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: Raad ny Foillan

A look back at 2011

Monday, December 26th, 2011

For me, 2011 will have to be seen as one when work very much got in the way of hill wandering. Even if it did, I did get out on quite a few excursions over its course and some of them took me places where I hadn’t been before then. Also, there was a sense of unfinished business with a few of them and that always produces ideas for new trips into the outdoors.

January

January started out well with a few trips away. The first was to Wales when I walked from Roman Bridge station on the Conwy Valley railway line to Pen y Pass. A grey start became a glorious afternoon and repaid the nuisance of going through a forestry plantation where the right of way felt unwanted. Slipping on a branch into the wet didn’t help either but it soon forgotten with the pleasure granted soon afterwards. Sometimes, it is worth overcoming any ardour.

The January trip took me north to Fort William. This time, sunshine was in short supply and Fort William was so foggy that anyone would need to ask themselves why they had travelled overnight to get there as I did. Crewe was very foggy when I left it too so this was a general feature and not just a local Scottish one. Nevertheless, a trot down the banks of Loch Shiel was not fogbound and I was pencilling in plans for a return that have yet to be fulfilled. Glenfinnan saw a little sun too though it didn’t last but thoughts of explorations on a longer evening beguile. There’s thoughts of a shorter stroll around Cow Hill near Fort William that too could act as a lure yet.

The last weekend in January saw me use up a ferry booking that was a contingency for getting to Ireland during the pre-Christmas freeze of 2010 but got deferred so as to allow its cancellation and refund. That latter intention got set aside and  I got to have an enjoyable yomp around Howth Head near Dublin. There again was a quota in operation regarding the amount of sunshine but I got enough for photos of Ireland’s Eye and Lambay Island. It would have been nice to have kept it for rounding the headland itself but there was no detraction from my enjoyment apart from the need to return under cover street lights before it became too dark. Finding such a quiet haven so near Dublin was a pleasure and looking across Dublin drew my eyes to the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains. From a previous escapade, I could pick out Great Sugarloaf near Kilmacanogue in County Wicklow. Viewing twinkling street lights from a quiet corner was a contrasting experience too. It’s amazing what Dubliners have on their doorstep.

February & March

The only trip away during these was one that took me to Oxford at the start of February. That certainly wasn’t a waste of a good day and I might be tempted to return again. In fact, it has me wondering about more urban walking destinations now that I recall it. Cambridge certainly has come to mind but there’s more than those with more humble destinations like Shrewsbury, Oswestry, Lancaster and Carlisle all coming to mind briefly once in a while over the last few years.

April, May & June

In another year, the good weather in February and March would have drawn me out in the countryside on a few weekends but 2011 was to see the next chance taken to await the start of April when I walked from Bollington back home while taking in the Kerridge ridge and the White Nancy. It may have been local but became an escape into peace in its own right. It was a reminder that there are places on my doorstep that needed frequenting more often.

It was to take until latter half of the Easter weekend for there to be another trip away from home. Then, it was a return to Llangollen after a gap of a number of years and this was to be my first trip there that involved an overnight stay in the town too. The peace of Easter Sunday evening wasn’t lost on me though it meant leaving the crowds of Llangollen after me and a commotion of bleating to die down once a large party had passed a flock of ewes and lambs. The paths that I was walking were being retraced rather than being trodden anew but that did nothing to detract from the fact that the everyday hurly burly felt a world away. That there was no need to rush home was a blessing too. The next day saw me wandering through countryside where I hadn’t been before and part of the North Berwyn Way for part of my walk. Not planning to cover too much in the way of distance meant that it was an unhurried hike and they always are best. Those who hang around Llangollen without exploring the surrounding countryside really are missing out even if that leaves it quiet for those of us fancying an escape from the frenzy of our working lives.

