Archive for the ‘Walking’ Category

Post Work Wander   10 comments

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I’m quite taken with the idea of heading our for a walk late Friday after tea. Me and TJS had a go last week but the weather let us down and we copped the only cloudy and damp spell of the weekend. Tonight was much better with a beautiful warm summers evening up on Ysgyryd Fawr. I’ve blogged this walk many times so just I’ll just let the photos do the talking this time

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Marvellous. We even had a cheeky beer on the top 🙂

Posted July 14, 2017 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Wales, Walking

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Wild Camping – The Next Generation   17 comments

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The delights of Wild Camping are not always obvious to the younger members of the family. We’ve been hatching a plan for a couple of years to get more of the kids involved after Mark took A out on a couple of trips and me, TJS, the Hardman and his eldest did the same last year

To coordinate a weekend is easier said than done so we just picked a date and agreed to decide closer to the time to see if was a goer.

Right on cue the forecast was really poor. I almost bailed out, not fancying spending a weekend in the rain with grumpy kids. However it was said kids who convinced me I was the grumpy one and we decided to give it a go. We had planned a trip to upper Eskdale but the weather looked truly awful so we plumped on a less ambitious route into the Howgills.

The Saturday morning was as horrid as the forecast, several hours of ceaseless rain had us lounging about Mark’s place while he filled us up with a nourishing soup. We headed out anyway and as luck would have it got delayed by a traffic jam on the M6 long enough for the rain to have pretty much stopped by the time we parked up. All packed and ready to go we headed for the hills

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The original plan had been to walk up Carlingill Beck. Its a superb valley and has possible camp spots at the far end. The wet weather had the streams in spate though and crossing them would have been a challenge. We changed tack and headed up and around the head of Carlingill by going over Linghaw and picking up an interesting looking traversing path high above the waterfalls at the head of the valley

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The horses kept us company clearly waiting for us to disappear so they could get up to mischief, more of this later

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Considering how poor the forecast had been the weather wasn’t all that bad. It had stopped raining and whilst it was windy, the cloud lifted a bit and we had views of a sort

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We easily picked up the high level traversing path and what a find (thanks to Mark). Even in gloomy weather it was a real delight, easy, yet elevated high above the deep cleft of Carlingill Beck

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We even had a few glimpses of sunshine on the valley below

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The path cut across the top of the dramatic Black Force

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The kids seemed in great spirits and were enjoying the challenge of the walk into the wilds

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There were even steam crossings to delight and amuse for young and old alike

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It was just a short walk from there to Blakethwaite Bottom, our intended pitch, having read favourable reviews online as a great spot. It was seriously windy and exposed but we found a great spot on the far side sheltered enough to make sitting outside the tents quite pleasent.

The Hardman had a new tent to try out, an enormous 3 -person Vango affair, in a discrete scarlet colour

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I lent Mark my large Lightwave 3 person tent for him and two of his dangerous offspring. He was very taken with it. So taken I’ve lent it to him long term as his kids are really taking to the wild camping and this tent really hits that 3 person spot. I don’t have much use for it any more (TJS prefers to sleep solo when there’s the three of us – I snore apparently as well) and I’d much rather see it in use than under my bed gathering dust

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We had a really enjoyable time cooking tea, messing about and having a laugh. The kids seemed to really enjoy themselves and being outdoors with a trio of middle-aged grey hikers

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We even had some brief sunny spells and decided to take an evening walk up Uldale Head

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It was brutally steep and when crested the top, amazingly windy.

