More New Places – High Vinnalls   14 comments

This Marilyn bagging is becoming addictive, not in a completist sort of way (I have zero chance of ever finishing them even by country) but in a desire to explore new corners of my local parts of South Wales, the Marches and Shropshire.

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After my walk the previous day I was up late and wasn’t planning a walk but the weather looked like it might deliver some decent sunshine between the showers so I headed out on a whim. Another new summit, this time High Vinnalls from Overton Common. The woods at the Black Pool car park are crossed many numerous trails and it was a pleasant walk up through Haye Park Wood. When I emerged from the trees the sun came out and the views were sensational.

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These shots were taken from the curiously named Climbing Jack Common.

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The equally curiously named Titterstone Clee Hill with its radar dome really stood out in the sun. For some reason it remained in the sun pretty much all day or at least whenever I glimpsed it.

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Seen here with its less dramatic but higher neighbour of Brown Clee Hill.

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In no time at all I was on the summit of High Vinnalls and the views were superb. Sunshine looking east towards the Midlands, dark and stormy towards the mountains of central Wales.

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The forest doesn’t reach the top so the views are wide and expansive. It really is an exceptionally fine summit and not one I ever knew was there even though I drive past it regularly heading north along the A49 in Shropshire.

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It was also remarkably quiet, just a handful of folks out for a Sunday stroll with a variety of bouncy dogs.

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A view to South Wales and the Black Mountains. The pointy peak on the horizon just left of centre is Ysgyryd Fawr.

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And across the Marches to the Malverns.

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There seemed to be plenty of paths and options to make a good circular route. I chose to walk along the top of Hanway Common.

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Before heading down towards the pretty village of Richards Castle. I used to get very excited as a kid to see any place name with the word “Castle” in it figuring every one would have a castle. They rarely do or at least nothing more than an old motte and bailey (historical speak for a mound and a ditch). This is all Richards Castle has sadly.

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What I did get were some stunning rainbows including a double one below that I only noticed when I looked at the photos at home.

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A walk along the muddy lanes was just as enjoyable in the late afternoon light.

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This ruined old barn catching the sun also caught my eye.

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As I reached woods where the car was parked the sun came out delivering more glorious autumn colours and rainbows.

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As it was a day not meant for stopping (it was cold and windy on top and very muddy lower down) I’d covered over 6 miles in just a couple of hours

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Yet another new hill and yet another good one. Long may the Marilyn’s rule!

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Wet and Windy in Westwood   12 comments

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The weekend started out with a night out in Bristol with friends old and new from my Bristol connections. A cracking night out with plenty of laughs and a nice view from my hotel.

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A very long and leisurely breakfast wasn’t quite enough to dispel a mild hangover so a walk on the way home was in order. It was a pretty grim day, dark, stormy and windy so I picked another new Marilyn to attempt between Usk and Chepstow, Wentwood.

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It was chucking it down when I parked up in an empty car park at Cadira Beeches. I headed out with the wind howling through the trees above me but sheltered from the worst of it. 

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Being a forested hill, views were a bit limited and when I did find a break everywhere looked damp and wet. The hangover was gone though!

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I reached the summit to find one of the saddest and most neglected Trig pillars I’ve come across in quite a while.

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I had some occasional glimpses of blue sky and sunshine through the dense forest.

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The broad forestry track I’d been following degenerated into a muddy trawl. I’m becoming used to the idea that mud is a feature on these lower forested hills. A showery view over the Usk river valley.

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After walking the length of the ridge I turned to follow a parallel track below the ridge to the south heading back towards the car.

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The weather started to improve a bit with less rain, more flashes of sunlight but still with a howling wind above me.

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Passing Little Oak and Foresters Oak before reaching a point called The Five Paths. I turned for the short walk back to the car and was greeted with a patch of expansive blue sky and bright sunshine.

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Keen to try and get some views over the valley I struck out on a thin but exceptionally fine path through the woods. Whilst I didn’t really get any wide views the forest was a little less dense so I could at least sense the sky was clear and sunshine was up there, somewhere.

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Some more muddy paths took me through a succession of wooded glades and paths before I was back at the car.

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I was only planning a short stroll to blow out the cobwebs but I was enjoying being out and clocked up 6 miles in a couple of very blowy hours.

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It would be a fine place for a walk in Spring or autumn when it might be a bit less soggy. Another new place discovered and I have to say I’m enjoying the new places the Marylin’s list is introducing to me.

