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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!

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

Terra Nova Wild Country Zephyros

I’ve a nice, growing collection of tents, the large Vango, the cheap and cheerful Coleman and the current favourite, the Robens Arch.
Two of these are two person tents weighing in at around 2.3kg.
The Wild Country Zephyros is a smaller, lighter (1.5kg) one person tent (note this is a review for the earlier, model not the 2020 compact version)

Wild Country One Person Zephyros tent

The Zephyros is a cheaper version of the sister company’s Terra Nova Laser. The Terra Nova tent is a lot, lot lighter but also several hundred pounds more expensive (RRP £170 and £450 for the current models in April 2020).

Stuff sack, Wild Country Stuff sack
Back pole and the ventilation. Curtains closed!

Pitching the Zephyros is easy. The fly and inner go up together which is great when pitching in bad weather.
One long Superflex alloy pole runs across the middle of the tent and two smaller poles sit at the top and bottom ends to give structure, stability and help provide ventilation.
It can be put up in around 5 minutes or so.
On the subject of poles. the tent comes with a repair kit which includes a sleeve for fixing a damaged pole….alternatively, it makes a great pea shooter!


Outside, the tent is a nice green colour, nothing too garish! The flysheet has 4000mm hydrostatic head flysheet,it has fully taped seams and a 6000mm groundsheet.
The guy lines are reflective which is a nice touch for when you’re wandering back to the tent at night.

Inside, there is plenty of room. I’m about 5 foot 11 and I can sit up right. There’s not a huge amount of space in the porch area but a 75l rucksack can be tucked in to the side and it’s not too bad for cooking. I’ve also found you can extend the porch by popping the door up with a stick or walking pole to make a basic shelter.
There’s a few other little nooks and crannies for putting boots etc but, unlike many tents, there’s no handy pocket on the inner for leaving say, your mobile phone or head torch etc.

A cute little feature is the ‘curtains’ at either end. Well, OK they are really covering the ventilation but, providing there’s enough air circulating elsewhere, it does help keep things a little darker. These can be opened and closed from inside the tent.

Colour coded poles, reflective guy lines Wild Country
Colour coded poles and reflective guy lines

The bath tub inner is not very deep compared to my other tents but I’ve not noticed that being an issue yet. One slightly strange design feature is the outer door rolls back in to the inside of the tent which can make the inside damp if opening the door after a rainy night.
While we’re discussing negatives, it is a little bit susceptible to condensation, nothing too bad but more than my other tents. I imagine this is to be expected in a smaller tent.

This is a very popular tent, so there’s loads of videos, forums and reviews for this tent.
You can pick up this model for under £100 (April 2020) if you hunt around , and for that price, it’s not a bad bit of kit!

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?

Half Man Half Biscuit – Castleton

As a Tranmere supporter, brought up on the Holmlands Estate, Birkenhead (about two minutes walk from Prestbury Ave) , who went to the same primary and secondary schools as Nigel Blackwell, it was impossible not to become a fan of Half Man Half Biscuit.
I’d followed them around the country, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Hull…… but when I spotted a gig in a cave I just had to get a ticket.

I bought the ticket in February for Devil’s Arse cave in Castleton. A month later I’d booked a spot at a campsite a few miles down the road.
The concert was in mid August.
Splendid.
Pitch up at midday, walk to nearby Ladybower reservoir, cook dinner then a nice evening stroll to the venue….
…..well, that was the plan!

There had been a rain warning in place for a few days.
I left my house at 10am for what should be about a 90 minute journey. I hit the first tailback on the M56, then another. Even on the clear bits of motorway it was not advisable to go too fast. The rain was heavy and the surface extremely damp.
It took around three hours to reach Swallowholme Campsite in Bamford. I was shown to my allocated spot on a patch of grass reserved for only for tents. I put on my waterproofs and set up ‘home’
I haven’t been too impressed with my Scarpa approach shoes, I’ve little confidence in the grip and, despite getting re-waterproofed recently, my feet were already soaked by the time I’d pitched my tent.
I sat in the doorway and made myself a coffee. I felt I’d earned it!

With my right foot squelching every time I took I step, I did not fancying too much of a walk so I took a look around Bamford. There wasn’t much to see to be honest. I went on to Hathersage.
I’m not a fan of shopping but there are a couple of good outdoor shops in the village and it got me out of the continuing monsoon.

