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Black Pudding Gaiters

Hiking, travelling, gear

Author

Sue

Cows, cows, cows

The original plan was to go to Chipping Norton and join several Abarth owners for a meet at Jeremy Clarkson’s Diddly Squat farm. The locals didn’t like the idea so it was cancelled leaving me with an entire week off and no where to go.

My first thought was a camping trip Monday to Tuesday, but the forecast was poor (although it actually turned out not as bad as predicted)
Maybe try Tuesday to Wednesday, but the forecast was awful (although it actually turned out not as bad as predicted). So Wednesday to Thursday it was. 

The weather has brought some heavy rain over the weekend and at the end of the previous week, so the ground would be muddy or boggy. I took this in to consideration when I was wondering where to go. I noticed that not only did Cae Dai Wilderness Adventures have a separate, paved car park it was also as wild as it gets for a paid site. 

I do like wild camping but it’s had some idiots giving it a bad name recently, also, sometimes it’s nice to have comforts like a compost loo and drinking water. I dropped them an email and got a friendly reply saying not only was I booked in but I could turn up as early as 9am! 

Tent in Cae Dai Wilderness adverntures

After parking up I was free to choose my pitch.
There was the main field which was lovely, but, just over a wooden bridge was the woodland.
To the left was a nice spot, a smaller grassy patch surrounded by trees and the river, but I fancied something a bit more ‘wild’ .

I wandered the woods and found a few possible candidates, then I dropped down a rather muddy path to a spot next to the river.
Perfect. 
I pitched the MSR Elixir with the door opening out to the stream. then off I went on a walk. 

I’d planned a fairly long route that would take in the castle and hopefully give me a peek at the gliding club, I’m a sucker for anything aviation! 
It was nice to see so many gliders in the skies today. The purest form of flying and, having only flown powered aircraft, I admire those pilots a lot.

View on walk from Denbigh

The walk started easily enough, following a path to the south of Denbigh, then below the castle.
I was very soon looking at some very beautiful scenery. I wondered why it had taken me so long to reach this particular part of the world.

I joined the road for a little while and continued under a tunnel towards Brookhouse Pottery. This Denbigh pottery, by the way is in no way related to the similar sounding Denby pottery!

I was soon back on a footpath which followed a river.
All very pleasant.
It did become rather over grown at one point with large leafy plants that reminded me of rhubarb but it wasn’t difficult to get through.
On reaching a stile, I checked the map. It would he a straight walk to the road on the other side.
There were are few cows dotted around but they were keeping themselves busy, munching on the grass.
All was well.
Then one looked up and started heading my way.
I marched on.
Another looked up, but, this one bounded, like an excited puppy.
Very soon there was a line of large cows and the smaller cowdog moving towards me, slowly at first but gradually gathering pace.
I stopped. They continued.
Maybe I could head to the opposite side of the field to my left and pass around the side of them.
They moved to their right.
The exit was closer than the entrance. Maybe these were friendly cows, cowdog certainly looked a loveable, bouncy character. But, there was more of them and they were rather big.
I turned and headed back to the entrance, quickening my pace.
I crossed the stile, they gathered on the other side.
A few lost interest and went back to eating lunch.
I hid just around the corner for a few minutes and popped my head round to see if they had grown bored of this strange human. They hadn’t.

Oh well, I’d abandon this walk, grab a coffee at camp then head in the opposite direction to see Dr Johnson’s house which, at the time, Google Maps amusingly described as a nightclub.

This route took me alongside corn fields and up to Gwaynynog , the setting for a number of Beatrix Potter books.
As for Dr Johnson’s house…….well, I managed to walk past it!
I decided to ditch the OS map and fired up Google maps, at least then there would be a pin in the right place to find this ‘nightclub’
I returned to the stile bordering the field containing hundreds of grouse and there it was, hidden amongst the trees with a wire fence running around it. To be honest, there wasn’t much to see.
Just prior to the hunt for the house, I took a right at the junction in the woods to look for the monument, however, those pesky cows were at it again. This time three of them gathered on the narrow footpath. I decided it wasn’t really worth trying to pick my way past for a chap I only really knew from an episode of Blackadder.

Denbigh castle

As it was still fairly early, I continued past the campsite and on up to the castle.

I do like a visit to a castle. Castles and waterfalls are two things I like to hunt down on trips.
Unfortunately, this one was locked up, I later discovered it’s always closed on Wednesday.
I did manage a wander around the outside though and get a few photos.

Returning to the campsite, I’d passed a house selling eggs so dinner consisted of a hard boiled egg, cooked in the Jetboil, and a Firepot Posh Pork and Beans. Nicer than it sounds!

After dinner, I sat down with a can of Brew York beer and listened to the stream. Work seemed a million miles away. No phone signal, no light pollution, no noise.
Bliss 

Having the entire site to myself meant the night time was pitch black and as silent as it gets, all I could hear were the owls hooting. It was a real shame it was overcast as I imagine the stars would be amazing. 

