Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Brecon Horseshoe - (South Wales) - 25/09/13 - Nat Trust Working Holiday

With the mist taking its time to clear, my start from the Y Gryn basecamp was delayed until 10.30. So with that in mind I was thinking coldish day and therefore set off in: jeans, long top over t-shirt, body-warmer, and with only two (half litre) bottles of fluid. On all counts that proved to be a mistake, which would all cause me difficulties later. Now what looks like a reasonable path from the basecamp to the Storey Arms, is actually a long drawn out climb, which really becomes apparent when you look back on it. So by the time I had made it to the Storey Arms and the start of the ascent of Y Gryn, I had already stuffed in the rucksack the long sleeved top + body-warmer. What was worse was at this point (a mere mile and a half in), I already felt the need to consume a whole bottle of fluid.
Anyway the actual ascent of Y Gryn began well enough when the party of school-kids took an alternative path to me. However with the clouds now following me up the hill, My path just disappeared, leaving me nothing but sheep tracks and my GPS to navigate with. The ground did get rather treacherous once I stepped off track, but eventually I found my way to a pile of stones and a stick, which I assume was the summit (given peoples penchant for nicking the National Trust signs).
So back on track I made my way over to the Craig Cwm Llwch ridge and the start of the ascent of Corn Du. As my regular readers know, nothing stresses/exhausts me more than being slightly lost, which made the already challenging ascent of Corn Du, even more of a struggle. However having reached the top (with cloud accompaniment) the down and up leg to the summit of Pen Y Fan was a real doddle. As the time had already passed One o Clock, I decided to have my lunch there rather than waiting till I was at the top of Cribyn. Given that Pen Y Fan is the hit single from the Brecon's album, I was joined up there by plenty of other people, including a small detachment of young soldiers.
With lunch out of the way, I took the stony path down, which would eventually take me up to Cribyn. To my right were two wild ponies snuggling up, and way in front was a walking couple on the same route as me. My ascent up Cribyn was a bit of a stop/start affair. However with the soldiers now in hot pursuit I made sure I got to the summit ahead of them. Thankfully I had already had my lunch, as my initial designated spot was absolutely crawling with flying ants, to near horror movie proportions. I decided not to hang round there admiring the view, and began my descent towards the reservoir complex. The soldiers obviously see flying ants in a different context, as once they reached the summit (now behind me), they decided to take a break up there.
On the descent I passed the walking couple, who were themselves taking a break and swapped a few notes with them over how to get into the reservoir complex, and tried to sound alarmist by saying "the army are right behind you". The male half of which made some crack about the 'Russian Army' which I later worked out was something to do with my CCCP t-shirt. Anyway having reached level ground below I was really able to get a head of steam on, which even the posse of now marching again soldiers couldn't keep up with. However once at the approach to the reservoir I had to pause for a few minutes to work out the right path, allowing the army to reel me in. 'Fine' I thought I will follow them, however once in the complex they promptly all sat down again for another break.
As I left the reservoirs and contemplated the forthcoming climb alongside the woods (and ultimately the climb up onto the ridge) I was caught by the walking couple. Once again we swapped notes with them saying they were taking the path on the right, with me saying my instructions said 'ignore the faint path on the right'. In the event they ignored the faint idiot on their left and carried on (on what was probably a much better way up). As I started climbing I became very aware of how dehydrated I now was, and how jeans could not have been a worse thing to wear in this peak heat of the day. After finishing the last of my fluid, the climb up alongside the woods nearly finished me off, with me pausing every few yards. As I looked back I could see the army was on the move again, albeit not much quicker than me. Thus having reached the top of the wood line, it was now onto phase two, namely the even steeper climb up onto the ridge. This was a complete man-killer with me even doubting whether I would actually get up there (with no actual visible path). Ultimately I made it, but from the bottom of the reservoir complex it must have taken me around 45 minutes for something I would have done in 10 in a straight line.
The view was of course magnificent, and I decided to take a 10 minute break and wait for the soldiers to go by. However once onto the ridge they headed off in a different direction. When I got to my feet again I began to realise how unsteady I was (not a good place to be, when you are on a ledge), and how desperate for water I was. So desperate in fact that I actually drank a three year old bottle of tap water that was for cleaning wounds in my first aid kit. However I kept reminding myself to savour the view and these moments (as they don't come round too often), and that I would get a big bottle of coke once down at the Storey Arms car park.
Once I began my descent from the Corn Du/Pen Y Fan junction I knew I was on the home straight, although some way down Pen Y Fan my bag zip burst open and I lost my long sleeved shirt. I only discovered this once I heard/felt my body-warmer fall out some time later. However I did not have the strength to begin climbing again to look for it. Now down in the car park at approximately 1720, I discovered all of the snack bars had either gone or shut for the day. However I wasn't too disappointed as I was only a mile and a half from the basecamp, with the thought of buying something motivation enough to get me off the ridge.
Now I did this walk a year back and it took me around six hours, so on this occasion I arrived back in the basecamp at 1745, so allowing for lunch it took me around seven. Given that it was 14 miles and that most of it was climbing, not too bad at all. That said from the moment I began to climb out of the reservoir complex I was in trouble, which made me realise how cavalier my preparations were. So in retrospect a challenging and enjoyable day, but without doubt the toughest walk I have ever done, and comparable to my not very successful efforts at the marathon way back when I was a runner.

