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Sunday, 6 January 2013

Oop North in Northwich

Tuesday - New Years Day
I had to work during the day on NYE so we headed up in the evening to stay with Mike. It was slightly odd travelling on trains which were so quiet. It didn't take up too long to get there and we didn't stay up much past midnight as we had walking plans the next day.

We met up with Clan Joester for a walk in the White Peak. I'd forgotten my camera for the whole trip so all the photos in this blog are Mikes. The sun was shining which was a rare surprise given the weather we'd had over Christmas. I'd been feeling ill a few days before going away and still wasn't feeling great on the walk. I nearly joined in with the kids groans when I saw we had to go up the steep hill which is Thorpe Cloud.

It was very windy on the top so we didn't stop for long, we headed down the steep slippery slope towards the river. The combination of steep slope, wet grass and slipperly lime stone was too much for my boots and I bumped down onto my bum and bounced down the slope. Only Emma was close enough to laugh at my misfortune! 

Looking down at the river which was in fast flow

Dovedale was awesome full of big dramatic cliffs and hollows

We stopped and had lunch in one of the caves. I was still feeling really sick and could only manage a banana and cereal bar, which probably wasn't great for me as my energy levels was then pretty low for the rest of the walk. I was glad when Joe suggested that we head back long the otherside of the river when we reached our crossing point.(rather than going back up high as planned)

We headed uphill on a path which said it was impassable in wet weather. It seemed okay so we had a bit of a laugh about the unnecessary sign. As we continued up we passed a group of people who gave us grave warnings about how bad the path was further on down. We chose to ignore them and carried on regardless, we were joking about how the path wasn't all that bad until we got further down the river and the path went into the river for a few metres. This meant wet boots for Abi and I as we helped respective kids over the wet bit. Boots emptied out it was onwards, unfortunately this meant upwards through a muddy woodland path out onto the fields to descend a nice grassy ridge. We were going to bag another mini hill but the weather looked like it was coming in so we abandoned that plan to scurry back to the cars. We ended our day in the pub which Emma enjoyed as they sold haribo :)

I'd love to return to Dovedale when I'm feeling less shattered and ill, hopefully soon :) It was good to see a different side of the Peak District and to walk with another family.

Wednesday - Delamere
The forecast for Wednesday was bad, very bad. Heavy rain all day not stopping till 6. We had a lazy morning and eventually decided to head to Delamere Forest. We were planning on hiring bikes, but it's really expensive and I thought it may be a bit too muddy for Emma to manage. Emma was placated by the suggestion of lunch out in the woods. We went to the Forestry Commission cafe which was excellent, really decent home made food and affordable prices - few and far between in tourist attractions! We did a short circuit of Delamere taking in Blakemere Moss and Hatchmere. Blakemere Moss is a relatively new stretch of water - apparently a load of trees came down in 1990 and the area flooded out. There was a point where it looked like you could enter the lake to swim, only issue would be crashing into hidden tree stumps and debris under water. It was a very odd place!

It had stopped raining very quickly and there was a mist hanging over the lake making it all Twin Peaks like

We found a stone bank which let you walk out some way into the lake

We headed on to Hatchmere which it has been negotiated that swimmers can swim there. You can only swim between posts as the fishermen have the rest of the lake. I wished I had my swimming stuff as it was so mild for winter. We found a rope swing on the way there.

Hatchmere looked beautiful in the evening night with the mist over it 

We headed back marveling at the lengths the fishermen had gone to, to stop people getting onto their jetty's.. one even had razor wire on it! We headed through the woods in the dark with the eerie deer barks as the soundtrack of the night. 

Marshmallows by the fire was a fitting way to end the day

Thursday - Bleakness on Bleaklow
The weather forecast for the Peak District wasn't too bad for the Thursday so we decided to have another shot at Bleaklow. Mike had been there many times before, but I'd only tried to get there the once. I was poorly on the day I attempted it and was on the verge of passing out so had to turn back so I had unfinished business. We thought including a bit of a scramble might please Emma so we bumped for Yellowslacks brook. We parked at the top of Snake Pass and came out into the howling gale, mist and drizzle - not unlike the last time I was up there. The only saving grace was the air temp wasn't that chilly.

