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]

Wednesday 31 December 2014

Rhobell Fawr and Craig y Castell

31 December 2014

Rhobell Fawr (SH787257; 734m)


I completely missed Rhobell Fawr when I was planning for this trip and even when I did notice it on the map a couple of days ago, I dismissed it as being too difficult to get to. Looking over to it from yesterday’s tops, it didn’t look far away at all, and when I looked more closely at the map last evening, I realised that we were, in fact, almost perfectly placed to pop up it today. Even better, an exploration of the 1:25k map told me that there is only one obvious route up it* (accessible from two local road-ends) and, with that route following a wall, I guessed that there would be good trodden line, making it a relatively easy walk.

Starting out from Llanfachreth (where there’s a good public car park, which isn’t marked on the map; it’s next to the school at SH756225), a bridle way then a by-way gave us good views of our warty-looking objective…


… and took us up to Bwlch Goriwared, where a broken (but still useable) stile gave us access to the wall which runs all the way up to within a stone’s throw of the trig point. As expected, there was a trodden line (not an eroded scar; just an obvious trod), and as an added bonus there was only one small boggy bit. Not only an attractive hill, but another one which has proved to be a joy to walk too!

Even though the wind had picked up another notch or three today, we were sheltered most of the way, and it wasn’t until we reached the trig that the real staggering around started:


The cloud was a bit lower than yesterday too and although we counted ourselves lucky that our top (which stands at 705m) was well below the cloud, it did curtail the views which would have been stunning on any of the last three days. This snap is looking in the same direction as the one in yesterday’s post – towards the mouth of the Mawddach.


Our return route bore a remarkable resemblance to our outward one and (thanks to our earlyish start, designed to avoid the strongest of the winds, which were forecast for the afternoon) we were back at Colin (being accosted by chickens who pecked at my shoes; maybe they knew I was having eggs for lunch?) before noon.

Craig y Castell (SH698162; 321m)


With the day still young and the cloud still high (even if the wind was getting stronger), after lunch we headed over to Craig y Castell, where I left Mick in Colin** as I nipped out to visit this little summit, which stands at just 321m.

My slight handicap was that I had intended walking to this top from Dolgellau, and thus had pored over aerial photos to find a feasible route from the east. In the event, I found myself starting immediately south of  the summit, with no knowledge as to how best to approach.

After I’d walked around to the west side of the hill in search of a way up, I counted myself lucky that no-one stopped me from trespassing across a field so as to get from the bridleway to the access land, and that no-one witnessed me stepping over a fence a short while later. I’m also pretty sure that no-one saw me climb over a wall at the top (for the avoidance of doubt, I was very careful not to cause any damage to any of those obstacles). A mile after setting out, I was on the top, looking over to Foel Offrwm (yesterday afternoon’s top) and Rhobell Fawr (that’s the highest bit, just right of centre in the snap below):


I was also being blown all over the place, so without further ado (and having failed, despite my best efforts, to spot any proper crossing point) back over the wall I went, then back over the fence, followed soon after by a repeat trespass across the field. I did meet the farmer on my way from there to Colin and he proved to be a friendly chap, so I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded my actions.

The stats today were 7 miles walked with 2000’ of ascent this morning and 2.1 miles with 600’ of up this afternoon.

(*Well, it seemed to me that there was only one obvious route up. I’ve now looked at and it seems that it’s not the route taken by the majority of baggers on there!

** The car park in question has a charge of £5. I was only going to be an hour! Fortunately, Mick needed no persuading to stay behind with a cup of tea and his book.)

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Y Garn (Rhinogau) and Foel Offrwm

Tuesday 30 December 2014


Y Garn (SH703230; 629m)


A tootle up the road this morning (although not before a substantial breakfast at the Milk Bar in Barmouth), took us to Llanelltyd, which is where I’d chosen to start our attack on Y Garn. I’ve been using people’s logs on by way of research to see what routes other people take up these Marilyns, and (in common with yesterday’s start point) decided to shun everyone else’s wisdom and take a longer route that looked, to me, to be more pleasing. That opinion was, admittedly, based on having walked part of this route before.

