20111016_Midland Hill walkers_Edale Cross, Great Ridge, Lose Hill, Hope, Linear Walk

20111016_MHW_Edale Cross, Great Ridge, Lose Hill, Hope, Linear Walk

When : 16th October 2011

Who : The Midland Hill Walkers (B-Team)

Where : Peak District, Derbyshire, England

Maps used : Ordnance Survey 1:25000 Outdoor Leisure Map No.1 – Dark Peak Area

20111016-26_Me at Hollins Cross (Hope Valley Behind) by gary.haddenStart Point : SK 048,852

End Point : SK 173,834

Distance : Approx 16.6 km (10.3 miles)

Approx significant heights : Ascent 665m (2180 ft) + Descent 832 (2730 ft)

Summary : The Midland Hill Walkers (Walking Club) October 2011 walk – The B-team …. An east to west linear walk starting near Chinley Head just south of Hayfield and finishing in the Village of Hope in The Hope Valley a few miles west of Hathersage. First Climb of the day via Oaken Clough to Edale Cross, then descent into and across the upper reaches of The Vale of Edale with the second Climb of the day up to Hollin’s Cross and along the undulating Great Ridge to the summit of Lose Hill; The final leg of the day being a descent to the village of Hope.

If you click on a pic’ it should launch as a larger image on my flickr photostream.

As 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

20111016-09_Descent into Edale on Jacobs Ladder Path by gary.haddenSome months have now passed since I did this walk with The Midland Hill Walkers, in fact, it’s the last time I was out with them and the last time I did a “proper” strenuous hill walk. Their November walk I didn’t book on, as I was due to have surgery on both of my knees … as it happens, that November appointment got cancelled and I actually had the surgery at the beginning of December and I’ve been kind of recuperating since. I’ve now done a few 6-8 milers in gentle Warwickshire countryside near to home, but I’ve not yet been brave enough to head out with the MHW club again yet.

Anyway, the walk :- The coach made its way up the country to drop us off in a lay-by on the A624 between Chapel-en-le-Frith and Hayfield near to Chinley Head and Peep-O-Day. The A and B teams were today starting at the same point, so the B-Team held back a little whilst the A-Team set off on their slightly longer walk with a little 20111016_Edale and The Great Ridge Linear Walk with The Midland Hill Walkersmore climbing involved and therefore faster pace. I can’t remember why particularly, but today I chose to walk with the B-team and so fore-go the charms of the Kinder Scout Plateau – Perhaps it was down to the grotty weather, or maybe I just fancied walking with my sister and brother-in-law.

We started the walk, heading north on a grassy verge by the side of the main road for a few hundred yards to find a bridle track near Peep-O-Day heading roughly north east and climbing away from the road quite quickly. After crossing another bridle track, this led us up into The Peak National Park where we briefly headed north, still climbing steadily, for about half-a-mile. The weather really wasn’t very good, cold, grey, misty, rain in the air – yucky – and this only got worse as we picked up a path doubling back on ourselves (south) climbing slightly less steeply, up to a farm at Coldwell Clough now just outside The National Park. We were now following a rough track approximately eastwards and still steadily climbing. We’d probably walked the best part of a mile and as an indication of the grotty weather, I hadn’t taken a single photo – very unusual for me – and as we gained more height, the mists drew in even more, slowly enveloping us 20111016-01_Oaken Clough - Heading into the mist by gary.haddenand hiding the rugged farmland and moors around us. The A-team who were not too many minutes ahead of us had just simply disappeared.

Our route took us into Oaken Clough, a valley coming off the flanks of the Kinder Scout plateau, crossing back into the National Park once again as we did so, and then we returned to our steady climb, still on the rough track, to reach Edale Cross. Quoting the metal plaque by its side, this mediaeval stone cross is “PROTECTED AS A MONUMENT OF NATIONAL IMPORTANCE UNDER THE ANCIENT MONUMENTS ACTS 1913-53”. The cross itself is remarkably well preserved but I couldn’t help thinking its setting is rather under-whelming, being set back from the track and bounded by stone walls on three sides and surrounded by rough moorland grasses. In fact the wall behind is only inches away and to my mind detracts from the impact it could and probably did have in the past.

Edale Cross is positioned at the top of the pass between Hayfield and Edale, and sits between the higher moors of Brown Knoll and Kinder Low/Kinder Scout. There will have been very many souls pass by here over the years and many of those would have 20111016-02_Edale Cross - Kinder Scout by gary.haddenseen mists and rain just like we were experiencing. Some of the most recent visitors would have been our A-Team, who I believe turned left here to head up to Kinder Low and then along the southern edges of the Kinder Scout massive.

We on the other hand took a bit of a rest stop and a rather damp bite to eat, before heading off en-masse eastwards staying on the main path dropping towards Edale. Somehow, I felt the rain had become brighter and I thought it could be the start of an improvement in the weather. It still wasn’t great though, and as I was towards the back of the group it didn’t take long for the front markers to fade away into the gloomy mist. As we descended further however, we dropped out of the mist and visibility improved dramatically. I use the word dramatically with good reason; the deep cloughs and rough moors all around here are indeed dramatic and perhaps had more impact because of, rather than despite the inclement conditions.

20111016-03_Leaving Edale Cross in the mist by gary.hadden

20111016-05_Descent into Edale out of the mist (Jacobs Ladder Path) by gary.hadden

As we descended further, to reach the top of a steeper section known as Jacobs Ladder (the name of the path here), the weather improved even more; the rain had stopped, the mists had become the base of clouds above us, and there were even patches of brightness, dare I say it, sunlight breaking through to light up parts of the hills. This spot afforded some super views down the sweeping curve of the upper reaches of the Vale of Edale. We regrouped here for a short while taking the time to appreciate the view even though the hill tops were still shrouded in the clouds.

20111016-07_Vale of Edale from Jacobs Ladder Path by gary.hadden

20111016-10_Descent into Edale on Jacobs Ladder Path by gary.haddenOnce again we moved off, heading left at first and then a swing to the right in a curve taking care on the steep descent of the Jacobs Ladder path. I quite liked the multiplicity of bright colours of cag’s and ruck sack covers of our party ahead of me, contrasting against the more subdued hues of the moorland around us.

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20111016-11_Trees in Clough - Southern Flanks of Kinder Scout by gary.hadden

20111016-14_Cascading Stream in Clough -Southern Flanks of Kinder Scout by gary.haddenOverall the colours in the moors and hills were looking quite muted, but in detail it was very pretty, especially as we reached down towards the valley bottom and the tree line, soon followed by a small pack-horse bridge crossing a burbling stream with mini-cascades lit up by the soft sunlight. In fact the clouds started to break up even more and patches of blue sky appeared; after the start to the day, this really lifted the spirits.

