Countryside Wanderings

It's amazing how things develop. After all, this blog started out as a news section for the rest of the website. With encouragement from readers, it has become a place for relating my countryside wanderings and musings about the world of outdoor activity. Walking, cycling and photography all are part of what I do out of doors and, hopefully, they will continue to inspire me to keep adding entries on here. Of course, there needs to be something of interest to you, dear reader, too and I hope that's the case. Thanks for coming.

Category: Wales

More coastal walking on the Gower

Sunday, July 9th, 2017

Over the past few months, much of what has appeared afresh on here has concentrated on reminisces of Scottish excursions undertaken before this blog existed. It has been a matter to getting something written about these before recollections decay any further that they have. There is more to come but I have decided to take a break to relate a few walking trips from 2014 and these nearly complete every walk of note that I undertook that year.

As I look back on recent years, I notice a recurring trend of revisiting old haunts and much of that happened in 2014 itself. Even the walk featured in this entry was one of those. It was 2012 when I last got to exploring the coastline of the Gower and thickening cloud meant that I did not see the coastline between Rhossili and Port-Eynon at its best. What I did see was enough encouragement for a return visit just over two years later when splendid autumnal sunshine was my lot. It was all very different to the advancing threat of thunder and lightning that reached the area in the early hours of a Sunday morning.

2014-09-20

In order to ensure that I actually get to Gower for a walk that weekend, I travelled on Saturday and spent the night in Swansea. That a few previous attempts foundered because of website troubles and other preoccupations added more motivation to take this course of action. More impetus was added by 2014 being the last year when the Gower would enjoy a summer Sunday bus service. Then, it appeared that such opportunities were not guaranteed to be available again but there is a summer Sunday and bank holiday service in operation for 2017.

Sticking with the subject of transport, my outbound train was heavily delayed around Shrewsbury too so it was just as well that I was not hoping to make very much of the day. It also meant that I had to attend to some business in Cardiff that I had hoped to do in Swansea so it was dark when I got to my lodgings for the night.

2014-09-21

Unlike the day before which was largely dull and cloudy, the morning of my walk dawned with bright sunshine. Coming late in September, there was a frosty chill in the air as if to remind anyone of the passing of the year. At the same time, the hills lying north of Swansea looked tempting though you would have to get to the other side of the M4 to reach them. These still are the southern reaches of hilly country leading not only towards the Brecon Beacons National Park but ultimately all the way through Wales as far as its north coast, the very reason why it is so hard to have a railway line running the length of the principality.

None of this did anything to deter me from heading south as planned. As the day warmed, you would be forgiven for thinking that summer was set to last forever and many a day tripper was lured to Mumbles and Rhossili so buses were busy after what seemingly had been a busy summer for the area.

Rhossili Bay & Rhossili Down, Rhossili, Gower, Wales

While the weather was typical of our expectations of summer and Rhossili had plenty of folk about the place, there were signs too of autumn as I pottered about on my way towards Worms Head. Grass was looking tired following the pinnacle of the annual growing season the bracken on Rhossili was changing colour from green to orange as it began to die back ahead of the winter season.

Worm's Head, Rhossili, Gower, Wales

The way towards Worms Head was well frequented and the outcrop looked better than I had seen it on previous visits. The tide was out so some may have ventured onto its green flanks but the risk of getting marooned by an advancing tide was enough to ensure that I was not one of them. Some do and that is the reason that you find a coastguard station hereabouts.

Fall Bay, Rhossili, Gower, Wales

After all those lingering around Worms Head, things grew quieter. Groups of young people came against me as I rounded Fall Bay and I was lead into wondering if this has become part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award now that Wales Coast Path is very much in existence. Others strolled the way too since they were taking in circular walks around Rhossili. After passing the last public footpath leading to nearby Middleton, these too petered out in their turn.

The best part of any walk for me is when I largely had my surroundings to myself and that is how it largely felt as I walked from Mewslade Bay to Overton Cliffs. Progress was good too though I slightly chide myself for going so well on what was a gorgeous day. In my defence, I was passing through a lot of pasture and the distance may not have been that long. It was not all about having improved fitness because of indoor bike training.

Overton Cliff, Port-Eynon, Gower, Wales

For all their proximity to human habitation, Overton Cliffs look fabulously isolated and few passed the way. Under cloudy skies, their allure was not lost but added sunshine worked some magic. It helped that I was not anxious about catching a bus this time around so I had space to enjoy what lay around me. Port-Eynon looked further away than it was.

