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, 31 December 2015


There's something particularly pleasing about seeing a small child, dressed in a ski-suit, headed towards the beach clutching a bucket, a spade and a kite - on the last day of December. He and his family didn't have the beach to themselves either. People were out in force in Whitby today, even though it was much cooler than of late.

We didn't build any sandcastles ourselves, but we did amble for 6.5 miles, taking in some cliff-top paths as well as exploring the town.

And now just 2.5 hours of this year remain (which I suppose means I should be putting together my annual set of walking stats graphs, shouldn't I?) so let me wish you a Happy New Year and all the best for 2016.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Filey, followed by a Scarborough Fail

The beach at Filey comprises the perfect sand for walking, being so firm that each step left only the barest hint of a footprint. Even so, our walk south along the beach was one of the most difficult flat walks I've taken in a while. The wind was brutal, with gusts that brought me to a standstill.

The intense breeziness didn't seem to be putting people off; as we arrived both the beach and the prom were well populated including children with balls and fishing nets. I think they may have been a bit optimistic in taking either, in the conditions. We later saw a chap positively sprinting after a ball that had been taken by the wind and which his dog was either too clever or too stupid to bother chasing itself.

It was a relief to turn to put the wind behind us and up the beach we went, past a fish and chip kiosk bearing an assistant who looked resigned to a very quiet shift. With all of the sand in the air I doubt many would have fancied sitting on the beachside to eat.

It was a short outing in keeping with the weather and by early afternoon we were headed to Scarborough where it appeared to us that the council doesn't want people with Colin-sized vehicles to park in any proximity to the town or seafront and with showers now passing I didn't fancy a long walk in. Then the only campsite I could find nearby, which was both open and had hardstanding, would only have us if we stayed 3 days, rather than the 2 we'd asked for. Perhaps they're expecting a sudden rush of last-minute end-of-week visitors - or maybe they just have a flawed business model. Either way, we gave up on Scarborough and are now just outside Whitby, which will be the location of our bimblings tomorrow.

(Today's photo was taken on Filey seafront, looking north)

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Flamborough Head Circuit

After another breezy night, this morning dawned fine, bright and calm - a perfect day for walking around Flamborough Head. The campsite owner had forewarned that the section between Colin and the lighthouse (which sits on the Head) was rather boring. I didn't find it so, although I do acknowledge that the section around the lighthouse and northwards is more spectacular with caves, pillars and seabirds galore. I suppose it did help on the allegedly boring section that we had the entertainment of a Search and Rescue helicopter undertaking a training exercise at close proximity to us (at one point very close indeed).

Tea and cake was had on a bench next to the lighthouse and car park - an area which was busy with people (even the cafe was open and busy). We took long enough over elevenses to decide to stick with the same bench for lunch then it was onwards, past a band of twitchers standing on the clifftop training their scopes inland, on something in an adjacent field. If they hadn't all been so intent on peering on whatever it was, I would have enquired as to the source of their excitement.

We soon turned inland ourselves, negotiating our way through a holiday park to arrive back on the north side of the village of Flamborough. It wasn't far before we were back on the south side of the village and just a few minutes more before we were approaching Colin.

'Twas a top day of coastal walking, with 8.5 miles walked and with a few undulations amounting to around 1500'.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Flamborough to Bridlington

Along the coast between Flamborough and Bridlington today the wind didn't know in which direction it wanted to blow, so it blew from every which way. That was a bit of a bonus really, as never did it impede our progress for long before it switched direction again. The mud was more of an impediment than the wind, and even that was far less extensive than I would have expected at this time of year.

A nice little clifftop walk followed by a chunk of beach then some seafront promenade took us to Bridlington harbour, from where we sought out a cafe for tea. It was whilst drinking the tea that a pub lunch came to seem an appealing idea, so the packed lunch I'd made this morning got carried all the way back with us too. Looks like it's cheese sandwiches for tea tonight...

Our return route wasn't entirely dissimilar to our outward one, albeit we did omit the beach and we also added a bit of distance by walking past the direct path back to Colin (intentionally done!) to loop back to Flamborough from slightly further along the coast.

Whilst only a handful of people were seen on the muddy cliff path, the surfaced paths between Sewerby and Brid, not to mention the beach, we're positively bustling with people (and their dogs) today. I'm guessing that's mainly because most people are on holiday at the moment and that it's not that busy on an average winter's day.

The stats were that we walked 8.75 miles with (allegedly) around 1000' of ascent.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Bishop Wilton Wold (SE822570)

There we were, driving along the A166 towards Bridlington just around sunset this afternoon, when I thought "I recognise this place". Funny how you can recognise a bit of road when your only experience of it was in crossing it when walking a Big Walk the best part of 5 years ago. 