Back at the tent, I sat in the porch area and heated up my meatballs and pasta and downed a very nice can of Thornbridge beer I’d purchased at Hathersage Spar.
At around 6pm, I headed back out in to the torrential rain for the 80 minute walk to Devil’s Arse cave. I did ask myself why I didn’t take the car.

Devils arse cave, Castleton Derbyshire

Devil’s Arse has to be one of the most impressive concert venues I’ve been to as well as being the best named!
I’d arrived in good time so I bought a drink at a stall near the entrance.
As I drunk my coffee, I said ‘hello’ to bassist Neil who was sporting a nice Appleton cricket shirt (there’s a story behind that!).

The audience area was split in to three tiers.
I took my place on a raised area to the right of the stage, leaning on the safety barrier between my level and the lower level on the left.
The support was JD Meatyard.
Not really my thing but a number of the audience seemed to enjoy his set.

At around 8pm, Half Man Half Biscuit came on stage and started their show with “She’s in Broadstairs”
I seem to remember the other songs were as follows:

  • Restless Legs
  • Renfield’s Afoot. A woman standing near me had danced her way through the previous two songs and continued through this one. A strange dance reminiscent of the of “Tales of the Unexpected” opening credits.
  • Lilac Harry Quinn
  • Harsh times in Umberstone Covert
  • Look Dad No Tunes (the theremin part really warmed the crowd up)
  • Ode To Joyce
  • What Made Colombia Famous
  • Paintball’s Coming Home With the extra verses which get added at every gig – “They say It Is What It Is and Gin O’Clock” “You OK, hun?” “They’ve got an ice cream maker and a George Foreman grill” 
  • Left Lyrics in the Practice Room
  • God Gave Us Life (“God gave us tailbacks on the M56, and God gave us tailbacks on the M60”. Nigel must have taken the same route I did)
  • Terminus (I think my favourite song at the moment)
  • Joy Division Oven Gloves
  • Running Order Squabble Fest
  • Dukla Prague Away Kit
  • Worried Man Blues
  • We Built This Village with the variation of “cavers out moshing”
  • David Wainwright’s Feet (a song originally on a kids album which is ridiculously catchy)
  • Born To Lose (a cover and totally lost on me)
  • The Unfortunate Gwatkin
  • Trumpton Riots
  • National Sh**e Day
  • Light at the End of the Tunnel
  • Time Flies By

    Then the encores
  • Fred Titmus
  • Everything’s AOR Quite possibly my favourite live song
  • Sounds of the Suburbs (another cover)
  • Every Time a Bell Rings. The crowd had been shouting for this all night.

A fantastic gig. The band sounded great.
Nigel played guitar on a few songs but for most of the time he looked like a slightly less frantic Bruce Dickinson, up on the monitors and climbing the safety rails.
As usual, he spent time chatting with the crowd but his attempt at jokes are probably not worth repeating! We did, however, learn that the river running through the cave was the Noe.

The show finished at around 10pm. The rain was still falling but was now less heavy. This was the first time I’d ever taken a head torch to a concert but was very glad of it as I walked the dark roads back to the campsite.

Back at the tent, everything was wet. I was glad to get tucked in to my sleeping bag, warm and dry. Unfortunately, the wind had got up, gusting around 35mph. I had positioned my tent in to the wind and had no doubt it was capable of withstanding wind a lot stronger. It was my pegging out I worried out about!

I woke at 6am after a reasonable sleep, all pegs still in place!
I set the Jetboil up on a picnic table, made a coffee and porridge.
I finished just as the rain started again. Being wet and a little muddy, the tent really didn’t want to go back in to it’s stuff sack. As I was in the car, I flung it and the rest of my muddy kit in the boot then headed to Castleton.
Just outside the village, I parked on the side of the road. Two of the pay and display machines were covered over, the third wouldn’t take my money. Bonus – free parking!
My feet squelshed as I put my Scarpas back on. I headed towards the concert venue and followed the signs to Pervil Castle.

