20110925_Haystacks circular walk from Buttermere

20110925_Haystacks circular walk from Buttermere

20110925-13_Grasmoor Range + High Snockrigg from Dubs Bottom Area by gary.haddenWhen : 25th September 2011

Who : Me and my sister Janet

Where : Gatesgarth, Buttermere, Lake District, Cumbria, England

Distance : Approx 7.9 km (4.9 miles)

Heights climbed : Approx 541m (1776 ft)

Car Parking : Car park near Gatesgarth Farm at the foot of Honister Pass and near the head of Buttermere Lake.

Summary : The last of three circular walks in the superb English Lake District, Starting at Gatesgarth in the Buttermere valley and taking in Warnscale Bottom, rising to the area of Dubs Bottom, then rising up onto Haystacks via Blackbeck and Innominate Tarns, and the descent via Scarth Gap back to the car-park and then the drive home.

20110925_Haystacks Circular Walk via Warnscale Bottom from Gatesgarth near Buttermere

If you want to see a larger image of the photo’s in the blog, just click on it and it should launch as a larger image on my flickr photostream.

We’d awoken, packed up, had breakfast, readied our rucksacks & walking boots and loaded the car boot and in amongst all that made some sandwiches and drinks for the day. We had discussed the walk we were going to do the night before which was to be a relatively easy 5 or 6 miler and relatively low elevation. The highest point was to be on Haystacks – We’d ruled out doing Fleetwith Pike as well, due to the extra heights and distance and we had the drive down the M6 to think about during the afternoon. So, we made the decision for the above reasons and because Janet had never been on Haystacks before – and – as an equally good reason, I like the mini-mountain, having crossed this attractive fell on several occasions before.

We set off in the car, from Borrowdale Youth Hostel, for the drive over Honister Pass, which is a fantastic drive. The east side is a steep climb needing low gears at the best of times, but our climb was made considerably harder by getting mixed up in some kind of cycle time trial race; there were slow moving cyclists (some walking and pushing their bikes up the hill and some weaving back and forth Honister pass by Stephen Bowdenacross the road) which we had to negotiate past, as well as avoiding vehicles coming down in the opposite direction – Not the easiest of drives! Once over the pass at Honister Slate Mines (there’s a youth hostel here as well) we had the long drop down the western side of the pass in the Buttermere valley. To my mind this is the most spectacular side of the pass, the road bounded by the steep slopes of Fleetwith Pike to the south and the Dale Head range to the north. This is not a drive to be hurried if you really want to a) be safe and b) appreciate the scenery. The funny thing was, some of the cyclists were coming down faster than we were in the car – absolute madness – so I slowed considerably a few times to allow some of these mad-men and women to come flying by us.

Towards the bottom of the pass, as the gradient eases, is a farm at Gatesgarth and there is a reasonably sized car-park (charge applies) which we pulled into. Being early in the morning, we had almost a pick of where to park, although I’ve seen this chock-a-block and overflowing at busy times. A good number of the cyclists flew past at a great rate of knots as we donned walking boots etc. and we were soon walking back up the road in the direction we’d come from taking care to avoid more cyclists 20080619-10r_Memorial cross-Fleetwith Pike by gary.haddenas we passed some cottages on our right. As we cleared the buildings, just a few yards further on, we branched right onto the low fell side. In effect, the walk felt like it started here.

There are two paths that start here, one heads more to the left heading up to the famous small white memorial cross on the lower slopes of Fleetwith Pike, before rising up to Low Raven Crag and then the climb up Fleetwith Edge to the summit of Fleetwith Pike (see my diary from back in 2008). This wasn’t for us though as we needed the path (a bridle path by designation) slightly more to the right and soon heading just about due south. This is as easy a start to a Lake District walk you could ever hope for, 20110925-01_Path into Warnscale Bottom + Haystacks Behind by gary.haddenwith a wide firm track, almost dead level and dry underfoot (amazing given the rain from the day before). That’s not to say the scenery was anything other than fantastic; we were heading directly towards the rugged northern flanks Haystacks and off to the right a view down the Buttermere Valley. The track swings around to the left in a long curve and slowly but surely brings you into the bowl of Warnscale 20110925-02_Path in Warnscale Bottom (looking towards Buttermere) by gary.haddenBottom with steep rugged fell sides encroaching on both sides and directly ahead. In the bottom of the bowl we had a choice, a) continue on the bridle track to the left, rising up the flanks below Fleetwith Pike, or b) take a footpath to cross a stream and then rise up the right hand side of the bowl beneath the buttresses of Haystacks.

We decided on the smaller path, branching off to the right, and soon crossed the boulder strewn stream via a footbridge and soon after this crossed another 20110925-04_River Ford - Warnscale Bottom by gary.haddensmaller stream this time without the aid of a bridge. This was done without much difficulty and we then started up the fell side at times quite close to cascades tumbling down the hill side. The path was visible on the ground and easy enough to follow (apart from a couple of times where it became a little indistinct) but much less pronounced than the bridle way we could see across the ravine being cut by the fast flowing waterfalls.

