Archive for the ‘Mid Wales’ 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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A Proper Walk in the Berwyns   10 comments

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The Berwyns have been a bit hit and miss for me. I walked them on a really gloomy day back in the 80’s by a wholly unsatisfactory route. We planned and then abandoned an outing a few years ago on the basis of a forecast of ceaseless rain that proved true. And shortly after I had another enjoyable yet somewhat unsuccessful and poorly judged outing you can read about here. This time a few weeks back everything seemed set fair with a decent forecast and after a Little Chef breakfast with Uncle Fester in Oswestry we headed for the hills.

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One of the nice things about approaching the Berwyns from their most dramatic side, the east, is you get to start the walk at the marvellous waterfall of Pistyll Rhaeadr

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Being a place of abundant rainfall the UK has many decent waterfalls. If there is a better one than Pistyll Rhaeadr I’d very much like to see it

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After taking our fill of its delights it was time for some harder work. The views back along the Rhaeadr vally were superb

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As were the views across to the lonely and tough Hirnants

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There was a deeply soggy section between Trum Felen and Moel Sych but soon were on the first of the major Berwyn summits

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The forecast was for an ever improving day and we were treated to some glorious views across to the main Snowdonia mountains and back towards Shropshire, Cheshire and as far as the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons in South Wales

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Llyn Luncaws also held the gaze (and as it turns out holds a lot of boggy ground!)

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The highest and most dramatic point on the escarpment doesn’t seem to have its own name, a distinction that the slightly lower trig point on Cadair Berwyn owns

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The walk along the edge from here is excellent with the weather and views improving with every step

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The eastern views are quite unusual, merging high moorland with pastoral fields

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We left UF to wnader back to the high point on his own while we and TJS headed out to bag the last major high point of Cadair Bronwen

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In time honoured fashion we claimed that the views were substantially better from here (seeing as UF hadn’t bothered to climb it). We had thought about trying a circular route but its hard to craft one in the Berwyns without some re-ascent and path finding across farmland. On a day as good as this its no chore to retrace steps and enjoy the ridge all over again

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After a lengthy stop on the high point for lunch we headed down. The direct descent towards Llyn Luncaws is very steep but we’d spotted a traversing path that looked, and in fact was, very interesting

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Once down at the lake we realised its one of those lakes where the surrounding area is merely an extension of the lake with vegetation in it. Its incredibly boggy and hard going until you pick up the splendid path that traverses down the Nant y Llyn valley.

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We followed the path all the way to the road a km past the car as it was such pleasant walking, delivering one final view of Pistyll Rhaeadr

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The Berwyns finally conquered end to end in good weather and good company. A grand day out

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Solo traverse of Hergest Ridge North Face and Hanter Hill South Ridge   4 comments

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Well I had to do something to make these hills sound exciting.

Seriously a very fine stroll indeed when faced with a solo walk. TBF was in London watching the Piano Man himself, TJF was at a friends and TJS too lazy to come out, struggling as the was with his first week of early starts at college.

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It was early September (I think!) and the first flush of Autumn colours were out. The forecast was pretty ordinary but it turned out to be a rather splendid day of powerful sunny intervals and dark brooding clouds

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My target was Hanter Hill, a small subsidiary top to the north of the main Hergest Ridge massif. Thinking I was being clever, I thought I could traverse around to the col. Anyone who knows my local hills also knows that they are cloaked in the deepest bracken at this time of year. It was tedious wet and slippery and I cursed my way across the slopes for a good half hour on the faintest of paths

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Thankfully I survived the jungle and arrived at the col under blue skies and swiftly climbed to the top of Hanter Hill

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The views were impressive over the various ranges of heather cloaked hills and green valleys of this little known corner of mid-Wales

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I even got an aerial view of the huge Gore quarry that seems to be completely devouring Old Radnor Hill

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After a brief rest I headed down and back up over the main summit of Hergest Ridge, joining the many families enjoying some autumnal sunshine

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Only a couple of hours but a nice walk if you stay on paths on don’t head off-piste into the wastelands of bracken!

Family Day in the Elan Valley   8 comments

After all the excitement and thrills of the Pyrenees trip we needed something a little more subdued for a family day out. A picnic and short stroll in the Elan Valley was in order.

