Outdoor Excursions

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: Offa’s Dyke Path

A bitter blustery day on Moel Famau

Sunday, April 18th, 2021

Though there were plenty of things on my mind like executing my next career moves at the end of a long break, times certainly were simpler in February 2018 than they are now. Personal income was reduced heavily but I also controlled expenditure far better. Also, time largely was my own so I could pop out on day trips whenever the weather allowed so a sunny day was enough to lure me to Moel Famau, a place on which I had designs for more than a decade. A weekday excursion allowed for better public transport options so the previous stymied trip idea became a real outing.

Sign for Moel Famau, Loggerheads, Flintshire, Wales

Ironically, the trip that never happened was inspired by a bus timetable leaflet then produced by the now defunct Cheshire County Council. Instead, I was to encounter other parts of the Clwydian Range on a hike from Denbigh to Ruthin and on another than carried me from Llangollen to Wrexham when Ruthin seemed to far to reach that Sunday evening. Belatedly after those, I was not only to encounter the Clwydian Range but actually potter along part of its length.

River Alyn, Loggerheads Country Park, Mold, Flintshire, Wales

My timing also coincided with a school mid-term break and Loggerheads Country Park had attracted families but simply continuing on my way was enough to leave them after me. Given that there were many other spots that granted me more in the way of the solitude that I so relished, that was just as well. To get closer to those, I just followed the River Alyn as it flowed past limestone outcrops and was completely unaware that, behind them, most of the hill of Cefn Mawr was eaten up by a quarry. It just goes to show, that even in Wales, limestone country can hide such a thing.

The full revelation of the extent of scarring left on the landscape by Cefn Mawr Quarry needed some height gain and that was ahead of me if I wanted to reach the top of Moel Famau. Before that though, I remained by the banks of the River Alyn until I left the track to cross the river and some muddy fields to reach Bryn Alyn. There was a road-based route that would have taken me around by Bryn y Castell but I fancied keeping that to a minimum at this stage, possibly a good idea since so much tarmac travel was to occupy the end of the day’s walking.

Nevertheless, continuing uphill from Bryn Ayn on a minor road was needed to get me onto a bridleway that would round Ffrith Mountain and get me most of the way to Moel Famau. As I continued along the track, height was gained all the way and views of the surrounding landscape opened out before me. Much was pastoral and the size of Cefn Mawr Quarry became more and more apparent; most of the hill seemed to be gone!

Leaving sights of environmental sacrilege after me, I rounded the boundary of Clwyd Forest to reach the summit that I was seeking. While the bridleway got me most of the way there, I left it to make the final approach to the Jubilee Tower. As if to remind me of the season, a brief flurry of snow came upon me but the lasting impression is of the stiff and bitterly cold wind that blew along the ridge.

Jubilee Tower, Moel Famau, Mold, Flintshire, Wales

That did not deter me or the others who were there but this was not a day for lingering, especially with a wind that could knock you. Still, the tower dating from the reign of Queen Victoria was explored before I started to descend along Offa’s Dyke Path. Conditions underfoot were greasy enough for walking poles to prove unable to halt a muddy tumble. After that, more careful travel was in order but my surefootedness was not guaranteed even then.

Moel Dywyll as seen from Moel Famau, Mold, Flintshire, Wales

Moel Famau as seen from Moel Dywyll, Mold, Flintshire, Wales

Even with plains abutting the eastern and western edges of the chain of hills, it still was possible to make images that could make one believe that it was more extensive than it was. There was so much scope for that choosing photos for this trip report was an exercise in itself. All the while, the afternoon was edging towards its end so I needed to think about getting to Mold before it got too dark. Before that, I had plenty of moments full of uninterrupted quiet and had ensured that by continuing from Moel Famau to Moel Dywyll after seeing a sizeable group of walkers taking a route that I might have taken. Peaceful wandering was what I sought and there was plenty of that so it often does no harm to let others decide some things for you.