Football Follow Up   13 comments

Every year round about this time me and TJS head up to Manchester for a football match, a few beers and a curry. This year it was against Bournemouth, decent game, City won and despite some dreary weather, and a bad cold for me we had a top day out.  We stayed over with The Hard Man to the west of the Peak District and were hoping from some decent weather and a long walk. November delivered another dismal damp day but not bad enough to deter us from a  shorter walk. With a  few hardy souls we parked up near Bosley Reservoir for a walk over a couple of the smaller hills. Sadly no new Marilyns for me although I did get a view of one from the car of Bosley Cloud.

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The first mile or so along the shore of the reservoir was muddy but pleasant enough and it had actually stopped raining for now.

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A few nice shots of and through the trees.

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Steeply up through the wet grass and mud (and some very slippery stiles) on to Sutton Common with its massive telecom tower. Sitting right on the edge of the Cheshire Plain the views are expansive and considering the weather not at all bad. The white dot in the middle of the photo is Jodrell Bank telescope.

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Still plenty of storms and showers that we seemed to miss the worst of. The top of the tower in and out of the mist.

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On the top it was windy and cold and not a day to linger. Probably not the best idea to head out into the cold damp weather with a head cold but I reckon sitting cooped up inside is just as bad.

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As we dropped down onto the ridge of Bosley Minn or Wincle Minn (my map shows both names on either side) there were some shafts of sunlight that gave us views to make the walk very much worthwhile more than just exercise.

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We were back home at The Hard Man’s place for a late lunch and several brews of tea and cake.

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A great weekend with plenty of laughs (if The Hard Man offers to show you his photo collection then I’d decline if I were you), good company and exercise with beer and curry thrown in. What’s not to like!

And with that I’m up to date on the blog for the first time in about 6 months!

New Places – Seager Hill   14 comments

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Time to head back out on my quest for new and less walked hills courtesy of my new found interest in the list of Marilyns.

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This time my poring over maps found Seager Hill in what looked like a fairly nondescript corner of Herefordshire. There were paths marked but no rights of way so I was keen to avoid any “get off my land” encounters. In the end I saw no-one at all.

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It had been dank and dreary weekend and even the slight lifting in the gloom engendered low hopes for anything other than an excuse for a bit of fresh air and exercise. A short steep climb from the road had me on top of the ridge which was open with surprisingly good views across the Herefordshire countryside towards the Malverns.

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The area is clearly very much dedicated to the shooting fraternity judging by the viewing seat above and the hundreds of pheasants I startled on my walk.

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As I walked past the Trig pillar and on past the highest point, ticking my list as I went, the skies began to clear a little and there were some broad shots of sunlight. I hadn’t expected to see any sun so was lifted by this positive turn in weather.

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I dropped down into the forest to try and make something of a circuit but it was boggy and wet with deeply rutted tracks that were hard to walk on.

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On my way back up the sunshine was catching this autumnal bush perfectly making it look like fire.

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When I was back on the ridge there was a large patch of blue and a pretty decent setting sun.

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A view back along the ridge.

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I was amazed at my luck again. From a walk designed merely to take a stroll for some fresh air in new surroundings I had a pretty superb finish to the day.

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The walk along the ridge was a pleasure, having it all to myself made it even better.

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Every gap in the trees gave a new view of the setting sun and pink clouds.

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The walk back down through the forest was muddy and a bit of a pain but worth it to make a decent circular walk to fill a couple of hours.

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Just short of 4 miles over an hour or so that rescued a dreary weekend of domestic chores and playing with my new smart home kit. Life is full of delights, planned and otherwise.

Back to the Mountains – Cadair Idris   20 comments

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Time to head back to the bigger mountains. Settled and sunny weather days at weekends are a rarity at this time of year. MWIS was showing a potential cracker so I set the alarm for 6am and headed west. I had a hankering for a proper rocky mountain and Cadair Idris fitted the bill as my nearest option. Always eager to avoid parking charges I’d planned a new route to the top meaning I could park in the free lay-by halfway up the deep valley that lies to the SE of main ridge. 

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I was walking by just after 8:30. The skies were clear and cold but I wasn’t ready for was just how windy it was even low down. This was not a day for hanging about in bitter conditions. My route was to traverse around to the bottom of the NE ridge and climb to the summit ridge from there. I’ve only ever done the mountain by the classic route around Cwm Cau and always looked longingly at this approach. As I wandered around to the base of the ridge the views expanded as I ascended. It was a cracker of a day if exceptionally windy and cold.