A bell then sounded somewhere in the depths of my brain and, as I scrabbled around for a map and my Hill Lists App I asked Mick to pull over if he could see somewhere suitable to park. You see, five years ago we passed within a few hundred yards (linear) and a few feet (vertical) of the top of a Marilyn, but at that time I didn't know that because Conrad hadn't,  at that time, led me astray into collecting them.

A most suitably positioned layby presented itself, the Hill Lists App confirmed the exact location of the spot I was seeking and away through a thin point in a hedge I headed. A few minutes later I was back, mission complete.

The stats for the outing must have been in the region of 100 yards walked with about 10' of up. Yep, it's quite close to the main road is that wooded tumulus which is the recognised top of this 'hill' ('higher ground' would be a more fitting description for this one).

It may not have been a significant conquest physically but it was significant numerically as I have now visited the top of half of the English Marilyns.

Monday, 7 December 2015

A Short Break in Ironbridge

Monday 7 December

Yesterday afternoon, in considering what to do with the final 24 hours of this trip, I discovered that Mick had never been to Ironbridge. I’m not sure why that surprised me, considering that (unlike me) he didn’t grow up 20 miles down the road, but it was sufficient information to make me set the SatNav to take us there.

Temporary flood defences were just being dismantled by the Environment Agency as we arrived, which turned out to be to our benefit, as it had closed the main road into the town* to vehicles and pedestrians alike and caused us to walk a roundabout route from the Wharfeside car park into the town, giving us a good vantage point of the swollen river and bits of the town that we wouldn’t otherwise have seen.


Yesterday’s amble around was relatively short due to impending darkness, but today we ventured further – up to Benthall Edge, in fact, which involved a lot of steps and boardwalks:


Neither of us counted the steps, which I’m sure total somewhere in the hundreds, but eventually we did top out on the edge. Passing a dog which its owner described as a wannabe hippopotamus (in reference not to its size, but to how it had been wallowing in mud), a pleasant woodland walk along the edge took us to a good view over Ironbridge:


It was a good view, with a clear blue sky, neither of which facts is conveyed via that awful excuse for a snap!

We could have dropped straight down from the viewpoint to complete the ‘Lime Trail of Benthall Edge’ (a waymarked circular walk of 3km in length) which we had been following so far, but I was minded to go further along the edge, so that’s what we did, before taking to a very slippery and muddy section of the Shropshire Way to get back down to river level.

Talking of mud, one of my childhood memories of visiting Ironbridge (at the age of about 7) involved me getting so thoroughly caked in mud whilst out on a walk that my father pretended not to be with me as we walked back into civilisation. From what I remember of that long-ago outing, I suspect that it was largely the same as the route we took today.

Walking back across the bridge today a breeze hit us and the odd thing about it was that it was positively warm. That (combined with having felt that shorts would have been appropriate today) is just not normal at this time of year, is it?

“Let’s stop for coffee” we said on the way back to Colin, choosing an establishment called The Tea Emporium for the purpose. Coffee morphed into a very late second breakfast as, on seeing the menu, it was too hard to resist:


I do believe that it was the best version of a veggie breakfast that I have ever been served**. I think next time I’ll try out the Fisherman’s version.

Suitably stuffed, we waddled up the road back to Colin and, with this little trip now over, we pointed him homeward, stopping on the way at my gran’s house, to wish her a happy 94th birthday.

(*I’m not sure ‘town’ is the right description for Ironbridge, but couldn’t come up with a more appropriate word to describe it.

**In fact, I almost never order a veggie breakfast because I don’t see the point in fake sausages, which almost always seem to feature. Usually I just order the full cooked, without bacon or sausage but with an extra egg. I’ve never come across grilled halloumi as a breakfast item before, but I wholeheartedly approve. The bubble and squeak was excellent too.)


Sunday 6 December; Stiperstones (SO368986)


Whilst the weather forecast had been unduly optimistic about the dryness of the day, the prediction of falling winds was correct and thus by the time we made our way (via an interesting route) back up to the same car park as we had abandoned at 1.30 on Saturday morning, it was looking to be a suitable day for my final Marilyn in Section 38A.

Considering that we didn’t get moving until gone 11am, there were far fewer people out and about than I had expected on this distinctive hill in a popular walking area, and we passed just three duos as we made our way via the shortest route to the top.

