The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Friday 21 August: From Cannock Chase to Wolverhampton

I’ve been following Richard’s progress southbound from John O’Groats since he set out in July and knowing that he would be passing close to us got in touch with him (via his support team back home in New Zealand) to arrange to meet up.

Having met him for the first time over a pint and some dinner on Thursday night, I was standing at his rapidly collapsing front door (he was just taking his tent down as I arrived) bright and early on Friday morning and ten minutes later we were outpacing the midges (midges on the Chase? That’s a first to me – I reckon Richard could be right when he says that they’re following him!).

Richard declared that he was having an easy navigation day as he had a local guide with him and perhaps I should have forewarned him that I haven’t got a particularly good record at accurate navigation when I’m busy chatting. He soon got the picture when just a few miles through the day we merrily walked down the wrong track (thank goodness (a) for the pylons and (b) that I noticed that we shouldn’t be walking towards pylons, or we could have gone seriously awry!). We shunned backtracking though and simply re-routed slightly with no extra distance caused.

The start and end points of the day dictated that much of the walking was on roads, so Richard got a tour not only of little lanes but also a few housing estates where I thought they looked like they would offer a better route to where we were going. Only a few hundred yards along the A5 towards Cannock (where the traffic was stationary thanks to the V Festival) were unpleasant and we wouldn’t have even been on such a major road if it hadn’t been for the complete impassability of the right of way that we should have been taking.

The forecast had been for heavy showers so we counted ourselves lucky to have fine skies for the first half of the morning. Then a few spots of rain were felt and we grasped at the straw that we were just getting the edge of a shower. Five minutes later waterproofs were donned. Ten minutes later the sun was beating down on us and off the waterproofs had to come. It became a bit of a theme for the day.

The heaviest downpour of the day cruelly hit us just five minutes before we reached the pub at Essington, which we had earmarked for a break, it was then sunny for the whole time we were inside and promptly started raining again as we left. Harrumph!

Roads and footpaths took us to a canal towpath, which would not only lead us to Wolverhampton but would bypass the dodgy areas that Richard had plotted on his map. Right into the city we did not go though, as Richard’s route had him finishing the day to the south of the city and taking a detour to see the sights of the centre didn’t seem a priority to add to a 18 mile day.

I managed to pay enough attention to our whereabouts (whilst we put the world to rights on the subject of gas and electrical regulations) to find the right bridge to take us off the canal so that we could pick Richard’s intended route back up and fifteen minutes later we were done for the day having covered 18 miles.

With the V Festival traffic thwarting Mick’s plans to drive over to pick us up, the local public transport was sampled (oh the joys of ‘exact fare only’ buses when you’ve intentionally spent all of your loose change so as to save weight!) as a bus was caught into the city centre and thence a train back to Rugeley where we found Mick waiting to whiz us back to our house for the night.

It was an good day in excellent company only marred marginally by a few inconsiderately timed heavy showers and by the discovery that the poorly knee is still far from better.

The Trials of Technology

Until a small handful of months ago I had not owned a ‘new fangled’ phone which did things like take pictures and send emails. My brief dalliance with a new blogging device (LG KS360) on the TGO challenge gave me a taster of what was possible and people seemed to like being able to see the occasional photo with a post, so I finally bit the bullet and bought the phone that I really wanted: a Blackberry.

I like the Blackberry a lot, and having a camera on it has been quite useful a number of times when I’ve found myself in an ‘I need a photo’ situation without a camera.

But … it is also partially to blame for this week’s continued failure to blog (how has it been three weeks already?).

On Monday I thought I’d put together a little write-up of last Friday’s walk with Richard, but before I did that I wanted to download a couple of photos that I had taken with the Blackberry.

Three nights later and I had lost twelve hours in my quest of getting the Blackberry to talk to the computer as a mass storage device. Having downloaded the drivers, the computer recognises the Blackberry, but the Blackberry refuses to act per its settings.

With twelve hours lost and much pulling out of my hair (a tenuously related side effect of which was that I finally got around to upgrading the RAM in the laptop from 512Mb to 1Gb; if I’d realised that it was such a cheap 30 second job I would have done it a long time ago), I admitted defeat. Finding that I could buy a card reader for £2.60 may have helped in my defeat.

But I digress. It was that “but I want the photos” interlude that delayed my post about the walk with Richard.

