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]

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Llangollen Day 3

My nose, sticking out from under the duvet, told me that it had been a cold night. Sure enough, when we peeped through a window it was to a hoary white world. With heavy rain forecast for mid-afternoon onwards, we tried our hardest to make haste and this time with a modicum of success.


Frosty fields, with mist hanging in the dips, and a hint of sun trying to break through (it never did make it)

I’d been a bit tardy in coming up with any sort of a plan for the day, but whatever we did we knew that we needed to pop into Llangollen for some essential supplies (mainly pies from the butcher!). I also quite fancied having a poke around the nearby Abbey, having previously seen it from a distance, so working those requirements together I came up with a route that would see us first heading north, going via the Abbey to pick up Offa’s Dyke Path, at which point we would start heading south to fulfil the ‘pies from the butcher’ bit of the plan.

It wasn’t far to the Abbey, and we got there to find that it isn’t open at this time of year. Or, to be more precise, the ticket office isn’t open, but the gate was. So, we helped ourselves:


Our verdict was that it would have been well worth the £2.80 entrance fee, if the ticket office had been open. It’s far more impressive than it looks from a distance.

By the time we’d made our way up to Offa’s Dyke Path, which at this point is running along an escarpment which is a bit of a geological feature, the day was warming up quite noticeably. That would be the warm, wet front coming in, but we refused to be rushed and happily made time to stop for tea.


A while later and Dinas Bran was the only obstacle between us and Llangollen. “Around or over?” I asked. Mick posed the same question back to me. My vote was to go over, even though my aching limbs raised an eyebrow at the decision. Those aching limbs were soon to question my sanity further when Mick challenged me to run up the one section and I obliged.


Admittedly, the views from the top weren’t stunning on this day. We definitely got better weather for it back in January.


Even after all these years, I’m still wearing the clashing orange jacket/purple mitts combo. At least I didn’t go for a red hat today.

Then all we had to do was pop into town where we quickly came to the conclusion that either the townsfolk are a bit odd (there were some outfits to be seen that aren’t common in most towns on a Saturday afternoon), or that there was something going on. It turned out to be the latter (or maybe a bit of both, but who am I to judge?).

With pies in our pockets and chips in our bellies, I was paying so little attention to our surroundings that, until Mick pointed it out, I’d not noticed that people were lining the whole length of the street.


Yep, definitely something going on!

Even though the light had gone to that dull level that suggests that rain is imminent, we decided to hang around a while and see what everyone was waiting for, and we didn’t have to wait too long. I videoed the whole thing (all 3 minutes of it), but I’m too impatient to wait for it to upload to You Tube, so here are some stills to illustrate the parade that came by:


First the town crier and a marching band


Then a chap who I assumed was the mayor, but shouldn’t he have more chains than that?


A group of army cadets…


… followed by a lion – obviously! Then there were the morris dancers


A hoola-hopping red-head preceded the dancing Christmas tree and somehow Mick didn’t get a snap of Santa in his finest green robes which came after that


This one made me laugh! I thought it was a camel at first.


Finally, bringing up the rear, was this jolly salsa band who danced their way past

Somehow, it seems even more surreal, now that I’ve typed all that, than it did at the time.

Anyway, waylaid by only ten minutes or so, off we went (past a miniature pony dressed as Father Christmas), to wander along the canal back to our starting point.

We’d been back indoors for all of ten minutes when the rain started and once started it took it quite a considerable number of hours to stop again. With our legs having been suitably stretched we were happy to spend a third consecutive afternoon working through the historic TGOC data. Alan will be pleased to hear that we finished the first cut of re-formatting it during that session. Indeed, as I type the first graphs have already been produced. But I digress …

… the stats for the day were 8.25 miles walked with somewhere approaching 1800 feet of up. Where as the previous (sunny) day had passed by without us seeing a single person out and about, on this dull Saturday it had seemed that most of the world out on the same paths as us.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Llangollen Days 1 and 2


With our original plans for the weekend having had a spanner thrown in the works, and determined to go somewhere, we found ourselves pulling into a campsite just out of Llangollen at noon on Thursday. We might have gone for a short stroll after lunch, but the rain that had been hammering down as we arrived turned out not to be the short shower, as I had hoped. With all thoughts of strolling dismissed, a productive afternoon was had, as eight man-hours saw great inroads made into transforming 34 years worth of TGO Challenge data into a format useful for graphical purposes.


Incredibly, considering Thursday’s weather and the forecast, Friday dawned a clear skied day. It was definitely a day to be out and about early. Alas, we struggle with early unless we’re backpacking and by the time we dragged ourselves out of the door at just gone 10am, there were clouds appearing.

Luck was on our side and in spite of rain visible in various directions around us, those clear blue skies stayed above us as we made our way towards and up the Llantysilio Mountain.


Our first objective, and it was so warm that we were in our shirt-sleeves

It couldn’t last forever, and it didn’t last forever. We were nearly atop Moel Morfydd when the first shower hit us, which combined with two very sore heels (me, persevering with a pair of boots which don’t like my heels) caused me to declare that we were going to call it a day as soon as we reached the trig point.