20110925-05_Warnscale Beck Waterfalls by gary.haddenIt was as we climbed this path that we met a couple of fellow hikers, one of whom was lagging quite a way behind his colleague. It turns out he’d taking a fall the day before and hurt himself quite considerably. Being well equipped for an overnight on the fells, they’d taken the decision not to descend off the mountain in failing light the evening before, instead hunkering down for the night in a small bothy in amongst some mine workings a way above us. 20110925-07_Waterfall + Crags above Warnscale - Dubs Bottom Area by gary.haddenThe injured chap was walking OK – just very slowly, and after we’d parted company we kept looking behind (and below) us to see their progress. Even as complete strangers we were happy to see them reach the main track in Warnscale Bottom and then disappear from view as they headed off towards Gatesgarth.

20110925-08_Old Quarry Hut Bothy_Above Warnscale Bottom by gary.haddenAfter a couple of big zig-zags of the path we reached the very bothy the two guys had over-nighted in. I couldn’t say in all honesty that it looked particularly salubrious but it would certainly keep the worst of the weather at bay – and I guess could be relatively cosy with a fire in the hearth. Outside, the view over Buttermere and Crummock Water was absolutely stunning.

20110925-11_Old Quarry Hut Bothy_Above Warnscale Bottom by gary.hadden

20110925-12_Old Quarry Hut Bothy_Above Warnscale Bottom by gary.haddenOnce we’d spent some time here, we picked up a route (one of several potential options here) to climb steeply up through the old quarry workings intermingled with the fell side crags to emerge onto a more pronounced path skirting round 20110925-15_Buttermere + Crummock Water from nr Blackbeck Tarn by gary.haddenthe edge of a broad hummocky area called Dubs Bottom.  It’s kind of difficult to describe what this area is like really, it’s a sort of a wide saddle or col between the flanks of Fleetwith Pike and  Haystacks, but it’s also a bit like a bowl as slopes rise up towards Grey Knotts and Brandreth about a mile away. Upon joining the path we turned right to skirt around the back of Green Crag with occasional views down Buttermere on our right and higher cloud topped fells to our left viewed over Blackbeck Tarn.

20110925-14_Blackbeck Tarn by gary.haddenOnce over the outflow stream from Blackbeck Tarn (predictably called Black Beck) our route then climbed through crags on a distinct path towards Haystacks. We were now seeing quite a few more people (heading in both directions) testament to the popularity of Haystacks amongst the walking fraternity and we soon reached the enigmatic Innominate Tarn.

20110925-19_Innominate Tarn on Haystacks by gary.haddenI say this small, fairly ordinary, attractively positioned pool of water is enigmatic for good reason. A dictionary definition states enigmatic as meaning “a thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or ambiguous” and Innominate means “having no name” … so as soon as the tarn with no name was named “Innominate Tarn”, it then did indeed have a name which is then ambiguous as it either can either have a name or not have a name and so by default becomes enigmatic. This is further enhanced by the famous love of this place by the inimitable Alfred (A.W.) Wainwright MBE.

20110925-16_Toy Boat in small tarn on Haystacks by gary.haddenIt was time for a bit of a refreshment stop, so rather than sit by the side of the path, we thought we’d explore around the tarn to find a sheltered spot out of the now rather stiff (and quite cool) breeze – Actually it was really quite windy! As we climbed over a low hummocky crag above the tarn we came upon a smaller pool with something floating back 20110925-17_Toy Boat in small tarn on Haystacks by gary.haddenand forth in the middle but never reaching the banks. As we got closer this turned out to be a toy sized boat and really quite elegantly made – A very odd thing to discover on a high fell and I’d love to hear the story behind it. The top of the hummock afforded a decent view over Innominate Tarn and its line of islands and we soon found what looked and felt like a sheltered hollow looking out over the water.

As soon as we’d sat down the wind picked up again swirling around the hollow, which wasn’t a problem until we started to pack up. Janet was the first to get up and her sit-mat promptly took-off, did a quick twirl and headed off over the crag. I stood up to chase after it, where immediately my map-case (with map!) also promptly took off. The map being most important was grabbed but by this time the sit-mat had disappeared. The whole laughable episode had lasted probably no more than a minute; we found it funny anyway, as did a group of four blokes across the way on the main path who’d seen most of our chasing around. As it happened, from the top of a small crag, I could see the sit-mat floating about in 20110925-20_Innominate Tarn with Green Gable + Great Gable Behind by gary.haddenthe tarn trapped by some pond vegetation. I clambered down and as I got to the water’s edge a gust of wind scooted it across the surface straight to me – So, “all’s well that ends well” to badly quote Shakespeare.

After the interlude, we set off on the very distinct main path climbing towards the summit (or really summits) of Haystacks, stopping only to take some photos and the occasional chat with passing hikers. We kept on a fairly low path for most of the rise, ignoring alternative routes that climb up and down the craggy tops of the fell. After a while we branched right to climb to one of the tops with a rough cairn perched on top – 20110925-22_At one of Haystacks Summit Cairns by gary.haddenI’m not 100% sure this was the absolute highest, but for all intents and purposes we’d reached the summit of Haystacks. The views all around are superb from here but unfortunately many of the mountain tops were shrouded in cloud and it was difficult to stand and appreciate what we could see by the buffeting wind trying to blow us off our feet. We chose to drop down a little to the south to get out of the wind rather than the direct route off the fell side. The path we picked up swung around the fell side, dropping quite quickly on a fairly easy path. Eventually we picked up a boundary fence which rose up slightly to meet the rockier and more exposed paths we’d ignored earlier. We were now at a cross roads of footpaths, at the top of the Scarth Gap Pass, giving four options of travel, as it happens more or less in the directions of the main points of the compass :-

  • East – Back up onto Haystacks.
  • South – Dropping down into the upper reaches of Ennerdale (towards Blacksail Youth Hostel in this fantastic setting).
  • West – Climbing onto Seat and up and beyond to the High Crag – High Stile – Red Pike Range.
  • North – Descending into the Buttermere Valley.

