View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy

Saturday, 28 March 2015

22nd March 2015, The 30th Two Crosses Circuit

Challenge walking the lightweight way

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This is the East Lancashire LDWA’s annual challenge walk, from Tottington, near Bury, to Tottington, near Bury. That makes it a circular(ish) route. There’s a choice of 17 mile or 25 mile routes so there’s something for everyone.

The group is having a busier than usual year this year, not only do they have a very full calendar of walks throughout the year, this year they’re also hosting the LDWA’s biggy, The 100 – aka: The Red Rose 100.

Anyway, whoops, I meant Anyway…anyway, at 8am Judith and I shot off from the start – having listened to Norman, set on his soapbox, garbling some vital information about the walk. Probably not that important, we couldn’t understand a word he said.

200+ walkers and runners took part in the event, always a good do. The atmosphere is cheery and friendly – you’ll rarely see a long face on events like these.

The weather was glorious: cool at first, but then warming up to just the right temperature for walking. There hadn’t been much rain in the couple of weeks leading up to the walk so the ground was a little less boggy than usual.

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Early in the route: everyone’s still mud-free 

A printed route description is available and of course a map & compass should be carried – conditions can turn very quickly around these parts. Even if you find yourself alone, it’s a fairly busy course so there’s almost always someone close-by doing the route.

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Crossing the railway line close by Turton Tower 

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My navigator at Highlight No1: the food stop

P1040134Judith reckons this car was there from last year. I can’t remember, but I’m very old. 

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The appropriately named Wet Moss 

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Warning flags on the Holcombe Moor firing range

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Approaching Highlight No2, The Naughty Corner and it’s bar staff 

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Partaking of certain beverages at The Naughty Corner 

P1040145After The Naughty Corner checkpoint the route follows paths up to and across the length of Holcombe Moor, passing the Pilgrims Cross

P1040146 Next is Peel Tower…

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…followed by the normally ghastly descent through Reddisher Woods. The weather had been good, which was good. In less than good weather this descent can be simply awful: steep, muddy and slippy etc

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The menu at the finish

We arrived at the finish, which is also the start, around six and a half hours after setting off on this mad expedition. Rather than do the 25 mile route that we did last year, this time we did the shorter 17 mile route. We didn’t push it, speed-wise.

East Lancs LDWA are justifiably known for the excellent food they provide at the checkpoints. This year’s Two Crosses didn’t disappoint, the food was just too good to miss out on….I didn’t need my tea that night!

The short route (clockwise):

Two Crosses 17 miles

17 miles with approx 1400’ ascent

Thanks to Paul and all the East Lancs LDWA team who worked so hard in putting this event together, oh – and for feeding us all so well!

These challenge walks are great fun, and they’re a cheap day out. The entry fee for this event was £7, which includes two really good food meals – one at a checkpoint, the other at the end. You should enter one!

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More photos here.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

18 – 21 March 2015, A Llangynllo to Caersws backpack

Day 1, Llangynllo to Beacon Hill

On Wednesday afternoon Mike and I got off the train at Llangynllo station, a tiny station, secreted in someone’s back garden. Very odd.

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The Plan for the day was to walk a few miles and pitch for the night, which is exactly what we did. Clear skies and a cold breeze ensured a cold night’s camp. Fortunately we’d come well prepared: woolly undies, thick socks, pies, and lashings of whiskey hot chocolate.

This trip was planned by Mike and he’d researched the area well. He wanted to tick some tops and the route was put together with this in mind. Potential pitches were checked for potentialness by studying his maps of the area and one of the Cairngorms. This certainly paid off, we now know there’s a brilliant place to camp by the Cairngorm Club Footbridge, close to the Lairigh Ghru. Oh, and some lovely pitches in this sparsely populated area of Wales.

This area really is beautiful. Okay, the weather couldn’t have been better, but really, this area is stunning. There’s loads of interesting features: ditches, dykes, tumuli, windfarms and loads more. Better still, it’s quite unspoilt. Apart from the windfarms.