20111016-12_Footbridge-Jacobs Ladder Path-Edale-River Noe by gary.haddenOnce we’d regrouped again (some of us took a risk and removed waterproofs) and crossed the bridge, the way ahead became very much easier on a broad track still dropping in height but almost on the level now, running parallel with the stream (River Noe) just crossed. The walk became very much more relaxed and we became rather spread out on the mile down to the hamlet of Upper booth. Hamlet might be too large a description for the small group of buildings, including a bunk/camping barn, sitting perfectly at the head of Edale at the bottom of Crowden Clough.

20111016-15_Green Pastures nr Upper Booth - Edale by gary.haddenInstead of continuing on the minor road down to Barber Booth, we turned left through the buildings and then a right to pick up one of two footpaths. The more northerly of these paths is The Pennine Way heading over to Edale Village, but this wasn’t our route, no, we took the other path heading roughly south-east through a series of dry-stone walled fields across the valley bottom towards Barber Booth. This part of the walk was very green and lush in comparison to the high moors and cloughs, a patchwork of pastures bounded by dark dry stone walls, stands of trees and the odd stone built barn dotted around the landscape – beautiful, especially with the backdrop of the more rugged hills rising above. From a distance the stone walls look like dark solid lines, but up close they 20111016-16_Dry Stone Wall Detail - Edale by gary.haddenconsist of an interesting jumble of different sized rocks belying the careful construction that goes into their construction, a real countryside skill, it’s surprising just how may gaps there are and they must be a superb habitat for all kinds of mini-beasts and certainly home to various mosses and lichens.

Talking about skills, to me an essential part of the fun (not to mention safety) of a countryside walk (however wild or gentle) is knowing how to read a map – I just love this part of the experience, even when not leading – If I’ve got a map of an area I’ll take it along and keep track of where we are. Well, in this case, the Dark Peak OS map is printed on two sides 20111016-18_Railway-Edale-Cowburn Tunnel Entrance by gary.haddenand at some point I was going to have to swap sides (somewhere between the outskirts of Upper Booth and around about Back Tor before reaching Lose Hill). Well, as it had stopped raining and it was reasonably calm, I took the opportunity to switch sides – sounds easy, but it can be tricky unfolding and refolding a large sheet paper map in the rain and/or wind, so the settled conditions helped make my mind up to change over earlier rather than later. This was to prove useful later in the day, but you’ll have to wait for that part of the story till later.

Edale is bisected by a major railway line, which we had to cross via a footbridge just before reaching the hamlet of Barber Booth. The bridge afforded a super view down the lines to where it disappears into the dark mouth of the two mile long Cowburn Tunnel on its way to Chapel-en-le-Frith and beyond. A couple of minutes after crossing to the southern side of the railway we walked into and then straight through Barber Booth to pick up a minor road heading 20111016-20_Lose Hill + Back Tor from Edale by gary.haddensouth and quite steeply uphill. The road walking was short lived though, as we turned left to take a footpath heading more or less eastwards again crossing a series of small fields, climbing now, but quite gently to reach and then cross Harden Clough. The view ahead was most enticing, showing the Great Ridge we were heading for – Back Tor and Lose Hill in the sunshine looked extremely inviting, one of my favourite places to walk and often revisited of the years, helped by being accessible from so many directions.

As we crossed Harden Clough we picked up a bridle track also climbing out of the valley, and after a bit of a joggle up towards Greenlands, we turned left again, the track now rising more steeply, cutting up diagonally across the hill side. The height gained was steady but upon looking back into Edale, it was surprising just how high we’d reached, with fantastic views across the vale to the huge massive of Kinder Scout now bathed in sunshine. The railway was all but a thin line merged into the landscape, but highlighted every now and again by a sprinter train, a reminder of how close the Peak District is to many urban towns and cities. I’m sure I’ve read that The Peak District (Dark and White Peak Areas combined) claims to be THE most visited National Park in the world ! How true?; I’m sure someone knows, but I’m certainly not going to cast aspersions on the claim.

Anyway I’ve digressed [again], we were climbing up to Hollin’s Cross, a saddle on The Great Ridge (or Mam Tor/Lose Hill Ridge if you like), and the walk leader was happy for me to stretch my legs a little and press on ahead to stop as the path crested onto the ridge. The views here are superb all around:-

North, across The Vale of Edale to the Kinder Scout plateau.20111016-21_Kinder Scout Across Vale of Edale from nr Hollins Cross by gary.hadden

South West, swinging around in an attractive curve along the broad ridge rising up to Mam Tor and the landslip that gives the hill its distinctive shape.20111016-22_At Hollins Cross - Mam Tor Ridge Behind by gary.hadden20111016-23_The Landslip Area below Mam Tor + The Old Road by gary.hadden

South + south-east over The Hope Valley, including, Castleton, Hope Cement Works, etc. and beyond all of this, The White Peak rising up behind.20111016-24_Castleton + Hope Cement Works from Hollins Cross by gary.hadden

And finally, east, rising up a broad path along the ridge (known here as Barker Bank), heading towards Back Tor and beyond to Lose Hill as seen so enticingly on the climb up from Barber Booth.

20111016-27_Striding Out on The Great Ridge towards Back Tor by gary.hadden

20111016-28_Striding Out on The Great Ridge towards Back Tor by gary.haddenAfter regrouping, and a bit of a breather, it was the path over Barker Bank that we took. I just love the walk along here; I’ve done it many times now and never tire of it, especially when the sun is shining … The initial rise is easy and allows a nice pace and the leader again gave the nod for people to make their own pace and a few of us opened our stride and fairly bowled along, especially on the gentle descent down to Backtor Nook.

20111016-29_Back Tor on The Great Ridge (with Craigs Tree) above Edale by gary.haddenBacktor Nook marked a sharp change in gradient – The path here now climbs steeply rising up the flank of Back Tor itself. The northern side of the hill facing Edale is the most rugged with a series of rocky striations interspersed with low vegetation.  The southern side of the shapely hill is less sheer, but still very steep, and is clothed by a small conifer wood (Brockett Booth Plantation). A lone tree [known as Craig’s Tree] stands slightly apart from the plantation just below the summit.

Why is it called Craig’s Tree?