Pentre & Cilcain as seen from Moel Dywyll, Mold, Flintshire, Wales

After Moel Dywyll, I found the bridleway that start me on my descent. However, greasy ground proved to be my undoing as I endured my second muddy stumble of the day. That cause some muttering about my falling into a somewhat carefree mood but this was the last of these and I continued on my way without anyone seeing my blundering and with added care in spite of the alluring late evening sunshine. The shelter afforded by the valley was all the more appreciated as I passed Garth and two reservoirs on my way to Pentre.

While a side-trip to Cilcain tempted me, weary limbs and declining light informed my decision to follow a stream-side public footpath by Nain Gain instead. After that, it was road walking all the way to Mold’s bus station. Along the way, there was another crossing of the River Ayn and I passed such smaller places as Pontnewydd, Pantymwyn, Gwernaffield and Pant-glas. Light really was fading by then but I got within the street-lighting area in good time and reached the bus station as I hoped so my journey home started after a satisfying day in the hills laden with soothing quieter moments.

Travel Arrangements

Return train journey between Macclesfield and Chester. Bus service X1 from Chester to Loggerheads where my walk started and, when It ended in Mold, bus service 4 was used to get from there back to Chester train station.

Traipsing through two countries and three counties

Sunday, June 28th, 2020

The start of a new year often is a time for reflection on what has gone before as much as pondering the prospects of a year to come. In this, 2018 was no different and I was in the middle of a career break as well so the thinking turned to my next career moves and the choices that I arrived at in January 2018 continue to pervade more than two years later.

In fact, they affects the start of this year with a another work break that allowed the taking of stock in light of then seemingly pervasive threats. Throughout this, I also got to wondering about future transatlantic excursions as a form of distraction. Many do love planning but you need not to have an intrusive global event to make it happen. So all those dreams from January and February of this year are placed on hold.

Thankfully, it was only my own speed of inquiry and assessment that forestalled any overseas travel dreams in 2018. Other plans could be made to happen in a piecemeal if imperfect manner. What I needed to do is get over the residual stresses caused by what needed doing during 2016. At least, I did not have a global pandemic back and I count myself very fortunate for that.

Returning to 2018 though, it was not as if all the required introspection ruled out day trips quiet like the activities or the weather of the first two months of this year. In fact, a few of those took me to Wales and the principality had not seen my making trips there for quiet a while if I remember correctly. The sequence of Welsh outings actually began before Christmas 2017 when I embarked on a trip through the western end of the Brecon Beacons National Park. That took me through Abergavenny and Brecon as far as Neath before I continued my way home. In time, the possibility of exploring another quiet part of Wales may come to something.

My first Welsh excursion of 2018 actually took me to Cardiff, a city that I have long neglected and the outing was repeated in part on the Spring Bank Holiday of 2019. Then, there may have been a Spice Girls reunion concert but what intruded on my ambling more were posses of cyclists going along multi-use trails. Sunshine pervaded on both visits but thoughts of basing myself in Cardiff for a few days in order to explore the countryside within its vicinity retain their appeal. It might be that I do some cycling of my own too but I do intend to leave better space for walkers, especially around the delightful Bute Park and along the banks of the River Taff.

So far, what I am talking about is a spot of reconnaissance that may lead to future trips and there is one other excursion in January 2018 that deserves a mention before the main trip report and it leads easily into it. That took me from Macclesfield to Aberystwyth via Shrewsbury and Llangurig. Not only did that take me past Pumlumon Fawr by bus but the stopover at Llangurig also allowed some muddy walking along part of the Wye Valley Walk. What I really was exploring though were the logistics of getting near Pumlumon Fawr for a walk up one of the highest hills in mid-Wales. That left me with the framework for a scheme that either would use Aberystwyth as a base or involve a bivvy on the side of the hill, depending on how brave I feel.

The Wye and Severn rivers both rise on Pumlumon Fawr but that was not where my Welsh wandering took me next. It may have featured the same River Wye but this was a circular ramble with Monmouth at its starting and ending points. In truth, I also fancy a visit to Tintern Abbey but remains outstanding too and the idea for the Monmouth excursion lay in my mind for quite a while before it happened.