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We had a few fleeting views but the real fun was had from surfing in the wind. The smiles on the faces below tell how much we all enjoyed being kids. We also discovered that turning cagoules inside out made a fairly effective parachute to drag us around the summit. I forgot to take photos alas

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It had been cracking day, all the better for the fact we hadn’t expected to get much out of it other than a soaking and long periods sat in the tent. In the event we only went under canvas when it was time for bed after an improvised game of Petanques with rocks, many brews of tea and lots of biscuits

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We woke the next morning with company. A small gathering of wild horses and ponies on our doorstep. A bacon breakfast got the day off to a grand start

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Soon there was celebrity death-match between some cows and the horses. The cows won and spent an age just stood close by looking at us curiously, nudging each other out the way for a closer look. Very comical. I’ve had a few run ins with cows recently but these were harmless if a little disconcerting but soon dispersed with a little encouragement

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We didn’t want to hang around as the forecast was for strengthening winds and rain in the afternoon. We packed up and headed back down but were hit by the only bad weather of the weekend. We walked straight into a cold deluge that had us all soaked within seconds and for a short period it was deeply unpleasent. It stopped soon enough though and apart from a few short sprinkles we stayed dry the rest of the day

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We dropped back down to Carlingill Beck by the side of Black Force. An impressive ravine and extremely steep so we took our time. Again I think the kids enjoyed the challenge and the rain hadn’t doused their spirits in any way

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We had a brief lunch by the river and embraced the challenge of a couple of river crossings

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The walk along Carlingill Beck is superb and provided a fitting finish to what was a superb if short trip out to the wilds

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I wasn’t sure how the kids would take to a wild camp in less than perfect conditions but they were all superb company. My abiding memory of the weekend was smiles and laughter. They took everything in their stride and were a pleasure to be with from start to finish. For me, there was a real sense of pride that they enjoyed it far more than I hoped and seemed to share in the simple pleasures of just being out in the mountains. Their youthful enthusiasm was infectious and I hope we can do this on a much more regular basis. Cracking stuff. If only those pesky ponies I mentioned hadn’t sheltered by my car and barged into it, denting the front wing, the little pests. Still that’s why we have insurance I guess

 

That brings my blog back up to date. I’m out of action for a few weeks having just had some minor surgery on my left knee. All went well and healing nicely so blog service will be resumed in a couple of weeks

Something a bit different   10 comments

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From our home the obvious direction for walks is westwards towards the Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons and the rest of Wales. A couple of weekends back TJF had a dance event in Gloucester that lasted most of the day so me and TBF decided to try a walk in the fringes of the Cotswolds. Only a mile or so from where the dancing was happening was Robinswood Hill Country Park. It’s very prominent feature when driving up and down the M5, with its extensive dry ski slope. It’s always looked like a good viewpoint, so we parked at the base and started our trek from there

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And indeed the views from the top at 198m were excellent. It’s quite a lofty, elevated and isolated hill that the views seem disproportionately expansive

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I love views down over cityscapes and this one was excellent. The cathedral standing proud over the city

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A short walk along the summit ridge and we came to a fine view-point over the spread of the Severn estuary and down to both of the bridges, just visible in the haze

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We had the novel experience of walking over a motorway as part of a walk. I was about to say it was the first time I’d walked over a Motorway but then I remembered I used to walk over the M5 on my way to West Brom games when I was a kid and also to the Cinema in Quinton in Birmingham so not such a good fact really

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We were following the Wysis Way that thinks the Wye to the Thames. I’d been worried that paths would be overgrown and poorly signposted but apart from a couple of spots all was good

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We passed this odd-looking gate/tower affair in the middle of nowhere that just seemed to lead into a field. Clearly of some religious significance based on the inscription

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We were heading for Painswick Beacon, an obvious high point on the edge of the Cotswolds

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I think the Cotswolds are massively over-rated as scenic area. Most of the central area is huge arable farms with lots of villages named Tweeness-under-the-Water and such like, always thronged with tourists and a £5 car park. However along the edges that overlook the Severn Valley the views are impressive and elevated

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TBF found a bench to sit on (you can see here in the middle of the photo below) while I went to the top

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As I crested the summit I was surprised to find a Golf Course with a Tee right on the summit. I never expected that. It looked a very fine course

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I wandered back down to TBF and we had lunch and cup of tea before we t=retraced our steps back to the car and collected TJF