Wild camping near Devils Arse Cave Half Man Half Biscuit concert

I spotted a tent near the entrance to the cave. I suspect someone may have been doing some wild camping after the concert!
I followed the Cave Dale path up. I say path, there was now a river flowing down the rocky route.
I continued along the Limestone Way before taking a right and following the path back to the car.
This was only around three and a half miles in length and I had planned two loops, the second taking me up Mam Tor. As I finished the first loop, the clouds got darker. It was time to bale out and perhaps plan another camping trip in the future when it wasn’t so damn wet!

Views down valley Castleton Derbyshire

As I pulled off in the car, the rain became torrential yet again but, despite the weather, a fantastic weekend and one of the best concerts I’ve been to in a long time…..now to see when the next gig is…..

Take a look at the Half Man Half Biscuit Lyric Project for a lot more info, reviews and photos for this concert (and others!)

Testing the Coleman Cobra 2 at Hulme End

I’ve  used a one person Coleman Kraz tent  in the past. A decent, cheap starter tent. I picked up another Coleman, the 2 man Cobra, for £70 on an Amazon Black Friday deal.

Before purchasing, I took some time to read reviews across a number of websites. It seemed a very good price for a decent tent.

Coleman tent in bag

It arrived in it’s   waterproof stuff sack.
At 48 x 18 x 15 cm, it’s small enough to fit easily into my rucksack. 
The pitching instructions are sewn in to the carry sack so no chance of them getting lost although, to be honest, it’s simple enough to pitch without much help.

Coleman Cobra tent instructions.

Whilst not the lightest tent  at  a little over 2kg, I was happy with it’s weight considering the price paid and the amount of room. 
Being  a  two person tent, it  gives a little extra space for one person. I certainly wouldn’t want to try and put two adults in it!

There is just the one door on the  left hand side, another reason not to put someone else in the tent, the person on the ‘wrong’ side would have a bit of a scramble to get out.

Being a wedged tunnel design, the  Cobra has two good size storage areas away from the inner tent.
I keep my 80l rucksack and all my kit on top of a drybag (to keep the kit off the grass) in the non-door side. Everything is out the way and remains perfectly dry.

My first attempt of pitching was done in the back garden. It was very simple.  Peg out out the back, push the colour coded poles through the corresponding coloured mesh sleeves, put the poles in to the flysheet eyelets, clip the poles to the flysheet, bring the tent forward, then finally finish pegging.
First pitching took under 10 minutes. I was happy with that!

I do like the mesh pole sleeves, much easier to use than the equivalent on my Vango
The inner and flysheet are attached so go up as one.  I much prefer this over inner first,  especially in bad weather.

Putting the Cobra away was simple. Simply put the poles and pegs in to their respective bags and roll the tent around them.
The stuff sack has a taco style wide opening, making getting the tent in very easy. The compression straps to shrink the size down.

Coleman Cobra 2 tent in Hulme End campsite

The tent’s first trip out  was to the Hulme End Campsite in the Peak District. A basic site with a couple of toilets and a  washing up sink. No showers or reception area, simply pay the owner £5 when he turns up in his 4×4 (at around 4pm when I was there).
It was the middle of  September. The kids were back in school and so there was plenty of space in the large field. I pitched on the right hand edge near the far end.
Once again, the tent went up easily.

After firing up the Jetboil for a quick coffee, I headed out for a walk around the local villages, passing through Warslow and Butterton. This route was mostly along roads but they were very quiet and it was a nice way to see the local area. A GPX file of the route is available on Viewranger.

Colman Cobra 2 tent at night

I had dinner at the Manifold Inn, located near the entrance of the campsite site. I managed to get the last table, it’s well worth booking if planning on eating here!
I started with a plate of hams, olives and a big slice of ciabatta bread.
Main course was pie, chips and veg. I certainly didn’t leave hungry!!

Stuffed to the gills, I went back to the tent. I attached my  phone to a power bank, placed it in one of the Cobra’s  mesh pockets and settled down for the night.
It was surprisingly dark in the tent and the site was lovely and peaceful.  I snugged down in my sleeping bag and a very good sleep soon followed.

Inside Coleman Cobra 2 tent at night

I woke to discover it had rained quite heavily over night but no problem for the Cobra with it’s 3000mm hydrostatic head flysheet and  5000mm groundsheet.  
The ventilated  mesh inner tent did a good job of keeping the mini beasts and condensation at bay.  One minor quibble is the headroom. I’m about 5 foot 11 (1.8m) and I wasn’t able to sit up properly but try find a 1 or 2 man tent with decent headroom! The Cobra is 77cm at his highest point.