How inviting it looks!

We headed off along the Pennine Way to bag the top of Bleaklow Head. I got very hungry on the way there and needed to eat as soon as we arrived, Mike and Emma decided to look for a geocache so I crouched down in a spot out of the wind and stuffed my face. When I looked up for them they were gone, I started to panic a little after some time had passed - having no map on me, and only my GPS/Phone it was not ideal. It felt very lonely in the blowing wind and mist. After sometime they did arrive back explaining it was further away than they thought. Should really have been carrying a map just in case..

Panic over we headed onwards, I managed to get 'bleaklowed' on our way on going in deep into a peat bog. I could feel the bog sucking me down but managed to get a leg out which was enough to get the other out (with a little help from Mike). Our route on then took us on duckboarded route through more bogs. The duckboards were covered in slime and like stepping onto an ice rink. Emma loved them and found them easy, us adults not so easy, once you started slipping on them you couldn't stop, I managed to slip right off and have a fall breaking my fall on my wrists. Luckily nothing was damaged. 

It was then with some regret we had to head into the groughs/hags themselves. I read someone describing them to be like a labyrinth which is exactly what they feel like. When we finally escaped them at the edge of the descent of Yellowslacks Brook it was with a big sigh of relief. We decided to descend and see what the river level was like. Once at the river we got out the survival shelter which I'd bought earlier in the year, but hadn't yet used. It was a welcome relief from the drizzle and rain  & Emma loved it. We ate our lunch and none of us really wanted to get out of it. We checked the time again once at the river, it was 2pm, looking at the map we decided we did not have time for the scramble - if it had been just Mike and I we would have been okay I think but with Emma as well and river levels high it just seemed foolish to take the route. Our only option then was to reascend the otherside and cross some moorland to our next destination. Heading up the steep slope was pretty horrible, but we had the fence for support. As we were heading up we saw a white mountain hare which was amazing as I've never seen one. 

Yellowslacks Brook

I remembered I had a galaxy in my bag which caused some happy smiles after the horrible ascent up. The less said about the second moorland crossing the better, Emma enjoyed it but I was shattered, still struggling to regain my fitness after being ill. Mike had out the GPS and probably got sick of me asking how much further it was till we reached the plane wreck we were headed for. We finally reached it - it had crashed there in 1948 and bits were sprawled over the moorland. In the weather we were experiencing it was easy to see how a plane could come down. It had quite a creepy feel in the bleakness. The drizzle and low cloud was soaking us and I wrung our gloves out a number of times attempting to squeeze some warmth out of them. From the wreck it's a short walk over to the top of Higher Shelf Stones, Emma found the geocache and we didn't stop for long. No plane wreck shots as it was too wet, but here's one of us looking shattered on Higher Shelf Stones

The views finally cleared from not long after this point and it was a relief to finally be back on a path. The weather finally cleared - better late than never and we had a pink sky as we headed back towards to parking area.

Our plates were piled high in the Glossop carvery the bad conditions of the day soon forgotten. Was glad to have Mike with us and the back up of the GPS, it felt like quite a serious place to be and conditions underfoot much worse than I expected. It's worth bearing in mind when planning a route how much extra time it takes when negotiating the pathless moorland groughs/hags.

Friday - quarries and peaks
I wasn't really looking forward to our walk on the Friday as the forecast didn't seem much better. Met office said 50 mph winds on the summits, MWIS said 30 mph winds - which to believe?! Both said drizzle..
We drove our way over Snowdonia in the sunshine enjoying the views and sunshineand playing name that peak. We parked up in the slate museum carpark and met with Kirsh and Pete (Mikes friends) plus Kirsh's dog Pinkle.

The route up to Elidir Fach was awesome, we walked through all the old quarries checking out various old quarry buildings and machinery. The sun was amazingly still shining and the views were fantastic - all the Snowdonian giants peeking in and out of the cloud. 

It was so warm out it felt like an autumn day, it was so good to be walking on rock (as opposed to bog/mud) and not to have the waterproofs on. We found a building which contained a few remnants from the quarrying days. (the items on the bench not the graffiti)

There is a route up using old ladders but we took the bypass instead as was not possible to get a dog up the ladders and not safe for Emma. Emma was loving having Pinkle on the walk and kept looking for sticks to throw for her.

