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 29 January 2012

Llangollen Day 2

Saturday 29 January

Distance: 11.6 miles (2000’ of ascent)

Weather: Sunny and delightfully crisp

As unlikely as it seemed as we listened to the rain fall last evening, today dawned clear and bright, with a good frost adorning the grass. Seeing the conditions caused us to put a spurt on, curtailing our pre-walk faffing, and we managed to get ourselves out at 9am.

A slightly different route was taken to get to the path up to Castell Dinas Bran, this time passing an information board which had apparently been covered with blobs of water from last evening’s rain at the point that freezing level was reached:


The speed at which we ascended the hill was entirely the fault of this sign. Had it been less definite about the time it would take to reach the top we would probably have had a leisurely stroll, but so firm was it in telling us that ‘It will take 25 minutes to reach the remains of the castle’ that we saw it as a challenge. Mick was amongst the ruins in 10 minutes; I took 12 minutes, although I did pause briefly to take a snap of the escarpment under which we had walked yesterday:


This really is a fantastic oversized-pimple of a hill, with incredible 360 views, augmented by the remains of the castle. Definitely worth the walk. Compared to yesterday afternoon’s greyness:


It was much nicer today:



A good poke around was had, oohing in every direction, particularly to the north where the mist hung in the valleys and capped the hills:


Afraid of slipping on the steep descent (it had been very slip-slidey on the iced-up stones on the way up), it was a bit of a nervous descent, but we made it intact to pick up Offa’s Dyke Path. After a bit of road walking, through some pleasing woodland we went. Trevor Hall Wood said the sign. “Who’s he then?” asking Mick, supposing that a hyphen was missing.IMG_3712

The main purpose of this walk, for me, was the Pont Cysyllte aqueduct and by-and-by the route took us to the canal:


I have clear memories of not crossing the aqueduct when I was somewhere between 9 and 11. We got onto the end of its lengthy span, my grandmother (who has no head for heights at all) appreciated what we were about to do and refused to go any further. No amount of cajoling would convince her that there was nothing to worry about, so back we went. Finally I had the opportunity to rectify that unfinished business.

It’s a truly incredible structure:


Mick tried in vain to try to take a sensible photo of me on the crossing:


It was a long way down to the river!


Having crossed the span twice (our circular walk came very close to the end of the aquaduct, but didn’t require us to cross it, so it was a bit of an out-and-back side-trip), we detoured further to a local road bridge in an effort to find a vantage point where we could admire the entire magnificence. We didn’t find that vantage point, but we could still admire sections of it between the trees.


Our way back to Llangollen was a simple stroll along the canal, the tow path of which was unsurprisingly busy on this fine Saturday morning. No narrow boats were moving on the canal, although there were a few people making other use of the waterway:


Dinas Bran had been within our sights for much of the day, and so it was as we paused for lunch. Finding a picnic bench for our break was an added bonus:


As regular readers will know, I’m not always a fan of canal walking, but some canals are better than others, and this one is lovely:


Reaching Llangollen a detour was had into the town before we made our way back to Colin. It seemed obligatory to join the other tourists on the bridge to take a snap of the river:


Equally obligatory was a trip to the butcher for a lamb oggie for Mick. He was quite pleased with it:


So, a good couple of walks had. I think we’ll be back to explore the area further.

Llangollen Day 1

Distance: 7.25 miles (1500’ of ascent)

Weather: decidedly rainy, with a few brief dry interludes

Having scrapped the idea of a backpacking trip last weekend due to the high winds (those winds that blew the tea out of my cup!) and having had the previous weekend’s late-proposed trip vetoed, I was determined we were going to go somewhere this weekend. Great indecision surrounded whether it was going to be a backpack or a Colin weekend and finally I came down on the side of Colin. With that decision not finally made until Thursday morning, I was left with only a couple of hours on Thursday night to get everything together, chose a destination and print some maps.

After much consideration, at 9.30pm I declared that a conclusion had been reached as to venue – we were going to Llangollen. Just over twelve hours later we arrived in the town and wasted little time in getting out for a stroll.

To the north we went, pausing to look up at Castell Dinas Bran which (as the name suggests if you’re familiar with Welsh) is a castle atop a hill, which was due to be on our route for Day 2:


Picking up the Clwydian Way, which wended its way very pleasantly along a hillside, we passed above the remains of an Abbey, although it was the caravan park to the side and the hill beyond which dominated such that you could easily overlook the Abbey in the view:IMG_3675

The surrounding views were worthy of consideration too, which is probably why the trouble had been taken to create some seating overlooking the vista:


With the climb needed to get to the upper seating level, the picnic bench was noted as being ‘for the less nimble’!


