Belated Birthday Weekend – Coniston Fells   17 comments

Another day in Lakeland but this one without the glorious blue skies of the previous day. Still a fine day though, high cloud, watery sunshine and no sign of rain or mist shrouding the summits. We planned a walk from the door of our hotel in Torver up on to the Coniston Fells. Nice to do a walk without using the car (if you don’t count the 4 hour drive home at the end of the day)

We followed what looked like a little used but rather nice path out over Torver High Common, following Ash Gill Beck (plenty of nice wild camp spots) and then off piste cutting up to the Walna Scar Road. Our first peak of the day, Brown Pike, gave us some fine views of the first part of our route for the day.

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I don’t recall ever seeing this small tarn before, perhaps that’s why it’s called Blind Tarn. Perhaps it meant that I’ve never been up Brown Pike before and I had another new summit bagged

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Onwards to Dow Crag, another classic Lakeland peak and another of my favourites from my youth

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A dark and brooding set of sheer cliffs cradling Goats Water below, the Old Man of Coniston on the other side

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The crags and gullies are impressive and I’ve had a few adventures in my youth trying to find a way up some of the ravines in both summer and winter conditions. Most of them ended in scary situations I seem to recall. Probably why I never went up Brown Pike. Probably why I should have done. I also recall a day in wild winter conditions when I was blown clean off my feet and deposited several yards further along the path, the only time I’ve ever been picked up by the wind. Mind you I was a couple of stone lighter in those days. Need more than a gust of wind to do it now! 🙂

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The summit of Dow Crag is impressively rocky and it takes a little scrambling to reach its top perched on the edge of the crags. TBF enlivened proceedings by stumbling over her feet and poles – twice just to set me on edge again

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A fine spot for lunch, so good that several annoying black flies came to join us at our table

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There was much walking to do so we were off again to climb the Old Man. Fine views back across the cliffs of Dow Crag as we went

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Ask we approached the top the sun came out and we were treated to some fine views along our next ridge and the lakes of Levers Water and Low Water and across to Wetherlam

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We didn’t linger long as it’s a popular and busy summit but the views from its relatively isolated position are superb

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What’s also superb is the long ridge that runs out to Swirl How. An undulating passage the offers a grand high level stroll with not much effort

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Views over Great Carrs to our route in Langdale the previous day and the Scafell range

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The descent down Prison Band to Swirl Hawse is a steep and rocky one and needs a little care in places to avoid a tumble and places where certain hikers stopped in full view of the col to have a pee

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Levers Water is, I assume, an artificial creation of the copper mining industry but still a grand spot for a rest and a brew (if you haven’t run out of gas of course)

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Said copper mines are extensive and deep and I’ve read reports that the area around is undercut with monstrous caverns ready to collapse at any time. I never linger long by the massive holes in the landscape

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We were still facing a lengthy walk home but the old mine tracks make for a steady and easy gradient to eat up the miles while the mountains receded behind us

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I took this photo as it seems to indicate mining is still very much active here. I’m sure this is a recent change as I don’t recall seeing these new-looking scars on previous visits. It seems to me to be something of a contradiction to have working heavy industry scarring the landscape inside a National Park

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Back to finer views as the day started to draw too a close. This fine rocky peak above the lush and verdant farm-land caught my eye

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We still had a few miles over the moorland below the Walna Scar Road to cover to reach Torver

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It was a lovely peaceful stroll along some paths that I suspect see’s few visitors. The late afternoon brightened by flowering gorse, always a pleasure to see and smell

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A last lingering look back to the Old Man and Dow Crag before dropped in Torver to finish off a long and highly rewarding walk

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Another 14 miles and 4,500 feet of ascent to add to the rest of the weekend

Coniston

An amazing weekend of long walks numerous summits, great weather, nice pubs and excellent food. Now That’s What I Call a Birthday Weekend

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Belated Birthday Weekend – Pike of Blisco, Crinkle Crags and Bow Fell   18 comments

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Sometimes you just feel that the stars have aligned and everything is right with the world. A superb walk on the Langdale Pikes, a splendid meal, a night in luxurious room in a pub, Eggs Benedict for breakfast. Life was pretty good and I thought things could not get any better. Then we pull into the car park at the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel to these views.

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Added to that the fact the car park ticket machine was still broken so we avoided another parking charge and I was in birthday heaven and bouncing around like a kid. We were ready to go early (by our standards anyway) thinking the car parks would be rammed full on such a magnificent day but they were pretty empty and the valley sleepy and quiet as we set off.

