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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 🙂

Getting out in the countryside

Monday 4th

I started the day on the Subway, red line number 2 to Brooklyn.
It’s worth pointing out then when entering station, check it doesn’t specify which lines/directions it serves, some entrances are for just the one line and once you swipe your ticket you have to wait 10 mins or so before you can use it again.  I had a 7 day pass so it’s not an problem, however I suspect it may be an issue if you’ve paid for a single journey.  Incidentally the 7 day unlimited pass for around $32 (plus initial $1 for the new card) is well worth getting.
I’d already mastered finding my way around on the Subway, it’s easy to use and trains are frequent. Unfortunately, however, they can become very, very crowded and there are some ‘interesting’ people on board at times.
View from Brooklyn, New YorkI got off the train at Hoyt Street and wandered down the shopping street, on to Brooklyn Bridge road and Pearl Street towards the park on the water front. The path along the waters edge offers great views over to Manhattan’s distinctive sky line.
I continued to Pier 5 and decided I had to make a return trip one evening.
I moved inland and took a wander around Brooklyn, finding a couple of potential places for evening meals. Tonight though, dinner was taken at Da Gennaro in Little Italy. A real tourist trap, the restaurants here are not cheap! The carpaccio starter and lobster ravioli were extremely good though.


Tuesday 5th

After breakfast, walked towards the Yankee stadium and the Yankees-E. 153rd Street train station.
I paid the $5.50 train fare and waited on the platform along with a few others for the Croton Harmon train. It was due at the same time as a train going the other direction towards Grand Central so I didn’t think anything of it when a train came in. on the other platform. I then noticed other passengers running up the stairs.
I’ve no idea what became of the Grand Central train but the one to Croton had been moved onto the other platform. I quickly ran up the stairs and over the bridge. As I boarded the train a man in front of me shook his head, “they’re always doing this” he sighed.
The train journey was pleasant and I was surprised how quickly we left the city.
Getting off the train at Croton I wandered through the streets in the pleasant leafy suburb. I’d left behind the apartment blocks and was now walking past family homes with kid’s toys lying in well-kept gardens.
Leaving the road at Truesdale Drive, I dropped down to the Silver Lake beach on the Croton River and on through the woods. I felt a million miles away from New York City.
I crossed the river at the Quaker Bridge and, after taking a left, joined the Old Croton Aqueduct trail. This is a pleasant, easy to follow, wide trail through woodland, opening out at the New Croton Dam. The views went on for miles, it was very difficult to imagine this was so close to New York City.

New Croton Dam, New York
It was back on roads again for a short while before re-joining paths near Colabaugh Pond. It was here I met friendly chap collecting logs. He mentioned the local wildlife to look out for which included beavers and coyotes. The best I managed to spot was chipmunks.
I was now heading for the Briarcliff Peekskill Trailway, another well marked route through woodland. At least it was well marked until I reached Watch Hill Road.  After taking a left, the route disappeared. According to the map on Viewranger, I should head up Mountain Side Trail.
Looking at my GPS, I  was right on track but no path and no blue blobs. I cross checked with Google map, yes this was where the path should be but no sign of it, just over grown woodland and people’s back gardens.
Briarcliff Peekskill Trailway, New YorkI ended up passing between two houses and working my way up to where the path should be. I was very glad of my GPS at this point!
Once I found the path, it was, once again, easy to navigate, just following the now yellow blobs.
The route made its way around dense woodland. I eventually left the woods by Woodside Elementary school. From here it was a fairly straight walk along roads to Peekskill station.

Surprisingly, the return journey was $12.75, twice the cost of the train to Croton despite being only a stop or two down the line. I can’t complain though, it was a reasonable distance and provided me with one of my most enjoyable days of the holiday. The route can be downloaded as a GPX file.

Back in the city, dinner was taken at the Amsterdam Burger Co, unbeknownst to me, I was in the Jewish area and this small eatery only served kosher dishes. I only realised when I noticed one of the ingredients was written as “bacon” the quotes added as it was beef bacon.
I started with chilli loaded nachos then an Aussie burger, basically a beef burger with beetroot. Not sure if that is how they take their burgers in Australia but nice if a little on the expensive side, $18 for a burger with no sides.

