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]

Sunday, 26 September 2010

A Walk Up Waun-oer

It wasn’t the most organised we’ve ever been for a walk. We arrived in Barmouth yesterday morning with no firm plan as to where we were going for a walk in the afternoon. Over a late second breakfast in the Milk Bar, Mick suggested Cadair. Admittedly we’ve been up there before, but with the top having been free from cloud as we’d passed by half an hour before, it seemed like a good day for a repeat visit.

On our way back out of Barmouth an hour or so later (having taken a quick trundle up and over Dinas Oleu and back again to fulfil the mission that had taken us to Wales in the first place), Mick changed his mind as to where he wanted to walk, and Waun-oer was where we ended up.

It wasn’t a long walk, and part of the ascent had been achieved by driving up to the parking area at Bwlch Oerddrws (which I’m not counting as being cheating, as it was directly on our route home in any case).

‘Steep’ is how I would describe the first chunk of our route (my steep-o-meter being perhaps a little out of whack having not been near a hill in months), which quickly got the lungs working and the legs turning to jelly (harrumph – so much fitness lost yet again!).

Gaining height pretty quickly, the views soon started to open up. The Rhinog tops were the most obvious feature to the north-west of us, then Mick pointed out that the ridge we could clearly see was the very one that we have walked more than once. As is so often the case with my snap-shots, it’s not overly clear on the photo:


In reality, we could clearly see the sea in the dip on the left of the photo. That’s Rhinog Fach and Fawr on the right.


Again a poor image. In reality Snowdon and the surrounding hills (on the right of this photo) were perfectly obvious.

Where the upness levelled out there was a bit of a ‘wow!’. That’s one steep-sided valley behind me.


Had we looked at the map in any detail at any point before embarking on this walk, we might have been slightly less surprised to come across some old quarry/mine workings:


Beyond the entrance a big hole in the ground had Mick warning me to keep away from the edge (like I didn’t already have my late mother’s voice in my ear telling me the exact same thing)

IMG_1844 It seems that I didn’t take any photos for a while, but by-and-by the path got fainter and fainter and we indulged in a bit of yomping with some good-and-proper bog obstacles thrown in for good measure.

A bit of down was necessary between Cribbin Fach and Waun-oer, followed by a rather steep climb on the other side. Our path ran in between the trees and the fence on this photo and (in case I didn’t mention) it was Steep:


I knew it had been a good choice of hill before we got to the top. Waun-oer may not be big, but its position gives excellent 360 degree views. The weather helped, of course (even if it was a bit of a fresh breeze on top).


A quick look at the map at the top didn’t reveal any obvious route back down that was wildly different from the way we had come, although we didn’t exactly retrace our steps. Having made our way back down the madly-steep bit, a cross-country yomp saw us pick up our outward route out just below the mine workings.

I can’t be sure about how far we walked, because we paid so little attention to the map, but it must have been somewhere between 4 and 5 miles, with 1800 feet-ish of ascent. A little outing, but a good stretch of the legs and lungs.

I was glad that I’d carried lunch the whole way. We ate it when we got back to the car.

Saturday, 25 September 2010


A fine day to be atop a fine hill. Behind Mick in the middle distance the Rhinog tops are clear to see and beyond those there's the distinctive shape of Snowdon.
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Thursday, 23 September 2010

Stormy Running

It was a horrible journey home from work tonight, with rain that overwhelmed even the crazy-speed setting on the windscreen wipers and drainage that couldn’t cope with the surface water.

Lightning was still flashing and thunder still crashing all around when I got home, but the rain had passed by, so into our matching Ron Hill Tracksters Mick and I changed, ready for a short jog-ette over the local estate (landed-gentry sort of estate that is, in case you’re picturing streets of matching houses).

Mick had already been for his proper run this morning, but volunteered to come out again to accompany me on my trundle. He even had the decency to say that he would run, rather than walking alongside my pathetic attempts at speed.

I’m not quite sure how 90% of the circular route came to be uphill, but I was once again proud of myself for making it up the Big Hill without stopping or walking (well, except for crossing the cattle grids – I draw the line at running over cattle grids!).

That’s three jog-ettes this year now, all of which have fallen in the last 10 days. Even better, there’s no grumbling from the achilles at all.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Sore Thighs On The Chase

Yesterday’s fast walk on the lumpiness of the Chase (after 2 weeks of doing nothing and 2 months of no hills), followed by my small jogette last night, followed by another couple of hours at a blazing pace on the Chase this morning may have been a bit much. I’m not sure that the gardening I did when I got home was entirely wise either. My thighs are protesting quite vocally just now!