Overton Mere, Port-Eynon, Gower, Wales

After passing these delights, there was one final ascent to test me before I dropped down to Port-Eynon’s beach to battle the soft dry sand to reach tarmac again. Before all that, I was to pass the Gower Society monument with the bell of a sea buoy beyond Port-Eynon Point ringing in my ears, a reminder of the stillness that I met on my previous visit. There was a little time to linger at the final destination for my hike before an on time bus returned me to Swansea from where I began the train journey home.

It had been a satisfactory weekend away and I now pondering other possibilities. Even the more madcap idea of walking from Port-Eynon to Mumbles via Oxwich and Threecliff Bay has entered my mind. There are ways of shortening this to make the escapade more sensible if needed. Then, there also is the Gower Way to consider so it is not as if there is not more to see around here. There are further rewards for repeat visitors.

Travel Arrangements

Return train journey from Macclesfield to Swansea. Travel by bus from Swansea to Rhossili and from Port-Eynon to Swansea.

Solstice sauntering around Abergavenny

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

The second major hillwalking trip of 2014 returned me to Wales. This time, it was the turn of hills on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park that I had held in my sights for quite a while. Abergavenny was my base and Saturday saw me take in Ysgyryd Fawr (otherwise known as the Skirrid) while Sunday allowed a return visit to Y Fâl (or the Sugar Loaf as many know it).

2014-06-21

My arrival was in the middle of the day so it was just as well that this was a time of very short nights. Once I had booked into my hotel, it was time to go for my planned hike. It was to be one with a lot of road walking and the stretch taking me out of Abergavenny remains in my memory for its length as much as its steady if unrelenting height gain. Eventually, my surroundings were to grow ever more rural as I kept a look out for the junction where a lane would take me to Llantillio Pertholey. There, I stopped by its church before continuing along the lane underneath the A465.

That lane was to carry me most of the way to the southern end of Ysgyryd Fawr, save perhaps for following a public footpath to gain respite from tarmac treading. What I really wanted to reach was the National Trust car park from where a path would take to the summit and that was achieved without too much intrusion from road traffic. This also was where I found my first short stretch of the Beacons Way.

Now that I look at maps of the area again, it strikes me as odd how I did not pick up this trail in the middle of Abergavenny and go about following it from there. Regardless of this oversight, it was to take up onto Ysgyryd Fawr and I soon was to feel the effort of the ascent on an afternoon of growing heat. The way up through Caer Wood felt longer than it was and I soon enough was above the trees and making for the trig point on the actual top of the hill. False summits were encountered before that, not that they unduly perturbed my mental state.

Other folk were about too and there was plenty of space for all of us on this small patch of access land owned and managed by the National Trust. When I reached the trig point, I had the place to myself with the all the views of Wales and England that lay before me. It was if a lack of proximity to Abergavenny made the hill something of an oasis from humankind.

Then, I reckon that I retraced my steps to rejoin the Beacons Way to drop onto a lane near Pant-y-tyle. Heading west along that lane brought me to a public footpath that crossed some fields to reach Crossways. By this point, my exposure to the heat of the day had been such I fancied easier strolling so tarmac tramping was my lot as I returned to Abergavenny for the night. All the while, the cleft for which Ysgyryd Fawr is best know lay hidden from view as if largely did while I was on top of it too. Nevertheless, that was of little concern on a blissfully fine sunny midsummer evening ambling through a little piece of Wales.

2014-06-22

After what I recall as a fitful night’s rest because of overnight heat, I rose next morning to breakfast and attended to some needs before setting off for somewhere that I had not visited for more than a decade. A warm summer’s day lay ahead of me so I was glad that my objective was near at hand. Uphill progress in the heat was to be steady with recourse to rest and rehydration stops at short intervals.

What I was revisiting was the top of Y Fâl, or Sugar Loaf as it is known in English. The previous visit was on a Sunday day trip when a lunchtime arrival did nothing to stop me reaching where I wanted to go. It appears that happened during April 2003 and preceded the entry both of this blog and digital photography into my life. It also was early in my hillwalking “career” so there may have been a little foreboding about scaling heights too.

After a spot of exploration around the centre of Abergavenny, that first walk to Y Fâl took me along a valley named on Ordnance Survey maps as The Park.The passage of time means that my memory of how I got from there to the top of Sugar Loaf is patchy but it seems that I may have struck on fairly directly for the top of Sugar Loaf rather than gaining some height before heading west to scale the rest of the ascent as could be another possibility.

It might have been that lack of hill climbing experience but the sharp pull at the end is one that has not been lost on me. Another memory that remains is that of seeing lads messing around on National Trust land with a car before turning it over. It was my horror on seeing such callous disregard for pleasant countryside that made the sight so unforgettable. That was on a broad low ridge called Deri. Quite what lead me that far east is erased by years of other cares but it must have been an on the spot decision inspired by the sunny spring evening.