We had fun trying to move the old mine cart back onto it's rails, but to no success. I had a go and landed on my knees on the wet grass!

After a few more inclines we were up onto a grassy slope leading to the top of Elidir Fach, the cloud was rolling in and we were treated to an almost inversion

Grassy slog up

We still had good views over to the Carneddau

The views kept on coming

Elidir Fawr

Tyfan and Y Garn

Getting up onto Elidir Fawr was a scree path, Pete who'd had the grand idea of bringing sweets on the walk gave Emma some more to keep her going and we were soon on a very windy top. The rocks which hadn't been blown dry by the wind were very wet and slippery. We didn't stop for too long and decided to carry on with our intended route taking in Mynydd Perfedd and Carnedd y Ffiliast. At one stage it got quite narrow and thankfully Mike gave Emma a hand as I was struggling with the height a little bit. 

At this point we were trying to decide if we had time to continue but we'd reached the point where it was probably longer to take an alternative route, so it was up another 40 metres or so onto Carnedd y Ffiliast where again we paused briefly to sort out the way on. We decided to have another think about it when we reached the access road. There were only two options really, to head back upwards and descend through the quarries or head down to follow roads all the way back. I pushed for the off road route as I really don't enjoy road walking especially with Emma in tow. Heading back up the access road the weather turned itself up a notch and got drizzly and quite gusty. I don't think Pete appreciated the route decision making, especially when it started getting dark. We arrived at the quarry and it was head torches on. I must admit I was quite concerned about us finding our way through but Mike had the route through in his GPS (a different one to our route in) and it went without hitch - a scramble up a slag heap, descent using a fence down an incline then onto a track which led us out. Emma enjoyed the adventure, not sure Pete did so much as his knees were giving him grief having not walked since November last year. We followed a few local roads to pick up the woodland trail back through the lower half of the quarries.

We were relieved to get back to the carpark before it was locked  - we arrived at 6.30, carpark lock up was 7! and in time for munchies in Peat's Eats

Curry mountain!

Struggling to fit it all in

(thanks for the shots Pete and keeping Emma happy!)

The route was something like 13 miles with as much ascent as Ben Nevis (or more!) again very chuffed with Emma for managing it so cheerfully. It was nice to meet some new walking buddies, and we really enjoyed having such an entertaining dog to walk with who seemed to love the hills as much as us.

Saturday - Marbury Country Park
We were shattered on the Saturday so had a restful morning. The sun was shining so we grabbed some food and headed to Marbury country park for a ripoff coffee and picnic. The park used to have a mansion type house, but that is now gone. The grounds remain and are nicely landscaped. There is also an outdoor swimming pool which you can use in the summer (for a fee)
There is another Mere in the woodland, again used heavily by Anglers, but a local swimming club also run swims there. We did a short circular route taking in some very muddy fields and the canal.

So wild mushrooms still growing


Trent and Mersey canal

A great post Christmas week away and lovely to spend some time in Mikes neck of the woods exploring the area

Mountain walking roundup 2012

I already posted an update earlier in the year so won't include much of the earlier stuff in this round up.

I visited the Arans for the first time this year. They really left an impression on me, wild, deserted, minimal paths and a beautiful lake. Stunning views were had which probably helped. I am keen to return to do more walking there in 2013

I also went up Cadair Idris for the first time, the weather was really poor and no views were had. I need o return on a hot summers day for the views and the swimming.

We had a trip to the Lake District in April and stayed in Ambleside Backpackers, first time in an independent hostel, it wasn't too bad apart from a few noisy nights and was a bargain for the price we paid. We had some amazing weather including snow on my birthday which lasted a few days of the trip. We had to abandon the route in the picture below as the wind was gusting over 50pmh at the approach to Esk Pike, we were only about 600 metres at that point so knew it would be too severe on the top for Emma. We instead did Allan Crags which was a lovely top and had astounding views. The noise of the wind roaring up the face of Bowfell was light the sound of a jet engine, I've never heard anything like it on the fells before

The highlight of my year was finally getting to do some backpacking weekends, something I'd been wanting to do properly for a little while and hadn't got round to bar one night out in the Brecon Beacons.

