Archive for the ‘Wye Valley’ 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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Back with a Splash   14 comments

The enforced break is over and I’m back in action. Knee op went well and after a couple of weeks R&R I’m starting to head outdoors once more. A bike ride around the Forest of Dean and a short walk with TJS on a gloomy Friday evening proved I’m fit and able.

Time for some outdoor fun but there is more to life than boots and bikes. A long standing plan to kayak the river Wye having done many trips on French rivers. Having two cars makes this much easier and the Wye is very much the local. A route from Kerne Bridge via Symonds Yat and Monmouth to Redbrook was the plan

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Its a fine a leisurely way to spend a day. A little too leisurely as it turns out

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We passed by Welsh Bicknor YH and I rekindled memories of a stay there in my teens for a school history trip. We had to walk over the bridge in the photo below with all our stuff including food (which from memory consisted of many tins of beans). I was surprised to see the bridge in a very dangerous state and clearly closed. Its a very long walk in to the hostel at the moment

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A little further on near Yat Rock we pulled up for lunch (and a Funster snooze)

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Back on the river it began to dawn on me that it was quite a long way between Kerne Bridge and Redbrook. A very long way.

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I’ve become used to the relatively swift flow of rivers like the Tarn and the Dordogne in France. The Wye is like a lake in comparison so rather than letting the river do the work, we had to paddle pretty much the whole way

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Past the tourist haven of Symonds Yat and a short portage around the rapids. We should have just gone down on the water as they aren’t especially tough – a good deal easier than dragging a 3 person kayak 300 yards over slippery rocks

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Onwards through the Wye gorge and under the bouncy bridge at the Biblins campsite

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Its a very pretty stretch and very quiet. By this time however we were all feeling that we’d had enough of the river!

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The stretch to Monmouth seemed to take an eternity but at least the crowds had gathered to cheer us through – well they might have been there for the rowing regatta but I’ll take whatever I can get

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I was excited to pass under the bridge at Monmouth – seeing as I drive over a couple of times most days on my way to and from work.

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Its a mightily impressive structure

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At last we were on the home straight (after an involuntary dip trying to push the kayak over a shallow section)

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Finally the bridge at Redbrook came into view and we were done

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The pub on the opposite bank looked mighty tempting for a beer until I realised it was after 6pm and we’d been paddling for over 6 hours! Time to go home for tea 🙂

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A long day, probably too long – lesson learned – but great fun and a surprisingly tough workout that my arms are only just recovering from.

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Turns out it was almost 16 miles – hell of long way to paddle but easy on the knees at least

Pedalling through the Forest of Dean   6 comments

In a bout of foolishness I decided to take the family cycling. Anybody who knows me is aware that I’m not terribly fond of cycling. For a start I don’t much like bikes, they are the work of satan if you ask me, always in constant need of attention and an array of squeaks and squeels no matter how much you try to stop them. I have my kids for that, I don’t need it from mechanical contraptions. I’m not really built for cycling either being short of leg and wide of girth. Despite all this cycling is at least something that I thought we could all take some pleasure from seeing as TJF hates walking.

Forest of dean, family cycleway, cycling

Forest of dean, family cycleway, cycling

Somewhere without any big hills seemed in order and as it was windy some trees would be nice. Forest of Dean fits that particular bill with its family cycleway using some of the old coal mining rail routes.

Forest of dean, family cycleway, cycling

Forest of dean, family cycleway, cycling

In fact it was rather nice. The sun came out the cycling was easy and we found a nice open sunny glade for a picnic.

Forest of dean, family cycleway, cycling

Forest of dean, family cycleway, cycling

All was going well until on the only major downhill section TJS got rather over-excited, went too fast and fell off. He seemed fine until I pointed out a large hole in his trousers only partly covering a nasty graze on his rump. The sight of blood turned him a fetching greyish-white colour and his cycling was over. He walked back while I went and fetched the car.