20110925-24_Fleetwith Pike + Warnscale Bottom by gary.haddenOur route was to take the north option, the descent starting quite rocky but later becoming much narrower and easier under foot as the route heads diagonally 20110925-25_Gatesgarth from Scarth Gap Path by gary.haddendown and across Buttermere Fell following the line of a wall. As with the rest of the walk, the views are superb here, including off to the right to Fleetwith Edge, into Warnscale Bottom and up to Dubs Bottom and round to Haystacks’ Buttresses. The views north across the valley (towards the Dale Head Range) showed the final path across the flat pastures at the head of Buttermere Lake to Gatesgarth Farm and the car park.

20110925-23_Buttermere from Scarth Gap Path by gary.haddenWe finished the final part of the descent chatting to a lone walker who was heading back to the same car park where we were parked up. Once we’d negotiated around a small landslip that had destroyed part of the path we reached the valley bottom and a broad path. Turning left would take you round Buttermere’s south shore (a lovely walk in itself), but our route was to take the flat farm track, mentioned earlier, across to Gatesgarth Farm, crossing the almost 20110925-26_Warnscale Beck + Haystacks Mountain by gary.haddendead straight Warnscale Beck via a bridge. This is a very easy end to a super-duper walk.

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings and pic’s …. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel very welcome.

T.T.F.N. Gary

20110923-25_Lake District Long Weekend – An Overview

20110923-25_Lake District Long Weekend – An Overview

When : 23rd to 25th September 2011

20110924-29_Me at Stockley Bridge by gary.haddenWho : Me and my sister Janet

Where : Based in Borrowdale, Lake District, Cumbria, England

Total week-end walks distance : Approx 34 km (21 miles)

Total significant heights climbed : Approx 2,300 m (7,560 ft)

Summary : Our annual trip to the superb English Lakes, simply, to walk up some mountains.

Click on a pic’ and it should launch as a larger image on my flickr photostream … or, go to my flickr photo’s to see them all in one go.

Robinson walk on Flickr + Scafell Walk on Flickr + Haystacks walk on Flickr

The week-end trip had been planned for some time, with a room booked at Borrowdale Youth Hostel at Longthwaite + Rosthwaite, in the lovely upper reaches of the Borrowdale Valley south of Keswick and Derwentwater. This would be the 4th year on-the-trot we’d organised a Lake District trip and the second time in as many years we’d based ourselves in the Borrowdale area.

The plan was, hopefully, to use one of the days to climb Scafell Pike, the highest place in England and because we had several hours of driving on both the Friday and Sunday, this only realistically left Saturday to attempt the walk. We just hoped the weather would be kind to us … especially as we were staying in the wettest place in England!

20110924-06_At top of Scafell Pike - Wonderful View (sarcastically said) by gary.haddenThe other two days of walking would be organised sort of in an on-the-hoof / ad-hock basis, depending on the weather and ;

  • on the Friday on how long it would take to drive up from The Midlands, and
  • on the Sunday on how fit we felt after the first two days of walking.

20110923_Robinson + Hindscarth Circular Walk from Little Town - Newlands ValleyThe other snippet of back-ground that adds a certain meaning to the week-end, is that I’ve put-up with a pair of dodgy knees for many years and which, in recent years, had started to play-up more and were certainly taking longer to recover after any harder walks. Well, after about a year of seeing GPs; Having physio’; X-rays and MRI scans I had eventually gotten to see an orthopedic consultant surgeon on the day before we traveled :- His advice was to Stop Walking; Not do anything that will keep knees flexing (like Cycling and Gym work); take up swimming, but not breast stroke …. and so effectively become sedentary! Although he didn’t actually say that last word. To say this was depressing would be an understatement!

201108I know I have never been the best sportsman in the world, or the strongest mountain climber, but I enjoy physical activity. Over the years I’ve done Basketball, Race Walking (where all my knee problems began), Cricket (bowler rather than batsman), Tennis and of course Hill Walking.  Of all the things I’ve done or tried, it’s the Hill Walking that’s become a passion! It’s the one thing that keeps my well-being well. No, it’s more than that, it’s what keeps me, me … I just love getting out into the countryside and if I don’t get out there at least every now and then, then I suffer. So the consultant’s words were almost like a shot to the heart! All I wanted to do was cry!
20110925_Haystacks Circular Walk via Warnscale Bottom from Gatesgarth near ButtermereSo, this week-end felt that it could be the last time of getting out into the mountains that I love, or anywhere else for that matter. Probably overly pessimistic, but the consultant was unnervingly stringent in saying the walking had to stop, but what he did do was refer me on for surgery to clean up all the torn cartilage in my knees and any other work that might help improve things. I resolved therefore to make the very most of the week-end and get in some good mountain tops, including Skafell Pike as I’d never been to the very top of England before!