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One of my all time favourite walks is Bow Fell (also one of my favourite mountains) via Crinkle Crags. Today we were adding in Pike of Blisco as its one of the few recognised peaks in the Lake District I’ve never done. The steep climb up from the campsite revealed more utterly breathtaking views.

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The panorama shows our route for the day. The skyline from the left through to left middle and down the ridge in front

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We decided to try to follow a route away from the main path and it was wonderful. Never too steep and a feeling of exploring small hollows and crags of Bleaberry Knott and Wrynose Fell that most don’t see from the main path

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The views from the summit of PoB were immense

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TBF bags our first summit of the day

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We took our first extended stop of the day. Much like the Langdale Pikes (below) of the day before, PoB is relatively small in stature but big in expansive views as its relatively isolated from the rest of the range

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Langdale valley and the Eastern Fells

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Panorama looking West and North

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One thing that has dramatically improved since my last visit here are the paths. Huge effort has been made to create these wonderful stepped paths with a mosaic of grass between the boulders. They are in equal measure a delight to look at, a pleasure to walk on and protective against erosion. I take my hat off to all the people who put in hard work to build them

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Progress onwards towards Crinkle Crags was effortless and a joy as PoB receded into the distance behind

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Crinkle Crags is itself a superb summit – or should that be summits, it has lots of them.

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We found a quiet spot with a sloping back-rest rock for a very long lunch. Further smiles were in order as I realised the pub made sandwiches as good as its breakfasts and bar meals

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Moving on towards a succession of Crinkles. You can see in the photo below the gully and “bad step” before the highest point. We wanted to tackle the ethical line but there was a crowd of people making a fuss of getting down it so we walked around it

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We found our own little crag to climb which was obviously a much more satisfying route

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The summit of Crinkle Crags reveals the classic view of Bow Fell and its Links (the line of gullies and crags below its summit

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Cairns always seem to make good foreground subjects

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The Scafell range

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The rocky walk across the knobbly summits of Crinkle Crags was just superb. To walk it on such a clear day was exceptional. The hills were alive with the sound of music, in my head anyway

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And so to the day’s final summit. I took a side route to take a look across the huge slabs on the north side of the ridge

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The slab is huge and seems to fall away to infinity with the famous crag of Bow Fell Buttress as a backdrop

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The panorama from the top was immense.

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TBF looking very pleased to be out on such a superb day

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Skiddaw and Blencathra in the distance

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Looking back along our route over Crinkle Crags and PoB

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The birthday boy

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Bow Fell is probably my favourite Lakeland summit. The views from it and its own aspect I find irresistible and I have many fond memories (now including this one). One in particular prompted the photo below. Me and Mark once slept out on the summit in the two obvious spots you can see, back in the early 90’s. It had been hot day down in Eskdale (we were wild swimming and generally lazing about), too hot to sleep so we decided to sleep on the summit. We watched the thunderstorms over the Pennines and slept little in such a magnificent setting under clear skies (and ready to run like hell if the storms came our way!) They never did although we managed to be asleep as the sun came up! A day/night that has a special place in my memories.

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Enough of such reveries. It was time to go down. Another one of those moments when I just wanted to sit and admire these views forever

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We followed the ridge of The Band back to the valley. A long laborious route of ascent but a perfectly angled route of descent for tired limbs

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PoB and the deep ravine of Browney Gill

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Pike of Stickle

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And the ever green and pleasant land of the Langdale valley

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The walk across the pastures of Oxendale back to the car was a final delight to end a truly memorable day

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A long day at around 14 miles and 4,500 feet of ascent but totally rewarding. I had in my mind’s eye a day that pretty much matched what we actually experienced. I still can’t believe my birthday wishes came true

Bow Fell

 

Belated Birthday Weekend – Langdale Pikes   18 comments

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Last few years birthday presents have been replaced with birthday nice weekends away in Cornwall. For my birthday treat this year I fancied a change and wanted a a trip to the Lake District, probably to replace the weekend in Wasdale we missed a couple of weeks earlier. Visiting northern England is always a risk of a washout but we struck gold and as you can see from this and next couple of posts we had three superb days out.

We reached the area with time for a Friday afternoon walk. What better than a round of some of the Langdale Pikes. Short but steep.

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I’d forgotten just how steep the walk up to Stickle Tarn was. I’d also forgotten just what a fine walk it was as well

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It rekindled a whole host of great memories from the many times I’ve walked this classic route although this is the first time for maybe 20 years

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Stickle Gill is wonderful companion on the steep climb and as it was a week day it was relatively quiet.