Well it’s our family name for the tree, which we named when my son [Craig] raced me up the steep slope to be the first one to reach it during a family walk. Nothing unusual in that you might think, but he was maybe not even 4-years old and he’d already walked over two miles including the climb out of Edale to get here – so his run up the hill was worth remarking about – To this end, the tree will always be known to us as Craig’s Tree … and if I tell the story often enough maybe it’ll become known as this by ALL walkers heading along the ridge ???? but there again, maybe  not! In fact I’ve just come across an old photo print of him near here and he was tiny.

20111016-32_Enjoying View into Edale from Back Tor by gary.haddenAnyway, the view into Edale is brilliant here, maybe one of my favourite view-points ever; There’s just so much detail in the landscape; so much to take in and admire but still close enough for you to feel you’re a part of it, a scale intimate enough to feel you belong but extensive enough to be impressive. I’m by no means a poet, but I hope this gives a hint of the magic that is The Vale of Edale and The Great Ridge and especially here at the top of Back Tor.

20111016-31_Vale of Edale from Back Tor on The Great Ridge by gary.hadden

20111016-35_Leader + back marker on Lose Hill - The Great Ridge by gary.haddenWell, we regrouped and then set off again, still generally eastwards, easily downhill to start with and then rising the final 60 metres in height on a good path to reach the summit of Lose Hill [otherwise known as Ward’s Piece; search out the brass plaque to find out why it’s got two names]. It’s only about a half a mile from Back Tor, so didn’t take long at-all and route finding is so easy, that our leader dropped to the rear of the party for a chat with the back-marker. In fact, the two of them were the last of our party to walk up the now flag-stoned path to join us at the top, where we all re-grouped once again.

On route, looking down to our right we could see our fellow A-party walkers, moving at quite a lick; they’d elected to take a lower level route from Backtor Nook and were effectively cutting the corner off, (NOT rising over Back Tor and Lose Hill). It turns out one of their group had fallen and hurt themselves on some gritstone up on Kinder, and they were now trying to make up lost time. At the pace they were going, they were going to be in the pub a good while before us in the B-party. However, in my very humble opinion they missed some of the best views available from the ridge by taking the lower, less strenuous route.

20111016-37_Midland Hill Walkers on Lose Hill Summit by gary.hadden

Well, back to us in the B-party. As we’d reached the top of Lose Hill, I decided a group photo was in order and everyone was happy to congregate and punch the air in a cheesy and rather clichéd pose, at which point a rather fearless sheep muscled in on the scene [obviously looking to be fed!] which produced plenty of smiles and mirthful comments — See what you were missing A-team in favour of a pint ?

20111016-39_Midland Hill Walkers + Sheep on Lose Hill by gary.hadden

We still had something like 2-miles to go, and the leader in his wisdom passed the route finding over to errrmmm little ol’ ME! …. He just didn’t want to switch his map over and as mentioned earlier, I’d already done that back at Upper Booth. Also, they’d missed the exact path they wanted when pioneering and he knew I’d walked this part of the route before and so he temporarily passed the task of leading to me.

From lose Hill the obvious path heads easily downhill more or less south and then begins to swing left in a broad sweep, the path is very obvious. Well it’s that very obviousness that can be misleading, as we needed to take a slightly more southerly route, crossing a stile and then to follow the boundary line, almost running parallel with the original path but actually slowly diverging to drop down past a small stand of trees to reach Losehill Farm. There are several path options here, and our route took us left (just above the farm) and then almost immediately right to continue the steady descent over farmland, crossing a series of pasture fields, the slope easing as we went, to eventually pick up a narrow track. The option was left or right. Right would have taken us towards the superb village of Castleton. But we were heading for the smaller and less touristy village of Hope, so, the left hand option was taken (looks 20111016-41_Great Ridge from nr Hope Village by gary.haddenlike straight on, on the map) to soon reach a small group of buildings before crossing above a disused railway line. There followed a set of small narrow fields before entering the outskirts of Hope and then down to the main road through the village (A6187) to emerge near the spired church.

The final task, was to find the coach …. which it turned out was positioned on a side road very near The Old Hall (pub + tea rooms) where we met up with the A-team. It turned out that the lady that had fallen up on Kinder had made it to Hope under her own steam, accompanied by their original walks leader via Edale, Up to Hollin’s Cross on the ridge and then down into The Hope Valley for a relatively flat and easy finish to her walk. I think the damage was heavy grazes, cuts and bruises (and probably dented pride) but we were assured she was OK (Gritstone really is such an unforgiving material) – So that was good news. Although we in the B-team were a little later than the A-team, there was still time enough for a cup of tea and slice of cake, whilst others partook of more alcoholic beverages …. and then the final drive back down the country to Kenilworth for something like 8pm. It’s a long day, but well worth it !

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

T.T.F.N. Gary

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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

20110717_MHW_Chiltern Hills Linear Walk– B-Walk

20110717_MHW_Chiltern Hills Linear Walk– B-Walk

20110717-31_Distant Poppy Field - Chiltern Hills by gary.haddenWhen : 17th July 2011

Who : The Midland Hill Walkers – Walking Club

Where : Chiltern Hills – Mostly in Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire,  England

Maps used : OS. Landranger maps, no.175 Reading & Windsor and no.165 Aylesbury & Leighton Buzzard.

Start Point : SU806,917…. End Point : SU710,995

Distance : Approx  17.5 km (11 miles) (by measuring wheel + 1:50000 map)

Significant heights climbed : Difficult to say total heights as the route undulated up and down all day really ; at any one moment I can’t really remember any particularly difficult hills; longest climb probably about 360 feet.

Approx Route Map :-

20110717_MHW_Chiltern Hills Linear Walk– B-Walk

Summary : B-Party walk with The Midland Hill Walkers ; Starting in Lane End then passing near Ditchfield and Hanover Hill before going through Fingest, Turville (Vicar of Dibley Village), Ibstone Common, Hailey Wood, Vicars Bottom, Lewknor, Under the M40 and finishing in Postcombe.

If you click on a pic’ it should launch as a larger image via my flickr photostream … or, if you don’t want to read my words and just look at my pic’s please use “this link” to my set of images – there are more pic’s there than shown below.

