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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Another weekly wander or two..........

Walking with; Nobody

I love having the Peak District on my doorstep, it means when time is short or inclination is in lowish supply I can still get out and experience some of the finest countryside Britain has to offer without it really feeling like an effort....and so it was last week, two very different Peak District rambles, neither more than half an hour from home.
Tuesday morning, feeling a bit flat, I decided a gentle amble might lift the mood and headed to the undemanding territory of the Middlewood Way. A previous walk on this multi-use track, which follows the route of an old rail line from Marple to Macclesfield, had proved fruitful in terms of the profusion and variety of wild flowers and this one was equally rewarding. Bluebells were starting to decorate the fringes of the path, as well as Forget-me-nots, Cow Parsley and Cranesbill. Bumble bees were dancing around the flowers and Orange Tip and Peacock butterflies were making the most of the patches of dappled sunlight cutting through the canopy. After twenty minutes or so I left the path and ascended to the Macclesfield Canal. I have a longing for the life of a narrow boat man and every time I see the immaculate barges, wood smoke curling from the chimneys and kettle on the hob I'm filled with an overwhelming urge to travel.....Dreaming, I pressed on deeper into the Cheshire countryside, there were male Pheasants in the fields, resplendent amongst the sheep and cows and a Kestrel hovered over head as I continued on to Lyme Park where I had lunch and watched a flock of Jackdaws tormenting one another. The Bluebells were out in force in Elmerhurst Wood and on emerging from the trees I regained the Ladybrook Valley Interest Trail before pottering back to my car refreshed in mind, body and spirit!
A couple of days later and I decided I was in the mood for some map work and a few more demanding miles. I parked at the Arnfield reservoir, on the outskirts of Tintwistle, and headed out across the Grouse moors towards Tintwistle Knarr. There were plenty of Grouse about, not to mention Curlews, and later on I saw a Peregrine, but very few people and progress was pretty quick up on to the edges above the chain of Longdendale reservoirs. As I left the edge the clouds which had been sitting on Bleaklow dropped and the short cross moor path to Lad's Leap was done in poor visibility. After a restorative cuppa I followed Hollins Clough North before making the Trig Point on Rakes Moss and continuing on to Chew Reservoir which I had only previously reached from Dove Stones Leaving the reservoir to the Canada Geese I followed the cliff top path above Chew Brook before striking off across Ormes Moor and eventually (after a few relocations) managed to make my way to the top of Ogden Clough. At this stage the sun came out!! Buoyed by the novelty factor I decided to lunch at Higher Swineshaw reservoir and after half an hour with the sun on my face ended up contouring round Lees Hill before enjoying more Bluebells in the Hollingworth Nature Reserve and eventually making it back to my starting point at Arnfield.
These two walks were very different in terms of scope, landscape and effort required, but I feel very lucky to have them both on my doorstep!

To view the full album, please click on the link below;