Thankfully, no such environmental mindlessness was not to blight the repeat visit. The way out from Abergavenny may have been the same as before until I went for a new deviation that would involve a narrow lane that took me to the foot of Rholben. Whether there had been a shortcut taken on a public footpath is lost to me (a lot has happened in my life since then) but I clearly recall the final turn onto a track amid some trees where a phone call to Ireland was made. My now departed father possibly never realised where I was.

That tree cover was soon lost and scaling some steep slopes was sweaty work in the afternoon heat before the gradients relented to allow for some gentle hilltop strolling before the final approach upped the ante again. Y Fâl lay ahead all the while and steady progress got me to its summit without undue hardship. That was not how it felt the last time around and I am left wondering if it might have been previous lack of exposure to such heights that had more to do with it.

What I found on top along with panoramic views  was a cheeky ewe and her lamb. Aside perhaps from odd thoughts about sandwich theft, there was little need for concern and these are sure-footed creatures anyway. Hardly anyone else shared the views with me, which is just as well given the narrow wedge that was offering a vantage point. Still, there is enough space for more than one person at a time as I found on that previous visit.

For the way down, I did not retrace my steps but chose a circuitous route around the hill’s northern fringes before starting on a relatively gentle descent towards Twyn Gwyn that me by horses and cattle. My pace was relaxed so I took in both the ambience and the sights that lay about me. Again, it felt as if I had the place to myself aside from any domestic animals. Quite what allowed that to happen is anyone’s guess but the heat of the day cannot have been any encouragement for other ramblers.

The way down allowed another sighting of the hill that I had walked the day before, Ysgyryd Fawr. In front, there was the low ridge of Deri down which I descended the last time. Then, it had not cast off its winter coat but it was easily all green this time around. Everywhere looks greener around midsummer in Britain or Ireland.

My downhill route eventually landed me in The Park and I noticed the heat more keenly than I had while I was up higher. It was just as well that I had a clear track to follow to Port-y-parc where I met up with tarmac again. As I continued down into the centre of Abergavenny and then onto its train station, other possibilities dawned on me. Ysgyryd Fach and Blorenge both lie near Abergavenny and there also are thoughts of returning to Brecon’s nearby hills along with those of the Black Mountain. It had been a satisfying and restorative weekend so there is every reason to follow up on those ideas.

Travel arrangements:

Return train journey between Macclesfield and Abergavenny. What I cannot recall now is whether I changed trains at Stockport or elsewhere like Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury. Both remain plausible possibilities if I was to repeat the journey today.

Walks around Barmouth in different decades

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

Currently, I find myself in uncertain times. The cause is the recent vote on Britain’s membership of the European Union when a small yet significant majority supported leaving it. As someone who hails from the Republic of Ireland, that adds doubt to the prospect of my remaining where I have lived for more than twenty years. My being a non-British national making use of my rights to freedom of movement is but a part of this. Such has been the nature of public discourse during the referendum campaign that this no longer feels like home and I feel less a part of a place where I have felt acceptance before now.

All this is enough to cause me to stop and review my life situation, especially with the need to complete outstanding family business in Ireland after the change of last year. A career break would be welcome and it might allow me to ponder next steps. Obtaining British citizenship is one option that I am exploring seriously and moving to another EU country like Germany could be another. After all, it could make a good base for exploring the Alps as would Switzerland (though it is not in the EU) if opportunities arise there. Either would be a big change since my explorations of Britain would be much reduced and the focus of this blog and the whole website would change dramatically as a result.

Considerations like these were non-existent a decade ago when I considered myself a integral part of British society. That sense of settlement was enough to allow me to spend much time to be exploring the delights of hill country in Scotland, Wales and England. Many of those inspired entries on here and there are more to relate. One from November 2014 reminded me of another from the middle of the last decade, a simpler time that even pre-dated the existence of this blog. With all the current tumult, it is good to think back to then because recollections of happier times help us to get through the tougher ones that come our way from time to time.

A Spring Bank Holiday Weekend

Memories are faded now but I reckon that the occasion was in 2005 when I paid a visit to Dolgellau on that year’s Spring Bank Holiday weekend. It was to be a weekend visit and Cadair Idris was the lure. However, it had escaped my notice that this was the weekend of Ras y gader, a fell race up and down the very mountain that had drawn me in the first place. If I had an accommodation booking, this would have been of no consequence and I was in the habit of turning up at the local tourist office on the day to organise such matters back then. There was no luck in Dolgellau and the nearest vacancy was in Llwyngwril. This threw out whatever plans I might have had and I asked about Machynlleth instead.

With accommodation booked in Machynlleth, I pottered about Dolgellau a little before catching the next bus there. It was an overcast and rainy afternoon but things were cheerier when I reached Machynlleth. Strolling about the town, I sorted out something to eat and passed one of the marker stones of the Glyndŵr’s Way as I explored the place. Later on, I re-planned my weekend.