P1040037The first hill of the trip was Pool Hill which had a little pool to the SW of it’s top. This hill was incorporated into the few miles of tarmac, Land Rover tracks and footpaths, including Glyndwr’s Way, to our first overnight stop. Our pitch had decently flat ground, running water close(ish) by, and a fine chorus of croaking frogs and froglets.

P1040039  First night’s pitch, close to Beacon Hill

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GPX route 1Our route for the day, very clearly defined (eh?) by a purple squiggly thing.

Starting at the bottom right and finished at the top left of the map. 4.4 miles, 900’ ascent

It was a damned cold night, lots of hot chocolate (and other stuff) was consumed in the interest of warding off the coldness. Once in our sleeping bags we stayed put until the morning, it was too chilly to be sociable. Thanks heavens for the ‘I’ newspaper and BBC R4. My new toy, a Thermarest Neoair, did the job well.

Day 2, Beacon Hill to Kerry Hill

An early night meant an early morning, or it should have done. It was better to stay in my cosy sleeping bag until around 8am, it being so very cold. Even the Akto’s built-in shower was only able to provide a shower of ice crystals.

P1040047Frosty tents

Beacon Hill has a trig point set on a tumulus, one of four tumuli on the summit if the 1:50K OS map is to be believed. This was our first objective of the day – if you didn’t count all the coffee I needed to kickstart my body.

P1040050 Mike on Beacon Hill

Heading north (and downhill) we came across a fenced-off area that at first glance appeared to perhaps be an open pit. On closer inspection we found a pile of rotting carrion, surrounded by snares – perhaps to catch unwary foxes:

P1040054Look carefully and you’ll see a snare. I’m not sure of the legality of such traps.  

Careful study of the OS map revealed the presence of a pub in Felindre, about 3 miles north of Beacon Hill. As our route took us through Felindre we decided that we could be considered rude if we didn’t call in the pub for cup of tea, and maybe a nice scone. The pub was easy to find but our beer tea and scones would have to wait:

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P1040064Our fan club 

We continued, thirstily, to our next goal – Anchor. Anchor, for those not in the know, is the start point for the annual Across Wales Walk. I was more than a bit disappointed to find that the Anchor Inn at Anchor had closed down, a very sad sight (and site) indeed:

P1040066 A very shocked Mike, dazed by the realisation that beer wasn’t coming our way that day.

Not (very) disheartened, we continued our merry way to the Kerry Ridgeway, an ancient route running from Bishop’s Castle in Shropshire (famous for the Three Tuns Brewery) and Cider House Farm in Powys, which may or may not have been famous for cider.

P1040070Ceri Wood 

We joined the route at Kerry Pole:

P1040072 What I didn’t realise at the time was that Kerry Pole is the site of a megalithic stone circle. Had I known, I’d have spent a bit more time there. Oh well, onwards:

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We were only into our second day of this trip but it was remarkable in that we’d seen very few people so far: the previous day we met a farmer who was curious to know what we were up to, on this day we saw a family out for a walk along with dad(?), a gorilla of a fat bloke, ill-treating his doggy. We weren’t at all impressed by this behaviour one teeny little bit. Some folk should just not be allowed to have dogs. Or children. It’s a shame, his children seemed quite nice.

This unpalatable episode was almost forgotten when we came a across another doggy owner walking his barmy labrador along the Kerry Ridgeway. This lovely bloke walked his doggy miles and miles every day. And he was a motorcyclist. The man, not the doggy. At least I don’t think so.

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The Kerry Ridgeway was crossed by Cross Dyke, one of the many dykes in the area. Two Tumps was (were?) adjacent to where the dyke crossed the Kerry Ridgeway. I thought that the Two Tumps was me and Mike.

P1040087I photographed Cross Dyke but forgot to photograph Two Tumps. Worratump. 

More Kerry Ridgewaying took us to Kerry Hill and the search for a pitch for the night. A nice little spot, flat and grassy, presented itself and our two Aktos were quickly erected:

P1040076Akto Central, Kerry Hill

Kit failure

Another cold night followed. In my case it was a slightly worrying night too. I’d avoided buying a Thermarest Neoair for some years, simply because of the problems that other owners had experienced – namely delamination / internal baffle failure, and overnight deflation. I was more than a bit miffed to find that my brand-new Neoair’s internal baffles had begun to fail after just one night’s use. A small bulge was developing at the bottom end of the mat. Fortunately the bulge was in a position not to cause me a problem, but it was certainly a concern. The Neoair will be going back to Gaynor’s later this week. 