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The map below shows the route but the OS mapping software threw a fit halfway round so I can confirm we didn’t walk in a dead straight line from Painswick Beacon to Robinswod hill, but you get the idea. About 10 or 11 miles in total I reckon

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Always nice to try something different

Takin’ it Easy   14 comments

Early summer has become a time of added pressure for the family over the past couple of years and will continue for a few years yet. As the junior members face up to GCSE’s and A-Levels, May and June are a time of revision and exams. TJS is now mid-A-Level and when he’s off to University the cycle begins again for TJF. The May Spring Bank Holiday was always a main holiday for us but for now we have to be content with weekend breaks that while a good chance to get away normally involve camping and all the hassle that goes with it.

We are therefore lucky indeed to have my good friend Mark, his better half and their kids who invited us up to stay for the weekend. As always it was superb time of walks, play, good fun and laughs aplenty. Just the ticket to break up the school pressures and for me, personally to wind down and just enjoy simpler pleasures

The weather seemed set fair but alas the glorious drive up in broad sunshine on the Friday was a farewell wave (or two fingers up, take your pick) from our fickle British summer.

Saturday was hot and humid and with a forecast of heavy thundery showers on the way. Time to take advantage of the joy of Silverdale with one of its many fine short walks.

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We went down to the cove where some sat and enjoyed the last of the warm sun, while me and the DBs explored the smelly beach caves

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From there we went across the Lots, a lovely open meadow overlooking Morecambe Bay and one of my favourite spots in these parts. We missed the best of the Orchids that flower here so compensated with a windy game of frisbee

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Alas the weather intervened and stopped outdoor play. A succession of heavy thunderstorms and its accompanying electric light show filled the rest of the day.

Sunday looked much better and we had a plan. A walk with a pub for lunch was in order. We had designs on a couple of spots but, rather unsurprisingly, most were fully booked with it being a Sunday on a BH weekend.

No matter, we had a resrve plan that included Garden Centres, cafes and a supermarket as a fail safe. Mark had a walk planned that ticked numerous boxes. After a visit to the Mill at Beetham (and an unsuccessful visit to the Garden Centre Cafe – packed out) we headed to Milnthorpe via Dallam Deer Park

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I like Deer Parks, something about their manicured pastures and woodland, here with some views to the Peaks of the Yorkshire Dales

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And of course Deer, although a little reticent and distant (the specks under the trees in the middle distance)

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Lunch was now becoming a matter of priority. We came across the Bulls Head in Milnthorpe. It wasn’t much to look at either inside or out, all flashing fruit machines and pool tables. We were assured the food was good so gave it a go. What a find, the menu was extensive, the food excellent and staff friendly and capable, coping well with a party of nine arriving mid afternoon expecting top fed unannounced. The prices were reasonable and we all left with happy burps and distended stomachs. Time to work off some of that acquired fat

We walked back through the edge of the deer park along the river Bela. It was exceedingly fine and under a warm sun the walk was a delight

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The river broadens and the path follows it out across the floodplain to where it joins the Kent

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Time for more contrasts as we headed back inland with a short climb up Haverbrack.

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The views across the Kent estuary to the distant Lake District fells was grand

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Even the butterflies looked happy

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Fairy steps was next on the tick list. A narrow passage with some old nonsense about fairies coming and giving you a blessing or doing the ironing for you or some-such if you manage to climb up without touching the sides. Here is Mark having a valiant attempt

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The kids making it look easy

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TBF seeming to enjoy the challenge

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After a pause on the top it was back down through the woods to the car, crossing this magnificent spread of buttercups on the way

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A fine walk and not an unsubstantial 6 miles in the end (a long way with a gang of restless kids I can tell you)

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Mark had suggested we could walk back to the house and collect the car later. Seemed like a good idea in principle but when we reached the car the moment had gone. A much better idea was a late evening walk to the Pepper Pot.