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The weather was rather hazy but the views were still fabulous and the setting at Stickle Tarn is magnificent

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Across the lake to the cliffs of Pavey Ark

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And Harrison Stickle

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Time for a short rest to take it all in

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On a whim I decided to tackle Jacks Rake for the first time in ages. You can see it slanting up across the face of Pavey Ark from right to left in the photo below

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I love this photo from the shore of the tarn below the face off Pavey Ark

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In my younger days (when I was a couple of stones lighter, more nimble and with fully functioning knees) Jacks Rake was always seen as an easy scramble route, a sort of training scramble not much more than a rocky walk. As the years have progressed scrambling is something I rarely do and I was out of practice to the extent I found I was close to my limits

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I found the route exhilarating and a little intimidating. I used to take risks of all sorts when I was younger but no so any more. I’m not sure whether its an awareness of my own mortality or whether its having a family to be responsible for but I feel so much less at home on rock now

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The route is in fact technically very easy but with a feeling of exposure out of character with most scrambles in the same grade. TBF is more lithe and agile than me and I think she was enjoying herself immensely, thriving on the challenge. I was just nervous for both of us

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I still enjoyed it of course, just with a little less of the carefree attitude of my youth. It was also good to enjoy the route in dry weather as it becomes a little greasy and slippery in damp conditions. If you are keen to try a more adventurous route up a mountain its a pretty good one to start with. Its a long steep ledge/gully with loads of holds, steep enough and exposed enough to be interesting but never difficult

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TBF in full rock athlete mode

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Enough photos of TBF, so here’s one of your truly smiling after conquering the climb

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After a cuppa on Pavey Ark summit we headed off to Harrison Stickle. The steepness and rocky terrain of these peaks gives them a big mountain feel despite their relatively low height

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Pike of Stickle in the distance but we ran out of time (we had an appointment with a fine bistro in Coniston)

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We headed down via the spectacular path that traverses high above the deep ravine of Dungeon Ghyll

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The Coniston Fells in the distance (more on those in a later post)

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The view along the green fell-lined valley is one of my favourites, quintessentially Lake District

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A fabulous afternoon revisiting old mountain friends. I can’t believe it had been so long since I’d done this walk. A day further enhanced by dodging the scandalous £8 parking charge and one of the best meals I’ve had in quite a while. And there was even better to come

Langdale Pikes

After Work on Bryn Arw   10 comments

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Its been a couple of years since I managed to take a walk on my way home from work. A spell of excellent weather in May prompted me to do what I should do all the time which is to keep my walking gear in the back of the car so I can take a hike whenever the weather is suitable. I have a range of short walks I can do on the way home and this is one of the best. A small hill, a short walk with fine views and always deserted at such an unusual time of day. I saw not a soul up here on such a glorious evening

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It was pretty much the perfect weather, time of year and time of day to be out in the hills

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The sky and the air clarity was exceptional. The sun at just the right angle in the sky to bring out the colours. The trees and fields that verdant shade of green that comes with late spring and the peak of growth

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Whilst I have a love of many place across Europe and beyond I often hear the comment that Britain is one of the most beautiful. Looking through these images its hard to argue with that

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Bryn Arw is also a fine viewpoint for many of my favourite walks a good number of which are my targets for post work stretches. Blorenge in the background below. Ysgyryd Mawr and the Sugar Loaf in the panorama above

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Garway Hill middle distance

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There is always time for a brew on a walk and even though I no doubt had an impatient TJS back home waiting for me to cook his tea, he could wait another 15 minutes!

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Selfie time

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Hatterrall Hill, another favourite

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I like using cairns as foreground in photos

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The Sugar Loaf, another classic after work target

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I think I’ve taken a photo of this tree every time I’ve done this walk

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And I think this shot as well. At this time of day and year the lushness and vivid green of these trees always makes me smile and get the camera out – or phone in this case

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After a long day stuck in a bland office this was a walk to really lift the spirits.

Bryn Arw

 

Posted May 26, 2018 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Wales, Walking

Tagged with ,

Around the Caerfanell Valley   12 comments

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One of my favourites. High edges, streams, waterfalls , a blue sky and breakfast outdoors. A perfect combination.