Calling the route a circular one does much to hide its actual complexity with some of that arising from serendipity. At my arrival in Monmouth, all that was yet unknown as I passed through it heart with older buildings like those of its church and its independent school adding interest along the way. The school’s students were going hither and thither in their boisterous ways and, fancying an air of greater peace, I left them to those to reach the River Wye.

River Wye near Monmouth, Monmouth, Wales

St. Peter's Church, Dixton, Monmouthshire, Wales

There, I met up with the Wye Valley Walk that was to convey me along the Welsh side of the river; Offa’s Dyke Path also passed hereabouts but that was not part of my designs since I was bound for Symonds Yat. With the hubbub of the A40 in the background, I relished the sunny morning as much as I could. Apart perhaps from the likes of St. Peter’s Church near Dixton, those early stages were not to be peppered with so much in the way of human construction.

Looking towards Headless Hill, Monmouth, Monmouthshire, Wales

Wyastone Leys & Little Doward Hill, Whitchurch, Herefordshire, England

Forested hills lay to my right and in front of me as I went and it was around these that I was to spend much of my time. Some were to be more easily named than others but that did not detain my thinking as I reached the point where the river parted from the busy motorised thoroughfare. Beyond Wyastone Leys, my surrounding were to become much quieter and much now forested.

The forested route may have limited opportunities for photography but I was soon enough at The Biblins where I would cross the Wye and encounter a greater human presence. Some were walking and others cycling but there was enough room for all of us and I still recall having the place to myself at times.

River Wye near Symonds Yat, Herefordshire, England

It was afternoon by the time that I reached the eastern part of Symonds Yat. Not only had the trail led me onto tarmac but I had crossed into England and was in Herefordshire. The road and any traffic that was passing its way was left behind to round Huntsham Hill and return through Elliot’s Wood. What became clear was how late in the afternoon it was getting so I was anxious to keep going and photographic efforts stopped.

After reaching a road again, I then left it to go though Mailscot Wood and into both Gloucestershire and part of the Forest of Dean. With the road to Christchurch never far away, I was lured along a trail nearly as far as Hillersland before I turned in the direction of the River Wye again. That felt longer than was ideal given how late it was in the shortness of a January day.

Soon enough though, I was back on the route of the Wye Valley Walk and heading towards Monmouth again. However, I decided again crossing the river until I reached the Wye Bridge in Monmouth, so following Route 423 of the National Cycle Network. By now I was back in Wales again and soon enough reached a section of the railway that once connected Monmouth and Symonds Yat. That made navigation less of a concern as the hours of daylight faded.

Eventually, gloaming would turn into full darkness and torch-lit walking along tarmac returned me to Monmouth, where I had plenty of time to find the bus terminus that I had not used on my arrival. Tintern was passed in darkness on the way home but that fact did nothing to spoil the satisfying day out. In fact, it remains a useful excuse for returning to a delightful part of Wales.

Travel Arrangements

Train journey from Macclesfield to Hereford with a change at Stockport followed by bus travel from Hereford to Monmouth using service 36. Bus journey from Monmouth to Chepstow using service 69 followed by train travel from there back to Macclesfield with a change in Birmingham New Street.

Not the end of the matter

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

It often does happen to me that relating an outdoors outing can bring forward ideas for more. In this regard, my recent trip report for an Easter outing to Llangollen was typical. For one thing, it revealed what parts have yet to see my footfall but there’s more to it than that. Also, I took the opportunity to freshen up the Denbighshire album in the photo gallery that you can find on here. That act revealed a certain amount of dissatisfaction with photos that I already have in my collection, especially from those times before the arrival of digital photography swayed me from the use of film. Addressing a perceived need for better photos often is sufficient for getting me revisiting places already frequented.

