Archive for the ‘Walking’ Category

Birthday Hill   6 comments

Pinching this idea from Mark over at Beating The Bounds. In the past whilst not necessarily a birthday hill me and TBF have always tried to do something nice either near to or not necessarily near to our birthdays. Not always a hill but sometimes a coastal walk, some surfing fun or a weekend in Barcelona! This is on the basis that doing nice nice things is better than having nice things although I don’t see any reason why I can’t have both! 🙂

This year clearly doing nice things was going to be limited and I resigned myself to the happiness that comes with having all the family together and maybe a nice meal in the garden. Heading towards the weekend things seemed to look up. Not only was the forecast set fair but there were indications that taking a short drive for a walk was now ok. On that basis ahead of the big day we took a tentative drive up to our nearest eminence, Merbach Hill. We debated long and hard about whether it was the right thing to do or not. In the end we decided as it was only a 15 minute drive and that its a lonely, little walked spot at the best of times it was ok. Even though we’d printed off the revised guidance in case we were challenged, but in the event the few people we have seen up there (socially distanced of course) have been friendly.

On the morning of my Birthday we visited again and parked up at Arthurs Stone, an old burial site of some sort well sited overlooking the Golden Valley.


Its a really pleasant a quiet walk along the lane, almost no-one drives up here, before heading out across the fields to the access land at the top. We’d come prepared and cooked breakfast, bacon and egg sandwiches and a cuppa near the top overlooking the Black Mountains. Next best thing to being able to hike them.


I’d been bemoaning the fact that I didn’t know anywhere locally where we could see the spring bluebell show. We only used to come to Merbach Hill in winter when looking for a short walk near home. Its was with some surprise to realise its a fabulous place to see them and the show was truly magnificent.


The photos don’t really do it justice but the whole woodland was just a sea of blue – well purple actually.


The lockdown has taught all of us to appreciate the simpler pleasures. Had it not been in place I would likely not have ventured up here at this time of year and missed this wonderful display. A real birthday treat.


We completed the walk and the day was finished in fine fashion. Cold beers in the garden, a chinese takeaway feast in lieu of a meal, homemade cherry ice cream and a zoom quiz with all my university friends. It was a little sad, as we should have been together on the campsite in the Lakes but it was great fun nonetheless and in a strange way made it even more special for me (even though I don’t really go for making a big party of things on my birthday).


We’ve been using our extra freedom of the past couple of weeks to head out for local evening walks after tea. A few here from another trip to Merbach Hill when we even had the rare pleasure of TJF with us.


The evening light is glorious and clear making for wonderful views, if a little chilly at this late hour.


Merbach Hill has been a little saviour over the past few weeks and I intend to give it more love and attention in the future.


Posted May 26, 2020 by surfnslide in Local Walks, Walking

Tagged with , ,

(Very) Early Morning on Bryn Arw   15 comments

All the talk over the weekend of my previous two walks had been about the good weather and the crowds out in the mountains across the UK. This included scenes of madness at places like Pen y Pass and the Storey Arms as sunshine and panic over the impending COVID-19 crisis really started to hit home.

It was becoming clear that any trips to the mountains would have to be carefully planned and discrete to avoid adding to the crowds and the potential spread of this unknown foe. I hatched a plan that I would get my walking fix by only heading out either very late in the day or early in the morning. I figured if I got up the same time I head to work in the office (around 6am) I could fit in a walk and be back home at my desk before 9am, avoiding any people as far as possible.

The Monday after our two previous walks I put this to the test with one of my favourite short walks, Bryn Arw.


Even in the peak of the day and on many visits I’m still yet to meet anyone on this diminutive hill and its fine little ridge.


At 6:45am when I set off that was more than true. Despite feeling somewhat bleary eyed it was grand to be out at first light and the chill air and sharp frost soon had my eyes open!


The usual range of views was there but its rare for me to see them in this light. I’m not much of a morning person. Sunrise behind Ysgyryd Fawr.


The fabulous grassy path along the ridge. It’s one of my all time favourite stretches in South Wales. Mainly as I always have it to myself. Its one of those places I’m surprised isn’t better known as an easy couple of hours walk.


Across frosty fields to the Sugar Loaf.


The Social Distancing measures yet to reach these ladies…


A really enjoyable outing and one I was looking forward to repeating in the coming weeks while working at home.


