Friday, 25 July 2014

99 - Butser Hill - South Downs National Park - 24th July 2014

Its time for a very quick visit to a very local high point which I have visited on many occasions however I have not yet included in this blog, Its Butser Hill, the highest point of the South Downs National Park.

The Schools broke up on Weds 23rd which meant that Chris and Amy were free to meet up with me, Clint and Carson up at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park for a walk in the woods so I decided to take a quick detour to visit Butser Hill. I drove up the A3 and turned off at Clanfield to drive up the country lanes to the car prk near the top of the hill. I parked up and headed off to find the highest point. I love Butser Hill, it has the A3 duel carriage way cutting its way right through the area but when you get up on top of the hill you can't really see or hear it so you really can get away from it all, there were a few people flying kites and when I arrived at the Trig point marking the highest point there was a family having a picnic next to it so I didn't stop.

Butser is home to a big radio mast and although its quite an industrial structure I think its been there so long it would look odd without it, Butser would not be Butser without this landmark and it provides some interesting photo opportunities. I didnt stay at the top of the hill for long and I was soon making my way back to the car to hear off and meet up with Clint, Carson, Chris and Amy.

Here are some photos from past visits to Butser Hill.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

98 - Aran Fawddwy - Merionethshire - 9th July 2014

Last year I was joined on on of my expeditions by Bournemouth Chris (I call him that because I have another climbing friend called Chris from Portsmouth and this one is from Bournemouth), anyway we had a great time despite the weather and it was now time to take another trip together to climb another high point.

I left Portsmouth on July 8th and picked Chris up from his home in Bournemouth and then we made the long drive up to north west Wales, on the way we stopped off at Marlborough for some lunch and took a fair few winding roads through the English and Welsh countryside. Not too far from our destination my sat nav decided to take us on a small diversion over a toll bridge, we didn't need to go that way but we were interested to see the bridge and drive over it. The bridge is called the Penmaenpool bridge and cost us a whole 70p to cross it. The bridge seemed to be entirely made of wood including the roadway and it was well worth the crossing, we decided to go that same way on the way home too. After the excitement of the little wooden bridge we drove through Barmouth and along our last few roads finally finding our Campsite for the next 3 nights at Shell Island.

Shell Island is Europe's largest campsite, it is situated on the west coast of wales amongst the sand dunes and it has miles of beach to explore, it is quite an amazing place to stay. We drove around for a while exploring and eventually found a location with some shelter and easy access to the toilets and other facilities, it really was an amazing place to stay and we soon had our tent pitched up and we were settled in. After dinner we had a nice walk along the beach, at first I was a bit disappointed as the beach was covered with rather large boulders however just around the bend the huge sprawling golden sands stretched away into the distance and just at sunset it really was rather stunning.

The next day was climbing day and Chris was kind enough to cook a delicious bacon and egg breakfast, after washing up we headed off on the 40 minute drive to the village of Llanuwchylln where we parked the van and got ourselves ready for the climb ahead. On leaving the car park we left the village along route of an old railway line but soon turned off away from this and across the fields up towards the first slopes of the day. Ahead of us we could see a series of hills and mountains, around 4 of them, I spend a short time working out what they were and where we were aiming for, the highest I could see looked very high and I thought that would be our destination however it soon became apparent that the mountain we were heading from was actually way beyond these mountains.

Not long after we left the fields we found ourselves amongst the sheep which regular readers will know is a common thing on my walks, sheep are fine but as you may remember from my climb up Moel Famau cows and bulls are more of a challenge and sure enough we found our path crossed straight through a field of bulls, Chris was more confident than me (he didn't have to deal with the bull stampede last time) and we crossed the field with much ease making our way over the style and out into open countryside.

We first made our was past the first small hill and then up and around the next small hill, every so often we would have to cross a style or go through a gate, there was one small descent to make then a flat piece of land and then it was back to climbing upwards again along the western sides of the hills. there were some muddy patches to cross but in general is was pretty dry, slowly we climbed up and up hardly meeting anyone on the way up, just a few glimpses of people ahead of us or behind us. Further we climbed and higher we got, the views behind us were stunning, you could see along the whole valley, in the distance was Bala lake and the village, then beyond that was the rest of the Snowdonia mountains stretching off into the distance. Ahead of us all we could see was the mountains ahead of us and not too far away was the bit of a steep climb.