Despite having my Jetboil and some porridge with me, breakfast was taken in the Manifold, I went slightly off piste and went for a large cafetiere of coffee and a black pudding toastie.

Back at camp, I wiped down the rain off the outside of the tent, removed the poles and pegs and lay it on the ground.  After putting the peg and pole bags in the middle of the flattened tent, I folded the sides in to the middle and rolled it all up. Everything went in to the stuff sack fairly neatly.

Everything got chucked in the back of the car and I drove to the Hulme End pay and display car park just around the corner. In retrospect, I think I could have left the car at the campsite. Oh well….
I’d planned a 6 mile circular walk from the car park (which is available as a GPX file).
The route started on the Manifold Way, a tarmac path and cycle route.
I left this path and followed the road south to the caves at Wetton.
After a quick comfort break, I crossed the river and walked north.
There were two options, follow the Manifold Trail back to the car park or take a right and follow the water at the base of Wetton hill. I chose the latter.
The last part of the walk was along quiet roads, leading back to the car park and The Tea Junction for a well deserved coffee!

View from Manifold Way

Camping, but not as we know it

As a kid, the family spent many nights under canvas until one morning we woke to find a large portion of the tent getting blown down the camping field. We chased it down  but the bright orange tent had to be dumped in to the nearest skip.
Rather than replace the tent, our UK trips were spent in static caravans.
In the evenings, Mum would prepare dinner, Dad would have the map out, planning the next hike and I would head out on adventures around the site with my brother. Climbing trees and wading through streams. Happy days!

It’s been many years since I’d last slept in a caravan but, for a a few days in August, I’d be spending a few days with the family in Lakeland Haven Leisure Park.
A few days before the trip I read the reviews on TripAdvisor. Oh dear, it didn’t look good! I didn’t build my hopes up.

The journey down there was interesting.
Being a family holiday which included three kids aged 5 and under, there was a lot of stuff to take. My little Abarth 124 wasn’t big enough so for the four days I drove Mum’s 2004 Renault Clio. That was a shock to the system, but on the bright side, I wasn’t going to be getting a speeding ticket!

20180817_160540On check in, it was nice to see Haven had listened to my brothers request for caravans close to each other. The kids loved running along the grass between the two.
Both caravans were spotlessly clean and surprisingly comfortable.
On the first night we stayed in the caravan and cooked  the food we’d brought with us. It was raining quite heavily so the night was spent curled up on the sofa watching Disney Dvds and playing cards.

After a decent night sleep, I rustled up some breakfast then the family went their separate ways.  While the others visited the miniature village down the road, I took the footpath just outside the Haven main entrance.20180818_121147
I walked along the coastal path to the West,  along the sheep filled marshes until I reached Cowpren Point. Here, the route headed North, eventually coming out on to a road at Sand Gate.  A track, just off the road to the left,  lead to the village of Cark where The Engine Inn provided a good refreshment stop!

Fully refreshed I headed West out of the village towards Cassen Wood.
I passed a “residents only” sign but decided that I was a resident for a few days so continued until I hit another sign stating “No access to Holker Park“. My OS map showed paths and the gate was  unlocked so I continued to the next gate, beyond which several dear were grazing.
After Googling the hall I discovered entry to the park and gardens was £8.50, which explains this second gate had been padlocked!
I wandered back the same way to Cark and took the B5278, Station Road, out of town and towards the entrance Holker Hall. I found a footpath to the right, just after the Hall gates.
My walk became a circular loop as I took the next path on the right back to Cark.
From the village it was  a straight route South, through the village of Flookburgh to the caravan.
Not quite the route I was planning but a decent 8 mile walk. The route without the dead-end is available to download as GPX.
20180818_143838

We headed back out up the road to Flookburgh in the evening. There is just the one road in/out of the holiday park and at the Flookburgh end is the Hope and Anchor, a large Robinsons pub serving food.
If you don’t want burger, the choice is limited to what  is on the special’s board.  Luckily I did fancy a burger, more precisely a Black and Blue Burger, a beef burger topped with blue cheese and black pudding. The black pud was slightly mushy  but not bad at all!

