Archive for the ‘Walking’ Category

The Return of Camping!   12 comments

The first weekend of the school holidays is a regular get together for our friends up in North Wales. That wasn’t an option this year as campsites in Wales were still closed but TBF did some research and came up with a very good alternative and the very nice site, Sytche Farm near Much Wenlock in Shropshire.

Forecast wasn’t the best for Saturday but after a wet morning it dried up and we managed a pleasant, short stroll up on to Wenlock Edge.

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And a wander around Much Wenlock itself, a very nice little town indeed. Just as well we got out as the evening was atrocious, heavy sweeping drizzle that soaked everyone and everything. We were all cowered under my canopy as we were not yet allowed in each others tents.

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The next day was a complete contrast. Blue skies and warm sunshine. My new air-canopy looking rather fetching in the morning sun.

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Time for extended games of Kubb. Mentioned many times and a fixture of our gatherings. Chucking sticks at blocks of wood has never been so much fun.

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Lunch in the sun before deciding we needed some proper exercise and a walk over the fields and hills to Ironbridge.

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Whilst not exactly thrilling the fields and woods were very pleasant and undemanding at least in an up and down sort of way.

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It was demanding in a distance sort of way though. A 10 mile+ round trip in fact.

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Worth it to see one of the UK’s more famous sites. Its not the most impressive bridge you’ll ever see but the idea is, the first – well – iron bridge.

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Its actually rather a pretty spot, if a little touristy.

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Although calling it a gorge is rather overplaying its hand a little.

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I came here when I was a kid and I’m sure the bridge was black and you could drive over it. That’s long since been stopped obviously.

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Its an iconic structure though and given more time (and with no pandemic) it would be good explore further and visit some of the many industrial museums in the area.

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As it was we had a long walk back, a BBQ to set fire to and it was already well past 5pm. A return route and a fast pace to ensure we had the BBQ before it go too cold. A fail there, once the sun went down it was freezing but clear and a good time was had by all even wrapped in duvets and jackets.

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A morning wander around the town, church and Guild Hall in Much Wenlock.

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For our afternoon walk we drove to the Wrekin. Despite it being a very prominent local landmark (and the fact that “going round the Wrekin” is a common phrase in my Black Country homeland – it means taking the longest possible route) I’d never been up.

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A massive oversight as its lofty height and isolated position provides 360 spectacular panoramas. You can see as far as the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia, Cheshire and the Peak District.

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It was busy and we were lucky to secure a parking spot but well worth it as the skies were clear and the views just magnificent.

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It even has some rocky tors for a DB to explore and make everyone else nervous.

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We decided to make a circular walk by heading off the far end and returning through the forest. Much quieter other than main route and a perfect plan in every regard apart from the fact the path down was steep, loose and rather unpleasant, especially if you slip and land on your bum as TBH did. Very painful indeed.

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Back to the site for more evening Kubb and a new woods and sticks game called Molke.

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The last day we packed up, everyone else headed home but we had a short drive back so managed to fit in some more activity. We drove over to the Stiperstones, had a picnic by the The Bog (nicer spot than it sounds) and then went for walk along the ridge.

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It had clouded over but the effects were quite impressive.

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And then main ridge always delivers a fine walk (even if the path is one of the most rocky and awkward I know)

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Time was short (TJS had a train to catch) so just a walk past of the Devils Chair ridge.

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The Wrekin on the skyline in the distance.

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Normally our group gatherings tend to be up north leaving us with a very long drive home at the end of the day. This time we packed up the trailer, fitted in a picnic lunch and decent walk and were still home in time for tea.

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A great weekend and after so long in lockdown and seeing friends through Zoom, it was fantastic to meet up in person and have some fun. Long overdue.

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Back to Wales at Last!   8 comments

It had been quite a challenge looking out from my bedroom to the Black Mountains and Wales and realising they were out of bounds. Necessary of course but we were pleased that the reopening of the National Park coincided with a decent weekend of weather. Keen to avoid the busy spots we headed to the Black Mountain for one of our favourite walks.

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Parking up in the east, following the infant river Tawe up towards Lyn y Fan Fawr/Fach and a circuit of the high peaks and edges

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Intermittently cloudy and cool punctuating the sunny spells we walked on briskly looking for a spot for breakfast.

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We eventually found a grassy shelf with a tremendous view over most of mid-Wales.

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With a backdrop of the impressive edges of the Black Mountain.

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I’ve really taken to the idea of breakfast in the hills. Makes the effort of carrying all the stuff around worth it when you have a view like this.

