New Year – New Walks – And a New Direction?

January 31, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Posted in Devon Walks, Gloucestershire walks, Herefordshire walks, Pub walks, Worcestershire walks | 1 Comment
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It’s been a busy time for me since my last blog with quite a few changes in my walking world. Firstly I decided back in August to close down the AD HOC walking group. I was struggling to get other leaders and was also struggling to fit in my other commitments. It was very successful whilst it lasted but since setting it up the situation at Cheltenham Rambling Club has stabilized with lots more decent length walks, and I also realized that most of my LDWA friends are quite independent and can ‘cherry pick’ their way through the many other social and challenge walks available on a weekly basis.

Tasting at Broome Farm

Tasting at Broome Farm

Striding around Ross

As I mentioned in a previous blog, I had sold out of my Ross Round walking book and have decided to republish it but in a larger format. I approached several publishers without any success but one of them gave me some good advice; ”Where is your new market?” and ”Will the old customers buy another issue which sounds the same”. So, I have renamed it ‘Striding around Ross’ and there are now five interconnecting walks totalling over 50 miles and that includes The Ultimate Ross Round (URR) which is a conglomerate of the Original Ross Round (ORR) plus an extension over May Hill, which makes it up to a marathon distance, and which I still have (forlorn!) hopes of making a route for a major challenge walk.

The previous Ross Round book was self-published and I was resigned to repeating this but then discovered my previous printers were no longer in business. However I then discovered, that the Winchcombe Way walking book had been published digitally and got in touch with local printers who have done a really great job on my book with the advantage that the digital process allows the whole format to be viewed almost as one proceeds. We intend to launch the new book in late March and have an open evening at Rossiter Books in Ross planned for Wednesday 27th March. Let me know if you would like to attend?

Fox trap on Aran Mountains

Fox trap on Aran Mountains

The Wyche Way

I have also been busy walking over The Wyche Way, which I have mentioned previously, and which is to be walked by Cheltenham Rambling Club over 6 easy stages later this year. I have been accompanied on the walkovers by Jim Mason, and as ever, Anne Ochala.  Jim has been particularly keen since he is involved with The Walkers are Welcome initiative in Winchcombe and we have discovered that Kington also belongs as well as Bromyard which is close to the route. We have met up with several of the committee members in Kington and have recently learnt that there may be a new walking centre for Herefordshire, hopefully to be established in Kington, so that apart from The Offa’s Dyke path, and the new Arrow Way, they are also interested in promoting The Wyche Way.

Kington is a really rustic little market town, and the first three stages of The Wyche Way pass through rather typical and flat Herefordshire countryside. However,  just when you think it may get a bit boring, you discover an unknown Roman road, a new timber frame house being built out of plantation timbers (as shown on Countryfile) and all sorts of other unexpected gems so that it has been far from boring. During stage two we caught glimpses of the Malvern hills in the distance ahead and at our lunchtime stop on Stage 4, which is as far as we have got so far, we enjoyed a very good break in The Wyche Inn, just below the main ridge of The Malvern’s, which was typical of Herefordshire, having no frills, but offering plain good value.

 Guys Wood!

The last bit of really interesting news is that at long last, I have hopefully acquired a piece of woodland, and what is more, in a really interesting and good walking area, The Blackdown Hills. For those of you who do not know, the background to this is that when we sold our business, nearly twenty years ago, my friend Brian Wright said “why don’t you invest in some woodland. Your family have been in the timber trade for three generations so put something back in?”  I guess at the time, I still had my business hat in place, so we ended up buying another property in Cheltenham where we initially ran a gallery, but which, was later leased out. We sold the property in 2010 and my mind went back to Brian’s original suggestion. The best woodland in the country is mostly part of an estate or a farm and small parcels are not only hard to acquire but relatively expensive with prices rising steadily over the last decade.