The Mayday bank holiday weekend immediately followed Easter this year and was extended by a royal wedding too. That encouraged me to head to Cowal for the weekend and it was a worthwhile venture too with three walks on two days. The first took me by the shores of Loch Long and Loch Goil while en route from Ardentinny to Carrick Castle. That was followed by another on the same day: a section of the Cowal Way from the shore of Loch Goil to Strachur. It was all good quiet replenishing fare for the spirit and in a part of the world that must get overlooked a lot as well.

The weather in May wasn’t so encouraging and June was a busy month for me too though it too had its interludes of sunshine. One of those drew me out early one Sunday morning on a cycle from my home around by Pott Shrigley. A January encounter from a few years back had me wondering if some photography when the rhododendron bushes were in flower might be worthwhile. However, I hadn’t bargained on the obscuring power of trees when they are in leaf so I am not so sure about the results evening if the sun was in the right part of the sky. Maybe a trot to the top of nearby Nab Head might end up being more productive.

July

July saw a bumper crop of outings with the first taking me along sections of St. Cuthbert’s Way. That weekend started with a hike from Wooler to Kirk Yetholm whose length left me tired but with a feeling that I have made a real start on exploring the landscape though which I had passed. The next day saw me walk from St. Boswells to Melrose while taking in both Dryburgh Abbey and the Eildon Hills. Lastly, I got to spend a few hours around Melrose Abbey in the summer heat.

The Isle of Man was my next port of call with a walk along Raad ny Foillan from Port Erin to Port St. Mary and then to Castletown. Apart from single shower, I seemed to have managed to pick a single sunny day in the middle of an unsettled spell of weather. It was sunny weather too that drew me to castles and coastline about the Menai Strait. Apart from revisiting Caernarfon and its famous castle, there was Beaumaris Castle and a section of the Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path to be savoured too. That weekend finished with a sunny crossing over the Menai Bridge. It was a contrast to the damp weekend spent in Ireland that preceded it. The last weekend in July saw me pass through mid Wales on the way to Gower. Conditions may not have been perfect or photography either along the Heart of Wales railway or in Gower but these first tastes may be followed later with more.

Remainder of the Year

Autumn had its sunnier interludes too but a busy working life limited my use of them to local cycles. One Saturday, I headed to Hare Hill and Alderley Edge and that has put an afternoon walk between the two into my mind as a future possibility. Others were similar and there were midday walks during a stretch when I worked from home too.

A few days booked away from work in December offered their chances too. The possibilities lined up in form of excursions to Church Stretton, Abergavenny and even Edinburgh. In the event, only the first of these happened and it was a pleasurable outing too with sleet showers doing nothing to dispel any sense of reverie. The leftovers can do for other occasions so I need not be annoyed that they didn’t happen. It’s better not to be greedy.

Looking to 2012

Some years can be more predictable than others, especially when it comes to working lives. There were a few for me when they came close but unpredictability is back again for me. 2012 looks to be a largely open book after a busy 2011 and a 2010 of two halves. Life away from work always is unpredictable so there’s no point attempting to see around all the corners.

On the hill wandering front, there aren’t any big plans for me in 2012 although there is a good number of ideas that are available for turning into real escapades. A little is needed for making that happen and that perhaps is one of the main lessons of 2011. If you cannot plan for an excursion and be ready to get away, then it just won’t happen. A ready supply of ideas and a ready rucksack might turn those ideas into outings and confront any desire for torpor on the way out the door.

More coastal walking on the Isle of Man

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

The change of plans that affected the previous weekend gained something of a silver lining: some extra time away from work. The result of that was another weekend on the Isle of Man to follow the one over twelve months before. In fact, it was near enough to the second anniversary of my first ever excursion to the island. The rain-soaked reception that I then received did nothing to deter me.

As Raad ny Foillan occupied me for much of the 2010 Mayday Bank Holiday Weekend, it was to do the same for this visit too. However, it was another section of the long distance path was to take me south from Port Erin towards the island’s answer to Land’s End before continuing to Port St. Mary and then to Castletown. Though the walking was less strenuous this time around, the coast that I followed had its own drama too and I escaped with just a light shower and what otherwise was an  unsettled weekend as I discovered on an stroll out to Marine Drive from Douglas the evening before.