A bit grey and damp all of a sudden.

The views from the trig looked like they would be as good as advertised, if you found yourself up there on a clear day. They were still pretty impressive on Friday, even if a little curtailed.

Perhaps it was the views, or perhaps it was the thin air (we were up at 550m, you know!), but in a rush of blood to the head I decided that notwithstanding the heels and the weather, we would complete the walk we had set out to do.

Back we went the way we had come, and up the steep pull to the top of Moel y Gamelin. We chased a rainbow the whole way there, but didn’t catch it.


That’s not the end of the rainbow which we chased. It was the other end.


Such a well worn path (and steeper than it looks here!), yet we didn’t see a single person out all day

Some of the down was just as steep as the up had been. Some was steeper. Some was very prickly when we took an ‘interesting route’ through a gorse covered hillside.

It wasn’t until we were well on our way back to our starting point that any real rain hit us. It lasted a bit longer than the earlier shower, but not enough to make us grumble.

After a tea break under the shelter of the gateway to the churchyard at Llantysilio, it was but a hop and a skip back along the canal.


I’ll pop in a photo of the church just because I didn’t take a photo of the gateway.

Nine and a half miles were walked with approaching 3000 feet of ascent, and my legs were starting to feel it. What I needed, just to complete the achingness, was another walk on Saturday…

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Completely Unnecessary TGOC Age, Crossings and Location Analysis

What does Mick (house-husband extraordinaire) do at home all day whilst I’m at work? This week he was multi-tasking; not only was he supervising the installation of a new heating system, but he was also playing with the limited data about TGO Challenge participants that is available from the initial set of Event Details.

Proudly, at the end of each day he showed me the fruits of his spreadsheeting labours. For those who thought that no-one is more obsessed than me with spreadsheets and graphs, let me disabuse you of that notion by sharing with you what he produced.

This first one shows that sixty-two is the most popular age at which to take part in the Challenge and that not so many 22-year-olds have the time or inclination to join in. And, yes, there is one 90-year-old on the list.


Age is across the bottom, number of participants up the side.

Reducing that down to show the same age data but by decade, we can see that there’s a representation for every decade from teens through to nineties, but that more participants are in their sixties than in any other decade of their lives.

TGOC Agegroups

Decades across the bottom, number of participants up the side

Next off he looked at how many previous crossings people had completed. Almost a third of the population are first-timers, forty have two crossings under their belts, and one has 30 crossings to his name:

TGOC Crossings Experience

Number of crossings across the bottom, number of people up the side

You’d like to think that he stopped there, but no. There’s more…

Here’s the total number of crossings for each age (why? Probably best not to ask), showing that either one 58-year-old has completed 85 crossings, that 85 fifty-eight-year-olds have completed one crossing, or something…

TGOC Crossings by age

Age across the bottom, total number of crossings up the side

What about where people are coming from? It’s the obvious next question, isn’t it?

TGOC Locations

Countries along the bottom, number of participants up the side

Enough of bar charts? Let’s have the one above represented by way of a pie chart then!

TGOC Location Pie

Are you starting to get the idea that Mick may have been a little bit lacking in interesting things to do whilst stuck in the house all day?

Last one – because there’s only so many charts and graphs you can come up with based on three pieces of information. This one is the average age by country (which is right up there with ‘Crossings vs Age’ for being statistically meaningless):

TGOC Average Age by Country

So, there you go. I’m sure that everyone who got to the bottom of this post feels thoroughly edified now.


Click to go to other Parts of this series of posts:

Part 2     Part 3     Part 4     Part 5     Part 6

Saturday, 17 November 2012


Once a year Mick & I go and spend a chunk of time in the library, poring over maps and books. Today was the day for this year’s trip, and a fruitful few hours were spent there. The result was that we settled on a rough plan for a route across Scotland for next May.


That desk looks far too organised, doesn’t it?

All we need to do now is put the detail around that rough plan and fill in a route sheet.

Also on the subject of the Challenge, there was going to be another blog post tonight, full of Very Interesting Graphs. Alas, the draft post was lost due to stupidity (when asked the question ‘Do you want to save’, I really should stop to think before I press ‘No’. I did the same thing at work three times in three weeks). I shall try again tomorrow.

Monday, 12 November 2012

TGOC 2013

For those who are interested: we're in!
Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Walking is a Relaxing Pastime; How to Make it More Stressful

Dusting off Windows Live Writer just now, to pen that last post, I came across this post sitting unpublished in my drafts. Seems that I wrote it at the end of August, but didn’t quite manage to hit the ‘Publish’ button.


As regular readers may have noticed, over the last few years, Mick & I have developed a bit of a habit of going out walking for three months during the spring/early summer. It’s a habit we weren’t going to break purely on the basis that our house was up for sale. In the current market, and with the nature of the house we were trying to sell, it wouldn’t have been practical to put our lives on hold just in case a buyer came along.