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We parked up by the Pont Ar Elan at the head of the Craig Goch Reservoir. My memories from my childhood was of playing in the the river but today it was a raging torrent. In fact the Mountain Rescue were practising their fast moving river techniques in it. I don’t recall it being particularly wet in the previous couple of weeks but I guess it must have been

Whatever, it was a fine place to spend a couple of hours filling our faces and it was actually pretty hot and humid. I would have taken a swim if I’d had my stuff with me

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We moved on to the dam of Craig Goch and were surprised to see it gushing with water. This normally only happens in winter and, despite the fact that I’ve visited the Elan Valley dozens of times, I’ve only ever seen it like this on a couple of occasions. Normally in summer the water is low enough to leave several meters of bare shoreline exposed. It makes a pretty dramatic waterfall when its in “spate” as it were

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We took a short stroll along the lake shore and over the small rocky outcrop that overlooks the dam. It was wonderfully clear day and the dark blue of the reservoir contrasted to great effect with the green hillsides (further evidence of wet conditions) and the paler blue sky

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The aerial view down over the dam was especially grand

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We moved on to the second reservoir and dam of Pen y Garreg to see if the water was flowing over which indeed it was. You can walk easily to the base of this one and it was mighty impressive

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I told the kids that extreme kayakers love to shoot the sides of these flows (although its strictly forbidden not to say bloody dangerous)

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We finished the day with a cuppa by the visitor centre at the lowest reservoir and dam of Caban Goch. This was also thundering with water which I’ve never seen before in almost 50 years of visiting the Elan Valley. Alas no photos as the car park was a chargeable one which I was too outraged to pay up for so we wanted to avoid a parking ticket by overstaying our “welcome”. Clearly the money the generate from the gift shop, cafe and bike hire isn’t sufficient to pay the shareholders dividends

We went our separate ways. TBF and TJS to mid Wales for some walking (not entirely successful as this was the start of few days of heatwave so too hot for hiking) and me and TJF back home to work and school

A Spring Wild Camp in Mid Wales   7 comments

The Hard Man had been driving for a backpack with his two kids for a while. They are much younger than TJS and still in those formative years where the delights of TV and tech are a serious impediment to convincing them them the real world outdoors (i.e. sleeping in tents, in the rain/cold, miles from anywhere, eating dried food and with no phones/iPads etc) is much better. In fact after setting a date for this trip I nearly bailed out having had a long and tiring week at work. THM convinced me otherwise and I am so glad he did

After much discussion we settled on a trip into the wild mountains of mid-Wales around Plynlimon. We met in Llanidloes and then drove into the hills parking up near the high tarn of Glaslyn, after a bumpy drive down the rough track.

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Only one of THMs’ kids had made it, a netball event prevented a full turnout. We packed and headed into the hills. The forecast was reasonable without being spectacular with no rain forecast until Sunday afternoon

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We’d a vague idea to camp in the Hengwm valley. I was sceptical as even though its a place of rare beauty its also a place of extreme sogginess. Still THM was convinced so I went with the flow, hoping the flow wasn’t through the porch of my tent

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We passed by the splendid tarn and ruined farm buildings at Bugeilyn where the track ended and we were into the wild upper reaches of the Hengwm valley

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I’d been equally sceptical about the route through this valley. Its only marked as a right of way and not a path and I had visions of battles with bogs and tussocks, no fun with a full pack. In fact the path was excellent all the way, just the occasional bit of squelch to get through

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As we reached the lower section I suggested we headed for the spot where the Hengwm valley meets the Gwerin valley. I’ve walked through here a few times and its lovely spot complete with waterfalls and a ruined farmhouse. I was still uncertain we’d fine a patch of dry ground big enough but it was worth a go. We headed through a brief zone of tussocks and an uncertain stream crossing and took a look

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My scepticism was unfounded. Just above the falls we found a perfect spot. A patch of bone dry spongy grass with enough space for all of us and a depression behind, sheltered from the wind for cooking. TJS wanted to camp on his own so he used TBFs old Macpac  single hoop and I used my Voyager. THM carried in a substantial tent for extra space. He was also carrying most of the heavy stuff so his sack was outrageously massive. However he is supremely (in fact rather annoyingly) fit so it didn’t seem to bother him. He goes out running and cycling of an evening where I prefer to remain stationary in front of the TV. It was a splendid site with expansive views down the Hengwm valley and to the crags of the hills behind