Catching sight of the trig point I adjudged it to be the most impressively placed one I have visited this year – and, upon clocking the small size and exposed position of the top, also realised that there was absolutely no chance that I could have made my way up to it in Saturday’s >50mph winds, even if I had battled my way up the hill:20151206_113850

We even got a shot of both of us on the top (also showing off nicely the nature of the summit), thanks to a random act of kindness by a passing stranger, who shouted up to us that she would take a photo and send it to us. This was the result:


Thank you kind stranger, should you ever see this!

Even though the day was a bit damper than expected (albeit only drizzle) we didn’t simply retrace our steps on this one, as a number of obvious circuits presented themselves. The one we chose was modest, taking us northwards for a while before dropping down to the Shropshire Way, which took us to and along a track, back to our start point. It was in the final few hundred yards of that track that we rued not setting out five minutes earlier as the drizzle turned to heavy rain.

With all of our intended hills now visited, and with 24 hours still at our disposal before we needed to head home, we consulted the map and pondered where to go next …

No Hills In This Wind!

Saturday 5 December

At 1.30 this morning we were lying in bed just a stone’s throw away from today’s intended summit, when three conclusions were reached:

1) there would not be any hills today;

2) we were not going to get any sleep whilst Colin was being walloped by the wind to the extent we were experiencing; and

3) a night-stop at 1300’ may not have been the wisest choice, given the forecast.

So, for the second time this year we decamped in the middle of the night. This time there were no wild horses involved and, of course, there was no tent either, which made the process a whole lot quicker and easier.

Seventeen miles of debris-strewn roads later put us 1000’ lower and also added another significant layer of mud and grime to Colin; he’s never been so liberally covered in dirt. It was the churned-up car park access track that did it. In spite of the poor quality of its access (and in the absence of any signage, we did wonder, in the pitch-dark, whether we were actually driving down someone’s driveway), the new car park seemed pretty good for our purposes – flat and reasonably sheltered from the wind, and we only had one short incidence of undesirable company.

Today even the modified plan of making a circuit from Cardingmill Valley went out of the window in favour of coffee and toasted tea cakes at the Visitor Centre Cafe. We did eventually brace ourselves for a stroll (/battle against the wind) out to the reservoir and back, but even at that modest altitude we were being blown all over the place. A lazy day was declared, but not before Mick had proved himself to be glove-saviour of the day when he ran down stream to fish out a very soggy hand covering and return it to its owner, after we’d watched the wind whip it from her gasp and plonk it, with great precision, straight into the fast-flowing water.

Apparently tomorrow will be calm so hopefully the final hill of this area will be visited before the weekend is out.

In the meantime, here’s a little video snippet illustrating the breeziness in Cardingmill Valley today:

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Heath Mynd, Corndon Hill and Caeliber Isaf

Colin is in need of a bath when he gets home. He’s had an adventurous (and dirty) day today, frolicking up some very little lanes of such poor quality that I struggled to convince Mick that we were, in fact, on a public road and not just a farm track. The first hill of the day was:

Heath Mynd (SO336941)


Parking in a layby on the main road gave a longer approach to this hill, but meant that Mick could join me, which was a fine plan until, about three minutes in, we found the right of way overgrown to the point of being impassable. Plan B was brought into action which saw Mick steer Colin up the worst excuse for a road and reverse him (on the third attempt, after spinning wheels had liberally spattered mud up Colin’s flanks) into the entrance of a track so he was just about off the narrow road. Leaving Mick there, for the unlikely event that someone should come along and need access to the track, off I strode up the hill.

I think this is the first hill since my Marilynning campaign began where I don’t have a photo of myself on the top. I’d just taken photos of the rain in one direction and the fine skies in the other when the rain hit me and that, combined with being mindful of not wanting to leave Mick sitting there too long, led me to trot off back down the hill. I was out of sight of the top when it occurred to me that I hadn’t taken a selfie and whilst on a fine day with Mick parked in a sensible spot I would have re-ascended, today I didn’t.


Rain approaching

I was soon back at Colin, having completed a circular outing of just 1.25 miles with 500’ of up.

Corndon Hill (SO306969)


There’s plentiful parking within easy reach of this hill, allowing Mick to join me as I huffed, puffed and laboured my way up. I’m not sure Mick bought my excuse that I’d already trotted up one hill; perhaps the reality is that I’ve lost a chunk of fitness over the last quarter.

Other than the steepness, the ascent was simplicity itself and after being blown around on the summit for a few minutes (the wind had picked up again; it had been absent for Heath Mynd) our steps were retraced. Funnily enough, it was a steep descent too.