I was up and out early the next day, which was a shame but, despite the walks not going as planned, it was a lovely trip and just what the Doctor (Johnson?) ordered!

Glider over Debigh, North Wales
I’d have loved to have been up there!!

Finally out in the tent again!

Flicking through my phone’s photos, I was surprised to find my last camping trip was tent months ago. Since then, we’ve been locked down yet again and Covid related work has been keeping me busy in the (home) office.
To depress me further, Google photos kept popping up reminders; x years ago you were in Slovenia, Andorra, Bavaria, Italy….. There was no chance of a nice week away in Europe this year so time to get the tent back out!

After a few cancelled/unapproved leave requests I’d finally managed to secure three days. One of these days I was getting my Covid vaccine so that left two days for a trip to North Wales.
This trip was a “two bag camp”, basically, one big rucksack with the camping gear and a smaller bag for drinks, first aid kit, map etc.
Bwlchgwyn was somewhere I’d stumbled upon on Google maps. A village most famous for NOT being the highest in Wales!
It looked like it could be a good place for walking, I just had to hope I didn’t have to ask for directions to there!*

Minera Quarry,Wrexham

The Wrexham Council website had a nice route but, it was only 5 miles. I wanted something that would last me the day. My route would take me through the village, on to Llandegla forest via Esclusham mountain.
Viewranger optimistically said this would be around 10 miles.

The first footpaths I hit coming out of Bwlchgwyn were very, very over grown. I circled a field at one point in search of a stile which led to another path that became almost impossible to follow.
This path came to a road out of the village. The quiet stretch of tarmac gave my arms a chance to recover before the next onslaught of evil, sharp branches near Ffordd Isaf.
I left the route for a little detour to look around Minera Quarry, once the largest lime works in North Wales.
The quarry once had it’s own steam locomotive and I followed what was once the railway line towards the path climbing Esclsham Mountain.

Just before the path spat me out on to the road, I stopped to take in the lovely views which stretched on for miles and miles.
I remained on the road for a while Here the views were mostly sheep and moorland. On the whole, this is a rather featureless mountain but, at least I couldn’t get lost following a strip of tarmac. I soon longed for the easily navigable when I left the road and headed North along the moorland towards the forest!

 Esclusham mountain view and sheep, Wrexham, North Wales

At times, the path was easy to spot but, quite often, what appeared to be a footpath could actually be a route made by sheep. Other times, there was no clear way through at all. Even on this dry, hot July day, I couldn’t tell if my foot was about to sink in to something squelchy. For me, this type of terrain is second only to scree for being my least favourite to walk on.
Armed with my compass, clutched firmly in hand, and frequent checks on my GPS, amazingly, not only did I make my way to the forest entrance but also I’d strayed very little from the path. I’d like to put it down to my navigation skills but suspect it was mostly luck!!

Pendinas reservoir Llandegla

It was nice to have a complete change of scene in the forest. Gone was the featureless carpet of green and bog, now I saw trees, wild flowers and obvious footpaths.

I stopped for a while at the beautiful Pendinas Reservoir, grabbed my flask and consulted the OS map. From here, the plan was to retrace my steps back to the moors but take the path to the left, heading to a quarry.

Navigation along this part of the moors was easier, having a fence as a handrail to my right hand side.
Things became confusing at the farm at the end of the moors. The one bent footpath sign wasn’t clear but the gate wasn’t padlocked, always a good sign!
I could see two people in a field working with horses. I kept my head down and kept walking. Nobody shouted. Maybe I had stayed on the correct route but I decided not to linger.
I couldn’t find either of the footpaths I wanted across fields to the edge of the quarry, instead I joined the road and followed that until I saw an obvious footpath heading in the right direction.

Overgrown stile walk Llandegla
There’s a stile here somewhere!

There’s several paths around the old quarry and a number of old buildings which you can walk around.

The nice, easy to follow routes didn’t last long. I headed to the left hand side of the next quarry where things were slightly overgrown!
I spent most of this walk wishing I had a scythe. My rucksack became a ‘battering ram’ against the bushes and brambles. Not only was the path almost impossible to see, a few strategically placed, stealth rocks impeded progress somewhat. It was nice to reach the terra firma of the roads in the village once more.

14 miles later (not the 10 predicated), I’d completed the route. Ususally, I post GPX files for download. I wouldn’t recommend this one though!

So, in this “two bag camp”, it was time to switch from the little sack to the bigger one containing the tent, bedtime things and the most important bits, beer and dinner!
I was using the MSR tent this evening. As it was so warm, it was tempting to use it in it’s inner only configuration.

Dinner was a first for me, a dehydrated bolognaise orzo pasta from Frirepot. I usually buy the wet, Wayfayrer meals but Firepot was just as tasty, lighter, contained more calories (I felt I’d earned them!) and it was far less messy. I’ll definitely be investigating more on their menu!
Drink came from Black Lodge Brewery in Liverpool and it tasted so good after the long, hot, sweaty walk!