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The shores of Llyn y Fan Fach were busy (only relatively) so we pressed on to the top. The view along the edges over the lake is truly magnificent.

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Followed by what looks like a long walk along the edges but in fact the walking is so grand and easy its over all too quickly.

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The sunny spells had increased and the air was amazingly clear. We could see a whole range of Welsh hills as far as southern Snowdonia. Looking the other way the view across the Gower towards Devon was equally fine. Looking closely I saw land out in the horizon – I could see the Lundy island out to the west of Devon. Must be close to 70 miles away – amazing.

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We decided another long stop for a cuppa was in order on the highest point.

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More sensational views, this time across Llyn y Fan Fawr, my favourite mountain lake.

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On the way down you pass an impressive gully and narrow earthy arête that makes for a great photo foreground.

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We had a brief stop by the shore for a paddle – well I did anyway. A truly superb spot.

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The weather was just getting better and better and the Afon Tawe has some wonderful, if rather small pools that looked inviting for a dip.

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We saw no point in turning down that invitation. It was brief and very cold but nothing beats a wild swim in the mountains.

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It felt good to be back.

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A Weekend Away At Last   23 comments

For us in rural Herefordshire the Lockdown was not as challenging as it must have been for millions of others. Those in big crowded cities, living in small houses and flats with no outdoor space and the only escape, crowded parks with as many people keen too judge as there were people trying to make the best of things. My heart went out to them while we were immensely lucky to live in a small country village and in a house with a large garden.

What we did miss was the chance to get away for weekends and see our friends of many years standing. We missed our regular May Day gathering but had filled the gap with a regular Zoom meeting on a Sunday for chats and quizzes.

TJS wanted to head back to Lancaster for a few weeks to see friends (socially distanced of course) and I suggested to the Silverdale Massive we could meet up for a walk to make a day of things. After a brief discussion we agreed that if we were cautious and careful we could stay over for a weekend under the new rules at that time so we jumped at the chance of a weekend away and a chance to spend some time with people other than ourselves.

After the glorious weather of Lockdown, the weather has reverted to type and Saturday was awful, damp cold and grey. No matter at all for a weekend with the gang. Outdoor walks were replaced with plenty of relaxing, cooking, drinking endless tea, eating endless good food and playing board games.

The Sunday was much better

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After reading many of Mark’s recent posts about the Gait Barrows nature reserve and me insisting he’d never taken me there, I was very keen to see it this time.

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We had a fine wander over the fields and across more new paths I’m sure I’d never walked on. As I say many times when we visit, this area seems to have limitless paths and stunning little corners such that I don’t think you could ever tire of walking here.

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Its packed with interesting stuff and I can now add Gait barrows to that list.

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The limestone pavement here is in my opinion quite extraordinary and one of the most impressive I’ve seen.

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It lies at a very gentle angle its surface is quite astonishingly smooth and uniform, carved out with what I assume are rainwater channels.

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I was absolutely fascinated and mesmerised in equal measure and as always the photos don’t really do it justice.

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Mark, has an in depth knowledge of all the various rare and interesting plants that inhabit this unique ecosystem. I need to record these walks so I can remember all the information he divulges.

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Even though the weather was far from settled and summery, there is always a chance for lie down!

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Another of those plants and associated insects pointed out that I do not remember the names of. What I do remember is that the plant is poisonous and therefore so is the caterpillar. His bright markings a clear warning not to eat me!

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A perfect Limestone feature to use as a toilet!

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We spent a good while just wandering about, learning (and promptly forgetting) new stuff. We took numerous paths in varying directions to the extent I was completely disorientated by the end. Luckily our local experts have “the knowledge”.

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Clouds were gathering so time to head back for lunch.

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Hawes Water (no not that one) is somewhere I have been many times and its a lovely spot. It looks like a shallow reedy lake so I was surprised when Mark told me is actually a large limestone solution hollow and quite deep.

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A walk around its shores and nearby fields is always a pleasure. Our timing was perfection as the rains came just as we reached the house.

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We had another chance for a walk in the afternoon and time for another classic round over Heald Brow, down to Jenny Brown’s Point and back via Jack Scout and Woodwell.

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The weather looked a whole lot more threatening and I was sure we were heading for a soaking at some point but again it never materialised until just as we got back.

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The tide was fully out and the expansive sands of Morecambe Bay revealed.

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There was a group of people way out in the Bay, not something I’d ever want to do without a guide. The tide comes in frighteningly quickly and there are far too many tales of people paying the ultimate price for errors.