Dinbren Hall, Llangollen, Denbighshire, Wales

Speaking of returning to come away with better photos, Derbyshire’s countryside has been one such target that has lain in my mind for a while but it now has been joined by a few of Denbighshire’s delights. Walking the Offa’s Dyke path from Trefor to Ruthin is just one of the brainwaves that have come to me because there is the Clwydian Way and the Dee Valley Way to keep me busy too. In fact, these could help me identify the hills in the above scene that I captured from amid the ruins of Castell Dinas Brân over six years ago. That point was driven home to me even more by an inability to figure out which top is which in photos of those hills captured last April while following part of the North Berwyn Way, yet another trail with more potential for hill wandering. After all those possibilities, there’s the Clwydian hills by Ruthin and Denbigh to be sampled too. This time last year may have seen me run out of both energy and ideas but that at least the latter doesn’t seem to be recurring a year later. Hopefully, there should be a bit of ambling this autumn, not that I am one to wish the year away just yet and I wonder if too many are doing exactly that at times.

A look back at 2008 Part 3: Beyond Midsummer

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

Midsummer in 2008 might have been a time when I felt that the year had peaked and the encroachment of unsettled weather may have had something to do with that view. Certainly, the year will not be remembered for having a sunny summer and many were disappointed, even if it did have its better interludes. Personally, I reckon that it’s best to try and enjoy what is visited upon us at any time of year and seem to have come to the conclusion that the traditional summer holiday season is overrated. There may be more hours of daylight but, if the days get too hot, it may be worth sticking to the cooler parts of the day and that reduces the amount of time available for wandering through the countryside anyway, perhaps restricting the time available until it is not that much different from spring or autumn anyway.

Even with the feeling that the second half of a year feels like an anticlimax after the first, I continued to get out into attractive countryside. I found hot sunny weather in July, was extremely lucky with my visits to Scotland in August, had an easier September and October before taking advantage of numerous wonderful opportunities in November and December. There was much to behold so here are a few recollections of it all.

July

In walking terms, July was another fallow month with a sun scorched saunter along the Offa’s Dyke Path near Welshpool at the end of the month being the main trip of note. Otherwise, time limited by other activities ensure that most of my major outdoors activity was to be cycling rather than walking. The month’s mixture of weather contributed too but I was feeling that the best of the year had passed by this time anyway and began to wonder if the timing of the school holidays was more than a little nonsensical. I also got to mulling over island wandering as a possibility for my now habitual longer Scottish walking break. My few hours on Kerrera in May may have had something to do with this inspiration coming upon me and I felt the need for a longer break anyhow.

August

The main even in August was that island hopping trip to Skye and the Western Isles. Though anyone surveying the weather and the weather forecast on the eve of the trip might have questioned my sanity for even considering what I was about to undertake. In the event, I struck the jackpot: while other parts of the U.K. and Ireland were getting a soaking, I managed to find wonderful sunshine and avoid those downpours. That was thanks to the belt of rain getting stuck across the north of England and the south of Scotland. Harris was to prove the highlight of the week without Skye failing to satisfy or the peace of the Uists being forgettable. However, it does need to be said that South Uist felt a little like an anti-climax after Harris so it might be best to journey in the northbound direction on any future visit. A social visit to Edinburgh followed but I still got in a few hours among the Pentland Hills, an area that I surprisingly ignored when I lived up there in that city.

September & October

September and October proved to be pivotal months for a lot of reasons, the economic situation in the wider world being one of them. For me, it was a period lacking in longer walking excursions but shortening days meant that walks at lunchtimes started to take over from evening cycles. Another trip to Ireland in September allowed me to spend a few sunny hours around Gougane Barra. Even though I felt unable to add a fuller narrative for that trip, the photos found their way into the photo gallery very quickly. Alongside this, the realities of writing a longer trip away were made plain to me as producing reports for my Hebridean trip began to take eat up their share of time. It wasn’t just the writing that slowed progress since choosing and processing the photos to be included as part of the descriptions nearly were more rate limiting than the actual writing itself. That experience had been happening throughout the year but it really came to a head with the larger block of writing. Staying with the subject of lessons learned, I started to cast more of a critical eye on the focus of the blog and came to the conclusion that much of the musings on public transport really belonged elsewhere. In time, another blog was spawned for that but travel matters relevant to exploring wonderful countryside will continue to make their appearance here. In time, it may happen that old posts falling outside of this might get moved elsewhere as part of continued content reshaping but I’ll leave things as they are for now.

