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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!

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.

Lockdown Continues

In March 2020, we began the Covid-19 lock down. As we got to April, it was clear than things weren’t going to change any time soon.
Back in March, it was a novelty working from home and spending the allowed exercise time discovering new paths a short walk from home. Now, the novelty was wearing thin.
A camping and concert visit to the Lake District was put back a year. A weekend football tournament in Crawley was cancelled. At least I got the money back from Premier Inn without any hassle. Big thanks to them!
We had to postpone the traditional Mother’s Day meal and a family birthday get together.

Annoyingly, for a country with so few bank holidays, most of them occurred during lock down and the weather has been fantastic. I would have loved to have been in the Welsh hills with my tent, instead I was wandering the lanes, paths and bridleways of Wirral.

Some of my routes headed across Brombrorough golf course. Interestingly, on the first few walks, the route across the course was marked with a few small, wooden pointers. Later, large arrows were painted on the grass and tees. I suspect more people were walking and some were getting a bit lost!

This is a footpath. Benty Heath Lane
This is a footpath!

After the golf course, the footpath passes to the side of a crop field with the M53 motorway on the right.
Taking a right on the road at the end of the field brings you out on to Bentey Heath Lane, passing Hargreave House Cottages.
Walking from the golf course, this route is clear but if doing the walk the other way around it’s not so obvious.
From the road you see painted ‘Private!’ signs and the footpath sign have been removed.
The bridge over the motorway has a piece of graffiti saying “f*** the farmer”, I do wonder if it was written by a disgruntled walker!

One of my ‘new’ walks was around Raby. I’ve made this walk available to download but altered it to start and end at Merseyrail train stations. I’ll be doing this walk again post lock down and popping in to the lovely, thatched Wheatsheaf Inn for a drink or two!

Friday 8th May was a bank holiday marking the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
I used the day as an opportunity for a longer walk.
I had to alter my route as the footpath to the side of Clatterbridge hospital was closed. This meant taking a slightly longer route along roads, luckily they were still very quiet.
The route intended to take is available on ViewRanger. I’ve tweaked it slightly to start and finish at Bromborough Rake train station

June started off in much the same way as the previous months but with the added disappointment of the cancellation of the holiday to Zakopane in Poland. At least most of my money will be refunded, apart from the part I’d booked with LastMinute.com. I certainly won’t be using them again post lockdown and wouldn’t recommend any one else do either!

And now, well, it’s cold and it’s wet and there’s few signs of normality returning any time soon.
I’m looking forward to the time when we can pop to Primark to pick up our “I survived Covid-19” t-shirts….until that time, stay safe out there.

Lockdown!

My annual leave entitlement at work runs April to April which means in March, my entire team battle to claim days to use up their leave.
Being sneaky (some may say selfish!), in December I booked a week off in March before anyone else did.
I planned to buy a 4 in 8 Freedom of North West Rail Rover ticket which can be used for travel towards Chester to the south, Leeds to the east and Dumfries to the north.
Leeds was a definite, I’d not been before and I was keen to see the armouries, perhaps combine with another Yorkshire town.
Carlisle was tempting too. A walk along Hadrian’s wall, sneak in a spot of camping….
…..
…..then came Covid-19.

My football Sunday league games had already been cancelled, my football and fencing training sessions soon followed. My hotel in Crawly cancelled the booking I’d made for April as did the campsite in the Lake District.
Things were slowly getting ready for lock down.
My big plans for the week off were becoming smaller plans.

For the time being at least, walking/hiking was still allowed. One idea was to use the Chester to Manchester line, get off the train at Delamere, walk back to Chester then, take the Merseyrail train back home.

4 in 8 freedom rail rover ticket

The ticket is in two parts.
The bottom part can be read by ticket machines, the top part is for writing in the day and month the ticket is being used (click on the image to expand).

After a pleasant journey on an empty train, I got off at Delamere station.
From the station, it’s a short walk to the visitor centre (with it’s toilets!) and on to the Blakemere Moss lake.

Navigation is easy, follow the signs for the Delamere Way through the forest to the road running (almost) through the middle.

Unfortunately, this route does go along roads for a short while but they aren’t very busy.