Breakfast was slightly less adventurous, porridge and coffee. My one ‘must have’ luxury when camping is my Wacaco Barista Kit. I can get by without many things, but decent coffee in the morning isn’t one of them!
After packing up and, obviously, leaving no trace, it was back to the small bag and a walk around Llandegla forest. This area is more famous for it’s mountain bike trails but there’s a number of walks, each clearly marked with coloured posts. I took the 7 mile (plus a couple of little detours) yellow, Moorland View path. I have made this route available to download as a GPX, however, it is very well signed.

Back at the main car park, I noticed that the cafe serves meals until 21:00 on a Wednesday, perhaps something worth bearing in mind for my next over night trip!

Returning to the car, I calculated I’d walked 30 miles over the last two days. 30 hot, humid, verging on lost miles. But it was so good to be back!

* in case you’re wondering Bull-ch-gwin

ViewRanger is dead? Long live Outdooractive?

I’ve been using ViewRanger for many many years with the Great Britain 1:25,000 OS maps. These maps are around 7 years old now but, on the whole, paths haven’t changed too much and the app is usually used with a paper ‘real’ map. It’s been a reliable app for planning or recording routes and very handy for those ‘oh heck where am I?’ moments.

So, how do you use ViewRanger?
Firstly, you need to set up a free account on their website https://www.viewranger.com/ This account will enable you to download routes, upload your tracks and, if you wish, share your adventures with others.
In a nutshell, a route is something you plan, a track is what you actually do.
Next, download the app to your mobile device. I’ve used it on a number of Android devices and it’s worked well on all. It’s currently running on a Poco X3 which recently replaced a Samsung Galaxy S8. Your phone will need a compass, gyro and accelerometer to use the SkyLine feature (more about that in a bit!)

There’s a number of free maps available. The Open Street and Open Cycle maps are decent and I’ve used them around much of Europe.
I have a CD containing the OS maps for the whole of Great Britain. These are my most used maps and are the same quality as the paper equivalent. The standard of paid maps varies between countries. I have purchased a number of Slovenian maps and I’ve not been too impressed, other country’s maps are of a similar quality to OS.

Since becoming part of OutdoorActive, ViewRanger themselves have stopped selling maps, instead redirecting users to the OutdoorActive website. I’ve not yet purchased a map from the OA site but I’ve been able to use the maps I purchased with VR(as we’ll now refer to them!) .

The VR app is still available to download at the time of writing (July 2021) on the Google Playstore https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.augmentra.viewranger.android but they are pointing potential users to Outdooractive, https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.outdooractive.Outdooractive

As with VR, you need to set up an account on the OA website, but, if you already have an account with VR, the two accounts can be merged in to one.

So, in an attempt to get used to using OA, I decided to run the two applications side by side.

First, create a route.
Both allow route creation within the phone app but it’s far easier on their websites.
ViewRanger – Log in to the VR site, go to Maps and start clicking! Once the route is complete, save it then use sync feature on the phone app.
The planning is rather a vague, roughly draw a line between two points and then the next points and so on. You can tweak points to they more closely match where the actual footpath runs.
OutdoorActive – Adding a track in OA is also simple but it snaps the route to actual paths. Most of the time this works well and if far more accurate than VR, however, on a few occasions, it claims it can’t find the route and instead, takes you on a huge detour. A way around this problem is to snap lots of points close together to force it along the route you want. Again, this needs to by synced to your phone via the button on the bottom of ‘My Page’
At the moment, routes created in VR are also available to you in OA.

So, routes successfully loaded on to the phone

Recording a track
I like the VR interface, it’s very intuitive to use. When you want to start a track, just press the big green +. In OA, first, navigate to the correct screen, click on ‘Tracking’ then ‘Start’.

Viewranger start new track
Outdooractive start new track.

Skyline
Both apps have Skyline, a great feature for naming the hills and places in view.
Again, it’s easier to fire this up in VR, click on the icon on the bottom left.
OA is a little less obvious but, once started, it does give more options as to what you you can view.

Using the Skyline feature in Viewranger

Following a route
Following a route on VR has always been reliable but OA displayed just a black screen with the blue ‘you are here’ blob on a number of occasions. The route and map returned after restarting the app, but, this does become a bit of a pain when you went to quickly check you’re on track.

Both apps show where you are and the direction you are heading. I prefer the long red direction arrow used in VR but perhaps some may find that a little over the top. OA has a more discrete arrow on the blue current location blob.

Following a route in VR
Following a route in OA

In Conclusion
Although OA is a good app, albeit with a few bugs, I still much prefer VR. Perhaps that’s mainly due to familiarity. VR still have a very active Social Media presence so I can’t see it going away anytime soon.
And when it does go…… well, maybe I’ll see what OS have to offer.

Lockdown, a year on.

It’s now been a year since all this Covid malarkey first really kicked in and a very strange year it’s been.

All the plans made in 2020 were cancelled or postponed and the most excitement has been a couple of camping trips and day walks in the summer.
On the one hand, I’m so glad I managed to get out on the few walks I did in the Clwydian hills and Snowdonia. On the other hand, I wish I’d done more.