Anyway, the day’s travels:

GPX route 2b

The second bit: Felindre (of closed pub fame) to Kerry Hill

GPX route 2aThe first bit: Beacon Hill (nearly) to Felindre 

12.3 miles, 1900’ ascent

 

Day 3, Kerry Hill to Cobbler’s Gate…

….well it was very close to Cobbler’s Gate. With a name like that I just had to include it in the write-up. 

The RAF were out to play today. Fast jets were flying around, it looked like they were having great fun. A low flying Hercules trundled in front of us, the pleasant rumble of it’s engines wasn’t at all intrusive.

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P1040093Then a funny thing happened. The sky darkened a little bit, the birdies stopped singing a little bit, it chilled a little bit, and then out of nowhere a mysterious flying object streaked across the sky – could this be the RAF’s new stealth fighter?

P1040083The picture quality is poor, I didn’t have time to set the camera up – it was literally shoot and ask questions later.

Oh, and then there was the partial eclipse. That was good, even though we couldn’t see it.

Mike wanted to whizz up some lumpy little hills so our route wandered around quite a bit. It was none the worse for that, in fact it just prolonged the sheer pleasure of being in this lovely area in grand weather.

The first lump entailed a bit of trespassing going somewhere where we weren’t supposed to. Never mind, nobody saw us climb the hill without a name at SO089852. Not even the farmer at Glog Farm. 

So busy were we yacking that we turned up a Land Rover Track at Bryn Dadlau that we should have walked past, it just seemed to go the right way – uphill. It was only a minor error and we were soon back on track.

Pegwn Mawr was next, with it’s broken Belfast sink, ancient cairns, and seemingly even more ancient (and certainly more knackered) windmilly generator things. At 586m ASL this top is very significant. Or something. Ask Mike, he knows these things.

P1040107  Posing at Pegwn Mawr’s trig point

P1040108Pegwn Mawr’s Belfast sink (broken) and the cairn – which appears to be a midge’s wotsit higher than the trig point. And a load of mainly knackered windmilly things.

The man at the Beeb warned of wet weather coming in from the west, it was certainly getting cloudy – still good walking weather though.

The rest of the day’s walking was on really good tracks, the best surfaced of which were windfarm service roads. We walked north, which the more observant of you will notice is NOT east. But this is Wales, not Scotchlandshire. And it’s not May either.

About 5 miles of really easy walking took us to our intended pitch for that night around Cwmffrwd at SO041876. Whilst it looked good on the map it was completely unsuitable – loads of dead bracken, boggy bits, lumpy bits etc. We eventually spotted a half-decent patch of almost grass-type stuff on only a bit very lumpy and only slightly very boggy ground. It was mostly out of sight of the road, and better still, it had a lovely stream running by.

P1040110A not so cold night followed. The cloud was well and truly cloudy by 7pm and we were ready for the promised rain, which didn’t actually arrive. One thing about wild camping in the cold, you get plenty of sleep – once in your tent you’re unlikely to surface until the next morning.

The day’s wanderings (right to top left):

GPX route 3

16.7 miles with 1700’ ascent

 

Day 4, Cobbler’s Gate to Caersws.

The cloud of the previous evening had vanished and the sun was shining brightly.

P1040112Catkins in the morning sun

It was a short and sunny walk into Caersws and it’s train station = the end of our trip. The tea room in the village provided mugs of tea and butties, very civilised. I even managed a quick wash and shave in the tea room’s wash room.

There seems to be some local resistance to the expansion of the local windfarms – a particularly effective poster was on display in the teashop:

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The only pub that was open in the village at that hour had just the one handpump on, serving Feeling Foul Felinfoel - that was in worse than poor condition. Lager & Guinness were the only alternatives….beggars can’t be choosers.