In contrast both to the previous evening and to the last time that I was there, I was to find Port Erin enjoying blue skies and sunshine the following morning. While not exactly rushing about, I set off shortening the distance to Port St. Mary. Knowing that I could shorten the walk wherever I saw fit meant that I could amble about Port Erin’s Lifeboat Station and develop more of a feeling for the route of the Isle of Man Coastal Path.

Bradda Head from Kione ny Garee, Port Erin, Isle of Man
Port Erin from Kione ny Garee, Isle of Man

With those bearings established, I picked up the line of the coastal path to start gaining some height behind the Marine Biological Station. The energetic expenditure was rewarded by widening views of what surrounds Port Erin Bay, including both Brada Head and Port St. Erin itself. My  new vantage points were granting me another perspective of the start of my walk from Port Erin to Peel more than a year before.

Looking north from Aldrick, Cregneash, Isle of Man

That northbound had hike me feeling very exposed near steep drops into the Irish Sea at various points along its length but that wasn’t to the general feel of its southbound counterpart. That’s not to say that the coastline didn’t have its rugged parts because it did. In fact, when lured inland away from the route of the coastal path, I retraced my steps whenever I did so. That meant that no chance of seeing coastal drama got missed and one such occasion was just north of Aldrick and the time spent more well worth the time taken.

Calf of Man, Isle of Man
Calf of Man as seen from the east, Isle of Man

Approaching the Calf Sound meant that I was back sharing the sights with more folk again and for the first time since I left Douglas as well. Port Erin was quiet and I leaving it as was the coastal trail south from there. There were other folk out enjoying the scenery like myself and following the coastal path too but everyone had plenty of space. Having to walk a little further from an easy vantage point that well accessible by car. Being able to take in the sights from a cafe provided even more of a lure.

After getting an ice cream at the cafe myself, I found a quiet corner with a bench where I could enjoy it. All that was needed was a little along Radd ny Foillan in the direction of Port St. Mary. It never seems to amaze me how easy it can be to lose any vestige of crowding.

After the rest stop, I set off to go around Spanish Head (a name that reminds me of Spanish Point in County Clare in Ireland while having a very different character) and Bay Slacka. To ensure that nothing got overlooked, there was some toing and froing of the kind that I enjoyed more recently in hills near Church Stretton in Shropshire. Rushing just didn’t seem to be on the agenda.

After leaving the wilder countryside that is under the care of the Manx National Trust, it was time to make for Port St. Mary where a decision was to be made. Before reaching any conclusions, there was a need to revisit to a public convenience to retrieve one of my walking poles. There was a shower of rain too, the only one that found me on the day, that had me playing with ending my walk in Port St. Mary instead of continuing to Castletown. The shower faded and I chose the latter course.

Gansey Point was passed on the way towards the main road between Port St. Mary and my eventual destination. Due to geography, I needed to use a footway by the side of that road for a little while. Making god progress meant that it wasn’t long before I left it for a single track lane south to Pooilavaaish with views of hills behind me and to my my right.

The road’s end meant that a track took me through a farmyard and passing a quarry meant that I was following a right of way through fields. Any sheep that I passed didn’t seem to be too perturbed by my presence and careful attention to my map meant that no foolishness manifested itself.

Castletown seen though a meadow, Isle of Man
Close ny Chollagh, Castleton, Isle of Man

In time, I was to find myself on the coastal side of a wall and in fields no longer. There now were views of Castletown, my destination for the day, along with sights of the effects of coastal erosion. From then on, I also was beginning to encounter more people again with a trail biking group among them; though I had misgivings seeing motorbikes going over rocky coastline, I decided on keeping my views to myself since it looked a big organised party. Dispelling what remained of the peaceful ambiance of the evening didn’t seem sensible when it might be an occasional event anyway.