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The lower part of the ridge is steep but there is a faint path if you can find it. From there it is a wonderful climb around a succession of rocky outcrops.

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Looking along to Mynydd Moel.

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As I crested the top of the first peak of Gau Graig the wind was ferocious. Strong enough to blow me off my feet a couple of times.

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Compensation was provided by sensational views. North across the Mawddach estuary to the Rhinogs and Snowdon, south towards Plynlimon, still swimming in the morning mists.

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The next stage of my route.

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I managed to find a small degree of shelter from the wind for a snack. Finding places to stop and shelter today was going to be a challenge.

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Onwards to the next summit and the walking was delightful if tricky in the gusting wind. Aview west across the Dovey Hills to the Arans

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Mynydd Moel is a superb spot with spectacular views across the Cadair range to the sea beyond and a deep sculpted corrie to the north east

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More sensational walking across the broad ridge and along the exposed edges towards the summit. 

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As I approached the summit I saw my first people of the day. I must have walked over 3 hours and several miles with the mountain all to myself. I guess this route gets few footsteps.

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I arrived on the summit, surprised to find only a few people there. Cadair is a very well known and popular mountain and on such a good day I expected more people until I realised my early start had me on the top just after midday, still a little early for the masses to have made it

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I tried a selfie and some panorama shots but I could barely stand in the wind. A view back along the ridge I walked up.

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The summit pillar to prove I made it!

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Llyn Peninsula in the background, Care Fadryn, my favourite small hill just visible on the horizon. I’m always pleased to see it.

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Cadair has a number of small rocky outcrops just below the summit where I found a reasonably sheltered spot for lunch and fresh brew of tea. A view from my picnic spot.

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And back to the summit. I wandered across to take in the view from the summit of Cyfrwy as the weather was so clear, I wanted to stay high as long as possible.

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Looking down to Llyn y Gadair where we’d camped earlier in the summer.

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A steep descent and re-ascent to Craig Cau followed where I started to meet larger crowds of people heading up.

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Its a superb spot with grand views down into the deep heart of Cwm Cau. I would have lingered but there was a large group sitting on most of the summit so I paused briefly and headed down.

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I managed to find a marvellous sheltered spot behind a rocky outcrop. Soft grass, a backrest and mountainous views now under deep and clear late afternoon blue sky.

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I sat here for quite a while just soaking up the sun (it was quite warm out of the wind) and admiring the views. It really is a fabulous mountain on a day like this.

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Reluctantly I headed down. It was still relatively early but I had a long way to go and had an idea I may, if I was lucky retain the sun even down at valley level.

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There were still lots of people heading up although possibly just to Llyn Cau at this point in the day. I managed to catch sun most of the way down through the trees.

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And it was still shining when I reached the valley floor.

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I still had a couple of miles to walk back up the valley to the car. There is wonderful path that follows the base of the valley with the main road high above so you don’t really notice its there.

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My timing was perfect with the sun shining directly along its length just before it set behind the flanks of the mountain. 30 minutes later and I’d likely have walked most of its length in cold shade.

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The views were magnificent. The sky deepening its shade of blue and the low sun bringing out all the autumn gold and brown.

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Looking down the valley toward the Tal y Llyn Lake

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And a close up zoom view to finish as I reached the car, still the only car there.

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A fabulous day on a big rock mountain that overlooks the coast on a crisp clear winters day.

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A long day of 12 miles with an early start and a few hours driving. I think it was worth the effort.

New Places – Wapley Hill and Shobdon Hill   10 comments

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Another day and another Marylin bagging session. Solo this time while the Funsters went to play on a climbing wall. Weather looked rather poor as I drive across and parked up in a deluge. Boots on and the rain had stopped. As I set off the sky was a deep blue and the autumn colours magnificent.

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My first target was Wapley Hill, another Iron Age Hill Fort. The forest was dark in places but in others the clearings gave some spectacular views across the patchwork of fields and the changing colours of the forest. The yellows seem especially vivid this year (or I’ve just never noticed them before).

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The colours were staggering, absolutely stunning.

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The summit of the hill had extensive earthworks and pillow mounds where they apparently reared rabbits (I didn’t think rabbits needed any help to breed).

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I think this is taken from the highest point although the top is very wide and its hard to tell where the exact summit was.