I was now following the well signed Baker Way.
Just to the north of Ashton Hayes (which sounds more like a Hollywood actor than a village), I had a decision to make. I could continue on the Baker Way which lead to the south of Chester or I could turn right on to Gongar Lane. This would take me on the Longster Trail towards the north of Chester.
I decided on the Longster Trail.
This was a nice 12 mile walk, passing villages and crossing farmers fields before reaching the outskirts of Chester.
The route is available to download from ViewRanger.
Needless to say, I’ll be trying the other route when I can!

I did get to Leeds as planned, but now all the museums including the armouries were closed. As I sat alone in PieMinister, the annouoncement was made that all pubs and restaurants would close that night.
Total lock-down was imminent.
I made mu way very quickly to the station, I certainly wasn’t going to wait for the last train as more and more were cancelled.

I never managed to use the final day of my 4 day ticket.

I didn’t return to the office after my week off either.
I got a text message off a colleague saying that we would be working from home for the foreseeable future. Luckily I guessed this might happen. I had taken my laptop home and, more importantly, my stash of coffee.

Tree in the morning mist

Working from home wasn’t too bad.
The time I’d normally spend communing. I spent doing the government approved daily walk.
I would walk for a couple of minutes to the local woods then wander around discovering the various paths. For the most part, I was very lucky with the weather.
I’ll certainly miss these early morning strolls through when normality returns.

Eastham country park, Wirral


At the weekends, I’d get up early and head a little further down the road (still only about 5 minutes!) to the larger woods at Eastham Country park.
Leaving early mean I could easily follow the social distancing rules, only seeing the occasional early dog walking in the distance.

We work flexi time in my office, and I’d managed to build up enough hours to take a couple of days off.
When I booked them, I had planned a couple of days in the Welsh hills. When the time came, we were in full on lock down and were only allowed to go on one exercise a day.
The (short) list of permitted exercise included walking but only from where you live. I’m quite lucky, there’s several footpaths and quiet country lanes near my home. I drew up a couple of routes, both in a similar area. One 8 mile circular route from my house, the other about 10.5 miles.
I’ve added both to ViewRanger but tweaked both to start and end at the nearest train station.

Eastham Country Park Wirral

We’re now approaching the end of the third week of lock down.
Needless to say, we’re all missing seeing family and it’s tough missing usual activities…..but there’s quite a few walks and camping trips getting planned!!

Slovenia 2019

All quiet on the blog recently, WordPress has decided not to work on Chrome, it’s a little wobbly on Edge too…
….Anyway, June 2019 (yes it really has taken me that long to complete this post!). Another year, another trip to Slovenia.
This was a rather impromptu and virtually free trip using the money I’d built up via TopCashBack…..and I gained more cashback with my booking!

I set an alarm (and a backup alarm!) for 02.30. Argh!
On the bright side the roads were quiet . 
Sadly, things went downhill at the rather chaotic Manchester airport. A queue had formed just to get upstairs to the check in area! To avoid this, I went into the multi story car park and used the stairs there.
When I arrived at check-in for my TUI flight, there was the usual very, very long queue which seems common with all their flights.

Airside, I filled up my empty plastic flask with water from the fountain (saves few quid!), bought a much needed coffee and an egg & (apparently) bacon baguette for the flight.

Arriving at the gate, I was told one of the toilets on the aircraft was not working. The flight would be delayed while they attempted to fix the problem. I plugged my phone in to charge and waited…..
I was due to fly on the new Boeing 737 Max, however, following a couple of accidents, every aircraft of that type had been grounded. We were now flying on an Olympus Airways Airbus A321. This resulted in some faffing due to the changes to seat configuration once we did get onboard. 
Our Greek crew eventually got us airborne 40 minutes later than scheduled.

A couple of hours later, we arrived in Austria. From here it was a three hour trip in a minibus over the border to Kranjska Gora.

My room in Pension Milka was comfortable and a good size for a single room but the best feature was the view!!

View from balcony Pension Milka Kranjska Gora, Slovenia

After unpacking, I made my way downstairs on to the outside eating area. I was staying half board which included a three course evening meal. There was no choice, you got what you were given, but the quality was phenomenal.
The ‘amuse-bouche’ was a beetroot bread with smoked butter and hummus. All home made. Next came celery, bacon and walnut soup .
Main course was duck with beetroot reduction. A lavender panna cotta with berries rounded off this fantastic meal.