Looking at travel possibilities and pondering other considerations, I settled on a trot about Barmouth. Next morning, I caught the bus that followed the coast as it went between Machynlleth and Dolgellau serving such places as Aberdovey, Tywyn, Llwyngwril and Fairbourne. It was at the road end for Ynysgyffylog and Morfa Mawddach train station where I left the bus and where I caught it again in the evening for the return journey to Machynlleth. In between, there was to be a lot of stravaiging.

Firstly, I made for the Mawddach Trail and then crossed the tolled pedestrian bridge to get across the Mawddach river (the return trip was 50p then) to Barmouth where I had business to do before setting off into the countryside. With that out of the way, I set to ascending a steep path that took me by the first ever piece of land acquired by the now ubiquitous National Trust. Even now, I have recollections of seeing sea thrift as I did so in the bright sunshine.

After the sweaty climb, things levelled and I bumbled along a variety of paths. What tempted me was the prospect of an out and back walk to Diffwys, one of the Rhinogydd so that was the general direction that I took. The course was not direct though as I navigated the footpath network but I believe that I must have passed Cell-fechan and Gellfawr before heading north with views of the pastoral coastline ahead of me. Eventually, I would have turned east on a path that took me towards Bwlch y Rhiwgyr where the time of day caused me to set aside any thoughts of reaching the top of Diffwys. That was to wait until February 2010 when an out and back walk from Dyffryn Ardudwy got me there.

Cadair Idris from Cerrig Arthur, Barmouth, Gwynedd, Wales

The descent of good sense was no disappointment for the change of course was to gift me views of Cadair Idris like the one you see above. The lovely sunny day and the seasonal hight of the sun in the sky was enough to ensure that. In wintertime, the north face of Cadair Idris is often shrouded in shadow so that makes it a difficult photographic prospect.  The unexpected collection of three standing stones aroused my curiosity and, while there are not as dramatic a site as others of their kind, there are prominent enough to get highlighted on OS maps. What I had found was Cerrig Arthur.

From there I returned to Barmouth by a more direct route that still followed public footpaths to cut down on road walking. The evening was delightful with a mix bright sunshine and perfect views whose impressions have not been erased that much by the passage of time. Though I might have liked to hang around longer, there was a bus to catch so my time in Barmouth was fleeting and I returned across the toll bridge to make sure that I was in time for my bus to Machynlleth. Next day, I stopped off for a short time in Dolgellau on my way home for one last hurrah on a weekend that had not been unkind to me.

A Pleasant November Afternoon

It was to take me until November 2014 before I would go walking about Barmouth again. There were accommodation foibles this time around too but it was not finding a place to stay that was the issue for I have learned my lesson and nowadays book ahead before I travel. Another problem was to arise.

Because I went for a walk around Llangollen the day before, I stayed in the town that night and at a hotel that I had used a few times previously. After the day of walking, I was hoping for a quiet relaxing night. What I had not expected was that the night’s entertainment was to set off the fire alarm so many times that the band had to finish early. If the band was called The Blunders as I remember it, then it was particularly apt.

The result was two unhappy sets of customers. First, there were the hotel’s overnight guests who did not get the quiet night that they might have expected until all the fuss had subsided; some cancelled their payments in disgust. Then, there were those after a good night out and had travelled a distance to see the band in question. Neither were satisfied and it was one of those nights that are best not repeated. As it happens, I have not been there since then but that has more to do with my not visiting the area rather than any fury at what happened.

Still, a night’s rest was had once everything had calmed down again and the next morning saw me catch a bus to Barmouth. A midday arrival with short daylight hours along with heaviness in my legs after the previous day’s exertions meant that I was going to keep things simple.

The fine winter sunshine and the location meant that nothing more than that was needed so I pottered about a quiet Barmouth for a little while before picking out the path that was to take me by Dinas Oleu and Gorllwyn. There was height to be gained but I took my time and recall no overextension as I dealt with the intricacies or passing through a network of small walled fields.

Mawddach Estuary as seen from Panorama Walk, Barmouth, Wales

Cadair Idris & Tyrrau Mawr, Bontddu, Gwynedd, Wales

Eventually, I found my way onto the single track road between Barmouth and Sylfaen and that was left so I could sample the glorious views from the viewpoint at the Panorama Walk. Even though it was November, others were about too and what was a mild afternoon for the time of year. Views along the Mawddach estuary were in plentiful supply and there was Cadair Idris on the other side, shrouded in its habitual wintertime shadows.

