Sunday, 17 June 2012

Beacons Horseshoe – (Powys) – South Wales -13/06/12 – 14.5 Miles - National Trust Working Holiday

With everyone else on the Working Holiday opting to go canoeing on the day off, I decided to take advantage of a route cut-out I had brought with me for the holiday. So before you ask, no I wasn’t being anti-social, it’s just that I don’t do water. At the time I wasn’t overly happy with a long walk option (as the walking and working of the week was catching up with me) but the only other thing on the table was to go book shopping in Hay. So with that in mind I was thinking of potential drop out points if it all got too much, but on a beautiful sunny day none were required. .... Now the start point for the walk (as per cut out) was the Storey Arms (outdoor centre or snack bar), which in total measures 11 miles. However the walk from the basecamp along the Taff Trail to the Storey Arms came in at 1.75 miles on my GPS, so with the return from there factored in as well, this would bring the total mileage for the day to 14.5 miles. The start from the basecamp along the Taff Trail proved steeper than anticipated, but apart from four sheep who were constantly running away from me, and a cow and a calf being herded by a warden on a quad bike, I got to the Storey Arms without incident. Thus following the instructions, I ignored the stone trail to the left of the houses that went up to Pen Y Fan, but instead took the far less distinct grass trail to the left of it. Yet despite this being more guesswork than visibly marked route I soon found myself on the somewhat flattish summit of Y Gryn. Following a wide sweep to my right, still following an indistinct grass trail I eventually picked up the Craig Cwm Llwch ridge (passing in the process the Tommy Jones Obelisk). This was the approach to the summit of Corn Du. Oh my my was it steep or what, and despite the incredible views I was taking in, this was easily the toughest climb of the week (until later in the day). However by taking a simple one step at a time approach I eventually reached the summit. . A short dip from Corn Du, and then a short climb again, found me on the summit of Pen Y Fan for the second time in a week (the other three climbs during the week, took a diversion around the edge). Anyway I found some guys up there already, so persuaded one to take my picture (see picture). After hearing one of them phone his missus, I decided that was also a good idea and checked in with the Derbyshire lady. . The descent from Pen Y Fan was very loose underfoot, taking me down into a valley. I took the path to the left (as instructed) to begin the climb up to Cribyn. This looked very very steep, but as the instructions suggested, it was easier than it looked (just). Once on the summit I decided to have my lunch, especially given the fact that no one else was around. A gentle but not particularly easy descent took me along Craig Cwm Cynwyn until I reached the path junction at the pass of Bwlch ar y Fan. . From there I continued for two kilometres on a wide and descending path towards the Neuadd reservoir complex. Along the way I met two soldier types coming the other way and passed a cyclist sorting out his bike. By this time I had been aware of another guy coming up behind me, and when I went into the reservoir complex, I met another group of four guys having a break. Thus with various gaps between us all, we climbed up by the woods at the end of the dam wall, which took it out of everyone. However the final part of this turned into a man-killing scramble, which although didn’t last long, was almost equal in difficulty to the earlier ascent of Corn Du (anyway I was fourth up out of six). . Once up on the ridge however, things were easy peasy, as I headed along the long ridge towards the plateau below Corn Du and Pen Y Fan. The views were incredible, and I periodically took the odd break, whilst the other guys around caught me up and passed me by (before I did the same again to them). Once I arrived at the plateau (on my own) it was then a case of doing the descent I had been doing all week back to the National Trust car park. By now the skies had begun to darken, but thankfully the rain held off. I then continued on to the Storey Arms, passing in the other direction two of the guys from the ridge (who had since come down Pen Y Fan the other way). After a quick exchange of words, I then saw the other two of their group coming down the stone path, so I gave then a quick wave, to which they responded. .... From there it was then along the now descending Taff Trail back to the basecamp, passing some wild ponies on the way, and of course plenty of sheep to complete a brilliant day overall. Once back in the early Eighties I ran a half marathon in the afternoon, went home for an hour, then went and did a two hour Karate class. So given the context of the week overall, this rates up there with that (not bad for a fifty year old, even if I do say so myself) (NOTE SAME PARAGRAPH PROBLEM USING I.E. - ANY IDEAS ANYONE ?)