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Put a bit of damper on the day but it was different and enjoyable in its way but I still prefer my feet to wheels unless those wheels come in groups of four with a enclosed body and roof, aircon and a a stereo 🙂

Another local post for local people   4 comments

A few nice photos from a couple of walks on Coppet Hill by the river Wye and Garway Hill in South Herefordshire:

 

TJS does drama classes on Saturday mornings at Goodrich so with 2 hours to kill you can just about take in a 5 mile walk down by the river and along the fine high level ridge that is Coppet Hill. Photos from a couple of days, one on a warm hazy day and one with a glorious clear spell after a vicious shower. Previous visit can be found here

Coppet Hill, Goodrich, River Wye, Wye Valley

Coppet Hill, Goodrich, River Wye, Wye Valley

Coppet Hill, Goodrich, River Wye, Wye Valley

Coppet Hill, Goodrich, River Wye, Wye Valley

Coppet Hill, Goodrich, River Wye, Wye Valley

Coppet Hill, Goodrich, River Wye, Wye Valley

Coppet Hill, Goodrich, River Wye, Wye Valley

Coppet Hill, Goodrich, River Wye, Wye Valley

Coppet Hill, Goodrich, River Wye, Wye Valley

Coppet Hill, Goodrich, River Wye, Wye Valley

Coppet Hill, Goodrich, River Wye, Wye Valley

Garway Hill a fine spot for a short stroll as you can park on it’s upper slopes. This day was incredibly windy and after poor weekend of rain we stole out in a brief spell of sunshine for some fresh air. Previous walk from last year is here

Garway Hill

Garway Hill

Garway Hill

Garway Hill

Garway Hill

Garway Hill

Garway Hill

Garway Hill

At home with our friends from the North – Raglan Castle and Wye Valley   4 comments

It was our last day all together and at last the British summer delivered a day worthy of the name. Not exactly wall to wall sunshine but bright and most importantly dry. The weather was still too unpredictable to head into the mountains so I suggested another walk along the Wye Valley. We needed somewhere for the kids to let off some steam so we headed for another of our local castles at Raglan.

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Main entrance

It’s not quite as evocative or atmospheric as the riverside setting at Goodrich but it’s much bigger and has loads more in the way of tunnels, rooms and stairways to explore so we just let the kids run riot and we all headed off to explore at our own leisure.

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Across to the keep

It has the classic castle features of a proper keep with a spiral staircase and a moat as well as dungeons.

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Moat surrounding the Keep

The kids were in seventh heaven and seemed to enjoy the extra space that Raglan has. From my perspective it’s more fortified manor house than military installation with the decorative features and the moat designed to enhance rather than defend. It’s also less well presented than  Goodrich with only sporadic information boards and no audio guide. Still the views from the battlements were excellent and a fine time was had by all.

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Sugar Loaf and Ysgyryd Fawr from the battlements

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Mark and B explore the moat

There was even a swallow in her nest just a few inches away on one of the staircases (Mark, I’m sure will correct me if I’ve got the bird wrong!)

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Swallow nesting

We decided a picnic in the grounds was in order and shock/horror the sun came out and it was almost hot! The adults lazed in the sun while the kids collected grass and mud-stains rolling around in the dry moat. You can read Mark’s post about the castle here.

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Picnic in the grounds

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The Keep

I would have happily stayed all afternoon but there was a walk in the offing. We collected the school party and drove a few miles up the A40 to take in a walk around some of the interesting stuff that surrounds Symonds Yat. First are the caves culminating in King Arthur’s Cave (he gets about this bloke, caves, seats and castles all over the place). The kids of course thought these were great fun especially the small one they could all climb through.

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L and A go caving

Not exactly a huge cave system but enough to entertain the kids and find a few calcite features and mud.

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King Arthurs Cave

From there the walk takes you down towards the Wye, first taking in Seven Sisters Rocks perched high above the river. One of my favourite local spots with spectacular views along the gorge and down to the river of chocolate below. The usual nervous times for the parents with kids dashing about near the cliff edge!

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Downstream view from Seven Sisters Rocks

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Upstream view from Seven Sisters Rocks

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Happy families

Onwards to the river and the Biblins campsite, reserved for school groups (bit of a shame for everyone else as it’s a nice spot). The river crossing is by a narrow suspension bridge which again the kids found mightily entertaining, enhanced by the fast flowing river beneath.