Friday, May 17, 2013

Four seasons in one trip

Walking with; Nobody

Off to the Lakes again for comprehensive proof that in spite of last week's Bank Holiday sunshine in Wales, Britain seems reluctant to shake off Winter just yet. I spent the morning in Ambleside touring the gear shops in search of a new jacket, I eventually settled on the Montane Superfly which will be getting it's first outing next week as I am somewhat superstitious about throwing a new garment directly into the fray. Lunch done, I decided to drive up to Kirkstone Pass and have a go at Red Screes which I'd seen from the other side on my Fairfield Horseshoe route The ascent from the Kirkstone Pass Inn took on some of the eponymous screes and there was a fair amount of judicious route picking and minor scrambling all of which made the sudden appearance of the summit very satisfying. Wainwright claims that the cairn atop Red Screes is the largest of the Eastern Fells and it provided a degree of shelter from the wind which had started whipping hailstones across the tops somewhat lessening my enjoyment of the spectacular views back towards Windermere, across to Fairfield and down to Brothers Water. I decided that discretion might well be the better part of valour at this stage and headed (with the wind battering at my back) down the broad ridge of Middle Dodd before slipsliding my way down to Kirkstone Beck and with the hail now turned to a wet sleet I was very happy to see the ancient inn ahead of me as I crested the final slope. The pub is reckoned to date back to the Fifteenth Century and is listed as the third highest inn in England, it's certainly an attractive building and the fire was burning as I supped a restorative pint, very welcome. I spent the night at the Ambleside Backpackers which I can heartily recommend after a few pints at The Gilded Lily!
   I have a few dirty little secrets; I like JLS and Bombay Bad Boy Pot Noodles, but, perhaps the worst of them was, that for someone describing themselves as a passionate hillwalker I had never climbed Helvellyn....well, that has at least been rectified! I decided to take the easy way up and parked at the exorbitantly expensive Wythburn car park next to the beautiful little church that served the community of Wythburn before it was drowned under the waters of Thirlmere. Coleridge and Wordsworth both mention the building and I found it a lovely, poignant spot. I followed the path running parallel to Comb Gill and then skirting below the peak of Nethermost Pike which afforded excellent views of Thirlmere and the Western Fells and then as the path levelled out there was Striding Edge with a couple of brave souls picking their way along it. There was fresh snow on the top and a bitter wind and the cross shaped shelter was well populated, the sky was clear though and the views to Ullswater and beyond were worth every ounce of effort. I followed the edge of the busy summit and headed down past Lower Man and along the ridge to White Side (for lunch) and then onto Raise. It was at this stage the sun came out and ......stayed out. I took off my jacket, smiled for a little while and then meandered onto Stybarrow Dodd for a wee spot of rest looking out of miles and miles of beautifully scenic countryside that yesterday would have been completely invisible! Time was ticking on so I headed down the increasingly sheer and stunningly beautiful Stanah Gill until reaching the path that ran parallel to the lakeside road, flitting in and out of the pine forest (spotting my first Chiffchaff of the year) until I reached the welcome sanctuary of my car! I spent the night at the YHA in Hawkshead catching up with my friend Rob, whom I'd worked with at Castleton last year. He introduced me to the joys of Loweswater Gold at The King's Arms in the picturesque village for which I am very thankful!
   Wednesday morning started grey and very quickly progressed to wet and by the time I was on my way up the Coniston Fells, Wetherlam my quarry for the day, wet and windy. The cloud got lower, the wind got higher and I got wetter.....and wetter....and (you guessed it) wetter......Summiting was satisfying, not pleasurable, so I abandoned plans to carry on to Swirl How, and with the wind doing it's very level best to lift me off my feet, I headed down Low Wether Crag, past Levers Water and back towards the Coppermines and a cup of something hot.
Three days, three different walks, and just about every kind of weather chucked at me......roll on next week!

To view the full album, please click on the link below;!/media/set/?set=oa.384532758332302&type=1

Friday, May 10, 2013

South Wales wanderings

Walking with; Ruthy

Some of my earliest walking memories are of family outings to the Brecon Beacons where my Grandparents lived (and Grandmother still does). The names are evocative to me; The Sugar Loaf, The Table Mountain, The Blorenge and in my mind they have grown into epic mountain days, and so it was, that with Ruth having to visit Abergavenny for work the Wednesday after a Bank Holiday we thought we could stay with Granny in Crickhowell and I could relive a few childhood memories.
Tuesday felt as if Summer had arrived. We rolled into Hay-on-Wye in glorious sunshine, there was blossom on the trees, primroses and daffodils were still in flower and the fields were full of young lambs. Hay is the self proclaimed book capital of the world and with 30+ shops covering every conceivable specialism, it was easy to wile away a couple of hours and head back to the car with a bootfull of new reads. We headed out of Hay and onto the Offa's Dyke Path (which I am still hoping to do this year, time permitting) and had soon left the town behind for a world of forget-me-nots, celandines, goosegrass and primroses. We crossed the Dulas Brook, back into England, and the tiny hamlet of Cusop which found notoriety as the home of Herbert Rowse Armstrong, the only English solicitor ever to be hanged for murder! More country lanes lined with Cow Parsley and early bluebells took us back into Hay still bathed in beautiful sunshine.
Wednesday morning and the sunshine of the previous day had disappeared. The cloud hung low and drizzle was in the air as I emerged replete from another Full  English at The Kings Arms in Abergavenny. Undaunted I made my way through the narrow lanes and past the Sugar Loaf vineyards to the car park at Mynydd Llanwenarth where the cloud was lifting to provide spectacular views. I headed off North West and dropped into a valley below the Western ridge where I heard, and then saw, my first Cuckoo of the year. The climb up the ridge was long and blowy but undemanding and the views of the Beacons and surrounding countryside were spectacular. I now have longer legs than I did on my first ascent so it wasn't quite such an arduous adventure, but the 360 degree views from the summit are well earned and well worth the effort. It was a gentle descent back to the car park drinking in the views and skirting the edge of St Mary's Vale and once I was back I looked back at the cone like summit through the same eyes I did 30 years before and felt as if I'd had a proper adventure once more!