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After the obligatory brew that follows a period of tent faffing we set out for a wander. This is my favourite pastime on a wild camp. Exploring at some leisure the local vicinity. There is a tendency to always be heading from A to B when hiking so you often have blinkers on, destination paramount. An aimless wander allows you to come across little gems you’d otherwise miss

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In this case we explored an evocative holly tree growing out of major hole between some rocks. We then scrambled through a line of crags and then along the edge below which on its crest was reminiscent of a alpine arete. It was all extremely fine.

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After following a few sheep tracks high above Cwm Gwerin we dropped down to a small un-named stream that had some very fine small falls

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The bright sunshine backed by dark stormy looking clouds were dramatic as we wandered through the tussocks and bogs spotting other potential wild campsites as we went. Its a complete fascination for me when out in the hills, always looking for a possible site to throw a tent up

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Back at base camp it was time to eat. For me and TJS a bowl of freshly cooked anchovy & bacon carbonara. For THM and his compatriot one of those freeze dried instant meals that looked suspiciously like cat food (in fact it it tasted ok). THM needed to find some way of keeping the weight down but I have to say these freeze dried “just add water meals” don’t really appeal to me. I prefer the weight of real food and the fuel needed to cook them although I can see their attraction on a long trip with several days worth to be carried

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This is the youngest member of the party who I’ve known since she was a babe in arms. We spent a while discussing the fact that she needed a moniker on my blog. We settled on “Loud and Cheeky” seeing as she is (in the nicest way) so she became LAC. I had thought that perhaps she would be an unwilling accomplice under duress to “get outdoors” from her old-man. However she seems to love the whole outdoor and wild camping experience as much as TJS does. She appeared to have a great time and was great company the whole weekend. I just wish I get my youngest to appreciate these same delights

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As we cleared up from evening meal, the skies cleared and we were treated to a super sunset, all shafts of light, glowing hillsides and pink clouds

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We spent ages wandering about, snapping photos and celebrating our good fortune at finding such a perfect campsite in such fine conditions

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Being April, once the sun went down it got cold pretty cold and we all retired for an early and rather chilly night

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I’m sure I heard it rain in the night so I wasn’t hopeful when THM woke me at 7:45. It seemed unreasonably early until I stuck my head out the door and realised why he was up and about. It was a glorious morning. My main DSLR camera is out of action so I was using my new point and shoot. Alas its rather too easy to change the settings accidentally so the first few look a bit strange (they were on some sort of arty setting) but they do give the right overall impression

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We breakfasted in the warming sun (well LAC decided a lie in was in order)

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Normal camera service was resumed

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We hadn’t expected such  a fine day so we headed our for a climb up Plynlimon. I’ve done it loads of times in the past few years having discovered its charms but it was missing from the THM’s check list

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The terrain in these parts is either paths (where they exist) or one of (or all of in some places), tussocks, spongy moss, bog and heather. The first few hundred meters off piste above the campsite were hard going, including one very steep grassy gully

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Once up on the ridge of Pen Cerrig Tewion the going was much easier, a successions of sheep tracks leading us upwards

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The views were expansive and clear but there was a chilly wind blowing

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LAC was finding it tough going having missed breakfast and needed a few stops and regular chocolate to keep going. In conditions like this though, regular stops to admire the scenery is hardly a chore. To be fair she is still a novice in hiking terms and mid-Wales is a real test of stamina and will when the underfoot conditions are pathless (something I can vouch for). In the circumstances the steady progress was more than acceptable

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We made it to the summit and took on more fuel/chocolate/cereal bars/out of date pork pies.

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The views out to the coast over Nant y Moch reservoir were especially grand

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The weather didn’t look like deteriorating as forecast but we had a long way to go back to the tent, pack up and back to the car so we headed down

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The photo below gives a great aerial view of of wild site surroundings. You can just make out the tents in the middle of the shot

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The route down took us through some of the most bizarre underfoot vegetation I’ve ever walked on. It was a deep spongy moss that completely enveloped your boots when you trod on it. Like walking on marshmallows (if such a thing were possible). It was very steep but we sort of bounced down. It was quite surreal

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After a great hike and then lunch we broke camp and took the long wander back to the car. The forecast rains never arrived and it stayed bright and sunny all the way back to Glaslyn and the cars.