20110717-03_Field Side Poppies - Chilterns by gary.haddenAs 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 down the M40 and eventually called in at Beaconsfield Services for a 15-20 minute rest-stop; get boots on; get a coffee; grab a bite to eat; etc’. (The nutty pastry I bought with my coffee was very naughty but nice). Then it was back up the M-way for a short way before dropping further south past Marlow, crossing The Thames and then re-crossing the river again before turning right in Henley-on-Thames. This was a slower journey than it might have been due having to negotiate past competitors in a triathlon or other similar event. Once through Henley the A-party was dropped off (somewhere near Hambleden I think) and those of us in the B-team stayed on-board for a continuation of our mini magical mystery tour. We’d now almost done a full circle as we entered Marlow before taking a left onto the B482 for a longish climb up to Town End. I’m not sure if this settlement is a small town or a large village, but once disembarked we didn’t really see much of the place.

20110717-01_Red Kite and Crane - Lane End Chilterns by gary.haddenOnce assembled by the side of the B482, we immediately headed south passing a flint built church (Holy Trinity I think) and then swung around through a rather ram-shackled looking business yard with cranes and other bits of machinery. I’ve certainly walked through prettier places. One thing I did like here though was a Red Kite flying in amongst the tall cranes. From here things rapidly improved as we followed a path winding through semi-wooded undulating terrain, interspersed with pleasant farmland (some pasture-land and some planted up with ripening cereal crops). Somehow, even though the path was over 6-foot wide at one point I managed to get my legs stung on some stinging nettles – Most unpleasant! and it took another half-an-hour or so before I found some dock leaves to relieve the annoying painful  itching …. The old wives/country remedy really does work though.

20110717-07_Ripening cereal crop - Chilterns by gary.hadden

20110717-04_Field Side Poppies - Chilterns by gary.hadden

20110717-09_St Bartholomew Church - Fingest - Chilterns by gary.haddenAlthough grey and threatening, with rain in the air, I’d just about got away with no coat so far, but eventually I had to succumb and don my waterproofs as the light drizzle became quite steady fine rain, the sort that insidiously gets you drenched without really knowing when it happened. After some distance we arrived in the small village of Fingest, which consisted of a scattering of homes, a pub (The Chequers) and an ancient looking Church (St Batholomew) with an odd double roof atop its tower. After a short rest stop, we moved on and very soon found ourselves in the larger village of Turville.

Turville has at least two claims to fame in the world of film and TV. The first being the windmill (sat on the hillside above the village) was apparently used in the ever popular film, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang; the second is the sit-com Vicar of Dibley was filmed in the village. The pretty village became another short stop, with us stood around having some lunch on the village green. It was just too damp to sit and really enjoy the surroundings. The weather certainly didn’t show the picture post-card like cottages off at their best but I did have a wander round trying to get some pic’s … I’ll let you decide if I did OK … My fave was one of a pink rose with the cottage window behind going out-of-focus.

20110717-19_Pink Rose - Turville  - Chilterns by gary.hadden

20110717-14_Coffee stop on Turville Village Green by gary.hadden

20110717-17_Cottages - Turville (BBCs Dibley) by gary.hadden   20110717-22_Hollyhocks and Narrow Path - Turville by gary.hadden

20110717-18_St Mary The Virgin Church - Turville by gary.hadden

We left Turville via a narrow pathway alongside a wood-clad building lined with deep pink hollyhocks before emerging onto a wide swathe of a path climbing up through a field of maize (still only a few inches tall). This marked the longest climb of 20110717-24_Hill climb - Between Turville and Ibstone by gary.haddenthe day so far, but nothing untoward to cope with, even though it did steepen for a short section as we climbed above the vibrant greens in the valley below. Several Red Kites joined us, effortlessly moving through the grey skies above and then drifting across the valley below us. These raptors really have become a success story since they were re-introduced to The Chilterns some years ago and the numbers we saw during the day certainly seem to back this up.

20110717-28_Standing Stone Ibstone Common by gary.haddenAfter some more pleasant walking through patchy woodland (especially as the rain had stopped now) we reached Ibstone Common and glory be, the sun came out!… actually casting some shadows and the open grassland afforded a perfect place for our main lunch stop of the day. Once sated a couple of us wandered over to a large and isolated standing stone, to my eyes looking rather lonely, but none-the-less stood proudly upright.

Once we were all packed up and raring to go again, we headed into the woodland bordering the common and then once through to the other side, swinging north to meet a track leading up to Wellground Farm. From here we branched left, rising up 20110717-33_Midland Hill Walkers - Hailey Wood - Chilterns by gary.haddenthrough Hailey Wood. I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but I do like the dappled light that sunshine makes as it filters through deciduous woodland; it’s just one of those things that just can’t help but raise the spirits. We got quite strung out on the climb through the woods which meant a regroup at a salient spot. This was quite important, as our route took a left turn to drop quite quickly and it could have been very easy to lose any back-markers if they hadn’t seen us take the side path. The drop was quite steep compared to the walk done so far, to level out out in a small valley at Vicars Bottom and a very nice country residence. The leaders 1:25000 map shows Vicars Bottom as Lower Vicars Farm which might be more P.C. but doesn’t have the same humour and charm as the name on my 1:50000 scale map.

20110717-37_Vicars Bottom (or Lower Vicars Farm) - Chilterns by gary.haddenAfter skirting the attractive property we picked up a drive way rising up to a minor road (near Upper Vicars Farm). An embarrassing and very annoying squeak then decided to manifest itself every time I put my right boot down. I was told it could be heard several yards away … to compensate, I got my head down and pushed on and soon found myself on our leaders shoulder, upon which he said he was happy for me to go ahead of him, just to stop at the junction with a road.

This turned out to be the last proper climb of the day and I quite enjoyed the short blast to the top of the rise where we all regrouped once again. This point marked a change in the terrain, as, after crossing the road and a small scrubby field, a superb 20110717-38_Midland Hill Walkers - Descent of the Chiltern Scarp by gary.haddenvista opened up in front of us. We were now stood at the top of The Chilterns Scarp Slope; the Oxfordshire plain spread out below us with the M40 cutting a swathe through the fields as a sinuous line into the distance. Although we couldn’t actually see it, we were positioned just a matter of yards to the south of the very recognisable Stokenchurch Gap, where the motorway rises up onto the top of the Chilterns on its way to London. The unnatural gorge through the chalk is also sometimes known as the Aston Rowan Cuttting or Aston Hill Cutting.

20110717-40_Red Kite - Above Lewknor Village by gary.haddenThe descent was easy and we were soon walking across the flat farmland we’d been looking down upon a few minutes earlier. The walking was made even easier by picking up a long access road and after crossing the B4009 into the village of Lewknor.

We were again treated to the sight of several Red Kites flying silhouetted above us.