On the way Mark showed us a Woodpecker nest he’d watched the previous week. We were sure the chicks would have flown by now but after a couple minutes one of the youngsters popped his head out and started squawking to be fed – boy are Woodpecker chicks noisy. We could hear the parents in the distance but they never appeared, clearly waiting for us to move before they returned

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As always the view from the top was superb and we sat watching the light fade in peace and quiet before returning in near darkness through the woods. A quite excellent day

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Monday was a washout but only in weather terms. Heavy rain kept us indoors but spirits were high as we filled the day playing a variety of board games of which the Silverdale gang have many. It was in its own way as fine a day as the previous one and it was with a heavy heart that we ate heartily again and bid our hosts farewell

A top notch weekend and as always a huge message of thanks to Mark and the family for putting us up and feeding us like kings and queens. We are an active family, a little too absorbed with doing stuff every minute of every day of holiday for our own good. Sometimes I forget that there is as much pleasure from timeless easy-paced wanders, games, play and just great company. I sometimes return from a holiday fulfilled yet needing a break to recover. A weekend in Silverdale sees me return fulfilled and relaxed in equal measure and isn’t that what a holiday should be

Showers and Sunshine around Padstow   14 comments

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Day two of our weekend away in Devon and Cornwall and time to swap high moors for coastal cliffs and beaches. More showers were in the air so it looked like one of those days when waterproofs would be regularly on and off. We planned to repeat a circuit we’d done a few years back when staying in Trevone, cutting across the peninsula and back to Padstow around Stepper Point. The walk across the fields was actually quite pleasant. No muddy corners or overgrown stiles. The first stretch was through a waving field of young wheat or barley

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As we caught first sight of the coast we were hit by the first soaking downpour. Only lasted a few minutes but enough to dampen the spirits a little

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Just as quickly the sun came out, spirits and waterproofs were dried out as we walked down to the sea at Trevone Beach

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Walking out to the headland, we were soaked again!

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This was a short sharp shower and luckily for us the last one of the day. The flowers in the coastal meadow are always a delight in the SW

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We circled Trevone Round Hole, one of several sea caves with a collapsed roof in the area

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The coastline along this stretch is dramatic and the path twists and turns around the small headlands, revealing numerous caves and sea arches. This is Porthmissen Bridge

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This dramatic feature near Gunver Head doesn’t seem to have a name on the map although the parcel split off from the cliffs does, Middle Merope Island

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From there to Stepper Point and its abandoned lighthouse its a less dramatic but glorious walk across wild flower be-decked meadows along grassy paths. In the warming sunshine its was marvellous

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From the headland you get grand views across to Polzeath and back inland along the Camel estuary towards Padstow (hidden from sight)

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The wild flowers in the hedgerows along the path prompted me to take a photo

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We took to the beach at Harbour Cove to walk back towards Padstow.

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The sun came out in full effect and with the gentle clear waters in the sheltered estuary and the pale sand it felt almost tropical

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Without shades, the light was blindingly bright but the scene was a happy one of people strolling and enjoying the simple pleasures of playing with various dogs and kids. I enjoyed this stretch immensely

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Sadly the beach finishes among the rocks and you are forced to rejoin the crowds as you head back into Padstow. It was as busy as always but in a nice way. We enjoyed a pasty from the Chough bakery (the best in Cornwall that I’ve tried) serenaded by a half decent busker

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A pretty decent 8 miles for half a day but that day wasn’t yet over

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Time for some water based fun for TBF at least. Treyarnon Bay is one of our favourites and we headed back again. One of the reasons for visiting Cornwall for my Birthday is for me to catch some waves. Bad news was that my car was in for repairs and I had no way to carry my kayak on the roof of the loan car they gave me. I also had a bad cold and didn’t think splashing about in cold water was a good idea. Last time I was dumb enough to do that I got a nasty sinus infection that I wasn’t keen to repeat

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I took on the role of photographer and beach potterer in chief and spent a happy couple of hours poking about on the sand in the caves and watching TBF body boarding

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I took a final stroll along the path watching a newly wed couple (the bride in a backless dress) having their wedding photos taken in the strong chilly breeze. She looked very cold!