It was summer 2000 when we last heaved our bodies up the path from Llanelltyd to the New Precipice Walk and remembered it as being a sustained, and outrageously steep, ascent. It was still steep today, but being significantly fitter than we were on that particular holiday, I didn’t feel like I might die by the time we reached the derelict building at the top of the forest where, if you’re taking the New Precipice, the path levels out.

On the spur of the moment, we shunned the flat path which skirts around the hill and went over instead, and after a short drop down the other side made our way over to the ridge wall which runs almost to the top of Y Garn. A decision then had to be made: on which side of the wall to walk. A trodden line lies on each side, but we knew with near-certainty that whichever side we chose, it would be the wrong decision and (having opted for the west side) so it proved to be. My thinking was that with only two cross-walls on that side (versus 5 on the east side), there would more likely be stiles on that side. When we found ourselves at a dead-end, it was annoyingly about a yard away from the stile taking the path from east-side to west. Clambering ensued…

The wind had picked up noticeably for the last bit of our ascent, but the cloud was remaining high for us, giving fabulous views, which stretched to 360 degrees when we hit the summit. The wind, by then, was such that we didn’t tarry more than five minutes or so on the top, opting to drop back down into a bit of shelter for a tea break, before continuing down (on the correct side of the wall) to take the New Precipice Walk on our return route. Quite a few people were seen on that good path – understandably, as it’s well worth the effort (although if you park in the little car park just SE of Foel Ispri, then there is no appreciable effort).

Back down at near-sea-level in Llanelltyd, after an excellent outing that I would well recommend to others, we went from the New Precipice to the Old, or at least to the Old Precipice car park, which gave the obvious starting point for Foel Offrwm – a hill which had been clearly visible to us from Y Garn.

Foel Offrwm (SH750210; 405m)


It was another quite steep ascent, but we were at the top (which houses an enormous square cairn-like structure) with just under a mile of walking, and having only been marginally prickled by the gorse on the way up. As we admired the views (the snow-caps are looking increasingly mottled, rather than their pure white of two days ago), I pointed out the hill that wasn’t in our original plan for this week, but which may now feature as the main event tomorrow.

The stats for the day were 7.5 miles with 1900’ of ascent this morning, and 1.8 miles with 600’ of ascent this afternoon.

(Just one photo today (looking out over the Mawddach estuary). I didn’t think that I would have any mobile signal in our current location, so was surprised to find that I can pick up a tiny bit of 3G – but it does require me to hold the laptop still at an uncomfortable angle at the window, and I’m not going to do that for long enough for multiple photos to post!)

Monday 29 December 2014

Moelfre (SH626246; 589m)

Monday 29 December 2014


I’m not sure whether Wales is positively brimming with abandoned dogs, or whether 2014 was just the year for us to become unintentionally involved in Welsh dog rescues, but whichever is the case, today we found ourselves on a snowy hillside on the phone to the RSPCA and the Council Dog Warden, trying to arrange the rescue of two emaciated (but very friendly) hounds. That’s now three incidents, involving six dogs in total, this year (not to mention the surrender of three packed lunches to those animals!).

The hillside in question was Moelfre, over the shoulder of which we have walked before. Today the top was our objective and, although the day wasn’t quite as glorious as yesterday, it was still a very fine day to be out.


Our objective

Having noted three different potential start points for this outing, we opted for the one which gave the longest walk, and thus set out from Tal-y-Bont (the one just south of Dyffryn Ardudwy). Aside from being on a mission to achieve the fourth revision of my mileage target for 2014, I knew that start point would take us through some delightful riverside woodland before getting out onto the open hill.

We also shunned the shortest route up the hill, opting instead for a gentler gradient by skirting past and approaching it from the south east. The extra distance gave us some excellent views over to the snowy southern Rhinogau ridge, which we’ve walked many times.

The top gave even finer views, in every which direction and we enjoyed them greatly as we paused for the remains of our lunch (the bits which hadn’t gone to the dogs).


The snowy lump on the right is Diffwys and on the left is Y Llethr. The latter is a Marilyn, but one I’ve been up a few times.

Our descent was significantly more direct than our ascent (for which my knees are not thanking me), but we made up for the short-cut by taking a slightly longer route back to Colin, giving us final stats for the outing of 8.5 miles walked with 1900’ of ascent.