Having paused for lunch in between showers (it was turning out to be more ‘rain with a few brief dry periods’ than the forecast ‘sunshine and showers’) we made straight for the escarpment which dominates the views to the east. A fine geological feature, we declared, but the weather wasn’t conducive to good photos:


Even in the miserable weather, we could appreciate how attractive were the surroundings and many a pause was had to admire the features. By and by we got to the point where we were to leave Offa’s Dyke Path, with the intention that we would skirt Castle Hill. There had seemed little point in going over it in this weather when we would be up there on Saturday morning, when the weather was forecast for wall-to-wall sunshine. However, when we got to the junction where we would have turned to go around the base we were both in firm agreement that going over the top seemed like a much better plan.

Up we sploshed, got rained on a lot at the top (I did take plenty of photos, but they’re all very grey), and then by the time we got down the other side the sun was out! Even the bird life was sunning itself on every available perch:


The sun was but a brief interlude. It was wet outerwear that got stripped off as we returned to Colin and it was hard to believe that the weather was going to make such a remarkable about-turn overnight.


(Subtitle: Work is a Restrictive Practice)

By the amount that I’ve posted on this blog so far this year (i.e. nothing), I’ve probably given the impression that we’ve had a month of laziness. Although our mileage isn’t as high as previous Januaries (I refer you to the subtitle of this post), we have been out and about a little bit; I just haven’t written about any of it (yep, that subtitle again).

So here’s a bit of a taster of what we’ve been up to in January:

New Boots!


I started the year with new boots! Father Christmas had bought me a new pair of Brasher Superlites to replace my old knackered pair (I would say ‘worn out’ except that it’s more that I never cleaned or treated them and the leather finally cracked, but they did last five or six winters of muddy local walks). Alas, Brasher felt the need to change the design beyond recognition in the intervening years. The new pair no longer look new, but I fear they’re never going to be quite as slipperesque in their comfort as my old pair.

5, 19, 27 January – it’s borderline whether these counted as proper walks, as on these three dates I walked from the edge of Derby to work at Pride Park and back again. It’s not a walk without merit; almost the entirety can be done on off-road cycle paths and some of the length follows the river Derwent. There were storms raging on 5 January. The river was mightily high and I got blown along, glad that the wind was mainly behind me; I was even more glad that the winds had calmed down before the return leg of the journey.

8 JanuaryMartin mentioned that he and a group of other people were going to go for a 10-mile (or so) walk from Taddington, which seemed like a jolly good idea to us, so along we went. Martin & Mick took it in turns to adopt ridiculous poses:



Photo of Mick is copyright Martin Banfield

I chatted myself hoarse:


(Sorry JJ & Viv; I obviously don’t get out in company enough!)

And in all honesty I didn’t pay an awful lot of attention to our surroundings, except for the old mine buildings:


And the skein of geese:


You can read Martin’s full account of this outing here.

11 January – I noticed that there were crocuses out on the estate, which struck me as being rather early.

IMG_3669The snowdrops took a couple of weeks longer to appear. I looked more of a sight that usual on this outing; people stared quite a lot


You can’t quite see the half-a-reel of tape over my face!

(I was on my way home from the hospital; the patch came off a couple of hours later).

14/15 January – Finally a bit of crisp winter weather! Mick vetoed my suggestion, made bright and early on the Saturday morning, that we should quickly pack our backpacks and get ourselves up to the Peaks for a quick overnight, but we did get out for a couple of local walks.


Gorgeous conditions!

I’d already done my ‘local villages’ circuit the previous weekend and noted three big trees which had been downed by the late December/early January storms. Someone was busy cutting these up for firewood:


21 January – It had been a week short of 3 months since we’d set foot on Cannock Chase! Well overdue a visit, that’s where we headed on the 21st, spending a good chunk of the day walking a 13.5-mile route. Not much had changed except for the complete disappearance of one of the forestry plantations on our route. No photos from this walk, other than this sign which had me confused as to what it is they’re trying to convey:


Is it where cyclists arriving by car should park? Is it where cyclists should go, and also where there’s a car park? Or is it a cycle park badly described?

22 January – With spray coming off the river, a swell on the canal and white-tops on the lake, it was another breezy weekend as we did another repetition of one of our local circuits. I even had a gust blow the tea out of my cup! Of all the interesting things I could have photographed on this outing, this is the only snap to be found on the camera:


Not an interesting snap, and taken purely because a new footpath-fingerpost had appeared during the previous seven days. There’s currently no evidence that anyone else uses this path; maybe it will suddenly gain popularity by the addition of this post?!