November

November saw me re-emerge into areas well populated by hills again. The first of two trips to Cumbria saw me embark on an out and back trek from Windermere’s train station to Yoke. I had gone north with a few ideas in mind and this proved to be just as well when public transport and the available daylight constrained my ambitions a little. Neither did anything to spoil my enjoyment of the day. A miscalculation on the following weekend had me walking from Ardlui to Butterbridge a day too early for good weather to do its magic on the landscape. in some respects, the hike echoed my February outing to the area in that showers got going to make things feel unpleasant as I dropped down towards the end of my walk. I may not have seen the countryside in its best light but plans for potential excursions came to mind and they may compensate for this at some suitable juncture in the future. Dullness of a drier variety was set to dominate my walk from Ambleside to the top of Red Screes and back the next weekend. Some sunshine managed to escape from its cloudy prison towards the end of the walk but the intense cold remains in mind, particularly since the turning on of Ambleside’s Christmas lights delayed my journey home.

December

December may be considered by meteorologists to be the start of winter but my walking was not about to go into hibernation, especially with the possibility of sampling some snow. So, the first Saturday of the month saw me return to the Howgill Fells after the briefest of visits a few years earlier. The snow that I met got me wondering about winter skills and such like but the experience was one not to be missed. The day after had me out exploring Macclesfield’s hills with an out and back hike from my own doorstep. I might have been trampling familiar ground but there were some new sides to be seen too. A trip to Ireland for Christmas and New didn’t stop my walking either, even if road walking took up the most of what I was doing. Nevertheless, I got to get off road to explore around Springfield Castle near Broadford in County Limerick and even got to sample a little piece of the Dingle peninsula around Camp and Castlegregory in Kerry. Sunshine enlivened both walks but that part of Kerry was frequented by a biting wind while we were there; nevertheless, it didn’t stop me wandering a little way along a track (used by a tractor to get winter feeding to livestock by appearance of things) through the dunes at Maherabeg (Machaire Beag in Irish) in the late evening sunshine, at least shadowing the Dingle Way if not actually following it. That brought a year packed full of walking trips and opportunities to a delightful close. 2009 awaits.

A look back at 2008 Part 2: Until Midsummer

Friday, January 16th, 2009

While 2009 has yet to see its first proper hill outing of the year for me, I have to say that anyone who doesn’t make the most of the first half of any year is missing out on something special. It is nice to think that everything is on the up and your next outing could be more wonderful than the last. You are less likely to be overrun by hoards too and there’s much to admire from the skeletal forms of the trees to the way that fine landscape is enlivened by the gentler light. I can see some being put out by such things as the shortness of the days or the lingering feel of winter but I see wonder in these too and it allows one to be ready for the annual crescendo that is April, May and even June. After that, I feel that the year passes its peak and regard the traditional summer holiday months of July and August as being ill-timed but that means that we are more likely to have things to ourselves, never a bad thing. Here’s how the first half of 2008 fared.

January

Casting my mind back to January, I remember expressing an inclination to stay home when the weather wasn’t so inviting. What had been a tactical device for ensuring that necessary life chores got done had developed a less than desirable side effect: being too choosy about when to go walking among those wonderful hills. A sunny Sunday at the start of the month drew me out on a cycle between Macclesfield and Leek with a diversion round by the Roaches on the way back. It was a good start to the year and I followed it up by strengthening my resolve in order to head to Leek for a circular walk through Staffordshire’s muddy moorlands (encountering clay was rather apt given the county’s fame for pottery production) that took me over Hen Cloud. The need for inner strength was prompted by greyness of skies earlier in the day but that soon evaporated to uncloak blue skies and unleash the sun to do its magic, a sort of reward for my endeavours.

