Archive for the ‘Brecon Beacons’ Category

Winter is Coming   17 comments

Just before the autumn deluge began, washing away all memories of the glorious first half of the summer me and TBF headed out for a walk in the Brecon Beacons. A walk tinged with sadness as the first one where we’d normally expect TJS to be with us.

We set off from Llanfrynach and I was glad I’d put the shorts away and felt the need for the gloves for the first stretch (hence the title of the post). In the end as the weather was so pleasant it turned into quite a long walk of around 13 miles.

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The first section is along by the babbling stream and small leat that I assume provides the village with its water supply. It’s a very nice section that I always enjoy.

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As you reach the open fields above, views open out to the main summits of the Beacons

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The sheep and trees made a nice foreground

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We decided to include Cribyn on the itinerary which involved some road walking and long trudge along an overgrown green lane to reach its open slopes

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From there is a long steady climb to the base of the very steep north ridge

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A view down from the summit of Cribyn while I waited for TBF to catch up

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Cribyn is a superb mountain with a sharp summit and expansive views all round

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The long edge heading east from the top is equally good and we’d hoped to find a sheltered spot for lunch. The wind had other ideas and seemed to find us out wherever we hunkered down

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We ploughed on to the almost as good summit of Fan y Big, still no shelter until we eventually found a small grassy terrace where we could take a break having walked pretty much non stop for 3 hours

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The edges from here are just a joy to walk, almost level walking with views to the distant hills of mid-Wales and Shropshire

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We descended what seemed to become an endless ridge back towards our start point. Having not been on that many long walks for a while we feeling weary by this point

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Before the steep drop down to the village this dead tree caught my eye

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We were tired an fulfilled after a long stretch, longest walk I’ve done for quite a while

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TJS would have enjoyed this walk I’m sure but he has his own range of mountains in the Lake District to explore now

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Posted October 16, 2018 by surfnslide in Brecon Beacons, Wales, Walking

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Sometimes its Just About Getting Out   10 comments

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A short post and a few photos from a walk up Ysgyryd Fawr several weeks back after we’d returned from France.

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It had everything I dislike about walking in August. The air was still, it was overcast, humid, and the bracken was smothering the hillsides. The flies were a nuisance.

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We sweated our way to the top, feasting on flies as we went

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We were glad of a breeze on the summit ridge to cool us down a bit and a blow the flies back to where they came from

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We watched a guy flying a small model plane on the summit to keep us entertained

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And some brighter interludes before we headed down. Not the absolute most enjoyable walk I’ve taken this year but better than sitting at home

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Sometimes its just about getting out……

Posted September 18, 2018 by surfnslide in Brecon Beacons, Wales, Walking

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Wild Swimming in the Nedd Fechan Valley   20 comments

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Before I get round to telling you about summer hols let me take you back to the earlier part of the summer. You remember, endless days of hot sunshine, blue skies, warnings of hosepipe bans, England doing well at the World Cup. The hot summer gave us a chance to really explore my Wild Swimming guide as a means of outdoor exercise (too hot to hike).

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My last post detailed some of the local spots in the Wye Valley but the premier location in South Wales are the valleys of the Mellte and Nedd Fechan. Each has a series of gorges, cascades, waterfalls and deep pools tailor-made for swimming. In the hot weather the cold (in fact VERY cold) water was a welcome relief from the hot sun and the tree-lined gorge meant perfect conditions for river based fun

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We took two trips. The first one was an all too brief visit before a picnic and heading home for an England game

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We parked up at small and hard to reach car park at Post Melin Each and wandered downstream to the first waterfall Scwd Ddwli. Its a beautiful cascade falling into a deep pool but not ideal for swimming. It’s stony to get in and there are no jumps but it wins on location

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All but TJS took a swim and even in the hot weather it seems pretty quiet. I’d assumed that everyone in South Wales would have discovered this spot but it’s very hard to get to and that seemed to keep swimmers away. Most people we saw were walkers

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It was nice to swim in cold clear water and then sit in hot sunshine to warm up – rare in the UK

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Me and TJS took a wander downstream to the next set of pools at the Horseshoe Falls.

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These were much better for swimming. Deep and clear with much easier ways in and loads of ledges for jumps. I took a couple of jumps and a quick swim before heading back.