I was back at my desk before 9am, bright-eyed and ready for the day.


What that day brought was increasing talk of Lockdown, a phrase none of us had ever used before but is now in the global psyche. By lunchtime it was clear that staying at home would be the instruction for all of us.

My thoughts turned from outdoor activities to my son, TJS. He was still in his student house in Lancaster, on his own and was planning on coming home by train later in the week. I was really worried about his train travel or whether the lockdown would stop him travelling at all. I just wanted him home, safe with us. By lunchtime I’d convinced him that he needed to come home now and that I’d collect him. I left at lunchtime and had him back home in time for a late tea. By the time we got home the new Lockdown was in force.

He’s become used to the lively atmosphere of a University city and finds our peaceful home in rural Herefordshire a little dull. However in the current circumstances, even though he is obviously missing his friends, I think he’s relieved to living somewhere that’s much safer than a city with more opportunities for outside exercise (and a regular supply of beer from the old man!)

For the foreseeable, hill walking was off the agenda and our local fields are not very good for walking. An alternative means of exercise would be needed.

Red and Black Darren   11 comments

After our long walk the Black Mountains the previous day were still a little weary but the glorious weather seemed set fair so we fancied another walk. Knowing the local area well after 16 years we picked a favourite with an out of the way, rarely used car park and a walk where its a rarity to see anyone.


If you’ve been a regular reader you’ll recognise some of the images of the Black Darren, a landslip that’s created a short rocky “ridge” off to the side of main range. When we parked up it was clear that the farmer has been feeding his flock here. The sheep had completely denuded almost all the vegetation and trampled what was left into the mud. Hopefully it will recover its greenery in due course.


As expected the area was deserted and we had what felt the whole of the landscape to ourselves.


The rocky nose makes for a short and entertaining little scramble.


Once on top its a lovely little grassy ridge.


Views across the quintessentially British Herefordshire fields.


We found a sheltered spot (it was still windy and still March so chilly with it) for a brew and a snack.


Onwards and upwards on to the main ridge.


A short stretch of Offa’s Dyke before heading back down.


We had no idea what the next few weeks or months would bring. At this point it was just good to be out in the sunshine.


Vale of Ewyas Round   13 comments

The weekend when the scale of risk of the COVID-19 crisis was really beginning to hit home was also when winter ended and spring arrived. Back on March 21st, amidst closing pubs and restaurants and the first signs that the word “Lockdown” would become our new watchword, me and TBF went out for a couple of walks. The long, wet and miserable winter had us yearning for a walk in the sunshine.

We debated long and hard as to whether we should or not but with extensive local knowledge of the The Black Mountains we felt we could find a route that was easy, quiet and avoid any “crowds” or indeed any more than a handful of people. Having said that I’ve walked the Black Mountains extensively over the past 16 years and have never seen them “crowded” at any point. That is normally reserved for Pen y Fan and the popular routes to South Wales highest summit.

I even debated wether I should post about these walks, such was was my self-conscious worry as to whether I should have gone out in the first place. Two months later and I now feel that we were ok based on the circumstances at the time (it was the weekend before lockdown was formally put in place) and what we knew and practised diligently about Social Distancing.

We planned a route around the bottom end of the Vale of Ewyas, taking in the hill fort of Twyn y Gaer, Llanthony and back via Hatterrall Hill.


It was a gorgeous day, warm in the sunshine but with a very brisk and very cold wind. A day for stretching the legs rather than stopping.


Its a long plod up the road the the slopes of the hill fort but on top the views were wonderful. As per my plan to keep things low profile there was, as expected no-one up there as its a long way of what passes for the beaten track in the range.


On a calmer day it would make a wonderful spot for a long lazy lunch but the biting wind forced us to push on.


Its a long steady walk along the ridge to Bal Mawr where we planned to drop down into the valley before returning on the ridge on the other side.


We managed to find a sheltered spot beside a small woodland for a short rest.


The cairn and remains of some sort of burial mound on Garn Wen


Its a lovely walk down to Llanthony via Cwm Bwchel with views to the priory.


The priory itself was deserted as it was late in the day by the time we passed through. The path we followed avoids the car park and the main priory itself, heading around the back as it were.


We followed the Beacons Way back up to the ridge, a splendid gently rising traverse that I’ve not walked before turning this into a new favourite route.