Guy in the wood

Guy in the wood

During the last two years I have probably looked at about twenty pieces of woodland. One of the very first which I unsuccessfully tendered for, was the aptly named Walkers Coppice. Fifteen acres of really superb woodland with many prime oaks, situated neat Woodstock and owned along with seven other much larger lots by The Duchy of Cornwell. Actually the position was not the best, being in rather too well populated countryside and rather too close to London. The vendors accepted an offer for the whole estate which made my bid (second best anyway) worthless.

So, where are The Blackdown Hills? It is an unfortunate fact that many people only know where they are by a motorway, so in this case it is necessary to head south on the M5 and then just past Taunton one can see a striking monument up on the wooded hills to the left. This is the Wellington Monument, built to commemorate the famous general, which is situated on the western edge of The Blackdown Hills. This AONB (area of outstanding natural beauty) is not that large and stretches ten miles in a south easterly direction down to the attractive town of Honiton, previously famous as a centre for lace making.

The supposed mantra for a lot of property purchases is position-position etc. I was always looking to get away from it (Gloucestershire) a bit but The Blackdowns are an easy one and a half hours driving, and only just over another half hour to the coast and sea. The aforementioned Brian at Lyme Regis is also less than half an hour way and should be able to help administer any work on the woodland. The woodland is only eight acres and all walkable. (unlike some other jungles I have inspected).

Quality of the woodland  is regrettably not that good (at present?) with quite a lot of Birch, Hazel etc and not many prime trees but it is 800 feet up and drains well. There are two lanes on either side and a very good pub just a mile down the road. Behind the pub is a large campsite with fishing lakes and a couple of static caravans available for letting out.

The Blackdown Hills are quite sparsely populated but there are a few interesting villages and apart from the nearby AONB office there is also an East Devon and Blackdown Hills Woodland Association which I plan to join and which offers all sorts of advice. I shall hope to be going to their Woodland Fair later this year as well as a Country Music and Beer Festival. I have already earmarked an interesting 13 mile walk which passes close to highest point Staple Hill at just over 1000 feet and I am in touch with a lady from Cornwall and Devon LDWA who lives quite close to The Blackdowns at Collumpton and who has a very good knowledge of the area…

You may therefore see a little change in direction during the next year from your scribe but whatever, you should still be receiving more news of walks, pubs, and now woodland!

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Walks around Abergavenny & Brecon, Wales

September 11, 2012 at 7:59 am | Posted in Pub walks, Wales walks | Leave a comment
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A Diamond Walk

I recently led my first ever walk for The Brecon Beacons Park Society and chose a favourite walk around and over the mountain Blorenge which lies opposite Abergavenny on the south side of the A40 road. My route in the morning circumvented the mountain’s lower slopes before arriving at one of my all time favourite pubs The Goose and Cuckoo at Upper Llanover. In the afternoon we returned over open moorland and just near the prominant radio masts and before ascending Blorenge I stopped to visit the famous Foxhunter Grave.

Foxhunter Grave on Blorenge Mountain South Wales

Foxhunter Grave on Blorenge Mountain South Wales

This was the all conquering horse owned by local horseman Sir Harry Llewellyn who lived nearby. He was part of the UK showjumping  team that won Gold at the 1952 Helsinki Games. The following day, sitting at home, I had the great pleasure of seeing Team GB win the same event in London 60 years on.

Walking back in time

A few weeks later I was on a CRC Cheltenham Rambling Club walk which started at Llangynider which is on The Mon and Brec canal between Abergavenny and Brecon.

Cheltenham Rambling Club on Tor Y Foel Black Mountains

Cheltenham Rambling Club on Tor Y Foel Black Mountains

We initially climbed up the attractive little! peak of Tor-y-Foel (550m) but then our route joined the old Brynore Tramway. This was built in 1815 and the horse drawn trams bought limestone down from quarries high on the hills to the canal for trans shipment down to Newport and the industrial valleys of South Wales.

Cheltenham Rambling Club on Brynore Tramway Black Mountains.

Cheltenham Rambling Club on Brynore Tramway Black Mountains.

It was in use for about a hundred years until motor transport proved more economical. We late visited the Chartist Cave on the remote moorland which was used during the uprisings of the late 1830’s to store weapons and munitions for the cause. On a lighter note we stopped at The Red Lion Pub in Llangynidr for tea after the walk but could have had a Pint of their own beer named Canal Water!