And there you have it …. that’s the back-ground over-view to this long week-end.

Oh, and the way the week-end panned out as 3x really good walks =

20110923-23_Scope End to Newlands Valley + Cat Bells etc by gary.hadden

20110924-14_Surface Water - Corridor Route by gary.hadden

20110925-11_Old Quarry Hut Bothy_Above Warnscale Bottom by gary.hadden

Individual walks diaries now added … hope you enjoy.

…. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel welcome.

T.T.F.N. Gary.

PS. I’ve now had the key hole surgery on both knees (last week-early Dec 2011) and currently hobbling about the house with two elasticized tube-y-grip bandages trying to squash the residual fluid out of the joints. A ¾ of a mile stroll on the flat from the local village of Bilton to home seemed a huge success on Friday evening!

20110918_MHW_Cheddar Gorge and Mendip Hills (B-Walk)

20110918_MHW_Cheddar Gorge and Mendip Hills (B-Walk)

20110918-23_Midland Hill Walkers Crossing Black Down - Mendip Hills by gary.haddenWhen : 18th September 2011

Who : The Midland Hill Walkers – B-Party

Where : Mendip Hills – Somerset – England

Maps used : 1:50,000 Ordnance Survey Landranger map no. 182 Weston-Super-Mare & Bridgwater area.

Start Point : ST475,513 [Draycott]     End Point : ST446,597 [Churchill]

Distance : Approx 16.6 km (10.3 miles)

Approx significant heights : Climb-1 = 200m (656 ft) ; Climb-2 = 220m (722 ft) ; Climb-3 = 105m (328 ft)

20110918_Mendip Hills Walk (Draycott to Churchill via Cheddar Gorge + Black Down)Summary : A very wet walk (at least for ¾ of the day) crossing The Mendip Hills AONB generally south to north, using The Mendip Way for some of the route, starting in Draycott and including the observation tower at Cheddar, climbing up the southern edges of Cheddar Gorge, crossing the highest place on the Mendip Range at Black Down and finishing off by crossing Dolebury Warren and hill fort before descending to Dinghurst/Churchill on the A368.
If you’d like to see a bigger photo’, click on the pic’ and it should launch as a larger image on my flickr photostream.

As with all MHW walks, the coach left almost dead on 7:00 a.m. which had meant being out of the house by about 6:25 for the drive to Kenilworth. Rather than go through all the blurb about car parks, timings, etc., again please use these links to see my earlier post about the MHW and the MHW’s own web-site.

The coach headed off down the motorway system eventually leaving the M5 to drive right through Cheddar heading towards Wells. Because today was my sister Janet’s birthday and she was 20110918-10_At a view point looking up Cheddar Gorge by gary.haddenwalking today, and my other sister Julie was also out on the walk, I decided to join them with the B-walkers for the day. We and the rest of the B-party were regurgitated from in the village of Draycott about two miles outside of Cheddar on the A371, on the edge of the Somerset levels …. we were only about 30m above sea level here, even though we were miles from the coast. The A-party stayed on the coach for an extra mile or so, to the village of Rodney Stoke, for the start of their slightly longer route.

Being so close to sea level, meant only two things could happen :- 1) we could start off pretty much on the flat, or 2) we could set off uphill. Unsurprisingly, being called The Midland Hill Walkers we had a hill to climb. 20110918-01_Batcombe Farm - Draycott - West Mendip Way by gary.haddenThis entailed crossing the main road and then a more minor road, heading north-east(ish), before a surprisingly steep ascent kicked in on a grassy rise up past Batcombe Farm; the going was good underfoot so this wasn’t particularly difficult. Above the farm we continued uphill in a mini-valley, but soon after made a right turn (still rising) doubling back on ourselves to do a big zig-zag, ending up still heading parallel to our original direction. After a while (near the top of the mini-valley) we tended to the left towards the field boundary as the gradient started to ease. From here the effort level began to drop, but unfortunately  so did the rain, as the low, monotonous grey clouds decided it was time to stop being just flat and miserable and become fully fledged rain – Meaning waterproofs in variety of colours (mostly shades of blue) were rapidly found and donned before moving off again.

20110918-03_Midland Hill Walkers heading for Cheddar - Mendip Hills by gary.haddenIt didn’t take long before we reached the top of our climb, took a big swing left and then followed the path (I think it might have been a bridle-way) passing above Carscliff Farm. We were now generally heading in a north-westerly direction on a long descent of maybe a couple of miles towards Cheddar. The way was on grassy fields, a narrow muddy enclosed track and later country lanes as we passed through Bradley Cross to reach the outskirts of Cheddar, having now lost literally all of the height we’d initially gained at the start of the walk.

However, we didn’t make the final drop into the small town (or is it a large village?), famous for its cheese; instead turning right to start regaining all that lost height on a steep rise to emerge in a clearing. At one end of the clearing is a metal observation tower, which a good handful of us climbed to the octagonal viewing platform. This afforded some super views westwards over Cheddar and its oddly circular reservoir and beyond over the Somerset Levels to the coast to the south of Western-Super-Mare (or Western-Super-Mud as we’ve always joking called it). However, today, because of the miserable cloudy weather the sea couldn’t be made-out in the far distance. Looking more to the east though, there was a half-decent view (albeit a rather damp one) up the lower reaches of Cheddar Gorge and the famous cliffs.