I woke to light rain the next morning.
The kids were spending the some time in the pool so I headed out for another walk, this time I would be heading East towards Grange over Sands.
I took the road out from the camp, taking a right down the road opposite the Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding shop. Apart from crossing a field to cut a corner near Allithwaite, the route mostly followed quiet country roads until I reached the coastal path in to Grange over Sands.
The rain was off and on. It started again just at the time I purchased a coffee from a small stall and sat drinking outside.  To the left of me sat a family consuming pop, coffee and chocolate bars, to the right a young couple who were making their way through to large plates of beans on toast. In true English style, we all sat in the drizzle watching the world go by as if we were on a sunny terrace in Sicily.

To be honest, Grange-over-Sands isn’t hugely exciting on a damp August afternoon.  I did a quick loop at the end of town through some woods and past a garden I can see no mention of online!  After a stop at The Commodore Inn, I took a road to the North of the town back towards Allithwaite. From there, I retraced my steps back to the caravan park. I didn’t realise at the time, but I’d soon be back at this village.

The rest of the family were eating at the onsite bar/restaurant. I’d read bad reviews and wasn’t over keen on taking a meal there, also, I was back from my walk quite late on in the afternoon, they were already eating when I arrived to pick up the key.
Their meals ranged from ‘Okay’ to inedible, it seemed I’d made the right decision to eat elsewhere.
After a clean up and change of clothes, I once again, headed up the road to Cark to the furthest pub, the Rose and Crown, it was packed.
A few minutes down the road, I popped my head in to the Engine Inn, they’d stopped serving walk ins. Seems a bit daft only serving people who had pre-booked given how many free tables there were.
Back down to the Hope and Anchor, they stopped serving at 6, although the choice would have been either Sunday roast or another burger.
A quick look on Google revealed the Pheasant Inn in Allithwaite served food until 9, and I’m so glad I went there!
Sitting in the adult only conservator, my starter came in a brown bag, I unwrapped it to reveal a lovely black pudding.
Main was a very nice slab of pork belly with crackling.
8.2 mile round trip for food, I felt I’d earned this, especially after the 12 miles earlier in the day!
Happily fed and watered, I put on my head torch and wandered down the country lanes with bats zipping round me.

Back in the caravan, the others had settled down for the evening. I too climbed in to bed and got comfy under my duvet.
Not my usual camping but no complaints!

A night at Llyn Rhys Campsite, Llandegla

Camping, for me, is done in a tent which can be stuffed  in a rucksack and pitched in a field or woods with basic (if any!) facilities.  This time I was to be camping in the Vango Woburn 500.
There’s always room for comfort.
Well no, that’s not entirely true. There’s not much room for anything when you drive an Abarth 124!
First mission was to find a way of getting a tent, sleeping bag, mat, Jetboil, change of clothes and walking boots in the car. The solution was a Boot-Bag.

This is a large waterproof bag that sits on the boot lid and securely held in place with webbing straps.
I had the ‘original’ which gave me  50 litres of space or, put another way, it easily took the tent.
On first use, I was apprehensiveBoot-bag on Abarth 124 Spider about putting too much in there, however, I could have stuffed a few extra things in there without any trouble.
The other stuff went in to my large rucksack.
My day sack was also loaded in to the boot. I’d be using it to hold a couple of drinks, waterproofs etc for the two walks I had planned.
In retrospect, perhaps just the smaller rucksack may have been better with everything else stuffed around the  boot and Boot-Bag.
I had no seating (the floor would have to do) and no food (I hoped there would be a table free in the pub) but I had my accommodation and a bed for the night.

The Boot-Bag was slightly lopsided but seemed secure enough as I pulled off my drive and carefully made my way to the motorway, getting used to only using wing mirrors as there was zero visibility out of the back.   As I gained more confidence in the Boot-Bag, I increased the speed, it remained stable and I arrived at the camp with everything intact.
I had booked my spot at Llyn Rhys Campsite on their website.  £8 per person per night (as of July 2018) which included use of the showers. Kids cost just £3.
I was met by the friendly owner and given a choice of places to pitch, anywhere I wanted as long as I left 6 meters between my tent and others. I wanted to be as far away from others as possible , that wouldn’t be a problem!
The site was fairly quiet. I’d arrived a week before the school summer holiday started, I suspect it can get a lot busier.  I drove my car down the track in to the large field I pitched up on the side of the field, close to the stream. I didn’t want to venture too far from the track in my rear wheel drive car!