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A & L on Biblins bridge

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Biblins bridge

As we strolled up towards Symonds Yat the sun came out properly and treated us to some stunning vistas across the river complete with flooded islands and rafts of debris floating downstream after the Monsoons of the past couple of days. The last day was turning into a great one and everyone enjoyed the pleasure of walking at a steady pace in the warm sunshine, drinking in the riverside views.

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Sunshine at last

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River Wye in flood

We had planned to use the small ferry that crosses the Wye and return to the cars by some more caves. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t running due to the sheer volume of water and huge amounts of flood debris. The kids were placated with the promise of ice creams while Mark and me walked back the way we’d come to collect the cars and pick everyone up for the journey home. Mark’s take on the day is here.

So ended our week with the aforementioned friends from the north. It had been a fantastic week despite the at times poor weather and I think we made the very most of what was on offer. I really enjoy showing off the local places I’ve come to know so well and I think Mark, TBH, A, B and S all enjoyed the days as well, from castles to rivers to waterfalls and a right proper soaking. There is still so much more to show-off so I’m hoping they’ll make a return visit. Who knows next time we may be able to sit in the garden. It was a real pleasure to have them stay the week, a cracking time was had by all. Hope you enjoy the slide show

Coppet Hill   2 comments

Oh dear, a long way behind with my blog again. Lots to catch up on with a little trip into the little known hills west of Builth Wells, a trip to Wasdale and an ascent of Pillar and cracking birthday weekend in Snowdonia. While I get around to editing some slide shows and writing up the thrills and spills here’s a few photos, words and a little Flickr slide show of a recent family trip up Coppet Hill near Goodrich.

It’s a stunning little hill perched above a massive meander in the river Wye between Goodrich and Symonds Yat. The latter is a busy tourist fleshpot but this hill is mercifully quiet and unspoilt with expansive views over the Herefordshire countryside.

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Coppet Hill and Herefordshire countryside

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Kerne Bridge

It’s a fine place for a family stroll across the open ridge and down through woods which we hoped would be carpeted with bluebells but it was just a little early. You descend sharply down to the sharp-point of the meander before returning along the fields at the bottom of the hill.

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On the banks of the Wye

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Across the meadows

The last time I’d been here with D on a summer walk the Wye was high and chocolate-brown. This time it looked as if you could almost wade across. This was to prove the calm before the storms as over the next week the river rose to bursting point in the latter half of April and has only just returned to normal.

We managed to find a sheltered spot in the grass for a customary brew, watching the kayakers on the river (must get round to a canoe trip with the kids on my local river sometime) before heading home.

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Afternoon tea

A fine walk on a cold spring day close to home, a little stocking filler between the adventure on Rum and the walks to follow

Posted May 14, 2012 by surfnslide in Local Walks, Walking, Wye Valley

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Wye Valley Walking   3 comments

My normal drive home from Bristol takes me along the Wye valley between Chepstow (one of my Slovakian colleagues at work once called it Chickenstowe!) and Monmouth so time for a change from mountain climbing. . The Wynd Cliffe area I was in has some great views over the lower reaches of the valley. Having left the car at Upper Wynd Cliffe I walked down to the view-point at Lower Wynd Cliffe. There is a lot of forest in these parts so expansive views are few and far between but when they appear they are pretty decent.

Wye Valley from Lower Wynd Cliffe

Wye Valley from Lower Wynd Cliffe

You then have to climb back up to the top again along a steep path with handrails and metal steps called the “365 steps”. I counted them. There were less than 365. I feel cheated. I’m over it now though! At the top you reach a lookout called predictably, Eagles Nest, although the views over the valley, Chepstow (racecourse and castle both visible if you look closely in the photos) and especially of the two Severn bridges.

Chepstow and Severn Estuary from Eagles Nest

Second Severn Crossing from Eagles Nest

Severn Bridge from Eagles Nest

From there it’s a long steady walk through the woods along the Wye Valley Walk. J & D did this section last year and whilst there are no views there were plenty of grey squirrels and blackbirds to keep me company. The Wye Valley Walk heads down into Tintern but my route took me back across the meadows to the car, lovely in the evening sunshine and deserted.

I hadn’t seen a soul all evening on my 3.8 mile walk.

Full set of Flickr photos here

Posted June 11, 2011 by surfnslide in Walking, Wye Valley

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