We approached the steep climb and  before we tackled it we sat down for a rest and a quick drink and snack to boost our energy and then we headed onward and upwards, the path was zig zagging all the way up and eventually we reached the top of this steep climb and for the first time we could see our destination ahead, Aran Fawddwy could be seen just over a mile to the south and to get there we had to walk along the top of the ridge of mountains. It was along this part of the walk that 2 RAF jet planes started to chase each other around the mountains, they were flying very fast above and below us and we could see them for miles around. We carried on towards Aran Fawddwy, the path dipped and rose up to smaller peaks a few times, we passed a small lake (which I always think is odd to see on top of a mountain) and crossed over a few more styles and passed a couple of people, then we reached our last climb up to the top of Aran Fawddwy. The final climb was the steepest one yet, it was not far but quite steep and we were using our hands quite a lot to scramble up, the path was hard to find but it was more of a case of just finding the best route possible.

After 4 and a half hours worth of climbing we finally reached the top at 905 metres sea level, it had taken longer than expected but we had made it, on top of the mountain was a trig point and there were amazing views, the mountain slopes dropped off almost vertically below us which meant we could see right down to the valley floor below us and for miles and miles to the east and south. We stopped here for sometime having our flasks of tea and our lunches, it was quite windy but we managed to find a fairly sheltered spot behind the trig point where we could watch the world going past and the occasional fighter jet too. We must have been at the top for 30-45 minutes and after food we took lots of photos and then collected up our gear to make our way back down to the car.

The walk back down was a bit quicker than the walk up taking us 2.5 hours and we passed the same people who had set up a tent next to the lake on top of the mountains, it was quite tricky at times walking back, because it was a much easier walk back down we were walking much faster and we kept losing our footing and I even fell over at one point due to a hole in the ground but we made it back to the civilization and through the field of bulls and then a different road back to the car. It had been an amazing climb and well worth the effort as the views from the tops were awesome. That evening we headed back to the campsite where Chris cooked up a lovely meal and we relaxed for the rest of the evening tired but happy.

The next day we awoke to a heatwave, our tent was like a furnace where the sun had heated it up, Chris cooked another lovely breakfast and then we headed off for a drive, we drove through Harlech and took a quick visit to Port Merrion and then we headed to Porthmadog for an ice cream and walk around the harbour and town, We looked in some shops and got some chips and then we headed back to the campsite for our dinner and another walk along the beach. On our last morning we woke up to a heatwave again and packed up the tent and all our equipment, then we went into the little cafe to get a cooked breakfast ready for our long drive home, It had been a lovely few days and shell island was a wonderful place to stay. 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

94-97 - Denbighshire, Wrexham, Telford and the Wrekin - 26th June 2014

Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall
It was day 3 of a camping and hill walking trip, so far I had visited Raw Head in Cheshire and on the previous day climbed Moel Famau, it was now time to pack up camp and head for home but not before getting in a few high points on my way home. I left the campsite and headed south through the towns of Ruthin, Corwen and eventually through some small villages and along some long small roads to a tiny place called Tan-Y-Pistyll.

This little village (if you can call it that) consisted of a restaurant, a B&B, a campsite and a few other buildings but it was where I parked my car ready for the days first highpoints, I got my backpack ready and first headed off to see a something pretty spectacular, the Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall. I have seen a few waterfalls in Wales recently but this one was huge, it was really tall at 240 ft and looked amazingly spectacular. 

The View over the valley
I soon moved on to start climbing up the first of 2 mountains I would visit today, it took me a while to find the right path but eventually I was on the right route and climbing up the zigzag path onto the open moorland. Soon I was out onto open land and as always amongst the sheep with a splattering of ferns here and there. At this point I passed the top of the waterfall but as I couldn't really see anything It was much lest impressive as the view from the bottom. 

The Highpoints ahead
The Pathway straightened out now and steadily climbed passing through a fence and up over a small hill, from here I got my first glimpse of the mountain I was aiming for, Slowly I made my way up the final climb to the top of Moel Sych, the highest point of the historic county of Denbighshire. I stayed here for a while but the wind was so strong, I tried to shelter behind a pile of stones while I had a cup of tea but soon decided to move on to the next highpoint just a short walk away.

Moel Sych
I was lucky with these 3 highpoints because they were all fairly close to each other and they were all situated along the top of a ridge of mountains so the walk to high point number 2 was a simple case of walking down and then back up again to the top of Cadair Berwyn the current highpoint of the modern county of Denbighshire. Cadair Berwyn has actually always been the highest point of Denbighshire however it was only recently found to be 3 metres higher than Moel Sych. I had another very quick cup of tea from my flask and headed off to find my next highpoint, I passed a ruined circular structure which I had to have a look around and then I carried on to Craig Berwyn, at 790 meters is the highest point of Wrexham. Craig Berwyn was a bit of a difficult one as the actual high point does not lie on a visible high point, it actually sits a short distance down the slope of the mountain, this is because the border runs right across the mountain.

