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!

 

Guy Rambles on…from Nerja to Exmoor

April 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Posted in Devon Walks, Wales walks, Worcestershire walks | Leave a comment
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Guy Rambles on…from Nerja to Exmoor…and a little bit of bridge restoration on the side.

I guess that blogs are supposed to be rather instant but since I am being badgered by my webmaster to put something, well anything into print,  I have decided to follow on from my last walking blog.

2011 didn’t get off to a good start when, whilst out on a really short local walk with L, my cartilage, which I had been nursing for the previous year, went again. This was just turning to get into the car! so I decided to “bite the bullet” and have the operation. Helped by a large cheque, this was soon accomplished, but the specialist said after the op “you’ve got an awful lot of wear on that knee!”
I was back walking within a couple of weeks and back up to reasonable distances within a couple of months. When people ask me how it is, I say about 80% from perfect, and I now use a walking pole for any serious hill walking.

The big worry for walking at the time was the necessity of waymarking 125 miles of The Palladian Way with the book due out at Easter time. However the delivery from China, where it was printed, was understandably late, although the finished product was just great and has been very well received. I did most of the waymarking with my old friend Ken Thomas, from Chester, who managed to find a relative with a spare cottage at Swinbrook near Burford which we used as our HQ for the first half.

Private waymarking is a little complex since whilst most county councils do not object to discreet extra signs on their posts, it is often quite difficult to decide which is a private post or which is CC. So in some instances one just has to take a gamble and face the possible wrath of a landowner. I thought that I might get up to ten such cases over the total distance but in fact have only received one vociferous complaint although I guess there have probably been a few signs removed. I have learnt from experience that one certainly does not consider any waymarking on large private estates such as Blenheim!

Involvement with the book took up a lot of my time last year and initial sales were quite good with a two pronged attack from publisher Nick Reardon and also my extra contacts. However it is quite surprising how all the necessary freebies to newspapers, magazines, journalists add up. The original 500 print run of my Ross Round book has just sold out after 7 years and I think that the 1500 run of The Palladian Way may take a similar time although my optimistic lady accountant now has me registered as a sole trader with some expenses tax (legitimately) deductable!

We keep getting little bits of free publicity for the walk and one of the more interesting items was provided by The Cotswold Conservation Trust who publish a walking newspaper called The Cotswold Lion which also acts as a sounding board for The Cotswold Wardens, who do so much good renovation and repair work on the footpaths within the Cotswold AONB. We were able to get them to put in a handrail down a steep slope and restore an old “Clapper” bridge on our route at Signet just south of Burford. This was funded by an associated charity called Friends of The Cotswolds and I provided a plaque to go on the parapet of the bridge so that apart from setting up a new long distance walk it was nice to be able to provide some small environmental improvement.

With Grandson at Restored Clapper Bridge at Signet

With Grandson at Restored Clapper Bridge at Signet

Last year was also good for the AD HOC walks I had set up and we organized 24 in total. This was originally instigated since my main walking club Cheltenham Ramblers had stopped putting on most of their usual long Saturday walks. However, during the year, the old walks organizor resigned, and they (CRC) have now started offering more longer walks so that with this and the fact that most of our members prefer their involvement with the LDWA, means that my AD HOC group is struggling to find leaders and walks have dropped this year. I may have to do a mailshot to walking shops and gyms etc if it is to continue but having said that we have three walks coming up at the end of April and a possible weekend up in The Staffordshire Roaches in the autumn.

Due to my OP I had to duck out of The Crickhowell Walking Festival last year but the party of five whom I had organized had a great time and were keen to repeat it this year. Once again it was a really good week and the weather was also fine. The Festival goes from strength to strength and there are so many features that are good-long walks- lots of variety- easy to understand grading of walks- and of course the familiar faces that one gets to know after a time. I suspect that not all of our “famous five” will be up for it next year and our existing (quite reasonable) cottage is now under new ownership so that we may have to find a new base but I am still planning to go myself.