20110918-07_(b+w) Observation Tower - Cheddar Gorge by gary.hadden       20110918-06_At top of Observation Tower - Cheddar Gorge by gary.hadden

20110918-04_(b+w) Cheddar Gorge from Observation Tower by gary.hadden

20110918-08_At a view point nr bottom of Cheddar Gorge by gary.haddenOnce the handful of us had negotiated the descent of the tower, we rejoined our fellow walkers who’d patiently waited for us. At least the rain had now eased to a very slight drizzle and the optimistic among us had removed coats (the majority were pessimistic though and kept theirs on) and we again set off uphill. We were now following the southern edges of Cheddar Gorge, not that we could see much due to the trees and scrub hereabouts, but every now and then a viewpoint would afford some better views of the largest gorge in the UK.

20110918-13_Midland Hill Walkers above Cheddar Gorge by gary.haddenAs we climbed higher, the views became more expansive, especially where side paths branched off to reach out onto the tops of the cliff bastions / buttresses protruding out into the canyon below. The rain had now restarted (the pessimists had been right this time) and keeping my 20110918-12_On the south side above Cheddar Gorge by gary.haddencamera dry became a difficult task and made me think I’d been right plumping for the Pentax K200D with its weather-seals. This couldn’t stop the lens being covered in rain-drops though and I’ve ended up with a disappointing set of images of the gorge, although I’ve kept a few just as a record of the walk (and to illustrate this diary post).

20110918-15_(b+w) Cheddar Gorge Buttresses and Reservoir by gary.hadden   20110918-14_(b+w) Above Cheddar Gorge by gary.hadden

At the top of the climb, we then had to negotiate a very slippery muddy path down through an area of woodland, not the easiest of tasks especially as the smooth limestone rocks had become treacherous in the wet; there were at least couple of people who inadvertently ended up sat on their bottoms in the middle of the path. This descent through the woods to meet the B3135  road (which runs through the bottom of the gorge) wasn’t too long in length though and we regrouped before crossing virtually straight over the B-road to enter an area known as Black Rock.

This steep sided valley is really just the top end of Cheddar Gorge, although much shallower now and has a different feel about it. There is a wide track in the bottom making walking very easy and the sides are covered in trees, the canopy creating a gloom and permanent dampness, perfect for 20110918-17_Mossy wall - Black Rock Valley (top of Cheddar Gorge by gary.haddenmosses and ivy on the stone walls and exposed rock here. It was towards the top end of this area that we stopped for lunch … I plumped for standing out in the open in the steady rain, whilst others headed under some trees hoping they’ afford some protection – to me I couldn’t see much difference, only the size of the droplets being much larger under the branches and leaves, only maybe fewer of them … either way we stood eating in the rain – a necessity, but NOT a pleasant experience! …. However, a nice treat was in store for us all, as Janet (my sister who’s birthday it was) took out two big Tupperware pots of home-made cakes to hand around :- Very nice Jan’ thank-you.

Once packed away, we set off again and soon emerged onto high almost level pastureland where the rain although still persistent seemed to have brightened – bright-rain rather than dull-rain. The walking had become easier again and the pace quickened and low and behold the rain eased back down to a drizzle. This was most welcome as the inclement weather had become really quite tiresome; I think my other sis’ Julie really wasn’t enjoying herself by now!

20110918-18_Midland Hill Walkers on West Mendip Way nr Gorsey Bigbury by gary.haddenAfter a while, we picked up a farm track (heading north) at Gorsey Bigbury and then, at its end, turned left onto a minor road heading east to Tyning’s Farm (a riding centre). We’d all got spread out somewhat along the road, and we used this as a regrouping place.We’d been walking on The West Mendip Way, but now (rather than continue on its route towards Shipham) we turned right up a muddy track, wire fenced on both sides to reach a pair of gates which in turn led onto an area of rougher land. We were now on Black Down, the highest place on the Mendips. There are various paths heading off in different directions here.

  • One to the right would lead to the highest point of Black Down at Beacon Batch (325m/1066 feet above sea level); this would be the A-parties route, but not ours.
  • A path to the left headed past what looked like a war-time bunker of sorts. It turns out that a decoy bombing town (known as Starfish) was constructed here in World War II in the hope of diverting bombing raids away from Bristol.
  • However, our path went straight ahead on a track heading out into rough grass, heather, bracken and gorse heathland.

20110918-22_Midland Hill Walkers Crossing Black Down - Mendip Hills by gary.haddenThe big wide open space was a pleasant contrast to the walk done so far, especially as the bright rain had now given way to dry and patches of weak sunshine breaking through onto the fields below us. However, it was very wet underfoot; all the recent rain filling the ruts and hollows of the track making us weave left and right to find a way ahead.