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We had a rather fine picnic in the grassy meadows by the car park before heading home and vowed to return for revisit to the Horseshoe Falls

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That return visit was a week later as the endless hot weather continued. We were back at the Horseshoe Falls which not only has great swimming and jumping but a series of flat clean rocks for sunbathing

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We spent the whole day here, in and out of the water and another luxury picnic

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I was particularly happy scrambling about on the rocks and in the trees looking for ever higher jump spots

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Pretty much perfectly designed for wild swimming

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Up stream was an equally fine waterfall but no pool for swimming

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Me and TBF left the other Funster in the sun while we took a stroll downstream

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We reached the slender and almost dry Lady Falls (Sgwd Gwladus). This is closer to the main road and was very busy (including the usual clutch of people who don’t seem to able to go anywhere without a loud thumping music!)

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We returned to the tranquility of our own spot

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More swims and another look at the upstream waterfall and little video of what its like to stand under it!

 

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I suspect we have a long wait until we get weather set perfect for this sort of day but even a walk along these valleys and their dozens of waterfalls and cascades is a worthwhile trip. I’m hoping we can revisit again once more this year if we get a final spell of good weather

 

Around the Caerfanell Valley   12 comments

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One of my favourites. High edges, streams, waterfalls , a blue sky and breakfast outdoors. A perfect combination.

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The weather forecast was for a reasonable day with some sunshine. We hadn’t expected a clear blue sky morning. It was glorious

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Although the large waterfall at the start of the walk was in shadow

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The Caerfanell valley is a beauty and on a clear morning in spring the combination of blue sky, green trees and a bubbling stream is enchanting

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Even after a dry spell the path is a muddy one but with views like this, hardly a chore

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Small waterfalls cascade line the route and as I always do here I went a bit crazy with the camera. Not a bad excuse though

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We were out early – for us anyway – so the whole place was deserted

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The reason for such keen-ness? Another outdoor breakfast. Life is pretty good under a warm sun, eating a bacon and egg sandwich with a fresh cuppa

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Alas such a good day deserved a high level walk so there was some hard work to be done

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The walk directly up the slopes at the back of the photo below is one of the steepest I know but it does deliver you to a high and little frequented edge that is a real joy

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TJS was again my muse for the day

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These edges are a feature everywhere in the South Wales mountains but these are almost always deserted and have extensive and expansive views. On a clear day like this its hard to imagine a better walk

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As you reach Carn Pica (sadly with its impressive cairn now collapsed) the view open out to the high peaks of the Brecon Beacons. Corn Du and Pen y Fan always stand proud

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With the weather being so stunning we extended the walk by carrying on towards Fan y Big. After almost 3 hours walk/breakfasting from the car it was only here that we started to see people

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These edges are equally fine with equally expansive and extensive views to the north. In fact due to the peculiar geography you can make an almost a 360 circuit of the high ground along edges

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We cut back across the plateau to the southern edges again following the Beacons Way. I’ve never walked that part before and expected a bash through heather and bog but in fact it was well-marked and actually quite delightful with some new vistas

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All that walking deserved another stop for second lunch and another brew, this time perched high up on the edges

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From there it was pretty much straight down past another succession of pretty waterfalls.

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We could have stayed out longer but the forecast mentioned heavy showers that in the end never materialised. Still it was a fine walk and we’d enjoyed the best part of the day having gone out early. I’m liking the outdoor breakfasts, well worth the effort to carry the larger stove and fuel around

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No idea how long the walk was as I forgot to turn off the mapping apps so it added on the 40 mile drive home. I’m guessing around 9 miles of magnificent entertainment.

The Beast from the East meets the Brecon Beacons   16 comments

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Nicking a blog title from the cold weather media frenzy is cheap and lazy I know but its 9pm and I can’t be bothered with trying to come up with anything original.