Long Mountain - Beacon Ring

Sunday 28 December 2014


What an absolutely stunning day to be out on a little hill! Near-perfection, it was, with not a breath of wind, not a cloud in the sky and the most perfect powder-snow lying above 250m.

I had put two hills on the agenda for today, but a failure to make a sufficiently early start (it took a looooonnnnng time to defrost Colin’s windscreen!) meant that it was gone noon by the time we set out from the deserted Offa’s Dyke Business Park. The name of the Business Park was apt, as it was Offa’s Dyke Path that was to take us all but the final few yards to the summit of Beacon Ring.

The ground was frozen, and at 200m we hit the first snow (the snow-line here being rather higher here than it is at home), and not long later we were walking through a blanket of powder. No hard slogging through heavy wet stuff for us today :-)


The low sun in our eyes tried to hide from us the access point into the forest plantation on our final approach to the summit, but eventually we spotted the gateway which took us through:


Then it was into some native woodland, past a couple of masts, and into the final bit of woodland, which sits within the hill-fort. Mick was weaving around all over the place through the trees, but I had the benefit of a map and quickly located the trig point (which isn’t the true top. That’s about two paces ahead of me in the next photo):


In the absence of any Rights of Way which would help us to form a circuit of an appropriate length for the time available, we simply retraced our steps, benefitting, on our return journey, from the open views to the west.

The stats for this glorious outing were 5.4 miles walked with 1200’ of up.

Monday 8 December 2014

Freeholds Top and Hail Storm Hill

We woke to find that there had been a flurry of snow overnight, followed by a dip in temperature, resulting in roads like ice-rinks. Colin tip-toed along those ice-rinks to take us up onto Todmorden Moor. It’s not the start-point I had intended for Freeholds Top, but I was feeling particularly nesh in the face of today’s biting wind, so plumped for the least-effort option.

Having waited out one snow shower, we soon found that it had another close on its tail and, as we made our way through a construction site, within five minutes of setting out, it was really coming down:


There’s a track that would have taken us almost all the way up this hill, but not wanting to play with heavy plant in the construction site, we left that track to take the Rochdale Way instead. That was a mistake. What awful underfoot conditions we met there, with no evidence that anyone ever walks that route (probably because there’s a perfectly good track running parallel, close by!). We persevered until we were way past the machinery, when it occurred to me that there was no longer any reason we couldn’t drop back down to it.

A relatively easy stroll then took us uneventfully up to the top:


Contrary to the photographic evidence I’ve given above, we did get some clear weather on our way, and we could clearly see Stoodley Pike from the top. An interesting top it is too, with its summit pool (just a few feet to my left in the pic above).

Our return route was remarkably similar to our outward one, except that we went straight through the construction site. Machines were stopped for us, but as there is no formal path closure in place, nobody could object to us being there. We arrived back at Colin, with sleet falling, having covered 3.9 miles with (wait for it … drum roll…) 300’ of ascent.

Having arrived back with our outer layers wet, I was suffering a severe reluctance, after lunch, to re-don that wet garb to tackle our final Marilyn of this trip. A bit of a pep-talk saw me right, and off we strode up towards Hail Storm Hill.


The hill didn’t live up to its name. In fact, it remained dry the whole time we were out on this one, which was a bonus, considering the nature of its top, which is a huge, sodden featureless plateau, where (apparently) there is, somewhere, one tussock which is an inch higher than the rest.

Given a top like that, it was definitely the ascent which was of the most interest, as we walked through old quarry workings…


… and admired the views, before leaving the Pennine Bridle Way to yomp in the general direction of the top.

After a bit of wandering around, I declared that the tussock on which I’m standing in the snap below was ‘the one’, and the GPS track later proved that I was in fact correct (or at least, it confirmed that we had passed over the high point):


Goodness me! That’s a map and compass in my hand.

We could have completed a circuit, which probably would have been pleasant, if it hadn’t been for the biting wind, but what we actually did was go back the way we had come, with just a couple of little variations. We had covered 3.6 miles on this outing, with a more respectable 800’ of up.