The next morning I woke at around 07:15 to the sound of grass cutting. They start early here! 
I helped myself to a selection of ham, cheese, bread and cereal while a very nice ‘proper’ Americano coffee was prepared for me.

After breakfast, I headed out, up the road to path 7 towards Vrisc. This was a very easy route to follow. Taking a left from the hotel, I followed the road up as far as the footpath to the left.
Although this was a climb, it was fairly gradual with plenty of views and things of interest, such as the Russian Chapel. I arrived there at 10:30, before the tourists descended so had a good look round.

Vrisc pass, Slovenia. Face in rock

My route took my past the ‘face in the cliffs’. Needless to say, there is a story behind this.

On reaching the part of Vrisc where the tourist coaches stop and their passengers get a photo, I continued past the dom (a large mountain hut serving food) to a much quieter peak where there was still some snow on the ground. I passed through the white stuff towards a little grey box containing a book to record my visit (for safety) and a rubber stamp. It would have been nice to mark on my map that I’d arrived but, sadly, the ink had dried up.
It was a beautifully warm and sunny day. This was a great spot to sit a while and take in the views.

View from Vrisc pass, Slovenia

The route back was similar to the route up albeit slightly quicker. The total distance being around 12.5 miles. A GPX file can be downloaded from the Viewranger website    

Italian lakes near Slovenian border

Friday 7th June and I’m the only person at breakfast. I was offered eggs cooked any way I wished to go with my coffee and cereal. 
It was another hot and sunny day. The plan was to take the path/cycle route D2 to the  Fusine lakes across the border in Italy. This was a walk I’ve done a few times but it really is beautiful and well worth a return visit.
I did a figure of eight loop stopping at a quiet spot for a quick drink and to take in the views.
I continued along D2 the far end of the village Fusine in Valromana but there was little reward in extending the walk. I’ve removed this extra part from the GPX file.

Saturday was looking to be another hot sunny day. The car park around the lake Jasna was already busy when left my room at 9am. 
My original plan was to get bus to Mojstrana but I decided to walk. This was perhaps not best idea! It was 26 degrees in relentless sun. On a previous visit, I got as far as the foot of Triglav,  today, I only reached the gallery rock formations.  Still, it was a nice if surprisingly tiring walk.
I returned to Mojstrana for the hourly bus back to Kranjska Gora. I felt quite smug. After a quick look on Alpetour website, I’d got to the stop a few minutes before the bus and had the correct change….I hadn’t spotted that the 16:12 bus didn’t run on Saturday. Could have been worse, the bus stop was closed on some days due to road works.  

 Sunday 9th June
After being the only person at breakfast on the previous mornings, today there was another English lady travelling alone and an Austrian family.
Later in the morning I popped in to the shopping area for some cash. Two cash machines were out of money. I assumed there had been a rush on Friday and Saturday. I had enough money for some drinks so headed to the supermarket. It was closed. Using my limited Slovenian, I’d worked out it should have opened at 8am. It was now 9.20
Giving up on that idea, I grabbed my stuff then went on walk to the Koca v Krnici hut. A nice simple walk following the river through woods. I took the track back making it fairly circular.
I’d returned to Kranjska Gora quite early in afternoon so took D2 to Gozd Martuljek, crossing the river for the walk back.
This walk can be easily split in to two separate shorter walks from Kranjska Gora.
I later discovered that today was Pentecost or Whit Sunday, a national holiday in Slovenia. Explains why everything was shut!

Monday 10th June
The plan today was to do the three borders walk but the dark clouds were gathering in that direction.
I started walking towards where the borders of Slovenia, Italy and Austria meet but took a left a Ratece towards the Planica centre.
Passing the visitor centre and ski jumps, I continued on to walk to the Nadiza waterfall.
I’d walked up the waterfall last year so today I followed one of the paths south just because it was there! I was glad I did! More snow to play in and some fantastic views.
This is a great, easy circular walk from Planica although I removed the extra bit to the south off my GPX file

Once I made my way back to Planica, I took the path beside the hotel and on to the Slanta ski lift. The path had the usual yellow signs pointing to Kranjska Gora and Ratece. Then I hit a sign saying ‘private’.
Was walking across here still possible?
There was nobody around so I carried on but no yellow footpath signs until I got over their land. According to my GPS I was still on the footpath. Had it been removed?
My route, legal or otherwise, came out near the bizarre labyrinth, from here it is an easy walk on D2 back. 