This was before the clocks went back and this late in the day the light was starting to fade. We were also under pressure of time as TJF had informed us she’d gone out for the day to work without her keys and would likely be waiting outside on the doorstep before we got home!


It was a very brisk walk back down to the car on that basis. A really enjoyable walk albeit with a constant nagging doubt as to whether we’d done the right thing. In the event we’d seen less than 10 people across the whole six hour walk and we were diligent in making sure we stepped well away, well more than the stated 2m, on the couple of occasions we passed people on the path.


Harry the Dog   19 comments

A little diversion from the usual posts with some fond remembrance. I’ve been looking through all my old photos for some blasts from the past to post about when I came across some photos of my dog, Harry, from back in the 90’s. He’s been on my mind the past few months as one my friends also has a dog called Harry and he’s been going through a tough time with joint and ligament problems and numerous operations. A post remembering the good times we shared with our own Harry seemed appropriate.

First few are taken from a backpacking trip and a few day walks in the Eastern Cairgorms

On the track to Derry Lodge


On the summit of Braeriach.


Creag Leacach


Glas Maol.


Memorable cloud inversion from Ingleborough


Absolutely no idea where this was taken.


Or this one.


Coniston Fells looking back to the Old Man – I think.


He was a handsome fella.


Maybe Yorkshire?


In the Upper Tees Valley somewhere near Cauldron Snout


Another guess – Fisherground campsite in Eskdale.


Full on winter conditions in Langdale. He loved the snow and he loved company so he was in his element here.


Another cold winter trip and this little stone marker had us laughing for obvious reasons.


One of my favourite photos that’s up on the wall in my home. A dog with a stick or stone (or a dead smelly something) is a happy dog.


Wild camping in Glen Tilt. Harry was a mountain dog and went everywhere with me. He had a pretty decent tally of Munros and was approaching 100 I think.


A well remembered day, ski touring in the Lake District. On the way down I was skiing in normal walking boots (almost impossible if you’ve ever tried) with Harry on a lead attached to my pack. I skied one side of fence, he went the other! 🙂


Pembrokeshire Coast.


These last few were taken at my old house in Kidderminster.


You can see he has lost some of his sparkle and the brightness in his eyes.


Shortly afterwards he was diagnosed with cancer and we had to do the right thing. He was only 7-years old. Broke both mine and TBF’s hearts and I’ve not owned a dog since initially as I felt I could never go through the pain again. Time heals and I can now look back with great joy at these wonderful photos, remembering all the good times, the mountains we climbed together and our deep friendship. His life was cut short but we had some great times, lots of laughs and plenty of adventures. I still miss him more than 20 years on.


Ending on a brighter note and a very happy photo. There are better images of Harry in the post but this one made me smile as soon as I saw it. Both us us out together doing what we both loved, both with broad smiles, a shared love of the outdoors (in this case the Malverns). Great memories of a true friend.


Posted May 14, 2020 by surfnslide in Family Trips, Walking

Back in Time – Pyrenees 1993 Part 5   11 comments

One final post from this epic trip. It was our last morning before we had to start our long journey back from our wild camp site to the car and the drive home. It was a glorious morning, clear blue skies, warm and sunny. Before packing up we decided to take a stroll around the other valley that drains into the Plan de Aiguallut, the Valleta de la Escalate.


It was, if anything even more magnificent than where we’d pitched up. Grassy pastures and meadows, babbling streams, waterfalls, rock arches, caves and dramatic snow-capped mountains.

We spent a happy couple of hours just wandering aimlessly about this quiet and unspoilt corner.


Scrambling about on the small crags and boulders.


A bit of stream scrambling and waterfall play.


The limestone rock meant there were holes, natural bridges and caves everywhere. Behind where we camped there was a cave system that looked well worth a poke around. Dressed in the proper caving gear (shorts, t-shirt, sun hats and camping head torches) we had a look around. Quite an extensive system and some rather large holes. As I peered into one THO asked me what was down there. “My Head Torch” was the reply as it fell off its perch on top of my sun hat into the dark depths never to be seen again. Wonder if anyone ever found it – it was the days when Petzl were the only people making head torches and they were huge, far cry from today’s tiny things.