Another classic route. The round of the Brecon Beacons Four Peaks (Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn, Fan y Big) from the south, a circuit of the Neuadd Valley and its reservoirs. It was cold when we set off but we had no idea how cold it was going to get

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The sky was a sensational deep blue and the few clouds hugging the eastern slopes were soon burnt off. The approach road was glacial

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The walk across the dam of the lower reservoir is always a pleasure

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The path up to the western edges is steep and I found it surprisingly hard work after my bout of flu. When we hit the ridge we felt the full blast of the beast

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The wind was ferocious and staggeringly cold. Its rare on a dry day, even in winter, that I don full fleeces and jacket with the hood up but it was essential. Even then my face was burning with cold

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Luckily the views were spectacular and at least the wind was kind of behind us

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We’d made an early start and I was anxious where we would stop for lunch. I figured we could get out of the wind behind Corn Du as I thought the lower cols would be windier, funnelling the wind

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I was wrong. Even directly behind the summit the wind was just blowing, over and around the summit. We hid behind a couple of rock outcrops, stuffed our faces quickly and moved on

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The walk between Corn Du and Pen y Fan was straight into the wind. The cold was almost unbearable, one of the coldest 10 minutes I can remember in the mountains. I was starting to think that carrying on with this for the next few hours wasn’t all that sensible but as we reached the summit of Pen y Fan the wind abated quite significantly. For the rest of the day the wind only blew in gusts and at times it was relatively pleasant, almost warm. There was of course the usual crowd of seriously under-equipped people on the summit. Some people just have no idea how much difference there is between a sunny sheltered car park and a 3,000 foot summit exposed to an easterly winter wind. Trainers, jeans, exposed ankles, people carrying babies, they were all there. I walked away shaking my head

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90% of people climb Pen y Fan from the Storey Arms. Head off the summit in the other direction and calm and quiet is restored. The view back to Pen y Fan and over to Cribyn’s pointed summit and dark shadowed northern face were majestic

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I took the path along the edge of the cliffs to the summit of Cribyn. This flat grassy spot halfway up has been earmarked for a wild camp some day – just on a less windy and cold day

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A brief rest on the summit and the off along the edge towards the col ahead of Fan y Big

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Another of my favourite sections of the Beacons edges

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The col rather than being wild and windy as I thought was calm and benign so we stopped for a cuppa and second lunch. I was feeling pretty tired but I was convinced that Fan y Big needed an ascent and the views from its summit are exceedingly fine so the convincing wasn’t that hard

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In addition, the walk back from its summit above the reservoirs is far more pleasant than the long drag down the bumpy path to the car park

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The view back to the Four Peaks

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Back to the car to warm up (heated seats were very welcome) and back for a very one-sided cup final to finish off a damned fine day. The beast was tamed for now.

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I’m off to Scotland at the weekend to take it on again – if I can get there!

A Proper Dose of Winter   12 comments

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Back to reality after winter sun in Lanzarote. First weekend back and we were in the grip of a really cold spell. Time to hit the hills. We wanted somewhere a bit different so we took to bagging a summit in the Fforest Fawr area we hadn’t done before.

We parked high up on the road through the middle near the standing stone of Maen Llia. It was bitterly cold, frosty air and a biting east wind

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Luckily the pathless, tussocky terrain is hard enough work to keep you warm – a bit anyway

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There was a light dusting of snow on the highest tops and the views were superb

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Looking across to the Black Mountain

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Up on the ridge at Fan Dringarth it was staggeringly cold. In fact it was as cold as I’ve been in the mountains for many a year

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Not that I mind. I love days like this, clear skies and a cold wind is invigorating and makes you feel properly alive

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These are soggy hills most of the time but everything was frozen solid. A bit slippery mind especially where the wet grass had frozen solid on the way down from the summit of Fan Llia

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It was definitely not a day for stopping. I wondered where we’d be able to grab shelter for lunch. Halfway round where the path drops to the road we found a surprisingly sheltered and sunny spot by a ford over the Afon Llia

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Even just about warm enough for a brew although TJS looked rather dis-chuffed at the protracted stop so I could have a cuppa

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Second part of the day was to traverse Fan Nedd back to the car

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After  a sheltered lunch it seemed even colder once we hit the wind again. The walking in the crisp snow along the broad ridge was sensational though

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Winter days are still the best for me. Nothing better than the crunch of snow under foot and views like this

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On the far end of the ridge we exchanged some very brief pleasantries with another hiker – it was arctic by now. I reckon taking windchill into account it was somewhere around -15C

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Even though it was still early, it was time to head down, too cold to linger and we’d had our fill of winter for the day

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The broad Senni valley opens up as you descend and its a real beauty

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A shortish route of around 6 miles but good one

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Cracking day. Cold day.

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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