Mitchell’s Fold Stone Circle lay not far beyond where we’d parked Colin, so we strode right by him on our return and visited the English Heritage site (that surprised me. Corndon Hill is in Wales, but it turned out that we’d parked Colin right on the border and thus had re-entered England in visiting the Stone Circle). I’m never too excited by stone circles themselves, but the information sign there gave enough history to make it interesting.

Back at Colin (with 2.25 miles walked and a whole 600’ of ascent) our time was bided, as I didn’t want to hit the final hill of the day until as close to 3.30pm as we could manage.

Caeliber Isaf (SO212934)


This is one of those Marilyns that I was tempted to omit from my list ticking. The summit is the middle of a field, which is accessed by way of crossing other fields. That gives the ‘hill’ a bit of a pointless air but, in itself, wouldn’t put me off. The off-putting feature, for me, is that there’s not a right of way running over it, which meant that my entire walk would be an act of trespass. Hence, I wanted to arrive as the light was fading out of the day.

Unfortunately, we arrived a bit early and the parking situation was such that Mick opted to let me trespass alone. It was at a trot that I attacked the first field. Now, usually when I say that I trotted or ‘almost ran’ up a hill what I mean is that I walked as fast as my little legs could carry me. Today, seeing a farm vehicle approaching along the road and wanting to be out of sight of the gateway before it passed, I ran. Uphill. And did I mention earlier my lack of fitness? Goodness me, my poor little heart!

With that excitement over (the vehicle passed before I got out of sight but it didn’t pay me any heed) it was simply a fast walk (and the negotiation of one fence) up to the flat area in the middle of a field. Then I went back down again, declaring that it may not be the dullest Marilyn I’ve visited to date, but that it’s right up there in the top two.


Looking uncommonly pleased to be standing in the middle of a field!

Brace yourself for the stats: 0.8 of a mile, with 150’ of ascent.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Caer Caradoc Hill

Thursday 3 December – Caer Caradoc Hill (SO477954)


With the end of 2015 rushing towards us at a rate of knots, and with only 4 new Marilyns having been bagged since the end of August, the notion popped into my head of nipping out to nab a few Shropshire Hills. Weather forecasts were duly consulted and the story they told was such that ordinarily I would have swiftly come up with a Plan B. But, the end of the year is almost upon us and it’s unlikely that any hills will be ticked during January or February, and thus I read things like “26mph, gusting 50” with a favourable eye and great optimism (or do I mean “with a foolhardy disposition”?).

So, here we are sitting in Colin with the rain lashing and the wind violently rocking him on his axles. However, it hasn’t been like this all day. When we arrived in Church Stretton just after 1.30 this afternoon it was grey, but dry and it was remarkably similar when we set out in the direction of our hill half an hour later.

Mud was a horribly slippery feature of the initial path across fields, but once onto the hill the going improved remarkably and if it hadn’t been for a wind so strong that it was trying to blow the glasses off my face, it would have been a good day for this nice little hill.

It was a struggle not to topple off the rocky outcrop which is the high point (where Mick took a photo of me, but as I can’t work out how to get it off his phone and onto this computer, this post will have to be photo-free) and after a brief stagger around the rest of the summit we headed back down.  Dropping south off the hill made our walk into a lollipop-shaped one (our approach had been along the ridge).

An hour and a twenty minutes after setting off, and after a repeat of the slipping and sliding across the mudfest-fields, we were back at Colin with 3.6 miles walked with 1000’ of up. That was quite enough exercise for one day, particularly as darkness was poised to fall and rain was approaching.

I’ve just seen the latest forecast for tomorrow. Looks like fun…

Sunday, 29 November 2015

The Weather In The UK... very seldom as bad as forecast. I've said it many a time before and today was another case in point. It was just before 10 am when we abandoned Colin and wandered down to find the river Nidd, which runs through Knaresborough, and it didn't escape our notice that the heavy rain, that was supposed to be right over us, had not arrived. Indeed, neither had the strong winds.

So, we strolled in fine conditions along the river for a couple of miles or so, initially on road then through (sometimes very muddy) woodland before turning back at the next bridge and taking a no-through-route-to-motor-vehicles and no-motors-except-for-access lane (i.e. very quiet and perfect for walking). Some fine properties sit down there on their riverside plots and it seems there's been habitation there for some time as St Robert's Cave (for which we made the very short side trip) dates from the twelfth century.

A little tour of the town and a look around the castle grounds (which we weren't allowed to enjoy as a sign informed us that the castle is owned by the queen but leased back to the town for the enjoyment of the inhabitants) would have completed our visit except one important thing had been missed: a trip to a local bakery for cake. It was just gone noon when, clutching our cakes, we arrived back at Colin and not three minutes later it started to rain. What perfect timing!