 

A shorter long distance trail, or a great pub crawl?

August 30, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Posted in Bath walks, Buckinghamshire walks, Foodie walks, Gloucestershire walks, Herefordshire walks, Oxfordshire walks, Pub walks, Staffordshire Walks, Wiltshire walks, Worcestershire walks | Leave a comment
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A shorter long distance trail, or a great pub crawl?

New slimline Guy walking in 2012

New slimline Guy walking in 2012

I mentioned in my last blog that I was shortly off to do The Worcestershire Way with Wiltshire LDWA and happily the weather was really good on the May Bank Holiday weekend. I had walked this twice previously, but from North to South and had also taken a detour in Malvern to visit the excellent Nags Head pub in Malvern so that this time it was a bit of a shock, when after meeting up with the rest of the party, (ten of us), we left Elgar’s Statue in the middle of Malvern and proceeded to climb over 1000ft within the first two miles up onto the main Malvern Hills ridge. However once recovered it was easier going and we were soon at one of my all time favourite pubs The Talbot at Knightwick which brews it’s own beers “This, That, or T’other, not forgetting “Anything else”!’

We were booked for the night into The Lion Inn at Clifton on Teme but not before the final “Sting in the tail” when as we left the river Teme we discovered at 5.30 that our village was a further 500ft uphill. We had walked about 17 miles with over 3000 feet of ascent. The Lion was run by a very efficient Lancastrian lady who was all out for business so that she had a guest ale on at £2 a pint and the food was priced at £2,£4,£6.£8.£10 with really great portions. Why cannot more pubs be like this?

The next day was slightly easier (still 17m) but with much of the same ridge walking. No pub available for lunchtime but were in at our destination of Bewdley on the river Severn in good time and went for dinner to another good pub The  Packhorse which was previously part of The Little Pub group. The Worcestershire Way has changed a bit recently since it originally started up at Kinver which is actually in Staffordshire so that the section down to Bewdley is now The Worcestershire Village Way and the actual WW walk starts at Bewdley. All rather peculiar but it’s something to do with County Council funding or some other burocratic reason!

For our last day we were soon at the original end at Kinver with great views from the Trig point of Wolverhampton and Birmingham to the east and we had our lunch by a very friendly tea shop that is situated within the original cave dwellings that were occupied up to the 1960’s. We then joined the Staffordshire Way and having unfortunately passed but not stopped at the interesting Cat Pub at Enville (another brew pub) we finished our day nearly at Womborne with another 18miles covered. We were then collected by a coach for which Wilts branch had generously covered the cost and which was “the icing on the cake” for a really good three days walking in very good company.

“Walkers are welcome” towns and villages.

Unfortunatelyat the time we were publishing The Palladian Way there was another interesting walk being launched- The Winchcombe Way. I have to say (through gritted teeth) that it undoubtably has the edge, since the two loops of 21 miles make it almost a “must” for distance walkers and all the neighbouring branches of the LDWA have already done it with one branch even setting out to do both loops in one (long!) day. I have recently met up with JIm Mason who is a councillor for Winchcombe (and also now a CRC and LDWA member!) and who tells me that The Walkers are Welcome initiative has been great for tourism in the town with many B&Bs, pubs and cafes showing increased takings.

I decided to see if there was a web site (see link above), which is almost mandatory for any aspiring business or organization, and discovered that there were some 80 villages and towns already registered as Walkers are Welcome but more importantly The Chair person is shown as Kate Ashbrook who has been involved in the Walking World for all her life and is currently President of The Ramblers as well as being Secretary of The Open Spaces Society. A formidable lady indeed! It does therefore appear that the WAW initiative is Ramblers based. All very interesting and great for walkers since many of these villages and towns also have their own walking festivals -often only a weekend, but still worthwhile. I would think that there is still plenty of growth potential in WAW and expect to see affiliated towns and villages pass the three figure mark within six months.