Diffwys, Bontddu, Gwynedd, Wales

Garn Fach & YGarn, Bontddu, Gwynedd, Wales

Because it led downhill and away from my objective of Cerrig Arthur, I eschewed the track leading towards Cutiau and returned to the road. Well lit views towards the Rhinogydd and their foothills lay ahead of me as I shortened the distance to Sylfaen. Diffwys and Craig y Grut lay among their number and I delighted on seeing both from this side again.

Cerrig Arthur & Craig Y Grut, Barmouth, Gwynedd, Wales

After Sylfaen, the road became a gravel track and the time of day concentrated my mind when it came to seeking out the antiquity on which I had happened in 2005. Hazy memories made for an indirect course and there was no one around to get upset about that. Once I relocated the three standing stones, I set to making some photos in the late afternoon light. Lengthening shadows made this tricky but I managed what I came to do and returned again to a quiet Barmouth well ahead of the time to start my homeward journey. Those few hours reminded me of the delights of the area and why I should focus my mind and set a few days aside to explore around there sometime soon.

Travel arrangements:

Bus service X94 from Llangollen to Barmouth and the way back to Wrexham. Train journey from Wrexham to Macclesfield.

Two visits to Llangollen

Monday, April 25th, 2016

It feels like a different world now that I look back on it but 2014 had its share of hill country excursions and these have yet to be recalled on here. All this came before my father’s passing away near the start of 2015 and thoughts turned elsewhere afterwards. Naturally, there was grieving as I moved into an era with work to be done with my late father’s estate. In fact, some of that remains outstanding yet and that still weighs on my mind a little as does the fact that neither of my parents are there any more.

More cheerful distractions have occupied my mind too for I can begin to consider overseas explorations like those to Iceland and Switzerland last year. Associated mental meanderings still entertain me with recent explorations of the prospects of North American wilderness wandering still bringing their own learning episodes. While I am realistic about the chances of making those possibilities real, learning more more about other parts of the world is good too.

One of the risks of doing this is that far flung shores bedazzle me when similar delights are nearer to hand. In other words, they could have curtailed the motivation that once got me out and about the hill country of Britain and Ireland. Certainly, 2015 saw me doing less of such things and my main holiday breaks were spent overseas too. Still, you cannot journey among overseas mountains without doing so among home hills and I hope to rekindle those again.

A stormy winter has not helped that and the other topsy turviness of the past twelve months meant that I took to local cycling trips in a big way. That restored my cycling confidence after a break of around two years so I am not complaining. If it helps my going on cycling trips away from my home turf, it would be even better.

All remained ahead of me in 2014 and dared not to go foreseeing the future. There was enough on my plate with my keeping an eye on how my elderly father was doing back then. It was plain that he was not going be there forever so the focus was on what then was the present. It was a time where breaks were much needed so that got me out among hills on foot.

One might have thought that Christmas 2013 would been tough going after the passing away of mother earlier in the year but I was to find the one a year later much harder for a variety of reasons. My father must have gotten to thinking that Christmas 2014 was his last and it sure enough was. It may have meant that he had a dream for it that could not be made real so that did not help. That a neighbour began talk about plans for Christmas 2015 was no help either and became another obstacle to overcome as if grief itself was not enough.

Maybe it is now that those are behind me that I can begin to write these words because ever Christmas is becoming something to surmount with a breather afterwards. Forgetting the next one until it comes now is my way and it could have been that way for a while since I relished the peace of January and February even when my parents still were there.

After the ups and downs of early 2013, 2014 got a steady start and things were settling into a rhythm with my father though his fragile health meant that nursing home care was his lot even if never was one that he wanted. This semi-steadiness where a new set of circumstances had become familiar meant that my mind could to hill wandering and the middle of January 2014 saw a weekend visit to Llangollen.

2014-01-19

To make sure that I actually did make it to North Wales, I booked an overnight stay in Llangollen. It helped that it would not mean an early start of Saturday to get there and I also broke any rut into which I had fallen by spending a night away from home. It was an uneventful stay too and the quiet of the dining room next morning was a reminder of how early in the year it was.

Castell Dinas Bran, Langollen, Denbighshire, Wales

It was a frosty morning too as I dawdled around Llangollen. Though  I had a day of walking ahead of me, it would have been rude to leave the place in haste with the sun out like it was. There was some clag about too and it circled the ruins of Castell Dinas Brân but that was to burn off.

Soon enough, I found my way to the canal whose banks I was to follow out into the countryside. It also was the start of my shadowing the River Dee, a trend that was to follow for much of the day. That way out from Llangollen is familiar to me from many walks around there so it was a case of following the towpath, enjoying what lay about me and keep an eye on progress. Helping with the last of these were landmarks like the Royal International Pavilion and the train sheds of the Llangollen Railway.