We were happy for it to rain as the plan for the afternoon mainly involved drinking tea and chatting at Mick's younger brother's house.

Five and a half miles were walked in our riverside outing and there was most definitely some 'up' but I haven't counted the contours yet to tell you how much.

Friday, 27 November 2015

The Wrong Decision

On Wednesday afternoon a decision had to be made: to head for our originally intended destination of Malham Tarn (33 miles away) or to change plan based on the weather forecast and head for the seaside at Bridlington (90 miles away). Being 4pm by the time we got away, we opted to stick with Plan A and in the pitch dark some tiny lanes were negotiated to find ourselves a nice level parking spot with some unexpectedly good amenities (127 TV channels and 3G phone signal).

Peeking out of the blinds on Thursday morning to find that we were sitting within a mizzling cloud, I realised we had erred in our choice and should have listened to the almost unanimous opinions of various friends on Facebook, all bar one of whom had voted for Bridlington. Not to be defeated, we put all thoughts of ice creams and donkey rides out of our heads, killed some time drinking coffee and eating pastries, then set out on our intended walk, over Malham Lings, past Outside and around the Tarn.

The coffee and pastries interlude had allowed the cloud to lift a little, so we did have some limited views as we set out:


Cows, Colin, Cloud and Malham Tarn

Twenty minutes later we were back in the cloud and there we stayed for the rest of our 6.5-mile circuit, meaning that there’s very little I can say about it. We did regain a tiny bit of visibility when we dropped back down to Malham Tarn:


Another walk was pencilled in for today (Friday 27 November), and I got as far as putting my walking trousers on ready to set off. Then it started to rain, causing quite a harrumph, as today’s weather forecast was the best of the week and (last I saw) should have been fine and dry. “I’m not going out in that!” I declared, not just because I’m turning into a fair weather walker, but more because I can’t wear my contact lenses at the moment and I really can’t abide rain on my glasses.

So, we headed to Harrogate instead where the sun wasn’t shining either, but it was dry as we enjoyed a walk around the town. We must go back sometime and explore further. Tomorrow’s forecast is truly dreadful, but hopefully we’ll find the mettle to brave the wet for a stroll around Knaresborough*.

(*When Mick was a lad in ‘Alifax he had a car draw up next to him and the American occupants asked him for directions to a place they pronounced as Kuh-nah-res-buh-ruff. Mick was perplexed until finally they showed him the name in writing, whereupon he realised they were seeking Knaresborough. It was because of that short encounter all of those years ago that, in our house, Knaresborough is known as Kuh-nah-res-buh-ruff. I overheard some teenagers talking about the place today and it took me a few moments to remember that their pronunciation of the name was the correct one!)

Sunday, 22 November 2015

A Visit to the Smallest County (4)

Saturday 21 November

Rutland Water is a sizeable body of water and, whilst in summer we wouldn’t think anything of walking its outside perimeter in a day, there was still enough left on this trip to keep us amused for another morning’s walking, with today’s objective being the reservoir’s tongue: Hambleton peninsula.


In view of the weather (glorious blue skies, but with a very keen wind which had switched from warm to deep-mid-winter overnight) I ditched plans to walk in from Egleton and instead we sought somewhere to park on the peninsula itself. Being early enough easily to find a parking spot, we had plenty of time at our disposal to fortify ourselves with coffee and bacon/egg sandwiches before we stepped out into the wind.


If the wind had been a bit less and the temperature a bit more it would have been a most perfect walking day, but even so, we can’t really complain about such conditions at this time of year, can we?

With just a handful of runners and cyclists seen, and various scientific experiments carried out as to our respective stride lengths, we found ourselves back at a busier village than we’d left, having ambled a modest 4.5 miles.

And that would have been the end of our trip, except that I’d spotted that Bardon Hill lay just a stone’s throw away from a sensible route home, and as it had been pea-soup weather when I made it the first hill of my Marilyn campaign on 18 November 2014, and as Mick hadn’t been with me that day, we made a little detour.

The weather forecast on Friday evening had told us of the possibility of a bit of slush lying on Saturday morning in the Midlands, but promised that it would soon thaw, so I hadn’t expected, as we approached Coalville, to see crisp snow in the streets in the middle of the afternoon. We explored those streets a bit more than intended too, having set out from Colin in completely the wrong direction … ooops.


The views were superb from the top, but the wind chill such that we paused only long enough to prove that I really need to work on my selfie composition skills:IMG_0458

A Visit to the Smallest County (3)

Friday 20 November

“Back to Rutland Water!” I declared to be the plan for the day, this time with the intention of taking a stroll along the south side.