Cadair Berwyn
From Craig Berwyn I could see to the north another peak, I took a quick look at my watch and was mildly impressed with how quickly I was reaching these summits, it was just after 1pm and I didn't arrive at the carpark until after 11 so it had only been 2 hours, I thought it would be a shame to come this far and not climb it to the top of this next peak. I carried on once more and after following some cool little wooden pathways I was standing on Cadair Bronwen which was 785 meters above sea level. I stopped here for another quick cup of tea and took another look at my watch, it was just after 1pm . . . . . . . still, yes it suddenly dawned on my, my watch had stopped, it was not 1pm at all but more like 4pm and I had a long way to walk and drive home.

I decided to head off as fast as I could and passed the summits of Craig Berwyn, Cadair Berwyn and Moel Sych, it was now down hill all the way. my pace was fast and I was soon in sight of the top of the waterfall, passing that I took the zigzag path all the way down to the car park and back to my car where I finished up my cup of tea and headed off home. My drive home took me along a few country roads and then eventually I passed the town of Shrewsbury where I started seeing signs for Telford. I remembered that there was a highpoint not too far from Telford so I stopped off and did a little research to find that I would be passing the high point very closely, I decided to stop off and visit it.

The top of The Wrekin
Highest point of Telford and The Wrekin
I arrived at a car park at the base of the Wrekkin and found it to be packed with cars and people, I found a space and headed up the hill through the forests. It was not a long walk but due to the fact tha tI had already climbed several mountains today I wanted to take it slowly so I reached the top in about 30-40 mins. I passed so many people on the way to the top, I think this was my busiest high point yet, there were runners, bikers, walkers, dogs, families and couples everywhere. The views from the top were awesome, to the east I could see a power station and the flat countryside spread out below me, to the west I could see the mountains in the distance, to the south were more hills and to the north was the town of Telford. I stayed here for quite a long time, probably about half an hour and soon it was time to head back down to the car.

I reached the car and made my way home, it had been a wonderful few days of hill walking and I was tired but very happy.

Friday, 4 July 2014

93 - Moel Famau - Flintshire - 25th June 2014

Country lanes with Moel Famau in the distance
In the north east of Wales lies the Clwydian Range of hills and mountains, it is a designated area of outstanding natural beauty and its highest point is also the highest point of the county of Flintshire.

On the previous day I had arrived, set up camp and visited the highest point of Chester and the Talacre lighthouse on the north coast of Wales, It was now time to pack my backpack again and start walking. This walk was going to turn out to be a bit different than most as it was not the journey up which was going to be memorable, it was the journey down. I left the campsite and headed along the country roads towards the Clwydian hills, there were a mixture of country lanes and paths to follow and I caught a few glimpses of my destination over the hedgerows. It was quite a dry warm day with very little sunshine so not too bad for walking. I carried on walking for a while along the various roads and lanes, at one point I took a wrong turn into someones front garden but eventually made it onto the hills of the Clwydian range.

As with many of the hills I have visited on my quest this one was covered with sheep, hills and sheep always seem to go together, its like ponds and ducks. I made my way up through the sheep stopping for a banana and biscuit at one point, the views were getting quite amazing and so was the amount of sheep poo building up on the bottom of my shoes, it really was impossible to avoid. I soon met up with a more substantial path which turned out to be the Offa's Dyke path, I walked along part of the Offa's Dyke path when I visited Black Mountain in Herefordshire last year so it was nice to walk along that again. It was along here I passed a few people, the first people I had seen since leaving the campsite, It was now not too far to the highest point and I was soon standing on top of Moel Famau at 554.8 metres above sea level.

Jubilee Tower
On top of Moel Famau stands the Jubilee Tower, Its a derelict stone structure which was first layed down in 1810 to mark the golden jubilee of King George III however it was never completed and in 1865 it was badly damaged by a storm and so the ruins are the only thing left standing. Its quite an interesting and large structure and you can climb up onto it, It would have been amazing if it had been finished. After a stop for tea and sandwiches I continued my walk back to the campsite, I had decided to take a different route back to I headed off away from the summit of Moel Famau.

I quickly made my way down the slopes of the hills trying to dodge the sheep poo and a baby fox eating what looked to be the remains of a sheep and soon I was back into the farmland and walking along some country paths and then a road. After a short while the maps showed the path heading off across several fields, and sure enough when I arrived at the field I saw a prominent pathway working its way through the field of corn towards the next field. Once across this first field I had 4 more fields to cross, the next field also had a nice path cutting straight through the middle of it, that was 2 down and 3 to go. 