20110717-41_St Margaret's Church - Lewknor by gary.hadden

20110717-42_Midland Hill Walkers Leaving Lewknor by gary.haddenAfter a little road walking through the village, we were soon leaving the village, closely passing the attractive St. Margaret’s Church en-route to pick up a wide verge down the side of a very large cereal crop field. We were getting ever closer to the M40 and eventually had to cross under the motorway via a rather unattractive utilitarian underpass. This was now the last leg of the route and all we needed to do was cross a couple of fields, the crop was now broad beans – quite a tall scruffy crop, but at least we had some tractor lines to follow.

The walk ended at the “England’s Rose” pub at Postcombe on the A40. Apparently it’s named after Lady/Princess Di. 20110717-50_England's Rose Pub - Postcombe by gary.haddenWe were made very welcome, although it did feel a little of an oddity especially as they had no draught bitter on tap, I think they’d simply run out, so bottles of beer had to be bought. And then it was homeward bound, back up the M40 to Kenilworth including a well earned snooze for many of us ….

And that’s the end of this diary post, I hope you enjoyed my scribblings and pics …. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel welcome.

T.T.F.N. Gary

20110619_MHW_Maesyrychen Mountain + Horseshoe Pass Linear Walk– A-Walk

20110619_MHW_Maesyrychen Mountain + Horseshoe Pass Linear Walk– A-Walk

200110619-32_Admiring the view from Summit of Moel y Faen by gary.haddenWhen : 19th June 2011

Who : The Midland Hill Walkers – Walking Club

Where : North Wales – Esclusham Mountain and Maesyrychen Mountain, to the west of Wrexham and north of Llangollen.

Maps : Route noted as best possible after getting home and finding my old 1:50000 OS Landranger  Maps 117 (Chester, Wrexham & Surrounding area) + 116 (Denbigh & Colwyn Bay)

Start Point : Approx SJ 25,52 …. End Point : Approx SJ 20,45

Distance : Approx 21 km (13 miles) (by measuring wheel + map)

Significant heights climbed : 470 m (1545 ft) … see end of diary for details.

200110619-17_Crossing rough moorland - Maesyrychen Mountain by gary.haddenSummary : A-party walk with The Midland Hill Walkers – Starting near Four Crosses, Bwlchgwyn and taking in :- The Esclusham Mountain area [including The Pendinas Forest] ; Maesyrychen Mountain area [including The Ponderosa at the top of  The Horseshoe Pass] and finishing in The Eglwyseg River Valley, north of Llangollen.

Click on a pic’ and it should launch as a larger image on my flickr photostream. Or use THIS LINK to open a slide show of 24 pic’s.

As 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 the following links to see my earlier posts about the MHW and the MHW’s own web-site.

Midland Hill Walkers Web Site  ….. My other MHW diary posts

Having left Kenilworth, we headed off to North Wales, eventually reaching our starting point and we all piled off to retrieve ruck-sacks from the coach’s hold. As I didn’t carry a map for the day, I’m not 100% exactly sure of where we started, but I’m fairly confident it was on either on the A525 or B5430 near to Four Crosses / Bwlchgwyn. If I had to say one way or another I’d probably plump for the B5430 at Tan-y-Bwlch.

[I suppose an apology might be in order here, to any Welsh speakers amongst you … I’ve tried very hard to get the spellings for the place names correct, but 200110619-01_Welsh Ponies + Flower Meadow-Nr  Four Crosses-Bwlchgwyn by gary.haddenplease forgive me if I’ve slipped up anywhere – my spell checker isn’t much help in this situation].

From here we set off generally in a southerly direction, on an easy if not very defined path across farmland, unusually for a MHW walk having a series of stiles to cross. The first pasture was really quite stunning, with a carpet of buttercups sparkling in the sun, enhanced with a group of Welsh ponies grazing contentedly. After a short rise we joined a rough farm track which wound its way through farmland (to my mind with a rather untidy feel about it), in a roughly south-westerly direction. Our stay on the track didn’t last long before we branched off to the right heading into tussocky, grassy, moorland to pick up the eastern edge of a coniferous plantation, [I’m gonna call it The Pendinas Forest or Plantation, after the name of a small reservoir within the dense trees]. 200110619-05_By the side of Pendinas Forest - Esclusham Mountain by gary.haddenThere was a rudimentary path to follow as we steadily climbed with open land on our left and the dark forest on our right behind a wire fence.

After about a kilometre of walking up the side of the forest, we reached and crossed a stile to enter the plantation grounds. This was a natural place to regroup as the trees had been felled here 200110619-06_Wooden Grouse Carving - Pendinas Forest - Esclusham Mountain by gary.haddenand a group of large wooden carvings in the shape of displaying male grouse had been erected as a sort of outdoor art installation. These made excellent seats for one or two of our party, prompting several ribald jokey comments in the line of “ooh look I’ve sat on a large cock”…. not by me I might add, I couldn’t possibly be so rude, either that or I didn’t think of the joke first ! ….. Once we’d all regrouped we picked up a wide forest track winding its way 200110619-07_Winding Path - Pendinas Forest - Esclusham Mountain by gary.haddenuphill through a large area of what can only be described as a kind of devastation. The trees here had obviously been fairly recently harvested leaving a tangled mass of stumps and mangled branches. In amongst the mess however was the next generation of trees, the tiny saplings a bright green 200110619-09_Baby Pines - Pendinas Forest - Esclusham Mountain by gary.haddenagainst the overwhelming greyness of the landscape. We had to keep our wits about us, not to mention eyes in the back of our heads, as there was a steady stream of mountain bikers using the same track, some coming past us at quite a lick.

After a while and at the top of the rise, our track headed into the forest itself. It almost immediately felt oppressive; the dense spacing of the trees creating a dark, lifeless feeling on both sides, but this was to improve a little as we emerged into a more open space at a cross-road of tracks. 200110619-13_Regrouping - Middle of Pendinas Forest - Esclusham Mountain by gary.haddenWe turned right here to start our descent to Hafod Bilston. The track narrowing as we went, now part of The Offa’s Dyke long distance footpath (we were now heading a little north of westwards).