And so, that’s it for Marilyns on this trip. There’s now just one top within Region 36 with which I have unfinished business (incredibly, that’s Kinder Scout; I’ve been up there plenty of times, but I’ve never sought out the high point. I’ve declared that to be an outing for either a sub-zero day or a summer-dry-spell day, rather than for this trip). Considering that it’s approaching the middle of December, I think we’ve done rather well. Eleven hills in 6 days and we’ve had a view on all bar two, and only had rain on one (albeit we had snow on 4); only today has the wind been really noticeable.

Sunday 7 December 2014

Pendle Hill and Boulsworth Hill (Lad Law)

Putting my reputation as a fair-weather walker in jeopardy, we set out from the car park in Barley this morning in pouring rain. We could have sat it out, but, based on the frequency at which squally showers had been passing through all night and into the morning, we felt sure that we would be caught at some point in the walk even if we delayed our start, so off we went regardless, in the direction of Pendle Hill.


The steep, engineered path up the hill suggests that it’s a very popular place, and even early on a Sunday morning we were in company as we left the car park. The other groups headed off in different directions (it transpired that the people parked next to us walked the same circuit as us, but in the opposite direction), and even though we could see people ahead of, and behind, us as we huffed and puffed our way up, we had the summit entirely to ourselves. Moreover, after walking initially through rain, and then through falling snow, we topped out with blue skies and excellent visibility in most directions:


Our circuit took us south off the hill, to walk past Ogden Reservoirs. There’s no engineered path on the hill in that direction and the ground had suffered from the amount of rain that fell last night. Likewise, the side-streams which are probably usually single-step-across trickles were fair rushing by today.

The car park was almost full by the time we got back, and cars were lining the streets of the village, so we freed up a space and headed off to … well, to a steep little lane that’s not very near to any significant area of habitation.


Variously in hail, snow and sunshine, we took a track across some glorious moorland, before setting off to yomp up to Boulsworth HIll. We later discovered that, if we had continued to the end of the track, there’s a trodden path up the hill from there, but the route we took wasn’t arduous.

We were in total agreement that, after the unpromising start, it had proved to be a good day for walking after all, as we enjoyed the views from the top of this lovely hill:


Having spotted the trodden line back to the track, we took it - and found it to be very soggy indeed!

The track sped us back to Colin, where we arrived having covered 3.8 miles with 600’ of up on this outing (Pendle Hill was 4.9 miles with 1200’).

Ward’s Stone


“You do choose some good routes” said Mick not long into yesterday’s walk. I took it as a compliment, even though the fact that he uttered the words whilst contemplating how to get across a boggy wallow suggested that there may have been more than a little sarcasm present. That boggy wallow actually turned out to be one of very few wet areas we encountered, as the night had been cold enough to freeze the ground solid, and thus instead of slip-sliding our way messily along the wet, bare-peat path along our ridge, we crunched our way across the frozen surface.

So, the frozen ground was the big bonus of the day. On the negative side, by the time we had ascended from Jubilee Tower up to our ridge, the day had transformed from dry and bright to low cloud and rain and thus we didn’t get to see much of our surroundings. From what I could observe, we were walking across a substantial area of peat moorland, but that’s about as much as I can say.

By the time we reached the summit of Ward’s Stone, I paced the limit of the visibility out at under 50 yards, but it wasn’t restricted enough to hide my ridiculous pose on the top:


The rain hadn’t felt too bad on the outward leg of our walk, but it turned out that was because it was on our backs. It was rather less pleasant once we turned back towards our start point, but, by good fortune, after half an hour or so, it petered out.

The cloud did not lift when the rain stopped; on the contrary, it was far lower than we had appreciated, enveloping our starting car park too; we were nearly back at Colin before we saw him.

Whilst I would have preferred to have seen our surroundings (because, based on everything else we’ve seen over the last few days, I feel sure they would have been worth seeing), it wasn’t a bad little outing. It came in at 7.7 miles with 1200’ of ascent.

Given the conditions, the afternoon was spent with heads in books.