Our freedom was short lived and so soon we found ourselves back under more stringent lockdown rules. Wales was closed to us once more.

Church in Neston

I’d been bimbling around, close to home. Watching the sunrise in the local woods and taking country lanes to see where I’d end up.
I did one such walk on a day off in November and, rather naughtily, I crossed the border in to Cheshire.
It was a painless experience and I found myself in Neston.
Despite being walking distance (ish) from home, I’d never been before. The closest I got was Ness Gardens where, as a kid on a school trip, I fell head first in to lake trying to catch tadpoles.

Neston is a nice enough place. The usual shops but with an old market town feel and plenty of little nooks and crannies to explore.
The walk round the back of the church is pleasant and leads on to the Wirral Way with great views over to the Welsh hills.

The Wirral Way would be a possibility to get home but my return leg was mostly on pavements alongside the roads.
I did manage to get off road for a shore while walking an extremely muddy bridleway.
Most of the quagmire had been caused by cyclists. I’ve been cursing them a lot this past year.

Those that would have been riding around the tracks of Delamere or Llandegla were now turning their attention to footpaths.
At best, you find a route unwalkable. Fat bike tyre marks cutting though narrow footpaths At worst, a Lycra clad granddad on an over specced and over priced bike comes hurtling downhill towards you and the old couple walking their dog and small grandchild….
…..but I digress.
I was on a bridle way so I can’t shout at them this time.

By December, things had eased a little and once again, we were allowed back across the border in to Wales.
As soon as the restrictions were lifted, I booked two days off work. Surely one of those days would have decent weather?
One did, the other was atrocious!

On the nicer of the two days, I went to one of my favourite spots, Moel Famau
I’d been here many, many times in the past but, after so few walks in 2020, it was so good to be back.
I parked up and spotted a large group of older people heading up the main path, I headed in the opposite direction.
My route took me around the hill, initially heading East, walking towards the little village of Cilcain.

The weather was beautifully sunny and I soon wishing I’d worn lighter layers but, the paths were very wet. Thick gloopy mud covered my boots and worked my way up my trousers. I did manage to wash much of the mud off as I waded through what used to be little brooks but were now quite fast moving streams.

This route is available to download as a GPX file.


We managed to have a fairly normal family Christmas day but by the new year we were back in lock down and walks were back to ‘roam from home’.
It’s tough to find the motivation especially on the cold, dark mornings. To give me an extra kick I signed up for the Lancaster 500k Challenge. This celebrated 80 years since the first flight of the Avro Lancaster. As a pilot myself, I’m keen to support such events. I managed to complete the challenge in 2 months, despite being stuck in Wirral. I’m feeling rather smug about that 🙂

I walked around the streets, woodland and country lanes a few miles from my font door.
Boots and hiking gear were the most commonly worn items on the local residential streets and most of us had become masters at zig zagging across the roads to avoid others, Unfortunately though, once again, I was sharing pavements and footpaths with cyclists.
On one occasion, I was about to unleash my wrath while pointing at the ‘No Cycling’ sign, or, more likely, shake my head and tut loudly but, as I approached the wooden post, I noticed the sign had been prised away. At this point, I was imagining the Lycra clad chapter of Hell’s Angels appearing in the dead of night, armed with tools from their puncture repair kits removing anything that may prevent them from riding wherever they fancied.
This particular cyclist continued his ride along the pavement towards a woman pushing a pram…

Generally though, early mornings were cyclist free and were a time to appreciate what was on my doorstep and explorer previously undiscovered spots.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel…maybe….

Capel Curig Camping

Bad weather is guaranteed when I book time off. It’s well known amongst my work colleagues, it’s well known amongst the flying club, but 2020 really is a strange year. I had fantastic weather for my first camp since lock down eased and the weather looked just as nice for the three days I had booked off in September.
This was another trip for my new favourite tent, the MSR Elixir 1.

Therm-a-rest compressible and Exped inflatable pillows

Something new to try on this trip too. I normally use an Exped inflatable pillow. It weighs virtually nothing, packs down tiny and can be inflated with the same inflation tool as my Exped mattress.
It’s a great design but, for me, a front sleeper who likes a squishy pillow, it just doesn’t quite work. On this trip, I also packed a Therm-A-Rest compressible pillow.
The difference in size is quite obvious in the photo, but there’s little difference in weight. Would I pack a bulkier item for a better night’s sleep?
I packed both pillows and headed off down the A5 towards Capel Curig.

There is another site a short distance from mine. A nice looking site but just a field, my site had plenty of little nooks and crannies. Places to pitch that felt a little wilder.

MSR Elixir tent pitched near Capel Curig, Snowdonia

I left the car near the facilities block, grabbed my rucksack and made my way to the far end of the site. I found a lovely little spot next to a stream. As there was no wind at all and none forecast, I could position the tent whichever way I wanted. I turned my back on the rest of the campers and pointed the door to the stream.
Beautiful.