Overall, we weren’t in the forest for long, but I can’t say I was sorry to exit the plantation, 200110619-15_Clwydian Range from Northern part of Maesyrychen Mountain by gary.haddenwhere we turned left on a good surfaced farm road, immediately starting to regain some of the height we’d just lost. We had again reverted to a roughly south-westerly direction, skirting the edge of the plantation on our left as we went; the views to our right over the River Alyn valley, across to the southern end of The Clwydian Range of hills, were by far the most interesting. 200110619-16_Crossing rough moorland - Maesyrychen Mountain by gary.haddenAfter about a kilometer we left what was now a track, branching right to head into rough moorland again. At times we were lucky enough to have a narrow path to follow, but at other times we had pure cross country terrain to negotiate (quite wearing having to push through the thick vegetation). This had the effect of spreading us out over quite a long distance before regrouping 200110619-24_Pushing through the Bracken - Maesyrychen Mountain by gary.haddenagain as we picked up a narrow but much more defined path rising up onto the Maesyrychen Mountain area. The name “mountain” sort of conjures up a false impression of the terrain, as there aren’t really any peaks of a classic mountain range; it’s more a description of a generally high mass of land.

The new path moved us along quite rapidly southwards to meet another wide track (below a radio mast at Cryn-y-Brain, off on our left). Rather than head upwards in that direction however, we turned right to descend to The Ponderosa 200110619-28_Harley-D at The Ponderosa - Top of The Horseshoe Pass by gary.haddenCafe/service station with its sprawl of car-park on the A542  (Horseshoe Pass) Road. The environs of The Ponderosa became our lunch stop. The Horseshoe Pass road is very popular with the motor-biking fraternity, and The Ponderosa becomes a natural stopping off spot for the bikers along with car motorists enjoying the scenic route. Although a noisy spot (plenty of bikes and cars on the road today), there were some super views out to the east over to Worlds End on The Eglwyseg Mountain.

200110619-26_Worlds End from Ponderosa - Top of Horseshoe Pass by gary.hadden

200110619-30_Ascending Moel y Faun - Above Ponderosa - Horseshoe Pass by gary.haddenOur route was now to continue on the other side of the main road and one by one we packed up for the climb to the summit of Moel y Faen where our leader said we’d meet up again before moving off en-masse once we were all gathered together again. The path was grassy and easy underfoot, but the gradient was enough to raise my heart rate somewhat, however the views from the top were well worth the effort.

200110619-31_Admiring the view from Summit of Moel y Faen by gary.hadden200110619-34_Contouring the hillside_Nr Clogau - Above Horseshoe Pass - Maesyrychen Mountain by gary.haddenLeaving the top was almost a wrench, but onwards we needed to go, which was a drop to a broad coll, and then, instead of heading up to the next top (Gribin Oernant/Moel y Gamelin) we took a left turn onto a narrow “single file” path descending gently to the south. There were again super views, out over Clogau Quarry, giving a glimpse of the Horseshoe Pass Road as it makes its big sweep around the hillside. The descent now got steeper as we dropped quite quickly into the Eglwyseg River Valley.

200110619-35_Clogau Quarry - Horseshoe Pass Road + Worlds End in the distance by gary.hadden

200110619-37_Descent into Eglwyseg River Valley - North of Llangollen by gary.hadden

200110619-39_Cottage - Eglwyseg River Valley - North of Llangollen by gary.haddenI’m a bit sketchy exactly what path we used to reach and cross the A542 for the second time of the afternoon, but I think it was near Pen-y-clwdd. What I do know, was there followed a short sharp climb to pick up another path heading south through some woodland and then a gentle drop to again reach the A542 (I think near Valle Crucis Abbey). The final part of the walk was to re-cross the A542 again and then head north along-side the main road to meet the coach at a pub – I’m pretty sure it was The Britannia Inn.

Well that’s about it, apart from one last comment. The B party were taking the same route as the A party during the latter stages of afternoon walk, and we were half expecting to maybe catch them up near the end of the walk. Failing that we certainly expected the B’s to be sat enjoying a drink at the pub. But no, neither scenario came to fruition, nor could we imagine they’d got lost. It turns out they’d finished early, so had added some extra distance onto their route; I think they’d headed off down the valley in the direction of Llangollen and then made their way back up to the pub, to find the A team relaxing with a drink (or two), a good proportion of us were outside on the terrace, sat in the sun. The Bs were at pains to suggest they’d probably ended up walking further than the A-team, just for a change, and who could begrudge them that accolade.

Now that is the end, I hope you enjoyed my scribblings …. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel welcome.

T.T.F.N. Gary

PS. ….. Break-down of significant heights climbed: (taken from reading contours on my 1:50,000 OS map, so only rough figures really, but a good indication of the day’s ascents)

1st rise = 150m (490 ft) … Tan-y-Bwlch to the highest point in Pendinas Forest.

2nd rise = 130m (430 ft) … Hafod Bilston to above The Ponderosa.

3rd rise =  140m (460 ft) … The Ponderosa to Moel y Faen.

4th rise =  50m (165 ft) … Crossing A542 up to Hendre.

Total heights gained = 470m (1545 ft)

Highest point = Summit of Moel y Faen at about 540m above sea level

The downhill bits were fairly straight forward, but there was one steep section dropping off The Maesyrychen mountain that my knees didn’t appreciate at-all.

T.T.F.N. again, Gary

Midland Hill Walkers West East Traverse of The Peak District (Stage-1 of 4)

20090405_Midland Hill Walkers West East Traverse of The Peak District (Stage-1 of 4)

When : 5th April 2009

Who : Midland Hill Walkers – Walking Club

Where : Bollington to Goyt Valley, Peak District, Not far from Buxton, England

Maps : O.S. Outdoor Leisure Map No. OL24 – The Peak District – White Peak Area

Start Point : Bollington SJ.93,77,

End Point : The Goyt Valley at Errwood Reservoir  (around about SK.018,759)

Approx Distance : ???? miles … B-Team normally walk about 10 miles and the A-Team normally about 13-15 miles maybe, so I’d guess they probably did that sort of distance this time out.

Red text is addition to my original post, now that I’ve learnt a little more about the walk.

I didn’t do either the A or B walks for this, the first leg of a four stage walk across The Peak District, mostly in Derbyshire. This was because at the time I hadn’t actually joined The Midland Hill Walkers (walking club) when they did the walk, but I did do the later stages 2, 3 and 4, so I’m putting this into my diary blog so that all four routes can be read, one after the other, with as much continuity as I can manage. 

I think I heard that the start was somewhere near The Roaches (but I’m not at all sure about this) and finished at Bunsal Cob near Errwood and Fernilee Reservoirs in The Goyt Valley. I’ve asked one of the MHW leaders if he can fill me in on the route taken, but I’m fairly confident about the finish point, as this is where the 2nd stage started from (at least for the A-party). 