20110918-24_Midland Hill Walkers Crossing Black Down - Mendip Hills by gary.haddenAs we crested the rise, some super views opened up in front of us including, in the distance, the Severn Estuary and beyond this to Wales. As we dropped on the northern flanks of the hill, we then turned off to the left on a narrow track through an extensive area of waist high bracken, dropping gently to a conifer plantation at Rowberrow Warren. We now headed further north on a track and then hung left once again rising gently onto the hill of Dolebury Warren.

20110918-25 (B+W)_Midland Hill Walkers_Silhouettes Dolebury Warren - Mendip Hills by gary.hadden

20110918-26_Glowering Clouds and a patch of Sun - Mendip Hills by gary.hadden

20110918-28_Midland Hill Walkers - Silhouettes - Mendip Hills Walk by gary.hadden  20110918-27_Midland Hill Walkers - Silhouettes - Mendip Hills Walk by gary.hadden

At the western end of Dolebury Warren we had to climb the earth banks of an ancient hill fort (Iron Age) and then the route took us right through the middle of the sizeable fort cum medieval rabbit warren, to then drop through some woods to a minor settlement, crossed the A38 main road and then one final little rise to join a minor road (well access drive really) for the final drop down, (passing two pubs, one small and one large) to the A368 at Churchill, where we had to find the coach … turned out it was parked in a lay-by just outside the village.

20110918-33_Crown Inn - Winscombe - Churchill by gary.haddenAlthough the final stretch of the walk had allowed my clothes to dry, I changed into clean clothes, before joining my fellow hikers in the walk back up to The Crown Inn which we’d passed earlier (the small pub) which, from the outside, could quite easily be mistaken for a normal residential cottage. The inside was like a throw back in time – absolutely no frills, but the beer was certainly drinkable!

20110918-31_Kegs - Crown Inn - Winscombe - Churchill by gary.hadden

20110918-29_Happy Birthday in the Crown Inn - Winscombe - Churchill by gary.haddenSix more mini-cakes appeared from a ruck-sack …. They’d been carried for the entire length of the walk by my sister Julie, along with birthday candles, which were promptly lit and a rendition of the eternal “Happy Birthday To You” was sung to Janet. With smiles all-round. The toilets were as traditional as the bar areas – I mean they were in an outhouse in the back garden, next to a bunch of beer kegs (I’m guessing empty!) …. And then it was back to the coach for the sleepy drive back up the M5 to Kenilworth …. I can’t say it was the best day of walking I’ve ever had, rain does that to a walk! But – it’s a super area for walking and it was a good day nonetheless.

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings and my photo’s …. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel welcome.

T.T.F.N. Gary

20110821_MHW_Fan Frynych – Corn Du – Pen y Fan – A-Walk

20110821_MHW_Fan Frynych – Corn Du – Pen y Fan – A-Walk

20110821-30_Me (Gary Hadden) - Pen y Fan Summit by gary.haddenWhen : 21st August 2011

Who : The Midland Hill Walkers – Walking Club

Where : Brecon Beacons – Wales

Maps used : Brecon Beacons National Park Map – 2x extracts of some kind given to me by a fellow walker – but I think 1,25,000 OS Explorer Map Sheet No.OL12 Brecon Beacons National Park (Western Area) covers the walk.

Start Point : SN 952,246

End Point : SN 995,260 … Village of Lubanas/Tai’r Bull

Distance : Approx  20.5 km (12.8 miles) (by WalkJogRun Route Mapping and my Memory Map 1:50,000 National parks programme)

Approx significant heights : Climb-1 = 330m (1080ft) + climb-2 470m (1540ft)

Summary : A-Party walk with The Midland Hill Walkers; taking in a couple of tops in The Brecon Beacons National Park. A very strenuous walk as there was a good distance involved as well as over 2,600 feet of significant uphill sections (and equivalent downhill’s) – A great walk !!!

If you click on a pic’ and it should launch as a larger image on my flickr photostream. There are also another ten pics in the set on flickr not shown in this diary post.

20110821_Fan Frynych - Corn Du - Pen y Fan WalkAs with all MHW [Midland Hill Walkers] walks, the coach left almost dead on 7:00 a.m. which had meant getting up very early to be out of the house by about 6:25 for the drive down the A45/A46 to Kenilworth. Rather than go through all the blurb about car parks, timings, etc. please use this link to see my earlier posts about the MHW and the MHW own web-site.

Once out of Kenilworth, we headed off for the longish journey to South Wales, to start the walk to the south-west of the town of Brecon which gives its name to the region we’d be walking in : The Brecon Beacons National Park. 20110821-01_Approaching Blaenbrynich by gary.haddenThe B-party were dropped off first and the A party continued on to be dropped off a little later by the side of the A4215 … in the middle of nowhere really. I’d decided that, because I’d never been up Corn Du/Pen y Fan before and although it’d probably stretch me somewhat, I’d do the A-walk. Given a decent weather forecast, I wasn’t going to miss out on the chance today.

Once dropped off and ruck-sacks hoisted onto backs, we started off with a little road walking down a quiet lane (towards Heil Senni) for about half a mile until we reached a turn off to  Blaenbrynich. Passing the farm, the path rose up a vibrant green grassy field dotted with a multitude of yellow starry dandelions highlighted 20110821-02_Nr Blaenbrynich-Below Fan Frynych by gary.haddenby the sun. This was a lovely start to the days walking as a small group of us at the back of the group discussed the dominance of the English cricket team during recent test matches. Ahead of us loomed the steep northerly slopes of Fan Frynych, looking quite daunting, but our route picked up a farm track onto which we turned right, to skirt along the baseline of the hill. The gravel track rose quite steadily with Fan Frynych’s ridge 20110821-06_Afon Senni Valley from western ridge of Fan Frynych by gary.haddenabove us on our left and a wide rural view off below us to our right.