A weekend of camping was had on Dartmoor, we'd planned quite an ambitious route considering it was a backpack. I was so tired on the last Tor of the day I nearly fell asleap on the top. Aside from one very bleak lengthly crossing of the more the trip was excellent, Darmoor was full of interesting things to see and we barely saw anyone all trip.

Soon then followed a wild camp in the Arenigs, another exhausting trip with many Nuttals bagged. Ascending up the pathless heather on a boiling hot day to the top of Arenig Fach was a killer as was a long roadside walk at the end of the backpack because a footpath was closed.

Seeing the sunset over Snowdon on Arenig Fach

Also had my first trip to Yorkshire which concluded in a walk up Inglebrough for the Jubilee. Amazed how well Emma stormed up to the top - she went so fast we were early for the celebrations and got to see the sun go down from the top

First time in the Rhinog mountains too. Lots of people had told me how rough the terrain was there I didn't quite believe them. I'd read that a mile in the Rhinogs would take as long as two anywhere else. Everything they say is true! The terrain is tough going, but you are rewarded with a very wild and remote feeling landscape, some fantastic wildlife and great views of coast and mountain. You are also so near to the coast you can swim in the sea after a day in the hills. The day we did Rhinog Fach to Rhinog Fawr was an epic day, never have I been more proud of my daughter. We walked from first thing in the morning until nearly 8pm. Descending between the two mountains was one of the most tough going walking experiences I've ever had.

Foel Penolau

We spent the second week of our summer holiday in a lovely bunkhouse in Rachub - would highly recommend it as a place to stay, really lovely people and well located to the hills. You get it as a sole booking also so don't have to share with others which is good when away with kids.

The weather was not so good as the winds were very high that week so we stuck to lower hills until they calmed down. We did have a good high level walk doing Foel Goch and  Y Garn with some friends when the winds did calm down though. Some scary drops up there, would not want to be up there when there are cornices about.

We had a weekends camping in Hay on Wye where we did the Radnor Nuttals. It was a lovely sunny day thankfully as it could be quite bleak on a foggy day.There was a big group of us on the walk, we bumped into another walked at one point who walked there regularly, he hadn't ever seen that many people up there before and I don't think we saw anyone else that day

After a nights drinking everyone headed home the following day, we decided we wanted another walk so headed to the main Beacons. We'd left our map at home for that area but Steve knew the route well enough to do without. We had a pretty dismal start and barely saw anyone on the summit of Pen Y Fan, thankfully the day cleared towards the end and we had some lovely views. Emma did about 16 miles that day which was her longest ever walk. I was shattered but she stayed happy and bubbly throughout which was amazing!

Us on the diving board - brave Emma!

I had a scrambling weekend minus Emma in October where I conquered some fears (I am scared of heights) doing the Nantlle Ridge, Crib Lem Spur & Tryfan North Ridge.

Crib Lem Spur - the walk in is lovely - isolated and desolate, just what I like

It was a year of firsts as we also went to the Peak District for the first time. Lots of Clough scrambling was had (which Emma LOVED) and we reached the top of Kinder Scout on a fantastic clear icy day. We both fell in love with the area and the variety of things to do. The scrambling is excellent for active kids, you can make it as easy or as hard as you like with lots of options. We also visited the Roaches and Luds church on our way up there which was something we'd been wanting to do for ages and didn't disapoint.

Kinder Scout

There was some early snow in the Brecon Beacons in November so I took Mike up the quiet route to the top of Pen Y Fan. We didn't see anyone on our way up aside from two guys in the distance. The summit was a little busier, but once we headed on to do more of the ridge again we barely saw a soul. We stayed high for a long time enjoying the snow, and experienced one of the worst boggy bridleways I've ever been on coming down in the near dark. It was worth it though.

The year ended with a weekend up North enjoying the cold conditions. A glorious day in the Lake District ticking off Esk Pike and Bowfell and a day of ice scrambling in the Peak District

Spikes came in handy in the Peak District

Happy New Year everyone and thanks to everyone who made these exciting times possible and enjoyed them with us. Here's to many more in 2013 :)