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We were back much later than planned but it had been a absolute stonker of a weekend. The walking had been easy and dry, the wild site pretty much perfect and the climb to Plynlimon a sheer delight.

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Around 16 miles walking in total. Apart from a few bikers at the car park and a solitary runner on top of Plynlimon we’d seen no-one on such a fine weather weekend. We congratulated ourselves, made plans to do this more often and then went our separate ways. And to think I nearly decided not to go

Peace and Quiet in the Radnor Hills   8 comments

Had to check the dates on my photo files to recall when I did this walk such was the time that passed (17th April if you’re interested). A good forecast and time for a change of scene. Last few good days in the locality I’ve spent in the crowded Brecons or the slightly less crowded Black Mountains. This time I wanted solitude so it was the Radnor Hills, little known clutch of hills tucked between nowhere in particular and the back of beyond. The sort of hills you are surprised to actually find there, like you were expecting an expanse of flat arable farmland or a suburban sprawl. Anyway they are very fine indeed as you can see.

The start of the walk is a little brutal, a mile up a very steep road before the open hillside. Under blue skies and the air filled with the sound of birdsong it was  barely a chore

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What was a chore was trying to use the panorama function on my camera. It didn’t seem to like the contrasting colours in this wonderful scene and after around twenty attempts and a fair number of expletives I gave up. The normal photos came out rather well though

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Onwards and upwards into these grassy hills. Whimble is the crowning glory seen here peeking through the trees.

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Its not actually on access land or a right of way and last time I came up here there were no stiles or gates. looks like the landowner has relented a little and stile was now in place. Arriving breathless on the summit (for it is a very steep climb) I took in the fabulous sunny views across pastoral farmland to the distant hills of Cambria, the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains

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I even managed to get the panoramas working although still struggling to get the light balance right as you can see

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There isn’t an obvious accessible onward route from Whimble so I just retraced my steps and headed up the gorgeous grassy path up the valley towards the highest point of Black Mixen

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On the top I met the only people I saw that day. A very nice couple with their bouncy dogs and we had a pleasant chat about their proposed route and mine and the ever increasing plague of ticks in the hills, Lymes Disease, that sort of thing

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The blue skies were replaced with more grey as I pressed on around to Great Rhos and then downwards, stopping for lunch  a few hundred yards from the very centre of the back of beyond.

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I’d had a plan for a very long walk taking in the beautifully named Water-Breaks-Its-Neck waterfall and the hills to the south of the main road. However as is my style I couldn’t be ar5ed and just walked down the edge of Harley Dingle

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As on my previous walk I felt sad that this beautiful valley, full of treasures, small streams and picnic sites is completely despoiled by its use as weapons firing range for a private contractor – its obviously a complete no-go area unless you like to shoot things in a lavish manner

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All that was left was a very pleasant stroll back through the fields to New Radnor where I’d parked the car

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A day of quiet austere hills, fabulous views, strange and evocative names and landscapes that are out of bounds.

Thoughts of Easter   2 comments

Back in time we go. As as always I’m behind with posts. I have excuses but I’m sure you’re not interested.

We had a quiet time just me and the Funsters down in mid-Wales while the Junior sherpa took a trip to Spain with the new love of his life – bless him! 🙂

The weather was pretty wet and miserable but we had some moments. We took a trip to Borth for a stroll on the beach. I was playing with the Panorama setting on my camera. As you can see it’s more difficult than it looks and needs a little more practice  🙂

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We took a walk along the sea-front in Aberystwyth

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And a walk from Yestumtuen down to the Rheidol Gorge and Parsons Bridge

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Ignoring the “danger of falling in deep holes” warning signs we lunched in the ruins of the old mine workings.

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And walked back over the hills above the gorge to the car

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Not before the rains returned for the rest of the day. Uneventful but pleasant nonetheless

Posted May 11, 2016 by surfnslide in Mid Wales, Wales, Walking

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