After about a mile, the track steepened considerably as it swung round to the south, the views opening up across the valley below; a patchwork of green fields, hedgerows and areas of woodland backed by the hills of The Brecon Beacons/Black Mountains; beautiful. As we rounded the nose of the ridge, we turned almost a full 20110821-08_Midland Hill walkers Sihouettes on Fan Frynych by gary.hadden180 degrees to continue our ascent and then another half-right to follow a path still uphill, but now rising up the broad ridge. We now had about a mile of steady climbing to reach the summit of Fan Frynych. As with a lot of mountains, the views from the ridge were probably better than the actual ground we were on, but the views, they were just spectacular – The shapely hills, mountains and valleys offset against a beautiful vivid blue sky with one or two fluffy white clouds were simply perfect!

20110821-10_Cairn on Fan Frynych - Pen Y Fan + Corn Du Behind by gary.haddenAs we crested the top of Fan Frynych (part of Craig Cerrig Gleisiad National Nature Reserve) we were greeted by the twin tops of Pen y Fan and Corn Du dominating the sky line across the wide Glyn Tarell valley. I have to admit that, at least to me, they looked a very long way away, considering I knew that was where we were heading. Being at the summit meant the next section had to be downhill, so taking a path swinging south we 20110821-13_Pool between Fan Frynych + Craig Cerrig Gleisiad by gary.haddendropped steadily over more grassy moorland, with views all around, to reach a wide saddle with one or two pools dotting the terrain. We then had another small climb to reach the crest of Craig Cerrig Gleisiad, maintaining the superb views, especially to our left where the ground dropped away steeply into the Glyn Tarell valley. The hill top became a refreshment stop allowing us to admire a 20110821-15_Welsh Ponies on Craig Cerrig Gleisiad by gary.haddengroup of hill ponies grazing the upland area for some time.

Once sated, we set off again with a long descent over grassy moorland in a generally south/south eastern direction. There was a path of sorts “on the ground” but not so distinct to spoil the feel of remoteness of the area; the sweeping hills and valleys all conspiring to give a wild feel to the walk – Lovely in good weather like today, but I’d guess could be quite intimidating in 20110821-17_Descent off Craig Cerrig Gleisiad on The Beacons Way by gary.haddenpoor weather. We were walking part of The Beacons Way now and the pace fairly zinged along given the downhill nature, easy-going terrain and absolutely no stiles. I really enjoyed the walk across here, even as we neared the busy A470 and Storey Arms Centre. There were obviously a lot of people down there, virtually none of whom were on our side of the valley.

20110821-19_Midland Hill Walkers climbing away from Storey Arms Centre by gary.haddenAs we neared the car park at Storey Arms Centre, I could make out our B-party contingent starting a steep climb up the side of a coniferous plantation towards Y Gyrn. We soon reached the car park, dodged the cars trying to find a space, and instead of following the B-party’s route we turned right down the side of the A470 (southwards) until we reached another area of car-parking set back from the main road. This was absolutely teaming with people, with fast food and ice cream vans and a toilet block. After the remoteness of the morning walk this was not a very welcome area to be walking through and I was quite happy when we all moved off. I didn’t envy the leaders trying to keep count of all of our party in amongst the throng.

The route turned left on a major path, soon crossing a rocky river (Blaen Taf Fawr) via a substantial footbridge and then immediately steepened as the wide made-up path headed uphill climbing towards 20110821-21_On long climb up Corn Du by gary.haddenCorn Du. The climb was well over a mile in length and apart from the obvious physical exertion needed, another difficulty was the number of fellow walkers, mostly now descending – it was almost like a game of slalom dodgems at times. Our leader gave us carte-blanche to take our own pace up the mountain, eventually to all meet up again just under the final summit climb onto Corn Du. I felt really quite relieved when I reached this point, as this was by far the hardest climb I’d done for quite some considerable time. I think it felt worse than it might have done because of the unrelenting gradient, there didn’t seem to be any respite at any point on the climb.

20110821-24_Final pull up onto Corn Du by gary.haddenPerversely, the final rockier, steeper climb up onto the summit of Corn Du somehow seemed easier; perhaps the short rest and then change in gradient were all that was needed for the final push to the top. The views from the top were absolutely stunning –  in all directions; especially to the north where the mountain dropped away, almost sheer, into the huge amphitheatre of Cwm Llwch.