Some friends say that I (or even we!) have the life of Riley as we had to cut short a holiday out in Spain for me to get back for the Crick Fest. We have friends locally who do not like the usual cold weather here in February and who for a few years have been having a month out in Nerja – southern Spain – in the Costa del Sol. The self catering apartment for a month was quite reasonable and we were persuaded to go. There are certainly a lot of Brits out there as well as Germans and Scandinavians but the main thing is the climate and I was in shorts for 20 consecutive days.
It wasn’t supposed to be a walking holiday but I had nipped over to The Map Shop in Upton on Severn and picked up a map and book of walks in the area. However, even I, wasn’t prepared for the terrain , which is very rocky, and quite difficult to navigate. I wasn’t prepared to take the risk of walking on one’s own but happily I was in the internet café one day and met an English walker who told me of a Scottish guide who was quite reasonable. Gerry was a very sociable man, of a similar age to myself, who didn’t like to start walking much before 10.00am and liked a drink at the end of the day so I went out with him for 5 days and by the end I was beginning to get an understanding of the area and how the ridges and valleys linked up. The mountains are quite spectacular and go up to over 2000 metres although I only got up to just over half that. I also found an Irish guide John Keogh whom I went out with for one day. He was rather more business minded, also younger and fitter too! L was quite happy whilst I was walking to soak up the sun on the balcony, with an occasional sip of chilled wine, to stop any dehydration!  We also found a local “ex pats” type club where we enjoyed several old films and where L played Bridge for a couple of afternoons and whilst we mostly ate in we also found no shortage of local restaurants to try out.  We are already thinking of next year!

I have also enjoyed two other recent walking weekends in lesser known areas which are worth mentioning. I went down to Exmoor with quite a large party from The Brecon Beacons Park Society and stayed near Dunster. This was my third trip to Exmoor in the last six months and I have become really fond of the area. There is a lot of contrast with this small National Park spread over a lateral area of 30 miles from the east outside Bridgewater (The Quantocks) over into Devon near to Barnstable in the west. On my last two trips I based myself on Exford which is almost in the centre but my favourite place is Dulverton which is on the southern edge of the park. There is nothing very high or arduous but lots of hidden places to discover. I have been so impressed that I have joined the Exmoor Society which seems a worthwhile thing to do and oh, I nearly forgot but there are some great pubs down there as well!

When I was with Ken Thomas last year we talked about meeting up and walking again- possibly in Wales, so we went up to Chester recently and I took Ken on an interesting backpacking trip which I had done previously some 8 or 9 years ago. This was a two day trip around and over the Arans which are in mid Wales and just to the south of Bala Lake. We left my car at Llanuwchylyn, which is at the western edge of the lake and traversed around the mountain (14m) to Dynas Mawddwy where we stayed at The Llew Coch or Red Lion, to us English folk. It wasn’t a very quiet evening, or night, since a local farmer had just sold a prize bull for £130K and was throwing a party for 130 friends and villagers in the large function room at the back of the pub. This was unfortunately almost below our bedroom and they were still enjoying themselves at 3.00am!
Our route the following morning was almost straight back over the ridge. I say almost, since Ken persuaded me to ascend on another permissary (in places) path which involved a very steep and stony climb but we were rewarded with an unusual bonus at the top in the shape of a most unusual Fox Trap which we were told about the previous night and which was fashioned like a sheep enclosure but with vertical sides, and in the past, a hen tethered in the middle to attract foxes. As we were looking for it, it dawned on me that it was April 1st and we had also just told a family of Germans walkers about it as well but “Thee of little faith”, there it was. It took another hour to get to the first summit Aran Fawddwy which is just 10m short of 3000 feet and then we continued on to the second summit of Aran Benethlyn which is a bit lower. The views were really great for about 50 miles in all directions and this mountain range is really quite quiet with maybe just 12 or so other walkers spotted over the whole weekend. We only walked about 12 miles but with 3400feet of ascent it took us nearly 8 hours and I found it quite a bit harder than on my last trip.

After all this, my next walking is going to be quite uneventful, and will be The Worcestershire Way with Wilts LDWA in May, which I have done twice before but not south to North so I should have some different views. I will let you know about it in due course but it could be another 18 months but I hope not!

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.

Guy’s first ever blog

September 16, 2010 at 8:22 pm | Posted in Gloucestershire walks, Wales walks, Walking festivals, Worcestershire walks | Leave a comment
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Guy’s Rambles- first ever blog. Is a Blog a kind of digital diary? In which case where do you start? The beginning of the walking year sounds sensible- so here goes!