Offa's Dyke Path
Field number 3 turned out to be a bit more difficult, when I first saw the field I could see the nice pathway heading off to a gate on the other side, a nice and simple 150 meter walk though a field, the problem however was the herd of 30 baby bulls standing in my way and yes, I was wearing bright red. What was I going to do? It was a pretty long walk back the way I came so I thought I would test the waters and step into the field for a moment. I climbed over the style and stood there, nothing, all was calm, I slowly walked into the field along the path, still nothing, and then one bull saw me, then another and another, suddenly they all started heading my way, I quickly made my way back to the style and climbed back over.

So there I was, stuck on one side of a fence with a herd of bulls on the other side, I reached out to stroke one and he backed away, maybe they were just inquisitive? I thought I would try again, there were about 8 bulls watching me, I climbed over the style and into the field and I stood there, almost petrified, the bulls stood there watching. Nothing happened, it was stale mate, I watched the bulls, the bulls watched me. I made a decision, rather than head directly through the field I would walk around the edge, that way I would not be completely surrounded by the bulls. As I slowly backed away from the bulls and made my way along the hedge they seemed to follow me, I put out my hand and they backed away so I kept my hand there all the time, when ever I looked in the direction I was going they got closer to I had to walk backwards for more of the distance not knowing where I was treading. The further I went the more bulls joined in, further from the style was was getting but closer to the gate. I seemed to working my way through the field for ages but soon I was nearing the gate, by this time I had the whole herd of cows following me and I scrambled over the gate away from the bulls.

In the panic I took a bit of a wrong turn here but I was soon back on course and walking through field number 4, just 1 more field to go and I was back into normal roads. I arrived at the last long field and started walking through it, it was a very long field, around 500 metres in length. about a third of the way through the field I was minding my own business when what I can only describe as a Pterodactyl dive bombed me, it was so close and I actually felt it sweep past my hat. I have since found out that this was a buzzard and I didn't realize just how big these were, its wingspan was over a metre and it dive bombed be 2 more times before I decided to start running. The buzzard obviously had a nest somewhere and was just defending it but it was still pretty scary.

Out of the field I was back onto the country paths and walking through a few farms eventually making my way back to the campsite after a very action packed walk. That evening I relaxed with a beef stew ready for the next day when I would be trying to cross off 4 high points from my list. Moel Famau was a lovely climb and pretty easy but it was the wildlife that made it so exciting today.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

92 - Raw Head - Cheshire West and Chester - 24th June 2014

It was time to get some more high points ticked off and so I planned a trip where I could get a few done in one go, the first high point was a quick stop off not too far from my campsite in north Wales. I left home and drove the long drive up the M27, M3, A34, M40, M6 and eventually turned off the big motorways and onto the smaller roads, the area I was heading for was situated between Chester and Nantwich. On arrival at the small village of Bulkeley I worked out the best route to walk and eventually decided to change my parking spot and park on the otherside of the high point not too far from the village of Harthill.

The lane to my parking spot was rather small and quite worn out so it was a bit of a bumpy ride but I found the location easily and parked up. Walking from the parking spot I instantly found myself walking up a hill and through some woodland eventually coming out at another bigger path which seemed to run along a ridge along the top of the hills, this path I was now walking along was part of the 34 mile long Sandstone trail which stretches from Frodsham in the north to Whitchurch in the south.
I walked south along this path for a while, on one side of the path were fields stretching out to the east and on the other side were the woodlands and a steep drop down, I followed the path for a few minutes and soon arrived at the destination, the highest point of Cheshire West and Chester, Raw Head. At 227.1 meters  it was also the highest point on the Sandstone trail, it was not amazingly high but the views to the north west were pretty amazing, in the distance I could just about see the Wirral and the rivers Dee and Mersey in the distance.

I stopped here for a short time and eventually retraced my steps back to the parking spot where I continued my journey to the campsite in North Wales. The Campsite was located in the north of Denbighshire not too far from the small town on Ruthin, I set up camp and had a quick cup of tea but soon headed off to find another landmark on the north coast of Wales.

About 40 minutes drive north I arrived at the seaside town of Talacre where I parked up and walked the short distance to the beach, the beach was amazing, very sandy and wide at low tide, however it was not the beach I had come to see, it was the Talacre Lighthouse. The Talacre Lighthouse stands alone on the beach, jutting out of the sand and standing tall and dominant keeping a watch over everything that happens around, It really does grow right out of the sand and is an impressive sight. I seemed to spend ages here and I eventually had to head back to the campsite because the tide was coming in, it had been an excellent way to end the day.