Outdoor Discoveries

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: Anglesey

A look back at 2011

26th December 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.

Surveying castles and coastline on either side of the Menai Strait

24th December 2011

Caernarfon Castle, Gwynedd, Wales
Cefn-du from Caernarfon, Gwynedd, Wales

The third weekend in July brought plenty of bright sunshine. It was enough to get heading to north-west Wales, albeit with a later start that got delayed further thanks to a problem on the West Coast Mainline around its Trent valley section. Nevertheless, my plan to revisit Caernarfon after an absence for quite a few years was far from stymied. Then, I based myself there on a weekend that took in some of the countryside around Llanberis and some of that surrounding Beddgelert. Both took the form of reconnaissance trips and I do recall enjoying the latter more than the former. Maybe it had something to do with my poking around slate mine workings near Llanberis instead of seeing less scarred parts. While I cannot be certain of that being how that weekend’s trip there went, such can be the format of first visits that you end up looking at the wrong side first. Since then, I have explored the more appealing sides of the hills surrounding Llanberis and neglected those around Beddgelert. It’s amazing what turns things can take and it would be no bad idea to return to Beddgelert again.

Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey, Wales

The next morning saw me head to Anglesey to gain a flavour of its coastal path after spending a night in Bangor. My starting point was Beaumaris so I took advantage of the morning sunshine for making some photos of its castle, one of the famed antiquities of North Wales. With possibilities well used, I left after me those planning on spending more time around there to continue north-westwards along the coastal path, all the while looking across towards the hills of Snowdonia.

The path first crossed fields before taking me along a roadside footway. All at this point felt like light work and Beaumaris and its attendant day trippers seemed a world away. However, the course of the Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path eventually drew me onto a stony beach and passage along there was both slower and required much more effort. At the time, it seemed more like drudgery and I welcomed the brief return to tarmac when it finally come. In fact, there was one more beach crossing before I finally was on the minor road headed for Trwyn Penmon, Penmon Point in English.

With only a few cars passing the way, this road walking wasn’t lacking in pleasure. The remains of Penmon’s ruined priory looked modest though there was a nearby dovecote too. Also, I was tempted to explore a path leading away from the road but left it in favour of ensuring my making a bus back from the end of my walk. As it happened, I would have had the time but preferred to be sure than sorry.

Trywyn Du Lighthouse and Ynys Seiriol, Llangoed, Anglesey, Wales

A man was out collecting tolls from any passing cars for this was private land. Penmon Point would be a lure and there were a good few folk about when I got there. Before then, there was more peaceful road walking. When I got there, I was to find that public convenience marked on my O.S. map wasn’t as publicly available as I had hoped it to be; it was for patrons of the cafe only. Another feature of the cafe was that it seemed best set up for sit down customers and not those who wanted any sort of take away service. Even picking an ice cream from the freezer and taking it to the till for payment wasn’t been encouraged. With a journey ahead of me, I kept going and the place lost a customer, unlike its counterpart near the Calf Sound on the Isle of Man.

From Penmon Point, I had earth underfoot and not tarmac. That more usual state of affairs was more amenable to me as good progress was made under blue skies and strong sunshine. Though not far from the sea, the warmth of the day was unmissable too. Glan-yr-Afon was where I was going to take my leave of the coastal path and a search and rescue helicopter was to be seen as I weaved my way there. Sirens could be heard too so it appeared that a rescue was ongoing though I learnt no more about it since then.

Dropping into Glan-yr-Afon, I picked up a right of way that was leading to the right and towards Llandona. Due to bus connections, I was wondering if ending my walk would be practical and it was in Glan-yr-Afon that I finally decided that it was. Going through inland fields instead of coastal ones was a departure yet the hills of Snowdonia and the sea that came between them and me both returned to my line of sight. The heat of the day was more noticeable at this point as well and especially so when I returned to tarmac again.

The last stretch of the hike took me through Llandona’s common land. It was unusual to again glimpse heathery moorland after all the travel through pasture. While another time might have seen me explore a little of it, this wasn’t to be one of them. On the last stretch of the way into Llandona, I saw a bus turning while on its way to Beaumaris and this was the one that would return to take me to Menai Bridge. While awaiting its return, I pottered about the village to if it had a shop but, finding it with none, I returned to the bus stop again. The wait there was the cause of reddening my hands due to the strength of the sun but another would be passenger join me, providing reassurance if I needed it.

Menai Strait, Bangor, Gwynedd, Wales

My initial intentions might have been to go all of the way from Llandona to Bangor but visions of the azure waters of the Menai Strait had me get off at Menai Bridge instead. There followed a short but slightly unsettling trot over the bridge after which the village got its name. Before leaving for the bridge, there was a chance to to top up on refreshments that was very welcome. The bridge crossing allowed for a photography session of sorts and the whole venture usefully tied in with a convenient passing bus to Bangor’s train station.