Tuesday 11th June 
Today I was going to try a new route, head towards the Martuljek waterfall. then take the path towards Spik and the bivouac
The further I went along the path, the more difficult the terrain. Not hugely difficult but rain was predicted, the clouds were getting darker and I was rapidly loosing confidence in my Scapra approach shoes.  It was enough for me to think to myself, “I’ve seen nobody since leaving D2 and the phone signal has disappearing. As much as I want to stay in Slovenia, I didn’t want to prolong my stay by being stuck up a mountain after a slip.”
There were a lot more contours on the map ahead and, looking at the map, there would not be much more in the way of views although seeing the bivouac would have been fun. 

I followed the path back down to a track which led me down to D2 opposite the memorial for cyclist Jure Robic.  From here, I followed D2 to Gozd Martuljek taking the road through the village and up past a waterfall.
Taking a left at Srednji Vrh, the route continues through pastures, woodland and past a house selling fresh yogurt.
There were some great views over to Kranjska Gora but the weather was turning so I cut the walk a shorter and headed back to the hotel the rain became very heavy.
The Pension Milka kitchen was closed today at the hotel so I headed to Kotnik’s for a takeaway pizza. I got the most expensive pizza on the menu (€10 plus 50c for box). Truffle; Mozzarella, sweet cream, truffle, deer prosciutto, Karst prosciutto, Parmesan. Fantastic!!
I made my way very quickly in the torrential rain to my balcony where I sat with my pizza and a Slovenian IPA beer watching the storms in the valleys.

A 5.30 pick up for the airport in the morning so an early night this evening. A total of 214.67km or 133.4 miles to add to the total this year.

Coleman Cobra 2 versus Robens Arch 2

Coleman Cobra 2 tent

I picked up the Coleman Cobra 2 cheaply on an Amazon Black Friday deal.
It ticked all the boxes; small enough to carry, not too heavy (2.3kg) and, being a two person tent, there should be a decent amount of room for one lanky person and their kit.

I’d taken it out on a number of trips, all in good weather…until one trip to North Wales.
I woke up, made a coffee and realised the flaws in the Cobra when the rain started…..
…..there was no porch and the lack of head room made it rather uncomfortable.

I sat in the main body of the tent to drink my coffee, curled up due to the limited head room in a way a that would have put many contortionist to shame.
I decided that breakfast would be best cooked in the small park about a mile down the road. I was dressed in waterproofs but, at least I could sit upright.

As good as the Coleman is, I needed something about the same weight but with some headroom and a little bit of shelter for eating and cooking (with plenty of ventilation, cooking inside a tent isn’t recommended!!!)
I spent a while browsing numerous different tents. I had a good idea of what I wanted and got the shortlist down to two….well three but one didn’t seem to be in stock anywhere.

Robens Arch 2 tent pitched

I purchased the Robens Arch 2 at a sale price of £110.
Robens is a Danish brand you don’t see much of in England, therefore, there were very few reviews online.
I crossed my fingers!
My one concern was how pink it looked on the photos. Perhaps keep the Coleman for more discrete camping!

The tent arrived the following evening. I didn’t have too much time, so I quickly put it up in the back garden to check all the bits where were I expected them to be. I was relived to see the tent was more a muddy brownish-red colour rather than the girly pink the website suggested.

Pitching instructions are provided in the tent’s stuff sack, they are also available on the Robens website which has some useful videos, however, it is an easy tent to put up.

Attaching Robens tent poles

First, put the two colour coded alloy poles through the corresponding sleeve, making sure the flat coloured end goes in first. A rather unusual feature of this Robens tent is that one end is sealed. Push the pole as far as it goes in to the webbing (it may need some wiggling!). The other end goes in to the eyelet on the opposite side of the tent.
Pull the tent into shape then peg out.
Simple.