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A real tonic to be able to spend our first weekend away for several months. The weather wasn’t the best but no matter, a fine time was had by all

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Back to the Malverns   12 comments

Another day of showers and another day where a half day stroll was in order. Wales was still closed for business so we headed east to the Malverns. These can be really busy on a weekend but a bit of local knowledge tells you the southern end is quiet and just as lovely as the more popular parts further north. We parked up in Hollybush and strode out across the fields under bright sunshine.

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We came across this charming little thatched gatehouse on our way onto the Three Choirs Way (whatever that is – another of the ever growing list of themed walks).

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Like a little Hobbit House from this side.

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The views across the Vale of Evesham to the Cotswolds and Bredon Hill were superb.

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On to our first hill and the most southerly of the Malverns, Chase End Hill.

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What the Malverns lack in height in they more than make up for in up and down and steepness. Even on this short 7 mile stroll we clocked up over 2000 feet of ascent.

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On to the second hill of the day, the wonderfully named Ragged Stone Hill. A really steep little blighter with tremendous views.

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It was chilly and windy up here. I had more clothing layers on that when I’d last walked this part in February last year!

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Our next summit, Midsummer Hill with the main Malverns ridge in the distance.

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Clouds and showers over the Severn Valley and Estuary.

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The obelisk on an unnamed summit just off the ridge. A memorial to some posh Victorian family members I’d never heard of.

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No photos from Midsummer Hill as it was insanely windy on top.

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We managed a brief sit down in grass out of the wind for the mandatory cuppa and snack.

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We’d thought about maybe heading a little further down the ridge or across the common to the car. Dark clouds were gathering and we were spattered by a rain shower so we decided we’d done enough walking and headed directly back to the car. In the end the shower never really amounted to anything major despite the very dark skies. On the way back we took a look at Gullet Quarry and its lake, a well known wild swimming spot. They’ve now closed it off with loads of warning signs, barbed wire and anti-vandal paint. To be honest the water looked a bit murky and not all that inviting for a swim.

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You don’t need to walk the main ridge with its crowds, tea-shops and busy road crossings to enjoy the best of this range of hills.

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Back to the Mountains   17 comments

Wales and its mountains have been out of bounds during lockdown, frustrating when you can see them from your garden as your local hills. We’ve enjoyed exploring Shropshire and the Marches but we were eager for some mountain time. There is a short piece of the Black Mountains, Black Hill, that’s neither in Wales or the National Park and we stayed away as we felt that was in the right spirit. Having seen pictures of people walking the ridge eventually on a showery day we decided to give it a go.

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It was quite busy in the small parking area but we found a spot down the hill to park up. Our luck with the weather ran out and we were caught by a heavy shower as we set off.

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Short-lived though and soon we were in sunny intervals and some cracking views.

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Its a fine ridge, the only truly “narrow” ridge in South Wales (these things are relative, its just a walk with the odd rocky step.

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It was windy and it felt great to be back in my local mountains again.

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Despite the busy car park we only saw a few people out and about, it didn’t really feel any busier than when we’ve walked up here before. Everyone was polite, pleasant and respectful of social distancing.

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Storms passing through Monmouthshire.

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TBF enjoying the walk.

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Looking back along the Cats Back ridge

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The small pond on Black Hill summit

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We were caught in a heavy and squally shower and as the ridge from here heads into Wales we took the path back down the Olchon Valley.

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The sun came out again and the valley looked resplendently verdant, albeit due to the surging tide of bracken.

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Only a short walk for few hours on a Sunday but refreshing and revitalising.

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Wales is now open again so hoping to head back for a longer mountain walk over the coming weekend.

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More Garway Hill   12 comments

Whilst my local mountains in Wales have been closed off, Garway Hill became my release valve for a high level walk and views to keep me sane.

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This one was taken after dropping TJF in town for a socially distanced meet up in the park with one of her friends. We thought we could grab a walk in between drop off and pick up.

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Another day with heavy showers forecast but we were lucky again and avoided a soaking even though there were clearly damps spells about. We even managed a cheeky summit beer – a very nice Brewdog Lock-Down Lager!

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More bracken starting to rear its head.

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Some of the paths I use on this walk will shortly disappear until winter when it dies back.

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We had time to take the longer route, down the ridge, back along the lane and cutting back across the fields to the open common land.

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An enjoyable if short walk.

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Next day I was on my own while the rest of family visited my Mum-in-Law. I took a long ride out to see if could cycle all the way to the top of a local hill (a missing Marilyn) called Burton Hill.

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I managed it with some stiles to haul the bike over and few interesting moments on a muddy path riding on slick tyres. The photo below gives flavour of what trying to find summits in these out of the way places can be like! Steep hard work on the way up but a fabulous long downhill ride back down!