As I wasn’t causing Mick to have to loiter in a car park for me today, I took the time to take a few photos.

My attempts to capture the colour of the heather and the greenness of everything else (the bracken is only just starting to die off) failed pretty miserably in their intention: IMG_1827

The colour was much more vibrant than this photo would suggest 


Heather, greenness and blue sky – a good combination


Taking a different route to usual today I passed this man-made pool in the beck

Sometime during our Big Walk earlier this year, a series of new signs appeared on the Chase. The bit at the top sets out various useful information for the event of emergencies, and that I understand. But why, if there’s all that text, is there not a short description of the route being marked by the arrows? IMG_1831 Apparently, where I had just come from was the long route:

IMG_1832But where I was heading was apparently on the short route:

IMG_1833 If only I knew to where it was the long or the short route!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Checking The Progress Of The Seasons

Having bumped along a bumpy track to not-our-usual-car-park on the Chase, Mick and I both set out in the same direction, but at different speeds. As we had driven up, it had been obvious that there was some sort of an orienteering style event going on (since Googled and found to be the final Questars event of the season), and soon Mick was in amongst a group of runners who were clutching laminated maps, whereas I was simply being overtaken.

Mick’s mission was a 5-mile run. I was out for an 8-mile walk. Given that we weren’t on a Welsh hillside as we should have been, my second choice had been to see the change in colours on the Chase – namely the prettiness of the heather in flower before it gets overtaken by the the leaves changing colour.

My intention had been to take lots of photos, but given that there was clearly going to be quite a mismatch of timings between Mick’s run and my longer walk, as I set out I resolved instead to do the walk at top speed, leaving no time to dig the camera out repeatedly.

I was about 5 miles into my walk when Mick texted to tell me he was in the tea-room by the Katyn Memorial. “I’ll be there within 20 minutes” I texted back. And that’s where it all went wrong.

A very nice egg and mushroom sandwich was had with a pot of tea (during which I found out that even though our routes had not been massively dissimilar, the rain was so localised that Mick hadn’t been caught in the short-but-incredibly-heavy shower that had drenched me). And, having enjoyed the food and drink, I found that I could quite bring myself to let Mick sit around in the car for another half an hour or so (or was it just that laziness prevailed?), and so into the car with Mick I got.

Although shorter than intended, that was my first outing on The Chase since the beginning of July, and it reminded me that I need to get over there more in the next couple of months to enjoy the changes that this time of year brings.

(Post Walk Note: although I only covered 6 miles on the Chase, I did run down to the local shop this evening (yes, RAN!), which, together with the walk back, did add on the 2 miles I’d missed earlier)


Salomon Exit Aero

Just a quick recap: the nice chaps at Fitness Footwear said “Would you like to try some Salomon shoes” and I said ‘Yes please!”. Mick got the aesthetically unusual after-sports-recovery RX Mocs, whereas I plumped for something more useful for walking: Salomon Exit Aero.

Apparently the colour I got is “Autobahn, Detroit and Ciment Blue”. Personally, I’d call them grey on grey, and that suits me just fine.


Given my reputation for being fastidious about weighing kit, it’s surprising that I didn’t weigh them straight away, but a bit of research on the scales just now has revealed that they weigh just over 330g per shoe, which is within a few grams of being the same weight as my Salomon XA Pros. That meets my initial impression that they’re light as well as pretty flexible. The main differences, to my mind, between my favoured footwear of this year (Inov8 Terrocs and Salomon XA Pros) and the Exit Aeros is that the sole of the Exit Aero is much firmer and the ‘foot opening’ more padded.

The first thing I did after taking them out of the box was to remove the insole – which was no easy job as it was quite comprehensively glued at the toe end – never come across that in a walking shoe before - but then it was also the least shaped version of a footbed I’ve ever seen. Once I’d battled with the footbeds and replaced them with some volume reducers and my Superfeet, the fit was spot on. I didn’t fanny around with easing in to trying them in action: within ten minutes I was out on a 9 mile walk.

Half an hour in and I had completely forgotten that I had new shoes on, which is unheard of for me. I usually obsess about the fit of new footwear for far longer than that!

So, they were quickly established as being right up there as some of the comfiest shoes in my possession, and for three weeks they barely came off my feet. For testing purposes I wore them on every walk, and for comfort purposes they became my choice for knocking-around shoes.

All remained rosy for those weeks too, because the weather was dry, the earth was cracked and the soles appeared to be just fine in terms of grippiness.

