Gone Fishin’

23 August 2015- Easton to Oldbury Court

Me n Paddy Garcia

Impromptu walk- not sure how long but it took three hours- inspired by extreme downpours and the search for new fishing spots. We knew we’d get wet, and we did…

IMG_2804Followed PG’s walk to work out through Easton and Eastville Park, around the boating lake. Then departed from his usual walk to continue on through Snuff Mills on the Grove Wood side, before dropping down to walk along the river through the Oldbury Court estate. How beautiful it is, ashamed I’ve never been there before.

 

We turned round at Frenchay and headed back along Repton’s Drive to the playground/ house site for a cup of tea, before following the river back, crossing over through Snuff Mills itself and back home.

IMG_2806River was in full spate- levels high, weirs with impressive flow, roaring water, not a trout to be seen, but PG felt the potential. Really lush dripping greenery, lots of wet dogs, and learnt good things about the history- Humphrey Repton (explains the well-organised paths and steps), mansion sadly vanished, long-gone mills with special boilers. Saw the local heron and wondered what it was thinking…

 

 

 

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The Smallest Village

21 August 2015- Bourton-on-the-Water

Familia me

IMG_2795Not really a walk but a tiny stroll around Britain’s only Grade II listed model village. Which contains just enough model villages inside the model villages to make your head hurt…

 

 

The Smallest City

14-16 August 2015- St David’s, Pembrokeshire

Me, PG, KateForceOne, Magic Dave, Mother-of-Two, Two, Slide, the Faringdon Archaeologists (x4)* and Burge (and chums)

IMG_2786The annual summer camping jaunt. Intense email-based milling preceded this trip- several weeks of correspondence resulted in no concrete plan until the days running up to departure, when a campsite satisfying strict criteria of (a) not windy and (b) not full was booked. All to no avail. Burge, forming an advance party, changed campsite the day before everyone else arrived. So we found ourselves at Porthclais- very beautiful clifftop, but, to quote a local- with a lazy wind, one that goes right through you rather than round.

After last year’s Adventures under Tarp, this year Slide had purchased two actual made-for-purpose shelters and a windbreak. When we arrived on friday, were delighted to see that Slide had managed to rig both shelters togther into a not-as-per-instructions semi-shelter. It just wouldn’t the same without some homemade tarp action.

IMG_2789We managed a fair bit of short walking. Porthclais is on the coast path, with beautiful small harbour- the medieval harbour of St David’s, so we learnt. Which probably also explains the well-worn green lane to St David’s itself, which we tramped a number of times at varying speeds. PG and I managed one early morning ramble around the coast path to visit St Non’s chapel and Holy Well. Spectacular views along the coast for miles, but possibly a bit ‘edgy’ for PG’s taste.

IMG_2783What a very charming small city St David’s is. On the Saturday night we made the trip for fish and chips. And a moonlit stroll around the grounds of the Cathedral and Bishops’ Palace- definite highlight- lurking in the dark listening to a Welsh male voice choir through the West Door, watching ladies in full traditional dress sitting in the porch and being buzzed by bats. Total magic.

 

IMG_2765We enjoyed spectacular sandcastle building, cricket and icecream at Whitesands, celebrated Magic Dave’s birthday with fruit gin, ate a vast amount of barbecued meat, and went crabbing at Porthgain. Really enjoyed this little harbour village with its derelict industrial landscape and fantastic Sloop Inn.

Otherwise chewed the fat, argued about wood (quality of), fire (smoky) and life into the night and generally arsed around. Great fun. Quotes of the holiday undoubtedly the much-loved ‘my zip’s gone crazy’ from Annabel, and ‘please god no singing’ from a desperate 3am PG. There is such a thing as too much Burgess & Slide it turns out.

Next year- we vow less milling and possibly a house, and NO TARP. eek.

IMG_2762* It turns out that actually lots of archaeologists live in Faringdon so maybe there’s something in my theory about Oxfordshire being heavily-archaeologised (The Wilderness).

