From The Wyche to The Geopark Way and back to my beloved Blackdown Hills

November 10, 2015 at 9:27 pm | Posted in Gloucestershire walks, Herefordshire walks, Shropshire walks, Worcestershire walks | Leave a comment
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Time flies when you are busy and I’m afraid it was way back in 2013 since my last proper blog. To be fair I have posted news of two new books, The Wyche Way and Striding Around Ross in the meanwhile. It’s been an eventful time but regrettably not all good news in that in 2014 my right knee started to pain me, in sympathy with the left knee, on which I had keyhole surgery in 2010. The same surgeon did tell me that no two knees are the same and of course he was proved right, when after the op, the right knee was still not up to any of my longer (LDWA) walks.

Guy Vowles Dumbleton war memorial

Resting on the good knee at Dumbleton war memorial

I still had quite a lot of work to do on The Wyche Way but fortunately this was organized, in reasonable stages, and I was able to do my final recess, and also the waymarking, without too much problem. We were originally hoping to open The Wyche Way in the Spring of this year to coincide with The Malvern Walking Festival but not only were we not quite ready but Kington Walkers also said that they would like to make it the focal point of their festival in September.

For a small little unsung town Kington has a great deal of enthusiasm for walking and they really did us proud. They organized Kate Ashbrook, who is The President of The Ramblers, to officially open the trail and all the local newspapers carried advance notice of the opening. The weather was fine on the day and there was a crowd of over a hundred milling around the Market Place. Speeches were made by the lady Mayor of Kington, Kate Ashbrook, and I managed a few words as well. I led the walking party off on the first stage followed by 60 local schoolchildren who were just doing the first couple of miles. Nearly at the end of this stage, just before Weobley, is a fine old timbered house called The Ley, which has some Elizabethan origins. I received an email from the owners about a month before the walk saying that they had heard of this inaugural walk and would the party appreciate some tea and cakes, which certainly made a very nice finish to the day.

Broadway Tower - one of the impressive monuments you can see on The Wyche Way

Broadway Tower – one of the impressive monuments you can see on The Wyche Way

The book has been very well received and we have got copies into over ten shops and tourist information centres along the route (you can also buy it here too!). We have received quite a lot of interest from walking groups who are making plans to include it in their programmes for next year. It has also been adopted by a new Worcestershire walking holiday company Black Pear Walking Tours, so the future for the trail looks bright.

Apart from The Wyche Way I had also agreed to lead for Cheltenham Ramblers on another LD trail, The Geopark Way, which starts up in Shropshire at Bridgnorth and finishes down in Gloucester with much interesting terrain on the way. I got interested in this when I was having tea at the aptly named 02 cafe at The Geopark Centre, which is coincidently right by the Wyche Cutting, which, of course, The Wyche Way passes. The owner is presently organizing a large poster of The Wyche Way to go on the wall of the café alongside the existing Geopark displays.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I had been able to get back to my timber trade roots by purchasing a small piece of woodland in the Blackdown Hills. I had an unofficial option at the time to also purchase another adjoining piece which I did in 2014. I have named them Upper and Lower Harding Woods, after an old Somerset family, whom my family married into in the mid 1800’s. The lower wood does not have so many quality trees but does enjoy great views across to the The Quantock Hills in the north. We have had to do quite a lot of work to establish a new vehicular entrance but there is a short footpath that crosses this wood so we have widened it and provided a stone surface, which was rather fitting, in that I was therefore able to improve a footpath, rather than being critical of the condition, as I have often done on walks in the past. We have also cleared quite a few of the obiquitous birch trees to further improve the views and where I intend to put up a rather larger shed (could be a lodge) in the Spring of next year so that even if I cannot walk quite so much as I might like, I can easily travel down the motorway, and seek solace in my woods.

Striding Around Ross is now on sale!

March 22, 2013 at 10:02 pm | Posted in Herefordshire walks | Leave a comment
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I’m thrilled to announce that my new book Striding Around Ross is now available for sale. To get one of the first signed copies please go right now to The Ross Round walk page.

 

Striding Around Ross by Guy Vowles

 

Striding Around Ross

Those of you who know me or are well travelled Herefordshire walkers might have heard of the Ross Round. Well, I have know added an extra loop to create the Ultimate Ross Round, a 26 mile walk around the beautiful Ross on Wye area.

A comprehensive illustrated guide to the book has now been published and is called Striding Around Ross. The book will be officially launched on March 27th at Rossiter Books in Ross on Wye and is now available for sale here at only £5.99 with free P&P.

 

Buy Striding Around Ross Now

Striding Around Ross £5.99



Although the title is different to my initial Ross Round, Striding Around Ross still includes the original Ross Round (ORR) but it now also has an extra optional loop that makes the new ultimate Ross Round (URR) a marathon distance. There is also a new shorter loop called The Loughpool Loop and this together, with the other additions, mean that there is now around (excuse the pun!) 50 miles of walking described in the new book.

The book is in full colour with detailed maps and many photographs.At 56 pages it is nearly double the size of the previous Ross Round book but will still sell at only £5.99 with free P&P.

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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