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365 steps

29 August 2016, Chepstow

Me, PG, Kate Force One, Magic Dave

IMG_0453A post-holiday six miler and return to the Mullett, oh the joy! From a carpark outside Chepstow, a stiff ascent of the 365 steps, then a circuit taking in incredible views over the Wye Valley and Severn Estuary, both bridges on the horizon.

The weather was very hot, and the route was tough enough to satisfy Kate Force One’s need for walk-based training. The countryside was beautiful: lots of classic rolling hills, wild hedges and blue skies with fluffy clouds. We enjoyed a food break in the church field at Penterry, learning about some of the village’s darker history.

Highlight without a doubt was being stalked across a field by a few (what is the collective noun?) buzzards- one in particular flying slowly around us at not much height. Majestic.

Good to return to the Mullett after a considerable break, he never disappoints. An interesting walk and only the one obligatory section of misleading directions which left us facing a field of head-high corn…

Finished off with a drink by Tintern Abbey, watching a bushful of sparrows getting on with their fluff and feather business right there in the pub garden. Ace.

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A Plus

20- 27 August 2016, Plouguenast

Me, PG, Kate Force One, Magic Dave, Mother-of-Two, Two, Slide and the Faringdon Archaeologists (x4)

IMG_0441L’adventure de l’ete (maybe?)… this time to Brittany, in an effort to circumvent the wind/ rain/ cold of previous expeditions, and to an actual house or two to circumvent the under canvas issue.

 

 

On both counts, extremely successful- not a tarp in sight and glorious sunshine. Not very much in the way of walking really, but we milled around the Breton countryside, meeting local wildlife (cats, cows, chickens, not as many fish as PG and Slide would have liked, at least one more wasp than KF1 would have liked, ouch), and strolled on various lovely beaches. Embarrassed myself with my weird French/ Spanish/ Italian hybrid non-language skills.

IMG_0413A goodly amount of ancient entertainment was achieved, including the astonishing stone rows at Carnac. We learnt quite alot one way or the other about Duchess Anne, champion of Brittany and married to not one, but two French kings (not at the same time we assume). And the de Rohans with their beautiful chateau at Josselin, adorned with their uncompromising motto, A PLUS. And their ancestor, son of a lady pirate who murdered her husband (‘bad childhood’ said the guide) with an even more direct motto: I do what I wish. We see what it took to become the grand fromage in early medieval Brittany.

IMG_0403Beaucoup de grand fromage was consumed by ourselves of course, with mountains of barbecue, booze, baguettes and some fabulous homemade madeleines. Best meal of the week undoubtedly at The Magic Cauldron in Moncontour- unbelievably tasty food, hippocras and medieval hats. Unbeatable.

Best of all, as always, fine conversation, comedy and companionship. Turns out that fun can be had without a tarp. None better, indeed.

 

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Severn side

15,22 May 2016- Severn Estuary

Me, PG, KateForceOne, Magic Dave and the (now inappropriately named) Boy

IMG_0053Two small Sunday trips that really stretch the definition of ‘walking’… the first to Berkeley, there to enjoy the pleasingly rabbit-warren-like castle and lovely grounds where we picnic’d, and a stroll around the town. Seeing the tomb of England’s last court jester in the churchyard a particular highlight. Must return to explore Dr Jenner’s House.

 

IMG_0068Then a trip to the opposite side of the estuary to see what Lydney had to offer. Completely difference experience, united only by the view of the Severn and the lack of actual walking. Lydney a combination of great scenery, interesting industrial history, and a funny little town. All these things overtaken by the discovery of the Dean Forest Railway. So exciting Magic Dave actually broke into a run at one point. And then we spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in a train, often not moving at all.

Great to think that after all these years, there are still new places to visit, new views of the mighty Severn to understand….

 

Heronry

24 April 2014- Hanham

Me, PG, Mother-of-Two, Slide, Two and the H’s

IMG_0015A walk to enjoy the bluebells, many other delights encountered too. Me n PG a bit chaotic but made it to the rendezvous point only a little bit late. We parked in Hanham and headed through the woodlands above the River Avon in a downstream direction. Fascinating landscape of quarries and streams, with carpets of bluebells, anemones and small yellow flowers (whatever they were). Utterly lovely. Then we reached the river and walked back downstream in the sunshine.

 

IMG_0016We stopped for quite sometime to watch the heronry on the other side of the river (Eastwood Farm Nature Reserve I think). Never seen- or heard- anything like it. So many birds nesting, squawking and flapping around over the river, incredibly prehistoric and otherworldly somehow. Marvellous. Then it was under the ring-road and on to the Old Lock and Weir for refreshment. We watched a solitary heron standing statue-still on the weir and as always wondered what it was thinking… I am heron. What is heron? Heronry: is it what herons do? Where are the fish?

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The Revenge Stone

16 March 2016- Pontescob, Black Mountains

Me n Paddy Garcia

A few days away in the beautiful Grwyne Fawr valley. The valley didn’t have a road until 1912, when one was built during construciton of a new reservoir at the head, and it still feels remote. More remote than you’d imagine somewhere only 5 miles from Abergavenny could be. PG got his wish for lambs- surrounded by nothing but lambs, lambing and very, very tired looking farmers.

P1000542Walking efforts limited by a panoply of excuses, primarily (a) fishing (b) working and (c) aforesaid falling over, but we made it out one day for a sizeable walk, ably guided by Nick Jenkins Circular Walks in the Black Mountains. From our abode, it was straight out of the door up a steep lane (we considered that the description of this as ‘moderate’ showed Nick was made of sterner walking stuff than us), and along a green lane onto a fantastic ridge of open moorland. Incredible views on all sides, down right into the Ewyas valley and left along the Grwyne Fawr, across to Offa’s Dyke and the Sugarloaf. Geography lessons made flesh, or rock rather.

P1000543At a meeting of paths on top of the ridge, we reached Dialcarreg- the revenge stone, apparently the site of a memorial to Norman lord Richard de Clare, killed there in 1136 by the Welsh. Travelling hostile country accompanied by only a minstrel and a singer seems unwise on the basis of this example.

From the stone, we tracked down off the ridge a bit and followed the contours along the valley, past a string of fascinating farms, with incredible collections of old agricultural buildings, some hundred of years old. After a stop at the Tabernacle to admire the gravestones and sadly derelict manse, we crossed the river and headed up through steep fields to Partrishow, past ancient manorhouse Tyn-y-llyn.

P1000558Then to our destination St Issui’s Church. Hard to think of a medieval church in a more utterly beautiful spot. And one with a very special interior, complete with surviving rood screen and mural of Time as skeleton with spade and scythe. We sat on a stone ledge in the churchyard and ate lunch surrounded by spring flowers and sunshine, before heading off to view St Issui’s holy well, adorned by a great collection of votive offerings including pair of glasses and bottle of scotch.

 

A final rolling descent down the reservoir road back to Pontescob, bit sore in the hip but otherwise very happy.

 

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Plough again

13 March 2016- Severn Estuary

Me, Pady Garcia, Mr P, Madame Citron and Hugo

A return to the site of the previous walk… to stroll a more northerly stretch of the flood defences along the estuary- crucially a flat stretch, owing to Me having fallen over like an eejit and not being very mobile. Interested to encounter a derelict boxcar on the flood wall- what is it doing there? The walk much livened by Hugo the dog, and spring sunshine. We retired to the White Hart for an excellent sunday lunch, there to meet many fellow Bristollians with similar plan.