The weekend had been one of many contrasts and I suppose that it shows that a few little visits pulled together can become a satisfying whole. That is not to say that I haven’t left without an excuse to return sometime because I’d like to see the hills of Snowdonia from Anglesey in pleasing evening light. There’s only so much that can be done with light from earlier in the day and I have the efforts of others. That they turned so superb makes the lure of making my own images all the stronger.

Travel Arrangements:

Train journey from Macclesfield to Bangor with changes at Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe and Chester. Bus services: 5 between Bangor and Caernarfon; 58 from Bangor to Beaumaris; 58 from Llandona to Menai Bridge; 44A from Menai Bridge to Bangor. Train from Bangor to Macclesfield.

A note to self

20th December 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.

Trip reports in progress

23rd November 2011

A weekend may have been spent around Cowal during the spring but it has taken until now to get the trip report more or less written, such has been the course that my life has taken. Just setting down the words took me back to that weekend and even to other walking trips where peace and quiet were abundant. That ambiance made it feel far, far away from the pressures of modern life and even recalling them is enough to distance myself from everyday cares and concerns. It’s the sort of thing that makes me want to undertake new trips featuring more of the same.

Though there may have been only two days of walking, there still has been enough written that a single posting would be very long so I am splitting it. After those entries, I need to share other outings too: Northumberland & Scottish Borders, Isle of Man, Northwest Wales and Gower. These may date from a few months ago but the pleasant experiences of walking out in the countryside remain fresh as I discovered while reliving those I enjoyed around Cowal.

In recent months, my excursions into the countryside have been around Macclesfield and involved cycling rather than walking. That there has been so much sunny weather this past autumn has made these snatches possible though it have been nicer to have had longer escapades too. Even the shorter local ones have left me with ideas to follow up such as an out and back stroll from Alderley Edge to Hare Hill and overlooking Pott Shrigley from Nab Head. Both are short outings but they could come in handy on the short days that abound this time of year. Of course, I feel the need to go further afield but I need to do some pondering and planning before something comes of that; a certain Cameron McNeish is editing a new magazine called Scottish Walks that could come in handy as will the ones that I usually consult. Before and during those though, there are some trips to share.

War Memorial, Lazaretto, Ardnadam, Argyll, Scotland

Introductions and reintroductions

31st July 2011

July hasn't been too unkind to us this year though that is far from being the case always as anyone with a memory can tell. That has meant a fair few weekends away for me and this one introduced me to Swansea and the Gower (the non-usage of the word peninsula is deliberate). Though were white skies instead of blue ones, the few hours spent around Rhossili were pleasant enough to leave me pondering a return when there are blue skies and sunshine. The coastline that I saw certainly was sufficiently alluring to deserve a return and one reconnaissance outing can be the starting point for more.

Speaking of starting points, I travelled to and from Swansea this past weekend  via the Heart of Wales train line to see what the countryside surrounding it is like and what the railway has its supporters. Grey skies didn't show things at their best but there were shapely steep-sided hills on which to set eyes but it looks as if a little more homework is in order before this part of Powys starts to see me exploring it. Much of the countryside looks lush with tree-lined fields so it can be difficult not to think it dramatic enough for further attention. In fact, it took the second journey through there for me to start to see the potential that exists for hill wandering and travel plans will need careful thought too. As things stand, this will remain a work in progress for now.

Last weekend also saw me head to Wales. This time, my attention centred around the Menai Strait with visits to Caernarfon and Bangor together with a little time to savour the Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path between Beaumaris and Glan-yr-afon. Following a public footpath and a spot of road walking extended the trot to Llandona and a stroll over Thomas Telford's bridge over the Menai Strait was fitted in too. It was the prospect of viewing the hills of Snowdonia from afar that drew me and could do so again. It was a weekend of hot sunshine and blue skies, which was a bonus though hydration and avoiding sunburn were items needing attention too.

With all the gallivanting in recent weeks, there is a pile of trip reports needing writing and they include those earlier escapades from the Easter and Mayday bank holiday weekends too. Nevertheless, the one for my Easter visit to the Vale of Llangollen is nearing completion with photos and final edits needed before it appears on here after what feels like quite a delay. Also, it is around this time of year that I have been known to take a longer trip away but I have no idea what's going to come of such a venture this year. There are ideas in mind but weather is looking a bit uncertain so it'll be a case of telling what happens after any event rather than following any fixed notion. If anything does happen, it'll add to that backlog but that is a non-complaint with what getaways do for the mind and spirit.