My Palladian Way sales have slowed down a bit recently but we did receive a useful fillip recentley when we discovered that The East Berks Ramblers were setting out to walk the whole route over two years with coach backup to deliver and collect them for their start and finish. I hope to join them for their October stretch which is from Burford to Bibury. So whenever we get an order from Slough or Maidenhead we reckon it’s probably from an East Berks Rambler.

I am often being asked what my next project is. Well it just might be the ressurection of The Wyche Way. This was a connecting LD trail that was thought out by CRC member Fred Wood in the late 70’s and early 80’s. It was designed to connect The Cotswold Way, then in it’s infancy, from near Broadway to The Offa’s Dyke Path near Kington. Fred did the walk with a long series of circular walks but I have worked out that the 72 mile route could be easily accomplished in six days and I intend to start walking it over later this year but from Kington to Broadway so that the main HIGH lights of the walk – The Wyche crossing of The Malverns- Bredon Hill and Broadway Tower are all in front of walkers and provide a suitable ending to the walk.

I am also well on my way to finalizing all the content for the re publication of The Ross Round which will now be called The Ross Rounds since apart from the original Ross Round, there will now The Ultimate Ross Round and several other parts of the two routes as well as a new Loughpool Loop taking a rather nice and atmospheric pub The Loughpool Inn (Surprise- Surprise!). I am hoping to find an independant publisher for this since I originally self published the original.

Well that’s it for this edition. I hope to publish a few more photos of recent walks in the next week or two. Watch this space.

Guy.

Walking Festivals

November 5, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Posted in Foodie walks, Pub walks, Wales walks, Walking festivals | Leave a comment
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Walking festivals have been around for quite a while but are now proliferating at such a rate that there is often one on many weeks of the year all over the country. They are also very useful as a “tool” for towns to promote themselves and increase footfall for tourists to the area. However, if you are a keen walker, and fancy a holiday in a different area with all the organization done for you, then they’re great.

The year before last, with my wife off skiing, I decided to hire a cottage in Crickhowell, which is one of my favourite  bases for walking in the Black Mountains. Whilst I was there I picked up a brochure for the Crickhowell Walking Festival which had just finished a week or two before and having studied the really interesting programme I made a note to take part this year.

Walking in the Black mountains

Walking in the Black mountains

Well, this year’s programme  had a total of 62 walks which were conveniently split up into different lengths and degrees of difficulty. I booked in for either 3 or 4 footprints which tended to be between 12 and 15 miles and often with up to 3000 feet of ascent. This makes the festival one of the most demanding ones but which suits me well. There was an added advantage as well in that if you are a member of The Brecon Beacons Park Society (£13 a year) there’s no charge (normally £5 for each walk) if you chose a walk led by one of the BBPS leaders.
The amazing thing about Crickhowell is that it appears to have it’s own micro climate. In 2009 I experienced just one hour of rain and in 2010- wait for it- ZILCH. That probably means that in 2011 it will probably rain the whole time! but I am still going for it again . Going back to this year. I was still not 100% with the knee and was rather worried on the first day trudging up Pen-yr- Gadair Fawr in several inches of snow but that was the worst and I got to meet a number of walkers who continued on the same walks as myself and which also introduced me to parts of the Black Mountains I hadn’t seen before.

Chartists Cave Black Mountains

Chartists Cave Black Mountains

I couldn’t get back into the same place I had in 2009 and ended up on a farm complex at Llangattock which is about a mile outside Crickhowell but not too far from one of my favourite pubs (more of a hotel) The Bear. I had a day off in the middle of the week and took myself off to Hay on Wye for some book hunting and then on the way back called in at the commodious Glyffaes Hotel which is off the A40 on the way to Brecon. The owner was leading several shorter walks for the festival and they do the most fantastic buffet tea which was part of my reason for calling!

There were also several social evening events including a talk by Don Brown  the famous climber. All in all, a great festival. I just hope that it doesn’t get too big or that the shorter walks take more priority. I was also joined by Cheltenham Rambling Club walkers Anne Ochala and Bea Therin who came over for several day walks.

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