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The weather forecast was for a reasonable day with some sunshine. We hadn’t expected a clear blue sky morning. It was glorious

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Although the large waterfall at the start of the walk was in shadow

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The Caerfanell valley is a beauty and on a clear morning in spring the combination of blue sky, green trees and a bubbling stream is enchanting

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Even after a dry spell the path is a muddy one but with views like this, hardly a chore

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Small waterfalls cascade line the route and as I always do here I went a bit crazy with the camera. Not a bad excuse though

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We were out early – for us anyway – so the whole place was deserted

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The reason for such keen-ness? Another outdoor breakfast. Life is pretty good under a warm sun, eating a bacon and egg sandwich with a fresh cuppa

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Alas such a good day deserved a high level walk so there was some hard work to be done

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The walk directly up the slopes at the back of the photo below is one of the steepest I know but it does deliver you to a high and little frequented edge that is a real joy

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TJS was again my muse for the day

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These edges are a feature everywhere in the South Wales mountains but these are almost always deserted and have extensive and expansive views. On a clear day like this its hard to imagine a better walk

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As you reach Carn Pica (sadly with its impressive cairn now collapsed) the view open out to the high peaks of the Brecon Beacons. Corn Du and Pen y Fan always stand proud

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With the weather being so stunning we extended the walk by carrying on towards Fan y Big. After almost 3 hours walk/breakfasting from the car it was only here that we started to see people

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These edges are equally fine with equally expansive and extensive views to the north. In fact due to the peculiar geography you can make an almost a 360 circuit of the high ground along edges

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We cut back across the plateau to the southern edges again following the Beacons Way. I’ve never walked that part before and expected a bash through heather and bog but in fact it was well-marked and actually quite delightful with some new vistas

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All that walking deserved another stop for second lunch and another brew, this time perched high up on the edges

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From there it was pretty much straight down past another succession of pretty waterfalls.

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We could have stayed out longer but the forecast mentioned heavy showers that in the end never materialised. Still it was a fine walk and we’d enjoyed the best part of the day having gone out early. I’m liking the outdoor breakfasts, well worth the effort to carry the larger stove and fuel around

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Caerfanell

No idea how long the walk was as I forgot to turn off the mapping apps so it added on the 40 mile drive home. I’m guessing around 9 miles of magnificent entertainment.

At Large in London – Mixed Bag   10 comments

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For our last day we managed an eclectic mix of sights and travel. Heading first to The City we hopped off the tube at Monument, named after the – well – the Monument to the Great Fire of London. It didn’t start here but the height of the tower is the same distance from the spot where they think it started (a bakery in Pudding Lane)

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We’ve been up before and have to say the views are not that great as its overshadowed by most buildings in the area.

Our main reason for hitting The City was a trip to the top of the Sky Garden, this rather striking building also known locally as the “Walkie-Talkie”. More on that in a moment.

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We had half an hour to kill so took a wander around the district. On a Bank Holiday Monday its eerily deserted

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There are several new glass towers going up including one called “The Scalpel” clearly trying to cut the opposition down to size!

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I have to say I really like skyscrapers and especially the Gherkin. As tall office buildings full of office types and bankers ruining the country go, its a fine one (apologies to anyone who does work in there – I have no idea what they get up to)

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This is the infamous Lloyds building, the one that looks like an oversized air conditioning unit. You can imagine the drunken conversation at the Architects Guild when someone with too much Pinot Grigio in his system opined “I know, lets put all the ducting and pipework on the OUTSIDE!”. It’s a grotesque building but oddly eye-catching

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As was this rather unusual sculpture

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Back to the Sky Garden. Apparently its very unpopular with locals but I really like it. It has a form that’s graceful and sleek although it does dominate the skyline almost as much as The Shard

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What’s even better, you can go up for free (you have to pre-book your slot a week in advance though)

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The views from the top are superb. It’s a mandate of mine that all tall buildings should have the top floor dedicated to a viewing platform and that it should be free. It should be a planning condition. The Sky Garden has a place in my heart for doing just that. By comparison, the viewing platform on The Shard is not much higher and costs the best part of £100 for a family of four

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HMS Belfast

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St Pauls Cathedral

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The Shard

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Canary Wharf

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The viewing platform is only partly open air so all the photos are through glass hence the reflections spoiling the images a bit

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Tower Bridge

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The space is really well thought out, lots of light, plenty of space, views all round with a garden of indoor plants. The booking system (providing you know about it) means that its never crowded

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We spent a very happy hour up here

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As you can imagine, all that glass means it’s effectively a Greenhouse so it was getting hot and time for lunch

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A supermarket sandwich lunch by the river followed by a stroll along the Thames to catch another DLR journey to the East End

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Tower Bridge again

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The Tower of London

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The Shard

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This vista caught my eye as a juxtaposition of the very old and the very new

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Canary Wharf while we waited for a train

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Our next spot was the Olympic Park. We got off at what we thought was the shorter walk but it was eerily deserted and edgy. The Stadium was equally deserted but we could hear crowds of people.