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Pen Y Fan (x 4) – (Brecon Beacons) – 10-11-12-14/06/12 – National Trust Working Holiday

Back in 2003 it was my first National Trust (conservation) Working Holiday that got me into walking, so periodically I have liked to keep my hand in, by doing the occasional one. However for various reasons I haven’t been able to do any for over two and a half years. Now they can be very hard work, and especially so in this case. Because this one involved walking all the way up to Pen Y Fan from the National Trust car park (not the Storey Arms one), then starting a day’s work lugging rocks about, before walking back down from the summit at the end of said day. The relevance of the work for the purposes of this blog, was that we were doing an ancient stone laying procedure known as ‘pitching’, designed to restore the pathways and gulleys leading from Pen Y Fan, that have been eroded in the main by (yes you’ve guessed it) us walkers. So beyond the point that it’s great to give something back, I won’t go into that aspect much further here, as this is primarily a walking blog. Instead I will make a few brief notes on those four climbs. Sunday 10th – Our first day found a group of 10 volunteers and a couple of Nat. Trust wardens set off from their car park. The idea being that we should be up to the work site in under an hour. However a combination of general faffing about, giving the slower ones a chance to get their breath, and admiring the views (which included a Red Kite), meant it was about an hour and three quarters before we got to the point where we started any work. The fact that it was such a clear day (forecasters wrong again) meant that things were being pointed out to us by the head warden, that may not have been visible on another occasion. Also if we were going to be working on Pan Y Fan, we all needed to get some pictures at the summit, which delayed proceedings as well. Naturally we all found the ascent at the end of the day a dam site easier. Monday 11th – When it came to the start of the second day I felt completely wasted. A combination of the previous day’s climb, carrying rocks about, and just the general effort of working on a slope, meant I felt weak in both legs and arms. Now our group was slightly smaller as three of the more enthusiastic types were taking an alternative route from the Storey Arms car park. We were also missing our leader who had returned to pick up someones lunch, but had given me her awkward and progressively heavier cake bag to carry up with me. Thus when our group went up the ‘standard’ route, I felt my best bet was to push on ahead of them, in case I ended up being left behind by the slower pace (finding as normal for me, a faster pace easier uphill)........................................................................................ For this morning however, a dense fog had descended on the mountain from a very low level, which meant I was able to keep ahead of the group, constantly stopping to take breathers, whilst making them think I was much further ahead than I actually was. The fact however that I couldn’t see anything other than the fog and the path about 10 feet in front of me, was mega-demoralising making me feel I wasn’t getting anywhere and that I would soon be caught. In desperation I eventually asked a guy coming the other way how far was I from the summit, to be told about 30 metres. Anyway when I reached the plateau at the base of Corn Du and Pen Y Fan, I decided to wait there for the others to catch up (pretending I wasn’t sure which way to go in the fog), whilst taking a few munchies out of the cake bag in order to make it lighter. Presently I was joined by the main group, closely followed by the other three from the alternative route who had encountered their own problems in the fog. By the early part of the afternoon the fog had completely lifted which made for a clear descent.............................................................................. Tuesday 12th – There was no mist on this bright clear day, which was reflected in my general well being, as my energy levels had risen considerably from the previous day. Now a number of our group were taking advantage of a lift from the warden in some sort of off road vehicle, about half way up, leaving six of us to make the actual ascent from the bottom. We were not alone however as the army were also coming up behind us, with two of their fitter types just in front of us. They could not have been amused however when the female running fanatic in our group, jogged past them as if they were standing still. For the rest of us, three of us got to the Corn Du/Pen Y Fan plateau before the rest of the army group, with them only just swallowing up the two slower members of our party. They all proceeded to collapse in a heap in front of us, giving us a grudging acknowledgement before setting off again (although to be fair they were carrying full kit, some heavy guns, and were no doubt just starting their workout for the day). For our part timewise, we had got to the plateau in about 45 minutes. Thursday 14th – Having done 14.5 miles of the Brecon horseshoe on the previous (rest) day (see next blog entry), I was concerned as to how my legs would feel. In the event they felt great and I flew up the hill for our last day of work on Pen Y Fan (the weather was too atrocious to work up there for the next and final day of the holiday). However having done a full days work, both the rain and especially the wind closed in with a vengeance. Thus coming down from the edge of Pen Y Fan (which was the standard route to our work site), one could barely keep ones feet as the wind tried to blow us all off the mountain. However once we had finally got below the plateau things eased considerably. With the Warden already forewarned as to the weather conditions arriving the next day, we all knew that this was our last day on Pen Y Fan, which everyone seemed a little sad about. However in my next blog instalment, you can read about my trek on the Brecon Horseshow which I did on the previous day (which was our day off).............................(ALSO APOLOGIES - BUT THE NEW FANGLED BLOGGER IS BEING A PAIN IN THE BUTT, WHEN IT COMES TO BREAKING TEXT INTO PARAGRAPHS)

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Chesterfield (Trans-Pennine Trail) Circular – (Derbyshire) – 04/06/12 – 10.8 Miles