Once past the trail bikers, I was back on tarmac again and steadily nearing Castletown. As I did so,I met with a father and son wondering if the way I had come was a quiet way to Port St. Mary. Since they were on bicycles and I had crossed stiles, I put them going along the main road for sake of ease for themselves.

My entry into Castletown was accompanied by cloudy skies, putting paid to any ambitions of close up photos of Castle Rushen and its surroundings. That needs to be an excuse for a return and they always come in handy. After all, Castletown is a pretty spot and I have more of the Isle of Man to be seeing.

Travel Arrangements:

Return train journey between Macclesfield and Liverpool with a change at Stockport on the outbound leg and at Manchester on the return. A return ferry crossing took me from Liverpool to Douglas on the Isle of Man. Bus service 1 from Douglas to Port Erin and bus service 11 from Castletown to Douglas.

A note to self

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

The year is fast coming to an end as if often never fails to do on me. Posts still await writing for July excursions so I am knocking in some photos so that I can make something of them over the Christmas and New Year break from the everyday, instead of nearly forgetting one of them as I did until a few days ago. There’s a repeat visit to the Isle of Man, a first trot around Anglesey and a combined reconnaissance that took in the Heart of Wales railway and the Gower. Both of those offer prospects for future visits and it’s a good way to end a year thinking that there’s always more to see. 2011 has been a busy one for me and I hope that 2012 lets me out of doors more often. Hopefully anyone coming across this piece will have a good Christmas and New Year. Maybe a few walks may come about for you. As usual, I have no grand designs on such things though surprises can happen. During the slow start of a year that is January, there hopefully will be a chance to gather a few ideas before the frenzy of spring comes out way.

Movement

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

Since I have been adding musings regarding the delights of exploring the countryside on hear for over five year, I an pondering a little relocation. Recently, the part of the website that used be called the miscellany has been refashioned into travel jottings and correspondingly moved to a new home on the website. It was that spot thinking that got me looking at the possibility of doing something for my outdoors musings (replacing "blog" with "outdoors" in the address is what I have in mind) albeit with a good deal in the way of redirection for regular visitors. That's because I wouldn't want you to miss anything.

What may been apparent this year is that there have been less postings on here. The main reason for that is that work has been getting in the way of life more than used to be the case and I hope that things don't keep going like that. Saying that, there have been outdoors that been needing writing up too and the last few weeks has seen me add to that number. The first of these escapades had me sampling more of St. Cuthbert's Way, this time walking all of the way from Wooler to Kirk Yetholm. Having suffered reminders from my knees regarding what I'd done, it was just as well that the next day took an easier tack with a trot from St. Boswell to Melrose with some time spent around Dryburgh Abbey too. While there was a section taking me through the Eildon Hills, it wasn't too harsh at all. In fact, the heat of the day was reduced by the arrival of some cloud cover though it did break up while I explored the Eildons, taking in each of the three tops of what once was called Trimontium. Well, the Romans certainly didn't mess around when it came to naming things. The final day of my borders escape involved a bit more in the way of dawdling and, given the heat of the day, that was just as well and I got to see more of Melrose Abbey too.

A short visit to the Isle of Man came to pass too with another hike along the island's coastal path, Raad ny Foillan. Though the weather was a little on the temperamental side, there only was a single light shower during the time that I walked from Port Erin to Castletown and that was around Port St. Mary. This section is not as strenuous as the one between Port Erin and Peel. However, that is not to say that rounding the southwest  corner of the Isle of Man is not without appealing coastline because it happens to be one of those sections that gets good press and that's not without reason.

After those, what's needed is to process a few of the photos that came away with me from those trips without a full report and set to doing some writing. Given that the weather is being unsettled at the moment, I just need to set some time aside for doing just that. After all, there are visits of Llangollen and Cowal that deserve sharing.


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