Archive for the ‘wales’ Tag

The Great Escape   15 comments

I was a man with a plan!

On our regular trips to Porth Towyn you can always see the Snowdonia mountains yet we’ve never taken the chance to catch up on some walking there. Time to change that. I asked the better halves of ED and EWO whether they could “come out to play” and like the angelic creatures they are they said yes. The boys were mad for it and agreed with suggested plan to the Nantlle ridge especially ED as he’d never done it before and had heard good things about it. The weather had been great and looked settled so we were up and away by 7:30am before anyone was up and faithfully promised we’d be back lunchtime (yeah right!)

I first did the Nantlle ridge with Jane back in the distant past of the mid 1980’s – yes I’m that old. I hadn’t sussed that there was a circular route so ended up battling through the fields at the far end of the lake and walking back along the road on a seriously hot and sultry day. I was young and inexperienced in those days. And I had hair. And I was skinny and lean.

Sorry, where was I. Yes 2011, Nantlle ridge. Many years later Uncle Fester showed me a cunning circular route that only missed out the last peak so I thought I’d share this with the boys this time around.

As we set off there was still mist clinging to hills and filling some of the valleys. Not quite the cloudless skies we had hoped for but atmospheric nonetheless.

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Cnicht and the Moelwyns

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The hard work begins

As we approached the start of the steep climb to Y-Garn we noticed a large bird of prey. Fortunately we had our resident nature expert with us but he wasn’t able to identify between a buzzard or a marsh harrier. My guess was the latter as it was large bird that flew out of, well, a marsh. I have my own theory on flora and fauna nomenclature. Be much easier if we stopped wasting time trying to give names to every variation of plant and animal life and remember them. Keep it simple. Birds for example. Wouldn’t it be easier if you just said there were 4 birds of varying shapes and sizes and hues: Seabirds, Birds of Prey, LBJ’s and Other Birds. Now isn’t that easier. Works for trees too (Oaks, Poplars and Conifers). You know I’m right. “Time for a lie down Mr Jones”

Anyway, back to the walk. Y-Garn is not an ideal first hill of the day, especially for a me at 8:30am.

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EWO takes a breather – a rare occurence

A steady plod with numerous stops to play name that hill helps with the effort.

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Moel Eilio

ED in his post has accused me and EWO of just making it up – I’m outraged. I may not have a bloody clue but I never make things up. Well almost never. Actually I make alot of stuff up. My kids don’t believe a word I say any more. Never forgiven me for convincing them that Trig Pillars have salami inside them.

Lost the plot again. Y-Garn, yes, steep that was it. The summit looks quite sharp from the start and indeed it does have a precipitous face. The summit however has a plateau-like feel to it.

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Moel Hebog

We’d earned a rest so a long stop for a late breakfast and some stories was in order while we contemplated the day ahead. I mentioned before that I’m not a fan of the route march approach. If you can’t stop long and often on a good day then I don’t see the point. Fortunately ED and EWO share my love of a good long rest so we chatted, identified peaks, stuffed faces and took the p**s out of each other as always. Does life get better than this.

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ED and EWO enjoy breakfast

Time to move on to the next and best part of the ridge, Mynydd Drws y Coed. The northern cliffs are spectacular and the ridge narrow, rocky and interesting with some great situations.

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Mynydd Drws y Coed

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EWO and Mynydd Mawr

Alas it’s pretty short and over all too soon and despite the fact we’d only gone about a mile we felt it appropriate for another rest on the summit. The views around were awesome with the main Snowdonia mountains to the west, Anglesey to the north and the Lyn Peninsula to the west.

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Mynydd Mawr

We watched the trains on the newly completed West Highland Railway now linked from Portmadoc to Caernarfon, EWO got very excited – he’s a train-spotter you know, he has the satchel to prove it.

On to Trum y Ddysgl, a much grassier peak.

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ED enjoying the ridge

We toyed with the idea of and out and back to Mynydd Tal y Mignedd but we felt yet another long stop was a more profitable use of our time. The route then follows a broad grassy ridge above Cwm Dwyfor with excellent views across to Moel Hebog, a wild outlier and one marked as definite hill to do another time. The valley below, Cwm Pennant has some interesting mine workings which look worth an explore. Maz over at The Journeyman Traveller has a great post about this route and the mines area. I strongly recommend you check out this post and his blog,  he’s a great writer.

Down at the col of Bwlch y Ddwy Elor, the path turns NW and heads back towards the start point through the forest. The slopes here were thick with bilberries, more than I’ve ever seen. ED and EWO gorged on them but I declined. Fruit with seeds in are just wrong. Except strawberries. “Time for your medicine Mr Jones”

We watched a large Bird of Prey for a while from the col. ED reckoned it was a buzzard and tried some photos. I was more than happy with the “Bird of Prey” name. We were just left with a walk through the trees past a rather impressive stream before we got back to the car. We were surprised (well not all that surprised really) to see it was past 2pm and that we were not going to make it back for our promised lunchtime return. I did suggest we could celebrate a good day with a cheeky pint in the pub. I was persuaded otherwise on the basis that:

a) It would be a betrayal of the trust shown in us by better halves and therefore wholly inappropriate
b) Jane would cut off my b******s and put them in jar on the mantlepiece

Seeing as I was happy with my dangling appendages to remain in their current location we swiftly headed back for a brew and more time on the beach with the kids. ED has his own blog for the day here so you can get his more coherant version of the day. 4.5 miles and 2,400 feet of ascent

I already have a plan for next year……

I’ve been busy!   2 comments

I’ve been neglecting my blog for the past few weeks. What with being away in Pembrokeshire and Cornwall for holidays and, well, just being a lazy git I just haven’t given it the loving care and attention it needs and I can tell the general public are growing restless at the lack of surfnslide antics. Well some people, well a few, well one, my friend GM but I suspect he was being sarcastic.

Anyway while I get round to some major updates for my family holidays and a cracking trip to the Arans in mid-Wales, here is a quick report on another of my post work jaunts. It’s a little gem called Bryn Arw just north of the Sugar Loaf. It’s only 300m high but in the dozen or so times I’ve been up it I’ve never seen a soul up there. It’s only a short walk but it’s perfect for a half a day stroll or when the higher summits are in the cloud.

The first section is along the road. Having read the blogs over at Beating the Bounds and Rambling On, I’m trying to pay more attention to the wildflowers when I’m out walking. On this evening it really struck me not only how much variety there is in our hedgerows but how just looking a little closer can turn what I used to see as a road trudge into a walk of discovery. I found myself stopping every few yards to look at the various plants – and in this case – fruit by the roadside.

Wild Strawberry

Honeysuckle

It’s a short steep climb up on to the ridge with several options and a pleasant mile along a broad grassy ridge with views across the Ysgyryd Fawr, Sugar Loaf, Hatterall Hill and the rest of the Black Mountains

Ysgyryd Fawr

Summit ridge

Sugar Loaf

Hatterall Hill

The late evening light gives some great effects on the clouds and the weathered trees

Evening sky

Spooky tree

If you are planning this walk just remember that during July and August the bracken completely swamps the lower slopes and as the paths are little walked they can become hard to bash through.

The walk is a mere 3.5 miles and 850 feet of ascent but its quality not quantity.

Full set of Flickr photos here

Posted July 8, 2011 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Walking

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Hatterall Hill   2 comments

This is one of my all-time favourite walks in the Black Mountains. I’ve done it perhaps half-a-dozen times since I moved to Herefordshire in 2002. Whenever I’m stuck for an idea or struggling for choice this one always seems to win. I have numerous walking guides but this walk or a derivative doesn’t appear in any of them. I find this strange as it’s such an obvious looking circuit when seen from Ysgyryd Fawr as in this photo taken a few years ago:

Hatterall Hill from Ysgyrd Fawr

It’s a relatively short walk and having got lucky with a chance to leave work early I took my chance, parking at Cwmyoy village hall. After crossing the river and fields you come to the sleepy heart of the village with its ancient church, leaning tower and bent roof to the fore.

Cwmyoy Church

Cwmyoy Church

The views across the fields to Ysgyrd Fawr are top notch.

Ysgyryd Fawr

The walk goes past a small table-top hill created by an old landslip.

I must take an alternative route and actually climb this one day. For reasons I’m not entirely sure of I always do this walk in the same direction. If I reversed it I’d see the path up this little knoll on the way down rather than on the way up when I’m already above it. Lesson learned. In no time the path is high up on one of the arms of the valley and it’s an easy stroll towards the main ridge, passing some excellent views up the Vale of Ewyas towards Capel-y- Ffin and the Gospel Pass.

Vale of Ewyas

The ridge was incredibly windy as it has been for several weeks so I had to drop down on the far side to get some shelter and admire the views over the Herefordshire countryside. In this photo you can make out Clodock Church which we passed by on our Longtown Lambs walk a couple of months back.

Looking north to Clodock

I headed down with cracking views across to Ysgyrd Fawr and the Sugar Loaf where I walked after work last week.

Sugar Loaf

Ysgyryd Fawr

One of the farm buildings high up on the slopes now sports a nice little poem on one of the Barn Walls

The lower fields were awash with buttercups although the hedgerows of the lane were surprisingly sparse in terms of wild flowers

Ysgyryd Fawr

First time I’ve actually clocked the walk so surprised to find it’s 6.2 miles and 2,000 feet of ascent. Feeling fitter by the day!

Full set of Flickr photos here

Longtown Lambs   4 comments

As part of my recovery program from my knee op I decided to drag the kids out on a walk. It was a lovely warm spring day so we decided to take stroll round the local village of Longtown. It’s a walk we’ve taken a few times, nice and easy for the kids with plenty of wild flowers and great views up to the main ridge of the Black Mountains – and this time we hoped we weren’t too late to see some spring lambs.

The route is below and I’ve created the map for free using a combination of some GPS Sports tracking software on my mobile, Bing Maps which now has OS 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 maps and some freeware screen capture software. I’ll put a post/page up to describe how it works so any of you budding walking bloggers can add maps and routes for nowt. Not quite as clear as using proper map software but not bad for free

The walk takes you from Longtown village down to and across the Olchon Brook. From there it’s a pleasant stroll over fields, stiles and streams towards the main ridge. It only ascends about 100m so easy with the kids. Both D and L were thrilled to see that the fields were filled new lambs and plenty of “aaahhhh” moments.

D & L, Black Mountains behind

Spring Lambs

The walk then crosses the fields down to the lovely old church at Clodock where we had a leisurely lunch in the Churchyard in the sun.

Clodock Church

Clodock Church

D & L with a healthy lunch of crisps and biscuits

The walk then follows the river Monnow (where we saw a horse rolling around on the bank and then back through the fields to Longtown.

That's how scratch that itch...

It’s a perfect family walk with lots to see and do and neither too far or too steep. Combined with a sunny aspect and views up to the Black Mountains it’s perfect for lazy day out. Flickr photos here

Posted April 5, 2011 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Walking

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It’s the end of the world as we know it…   3 comments

Worlds End and Eglywseg Mountain – 26th February 2011

J, D & L had spent a few days with our old university friends (M & J) and their kids (Z & E) who were taking a half-term holiday in Llangollen. As J had booked a motel room for a couple of nights I thought I’d drive up after work on Friday night for an impromptu mini-break. After a pleasant evening in M & J’s holiday cottage we agreed to meet up in the morning for a walk with all the kids.

It didn’t look promising as we drove up from Oswestry with the rain battering down, M had assured us that it was due to brighten up from 11am although he always says that. This time however, on cue, at 11am it stopped raining and stayed dry the rest of the day. We all met up at a place called Worlds End, which is out to the East of the Horseshoe Pass and is the starting point of a little known but magnificent limestone escarpment. Me and UF discovered it last summer (photos here) so I was more than happy to go back and take another look.

We set off down the road where you reach a ford and stepping stones which the kids of course loved.

Ford over the Worlds End Stream

The path then traverses under the limestone cliffs and steep slopes of grass and scree for a couple of miles. It’s a really superb and in places quite narrow path but easy for kids with lovely views across the valley to Llantysilio Mountain and above to the cliffs. (At this point it’s actually the Offa’s Dyke long distance walk).

Offa's Dyke Path below Eglwyseg Mountain

In places the edges are cut by deep valleys leading up to cliffs, some accessible others impassable.

One of the un-named valley's cutting into the edge

The path is pretty much level all the way and in several places opens out into some lovely spots for a sit down or a picnic lunch. There were babbling streams running on this day after the heavy overnight rain but I guess they would dry up in summer.

The weather continued to improve as they day went on with some lovely sunny spells although with a cold wind. We stopped for lunch where the patch hits the road on a bench with great views back to the cliffs and a plentiful supply of dog poo. Anyone who has kids will know their unfailing knack to tread in it wherever it might be so it was a relief that despite D’s best efforts no-one collected any extra “mud” on their boots

Team Photo

After lunch, the girls and the kids headed down the road into Llangollen while me and M walked back to collect the cars. We headed up one of the gaps in the cliffs to an almost hidden valley with a lovely stream complete with new deposits of Tufa.

M on the way through through the hidden valley

Once you reach the top there are several paths along the edges that reveal spectacular views over the edges and across towards Snowdonia as far as the Berwyns and what we thought were the Arenigs above Bala. Some of the paths run right along the cliff edge with some hair-raising views down. There are no rights of way but there are several permission paths and stiles so it’s easy going all the way back to where the edges meet the road at Worlds end just a few yards from the car park

Looking South along the edge

I was surprised on both my visits at how quiet this walk is considering what a fabulous walk it is. Anywhere else and it would be crowded with walkers. It’s similar in character to Malham and anyone who has visited there will know how popular it is. I suppose it’s a result of being a little known spot in a little-visited area for walking. Most people will give it no more than a passing glance on their way to Snowdonia and the Welsh coast which is pretty much what I’ve been doing. I know better now. The area can be linked with longer walks taking in some of the other hills in the region or as part of a grand traverse from Corwen to Trevor at the far end of the range.

Late afternoon (& late winter) sunshine

All the photos from the day are here

Posted March 1, 2011 by surfnslide in Family Trips, Llangollen, Wales, Walking

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