2010- A painful start to the new year and decade. Memories fade fast but who can forget all the snow we received just after last Christmas. Walking in snow and high drifts is awfully hard work and I had two long walks here in the Cotswolds before starting off in January to do the St Kenelm’s Way which is a ‘modest’ long distance trail of nearly 60 miles from outside Birmingham down to Winchcombe. I was accompanied by Phil Heneghan (with whom I had walked another of Gerry Stewart’s Long Distance Trails, The Wysis Way – also in foul conditions two years previously). Phil was told by his wife “you must be mad to go and do this walk” but I didn’t have to consider any advice since L was off on a skiing holiday (better use of snow!).

I left my car in Winchcombe the previous day where a friend said it would be quite safe in a main street and she would keep an eye on it until I got back. We took the train up to Birmingham and on to Hagley for our start and that part was really quite enjoyable! The first day down to a Travel Lodge on the A38 outside Droitwich was only about 16 miles but even so it was almost dark before we finished and not helped by the fact that Gerry had now (on his 4th trail) decided to dispense with any way marking signs. Travel Lodges are deceptive places and advertise rates at from (in small script) £29.00 a night but that is for TWO consecutive nights at a weekend so ours was actually £49 and didn’t include breakfast. It was whilst I was trying to fit my long and large frame into a 5ft bath that I felt an alarming twinge in my left knee. The next morning Phil commented on my “pegleg” descent of the stairs and asked “will you be OK for walking”.  I replied “of course- it will wear off!” 

It was supposed to be about 19 miles to Pershore, our next overnight stop and progress was slower and slower as Phil helped me over stiles and we eventually walked most of the afternoon along snow covered lanes rather than the uneven countryside and got into Pershore in the early evening. The good news was The Angel Hotel was vastly superior to The Travel Lodge and was even the same price and included breakfast.  It also had a full sized bath. We were joined for a drink by Phil’s brother, in a great little local pub called The Brandy Cask which has a fantastic range of it’s own brewed beers. Phil’s brother, who lives quite nearby, saw me hobble up to the bar to get the next round, said “You would be mad to try and walk tomorrow” and I had to agree. He then offered to collect me and run me back to Winchcombe. What a true Gentleman.

More snow fell overnight but Phil seemed unperturbed and set off for the last stage of 20+ miles on his own although I said I would come out in the car to Dumbleton to the brilliant café there to see how he was getting on! I called in at the antique shop in Winchcombe where Heather Holmes worked and over a cup of coffee she said my car seemed OK although it was well covered in snow. Alas it was not so, in that someone had skidded into the side of it with more than a few hundred pounds of damage- still to be rectified 6 months later. I drove back to Dumbleton and met up with a Zombie like Phil, who had had to get through 18 inch high snow drifts on Bredon Hill and would have turned back if he could have seen where he had come from! He still wouldn’t give up and eventually walked on to Hailes Abbey where in the gloaming I picked him up. We are planning to walk this last stage together in September when the weather should hopefully be a lot better.

Predictably the knee really stiffened up and I made an appointment with a physio in Cheltenham who said that she thought I had torn a cartilage and that I should have a MRI scan to confirm it. We have a brilliant facility- The Linton Clinic- here in the town and by paying privately (no point in hanging around for weeks) I got the scan and results just a few days later. It appeared that apart from a small tear there was also some signs of arthritis and loose bodies floating around in the knee cap. The big question is to operate or not to operate? The specialist said that the tear might heal itself within a month or so and that if they operated it would be several (at least) months before I could get back to long walks. Additionally I knew several other friends who had had the knee clean up operation (Arthscopticy) which had not proved to be a long lasting success and my walking companion Anne Ochala had also recently walked on through a cartilage tear although she is only half my weight! So- a couple of weeks later- with a walking pole- a knee bandage and quite a few pain killers I ventured out for a little 5 mile walk around Leckhampton. Not very easy or comfortable and it wasn’t until February that I managed to walk over 10 miles. The reason I was rather “pushing it” was that I had booked in for The Crickhowell Walking Festival at the end of February and had also booked a cottage for the week so that I had to see if I was up for it!- Find out more in the next blog – walking in Wales.

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