Edith Weston* provided us with parking, and west was the direction for which we opted, ambling along under clear blue skies as far as the Visitor Centre, where the cycle track, which circumnavigates the reservoir, leaves the waterside and heads to a road for a short while.

Thoughts of seeing whether dreadful cups of tea were a general feature of the various visitor centres and cafes (really, Wednesday’s offering at Whitwell Visitor Centre was awful) were thwarted when this particular centre was found to be closed**, so with an about-turn, back east we headed.

With the number of yachts we’d seen in land-based storage during Wednesday’s and today’s walks, we had to conclude that if they were all on the water at once it’d be a mightily crowded place. At this time of year there was no crowding evident at all. In fact, the only boats we saw in the water are those in the snap below, and the only ones out and about under sail were dinghies rather than yachts:IMG_0446

Having only covered 5.3 miles we really should have continued east beyond Edith Weston to have a closer look at the church (by appearances)/museum (by what the map says) place we could see, which looked interesting. Unfortunately we didn’t, thus 5.3 miles remained the tally for the day, with 450-feet-worth of undulations. None of the undulations was long or steep, contrary to Anglian Water’s Health and Safety Department’s view, as evidenced by plenty of signs warning of steepness and either requiring dismounting or reminding that helmets should be worn They struck me as being over the top, and it seems that I wasn’t the only one:


Maybe I would be of a different opinion on a warm summer’s day when the vast car parks are brimming and the waterside track busy with families – something it was difficult to picture in our solitude on this trip.

The day was rounded off with a trip to Cottesmore, which now bears very little resemblance to the place Mick remembers from 41 years ago, from where we decided that given the options we may as well go back to Tallington Lakes again and take advantage of the bargain campsite for a third night.

(*Just to clarify: Edith Weston is a ‘where’ not a ‘who’. It’s a village.

** What with closed car parks, prohibitive car park restrictions elsewhere and closed cafes this really was turning into an unexpectedly cheap trip!)

A Visit to the Smallest County (2)

Thursday 19 November

Having noticed on Wednesday afternoon that the Morrison’s supermarket just outside of Stamford doesn’t have any parking restrictions, I thought we may as well take advantage by visiting the town and walking a circuit taking in the river and a bit of the perimeter of the Burghley Estate.

The town surprised me in how attractive it is, how many churches it houses and how big the Stamford School is, but we didn’t loiter for very long, knowing that we would be coming back through at the end of the walk. Instead, we made a beeline for the river and along it we walked, tracing the steps of the Romans, apparently:


The river wasn’t actually very attractive and the riverside path was a mudfest. By the time we struck off across muddy farmland I was hankering after the surfaced tracks around Rutland Water and thinking I’d picked a poor route for this day:


It did get better. Once we reached the woodland visible ahead of Mick in the above snap, the underfoot conditions improved considerably and the surroundings were more pleasing too. The village of Easton on the Hill (if I’d read the name of the village before we’d set out perhaps I wouldn’t have been surprised that we had to go uphill to get there!) was another delight (albeit one of which I didn’t take any photos) and beyond there the view from another good track gave us a bit of history, in the shape of this derelict building, to ponder over:


Wondering what St. Martin was without…


… I had hoped that by taking a little out-and-back along the edge of the Burghley Estate we would get a good view over the grounds and maybe a glimpse of the house (which we would have visited, had they not been closed for the winter). Alas, even though the contour lines on the map looked promising, trees and a bank obscured all views, meaning that most interest along that section was in watching a plethora of poor golfers on the adjacent course.

Cheekily we commandeered the bench behind the fifth tee for our lunch break, whereupon it started to rain. Harrumph! The forecast had told us we should remain dry until late afternoon, but it definitely continued as we short-cut back into Stamford and perused the bookshelves of the charity shops. As with the previous day, any inclination to explore the town further was eradicated by the rain, so back to Colin we headed, having walked just over 7.5 miles with around 400’ of ascent.

A Visit to the Smallest County (1)

As much as I would have liked to have headed north or west, to visit a few previously unticked hilltops, the weather forecast for this week suggested that the only way we could escape the bulk of the lashing rain and howling wind would be to head east. Adjudging that north Norfolk deserved more time than we had available to lavish upon it, we selected Rutland Water instead. Or, to Mick, Empingham Reservoir, that being the name by which it was known when it was under construction when he was based just up the road at RAF Cottesmore in the mid-seventies.