I must admit I am not one for using OS maps to create walks (much prefer other people to do that for me). However with my personage moving ever closer to full time living in Chesterfield, creating some bog standard door to door regulars, was starting to become overdue. So towards this end I have got the Ordnance Survey boys to create for me my very own map (can’t buy this in the shops folks) with my little flat at the very heart of it. Today was my first attempt to design such a walk, which on the whole went rather well. Now much of what I was trying to do would involve a loop around the Trans Pennine Trail, however my first concern was whether there would be sufficient paths along the River Hipper to make an easy link to it. So having crossed the footbridge over the A61 (trying to snap the Crooked Spire in the process) and having met the inevitable bull-terrier and owner, I was able to find sufficient paths along the Hipper. However having arrived in the general vicinity of Chesterfield railway station, I only found the Trans Pennine Trail (herein known as TPT) sign in one direction. Knowing I was going in the wrong direction I started to follow it anyway, but when I eventually decided to retrace my steps, I spotted the opposite sign I should have picked up in the first place. Presently I arrived at the entrance to Tapton Park Golf Course, with the TPT sign not really clear as to whether that led into the club itself, or along the adjoining road. After 5 minutes in a state of near paralysis, I choose to go into the golf club (standing out like a sore thumb as I walked through the car park with everyone unpacking their sticks). Much to my relief I found another TPT sign, and then another again. However with an unexpected fork (choice of paths) I was once again in a panic, and of course took the wrong path. Not wishing to be wandering aimlessly around a golf course, I decided if the other path wasn’t the TPT I was retracing my steps back home, in the event however it turned out that it was and things got easier from that point. With my confidence back up, I was sufficiently happy to even leave the trail to take what I knew would be a more scenic short cut along the edge of Tapton Hall Farm, and subsequently picked up the trail again with a climb up towards Brimington Common. Having arrived at the common the TPT signs pointed initially alongside and then away from the common. However all this served to do was take me through a housing estate (thankfully not of the sink variety) for the best part of a quarter of a mile. When I eventually cleared that and crossed into Lodge Farm, another study of the map showed I could probably have got to the same point via Brimington Common. I then picked up a nice woodland trail eventually coming to a fork that I had been speculating over before I had even set off. Thus having reached this point, I decided that continuing straight on the TPT would probably turn this walk into something approaching a 15 miler. Not only that but another look at the map seemed to suggest that section was going to be somewhat industrial and urban, therefore I took the left fork and headed deeper into West Wood. Here there seemed to be more paths to the left and right of me, then the map would suggest, however for the most part I tried to keep Trough Brook in sight and to the left of me, and when I eventually came to a larger pond (as shown on the map) I was sufficiently happy to then have my lunch. Being me however I choose to have it on some steps, when I later found there were some nice tailor made benches on the other side. Here I wasn’t entirely sure whether these manicured grounds were part of Ringwood Hall Hotel, or a continuation of Troughbrook Wood. Thus having been forced out onto the road I then tried to find my way back into the wood (even though there was no signed path) to follow the brook further, rather than join the road. However after following a small trail of overgrown nettles, this only served to loop back on itself and force me back onto the road anyway. All a bit pointless really, as the road didn’t go on for long, and before long I was able to pick up the Chesterfield Canal (TPT again). The coffee shop here seemed to be doing a fair old trade with walkers, cyclists and the boating fraternity, and I must admit I did fancy a coffee. However having just had my lunch I decided against. Of more urgent concern however was getting the umbrella out of my bag as at this point the heavens opened briefly. Now for some strange reason I had been under the impression that the Chesterfield Canal (which at this section is also part TPT and Cuckoo Way) was neglected and run down. Not a bit of it, as this was as nice a stretch of canal as you would find anywhere, and being a bank holiday I wasn’t the only one using it either. This was also a very long stretch as well, as from the coffee shop to the back of Chesterfield station was something in the region of three and a half miles. Along the way I passed the flats that I nearly bought into at Tapton Lock Hill, someone asking me how to get to Brimington, a smattering of fishermen, and a very inviting foody pub terrace on the other side of the water. All good things however must come to an end as a half mile from the station with the canal now alongside the Hipper, the canal path went in two directions (one up, one down) both signed to the station. Naturally I choose the wrong one (assuming the higher path has to be better), as this looked like the sort of section where your average gangster would come to dump dead bodies (I think me and Helen did this section before). So it was with some relief that I came out by the back of the station still in one piece (the two bull-terrier owners I met coming the other way must have been having a slow day). From there it was a case of leaving the TPT intersection and retracing my steps along the Hipper and back home (again not the nicest section of the walk). So overall I was very pleased with my efforts, coming in at just under 4 hours for 10.8 miles (including lunch) although without retracing my steps next time, this is probably around the straight ten mile mark. Next time I will try to go through Brimington Common to avoid that long housing estate, and also choose the up section on the last stretch of the canal towards Chesterfield station. Overall however as a bog standard door to door walk, this compares favourably with my Putney to Osterley one.