27/28 January – We were always going to go somewhere this weekend, but it was gone 9pm on Thursday night when I decided that Llangollen was where I fancied. I think that deserves a post or two all of its own…

So, there’s January been and (almost) gone, with just a smidge over 100 miles walked.

Sunday 1 January 2012

2011: Illustrated

It’s that time of year when I get ridiculously gratuitous with my graph production, demonstrating quite how obsessive I can be about collecting and playing with data (although I haven’t quite succumbed to Mick’s suggestion of calculating how many miles we walk per year per dehydrated curry!).

First off, the headline is that I went out for a walk on 172 days of 2011, covering 1892 miles, which was broken down between the months as follows:


The usual pattern prevailed, with the miles dropping off considerably in the second half of the year

It’s not a difficult calculation to see that I met and exceeded my target of averaging 5 miles per day for the year. From the day we set out from Lowestoft heading to Ardnamurchan, my average miles-per-day stayed above the magic number for the whole of the rest of the year:

image The pink line marks the magic ‘5 miles per day’. The blue line shows how my year tracked against that. The X axis is a mess, but I’ve given up trying to make it look prettier.

My ascent-by-month chart isn’t entirely accurate because I haven’t worked out rough ascent figures for the Madeira trip in November. Most of the other ascent figures are taken from Anquet (and always rounded down), so may not be overly accurate either:


I wore a lot of different pairs of shoes this year:


Unfortunately, I didn’t fulfil my aim of reducing my shoe collection. I threw away one pair of worn-out shoes, but gained three new pairs.

As for the weather, I walked in more wet weather this year than last, with over a quarter of my outings involving some sort of precipitation:


The ‘dry’ and ‘sunny’ entries were mainly thanks to the incredibly dryness of March and April. As I’ve observed before, if we hadn’t popped home for a week in the middle of our East to West walk then we would have walked the entire thing without any significant rain (thankfully we did take that week off and thus found out that the tent was leaking before the TGO Challenge, during which it rained every day). This chart shows how much our full waterproofs were used during the 46 days of the East to West trip:


The categories are: Blue = not worn; Salmon = worn for less than half an hour; Green = worn for more than half an hour but less than an hour and a half; and Purple = worn for more than an hour and a half.

I got some quality miles in during 2011, with far fewer repetitions of my usual local circuits. I’m hoping to get some quality miles walked in 2012 too, but have my doubts that I’ll get anywhere near this year’s mileage. Shall I set myself a target? I’m not sure.

(Not) Patterdale – Day 5

Saturday 31 December 2011

As I mentioned, our fourth night wasn’t spent in Patterdale, as it turns out that it’s necessary to book well in advance if you want a hard-standing on a campsite around New Year. A bit of phoning around did eventually find us somewhere to spend the night, just south of Keswick, and once we were all pitched up, a look at the map told us that our final walk for 2011 was going to be a quick trip up Seat Sandal. It was the obvious choice for a quick outing, given that we’ve already been up all of the hills around it.

Unsurprisingly, given the preceding four days, we weren’t greeted by a blue-skied morning when we first peeked outside. Undeterred by the greyness and low cloud, by half past nine we were parked up at Dunmail Raise and our pre-departure faff had commenced. Somehow it turned into a mega-faff and by the time we were ready rain was falling.

It was but a shower, and a quarter of an hour later not only had it passed, but we had ascended above the first layer of cloud and into a clear pocket. Things were looking up!


Bit grey. Lots of water around.

Of course, it couldn’t last. By the time we got to the top it was raining in earnest and we were well and truly in the cloud again, but the walk to get there had been an easy and pleasant one alongside the rushing burn.

On another day we would have made a circuit by walking down the spur towards Grasmere, but given that we couldn’t see anything anyway there seemed to be little benefit in doing that. We simply performed an about turn and back down we went.

The rain didn’t let up the whole way down, so once again it was two soggy people who stripped off raingear on returning to Colin. His shower room is a handy place to dump wet stuff, and we had plenty of it.

So, five days walking, seven Wainwrights visited, five rainy days and two windy days. Can’t complain really. It was all good fun in spite of the wetness, and the law of averages would suggest that we were overdue a wet and windy December trip to the Lakes.

Our holiday wasn’t entirely over. On the way home we popped by to see Conrad, with whom we enjoyed lunch and swapping of plans for the upcoming year. Then we spent a ridiculous number of hours trying to get home (a lengthy process due to a closure on the M6 which involved the passage of an hour and a half during which time we progressed a paltry two miles south). We made it home in good time to see in the New Year with a bottle of something appropriate.

New Year already! Must be time to publish my annual graphs describing last year’s walking statistics, mustn’t it?