The tent had been pitched in the garden a coupe of times, the first time, just after getting the tent home, resulted in part of a fibreglass pole snapping. After an email to Vango another pole was posted out to me.
Needless to say, Vango don’t send out poles every time one beaks, however, I argued that they should last at least one pitching and, fair enough, they agreed.
Out in the real world, the tent went up relatively quickly, although the little hooks to attached the ground sheet were a bit awkward to fit.
I think Vango say it will take 15 minutes to pitch. Seems a little optimistic to me but perhaps with more practice.

The tent is described as 5 person, I wouldn’t like to fit more than three in there. The Cotswold Outdoors promotional video describes it as a good tent for couples and young families, which seems more accurate.
There’s lots of room in the bright, airy living area. Plenty of space for a couple of chairs. Shame there wasn’t the room in the car!
Comparing it with many of the other tents on site, it did look dinky!
Vango Woburn 500 tentWith the tent up it was time to head out on a walk.
Leaving the campsite, I  headed up to the road junction next to the Crown Hotel Pub. Continuing virtually straight ahead on the A5104, the path started just after the junction to the right. This path was quite well signposted  until I reached a farmers field. Whatever had been growing here had been recently dug up and the route across the field to the road wasn’t clearly defined.
At the road I took a left, before rejoining the same field higher up. There were no signs here either and at the end, it was almost impassable. A large, over grown, prickly hedge hid a fence with no easy way to climb.  If it wasn’t for the large footpath sign at the other side of the hedge, I would not have realised this was the route.

The next path I wanted should have been straight over the road according to the Ordnance Survey map and my GPS but there was nothing obvious so I decided to follow the road back in to the village.
The village has a great little community run shop and cafe, at the front was all the supplies you need for camping, pasties, scotch eggs, wine, jam etc and at the back is the cafe. I just had a cafetiere of coffee but the food looked good.
Offas Dyke sign in LlandeglaHappily caffeined up, I left the cafe for the second loop on this walk. After the poorly maintained paths on the first loop, I decided to take the Offa’s Dyke section at the end  knowing it would be the easiest part of the route to navigate.
I needn’t have worried. This walk was also well signed and I followed it up to the narrow road. From there it’s an easy walk back along the Offa’s Dyke to the village.
Both loops of the walks are available in on one GPX file, downloadable from Viewranger.

Back in the tent, I got changed ready for dinner. It is nice being able to stand up in any part of the tent, something you don’t get with the backpacking one and two person tents!
The Crown Hotel is a short walk from the campsite and serves real ales, wines and has a good whisky collection along with the usual stuff and the food is fantastic!!
I started with the spicy chicken wings. Main course was a perfectly rare steak with chips  and peas. Their monster of a  mixed grill looked and smelt great and, if you’ve got a sweet tooth, they’ve a good choice of deserts and local ice cream.

Suitably fed and watered, I walked back to the tent where I took down the divider to make one large bedroom,  got in to my sleeping bag and settled down for a reasonable nights sleep.
The Vango has a slightly darker bedroom, while not a black out, it did a reasonable job at keeping the morning light out.
Next morning the tent was moisture free, the vents under the main window had done their job. I opened the ‘curtains’ sat in the porch, fired up the jet boil and made a coffee.  The tent is really bright and airy with plenty of large windows. A very pleasant place to be.
Packing up was easy and (amazingly!) everything fitted in and on the car.  The first rule of any camping, ‘leave no trace’!

Breakfast was taken at One Planet Adventure, just up the road. Already the car park was filling up. I paid my £4.50 and  made my way to the overflow car park.
The breakfasts at their cafe are good and the slices of toast are huge!!

I was one of the odd ones, I wasn’t cycling, instead I took the longest of their walking trails, the well marked ,7 mile Moorland trail.
Moorland Trail route One Planet Adventure Llandegla

A pleasant walk through woodland and offering great views.

So, in conclusion…..I love to be miles from anyone and anywhere with a small backpacking tent. This was quite different but still a great trip although I must admit the very un-British sunny, warm weather helped make this such a pleasurable camp!
I’m looking forward to getting out in the Vango again soon….but maybe after a trip in the smaller tent 🙂

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