Saturday 6 December 2014

White Hill and Fair Snape Fell

After a cool night it was under fair skies that we set off this morning, for a couple of miles of tarmac. Admittedly, we could have parked at Cross of Greet, where we left the road, but to do so would have resulted in either an out-and-back or a significantly uphill end to our circuit. Far better, I thought, to park at the lowest point and start with the tarmac. With the road being so very quiet and the surroundings so lovely, the tarmac wasn’t a hardship.


I knew, from internet reports of this hill, to expect bogginess on our way along the boundary fence, and bog is exactly what we got. Hampered we were, too, by the low sun blinding us, so that we couldn’t see where we were walking. I can’t blame the sun, however, for the incident that saw me lose my left leg up to the knee in a peat-boggy-wallow. That was because of a piece of heather completely hiding the entrance to this foot-sized hole. A bit of effort saw my foot extracted (complete with accompanying slurping noise); little did I know at the time that the mud covering my lower left side was nothing compared to how I would look later…

The summit plateau of White Hill is an interesting place with some pools and a chimney-like structure, as well as the trig point. 


With the air clarity of Wednesday having returned, our views covered (amongst others lumps) the Yorkshire Three Peaks, and we drank them in for a while, before yomping off over very rough ground to pick up (eventually) a track which led us back to Colin at Cross of Greet Bridge. It was in amongst that roughness that (unusually ahead of Mick) I heard a commotion behind me and turned just in time to see Mick complete a forward-roll and spring back to his feet. He came up grinning, so no harm done, which seemed quite a miracle when he went back up the hill to show me the hole down which he had fallen and the distance of the resulting forward-roll.

Even with Mick’s acrobatics, we both agreed that we were glad to have walked the route in an anti-clockwise direction. It would have been hard work to have ascended our descent route (not to mention it would have required far more navigational attention than following a road then a fence!).

By the time we were in the final few yards of our descent, there was not a cloud to be seen…


…which gave me a bit of a quandary in terms of where to go next. Clearly, in this weather, we needed to go up another hill, but the short days of this time of year suggested that (again) it would be cutting it fine to go to the next hill in my original plan and make it up and down before dark. Fair Snape Fell was the decision made, and off we headed to enjoy (or so we thought) an afternoon of wall-to-wall sunshine.


We couldn’t help but notice the dark skies and approaching rain as we reached our next parking area, and lunch became a prolonged affair as we waited for the rain and hail to pass, feeling sure it was just a shower. Pass it did, and off we set in reasonably fair weather. It lasted until after Parlick* (apparently a very popular place, by the paths leading up to it and the massive pile of stones and shelter on the top, giving it the appearance of a major summit, rather than a pimple on a shoulder), but by the time we were half way to the trig point on Fair Snape Fell (which isn’t on the top), we were walking straight into a snow storm…


…which was still going strong when we reached the summit proper. What you can’t see in this photo is all of the peat about my person. It was one of those foot-shoots-out mud-slides which saw me land with a big splat in a patch of bare peat and comprehensively dirty my newly-laundered jacket (well, and the trousers, but they’re old and of a colour that doesn’t show the dirt, so I didn’t mind about those so much). Between us, it was obviously the day for slips, trips and falls!


The maps told us that our descent route involved a track, but the map was wrong (or, more likely, out of date), as that track is most definitely just a path these days. It was still an obvious, well-trodden line (in fact, for the first while it was a newly surfaced path), which Mick observed didn’t seem to be taking us in the right direction.

We were off the hill by the time we made the turn which saw us heading back in the direction of our starting point and by then the snow had passed. In fact, by the time we got back to Colin, it was difficult to believe the conditions we had been in up there an hour before:


Both of today’s hills were visited by way of circuits, rather than short out-and-backs, so the stats for the day look a little healthier, at 5.6 miles with 1000’ of up for White Hill and 5.9 miles and 1200’ of up for Fair Snape Fell.

(*Given my other mishaps of the day, perhaps I shouldn’t admit that I was so busy looking at the view on the top of Parlick that I completely failed to notice the short fence post sticking out of the ground until I walked slap into it. Ouch!)

Longridge Fell and Easington Fell

We had expected Thursday to dawn fine and bright, but it didn’t. The air clarity of the previous day was gone and it was decidedly overcast. Still, it was dry (save for a few spots of drizzle) so it wasn’t a bad day to visit more tops, this time in the Forest of Bowland. It’s an area that has now, finally, moved off my ‘must go there’ list!