This is the Arcelormittal Orbit, the tallest sculpture in the world (if you don’t see it as a Tower!) The very thin silver line snaking down the tower is actually a slide. It looked fun until I realised how much of a dent in my wallet it would make and thought better of it

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The crowds were actually hundreds of kids playing in the fountains on the approach from the Westfields Shopping Mall

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This is the Olympic Swimming Complex. I thought it was stunning

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More travel out to the east end. To look at these gentrified water-side houses and….

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Take a trip on the Emirates cable car across the Thames

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The queues didn’t look too bad but they insisted on not filling the cars as it was “too hot”. Much better to have people stand in the sun in a queue without any seats for almost an hour! You can imagine my thoughts on this decision!

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This did mean we got a cabin to ourselves and luckily it was worth the wait. It’s a short trip but it does go pretty high over the river and the views are excellent

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I was pleased to see the Thames Barrier for the first time

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Over all too soon and then we were off again, back past the Millennium Dome and onto another tube journey. You can climb to the top of the dome. I thought it sounded fun until  I worked out they wanted the best part of £150 for the family. Just to walk up on the roof of a tent. I passed on the idea

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One final riverside stroll along the South Bank past some now familiar landmarks

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After a nice pasta meal we took our final walk over the Millennium Bridge

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With the sun low in the sky the views were majestic

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The sun sets on fabulous weekend away

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With a last lingering look at London’s tallest building – for now anyway

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Amazing weekend and one we all enjoyed together as a family

 

At Large in London – Greenwich and Parkland   6 comments

Day two and a visit to one of the suburban villages. The trip out to Greenwich was always a popular one when I lived in London and we repeated this classic with a few enhancements on another glorious, cloudless sunny day.

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A trip on the always fun Docklands Light Railway, complete with driver-less trains to get us to the river near Canary Wharf. A view across the Thames, to ships old and new, from Island Gardens

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Under the river via the foot tunnel

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And back across to where we’d come from, the domed red brick building centre-right in the photo is the tunnel entrance on the far side

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To work up an appetite for lunch we took a walk into Greenwich Park. London has some stunning parks and this is one of the best. It has huge expanses of open grassy meadows and wooded glades with fabulous views over the eastern part of the city. Whilst there were plenty of people it never feels crowded even on a sunny bank holiday weekend

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We found a suitable spot and sat for a while to enjoy some warm sunshine and a bit of shade

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The rear of the impressive Royal Naval College

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We walked back along the river to the centre of town. A group of kayakers out on the Thames, the Millennium Dome in the background

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The Cutty Sark, now fully restored and looking as good as new after the fire

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Another market based lunch. Greenwich Market had a fine array of street food stalls and we took our fill of wraps and cakes. The nice people of the Naval College allow you to picnic on their expansive lawns.

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After all that food I felt that a beer by the river was in order so we walked back through the grounds for a very fine pint of wheat beer in the sun

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It’s an impressive building with fine views

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The best way to reach or return from Greenwich is by boat. As you can imagine its popular and we had to queue for a short while to get on a boat but well worth it.

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Past the every developing collection of towers at Canary Wharf

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Gentrified old river-side houses.

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Under Tower Bridge

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The Sky Garden and Southwark Bridge

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The Tate Modern and The Shard

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The also ever-expanding skyline of the City

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I like this shot (even if the horizon went off kilter – I blame the boat). St Pauls, The City, Waterloo Bridge and a red bus all in shot

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The London Eye and County Hall

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Seeing as we hopped off the boat at Westminster we thought we’d take a look at the Abbey

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It’s a fine building but in my minds-eye its the same colour, a golden brown, as the Houses of Parliament seen in the background. Clearly it’s not so I’ve no idea why I’ve always thought that

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The sun was in just the right place to light up its features

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We stopped off for another sit down in St James Park before walking past Buckingham Palace. The flag seemed to indicate Lizzie was at home watching TV but she didn’t return my cheery wave. Perhaps she was worried about which hat to wear at the wedding

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We continued our parkland stroll through Green Park and into Hyde Park. We had thought of walking through to the end of Hyde Park but it was hot and we felt we’d be much better served by a curry

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So an interesting mix of tube and overground trains took us to London’s curry capital at Brick Lane. Needless to say curry-holics like me and TJS were in heaven and we found a very fine curry house. TBF enlivened the chat by remarking how amazing it was that they kept the windows behind us so clean in a city. Not the most observant of people, she’d failed to notice they were patio style windows and were wide open to the street!

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Suitably refreshed we headed for home. The walk through the streets past Spitalfields Market in the setting sun was a joy

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Christ Church of Spitalfields looked very fetching in the evening light

 

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And I liked this view to the office blocks near Liverpool Street Station

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Great day out mixing rural charm with the grittier delights of east London

 

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