The canal ends near the Horseshoe Falls, an attraction for many a stroller. Beyond this, I had a little bit of navigating to do but a clear path was on hand to get me onto the road near Llantysilio’s church, where I stayed a while to see if the sun would return from behind a cloud again to light it for a photo. It was not so willing so I got going again.

Road walking was my lot for a short while until I found the path that was to take me around by  Llandynan. This was to take me through forestry where I was not so sure of where the path was. After some deliberation, I made my way out the other side to reach the collection of houses that I was seeking and where I was surprised by the course from there to Rhewl.

Pen-y-bryn, Llandynan, Denbighshire, Wales

Rhewl too is a small place and I dallied there to make sure of where I was headed next. Once I was decided, the course was plain: follow a tarmacked byway uphill. This took me along part of the Clwydian Way and I found it steeper than anything I had met before that day so stops were needed on the way. The scenery on view beyond the trees provided ample excuses, especially given that the sun was out again. One of those was where the road ended so I could take stock of what lay ahead of me. Though I though it them a series of rocky outcrops at the time, I also got to gaze at quarry spoil heaps that I was to pass later on.

On the other side of the gate, a gravel track awaited and initial progress was across gentler gradients. Around the next corner, the way that the track was cut into the hillside became clear to me and it took an enticing line. Some height was lost so that had to be regained again on the way up to the pass between Moel y Gaer and Moel y Gamelin. With what surrounded me, it was a minor chore.

Once at the pass, I had a decision to make. Did I want to take in Moel Morfydd and Moel y Gaer before visiting Moel y Gamelin? Looking at the time, I made straight for the latter and it was to be the November visit when I trotted over the other two, not that I foresaw that at the time.

There is no right of way over Moel y Gamelin so it is just as well that this was access land and more folk were around there than elsewhere. Quite where they started was not clear to me but the day’s weather had drawn them just like me. There still was no crowding though and occasional friendly greetings accompanied the much needed episodes of soothing solitude.

Eglwyseg Mountain, Llangollen, Denbighshire, Wales

All the heat generated by the height gain resulted in the shedding of layers such that one might have thought that I’d thought it a spring day. There had been one last heave needed to get to the top of Moel y Gamelin and open up views over the Horseshoe Pass in all directions, including the distinctive Eglwyseg Mountain to the east. Though it was well into the afternoon, I was drawn as far as the top of neighbouring Moel y Faen before retracing my steps to pick up a public footpath that was to be the first leg of my return to Llangollen.

That hugged the steep hillside much like the Offa’s Dyke Path crosses the aforementioned Eglwyseg Mountain. Along with the Horseshoe Pass below me, Berwyn Quarry came into view and acted as a reminded that I was in a working landscape. Later, I was to pass behind some of its spoil heaps before moving onto less industrial surroundings. There, paths looked less clear and I went around by Pen-y-Bryn because that was clearest and it usefully dropped me onto the Dee Valley Way near Llandynan so I could retrace my steps to Llangollen along the outbound route, a useful thing in declining light.

Travel arrangements:

Return train journey from Macclesfield to Wrexham. Bus service 5 from Wrexham to Llangollen and bus service 5A for the way back.

2014-11-22

Given the vagaries of the weekend weather forecast, I must have been in need of the getaway that took me to Llangollen on that Saturday before continuing to Barmouth the next day. The tale of the second part of the weekend has been moved to another post but it revisited places that I had not seen since 2005.

Moel y Gamelin, Llandynan, Denbighshire, Wales

For the Llangollen portion of the escapade, I saw to unfinished business earlier in the year when Moel y Gamelin took my fancy. My hilltop objectives then became Moel y Gaer and Moel Morfydd and an early morning departure landed me in Llangollen. The initial stages of the walk even retraced much of the January route apart from sticking with the road as far as Rhewl because the wood near Llandynan did not inspire me when I was last there. The part of the Clwydian Way from there to the gap between Moel y Gamelin and Moel y Gaer was followed more faithfully. There seemed to be more pheasants than people for poor field-craft on my part was causing them to take flight in their usual noisy manner. The theme of unpeopled hills pervaded as good as all of the walk for whatever reason; it might have been the weather but that only can be a guess at best.

While I had started under sunny skies, clouds had staged a coup to show me why the weather predictions had been so variable. As I gained height to reach the the top of Moel y Gaer, rain began to move in to dispel any hopes of much in the way of photos. Though it came and went, the wet theme continued until I was losing height again on the other side of Moel Morfydd, when things dried up for me.