I’ve now been told that the walk (according to one of the MHW’s leaders) … was on 5th April 2009 and went from Bollington, over Shining Tor to the Errwood Reservoir ….”. From this info I can summise that they probably didn’t do The Roaches, as that area (although not a million miles away) is quite a bit further south.

Another assumption is that they probably went up and over Kerridge Hill (on the Gritstone Trail)  immediately to the south of Bollington, including passing by the White Nancy Monument. Why do I assume this? … because there’s a photo on the MHW web-site gallery of a group of people stood in front of this oddly shaped and very distinctive construction. Beyond the above, I can’t say much more about the walk as there are a multitude of paths criss-crossing the countryside between Bollington and The Goyt Valley.

However, I’ve now allowed my imagination to run riot and devised a route that I think would be worth doing, that’d incorporate the known sites along the route …. and it’d go something like :- Bollington, White Nancy, Kerridge Hill, Tegs Nose Country Park, Ridgegate/Trentabank Reservoirs and Macclesfield Forest, Shutlingsloe, Wildboar Clough, Cumberland Brook, Cat and Fiddle Pub, Shining Tor, Cats Tor, and finish at Errwood Reservoir. This would be about 14-15 miles long and lots of ups and downs – Just about right for the MHW’s A-Party. It’d be interesting to see how many places coincide with what was actually walked back in Apr-09.

There’s not much more I can say, except repeat the little bit of recent info’ from the MHW web site, which goes :-  

“Our March [2011] walk was the final stage of the Derbyshire Peaks West-East Traverse. This is a beautiful walk created by Bill, who set up the Midland Hillwalkers in 1992. As the name suggests, we crossed the Peak District from West to East …..” 

I can certainly vouch for the beautiful scenery of the second, third and fourth legs and now feel disappointed I hadn’t done the first stage, it feels like I’ve unfinished business. 

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….

T.T.F.N. Gary

20091018_MHW_West East Traverse of The Peak District-2 … Goyt Valley to Peak Forest Linear Walk

20091018_Goyt Valley to Peak Forest Linear Walk – Midland Hill Walkers A-Walk – 2nd leg of a 4-walk trek across The Peak District starting in the West and Crossing over to the East.

This is a re-publication of my diary dating back to October 2009. Re-posted so that it has continuity with the post immediately below it, so that the West-East Traverse of The Peak District reads one after the other. I hope you enjoy. Cheers, Gary. 

When : 18th October 2009

Who : Midland Hill Walkers – Club Walk – A-Walk

Where : The Peak District, Near Buxton

Maps : O.S. Outdoor Leisure Map No.24 – The Peak District – White Peak area

Start Point : 018,759 (Goyt Valley)

End Point : 114,794 (Peak Forest)

Approx Distance : 12.7 miles, 20.3 km

Heights : 2165 ft ascent + 2070 ft descent

(Heights are totals per my memory map programme and include gentle ups and downs as well the more strenuous slopes/terrain)

Transport : Full size luxury coach – From Car Park in Kenilworth.

Summary : Goyt Valley, North West facing slope of Combs Moss, Combs Edge, Dove Holes (village), Peak Dale (village), Tunstead, Wind Low, Hargatewall, Peter Dale, Hay Dale, Dam Dale, Peak Forest (village).

My sister had been on a few walks with The Midland Hill Walkers and she’d suggested I’d probably enjoy a trip out with them too. The M.H.Walkers go out once a month (on a Sunday) and the first date I could join them was on their October Walk 2009, billed as the 2nd stage of a west-east traverse of The Peak District (It’s a pity I’d missed the first stage, but hey, that’s life I suppose). I do like walking in The Peak District, so I made some ‘phone calls, paid some money and was booked on for this walk and the next one in November (Llyn Celyn to Pentrefoelas) in Wales.

It meant a very early start though, as I had a bit of a drive (A45 + A46 mostly) to get from Rugby to Kenilworth for before 7-o’clock in the morning, which is when the coach departs for the day. I found it a little bit daunting climbing aboard the bus full of total strangers but soon found a seat near my sister and brother-in-law who were also out with them for the day.

Once on the go, one of the leaders made his way up the bus to talk through the two walks options with me; the A walk being more strenuous than the B. The club normally recommends newcomers to start with a B-walk, just to be on the safe side, but he agreed after talking through my experience that I’d cope with the A-walk, so that’s what I decided to do.

After passing through Buxton the coach picked up the A5004 and then soon turned left into the minor road of Goyt’s Lane to descend steeply towards Errwood and Fernilee Reservoirs in the Goyt Valley. I didn’t get a good view of the lakes though, as the A- party was dropped off just beside the small knoll of Burnsal Cob on the eastern side of the reservoirs. As it happens, my sis’ & her husband stayed on the coach to walk with the B-team.

Just for description purposes, I can effectively split the walk into three stages. It would seem sensible therefore to start at the start of stage-1 :-.

1st Stage :

As often happens on walks, the route started off steeply uphill and at a surprisingly quick pace and the group was soon spread out over a fair distance as we rose up a track swinging round in a generally north easterly direction. Several people spoke to me on that first climb, their opening line generally something like “I haven’t seen you out before, is this your first time with the club?” … a good way to break the ice and I was quite happy to have a chat as we all rose through the grassy moorland. The views back over The Goyt Valley were superb! I loved the autumnal colours spread out all around. Being towards the back of the group, I must admit I felt a tad out of touch from the leader, not a good feeling for the first time out and I was quite relieved when the whole party regrouped where the track crossed the A5004.

The path crossed straight over the main road and continued to rise still quite steeply and I resolved to keep myself closer to the leader now; just so I’d feel more comfortable in myself – it’s amazing how much easier the pace seems to be when you’re nearer the front than at the back. The terrain was quite wild; tussocky, grassy moorland and after the path had made a few twists and turns (including passing behind White Hall Outdoor Pursuits Centre) we crested over a rise where my legs appreciated the little rest-bite from the climbing done so far. The views ahead had really opened up by now with a series of knolls and rocky edges forming part of the vista dropping steeply from the mass of Combs Moss above us on our right. 

I’d never walked in this part of The Peak District before and was enjoying the views northwards across a slightly lower and much tamer area of farmland below. The higher rougher ground formed a rough shaped bowl around the green almost manicured meadows and the handful of farmsteads beneath us; a lovely contrast, especially with a scattering of trees turning various shades of red and orange. The weather had begun to close in a little as well, but I think the contrast between the sunlit bright areas against the more gloomy shadows added a super depth to the landscape. By now we were again climbing quite steadily on a faint path, diagonally rising to the flatter almost plateaux like edges of Combs Moss. The path on my OS map is shown as a black dash line  (not a right of way) so I assume the recent open access rules have opened up the moors to walkers – definitely our gain today!

