Tags: Crickhowell, Crickhowell Walking Festival, Glyffaes Hotel, The Bear Hotel, Walking Festivals
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.
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.
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.
Tags: Cotswold walks, Crickhowell Walking Festival, Leckhampton walks, Pershore, St Kenelms Way, The Wysis Way, walking in snow, walking injuries
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.