I wandered back to the car to pick up my day sack containing a flask, digital SLR camera and a few lenses (a benefit of car camping, multiple rucksacks!) I then headed out for a bimble.
A path runs from the back of the campsite towards Capel Curig. I followed it to the first turn off to the left which led me to the A5.
The path continued on the opposite side of the road. It was initially easy to follow, heading up towards a building then crossing a stream. The path soon became less well defined and the surface was quite boggy.
At one point I got knee deep in mud. Typical! I had no spare pants. Knew I should have packed the gaiters.

Once I’d reached another stream, The Leat, I took a right and followed it before taking the path up to Llyn Cowlyd reservoir.
This was social distancing!

Llyn Cowlyd reservoir.

I sat on a rock for a while. The sun was hot and the sky clear. I couldn’t have asked for better conditions. The only thing which could have improved the day was some plane spotting. I could hear what I assumed to be Hawks from RAF Valley but nothing came into view.

Bridges on route back to A5, Capel Curig, Snowdonia

I returned back to The Leat, turning off to follow the path back down to the A5.
There were a few little wooden bridges over some patches but these only served to prove I was on the right route, the boggu ground surrounding them was full of mud and large puddles.

Back at the road, I crossed to walk on the the narrow pavement heading towards Capel Curig.
Around the back of the Joe Brown’s shop is a footpath which led straight back to the campsite.

This route is available to download as a GPX file.

After a cup of coffee by the tent, I returned to the path towards Ogwen Lake. A wander around the lake was very tempting but my stomach had other ideas. It was definitely getting close to dinner time!
After a few photos around the lake I headed back to camp. I’d timed it so I’d be on my walk during sunset. I sat on a rock and watched as the day light came to an end.

Sunset over Snowdonia
Campsite meal

Dinner was a Wayfayrer Pasta Bolognese. It was surprisingly tasty, but I was glad I had a couple of slices of home made bread to fill me up.
Maybe I’m just greedy!
Another benefit of car camping is the ‘luxury’ extras you can take. My little folding camping table proved very useful although my dining chair was a rock!

I sat on a rock by the stream for a while, drinking a beer looking at the stars. It doesn’t get much more relaxing than this.

When it came to settling down for the night, I unrolled the Therm-A-Rest pillow. It so comfortable. It also reduced the ‘electric shock’ hair I often had in the morning.
Snug in the tent, I soon fell asleep.
Sorry old inflatable pillow, you’re relegated. Maybe it’ll make a good cushion for next time I’m sat on a rock.

I woke around 6.30 and popped my head out of the door. The sun was rising over the misty fields. It looked as if it was going to be fine weather again.

Sunrise Gwern Gof Isaf campsite near Capel Curig

I sat by the stream, brewed a coffee in the Wacaco (my little camping luxury) and make an Oat So Simple porridge.
I definitely had brought my appetite with me. Deciding that one porridge just wasn’t enough, I made another espresso coffee and a second pot of porridge.

After breakfast(s!), I packed the camping gear away. The outside of the tent was wet, I assume the rain they had back home in the day reached me overnight. Inside the tent was bone dry though. The tent has two vents each end and they obviously did the trick at eliminating condensation.

Everything packed up, I drove to Capel Curig. From the car park, I headed over the road and took the path next to the church. The route soon changed from fields of sheep to woodland. The path was fairly easy to follow and not challenging, some times, that’s exactly what you want!
The views were both beautiful and varied; mountains, lakes, streams.
A lot of the return leg is along a road but this is a quiet road, only two vehicles passed me during the walk.
This route is also available for download.

Capel curig walk

I returned to the car full of mud, sheep poo and other unmentionables but happy. A fantastic couple of days and just what was needed. To round the trip off the roof went down on the Abarth 124 for a very enjoyable blast around the Welsh roads.

A night away in the MSR Elixir 1

Perhaps I am being overly cautious.
Since Covid lock down was announced in March, I’ve only left Wirral twice and I’ve managed to avoid anyone who isn’t immediate family.
I had made plans, lots of plans but they had all been cancelled so, when I booked some time off work in August I was determined to do something as safe but as fun as possible.
A night in the new tent!

When I booked the annual leave, the forecast was for warm sunny weather. The sort of weather you’d expect in August. Unfortunately, as time progressed, the forecast got worse and worse.
I was determined to use the MSR Elixir 1 tent I’d received for my birthday in June which still hand’t made it beyond the back garden.

The tent pitches inner first, not ideal in wet weather. It is possible to put the outer up first, it’s just a bit more of a faff so I spent a lunch hour in the garden practising. I can now see the benefit of leaving the inner detached, using the whole tent as a kitchen diner before attaching the bedroom at night.

All packed Lowe Alpine rucksack. MSR tent

I drew up a little check list and got my stuff sorted the day before.
To be fair, I don’t need much for an over-night trip but it’s good to be prepared!

I woke at 7 am on Tuesday to the sound of heavy rain. Not a good start to the day but hopefully it would pass through.
I checked the weather forecasts;
MetOffice dry all day,
Yr.no wet all day,
XCWeather a mix of sunshine and showers.
I checked that my waterproofs at the top of my rucksack and headed out.