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A superb day finished off with another fine seafood meal at the excellent Prawn on the Lawn

Storm Clouds over Dartmoor   12 comments

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My Birthday treat was a weekend away in Cornwall for some fine dining, walking and wave based fun in Cornwall. A heavy cold put paid to entering the water so plans were amended slightly but we kicked off as before (for TBF’s birthday weekend) with a fine lunch at the Cafe on the Green in Widecombe in the Moor and a walk on Dartmoor. Thanks to the writings of the excellent blog over at Treks and Tors I have an endless list of very fine walks on Dartmoor to experience and this one was based on one of the more recent posts. Its a great blog and well worth checking out.

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The forecast had looked promising with mention of sunshine and “isolated” showers. From up on Dartmoor they were a lot more than isolated! We had a Tor-tour planned and first was Rippon Tor. The views across to Haytor, Dartmoors most famous tor derw us onwards

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First we passed over Saddle Tor, appropriately populated with wild ponies

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All the while the storm clouds gathered, thunder rumbled and lightning flashed

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Haytor was always a favourite spot when I was a kid. We spent many family holidays up at Westward Ho! (only place name in the UK with an exclamation mark) and often came down to Dartmoor for a day out. I always insisted we come up here so I could climb to the top

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I love granite tors with their weathered shapes and weird formations

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Haytor looked especially dramatic today backed by dark storm clouds. I rekindled childhood memories by climbing to the top but decided not to linger, feeling rather like a lightning rod on the exposed summit

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As we passed Haytor quarry in bright sunlight the dark clouds provided an amazing contrast

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The clouds all around were bubbling and boiling and we seemed to be just yards from a soaking

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We found a fine sheltered spot on Smallacombe Rocks for a cuppa and a slice of cake. We didn’t hang around as our luck was running out and spots of rain were in the air

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We walked over one of Dartmoors numerous and very quaint clapper bridges over the Becka Brook

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And then up towards and past Greator rocks.

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As we passed into Holwell Lawn we came across one of the most stunning displays of bluebells I’ve ever seen

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All across open hillside they carpeted the floor in a swathe of purple-blue. Its rare to be able to catch the real sense of colour in a photo. They never seem to be as dense through a lens as they are to the naked eye

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Here, that task was easy

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We pressed on for more tors over at Bonehill Rocks

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Leaving them behind we set off for our final tor, Top Tor

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We got a proper soaking in a heavy rain and hail shower that dusted the hills we’d walked on earlier in drifts of white while thunder rumbled and crackled around us. Short-lived, and sunny spells returned for the top and while we finished our fine 6.5 mile back to the car

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My second Dartmoor walk in the past year and its wonderful, packed with interesting stuff and a huge variety of landscapes. It deserves a full weekend or holiday all its own or a wild camp to appreciate its austere charms

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Satisfied and in need of a little luxury, we headed off to the Althea Library for our weekend stay, with same wonderful room and warm welcome as before

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I took a brief stroll around Padstow before our evening out to clear my head (I had a bit of dizzy spell when I arrived) and to enjoy Padstow without the the crowds when it reverts to a peaceful fishing village rather than a tourist fleshpot

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Ending the day with a fine curry at The Journeyman restaurant was the perfect finale to a fine first day of my Birthday treat 🙂

Sneaky Birthday Stroll   10 comments

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Last year on my Birthday we managed a brief walk on Ysgyryd Fawr in a Thunderstorm. This year the weather was much kinder (although no champagne) and I managed to skive a few hours away from my work e-mail for a quick skip up Bryn Arw. It started cloudy but quickly developed into a glorious warm summers day

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No finer way to spend your lunch hour on your birthday

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The colours of the trees and the wild flowers, especially the bluebells under a clear blue sky were mesmerising

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Over all too soon before back to work drudgery, but great memories nonetheless.

Happy Birthday to me! (from 2 weeks ago) 🙂

Posted May 26, 2017 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Local Walks, Wales, Walking

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