Time past

photoWhat a very long time since I’ve posted a blog. Could be laziness- a few strolls have gone unrecorded. But could be hard work- not much walking has been accomplished really, because of time spent at the allotment. So possibly the walk I’ve done most is the one from our house to the allotment and back. Not such a bad one, and the rewards are good.

photo(4)Otherwise, what sticks in the memory is a lovely amble along a river on Exmoor (June), whilst on a fortieth-celebration camping trip. Very low mileage to time ratio as many trout to stalk. Utterly beautiful secret valley…

photo(1)June saw the mighty feat that was Team Bongo (Madam Citron and Mr P) complete the entire Cornish coastal path. Such an achievement. PG and I headed down to the border to watch them finish, and managed some extremely tiny but very interesting strolls around Rame Head, where we camped. Plymouth as a great seaport really makes sense from across the water, the headland is full of fascinating old military stuffs, fine medieval church, and we enjoyed the twin villages of Kingsand and Cawsand. Easy to imagine smuggling in days of old, just out of sight of the navy round the headland. photo(5)

By full tilt river and switchback sea

24- 27 April 2015- Laugharne, Carmarthenshire

Me, Paddy Garcia, Kate Force One, Magic Dave and Burge

There’s something quite futile about attempting to write about Laugharne and its environs. Right from the off, there’s Dylan Thomas, right there…

But we did walk, so I will write.

IMG_2553Firstly, the view. Our chalet was perched on a hill overlooking the very complicated estuary, and we enjoyed watching the tide wash in and out over the many sandy channels and inlets- in misty fog when we arrived, and glorious sunshine the next day.

On Saturday, we took a small stroll (3 miles) around Laugharne itself, to take in the main Thomas sights. We began with possibly the most lengthy phase of milling we’ve ever suffered from, which involved several false starts, some crawling back into house on hands and knees (to avoid treading mud into carpet after boots on), detailed discussions of health issues (backs, bowels, knees again) before general despair at hopeless aging was overcome and we sailed forth.

IMG_2493The route followed the estuary past Thomas’s spartan writing shed (previously garage) and along to the Boathouse. Fascinatingly small inside and as far into the sea as a house can be without falling into it. Then we trailed through ‘Milk Wood’ and looped inland to St Martin’s Church, where the man himself is buried, Caitlin beside. Enjoyed the higgledy-piggledy churchyard with its formidable but collapsing walls.

IMG_2500Then it was back down into the village for a stroll around the mighty Norman/ Tudor castle with towering views out over the estuary. And a gazebo- the writing spot of Richard Hughes, author of the first ever radio play, who lived in the perfect pink Castle House next door, where the Thomases were regular visitors.

 

Paused at the town hall and prison (Kate Force One taken by surprise by animatronics). Remarkably, Laugharne is one of the only surviving medieval corporations left in Britain, complete with burgesses and open field system. Then it was off for a drink at Browns Hotel, after a brief stop at Corran Books opposite, whose proprietor informed us that the very fine Georgian houses of King Street (where both are located) feature no less than six former ballrooms between them. Which conjured up a wonderful image of a town overrun with wealthy seacaptains of yesteryear, home from the sea, and nothing to do but dance, dance, dance.

IMG_2512Sunday saw us on a drive to Pendine for a slice of different history. The seven miles of sands are breathtaking, more so because the dunes behind (and indeed the beach) have been MOD property since the war, and thus remain a wild natural haven (except for the blowing things up bits, and the big signs telling you never to pick up unidentified objects…). And in the 1920s the sands formed a better driving surface than most roads, so it was here that several landspeed records were broken. Until a tragic end for JG Parry-Thomas and his car Babs in 1927.

 

IMG_2521We headed straight up over the hill from the beach, briefly getting mixed up with a horde of families on a picnic outing to the next (weirdly pebbly) beach beyond, before leaving them behind to continue along the along the South Wales coastal path. Very hard work on the legs, lots of steep climbs and descents, but glorious blue skies, yellow gorse and fantastic views over Carmarthen Bay, with Worms Head to to the east, and Tenby and Caldey to the west. After a stop for a hearty lunch of sandwiches, savory eggs, pork pies, apples, biscuits, coffee and one yazoo (Magic Dave), we turned inland and headed up to Marros, before looping back down towards Pendine, through rolling green valleys that didn’t feel coastal at all.

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Waiting for the hat…

Met a very friendly bunch of dogs and their minders who let us through their garden, got a bit lost, Burge had to retrace steps looking for lost hat (blog photos provided vital evidence of where hat last seen), and then we were back at the pebbly beach, just the final hard up and down back to Pendine. Quick drink in scorching sun outside the Beach Hotel before heading back to Laugharne.

Monday saw the party (-Burge) return home via the lovely Llansteffan (recommended by a local in Browns on our first night), looking out across the channel to Ferryside on the other side. In its 19th century heyday, holidaymakers arrived at Ferryside by train from Swansea, took a ferry to Llansteffan, and could cross the peninsula to call a boat over to Laugharne. Today travelling between the three involves lots of driving inland and out again, but it’s worth it- impressive castle and charming teabreak at Llansteffan. Then we crammed in one final Thomas stop at Cwmdonkin Drive in Swansea, before tea at PG’s folks and home.