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I wandered along the ramparts but it was overgrown and my feet were getting wet so I reverted to the paths.

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The top is very flat and pretty soggy but it was a nice place to wander and I had it to myself.

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Through the trees I could glimpse more bright coloured trees and views across the Lugg valley.

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A rainbow to remind me the threat of rain was ever present.

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More stunning colours.

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The paths here are numerous and wandering around in my own little private world I neglected to check the map and went down the wrong path! A bit of bashing though the bracken and brambles in the forest and I was back on track.

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The path along the edge was wonderful and peaceful with gorgeous glimpses of pastoral countryside that typifies the Marches.

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On reaching the bottom of the hill the skies were still blue and sunshine abundant so I decided to bag another Marylin across the valley.

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I had a short sharp shower and then long but equally sharp climb back up another hill and along another path that gave superb views.

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A careful eye on the stormy conditions all around.

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And finally reaching the top of Shobdon Hill for my second summit of the day. Just a track through the trees and not terribly inspiring except for the views to the north through a clearance of trees.

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Not bad for hill I didn’t even know was there!

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And a picture of yours truly to mark the event.

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This is the highest point on the hill. Clearly not many people make the pilgrimage to this summit.

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I managed to go wrong again on the way down and had to to do small amount of off piste round these fields to get back on track. I fell over in the nettles for my trouble.

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Emerging from the trees the views were once again magnificent.

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Looking across to Wapley Hill.

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And back up to Shobdon Hill where I’d come from.

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All that was left was a longish walk back up the road to the car. 9 miles in the end and a pretty damn fine walk.

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From a weekend that promised some pretty rank bad weather I extracted two of the finest walks of the year. Shows what pleasures the UK has to offer if you make the effort to seek them out.

Posted November 23, 2018 by surfnslide in Local Walks, Walking

Tagged with , , , ,

New Places – Aconbury Hill   14 comments

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I’m always on the look out for new places for a walk especially in weather where a day in the mountains is less appealing. I use the OS Mapping software on my various devices and noticed that they can mark a range of hill lists on the map. Mostly the usual Scottish ones, Munros and  Corbetts, but they also mark Marylins, the Relative hills of Britain. As they have strict criteria of 150 feet of ascent regardless of other factors they are both numerous and in many places pretty obscure. Looking at my maps I have several local ones I’ve never done, mostly smaller wooded hills. This seems a perfect excuse to for some new walks and avoid the wild winter weather. As most of these local ones are forested I was hoping my first couple of forays would deliver some autumnal colour.

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First on the list was Aconbury Hill, just outside Hereford and a mere 15 minute drive away. The hill was littered with paths and we parked up and set off into the very damp woods after a few heavy squalls of rain hoping not to get too wet.

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The colours in the trees was wonderful and its a really pleasant walk up to the top of the hill, an old iron age hill fort

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There are a myriad of paths around the earthworks on the top and we wandered a bit aimlessly as my OS maps seemed to struggle with the GPS signal.

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Finding a view from the top was a bit of challenge due to all the trees but we did find a spot with a view over Hereford.

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We forged a route down to head back to the car as we had only intended to be out for an hour or so. Showers looked like they were in the ascendency when we left home and we didn’t want to push our luck. When we emerged into the fields the weather looked ok so we decided to extend the walk.

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I’m always reticent to go walking across the fields in Herefordshire. Paths are generally not well walked and you often end up semi-lost with poor signage and overgrown or blocked routes. However the succession of paths we followed were no problem if a little muddy and slick.

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We dropped down to Aconbury Court and the back up through Wallbrook Wood to Merrivale Farm. This storm cloud was impressive and luckily didn’t dump a heavy shower on us.

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Glorious sunlight in the green lane past the farm.

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The community of Little Birch and Kings Thorn is spread over a wide area. A collection green lanes, field paths and cottages that was a delight to pick our way through.

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There was plenty of late afternoon sunlight to dress the autumn leaves with bright colours.

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I liked these three perfectly spaced trees along the field boundary

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Smoke rising from cosy cottages

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From a morning of heavy showers and low expectations sprang a really stunning and enjoyable walk full of interest and charm.

 

The first foray into the world of Marylins had been a resounding success.

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I’ve lived in the area for 15 years now – almost exactly 15 years in fact. In all that time I’ve never given Aconbury Hill a second thought. We walked five miles in the end and were out most of the afternoon. One of the delights of the UK is that hidden gems and rewarding walks seem to be endless.

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