I parked up in the village of Bryneglwys, a new part of the world for me.
After changing in to my boots, I headed towards the Lantysilio mountain range and was very soon following the well marked path alongside the purple heather.
There are a lot of paths in this area. My route took me up to the peaks of Moel Yr Gaer and Moel Morfydd.
I’d really struck it lucky with the warm, sunny weather. I could make out Jubilee Tower on the top of Moel Famau in the distance and he rest of the Clwydian Range stretching on beyond

Bryneglwys Lantysilio mountain range


I stopped for a can of pop at the trig point. Here I was miles away from everyone. This was how to socially distance!

It was still early in the day so I took a bimble around, taking plenty of photos before getting out the pan and gas bottle to cook up some food.
Dinner was a Wayfarer chicken tikka, the last of a home baked loaf of bread and a Brew Dog Hazy Jane beer. A very welcome drink, it was still quite muggy and warm.

Bryneglwys Lantysilio mountain sunset

After dinner, before settling down for the night, I took another wander.
I had no where in particular in mind, but I knew sunset was around 20:30. I suspected it would be worth seeing is set over the hills.
Unfortunately, the clouds slowly started to build up but it was well worth the stroll.

Luckily the weather remained dry when pitching the tent so I went for the standard, inner first approach.
It went up quickly with no hassle.
As there was little wind, I just pegged out the four corners and the vestibule area. I didn’t think I needed to worry about any extra guy lines.

Interestingly, three of the four ‘corners’ on the outer flysheet have metal holes to fit the poles in to, the fourth was just a loop of material. I asked about this on a forum and a lady replied saying all four loops were material on her Elixir.

The Elixir is palatial with plenty of room in the vestibule area for my rucksack and boots.
Even with the Exped mat inflated in the inner area, there was still plenty of space and, unlike the Coleman Cobra tent, I could sit up straight and still have room to spare.
The storage pockets were useful too. My OS map went in to one top loft pocket, the head torches in the other. At the foot end I stashed tomorrow’s breakfast and at the head end my phone and charging block.
I attached my USB light onto one of the plastic cable ties I acquired from work then threaded that through one of the roof hooks. We’ve recently had to clear out our office in preparation for a move. I regret not picking up more of these useful hooks!



Another positive is the glow in the dark zipper pulls. No fumbling about in the dark. The only minor gripe is that the outside zip often gets stuck, I put that down to user error.

I sat outside the tent for a while, watching the bats zip past my head.
As night fell, I settled down and fell asleep quickly and had a very good sleep, waking once when an owl sounded like he was getting rather irate!

I woke at sunrise, around 6 am, and what a sunrise!

The forecast wasn’t great but as long as it stayed dry for breakfast and packing my kit away I’d be happy.
I fired up the Jetboil and made an Americano coffee with my Wacaco coffee machine, my luxury camping item
Whilst supping my coffee I started on the Oat So Simple porridge, dropping in some of the black berries I’d foraged yesterday on the country lanes between the car and the hills.
Lovely.

It had rained overnight so I had to towel dry the outside of the tent. The inside was dry, no rain had come through and the ventilation had done the job of stopping the condensation.
The tent came apart very easily and getting it back in to its stuff sack was simple. Robens can learn a lot here!!

I wandered back to the car, taking the ‘scenic route’.

All in all, a fantastic trip. I posted a route similar to the one I took on Viewranger, starting and finishing at the layby near the New Inn pub.
The weather was better than imagined, the kit performed well and the views were fabulous.
Now I’m already planning the next outing for the Elixir!

First hill walk of 2020!

Lock down is tough.
I’m lucky, I’ve had a fairly easy time compared to many but; all trips abroad and a city break cancelled, concerts postponed or cancelled, no camping trips and unable to access the hills for months.

I have tried to average around 30 to 40 miles a week doing local walks (I’m determined to still complete the ViewRanger 1000 mile challenge!).
I’m lucky, I live near woods and quiet country lanes but Wirral is flat, very flat so, as soon as it was announced that Wales was opening it’s borders, I booked some time off work.

I’m very keen to try out the new MSR tent but I’m holding off any overnight stays at the moment as only self contained units (things with their own loo) can be used for overnight stays.
At least, I think that’s the current rule.
To make matters worse, on the drive up I passed signs saying Welsh Covid rules apply.
I don’t fully understand my own country’s rules!

The weather forecast was brilliant. A bonus blast around the country lanes in the Abarth with the top down perhaps.
Needless to say, the weather forecast changed considerably the day before and, to quote Half Man Half Biscuit, the cloud base was low on the Clwydian hills but, to quote HMHB again, no storm warning was going to stop me setting out again.

I parked up in my usual spot in Llanferres and walked through the Druid Inn car park to Rectory Lane. Just past the last house, I headed up hill.
Only a few minutes from the car and the views were lovely.