The card reader is going to take a few days to arrive, but in the meantime I will finally rectify my tardiness by blogging about last Friday without the photos.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

AWW Day 2

(A retrospective replacement for Sunday’s accidentally deleted post)

I did not have a good night’s sleep on the campsite in Llanidloes. For once, it was not any occupants of the campsite who kept me awake, but a do which was going on down in the village which involved music (albeit not bad music) being broadcast at quite some volume until midnight.

To add to my late night, I (very annoyingly) awoke very early and so when the alarm went off Mick may have justified in calling me grumpy.

The grumpiness didn’t last too long, and by the time we set out at 7.30 I had got all of the whinging out of my system and was ready to enjoy the day.

It was a day of three parts. The first part was across farmland and was characterised by route-finding challenges (not too hot on footpath maintenance around these parts, it would seem) and challenging terrain. The exceedingly narrow path, completely obscured by overgrown heather, on the edge of a very-steep-almost-vertical drop was particularly interesting. A veritable adventure in fact.

Shortly after nearly adopting three  friendly dogs which seemed intent on walking the whole of rest of the way with us (they were finally thwarted by us scurrying through a gate), the second section of the day began. Thankfully short, at under an hour in length, it was on tarmac, but after the slow progress during the earlier route finding difficulties it made for fast transit to our lunch venue.

Hafren Forest picnic site would have been an ideal location for lunch had it not been for the man on the sit-on mower who was intent on cutting very single blade of grass on the field notwithstanding that most of the tables were occupied. We staunchly refused to move until he got so close that our toes were in danger.

Mowing the grass at a popular picnic area at lunchtime on a sunny Sunday? Surely there are more appropriate times?!

After a goodly lunch break, into the forest we headed on good tracks and on exiting its top edge the third section of the day began – on open hillside, which presented far fewer navigational challenges than the precision required for walking through farmland.

It was an arduous yomp through tussocks, bog and huge quantities of long grass up the side of Pumlumon, but I quite like a good yomp, and by-and-by the ridge was reached, and from there the going was easier up to the top of Pumlumon.

By the time we got to the top the earlier clear skies were gone and the clouds were ominously grey.

The plan had been to find a pitch somewhere above the track which leads down to the road around Nant-y-Moch reservoir, but nothing promising presented itself. After a bit of a recce along the first bit of the track, it was as the first drops of rain began to fall that we selected the best of what presented itself and tents were pitched. Mick and I chose grass-topped shale on one side of the track, whilst Martin chose deep grass on the other side.

The rain was expected to be persistent, but it turned out to be just one of a number of very light showers that passed by during the night, and by an hour later we were sitting outside of the tent eating our tea in the sunshine – and in turn being eaten by the local midge population.

Although only around 15 or 16 miles in length, it had felt like a hard day to me, and after typing a lengthy blog post (which I later accidentally deleted), I wasted no time in settling down into my sleeping bag. By 8.30pm snoring was to be heard.

Kit and Cards

Birthday Card

A definite contender for the ‘best birthday card ever received’ award

After card opening (the one shown above did make me laugh!), a major navigation exercise was mounted when I decided that a shopping trip was what I wanted to do with the day and we headed over to Nottingham. We’ve been there before, but seem to have suffered amnesia as to the layout of the city centre and thus spent three hours walking miles and miles, trying to fathom the locations of the outdoor shops. A map from the Information Centre assisted us a little in finding two, but after three hours Cotswold was still being elusive and I had bought nothing.

GPS technology seemed like the way to go, so returning to the car we employed the Sat-Nav to find Cotswold, and finally I parted with some money; rather more than intended actually.

Being on a roll by then, a browse of Decathlon seemed like a good idea as we were so close. As always, we happily whiled away over an hour browsing, but bought nothing more interesting than underwear.

The day turned out to be just as exhausting as walking across Wales, but I returned home just as happy with my frivolous purchases as those which were intended.

Monday, 3 August 2009

AWW Day 3

Monday - 16ish miles

It was a 7.15 start this morning after an excellent, blissfully quiet, night's sleep. A bit of light rain had fallen in the night, and briefly as we breakfasted, but it was dry by the time we were all assembled and so, unexpectedly, waterproof trousers were left in our packs.

Multiple groups of 'roadside campers' were passed as we walked part of the way around Nant y Moch Reservoir before striking off along a By-way and onwards along the side of Llyn Craigypistyll.

At the dam end of the llyn two route choices presented themselves and a democratic decision was made to avoid the scree slopes on the north side of the valley. Viewing those slopes later from opposite the north-side they didn't look too bad and if walking the route again I would take that side of the valley.