Friday, 20 September 2013

The Roaches - (Circular) - Staffordshire - 18/09/13 - Helen (Molly)

After a little confusion at the start over how we got onto the ridge, and after Molly found herself being harassed by a Biscuit (small dog), we eventually found ourselves on top (so to speak). This being the second time we had been around these parts, and as before there was the usual smattering of school parties and climbing sorts at the beginning.
Once we were on top of the ridge however we pretty much had it to ourselves, save for keeping an eye out for the occasional sheep, that could lead Molly astray (see this weeks episode of Countryfile). Other than that the only issue was the biting wind and the periodic threat of rain. Thus this really is my sort of walking with views that are both bleak and magnificent. Once we had found a large rock to shelter behind we had our lunch (Salmon roll being the highlight) whilst I explained to Molly how Mini Cheddars are wasted on dogs.
Having come down the other end at 'Ridge End' we then set off for our furthest point on the way out which was the Hanging Stone. Oh did I forget to mention that we were using one of those Country Walking route cut outs again, which up to this point had been easy to follow. Thus things started to get a little more confused, over which signs we were meant to follow and, on more than one occasion, whether we had actually reached the Hanging Stone or not. In the event we hadn't leaving us to debate whether we should follow a route back that we had done on the previous occasion which would have taken us past Lud's Church.
We pressed on however, eventually reaching the Hanging Stone, by the route which we were actually meant to be departing it. No matter, as of more pressing concern was Helen's somewhat rash (in me and Molly's opinion) to climb to the top of it. Whilst my first instinct was to carry on without her, lest I get dragged into some dangerous (for me anyway) rescue attempt, I eventually had to reconsider given that she had the keys to the car.
Once Helen had come back down to Earth, and after some debate about direction once more, we carried on a track that was below the ridge. Eventually conflict broke out again over which route to follow, especially given the instructions wanted us to go along the road. By some miracle I prevailed, and we retraced our steps back over the ridge, before eventually finding the stepped path down to the car. So overall a brilliant walk, with the weather just staying this side of reasonable.
Walks Since Last Blog Entry: Chesterfield (Trans-Pennine Trail) Circular - (Derbyshire) - 16/09/13 - 10.8 Miles

Friday, 6 September 2013

Hope to Edale - (Derbyshire White Peak) - 05/09/13 - Helen (Molly)

Hang about didn't you do this one a few weeks a go I hear you ask ? Well yes, but this time I took the two ladies in my life along for their approval.
So after parking at Hope station we made our ascent towards the summit of Win Hill firstly negotiating some cows (that were a bit more confined last time) and a massive swarm of gigantic flying insects, that definitely weren't here last time. When we reached the summit and parked ourselves for lunch, they thankfully decided to keep their distance.
Unfortunately for Molly the preponderance of sheep throughout most of the walk, meant that she had to be on a lead for the majority of the time.
On our descent down to and along the Roman Road we noticed in the distance (on what I believe was Lose hill) something akin to a poor mans Stonehenge (see Picture). So if anyone knows what that is, please do enlighten us. Eventually we arrived at Hope Cross for another drinks break (all the while being monitored by a beady eyed sheep).
From there we descended down to Jaggers Clough, crossing the stream and up the path below Nether Moor. Out on to the road and taking a right at a riding centre, we passed through a series of fields and gates at Nether Ollerbrook, before finding our way in to Edale to catch the train back to Hope. Having just missed the hourly train, we parked ourselves in the next door Rambler pub, where the girl overcharged me for our drinks. Fortunately some of that money was reclaimed due to the low cost of travelling the one stop on Northern Rail back to Hope station.

