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Black Pudding Gaiters

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Camping

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

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!

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