Wednesday 18 November

An early start saw us arrive in Oakham before 9am, but having failed easily to find a satisfactory place to abandon Colin for the day, we quickly ditched my original plan to catch a bus from Oakham to Empingham to walk the entire north shore of the reservoir. Plan B was to park at Barnsdale and do an out-and-back walk to Empingham, which is exactly what we did, even with the fly in the ointment of finding the car park to be closed for the winter* (that was some money unexpectedly saved; there turned out to be good on-street parking right outside the closed car park).

It was a bit grey as we set out, but relatively calm after the violent storm which had passed through overnight:


The white sheep of the family?

Empingham was my first taste of the local villages and I was rather taken with it. I was subsequently to find that it is quite typical of the local area; every village we visited looked worthy of adorning a postcard:


By the time we got to the Whitwell Visitor Centre on our return leg (where we spent some of our saved parking fees on two of the most dreadful cups of tea ever drunk) it was still warm enough to sit outside, but the we couldn’t help but notice that the wind had picked up. The white tops on the water were one clue, along with the quantity of leaves rushing across the car park to some unknown destination:


Having walked 7.7 miles, accumulating in the region of 700’ of undulations on our way, off into Oakham we pootled for a look around. That wasn’t so successful. The Long Stay car park didn’t have a single space vacant, and although we managed to fit nicely into one of the many in the Short Stay we then found that we risked a £70 fine, due to being over 5.5m long. A freebie on-street spot was eventually found which only gave us an hour, which turned out to be plenty as half an hour later the onset of a cold rain had us scurrying (via a cake shop) back to Colin.

Calling it a day, off to Tallington Lakes we headed, where the campsite in winter is a veritable bargain: £10 gets a level hard-standing pitch with electric hook-up and the facilities are not only clean, modern and heated, but the water for the push-button showers was positively hot. 

(*There’s lots of information on Anglian Water’s website about parking at Rutland Water. I’d confirmed the prices and that Colin-sized vehicles were permitted, yet nothing told me that some of the car parks are closed over winter.)

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Colin’s Life in Numbers


It occurred to me this morning that it was four years ago last Wednesday that we bought Colin (our WildAx Constellation panel van conversion motorhome), and thus we have now completed four ‘Colin years’. Accordingly, I started looking at some figures related to his usage this year and how that compared with previous years.

After we bought him I played around with some numbers on a spread-sheet (completely out of character, I know…) and concluded that we needed to use him for 34 nights a year to make his purchase worthwhile. So little was he used in the first year (we both found ourselves employed and that hadn’t been in the plan when we’d splashed the cash) that we did consider selling him; fortunately that didn’t happen, as we’ve now more than made up for the slow first couple of years.

Here are the illustrated facts and figures:

Number of Nights

A disappointing 22 nights’ use in Year 1 has risen to a pleasing 106 nights this year.

Type of Night Stop

‘Free Nights’ may be car parks, laybys, on-street parking or friends’ driveways. We have actually paid for some of the car parks, but on all bar one occasion the payment was a voluntary donation to a charitable cause and on the one occasion when it wasn’t a donation, it was only 50p meaning it wasn’t worth creating a new category for it!

Total Costs

Oooh look! In Year 4 we spent approximately 3 times more nights in Colin than in Year 2, yet the accommodation cost wasn’t much different. The LPG cost for Year 2 looks high, but the reality is that the vast majority of that gas was used in Year 3. The amount of gas used has a direct relationship to the number of non-winter nights spent in free locations, running the fridge on gas.

Average Costs Per Night

I suspect that we may now have bottomed out on the average accommodation costs per night (i.e. the cost of campsites). The overall cost is a less reliable measure as it is heavily affected by the price of diesel (as well as depending on how far afield we wander for what duration). In Year 2 we paid around £1.45/litre for diesel on more than one occasion. This year we’ve paid as little as £1.04/litre.


All very interesting (to me, anyway!), but the key thing, which I can’t convey in a graph is how many trips we’ve had, places we’ve been, and hills we’ve climbed, that wouldn’t have happened in the absence of Colin-type accommodation.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

A Short Week in Wales - Thursday

Moel y Golfa (SJ291125)

Another fine morning greeted me so off I pootled the few miles to the village of Middletown, where a car park that I adjudged to be a general use one (rather than belonging to the nearby pub), offered a safe haven for Colin whilst I trotted off up my fourth and final Marilyn of the trip.