A path through a forest and a footbridge took us to a track which gave us good, fast walking all the way down to Bont-goch. In fact the whole morning was fast, with easy route finding and easy walking on trodden paths and tracks.

Lanes, one of them (from where red kites were seen) particularly nice being more like a track than a road, took us to the main road into Aber, but of course a main road was not what we wanted.

We managed to find a surprising number of hills to walk up on those last few kilometres which was cruel as my mind was most decidedly in the mode of 'it's all downhill to the sea'.

Despite taking a bit of a circuitous route on the edge of Aber thanks to being faced with a plethora of paths in some woodland, we did finally make it.

As the previous post showed, toes (admittedly still enclosed in their footwear) were dipped in the sea and the trip was over.

Incredibly, considering that the forecast was for much rain on both Saturday and today, we were only actually rained on for the first couple of hours after we set out. The very edge of a few other showers caught us but nothing to warrant waterproofs. We have Martin to thank for that, for it is he who has the superb record for backpacking weather.
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AWW Success

Toes have been dipped in the sea following arrival in Aberystwyth. A successful trip!
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AWW Day 2

After a long hard day yesterday (Sunday), we pitched our tents and fell into them just as the first shower of the day passed by.

After chores had been completed I made the time to write a really long post about the day we had had (a hard but good day).

Having just stopped for elevenses I turned my phone on to see if I had a signal to send that post and in an incident of operator error I deleted rather than sent it. 'Oh darn' is a rough approximation of my reaction upon realising my error.

I shall retype a version of it when we get home (i.e. on a proper size keyboard) but in the meantime if you can't wait for the next exciting installment(!) then pop over to for Martin's view of the day.
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Sunday, 2 August 2009

AWW Day 2 - Luncheon

How much mess can three people make on a lunch break?

Basking under fine skies here after a morning that was at times somewhat challenging.

Things should get a little easier this afternoon (tempting fate?) as we now leave the farmland behind and head up towards Pumlumon.

With a decidedly poorly knee (at which painkillers have been thrown) my fingers are crossed that my leg doesn't drop off before the day is out.
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AWW Day 2 - Luncheon

How much mess can three people make on a lunch break?

Basking under fine skies here after a morning that was at times somewhat challenging.

Things should get a little easier this afternoon (tempting fate?) as we now leave the farmland behind and head up towards Pumlumon.

With a decidedly poorly knee (at which painkillers have been thrown) my fingers are crossed that my leg doesn't drop off before the day is out.
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Saturday, 1 August 2009

AWW Day 1

Day 1 - 17ish miles - 4 wannabe killer dogs

With huge thanks to Sue, the logistics for getting to Anchor were made considerably easier when we were picked up from Newtown station at 8.30 this morning and driven to the Welsh border.

The weather didn't look too promising as Martin (, Mick and I finally finished faffing and strode off, in the rain, up the road, across the border ... and into the cloud base.

The early navigation and underfoot conditions were good and by the time the navigation (on non-existent paths) and terrain got more interesting the weather was clearing and views were starting to be seen.

A very minor adventure was had shortly after elevenses when we found ourselves on the wrong side on a remarkably steep-sided ravine housing a stream. A bit of trespass and clambering saw us right and then things were uneventful until a black cloud deposited its contents on us just as we were enjoying Martin's excellent home-made cake after lunch.

More mud was spattered liberally over us as we made our way onwards through Llandinam where a lovely riverside 'garden' provided a welcome bench for a break before the final push to Llanidloes.

Paths on the wrong sides of hedgerows tried to confound us and a new-born calf made us take a bit of a detour just a hop, skip and a jump before the campsite, but we made it and Day one was complete.

Not only was the campsite welcome a warm one, but the site itself is very nice indeed, on the edge of the river and complete with a camp kitchen. Fingers crossed that it's quiet tonight.

Tomorrow: to Pumlumon.
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AWW Day 1 Arrival

We arrived at the campsite a few minutes ago and knocking on the door of reception we were met by a friendly woman.

'Have you been walking' she asked (she may have spotted the backpacks and liberal covering of mud). We confirmed we had and that we were now well and truly ready to stop and have a cup of tea.

'Go and sit on that bench there and I'll bring you a cup of tea' she said.

Tea and biscuits soon followed.

Now that's service that you don't expect at a campsite!

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Across Wales Day 1 - Elevenses

Three hours in and the weather is looking more promising. Hopefully taking my waterproofs off won't pre-empt another shower, or worse.
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