So, in the battle of Coleman versus Robens, both are equally simple to pitch.
Coleman 1 – Robens 1

For it’s first trip out, I took the Robens to Hebden Bridge Camping which is part of the New Delight Inn.
I was flying a Vulcan Bomber simulator in Stacksteads, about 30 minutes drive away. This was fantastic experience and very different from anything I’ve ever flown before. We took off from RAF Finningley (now Doncaster Sheffield airport) and headed up the coast. I did a few barrel rolls over Blackpool then continued for a low level (500m) pass over Lake Windermere.
Great fun!

As my ‘flight’ took off at 10am, I had plenty of time to get the tent sorted and take a decent walk afterwards. On checking in, I was handed a wooden spoon to put in to the ground next to my tent. A novel way of proving that I had paid!
The camping area is a slightly sloping, fairly small field to the side of the pub car park. There’s two good separate ‘bathrooms’ in a portakabin, both containing a shower which is free to use.

Once again, the tent went up quickly and easily. A nice little feature in the Robens is a pocket to stuff the internal door into when opened fully, this makes it a bit easier to access the porch area.
I changed out of my ‘flying clothes’ and into my walking gear. I was grateful of the extra headroom the Robens tent offered. I can easily sit up at any part of the tent. A big extra point for the Robens.

Suitably attired, I went on a pleasant circular ish walk to Hebden Bridge. The route started at the path almost opposite the campsite then returned on the Caderdale Way which has great views over the village and beyond. The route is available to download as a GPX file from the ViewRanger website.

View over to Hebden Bridge

Back at the campsite, I had dinner at the New Delight Inn. A portion of scampi for starters followed by bacon cheese burger. All good tasty pub food.

As it was a nice evening, after dinner, I followed the bridleway back up to Hebden Bridge for a night cap at Drink?. I was joined on the walk back by several bats. I watched them from the porch for a while before settling down for the night.

Robens tent in Hebden Bridge Camping

First, I had to hook my lantern up.
The Coleman tent has a handy plastic hook on the roof. The Robens just has a loop made of material.
I managed to hook the lantern’s USB charger part through then back on itself which did the trick.
A slight ‘win’ for the Coleman there.
One plus for the Robens is it has two loops ….so why did I hang the lantern over my feet rather than within easy reach?!

Like the Coleman, the Robens has two mesh storage pockets. I put my mobile phone and portable charger in one and my head torch in the other. I plonked myself in the middle of the tent and promptly fell asleep…..

…..I woke up quite late on Sunday morning. The others on the site were busy preparing breakfast or even packing up by the time I surfaced. I think the lie in was partly down to the how much darker it is inside the Robens.
Another point for the Robens there!

After the usual breakfast of coffee and porridge cooked on the Jetboil, I started to put my camping kit away. The Robens is a very easy tent to take down, getting it back in it’s stuff sack, however, resulted in much swearing and cursing. Trying to put it away in rain is almost impossible. Another stuff sack will be used in future – perhaps the wide opening bag the Coleman is kept in.
A definite point for the Coleman and it’s taco stuff sack.

Ventilation and bathtub floor in Robens.

The Robens was fantastic in the horrible conditions during a camp near Castleton.
Both tents have a hydrostatic head of 3000 and taped seams. Both tents pitch the inner and fly together which saves soggy inners if pitching in the rain. Both also have a good deep bathtub inner which gives protection from any wet weather.
The Coleman kept me dry over night on a rainy trip to Wales but it was virtually impossible to keep dry and cook breakfast due to the lack of headroom.
Point to the Robens.

The two tents also have good ventilation so no problems with condensation, however, the Robens does have more vents which are easier to open and close so just wins this test.

If you’re counting, I make it 4.5 points to the Robens and 2.5 for the Coleman.
That’s not to say the Coleman is a particularly bad tent especially as it can be picked up at such a good price.
The Coleman is currently (August 2019) around £85 but can be found for as little as £70.
The Robens is more expensive at about £120.
I like the extra headroom and porch the Robens offers and for that reason it’s now my go to two person tent, but, both are very good tents.
How much is the extra height and porch space worth to you?

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