Archive for the ‘marches’ Tag

Return to High Vinnalls   7 comments

Short post and a few photos from a return visit to High Vinnalls near Ludlow


My dad hasn’t been well and I went over with TJS to visit him while he was in hospital. He’s back at home now but waiting for a return for an operation to sort out some long standing problems.


On the way home we met with TBF and her sister for a short walk. In truth it was a cloudy, cold and grey late afternoon with the threat of showers everywhere. We stayed dry but the walk was a brisk one and I didn’t take many photos.


It was still great to get out on this very fine hill that my recent obsession with Marilyns helped me discover.


Likely this one will become a regular favourite in years to come.


A longer post with a lot more photos from my walk last year is here


More New Places – High Vinnalls   15 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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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


And across the Marches to the Malverns.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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


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


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

New Places – Wapley Hill and Shobdon Hill   10 comments


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.


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).


The colours were staggering, absolutely stunning.


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).


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.


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


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


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


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


More stunning colours.


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.


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


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.


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.


A careful eye on the stormy conditions all around.


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.


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


And a picture of yours truly to mark the event.


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


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.


Emerging from the trees the views were once again magnificent.


Looking across to Wapley Hill.


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


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.


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

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Guest Post – Marches Way – July 2011   6 comments

I’ve been thinking that I need to broaden the appeal my blog, expand the readership, cover new ground, appeal to a broader cross-section of the blogosphere. Perhaps give a new, upcoming writer a chance to shine. I sat down and drafted my criteria and performed an exhaustive search of suitable candidates. After reviewing each one in turn I’ve settled on what I feel is the best person to give the blog a much-needed dose of new ideas and perspectives. So without further ado let me hand you over to the one, the only…..

Mrs Surfnslide, also known as my lovely wife Jane who will proceed to show up my own limited writing skills with her account of a trip along the Marches Way in Herefordshire with my son D during July this year. Over to you dear…..

I thought I’d like to write about our adventures on The Marches Way but haven’t really got the inclination to keep a regular blog going like Andy has, it seems quite a commitment to me and the ‘techie’ bits put me off. I think I may just ‘guest blog’ occasionally and let Andy do the hard work.

For the last three years or so D and I have spent weekends walking sections of The Wye Valley Walk. Lovely as it was, we fancied a change this year. Whilst looking at a map one day, D happened to notice that The Marches Way comes to within a couple of miles of our house. That observation grew into an idea; “Mum, do you think we could walk home from Abergavenny?” It seemed like a good plan to me.

The weather forecast for our weekend was appalling and when we awoke to torrential rain on the Saturday morning, I was beginning to wonder if it was a good idea after all. However, D wanted to go ahead so I was not about to disappoint him. We dug out some over-trousers he’d never worn and I borrowed some enormous ones from Andy and we set off for Ysgyryd Fawr. (Abergavenny itself was too far, we thought the Skirrid would be a neat place to start.)


Ready for the off


Unbelievably, when we got there the rain stopped and the sun came out. We soon began to roast in our cagoules and over-trousers so took them off, packed them away in our rucksacks and that’s where they stayed. I still can’t believe how lucky we were.  I put it down to finding a four-leafed clover; luck had to be on our side.

D was pretty keen to get off the summit ridge ASAP and so was I. I know it catches the wind up there, but both of us are quite slight and had difficulty staying on our feet, I’ve been up there a few times and don’t remember it ever being quite as windy before.


D on the way to Ysgyryd Fawr summit



"It's windy up here"


D spotted a possible shower heading our way so, anxious to avoid it, we cut down off the side. You could hear the wind roaring through the valley below, but on the flanks of the mountain it was sunny and still. Feeling warm and serene, we enjoyed the view as we took the gently sloping path down.


Heading down into the shelter and the sunshine


According to Wikipedia, The Marches Way goes from Chester to Cardiff. I have walked parts of the route in North Herefordshire as sections of day walks, where I seem to remember it was clearly marked as ‘The Marches Way’ on every stile.  This does not appear to be the case in South Herefordshire or Monmouthshire, although it was marked on our maps. Part of the route was signed as ‘The Beacons Way’, part of it as ‘The Herefordshire Trail’ and parts of it as nothing at all. And I mean nothing at all. In many places we would come to a clapped-out old stile or rusty gate hanging off its hinges, with no indication of a footpath whatsoever. It’s quite disconcerting even when you’re sure you’re right and always a relief to spot a stile with a little yellow arrow on. D had his work cut out with the navigating and, considering how bad the way-marking was, did an excellent job. I did hang my head over his shoulder occasionally just to double-check, but he was always right.


Handing over the reins


We made a mental note of where we crossed the main Abergavenny to Hereford road so we can bore anybody with that fact every time we wiz through in the car, then stopped for lunch in a sun trap at Llanvihangel Crucornay church yard.




Eighteen years ago I passed through this area with my friend, who Andy refers to as The Yorkshire Gardener, when we back-packed our own route from the Severn Bridge (the old one and the only one then) to Conwy. I can remember the walk as a series of snapshots (probably because the only souvenir I have of the walk is a series of snapshots, having lost my diary) but don’t remember too many specific details. I racked my brains to find some things familiar, but just couldn’t. Andy would be able to remember details such as what we had for tea each night and whether we were able to supplement it with an onion or a carrot. Such minutiae were lost to me years ago.

At Llanvihangel Crucornay we passed the ancient, and supposedly haunted, Skirrid Inn. A moment after telling this to D, we glanced in the doorway and were both startled by a character with a green face dressed in 17th Century costume.  How tempting it would be to say we had seen a ghost, but I would be lying, it was only a model.