 

A small group split away at the front, getting their heads down for the pull up to a small shooting hut positioned above a steep sided side valley cutting it’s way into the high ground. It was here that the party regrouped with a short refreshment stop and everyone enjoyed the views. I particularly liked the ridges on the hillside covered with drifts of purple heather and the shiny shimmering silver of dried grass tussocks; the soft colour palette in counterpoint to the harsh looking gritstone walls and rocky outcrops.

The last mile or so had been pretty much westwards but we now swung north for a few hundred yards before turning almost west, ignoring an inviting looking track, to instead climb a rough slope for a short distance up to a faint path running alongside a drystone wall (beginning to look like it’d seen better days). The views back across the lowland bowl to where we’d come from were brill’, amazing to see just how far you can cover by just keeping a good steady pace.

 By now I’d relaxed into the walking much more, keeping up with the leader quite easily now even to the point of taking a couple of ‘photos of him in a rather clichéd pose on top of a rocky outcrop above Alstone Lee.. The MHW’s are currently using my pic’ in a fun caption competition asking “What’s Brian saying”. I feel quite honoured that they think my pic’ is good enough to use in this way.     

   

The path and wall were now contouring easily around the edges of the moor swinging round from east to west and then northwards again … the last rocky outcrop we traversed is called Combe Edge before we dropped steeply down a short way to a minor road close to an ancient fort at the northern tip of the moor. We then turned right for a section of road walking probably for the best part of a mile.

2nd Stage

After the rough terrain of the moor the smooth tarmac was quite welcome at first, being easier on the ankles and concentration in equal measure. I wasn’t sad however when we branched left onto a path into farmland at Cow Low, passing through Cowlow Farm before rejoining the road just on the outskirts of the village of Dove Holes.

This really marked the start of and by far the most uninteresting stage of the walk which I’m going to skip over pretty quickly … I didn’t take any pic’s for at least a couple of miles, which tells its own story. Dove Holes has a pretty name but is an ugly place – Sorry if I’ve offended anyone, but there’s no other way to describe it; the villages overall facade mirroring the extensive quarrying in this area north of Buxton not protected by National Park status – I guess industry has to have its place but this area looks pretty much devastated over large areas and it doesn’t look like there’s been much attempt to mask the impact. Having said that, we all like our roads and other constructions and the raw materials have to come from somewhere.

There was now some considerable amount of road walking as we left Dove Holes heading southwards to the next point on route, Peak Dale ; again a nicer sounding name than the reality. It was here that we stopped for lunch, spread out on the touchline of a community football pitch. This has to go down as one of the stranger places I’ve had lunch on a country walk. After lunch there was more road walking, to reach Buxton Bridge, where we crossed a railway to then climb steeply, still on the road. After so much tarmac it was good to turn off onto a path, in a stand of trees, heading towards Tunstead. The views down the hillside, overlooked the grey ugly plant of Tarmac’s Tunstead Works. Although undeniably ugly there’s something compelling about these types of industrial landscapes, and they are photogenic in their own way.

3rd Stage.

Leaving the works behind marked the end of the 2nd stage of the walk and the start of a more rural final stage of the day. Instead of the gritstone moors of the morning and the industrial stuff in the middle, we were now heading into limestone countryside [The White Peak] and we crossed the invisible line back into The National Park, just before skirting north of the settlement of Tunstead itself. We were now heading eastwards away from the works and I wasn’t sad to see the back of them as we rose up to the ancient site of “Wind Low”. No one knew quite what the strange lump of stone was on top of the hill and there wasn’t an info’ board to tell us … so guess work was the only option –

  • An ancient burial site ?
  • A drinking trough for travellers horses ?
  • An ancient boundary marker at the top of the hill between ancient hill tribes ?
  • Or my wild guess of an alms drop off point ? like the ones around the Eyam area when villages were isolated by the plague ?

A subsequent look on the internet has told me it’s on the “List of Scheduled Ancient Monuments in the National Park” and is noted as “SAM No. S13351” and the sites full name is “Wind Low Bowl Barrow & Standing Cross”. According to several sites I’ve looked at : The stone is the base of a medieval stone cross which in turn sits on top of a bronze age barrow (burial mound) ….so, Wind Low is really two things on one site.

The route was very much easier now as we picked up a track at Hayward farm. The easiness didn’t last long though as we came across a rather horrible difficulty as we passed Hargatewall. The walled track now doubled up as a shallow slurry pond stretching out ahead. There was no option but to paddle through the liquid cow poo deep enough to reach half way up our boots. Some of the back markers crossed into a side field in an unsuccessful attempt to circumvent the mess, but in the end they had to hold their noses and splash their way through … Yuk and double-Yuk.

Eventually we emerged from the not-so-green green-lane into grassy fields descending steadily to reach and then drop down into Peter Dale to join The Limestone Way quite near to Dale Head. I was now on familiar ground as I’d walked here on a number of occasions before. The Dale is shallow with quite an open aspect, the upper slopes a line of craggy limestone outcrops. This, combined with the autumnal trees makes a very pretty scene especially if you’re lucky enough to get some sunshine on the cliffs …. unfortunately the sun didn’t grace us with its presence and although dry it was quite grey giving a certain flatness to the view …. however, when looked at more closely there were some lovely colours in the trees and the landscape as a whole.

Turning left, heading northwards, the dale became even shallower, now not far from our final destination. Although a continuation of the same long valley the dale changes its name several times …. Further south it’s called Monk’s Dale then becomes Peter Dale where we joined it towards its northern end. It then becomes Hay Dale and Hay Dale becomes Dam Dale and then it peters-out into virtually no dale at-all as we finished the walk over easy farmland into the small village of Peak Forest;  passing a large church on the way in. We then had a short time to enjoy a pint (or two)  in The Devonshire Arms before the journey back to Kenilworth.

A good walk … well the 1st and 3rd sections anyway and more importantly, an enjoyable first time out with The Midland Hill Walkers, I was now looking forward to the November Walk already booked.

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings …. if you read straight on now, the next post down is the 3rd leg of The West East Traverse … Peak Forest to Ladybower Reservoir via Cave Dale, Castleton, Mam Tor, Edale and Kinder Scout’s southern edge.