February

That "get out there regardless of everything but personal safety and other much more important things" mentality was to serve me well in February. When a dusting of snow presented itself, I was off to Northumberland to explore more of the hills near Wooler. There was an ample coating of powder dry snow about and that both enlivened the views and brought out a little of the inner child in mind as I bobbed downhill on my return to Wooler. The middle of the month saw that replaced by a settle spell of glorious if nippy weather that allowed me to narrow the gap between Haworth and Gargrave in my Pennine Way hiking project. In line with the "bag-of-nails" approach that I have been adapting, a southbound walk from Gargrave to Lothersdale came first with a northbound hike from Haworth to Ickornshaw following it. The narrow gap between Ickornshaw and Lothersdale remains a possible irritation but it’s also another excuse to revisit those parts, even if public footpath signposting isn’t what it might be. The end of the month saw me undertake my visit outing of the year in Scotland with a wander through the countryside by Tarbet and Arrochar. I needed my new found resolve as the showers started to gang up on me with the ageing of the day; it was certainly good weather for any frogs that I saw.

March

In contrast to February, March was a much quieter month when it came to exploring the outdoors. A heavy flu was partly to blame for that but I felt a need to clear out some physical and mental clutter too, an activity that kept me busy over the early and white Easter. The latter fact should have drawn me out because a good walk is often good for garbage clearance but I ended up looking out at the Maxonian (that’s to Macclesfield what Mancunian is to Manchester) hills instead.

April

April’s two excursions mean that I was among hills instead of looking at them from afar. The first of these saw me traipse along part of the Offa’s Dyke Path near Knighton on a day that had me frequenting both Powys in Wales and Shropshire in England. I even dropped in on Church Stretton on the way home for a short sortie that preceded a heavy shower. Another weekend trip to Scotland followed with my exploring around the villages of Glencoe and Kinlochleven. The weather couldn’t have been better and snow still lay on the mountain tops though I remained at lower levels. On the way home, I began to feel that I had seen enough of the pervading browns of the hills for one sitting.

May

May made another good month for wandering through open hill country and its being topped and tailed by bank holidays surely helped. The first of these saw me exploring Teesdale on a grey if dry day with sun struggling to make any headway through the cloud cover. Even so, I got taken along another part of the Pennine Way and it made for a good day out. The next day was a damp affair so my next trip took advantage of the fact that normal weekday train services run on a bank holiday to get to Bethesda in North Wales for what turned out to be a linear hike to Bangor by way of the foothills of the Carneddau and the North Wales Path. Cloud broke to release the sun even if sea fog somewhat curtailed the sunshine later on in my walk. Another Welsh outing followed with my planned walk near Dolwyddelan being displaced by an out and back hike from Dolgarrog to Llyn Eigiau due to transport misinformation. It didn’t matter because a good day of walking followed anyway. Scotland surprised me with perfect weather for the second bank holiday weekend of the month, so much so that I was barely ready to take full advantage of what was offer and I left for home with a certain amount of regret. That’s not to say that a good tramp from Inverarnan to Dalmally or a few hours spent on Kerrera wasted the time that I had but I would have preferred more extensive planning than was done. If I had known what was ahead of me, I might have booked some time off from work and made a longer weekend of it. Having Monday would have avoided the bank holiday traffic and allowed for some very enjoyable walking too. Maybe the weather forecasters were so taken up by what was coming to England that they forgot Scotland…

June

June started well with a walk along the Cumbria Way through Langstrath on my way from Borrowdale into Great Langdale. Though I had glimpsed the Langdale Pikes from afar, this was to be my first visit to Great Langdale and, though cloud got to obscure the sun as the day wore on, a return to these wondrous parts remains in order. A primarily social visit to Ireland followed with my only snatching short strolls on a visit to Killarney on a damp day. Nevertheless, the sight of Torc waterfall retained its appeal and I was sorely tempted by the idea of going further along the Kerry Way.