Then, the question of deciding when to turn off the the track I was following came to the fore. This was not a right of way so it helped that I was on access land. Though the track would have taken me to a road that could have made for easier route finding, I decided that it would have gone the long way around and went so far along it for views before turning back to find a public footpath that would get me down part of the way. On open moorland, finding such things without signs takes a certain amount of deduction so a navigational puzzle had been set. The further down I went, the more tricky it got until I finally got myself on the route of the Dee Valley Way as planned. From then on, route finding was more straightforward and became even more so after Rhewl when I merely retraced my steps, albeit in declining light. A night’s rest was to follow before the rest of the weekend took shape.

Though I have yet to go back to see more of Llangollen’s nearby hills, there are excuses for returning. Walking over Moel y Gaer and Moel Morfydd in better weather would be one and following the whole Dee Valley Way is another option. The latter would be a long day walk starting from Corwen and then continuing east as far as Llangollen. Then, there are those ups and downs of which I suspect it has many. It only goes to show that you never can say that an area is done since there always is something new to see.

Travel arrangements:

Return train journey from Macclesfield to Wrexham. Bus service 5 from Wrexham to Llangollen and bus service X94 from there to Barmouth.

Released?

Monday, February 9th, 2015

As anyone with elderly parents should know, life can be a roller coaster ride when their health declines. It certainly has felt that way over the last few years for my family and I. However, escaping out into the countryside has helped in its own way when dealing with life’s rougher moments. Getting through December 2012 certainly called for those head clearing escapes, be they into Tatton Park near Knutsford in Cheshire or along Irish country lanes. Both of my parents were frail then with my mother having been shook up by a hospital visit and my father’s strength in freefall since the summer. By Christmas, he really needed to be in a nursing home but mentioning the subject only resulted in angry exchanges. It took a brush with death due to a kidney infection for the matter to be forced and the issue to get resolved as it needed to be. He still was not intent on staying where he needed to be, and it was a nice place too, so no one could relax and a walk along the Macclesfield Canal between Congleton and Macclesfield as well as a shorter stroll around Buxton were well needed.

What really changed everything was my mother’s passing away not so long before what would have been her eighty first birthday and the loss was a raw one that not only resulted in next to daily evening walks by the River Bollin but also had me venturing further afield is search of a spot of solace. April 2013 saw me make two trips to Derbyshire and the area was to see me more than any other in that year. The of those April visits had me encountering banks of snow left over from a late winter as I hiked from Hayfield to Glossop, rounding Kinder Scout from below as I did so. The weather was much milder later in the month when I embarked on a circular yomp from Bakewell that took in both Ashford-in-the-Water and Monsal Dale. These were followed in June by a walk from Bamford to Edale that took in the southern edge of the Kinder Scout plateau and a walk from Monyash to Bakewell via Lathkill Dale. That last big walk of the year had me passing swollen rivers too; it had been a month of heavy rain and much flooding. A July escape to Fort William that took in Glen Coe and Glenfinnan could not have been more different with its sweltering temperatures and dry sunny weather. There also were sunlit walks from the Cat and Fiddle Inn back to my home that took in Shining Tor and Lamaload Reservoir. The first of these took me onto Rainow and Bollington while I passed close to Shutlingsloe on the second.

The combination of the scare that began 2013 and the loss of our mother meant that I tended to be more precious about my father and I suspect that my brother probably felt the same. The sense was that we could lose him sooner rather than later and it pervaded most of 2013. It sounds churlish to say it now but I started to wonder in the light of my father living longer than we might have expected if it was not before time to abandon any putting of my life on hold that there might have been. That is not to say that there was any sense of abandonment because, if anything, my visits to Ireland became more frequent. For much of 2014, I crossed the Irish Sea on a monthly basis.

In between those though, I began to get out and about again and last summer saw me make three visits to the Lake District. The first was to Buttermere when I crossed the top of Haystacks while the second facilitated a walk from Patterdale to Grasmere that went over the top of St. Sunday Crag and the last revisited Orrest Head and Loughrigg Fell. January and November saw me spend time around Llantysilio Mountain near Llangollen with the first trip enjoying bright sunshine all day and the weather disintegrating to spells of rain while I was up high. That makes an excuse for another return sometime though I did get more than a little compensation from spending some time by the Mawddach estuary near Barmouth the next day. There were more Welsh visits though with a summer solstice one that visited Sgyryd Fawr and Sugar Loaf near Abergavenny and a September retracing of steps between Rhossili and Port-Eynon in glorious weather. Yorkshire too saw a visit before the Tour de France did and that took in Pateley Bridge and Brimham Rocks in Nidderdale on a largely grey day. Northumberland was paid a visit during October with the delights of the coastline around Bamburgh being sampled on a day that felt more like it belonged to summer. Local trots around Macclesfield were not neglected either with Alderley Edge and Hare Hill seeing two visits. A pesky Jack Russell terrier took a set on my left leg the first time around so a hospital visit was advised and no such intrusion was experienced the second time around though I could have done with more sun.