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Missing the Rain   18 comments

In between the two hots spells we had some mixed weather of sunny, sultry days and showers, Trying to balance between between kids commitments, and visiting parents now rules were more relaxed we picked a day to take stroll around Bradnor Hill. I’d been up here in January in completely different conditions, cold wet and everything with the green lushness of a damp winter.

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Its the site of the highest golf course in England. This is how they keep the fairways trim and tidy.

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Its a fine high level stroll, parking and staying high for most of the walk.

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There are some huge open pastures, home to what looked like thousands of sheep. I don’t think I’ve ever walked through a field so strewn with sheep poo!

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We were following Offas’s Dyke and its one of the places where you can actually see and walk along the dyke itself.

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Looking across to Hergest Ridge and Hanter Hill where we’d walked a few weeks back.

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Back east along the Lugg and Arrow valleys.

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The view from Herrock Hill is a spectacular one, this is looking over Radnorshire and into the barred land of Wales.

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Black Mountains visible in the distance.

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The next couple of images show that bright green that can only mean bracken is starting to flourish. I’m hoping that Wales will open soon and we can access the higher mountains before these smaller hills become smothered in the green stuff.

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Final view, actually taken from one of the tee’s on the Golf Course. Not a bad place to play a round. Forecast had been for heavy showers but we stayed dry and they only arrived with a vengeance after we got home.

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Wye Valley Wander   12 comments

Our wonderful spring weather was drawing to a close. One last chance – for now – to set out early for a walk in the sunshine. A change of scene was needed so we stayed local and took a walk in the Wye Valley.

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Parking up in Goodrich we headed up to the top of Coppet Hill for the now regular routine of cooked breakfast.

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Views over Goodrich Village and its castle.

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Our only summit of the day – Coppet Hill. A long spur between the sinuous bends in the river Wye.

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Lazing in the warm sun, bellies full of bacon and eggs.

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Its a lovely high level stroll before descending the long ridge through the woods and down to the river. This was the first time I felt moderately ill-at-ease in the new situation. We were walking a respectful distance behind a family group who were stopping more frequently than us. Not a problem as it was a fine day to pause and enjoy the surroundings while we waited for them to move on. What was unsettling was that under normal circumstances we’d have just walked past and shared our mutual enjoyment, where we were all heading, what a fabulous day it was. This is one of the delights of the outdoors, those brief moments of sharing these joys with like-minded people. It felt like I was avoiding them, almost rude and it felt wrong. Just something we will have to get used to for a while.

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The rest of the walk was a long easy wander along the banks of the Wye.

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The grassy meadows full of buttercups were wonderful.

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Just before we reached the church and hostel at Welsh Bicknor I took a look at the old railway tunnel on the long-abandoned line. Its blocked off now for safety reasons but when I was a kid we visited the hostel on a History field trip and took a walk through. A few hundred yards that slices off a good 2 -3 miles of river walking.

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I’d forgotten what a beautiful church it was, especially under such a clear blue sky.

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As we continued we were looking for a likely spot for a stop and a swim in the river. Unfortunately all the best spots were on the other side of the river and the few on our side were all occupied. The last few miles were protected by what must be one of the longest continuous patches of nettles anywhere.

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Still, the walking was still lovely, albeit it was becoming rather hot. The swim was badly missed.

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A new family enjoying the weather.

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We finished off at Kerne Bridge before a short walk back up the road to Goodrich and the car.

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Something different and another walk that I probably wouldn’t have done had the Welsh Mountains been open. Accentuate the positive!

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Sunshine After the Rain   13 comments

As I point out many times, the fickleness of the British weather never ceases to amaze me. A couple of days after strong winds, heavy rains and cold temperatures, Bank Holiday Monday delivered a complete stunner of a day.

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As before we were up and out early to make best efforts at avoiding any crowds. Heading back to Shropshire and the bristling tors of Stiperstones we were parked up by 9am and heading onto the ridge for breakfast. The other advantage this has is its often the best part of the day. The air was clear and the views all around were superb.

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A zoom shot of Cadair Idris on the horizon.

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South to the Marches and Black Mountains

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Manstone Rock.

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We managed to construct a decent spot for breakfast and enjoyed our usual repast of bacon and egg butties and a cuppa. It’s a fine tradition that I intend to stick to through the summer.

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There are flatter and grassier spots but they were a further away and we were hungry.

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Corndon Hill, one of new favourites but sadly the Welsh Border makes a little wrinkle to include it so it’s out of bounds at the moment.