Several pleasant fields later, we were stopped and admonished by a woman (Mrs Farmer?) who informed us we should be walking round the field edges and not diagonally through it. Well, I’m sorry, she was wrong. If the map shows the path going diagonally through the field and if the yellow arrow points diagonally through the field, then you are perfectly entitled to go diagonally through it. There, I’ve said it and I feel better. D told me I didn’t look cross, of which I am proud.


Across to the Black Mountains



Quiet Lanes


We camped at Rowlestone Court. Now I’m a bit past carrying enormous back-packing rucksacks weighed down with tent, stove etc. so here was where a bit of planning and a phone call during the week really paid off. Living nearby also helps, of course.  So, when we arrived, the tent was already up and ready for us, with sleeping bags, stove, food etc. I’d come the day before, put up the tent, filled it with stuff and had some locally famous Rowlestone Court ice-cream.


No pot of gold - a tent will have to do



Peace and quiet


Unfortunately for D, we arrived too late for ice-cream, but as the tent was ready for us we could start faffing about making our tea on the Trangia. They say the sense most closely linked to memory is the sense of smell and as I began to unpack the stove, the smell of meth’s reminded me of back-packing trips of twenty or more years ago; camping by a remote lake or stream, when my level of fitness meant that I was able to carry enormous rucksacks and when I was much less concerned about comfort, cleanliness and being warm. I really didn’t mind discomfort then, I do now. I wish I didn’t, but there you go.

Now, as I was unpacking the stove and its bits and pieces, we hit upon a major problem. We simply could not unscrew the cap to the burner unit. We tried warming it up, using damp cloths etc., but it was no good. It was time to ask for help. When a burly man in a campervan couldn’t unscrew it either, I thought I’d have to ring Andy to come and rescue us. However, campervan man produced a tool kit and eventually got it open. I was so very grateful!

If it hadn’t been for the Trangia crisis, we would never have found out about the adventure playground. Campervan man and his wife pointed in the direction of the woods and told us about an excellent zip wire they’d been on earlier. This had to be sampled, so after tea we set off to find it. Wearing crocs now, we slopped our way through mud and God-knows-what and found the adventure playground. The zip wire was excellent – a proper adult one – and we played on it until it started to get dark.


All campsites should have one



All adults need to play


We slopped our way back again, cleaned our feet on the wet grass of the camping field and got ready for bed. D wanted to read ‘Mind Trap’ (lateral thinking) questions to me but my mind felt like mush, the words started to swim together and not mean much and I think I went to sleep as he was still reading questions.


For EWO: "where do they bury the survivors?"


Well, on to Day 2.


A carpet of flowers


Now, I’m a little reluctant to start describing what happened next as I know my reputation when it comes to sense of direction (yeah, I know, I lost the skiing flat that time in Val Thorens), but I do know how to read a map. Right, imagine the scenario; you are faced with two stiles right next to each other. One leads into a field and is the right of way because your map says it is, but the stile is in a poor state of repair and is marked with absolutely nothing. Right next to it is a lovely new stile leading into the woods, marked with a ‘permission path’ sign. The path through the woods is not marked on your map but you assume this is the way they want you to go and that it would eventually join up with the right of way. You head off into the woods in a direction roughly parallel with the right of way. And then it begins to meander. Your son pipes up. “This is bending round too much, I told you we should have gone the other way.” Eventually you emerge into a beautiful flower meadow that looks remarkably similar to the one you left half an hour ago… In fact, it’s the same one… Please tell me anybody would have done the same…


So good we went back for another look!


After a few moments of head-in-hands despair, we recovered and took the stile we should have taken earlier and made our way to Ewyas Harold and its lovely common.


Ewyas Harold Common



Ewyas Harold Common


We felt very close to home here as we come here a lot, but still had a long way to go. I came up here once with a class of children who were being introduced to snakes by ‘the snake man’. The class teacher didn’t like snakes so arranged the snake man trip for when the supply teacher was in. Sneaky, but it was fine by me. He was really interesting, very knowledgeable and knew exactly where to find them; he impressed us all by disappearing into the bushes every now and again and returning with an adder or some other kind of snake.


Abbey Dore


We came down past Dore Abbey, through some fields to Kerry’s Gate then ended up walking along the road for longer than we wanted to. Some of the footpaths, we attempted but retreated; they were so appallingly lacking in signs and so badly overgrown that it was becoming  torturous.


"Fields of Barley"



Kingstone - the final stretch


The lanes are pleasant and relatively quiet, but our feet were pretty sore, so it was with some relief that the huge satellite dishes that mark our home village started to loom overhead. You can see these for miles as they are so distinctive and, strangely, I don’t really consider them an eyesore. They are a back-up to the more famous ones at Goonhilly in Cornwall. D is quite proud of them; he believes they put our village on the map. I think I agree with him.


Madley Satellite Earth Station


We were home in time to wiz back up to Rowlestone Court to pick up the tent, L coming along for the ride. Unfortunately for D the ice cream place was shut again and unfortunately for L it was getting a bit late for zip wires. I promised them both that we’d be up there again before too long for an ice cream and a play.

It came as a surprise and, I guess, a disappointment to me that ‘The Marches Way’ only seems to exist on maps. Obviously someone thought it was a good route but never got round to marking it out. I’m not really sure who maintains all the long-distance footpaths that seem to criss-cross every map we’ve got but it seems ‘The Marches Way’ has been put on the back burner. It’s a shame really as the route is always scenic and often exhilarating.

There is little slideshow of our adventure below, lovingly created by Andy

Posted September 27, 2011 by surfnslide in Local Walks, Walking

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