THO taking a leap of faith. Climbing big mountains has its pleasures but sometimes just an idle stroll and bit of messing about in glorious surroundings is a fine way to pass the time.


Time to head back to our wonderful campsite for lunch, pack up and return to the car. Another night at the Castejon campsite before the long drive home.


This photo was taken at a picnic site somewhere in France. I’m staggered at how young we all look despite knowing this was over 25 years ago.


It had been a fantastic trip but it wasn’t without a sense of strangeness and something not being quite right.

The Paris rush-hour seemed to start very early as we sat in a jam around the Peripherique at 5am. Shops, bars, restaurants and markets all seemed to close rather early. We explained this by saying the culture was different and it was the start of the siesta when Spain shuts down for the hottest part of the day. Setting alarms for an early start and emerging from the tent to see the sun already up and high in the sky. We were much further south you see.

On our way home we stopped to collect a toll ticket and UF commented with a chuckle how those hopeless people in France couldn’t get the time stamp on their tickets right. There was a quiet pause, a moment of reflection before one of us stated the obvious. “We haven’t have we?” We had. On the outward journey we’d put the time back an hour instead of forward when crossing into France leaving us two hours behind everyone else in France and Spain. Perhaps an understandable mistake for a bunch of rather vague and hopeless explorers. Not when you realise we had spent 10 whole days operating on the wrong time without ever comprehending all the signs and explaining it all away. This included the lady in the bank pointing furiously at her watch as we tried to change Travellers Cheques (remember them!!).

We drove along all laughing hysterically at our own stupidity. That was until some bright spark pointed out that we were now two hours behind schedule to catch our ferry, prompting a foot on the floor madcap drive through France and Belgium. A tale often re-told, always gets a big laugh and forever known in our little group as the “Muppet-Time” story.

I thought you might enjoy this tale of utter foolishness from four degree-educated professionals as the closing bar to a fine trip. More posts of classic holidays to come as the lockdown continues.


Another New Hill – Burrow   22 comments

My last walk before the lockdowns started to take effect. Looking out of the window at cloudless blue skies and sunshine for the past week, this walk in the midst of the endless days of rain and storms seems a very long time ago not just two weeks back.


We were on the lookout for a shortish walk in another window between the heavy rains. Strong winds were forecast ruling out the higher mountains so a trip to the wooded hills of Shropshire was the choice. There was a route from Aston on Clun that I’d had in mind for a while taking in a new Marilyn and nice circuit.


The lower fields and green lanes were as muddy as expected but passable with care to avoid wet feet and excessively muddy trousers!. First summit was the high point of the day, Burrow. Its only just over 1000 feet high but what it lacks in height it makes up for with brutal steepness. Easily as steep a climb (albeit much shorter) than any we did in Scotland the previous weekend.


Its an old hill fort and the maps showed it to be forested at the top. In fact the trees are very sparse and we timed our arrival for a spell of brighter weather and the views were superb. Out over the Welsh Marches and beyond.


In fact the summit area was really rather lovely as you can see. The raised earthworks created a maze of small ridges, valleys and paths and save one lone walker (who we saw several times during the day) we had the place to ourselves.


Views to the Churchstoke Hills as I refer to them.


And the Shropshire Alps (again my naming convention) around Church Stretton.


We spent a happy hour wandering around the summit and a stop to take on a few snacks.


Another very steep descent and re-ascent to pick up the Shropshire Way down to Hopesay Village.


The fields were a little muddy but some of the views across the green fields were splendid.


I thought about a walk across the fields to reach Hopesay Common and Hill but I’d had enough of muddy fields for now and the lane looked like a quite and more efficient way to the top.


Hopesay Hill was fine stretch although the weather turned very gloomy while we were up there. It looked like we were in for a spell of heavy rain but it never arrived fortunately.


Burrow over to the right.


We dropped down to the wonderfully named Perry Gutter and thought about finishing off back via the road. We stayed on the paths and glad we did. There was a huge expanse of daffodils in the bottom of the valley and the grassy path across the fields was largely mud free and a very nice finish to the day.


We clocked up almost 8 miles, not bad for what planned to be a short walk.

So for now, I’m rediscovering my inner cyclist and exploring the lanes and byways of my Herefordshire home to stay fit and healthy. As promised there will be a few blasts from my past to keep the blog juices going.

%d bloggers like this: