Archive for the ‘wye’ Tag

Wye Valley Walking   3 comments

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

Wye Valley from Lower Wynd Cliffe

Wye Valley from Lower Wynd Cliffe

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

Chepstow and Severn Estuary from Eagles Nest

Second Severn Crossing from Eagles Nest

Severn Bridge from Eagles Nest

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

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

Full set of Flickr photos here

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

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FA Cup Final Warm-up – Hay Bluff and Black Hill   4 comments

As part of my personal drive to get out more often, keep my weight in check and so protect my knees, I woke early and decided to head out for a half a day. My footy team Manchester City were playing in the FA Cup Final so I could do a brisk walk and still be home in time for a lazy afternoon in front of the TV to watch the match. I didn’t want to drive far so I headed to the car park at the foot of the ridge known locally as the Cats Back for a circuit of the upper reaches of the Olchon valley

The forecast was for a sunny morning with heavy showers for later in the day so I was out of the house and in the car park with my boots on before 8am. To say I was a trifle disappointed to see that the clouds were on the ridge and looking dark and threatening with rain in the air is an understatement. It was cold and windy which made my choice of shorts instead of trousers something of a schoolboy error. If the clouds continued to build I was likely to get a real soaking but seeing as I was here I thought I’d give it a go. The advantage of this kind of weather is an exceptional clarity to the light especially at this early hour.

Main ridge looking south from the car park

The car park is up at 400m and is a cracking place for a picnic (in warmer weather). There was no-one about as I set off, choosing to walk down into the valley before climbing up to the main ridge and then back along the Cats Back rather than face the steep climb back to the car at the end of the walk. The early morning views were stunning in particular this photo of tree in full bloom and a rainbow against the backdrop of the mountains.

As always I needed my mate ED to tell me what the tree is as I’m hopeless. I really must get a pocket, interactive or holographic version of him to take on walks with me – where is Star Trek Tech when you need it. Or a book!

The fields under the trees as I climbed out of the valley were still thick with Bluebells although dying off now. As you exit the trees you face a long raking climb right across the east flank of the main ridge.

The bracken was still just unfurling but it grows at an astonishing rate and to an equally astonishing height. Once you get beyond June it can be real barrier to the higher hills on the Black Mountains unless you stick to the popular paths. At times it’s like walking through a hedge maze but for now it was just a pleasant green addition

One of the other minor problems with these less-frequented paths is they tend to disappear as the gradient eases leaving with you a few hundred feet of heather, grass and bilberries to wade through. Finding them from the top is a matter of pure luck, another reason I chose this way round. By the time I reached the broad path along the ridge I realised it was very windy and very cold, time for fleece, gloves, hat and trousers – oh of course I’d forgotten the trousers – idiot. Still the weather had improved markedly and the black clouds had pretty much melted back.

Waun Fach and Pen y Gadair Fawr

I strode on briskly (too cold to do much else). One of the nice things about the Black Mountains is once on the ridge it’s pretty flat so you can lose yourself in your own world and just plod or motor on as the mood takes you. Between admiring the view and reliving the many routes I’ve done in the area my mind wandered all over the place from the usual work problems, to planning the upcoming holidays and of course how the game was going to go later.

Looking south, Ysgryd Fawr and Sugar Loaf in the distance

Almost before I knew it I was at the point where you can decide whether to turn right and start heading back over Black Hill or extend the walk to take in Hay Bluff. I was feeling pretty chipper so decided to do the extra bit.

Looking north to Hay Bluff

Well worthwhile as Hay Bluff is a cracking viewpoint over the Wye valley and across to the Brecon Beacons.

Lord Herefords Knob and Brecon Beacons from Hay Bluff

Wye Valley from Hay Bluff

Still too windy to linger so I immediately started heading back. Just after I headed off towards Black Hill I suddenly felt weary and found a sheltered spot for a rest and snack. Checking my GPS tracker I realised I’d done 6 miles straight in a little over 2 hours – no wonder I was knackered. As I set off I was overtaken by several fell runners, then more and more and more. It was clear there was a bit of race or event on, confirmed by the presence of a couple of tents and some people with clipboards on the path. I was going to stop and ask them what it was all about but they were all busy checking people in and recording times etc so I pressed on. As I continued towards Black Hill I came across an excellent sheltered spot for a campsite tucked away next to the path, an excellent place for an overnight stop although you’d have to carry a load of water up. I reached the trig point where the sun came out again and the views were great.

Black Hill

You can even see my house from here (well nearly). The photo below is of the Madley Satellite Earth Station and I live about a mile to the left in this photo.

Madley - nearly

To finish the route you walk down over the Cats Back – what passes as a narrow ridge in the Black Mountains. Not exactly Crib Goch but an airy walk with wonderful views over Herefordshire and back across the Black Mountains. Its a short walk and easy climb from the car park, so I’ve been up here several times in all seasons. The kids like it as there are plenty of rocky bits to scramble about on. L was up here last week on her Longtown adventure trip.  I took loads of photos to try and capture the sense of the ridge so hope the one’s I’ve chosen do it justice.

Cats Back Ridge

Cats Back Ridge

Cats Back Ridge

Looking across to where I’d gone up you could clearly make out the blueish tint of the bluebells in the meadows I walked through on the way up. I tried a photo or two but it didn’t show through. The weather had held off for me and it was almost warm as I started to head down.

Olchon valley

When I reached the car I was surprised to find that the walk was a few yards shy of 9 miles (I thought it was about 6) with 2,500 feet of ascent that I’d done in about 3.5 hours. Not bad!

Full Flickr Photo set here

Time to head home for a well-earned brunch of Mexican scrambled eggs and then settle down for the cup final.



Days don’t get much better than this!

Posted May 14, 2011 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Walking

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Walks for the afflicted   6 comments

I’ve recently had to have some minor surgery on my right knee to repair nearly 30 years of wear and tear from mountain climbing and skiing. They messed about with my cartilages and did something called a lateral release whatever that is. End result is that I spent a week in the house recovering before I went stir crazy and had to get out. It was a lovely, warm early spring day, so me J and the kids went out for a stroll with me hoping I could cope with an easy walk as getting up and down stairs was still a problem.

Above the Wye Valley is a local hill where you can drive to about 1000 feet and walk easily across fields to the common land to the top.

J, D and L enjoying the spring weather

It’s called Merbach Hill and it commands an excellent view of the river Wye and across to the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons as well as the central hills of Wales. It would be a lovely place for a summer picnic but despite the fact that we’ve been up here dozens of times we’ve never done that. We took a slow stroll up towards the summit and then sat to give the kids a snack on the top.

Looking out over the Wye valley towards mid-Wales

It was warm enough to relax without a fleece and almost warm enough to consider shorts. I love winter conditions and snow but once the chance for that has gone I’m all for the warm weather and clear skies that March, April and May sometimes brings.

We headed off down into the scrubby woodland and bracken on the north side, very slowly in my case. Spring was definitely in the air with birdsong filling the air and blossom starting to bud on the trees.

J & L in the wooded glades

We came across a very prominent and substantial animal burrow with several very large entrances all with fresh soil outside. I’d need ED to give me a proper answer but my guess based on the scale would be a badger’s sett as it looked way too big for rabbits and too big for foxes as I think they are more solitary.

Badgers Sett?

Our normal route, sneaking over a gap in the fence had been closed off so we had to return to the top by a path we’d not been on before giving us a pleasant view back across the Wye Valley.

Bracken and Woods on Merbach Hill

Apart from a minor knee twist causing me to collapse in an embarrassing heap, it was encouraging that my knee was recovering and I’m hoping to be fit enough to hit the Scottish mountains for some backpacking over Easter weekend. Watch this blog!

Flickr photos are here

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

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