Clwydian Hills Views


It’s strange how Covid-19 has changed normal activities. Previously I’d think nothing of opening a gate. Now, it was a well planned manoeuvre involving one ‘dirty hand’, a foot and a squirt of hand sanitiser. Other than though, everything was as it has always been.

The first part of this walk was a route I knew well. Up Foel Fenlli and down towards the Bwlch Penbarra car park. The second part was (surprisingly!) new to me. I stayed to the west edge of the foot of Moel Famau then headed to the north of Coed Ceunant.
Shortly after joining a narrow road, I had planned on cutting across a field towards Llanbedr hall.
After crossing a small stream, I noticed a number of cows in the next field. They seemed content enough, munching away on their lunch.
I glanced down at the map, just continue in the direction I was heading, towards a gap in the fence.
I altered my route slightly to give the cows a wide berth.
They noticed me and started heading closer.
I moved further to the right, they started to group.
They were congregating between me and the gap in the fence which I discovered, led to another field of cows.
I wimped out and turned around and crossed back over the stream.
I knew the road would lead me down to the road in to Llanbedr and from there, I could get back on track.

Old St Peters Church Llanbedr

As it turned out, this wasn’t a bad decision. I headed up the track towards old St Peter’s Church.
After a good look around at the gravestones dating from the 17 and 1800s and getting the obligatory photos, I headed to the back of the grounds, through an old gate and on to a path.
I’m not entirely sure I should have been there, but it got me on to the lane where the cow field would have led to.

It was now getting close to midday. The temperature had increased and it had become rather muggy. I was glad of the drizzle to cool me off as the route slowly climbed back to Fenlli.
I stayed on the lower path around the hill before following the path I’d taken earlier to the car.

This route (with the cow detour!) is available to download as a GPX
I’ve also added a Relive Fly Through.

Tuesday was another walk, this time near Ruabon.
Not as hilly and not as scenic but a pleasant walk, despite a detour along the roads. A farmer had decided to grow the world’s biggest and thickest corn right across the path.

Wednesday was back to the realities of Covid, spending over two hours negotiating a full refund for another cancelled holiday, but the hills are back!

MSR Elixir 1 – First Impressions.

How many tents do I need?
Looking through my posts on here, that would be a very good question.
The short answer: You can never have too many tents!

For my birthday, I was lucky enough to receive the green MSR Elixir 1. Much more discreet than the red and grey option.
Unfortunately, as we are still in lockdown, I can only do a ‘first impressions’ review based on a couple of pitches in the garden.

As it’s name implies, the Elixir 1 is a one person tent but has loads of space and headroom, almost on a par with some two person tents.

MSR Elixir 1 packed
MSR Elixir 1 pack size compared to Robens Arch 2

Ok, at a total weight of 2kg, it isn’t much lighter than my Robens Arch (2.3kg) and the pack sizes are fairly similar (I may look in to get a compression sack).
I can shave off some weight by using my MSR Ground Hog pegs and, if the weather is decent enough, I can leave the 130g footprint at home.

So, the first pitch.
This was a new one for me.
Every other tent I’ve used pitches the outer and inner together with the poles on the outside of the tent.
The Elixir is different, the ‘standard’ pitch is inner first then put the fly over the poles. The poles themselves are also different from the ones I’m used to, two of them are joined together by swivelling hubs.
Being freestanding, I can pitch the Elixir then pick it up and move it to another spot. Might be handy if I accidentally pitch not facing the views!

The pitching instructions are printed on the inside of the stuff sack but it’s fairly straight forward.
The footprint goes down first, then snap together the main poles and the smaller middle pole. The poles, clips and buckles are all colour coded; match any grey bits to the grey pole and the red bits to the red pole.
Spread the inner tent (the one with all the mesh) over the footprint then put the grey pole in to the two grey coloured grommets then put the red pole in the red grommets. The inner tent has a number of coloured hooks, attach those to the corresponding coloured poles and the tent pulls itself in to shape. Place the separate red pole across the top then pop the ends in to the holes on the inner.

Inner of MSR Elixir 1 tent
Inner only

The tent can be used in this inner only configuration and I do like the idea of spending a barmy evening under the stars without a pesky flysheet spoiling the view.
Whether I’ll ever get the chance with the unpredictable English weather is another mater!

To add the flysheet, just place it over the poles, making sure the outer door is on the same side as the inner door!
The grey and red version of the Elixir makes this even easier by making the door a different colour to the rest of the tent.

Once everything is nice and tight and pegged out, it’s done!

I was surprised how quickly I pitched on my first attempt. It wasn’t perfect but I imagine I could complete a standard pitch in around 5 minutes.

Green MSR Elixir 1 tent

Hopefully, the stardard pitch will be the most used way of putting my Elixir up. I wouldn’t fancy putting the meshy inner up first in heavy rain and risk it getting soaked. I’m having Castleton flashbacks here!