IMG_2550Great weekend away, absolutely made by the stunning views over the estuary. The horizon is definitely good for you. Great wildlife- hundreds of noisy birds, lots of furry things, even a high-speed badger. And a very charming, interesting, characterful town. We imagined Dylan Thomas tramping the countryside, searching for inspiration, and drink, did the same ourselves, and enjoyed the experience muchly.

 

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Ysgyryd Fawr

Easter Sunday, 5th April 2015- Abergavenny- Llanfihangel Crucorney

Me, Paddy Garcia and the DJ

An early start (for us), determined to get in a ‘proper’ walk, mid-Wales the target. We thus embarked for the Brecons in the DJ’s trusty van. After a stop in Abergavenny to purchase a map (during which we concluded that shops may not open on Easter Sunday but people still want to shop), we parked in Bryn-y-Gwenn, and headed uphill towards the Skirrid ridge. There’s something really good/ alarming about being able to see your route so far above you.

It was an extremely hard slog to the top of the ridge on the route we took, and we arrived breathless and aching to find many happy families and animals who’d ambled up the main path. Might have been easier.

IMG_2386The ridge walk was a relatively easy stroll by comparison, with a spectacular day of sunshine and fluffy clouds providing amazing, amazing 360 degree views. To the east the rolling Marches, to the west the high ground of the Brecons and Black Mountains, with Sugarloaf to the fore. We enjoyed a coffee break at the trig point on the site of St Michael’s Chapel*, before heading down the very steep north side.

IMG_2400Then we were back into familar rambling territory, on a downhill loop through fields and lanes to Llanfihangel Crucorney. Appealing landscape of steep scrubby fields with ancient woodlands and deep srpings and ravines. So many lambs testing their wobbly legs and enjoying a first taste of sunshine. Cute just doesn’t begin to describe it.

 

We admired the astonishing 16th-century Llanfihangel Court before heading into the village for a pint in the garden at the Skirrid Mountain Inn, reputedly Wales’ oldest pub.

IMG_2391Then the return journey along the valley to the west of Skirrid. Footpaths not terribly well marked in places, we took a few wrong turns (fortunately charming man let us through his garden). Stopped for a late lunch of sandwiches and quiche and admired the view of the Brecons up above. Then slogged on along country lanes and over fields, legs very tired by now. Interesting how, despite the crowds of Easter holidaymakers on the Skirrid, once back in rural rambling land, ne’er a soul did we see, except men with tools (one measuring with hodometer, one prodding molehills with rod). The beaten path it wasn’t.

Overall, probably only 8 miles but felt like a tough and satisfying walk owing to the steep gradients. Very much enjoyed the high levels of wildlife, particularly birds (wall-to-wall birdsong, must learn to identify). Glorious weather made the day, and we sailed back in the van feeling toasted by the sunshine and trembly in the legs.

* The Devil’s Window informs us that Skirrid has long been known as a Holy Mountain, with many myths attached, including the appropriately Easter-ly one that the large landslip on the west side happened on the day of the Crucifixion.

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Whole trees in motion

Sunday 29th March 2015- Bath Skyline

Me, Paddy Garcia, Kate Force One and the DJ

IMG_2371It was windy. That’s probably all that needs saying about this 6 mile walk, as it was defined from start to finish by strong winds. Umbrella use would have been difficult, twigs were broken, branches had fallen and construction signs were flattened: consultation with the Beaufort Scale informed us that this meant we were experiencing gale force conditions.

In some ways, it wasn’t an ideal day for this walk above Bath, being misty and grey, and heavy wet in places. But it was utterly invigorating and thrilling being high up and amongst trees in such windy conditions. And possibly not that wise. The DJ nearly got taken out by a falling branch, and PG had to make a long range emergency dash at one point to recover his hat. Lunch involved a dousing with coffee blown out of the cup. At times the wind was too noisy to hear each other speak, and although it feels strange to write it, the trees really were roaring. Enormous awe-inspiring sound.

IMG_2369Aside from the weather conditions, there was much interesting woodland, with livid green mosses and lichens, it felt as if hobbits or elves might appear at any moment. What actually appeared was a motley crew of role-playing players. Suits of armour, steam-punks, the odd goth and some cavaliers. Locked in not-entirely-epic battle on the edge of a golf course. We wondered if real orcs in combat need health and safety attendants.

The views over Bath were not as frequent the name of the walk might imply, but good when they came. Overall it felt like an easy 6 miles, well-signed by the National Trust.

Thoroughly ruffled, we headed down from the windy heights into Bath for a drink at the Boater, before a train home for a quick follow up in the Barleymow.

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