P1040120 For Alan

The last day’s walk:

GPX route 4

4.1 miles and 580’ descent

I was expecting a good few days away, I wasn’t expecting it to be so good though. The area is superb for backpacking, I’ll definitely be going back before too long. Thanks to Mike for his great company, coming up with the idea and then putting it all together, it’s a plan I certainly wouldn’t have come up with.  I really enjoyed it!

More photographs are here.

Mike’s version of events can be read here.

Walklakes.co.uk

Our route was tracked using my Garmin Etrex20 with 1:50K OS maps installed. The mileages and ascents were gleaned from both the Garmin and by loading the resulting GPX files to the very excellent WalkLakes (free) OS mapping website. WalkLakes is well worth a visit.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

18th March 2015, Blogger: Strange Stats

Silly viewing stats

JJ’s Stuff isn’t the most popular of blogs by any means, but I regularly get around 100 – 120 viewings a day in spite of this.

Just recently I’ve had two ridiculously high daily viewing figures: one day last week I had 400+ viewings at stupid o’clock in the morning, and already today I’ve had 150+ viewings – and that was before 8am.

The odd times of viewings suggest to me that it might be an admirer / stalker / hacker or whatever from foreign lands – although delving deeper into the blogger stats doesn’t confirm this.

Has anyone else out there in Bloggershire had a similar experience?

Right, I’m off to eat Pie’s for a few day’s with one of my mate’s from Pielandshire. Were going to Wale’s.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Sunday 15th March, Fairy Trails

 

This little walk was an East Lancashire LDWA event and was aimed at attracting new members to the club. At 14 miles, the distance wasn’t scary for potential new members, nor was the pace which was reasonably brisk without being fast.

So at 9am the group of 14 walkers plus 2 doggies (who were also walkers) set off from the rendezvous, a layby on the B5209, just to the east of Parbold, to enter Fairy Glen.

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West Lancashire District Council describe Fairy Glen as being ‘designated as a Biological Heritage Site for its ancient woodland of oak, birch, ash and alder, the woodland floor may be covered with bluebells, wild garlic, ferns, and red campion.
The waters of Sprodley Brook have, over time, cut down through the underlying sandstone to create the steep Fairy Glen valley, which has spectacular waterfalls and cliff faces.’

The route took us south from the B5209, through the wooded (and only a bit muddy) Fairy Glen to Appley Bridge and then onto the Leeds Liverpool Canal towpath.

P1040005Walking through Fairy Glen

P1040006Happiness….well, it wasn’t raining 

P1040008 Appley Bridge, and what fine a place to park your diving bell

P1040010 The Leeds Liverpool Canal

From the canal we followed tracks and footpaths, enduring various degrees of muddiness and not-so muddiness until we gained the giddy heights of Ashurst’s Beacon.

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P1040016 Jeanette and Angela playing the (baby) goat

P1040019 One for Alan

P1040021 Ashurst’s Beacon and another photo shoot.

Ashurst’s Beacon was once part of a series of beacons that ran from Liverpool to Lancaster and dates back to the Anglo-Spanish war of 1585. According to Wiki! It’s also very popular amongst the radio amateur fraternity being as wot it’s 170m ASL and so gives a great take-off for playing radio.

P1040024Lunch No2  (I’m not sure where Lunch No1 was)

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After Ashurst’s Beacon our Glorious Leaders led us back down to the Leeds Liverpool Canal and then through Parbold. Mud, a former windmill and then even more mud followed. A few hundred yards from the end of the walk we came across a very conveniently located stream – everyone managed to clean most of the clag from their boots before getting back to the cars at 2.45pm.

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On final approach

It was good to meet up with friends I’d not walked with for a good while, over a year in some cases. Thanks go to David & Alma who led the walk, and to everyone else who turned up and helped make it an enjoyable day out.

Leading a walk like that isn’t just a matter of plotting a route. Dave and Alma researched the area and carried out a thorough recce and so didn’t get us lost….well, not much ;-)

Very importantly, they led the walk at a sensible pace and ALWAYS made sure that nobody was ever left behind.

Where we went (clockwise):

Fairy Glen Route 

13.7 miles with 1200’ ascent

More photos here.