20110821-25_On Corn Du-looking over Llyn Cwm Llwch by gary.hadden

20110821-27_Our back marker - Silhouetted on Corn Du by gary.hadden

20110821-29_Corrie or Cwm Face of Corn Du by gary.hadden

The next top of Pen y Fan was only a short distance away, reached via an easy descent to a shallow saddle and then another little climb, all following the edge  along the mountain top. The summit of Pen y Fan is marked by a pile of stones set in a wide circle leading up to a small national trust marker giving the height at 886 metres above sea level (that’s  2,906.8 feet) which I believe is the highest place in South Wales. It’s not every day you get to the top of a fantastic mountain with the weather to match and this just had to be marked by some group photo’s

20110821-33_Taking Photo of Midland Hill Walkers on Pen y Fan Summit by gary.hadden   20110821-32_Midland Hill Walkers - A-Party on Pen y Fan Summit by gary.hadden

20110821-36_Crybn + Beyond from Pen y Fan by gary.hadden

20110821-40_Obelisk + Pool below Corn Du by gary.hadden… and then after another short time drinking in the views, it was back over to Corn Du for the second time before dropping north westwards along the edge above the cwm to reach a small obelisk. From here we took a path now dropping slightly right and then arching further round to the right and then to the left in a large zig-zag above the dark waters of a small corrie lake “Llyn Cwm Llwch” (sorry mixing my Scottish and Welsh nouns for the mountain hollow …. or maybe you know this physical feature as a cirque?, from the French language!).

20110821-42_Descent to Llyn Cwm Llwch below Corn Du by gary.hadden   20110821-43_Descent to Llyn Cwm Llwch below Corn Du by gary.hadden

The route was virtually all downhill now, following the Cwm Llwch valley from the highland area and into more enclosed gentler farmland. I love being on the big wide open spaces of mountains where you can reflect on how small you are in the landscape and in the wider world as a whole (very philosophical don’t you think); 20110821-46_Dropping through Cwm Llwch Valley by gary.haddenI also when walking try to stay as high as possible for as long as possible, but, I also like the more intimate contrasting feel of dropping down to the tree line and pasture lands …. just as well really, as it’s gotta be done at the end of every mountainous walk at some point!

Anyway, the path reached the bottom of the valley, where, after a short distance on a farm track, rather than swing right to join a minor road we turned off left (continuing more or less 20110821-48_Afon Tarell near Libanus by gary.haddennorthwards) to cross a few fields, passing Llwynbedw on route, to pick up some minor country lanes, crossing the Taff Trail at one point (route map) and later the Afon Tarell (river) just before our finish at Libanus on the A470. The coach was waiting for us by the side of the road and after getting changed and a very welcome pint (or was it two?) in The Tai’r Bull Country Inn, it whisked us back up through southern Wales to the M5 and a 20110821-49_Mike de Courcey Coach - Tair Bull Inn - Libanus by gary.haddensnoozey journey back to Kenilworth.

A simply brilliant days walking! Strenuous? Yes … Tiring? Definitely! But brilliant none-the-less.

…. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel welcome.

T.T.F.N. Gary

20111208 – No Hill Walking For Me For A While !!!

20111208 – No Hill Walking For Me For A While !!!

Well it’s taken a little time to reach this point (over a year), but after initial GP visits, x-rays, a period of physio (made no difference at all), MRI scans, a load of waiting and a cancelled op’ (due to having a cold) I’ve now eventually had key-hole surgery on both my knees.

Technically what they’ve done is a BILATERAL KNEE ARTHROSCOPY + PARTIAL MEDIAL MENISCECTOMY AND CHANDRAL DEBRIDEMENT …. In effect they’ve made 2x cuts just below and to the sides of both of my knee caps and gone in with a camera and various tools to remove/tidy up my damaged cartilage etc. and flush out all the rubbish.

I’ve been signed-off work for 2-weeks, I’m not allowed to drive, but I am allowed to put full weight on my legs (hurts after a short while though) …. Have now got an appointment to see a physiotherapist a week on Friday, when hopefully the swelling/bruising will have gone down sufficiently to be meaningful.

Although I’ve got a pair of crutches to help me when walking (well more like hobbling) around, we’ve rented a wheel chair for a week … I can make it move myself (will build arm and shoulder muscles) and I’m hoping the weather will improve enough for the mile down to Bilton for a visit to Mosaic Coffee Shop just to get me out of the house coz daytime TV is errmmm crap (please excuse the language).

The main reason for the chair, however, is to help me get to the concert in Coventry Cathedral on Saturday (10th Dec’ 2011) where my daughter Katie is playing in the Coventry Youth Orchestra supporting The St. Michael’s Singers and Cathedral Choristers. We are led to believe there are going to be some pretty important guest conductors/composers and there is no-way I’m gonna miss that concert!

Anyway, the long and short of it at the moment, is that my hill/country walking has been put on hold for the foreseeable time until my rehabilitation is well underway…. so, in the meantime I’ll just have to look back at past walks including the Lake District I did with my sister Janet in September, including :- Robinson-Hindscarth-Newlands Valley Circular ; Skafell Pike Circular from Seathwaite and Haystacks Circular from Buttermere. Those were three fantastic routes (which I’m really pleased to have done) with superb memories to inspire me for the future, especially during the boring physio’ stuff.

I’m also looking forward to getting out with The Midland Hill Walkers again, but I feel I’ve gotta get quite fit before feeling able to do that … missed not being on the last couple of walks with them. There’s so much more to getting out into the wilds than just the physical effort – Mentally it’s just so important to my well being – I operate so much better when I can get a good walk done on a regular basis.

Enough of that … time to sign off and maybe go edit my Lake District Photo’s.