It looked for a while like my attempt was going to be thwarted, when I came across some very clear and prominent ‘No Footpath’ signs exactly along the line I wanted to investigate. I did ignore the first sign, but when I came to the next I lost my nerve. It felt rather indefensible to be trespassing in the face of such signage. I considered giving up the attempt for another day, when a different approach could be used, and contemplated whether I fancied a very round-about walk using footpaths, but the final decision was to trespass anyway, but following the route I remembered reading about in people’s logs on

The route worked well, but the earlier “Don’t come this way under any circumstances” signage had me nervous enough that I almost trotted up the hill and breathed an enormous sigh of relief when I got to the sign below, indicating that I was all legal again:IMG_9732

I was into woodland by then, where I stayed almost until the top. I knew that I was going to find a memorial on the top (as the description of the highest point was ‘rock on knoll 20m NNE of memorial’) but I hadn’t expected it to be quite so big! Nor had I anticipated the quality of the views, although I’m not sure why, considering the shape of the hill.


Apparently the chap who erected the memorial (who himself died in 1986) was never beaten in fisty cuffs from the age of five to sixty, amongst other things:


I had initially been confused, as I’d misread the above, and thought that it said that the memorial was erected for Uriah in 1986, which didn’t tie in with the visible age of the palings surrounding it. It was only when I wandered over to the next knoll across that I noticed this inscription, dating the memorial back to 1960:


Opting to follow public footpaths down the wooded south side of the hill for my descent, I experienced a phenomenon the opposite of what I used to regularly experience back when I ran regularly. In those days I often returned from a circular run feeling like 90% of it had been uphill. On this hill I descended steeply for so long that I felt like I’d lost twice the height I’d gained on my way up, then I looked at the map and realised that I wasn’t even half way down, and descended steeply some more. 


And that was that. My hills had been bagged, my parents’ memorial visited and the weather had been fine throughout. Thus the trip declared a success and off home I went.

The modest stats for this day were 2.5 miles walked with 1000’ of up.

A Short Week in Wales – Wednesday

Y Golfa (SJ182071)

Vaguely coming to and looking at my watch at 0620 I was pleased to have woken early, as it meant that I could text Mick before he set out for work, so I made an effort to wake up properly and groped for my phone, only then to remember that I had no signal. I made do with sending an email via the BT hotspot, and in so doing came to realise that it was jolly well parky! A quick peek out the window at a very frosty world had me decide not to capitalise on the early hour, but rather to snuggle down under the duvet until the sun had risen enough to hit at least one of Colin’s windows.

Eventually I did make a move, in the direction of Welshpool, just before where I deposited Colin in a layby at Sylfaen station (on the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway) to head up Y Golfa.

I had good intentions of following Rights of Way the whole way, but when I got into the first field (and I was on the path at that point, even though the recorded track shown below suggests I was a distance out) I couldn’t see a way out of the field in the direction taken by the footpath, but I could see a gate further to the east. Knowing that the farmer’s eyes were upon me, I strode with purpose and like I knew where I was going, hopped over his gate* (yes, at the hinge end!) and to my relief found a good trodden line through the bracken from there all the way up to the golf course. So, that was a corner nicely cut!


I would have taken a slightly more direct line across the golf course had it been deserted, but the presence of a man on a mower, tending the greens, had me make some pretence of following the lines on the map*.


Look carefully and you’ll see a man on a mower


Oooh, is that my next hill over there?

I did follow the Rights of Way on the way back off the golf course, initially Glyndwr’s Way, then a footpath, at least until the footpath started heading down the middle of a fairway, whereupon I decided that following the perimeter would be acceptable. Then I trespassed back down my ascent route, once again striding across the farmer’s field with purpose as he was still within view, in his yard.

With the outing having only come in at 1.8 miles, with 600’ of up, there was plenty of time left in the day to go and tackle my final hill of the trip. However, I still had a day and a half at my disposal, so instead the afternoon was spent beside the Montgomery Canal, mainly reading a book, but with a couple of hours spent ambling along the canal, where autumn was fully in evidence with fallen leaves littering the water and the towpath:



My chosen parking place for Wednesday night turned out not to be as ideal as I’d hoped, albeit (as is usually the case) mainly due to an overactive imagination. There was a surprising amount of coming and going to the nearby houses, with the visitors using ‘my’ car park as a turning circle (as I left on Thursday morning I realised that I would have been less surprised by the amount of coming and going if I’d appreciated earlier that what I thought was a pair of semis was actually a terrace of four). Couldn’t complain about the amenities, though; I had a phone signal and a BT wifi hotspot all from the comfort of my sofa/bed.

(*Post Blog Note: If I’d had a 1:25k map to hand at the time, I would have known that once I was out of that first field, I was on Access Land, and thus I could have wandered across the golf course to my heart’s content.)