It is possible to put the outer up first with the footprint and I tried this for my second garden pitching experiment.
Yes, it’s a bit of a faff and takes a little longer than standard pitch but it can be done and will keep you and your stuff that bit drier.
Put the poles up in the footprint in the same way as before then put the rain fly on. Once the poles are in the holes of the fly, go inside and clip the inner tent on to the poles and make sure the centre, perpendicular pole goes through both inner and outer.
Putting the poles through the corresponding holes of the corners of the inner is a little awkward but the order you attach the poles shouldn’t make a difference.

There is a third way of getting the tent set up which is outer first and involves some sort of tent origami.
I’ll save that for another day.

There is plenty of space in the porch area for kit or cooking. Additionally, the door has three settings; closed, partly open, fully open. Handy for cooking in less than favourable weather.

MSR Elixir 1 porch
The three ‘door settings’

Speaking of rain, on paper, this tent appears to be shockingly un-waterproof. The fly has a hydrostatic head of 1500, the groundsheet 3000. In comparison, my Robens Arch is twice that value.
Generally, the hydrostatic head value is a good indicator to the protection you get but it isn’t quite so black and white. The fly sheet design, thread count, and fabric used also contribute.
The inner has a good size bathtub floor that should also keep things nice and dry.
As I’ve only done a couple of lockdown practice pitches in the garden, I can’t comment (one for a follow up review!), however, all reviews I’ve read online say there’s no leakage problems and offers plenty of protection from the wind and rain.

MSR Gear loft
Gear loft

Inside the main body of the tent, the first thing that strikes you is the space. For a one person tent it’s cavernous, although you pay for it in the extra weight. I’m about 5 foot 11 and can easily sit or kneel up inside.
To the front and back are handy storage pockets for keeping a mobile phone and other odds and ends.
The ceiling houses the ‘gear loft’ storage pockets and 4(!) loops for lights or a makeshift clothes line.
Another nice little touch is the glow in the dark zip pulls on the tent door.

Light loops Elixir 1 tent
Light loops

So far so good! Obviously the real tests are yet to come. Fingers crossed I won’t have to wait too much longer

Trovat Advanced High GTX Boot Review

My old trusty Brasher Hill Master boots had walked their last mile. Even on fairly dry days, my feet would end up soggy after walking through the shallowest of puddles.
Brasher became part of Berghaus  and continued to produce the Hillmaster. These boots get some very good reviews but, I fancied a change and started reading up.

My ‘go to’ walking shoes are my Mammut Convey GTX approach shoes. Comfortable and reliable on most walks, but, I like a more robust shoe for more challenging weather and conditions.

Many years ago, my first pair of approach shoes were by the Swiss brand Raichle. These were fantastic shoes and we covered many, many  miles together. Now, like Brasher, the brand has been re-badged and has now come under the Mammut umbrella.

Mammut walking boots

I was drawn to the Mammut Trovat Advanced High GTX Boot
At £185 this was above what I was looking to spend, however, I had a £50 voucher for Snow and Rock which made the price rather less daunting.
These brown nubuck leather boots with rubber heel and toe protection have a slightly more ‘old school’ look than many modern boots but, unlike the ‘old school’ boots, these are instantly comfortable.
The nappa leather and memory foam help make these boots very easy to wear.
They certainly look built to last.
There’s a little bit of Raichle still retained too, their logo is displayed on the inside of the tongue.

Raichle Mammut walking boots

These are a big boot, my size 8s  just fitted in my boot bag although at 1,240g they  weigh only a few grams more than the old Hillmaster boots.

As I started loading the car for my first walk in the new boots,  I realised I was wearing Mammut pants and a Mammut jumper. Along with the Mammut boots, I would risk looking like a bad catalogue picture.  Luckily, as it  it was raining so I grabbed my Arcteryx Waterproof to break things up a bit!   Perhaps I was over cautious but I threw my approach shoes in the car, just in case.

The weather forecast fluctuated between dry, drizzle and large down pours – pack for everything!
Driving down the A55 with lights and windscreen wipers on suggested this wasn’t going to be the dryest of walks! At least it would be a good test of the Gortex and the Vibram MT Traction II sole.

Grip Mammut walking boots

My original plan was to park up in Moel Famau and head up a few hills but, as the road to the car park was closed, I turned back towards the car park in Loggerheads for Plan B.
After parking the car I change from my Addidas trainers in to the boots. Yes, they are heavy but so comfortable. Not sure I’d want to be wearing them on a hot summer day though.
I tighten the laces, assuming that I’m going to have to change the tightness a number of times until I got it right but, I struck lucky first time.

The first test was a very wet wooden bridge. So far, so grippy!  My route continued through muddy woodland and over wet stones, none of which caused any problems. These are boots you can feel confident wearing.

I always pack a spare pair of socks. I’ve needed them on walks even on dry days wearing the Brasher boots, one puddle and that was it! In my Mammut boots, however, I was bone dry despite the persistent rain and walking through some long wet grass.

If you look after your kit, your kit will look after you. These boots are very easy to look after. A quick wipe down with warm water and a soft brush and they were as good as new.

In conclusion, the Trovat Advanced boots are on the high end of price points but you do get what you pay for. I’m really impressed with these boots and they certainly seem to cope well with any terrain thrown at them.

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