There was more to my normalisation with a bike trainer being put to good use to see if my fitness could be bettered. The second half of 2014 also had my father see a good run of health that lasted until last month. There was a smaller scare in February 2014 but things steadied after that and I felt in the need of all that walking. Still, he was growing weaker as I found during last Christmas and I returned to Britain before New Year sensing that we might be on the cusp of a big change of some sort. In fact, I also wondered to myself how he would fare if he caught an infection. That question was about to get an answer only weeks later. A heavy chest infection was to confine him to bed after a traumatic experience when the nursing home thought him strong enough to sit up in a chair for a while. With that in mind, I made what I thought was a flying weekend visit in case there were to any further developments. Much of Saturday was spent with him and my brother was there too. When we left, he was comfortable and we thought that a peaceful night was in store. That changed after midnight and we dashed to the home. By the time that we got there, he had breathed his last only minutes before. Some would find that heartbreaking but the final peace is what I recall. His suffering was over and that nearly was more important than we might have felt.

A word said during one of the many conversations we had with others over the ensuing days remains with me: release. My brother and I felt it while nearby neighbours were stunned by our father’s departure; they surely felt it more than we did and some were crying on the phone to us. There may be another factor: we both had our homes and our lives while they see breakage in a continuity that they held dear. Also, the period with our father allowed us to come to terms with where things were going and have a partial glimpse of where things would go after he went. Of course, there are ups and downs as well as twists and turns of which we know nothing yet. The turbulence within me after my mother’s passing has not come after my father’s and there are times when I wonder why though that is not to see that there was no weeping or no jabs of the heartstrings. Maybe it’s that sense of release again.

There are matters that need attending yet but my mind also is starting to explore possibilities too. Visits to Ireland are sure to continue but not at the same frequency and certainly not with the same purposes as before though you hardly can abandon your relatives or former neighbours. There may be opportunities to visit places in Connemara, Mayo, Donegal or Wicklow that I have yet to see. That would be continuing something that they did after their own parents were deceased and there was many trip to Kerry and West Cork. Some of those gave me the love of hill country scenery that has taken me around so much of Britain and the Isle of Man. Over the past weekend, I was strolling around old haunts in Edinburgh like Blackford Hill, Bruntsfield Links and The Meadows before crossing over to newer haunts like Dean Village and Edinburgh’s Botanic Gardens. Except for the occasional incursion of rogue clouds, there was sun shining on me throughout and I pondered the possibility of spending a week in the city sometime. Even in a place like Edinburgh, there was much opportunity to wander down memory lane (I graduated from one of the city’s universities) and have time and space to yourself if you needed it. Nearer destinations will remain attractive in a new life situation.

Speaking of memories, there is one that returns to my mind when I mention Edinburgh for I gained a research degree in a science subject while there. My parents were hoping that I would find a job in Ireland afterwards but the world of science is an international one, especially if you fancy a career in academic research. Some of my contemporaries gained post-doctoral jobs in the U.S. and that option did appeal to me not a little. The phrase “seeing the world” came to my notice and sharing it while on a trip back to Ireland must have tugged rather too strongly on parental heartstrings for I was asked to leave such designs until after they were gone. Now, youthful naivety has been displaced by realism so I now am amazed at the sorts of thoughts that went through my mind back then, especially when after experiencing more of the delights of Britain and Ireland.

Even so, that is not to say that I am not tempted by foreign destinations. The likes of the mountains of Canada or New Zealand or the American Rockies may not be what I have in mind but other spots in Europe have a certain allure. For instance, business trips to Sweden appear to cultivated a soft spot from Scandinavian destinations such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark or Iceland. There are areas of hill country in three of those and any photos of Norwegian fjords that I have seen look stunning. The Faroe Islands also have detained my attention and it helps that they are compact too. Going there would build on a 2008 escapade that to Scotland’s Western Isles and the islands of Orkney and Shetland have not missed my attention either. To return to the European theme though, you cannot overlook the Alps or the Pyrenees and they are but some of the mountainous regions on the continent that get mentioned in walking magazines from time to time.

None of this means that responsibilities are about to be overlooked and it can feel that you are able to make new obstacles for yourself too. The ones that appear of their own accord are enough for anyone and a life after my parents will bring its ups and downs will come soon enough. In between, pondering those other destinations may bring its own comfort while realising that short visits only uncover so much. After all, I lived in Edinburgh for over four years and still have parts of it to see anew along with those nooks and crannies that I continue to revisit. As ever, only time will reveal what comes to pass and what adventures may be had yet.


Featured Countries

Monthly Archives

Yearly Archives