Luther (rip)

Sadly Luther the big chocolate Labrador, passed away this week. Although he was Helen's dog, along with his sparring partner Molly he has for some years been a regular feature of this blog. Unfortunately old age (15) did start to catch up with him over the last couple of years. This meant he has been unable to come on any long walks with us, but instead stuck to his regular haunts and sniffs at the local park.
This picture of Luther in his prime was taken in 2009, somewhere in the Lake District.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Matlock Bath to Ambergate - Derbyshire - 28/08/13 - 7 Miles

Having survived some woman's toddler continually falling onto me on the train from Derbyshire (what is the correct response to this, if you don't think they are cute?) I then couldn't find my way out of the car park at Matlock Bath station. So yes I was back using one of my walk cut-outs from Country Walking magazine (June 2010) and you know how tricky the instructions on those can be. Anyway I eventually found my way onto Lovers Walk, on a steep stepped climb that had me looking back at the Heights Of Abraham on one side (cable cars too small to see in this photo) and Matlock Bath, with some sort of school holiday fun-fare way below. This soon descended in a switch back to the river Derwent, where I crossed a white footbridge to come out on the A6. There I followed the road past Masson Mills, regretting the fact that I had already had my lunch, before turning left to pass Cromford Mills. The visitor centre there had a board displayed outside for Bradwell's ice cream. Now this seemed a good idea, but the grumpy sod in the visitor centre told me there was no one to operate the kiosk (what looked like a standard fridge thing to me), and told me to piss off (well not his exacts words, but if you can read body language.....) Fortunately disaster was averted as there was an ice cream van, at the joining point of Cromford canal (also a conveniently placed set of conveniences). From here it was a fast and flat canal walk that took me to my first marker of Highpeak Junction. One thing that had come up in conversation on Monday's walk with Helen was the prevalence of Himalayan Balsam (invasive species) that seems to be everywhere. If anyone is looking for a good example of this, walk along the canal by Highpeak junction and you will get some idea of the problem. Anyway after taking some photos of the Wharf Shed and Leawood Pumphouse (see below), it was back with fast flat canal walking for the 4 miles to Ambergate. My written instructions, were a tad confusing regarding where to come off for Ambergate station (two stone bridges have a 'Welcome to Cromford Canal' sign), but having worked that out, I arrived at Ambergate with twenty minutes to spare for the hourly train back to Derby. Walks since last blog entry: Chander Hill-Chesterfield (circular) - Helen (Molly) - 4 miles

Monday, 19 August 2013

Tideswell (circular) - Derbyshire - 19/08/13 - 6 Miles - Helen (Molly)

No pictures for this post (so that's a first). Anyway this was one of the least enjoyable walks I have ever done. Firstly the Monsal Trail is now far too full of cyclist's (certainly on a Sunday) especially if you have a dog with you. As for Monks Dale, I didn't realise what a dangerous slippy and inaccessible (if you happened to pull/break something) area that actually is. Certainly it reduced me to a snails pace, with the need for a supporting stick (don't call that walking myself, even if Helen had other ideas). Well Below Average

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Hope to Edale – (Derbyshire White Peak) – 06/08/13 – 8 Miles

Hello Blog long time no see. So where were we ? Well today was a little jaunt down the Hope Vally railway line (from Sheffield) to Hope, then walking on to Edale, before catching the train back to Sheffield.
Given that I had caught the 1214 from Sheffield, by the time I alighted from Hope, it was near lunch time and thoughts were turning to my M&S roll. So having found my path on the gradual ascent to Win Hill, I found a nice rock to sit on and have my snap (yes you Northern bastards, I am trying to learn the lingo). Yet no sooner had I done that then a vicious gang of bovine bullies had crept up behind me, shouting and making cat calls through a gate they were attempting to break down (when are the courts going to do something about this ?). Deciding that discression was the better part of valour, I gave them a one fingered salute, after taking their photo (should the police require evidence), and decided to have my snickers bar and orange carton elsewhere.
The descent up Win Hill was reasonably straightforward, after discovering my second choice of path was the one up to the trig point. The heather looked nice (of course) but not as purple as me and Helen have seen it in the past.
Following the descent all the way down past the plantation and along the Roman road, I eventually ended up at Hope Cross. After a little confusion with my instructions, I eventually picked up the path taking me down to Jaggers Clough, and then the path up to Nether Moor.
There then followed a long and scenic descent down to Clough Farm where I initially encountered some mountain bikers coming the other way, and then a whole herd of sheep being rounded up by someone on a quad bike. Continuing on I took at right at Ollerbrook farm before following a scenic route into Edale, where I managed to make the hourly 1630 train, with about 3 minutes to spare. An excellent day (which made me feel like I was on holiday) and first rate walk (which I will certainly be doing again).
Walks Since Last Blog Entry Chander Hill (Circular) - 15/06/13 - Helen (Molly) - 2.5 Miles / Chesterfield (Trans Pennine Trail) Circular - 17/06/13 - 10.5 Miles / Beeley (Circular) - 08/07/13 - 3.5 Miles / Sundry Others

