beach. So many happy memories and glad we could create some more this year.

Posted August 28, 2021 by surfnslide in Llyn Peninsula, Wales

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