Longridge Fell came first and it hadn’t struck me, from its representation on paper, that it would be a popular place, but I was wrong. There were other cars in the car park we chose, and a large handful of other people were seen on the hill.

It was such a shame that the views were curtailed, because from what we could see, they were worth seeing. It was also a shame that it wasn’t a tiny weeny bit colder, as the semi-frozen bogs would have better tackled when fully frozen!


It was another very modest outing (2.7 miles; 300’ of up), but there were other hills on our list for the day, so off we headed for the next one.

Easington Fell was another modest outing, but rather damper underfoot than Longridge Fell had been. Again, the bogginess was semi-frozen, but this ground was far more extensively wet.


It didn’t take us long to reach the pile of stones which marks the top, where I snapped Mick, just to prove that he is with me on this trip:


Standing there on the top, we both agreed that a nearby top, Waddington Fell, looked higher. A check of the map showed it to be lower, but as there was only 1 metre in it (moreover, as by now we were really cutting it too fine to be able to get to our next objective and walk the full circuit I had intended within the hours of daylight remaining), we decided that we may just as well go and visit it. We considered it to be insurance, in case any future survey should show it to be the taller of the two after all! Here’s a snap of Waddington Fell (the one with a mast on top), taken from Easington Fell:


The huge quarry around which we walked to get there was a point of interest and before we knew it the trig point was before us, from where Easington Fell looked to be higher. Not bad views to the west:


Those to the east required you to look past the mast (and the two grinning fools in the foreground):


Our intended descent route was scuppered by the wall you see behind us in the photo above. With no crossing point within our sight, we opted for an about turn.

A whole 3 miles had been walked, with (between the two hills) 300’ of ascent!

Off we then went to our chosen car park for our next hill, where (as expected) we arrived too late to walk the hill that day. So, we settled in for the night, perfectly positioned to tackle it on the morrow.

Billinge Hill & Winter Hill

Billinge Hill is a place that I’m sure you would only visit if you either lived in the immediate vicinity, or if you were ticking Marilyns or HuMPs off a list. It’s not the sort of place that, but for those reasons, would jump off the map and demand a detour from the M6 to visit it. However, now that I’ve taken an interest in the Marilyn list, we did take the detour (detour on our way to where? Well, to other Marilyns, of course!).

It’s not a particularly interesting hill, save for the views from its summit, and there’s nothing in its surroundings that led me to think that a circular outing would be worthwhile, meaning this was an outright out-and-back bagging walk. A walk of smack on a mile, three quarters of which was along a tarmac track, took us to the top and we revelled in the glory of the day as we took in the vista.


Then we turned around, hot-footed it back to Colin, whereupon we pointed his nose in the direction of Rivington.

The car park at the south end of Rivington Reservoirs was busy, but I would guess that most people were visiting the reservoirs themselves, as only a very small handful of people were seen on our route, which was up Winter Hill – a far more pleasing looking hill.

We didn’t quite go to the top of Rivington Pike on our way, but we did enjoy the view back to it as we continued on our route:


A very pleasing walk over moorland, saw us onto what looked to me, from the map, to be a track, but on the ground gave every appearance of a public road. Amongst many masts up there, one in particular stood out (1000’ high, says t’internet) as a focal point for much of the outward walk:


Whilst the trig is in amongst the masts, they didn’t detract wholly from the merits of the place, nor did they destroy all of the views, which were fine and far-reaching. It was still a good place to be (in fact, in the case of the huge TV transmitter, it was quite a spectacle; I’ve never been that close to such a tall antenna before!).


Making a mental note to check later* whether Google could give us any further information as to the ‘barbarous murder’ in 1838 of George Henderson (who is remembered by a plaque), we made our way, via a slightly different route, back to the Reservoirs car park.

The stats for the day were 2 miles and 250’ of ascent for Billinge Hill and 5.8 miles and 1000’ of ascent for Winter Hill.

(*As I type this two days later, I’ve still not had any internet coverage in a location where I’ve been at liberty to use it.)