Monday, 27 May 2013

Grassmoor - Five Pits Trail Circular – (Derbyshire) – 25/05/13 – 6 Miles (approx)

Some walkers like to do different walks every time they go out and can't stand the idea of repeating themselves. I on the other hand like to build a small collection of walks to draw on, whenever I feel like just getting out of the door, minus all the maps and planning. Hence my old (and now lost forever): Grand Union Canal/Osterley Park circular, Putney to Osterley linear, and Richmond Park inner and outer loop circular. Well having done this walk myself four days prior, the next thing to do was to bring the other half along for her evaluation. Molly the black labrador was also on hand to give this walk the once over. The verdict being that it was quite acceptable as a walk, which on this occasion was enhanced by the sunny weather, and the double foodie stops to consume Tesco sarnies and my latest (Victoria) sponge cake creation. So overall a keeper in my book, with lots of scope to develop the basic spine of the walk with additional loops and diversions

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Grassmoor - Five Pits Trail Circular – (Derbyshire) – 21/05/13 – 6 Miles (approx)

Setting off from Grassmoor Country Park, my Five Pits Trail loop took me through: Williamthorpe nature reserve and Holmewood, before looping back on the Grassmoor branch, via a circular turn back at Timber Lane farm. The paths themselves were clear and physically undemanding. However being hemmed in by trees and bushes either side meant there was no real scenery or stunning vistas to look at. So basically a walk for a very hot day, when you want to be outdoors, but in the shade. WALKS SINCE LAST BLOG ENTRY: (1) Linacre extended circular - 4 Miles & (2) Beeley / Chatsworth Dambusters flypast circular - 3 miles.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Castleton / Lose Hill Circular – (Derbyshire Dark Peak) – 29/04/13 – 5 Miles – Helen (Molly)

So what is it I always used to say at the end of each new piece ? Oh yes, ‘walks since last blog entry’. So in this case I will start with that, as there have been quite a few since I last put something on here. The trouble being that they have been of the small (5 miles or less variety), been walks that have featured here in the past (think Chatsworth, Baslow, Chander Hill etc.), and been walks where I didn’t think it necessary to bring a camera. So yes I have been neglecting this blog of late. Although to be fair to me, none of this has been helped by the depressing cold/winter, my change of job, and that fact that we haven’t been able to leave Luther (the oldie Labrador) home alone for too long. Anyway to get things moving again we (the Royal we doncha know) will start with a walk of 5 miles, that we have done before, only on this occasion we did bring a camera (Helen’s). So parking at Castleton this time (with Pevril Castle looking down on us and suggesting another day out) we set off through a series of fields, making both of us feel somewhat sluggish (not Molly though you understand). Now Helen had convinced me via the BBC website that this was going to be a nice day. Well no actually, having underdressed I found myself shivering through this first part of the walk. So having exerted ourselves in the cold for half an hour, we decided to stop for lunch on a stile in sight of the abandoned road, at the bottom of the shivering mountain (so that’s how it got its name), whilst watching some lambs butt heads and bleat over a lick bowl. With lunch over we then had to start climbing up onto the ridge at Odins Mine, and that soon warmed us up. What also warmed the cockles was the fact that as this walk was during the working week, there wasn’t that many people up there with us. Unfortunately for Molly though the preponderance of sheep meant that she had to be kept on the lead a lot of the time. Thus our climb took us along and through Hollins Cross, Back Tor with its Aztec Pyramid type steps to the lonely tree (where the wind tried to blow us off) and eventually to the summit of Lose Hill. On our approach to which, we saw what appeared to be a dead sheep in the field, with two small lambs watching the carcass from nearby. Feeling somewhat impotent in what we could do, given that there were other sheep in the field, we just hoped that a shepherd would be keeping an eye on his flock. From Lose Hill we began our descent to Castleton, which initially seemed to be taking us somewhat in the other direction, but after more negotiation of the flocking woollies we hit town, with just one small amount of sheltering from a shower. Castleton (home of the Blue John retailers) strikes me as something of a tourist trap, which nonetheless didn’t stop us trying the coffee and cake in one of it’s many teashops. So no thanks to the BBC weather centre it all turned out rather spiffingly (including Molly’s collar –in joke).