As it happens, the buyer came along just as we were standing in a bog at a grid reference of around about SN 742606, whilst on our way up the length of Wales in April. That was handy timing (if you ignore the fact that we were right at the beginning of our 1000 miles of walking, half of which was going to see us abroad for 6 weeks…), as a couple of weeks earlier we had agreed a purchase of a house.


The house icon marks the spot where we agreed the sale of our house!

At least we were going to be home for long enough between Wales and Scotland to do the paperwork on the sale and to sign everything for the purchase.

Things got a bit delayed, as these things generally do, and rather than timing the purchase to occur whilst we were at home, we found ourselves exchanging contracts the day after we left for Scotland, and completing the purchase the day before we came home – which was, of course, just four days before we were flying out to Los Angeles for our PCT walk.

With only four days at our disposal we figured that we had enough time to move a good chunk of our belongings to the new house (ready to complete the move as soon as we got back from the States) and to finish getting ready to go to America.

What we didn’t expect was for a great big spanner to be thrown into the works. There we were, standing on the platform at Montrose, nice and relaxed after a good TGOC and happy that we had a new house awaiting us at home, when we learnt that there was a problem with our sale. It was, I admit, something of a surprise to find that we didn’t own the last 10 yards of our garden.

Not an insurmountable problem on the face of it. I pulled out the paperwork from when we bought the house and it was clear enough that it should have been included, but that it was a simple administrative error that had seen it omitted from the registration. The problems were twofold: 1) the person we needed to sign, somewhat belatedly, the land over to us now lives in France, and we didn’t have her address; and 2) we were flying out to walk a section of the PCT in 4 days’ time and already had a very large to-do list to get through!

Eeeek! Who needs sleep anyway?

Four days later we had moved a good chunk of belongings to the new house, worked through most of the pre-PCT to-do lists, located the owner of the end of our garden in France, put a pile of paperwork together and sent it off to her. Exhausted, extraordinarily stressed, and hoping our buyer would be patient, off we went to America.

I’m glad we didn’t do anything rash like cancel our trip, because the whole saga was still dragging on when we got home. But, I’m happy to say that all is well that ends well and in late August the sale of our old house finally completed. We now live in a much more sensible house than we did before.

I’m not sure that I would necessarily consider house buying and selling to be a happy companion to going walking in remote areas for weeks at a time though!

The Most Exciting Local Walk Since I Got Chased Over A Barbed Wire Fence By A Cow

You would be forgiven thinking that this Blog has been abandoned, but it’s more that there hasn’t been anything to blog about (except for all those PCT related things that I intended to write about, but never got around to…). Between reaching Yosemite on 3 July and yesterday, I have been for four walks. Three of those were when I took my sister to Tittesworth in August, the other was when Mick & I popped up Ingleborough with Martin in September. I would have been for a Curry Walk two weeks ago (a walk that took place at my request), except that I managed to double book myself and couldn’t make it (JJ’s account of that walk is here, Martin’s account here, and Alan’s account here).

Needless to say that my walking stat graphs are looking a bit sorry this year!

Today, however, I awoke with a sudden enthusiasm for stretching my legs and we decided that as we haven’t surveyed our local paths for over half a year, we would see what changes have occurred.

For 99% of the walk there was nothing much to report. The remains of last night’s bonfire/fireworks event were just being removed from the first field we entered, and then we noted that the National Forest plantation which had just been planted when we started walking that path, about seven years ago, is now looking more like a collection of trees than of planted dead twigs. A new clasp has been put on the gate as you enter the plantation, but even I can’t get excited about new clasps.

The exciting bit came a mile or so later.

Just up the road from our old house is a little green lane, one section of which was always a bit problematic. Running for about 100 yards, between two gates which didn’t open (in fact one gate wasn’t even attached to anything, which made it perilous even for clambering), the lane had became increasingly overgrown until, by early 2009, it had become impassable. I cut it back in the January that year (interesting walk, that one, I wrote about it here), but by summer I was fighting a losing battle, the not-attached-to-anything gate was deteriorating so much that it was dangerous, and so since then I have been trespassing through a couple of fields to avoid that section of lane entirely.

Today we found that my usual trespassing route through the adjacent field had been scuppered by the replacement of a missing bit of fence, but that only held my attention for a moment, for something else had just caught my eye:

A Stile Where A Stile Hasn't Been BeforeI was perhaps, a little too excited to see that a stile has appeared, along with the re-instatement of the way-marker post at the entrance to the lane. We’ll gloss over the fact that it’s a bridleway and that the gate still isn’t functional – there’s a stile! Even better, the lane has been cleared such that it is completely passable. It will undoubtedly be overgrown again by the end of next summer, but for this winter at least we will be able to use this lane again. 

This walk is a lovely little circuit and I am disproportionately pleased that it’s now walkable without any trespassing and with only one gate-clamber needed. Might go and walk it again next weekend!