Then it was a bit damp underfoot one day (the same day that I battled with cobwebs in my face the whole way along the tow-path, if memory serves), and suddenly I was slipping all over the place on the stoney bits of the path. It didn’t bode well for grip on hillsides, which tend to have more challenging slopes and terrain than the local fields and tow-paths.

Then came the walk when I nearly landed in the canal. I’d just passed under a bridge where the tow-path takes on a bit of a water-wards camber before it flattens out. It was on that camber that one of my feet shot out from under me. With a few other, less significant slips, in the same walk I was unfortunately coming to the conclusion that these shoes are a little lacking in the grip department.

All is not lost. I’ve continued to wear them for local walking, but with an increased degree of care when it’s damp, albeit I might hesitate to choose them for a hilly backpack.

I have no doubt that I will wear them to death in any case. As comfy as they are, they can happily take the place of my (almost worn out) old XA Pros* as my general wear shoes. I’d even go as far as to say that I’d likely choose to buy the same again in the future for general wear.

So, for dedicated walking shoes, there are better options out there, but for knocking-around shoes that are also good for a limited type of walking, I rather like them.

Of course, one thing I’ve not been able to establish yet is longevity. I’ll report back again in some months time.

(*Should I blush to confess that I have three pairs of XA Pros on the go at the moment?)

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Salomon RX Mocs

A month ago a large parcel arrived. Receiving a parcel is always good and exciting, but it’s even better when it contains two pairs of shoes that have been sent to you for review.

A week or so earlier the nice chaps at FitnessFootwear had offered us a pair of shoes each in return for our thoughts on them, and this was the awaited parcel. No time was wasted in ripping through the outer packaging and we swiftly sorted out which box was for who. I had requested some good and sensible walking shoes (more about those soon), whereas I volunteered Mick for the rather ‘striking’ Salomon RX Mocs.

IMG_1824 Odd looking things, aren’t they? This is what the product description says:

“The RX Moc is a lightweight and comfortable shoe which has an elastic mesh upper which is mated to a cushioned mid and outsole this makes the shoe easy to slip on and off. Very light shoe with a breathable mesh fabric, these are intended to be worn as an after sports shoe, but are also great for relaxing and walking in”

He’s been wearing them for a month now (attracting quite a range of comments, both solicited and unsolicited), and here are his thoughts on them:

As I have been in training for a marathon, it seemed an ideal time to use and review these shoes against the claims made by Salomon that they will assist in recovery after exercise. So the question to be answered was: will they work? And the answer: I think they did. The shock-absorbing, wedge-shaped heel appears to reduce stress on the legs post exercise. They do feel like a comfortable pair of spongy slippers but I doubt that these are the reasons that they will be attractive to any prospective purchasers.

Perhaps a review should be a bit more objective: the shoes are called Salomon RX Mocs, are aimed at the sports market and designed to improve recovery after exercise. They are very light at just over 460g per pair (for a size 8.5 in Salomon sizing), have a wedge-shaped, shock-absorbent heel and come in only one colour – fluorescent yellow. And as a lightweight pair of shoes designed for a limited purpose they are not cheap at almost £50 a pair.

Of course, at this weight they would make a very comfortable pair of camp shoes for backpacking purposes, which would help your feet recover after a day of pounding, and for that purpose the colour and design wouldn’t be such an issue - but I’m not sure that the ‘help your feet recover’ claims could really compete with the cost and weight of the Croc-like shoes that are usually chosen for this purpose.

Would I go for the same shoes again once I’ve worn these out? Well, they’re very comfortable, they fit nicely and they do look, well, interesting. But, I can’t quite get past the obstacle of the colour! They are the same colour as a yellow highlighter pen or the hi-vis jackets that the police wear, which makes ones feet stand out somewhat whenever they are pulled on: they look like you are wearing Day-Glo scuba diving shoes. I have, therefore, in the main, only used them around the house; however, on the occasions when I have ventured outside wearing them I noticed the stares of others at my feet. Maybe it was me just being overly sensitive, but I think not.

I’m sorry, Mr Salomon, I love your shoes and boots. I have many pairs of Salomon shoes for running, hiking and backpacking and used them over thousand of miles. I have put up with some of Salomon’s whacky designs in materials and colours but these are just one step too far for me.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

He Made It!

Came 12th in his category too. And achieved a Personal Best*.

image (*Okay, so it was his first marathon, so by default it had to be a PB)


Marathon Update

Mick was last seen at 1300, at 22.5 miles, looking pretty fresh (and a whole lot fresher than many of those passing at that point), but reporting that "it's hurting now".

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Wolverhampton Marathon

He's getting ready for the off in 15 minutes ... apparently by engaging in the Ministry For Silly Walks
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