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Whilst the ridge is a fine walk, the path is one of the most awkward one’s I know. It’s a knobbly, rocky path with all said rocks seemingly angled in all sorts of odd opposing directions. Its really frustrating to walk on but luckily the views more than made up for that.

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Looking back to Manstone Rock.

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The Devils Chair. The long spine of rock at the northern end. Tackled direct and along the crest is quite a challenge. I bailed on a couple of sections figuring it wasn’t the best of times to be risking a visit to hospital. It’s really very narrow and exposed in places and would not be out of place in the Alps.

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A view from one of the pinnacles.

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And looking back to the arête.

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Looking out east, The Wrekin prominent in the distance.

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We carried on past the path we usually take down the east side where we’ve always parked at the fine pub of The Bridges Inn. This time we carried on north with a plan to head down to the west side and explore one of the steep sided valleys (or dingles as they seem to be called here) that carve that side.

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This is Mytton Dingle which looked very fine from above but fancying a longer walk we carried on with a view to descending Crows Nest Dingle.

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After a pointless detour through a field looking for a path that wasn’t there we finally found the right way in to the dingle via a stop on Oak Hill. Worth it for the birds-eye view of Mytton Dingle and the village of Stiperstones.

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It was worth the effort. Crows Nest Dingle was lovely. A narrow valley, green and lush with splashes of colour from the Gorse and Broom.

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It even had a picture-perfect cottage.

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The last few hundred yards were a mess of farm clutter and scabby sheep before some road walking, a wooded path along the base of Oak Hill, a wander through the village (with another wonderful looking pub, sadly closed of course) before a steep grassy field to climb.

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The views across the Shropshire countryside and the dramatic edge of Mytton Dingle were so fine it seemed entirely correct to make another long stop for a cuppa and snacks.

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More road walking and a nice track through the fields brought us to the old mine workings of The Bog. This was the only place I’ve been since lockdown that was even remotely busy. There were several families enjoying the sunshine but unlike other scenes across the UK, everyone was quiet and respectful (and distanced).

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We finished off the walk with a wander through the forest and down to the end of ridge near Nipstone Rock.

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We found a nice grassy hollow for another rest to soak up the warm sunshine.

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All that was left was to wander through Nipstone Woods and across this field. It always seems to have long grass and I love the way it ripples in the breeze.

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Even the short stretch of path back to the car was a delight, winding through the Gorse with views across to the Long Mynd.

Another wonderful warm spring day walk, clocking up 10 miles. Whilst its a little frustrating to be so close to the Welsh Mountains at home, without being able to visit, we are so lucky to have areas like this so close to home. Despite their scenic grandeur they don’t seem to have attracted anything like the hordes that have descended on the more popular honeypots. Its delivered a couple of fine days without ever feeling we were breaking the lockdown constraints. It already seems like a long time ago now that lovely spell of weather seems to have come to an end.

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The Storm Before the Calm   12 comments

Well, storm is overstating things a bit but it gives the idea just how much the weather changed over the late May Bank Holiday weekend. The Saturday was grey, cold, windy with the feel of rain in the air. Eager for some fresh air and exercise we headed out for a brief stroll around Hergest Ridge near Kington, taking in the main sights. First on the list is the small grove of Monkey Puzzle trees.

This time it provided shelter as we were hit by a nasty cold rain shower. I’ve been wearing shorts since lockdown began but this was not a day for shorts!

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At this point we didn’t know what to do as the summit area is pretty exposed and dark clouds were all around. We pressed onwards but after another short dousing the sun came out and we had a glorious half an hour of sunshine, blue skies and clear views.

Looking across to the Gwaunceste and Gladestry Hills – never walked in there.

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The shower receding behind us.

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On to the next of the “sights” the small pool near the summit. Completely dried out after the stunning spring weather.

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The Radnor Hills

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The Trig Pillar

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The true summit.

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And off to Hanter Hill.

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Now I have to admit to being a little naughty here. Whilst the majority of Hergest Ridge and this walk is in England, the col between there and Hanter Hill marks the border with Wales. The short steep, climb out and back to the top meant we were in forbidden territory for 20 minutes. I don’t think anyone saw us and as with all the other times I’ve been up there we didn’t see a soul.

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Herrock Hill and Bradnor Hill.

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And back to Hergest Ridge

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The dis-used racetrack that runs around the summit. No idea what they raced up here.

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And the final sight, the Whet Stone (the one that supposedly walks down to Kington every night for a drink)

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The sunshine belies the fact the clouds were gathering again and we raced down the ridge back to the car. The weather on our next walk was rather different!

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