Part 2, It’s time to light the lights

Kranjska Gora, Slovenia

Saturday 16th September
Another trip to Slovenia started with long delays.  At the time we were due to depart from Manchester I fired up FlightRadar,  the Adria Airways A319  I should now be sitting on was still making its way over Belgium.
Once the aircraft arrived, we were delayed further, apparently due to Manchester being short staffed.
Things on board improved. I had all three seats to myself and the row in front of me was empty.
It was a very pleasant  flight with mostly clear, turbulence free skies, however,  over Slovenia things became  very cloudy and very wet!

I got in to my hotel at around 20:00 and went  straight to dinner.  An all you can eat buffet. I went for the beef soup, croquettes,  pork ribs and a bowl full from the salad bar. The food was alll very nice, as was my room at the Hotel Kompas The single room was a good size and  had a balcony over looking the hills.

After dinner, the rain had stopped so I took a short stroll around town, passing just one person walking their dog.
Typical Saturday night in Kranjska Gora!

Sunday 17th September
After a very good night’s sleep, I went down to breakfast which included apricot dumplings and  carrot souffle!  Sufficiently fed, I wandered to the local  Mercator for some supplies before heading back to pack my waterproof gear.

One word to describe today….wet!
Leaving the hotel I joined the D2 bike path West towards the start of route  9. All well signed posted easy paths so far.
As I ventured further in to the woods I hadn’t seen a sign for a while and the path was climbing. My golden rule when walking in Slovenia; if you’ve not seen a sign or a painted red and while ‘blob’ for a while, your probably going the wrong way. I headed back, yes, there was the sign but I shouldn’t be going up hill and my GPS said I was way off course. At least I was heading in the right general direction towards Planica so continued until I reached a hut at across roads. There were no signs or painted marks here but I knew a right should get me in the right direction and loose the excess height I’d gained. Sure enough, it brought me out where I expected on the track I had originally planned to walk on.

Indoor cross country skiing
Indoor cross country skiing

I soon reached the ski jump centre at Planica.
Wow, it has changed a lot!

Last time I was here, there were a number of ski jumps and a ‘mountain hut’ to the side of them. There is now a hotel, indoor skydiving centre, indoor cross country, a cafe and toilets. Good for escaping the rain!

Leaving the centre, I continued on towards the Nadiza waterfall, I had to cross the river at one point, just in case I wasn’t wet enough already already!

Nadiza waterfall is impressive although you can’t get very close to it. Luckily it had  stopped raining long enough  for me to get some photos from the best vantage point I could find.Nadiza waterfall Kranjska Gora Slovenia
From the waterfall, I crossed a field to take shelter in a church and take a look at the map.
I took same path back to Planica then continued along the road to Ratece.
The weather had become worse, along with the rain was plenty of thunder and occasional lightning
At Ratece,  I rejoined D2 stopping to take a look at the Labarinti.  I assumed this to be a maze for kids, however, after reading in to it online, the labyrinth is somewhere you go to find your inner well being….or something like that!
Deciding my being was well enough, I continued on my way, towards  Zelenci, a  nature reserve just outside Kranjska Gora. As it had finally stopped raining I thought I’d extend the walk a little!
This route is available to download as a GPX file

Back at the hotel I took a quick shower then down for dinner at the ‘help yourself buffet’. Garlic soup to start followed by veal. I put a bit of shark on the plate too, just to try something different!
The weather got worse in the evening so I stayed in the room and  watched Slovenia beat Serbia in  the Eurobasket basketball tournament. I’d later discover this was big news in Slovenia!

Monday  18th September
After breakfast I once again headed out in more rain and again I took the D2 cycle path, this time towards Gozd Martuljek., taking a right on the track just south ofThe difficult path the village.
Just past the information boards and a clearing where a charcoal pile was being ‘cooked’, the path split in two. I took the left hand fork up what was described as ‘the difficult path’.
I like a challenge!
Initially this was a lovely route along the gorge.  The paths were well marked following the cascading water.
The path climbed and, with the help of steps and bridges, crosses the river. Then, came the awkward part…. passing over and climbing up the torrent!
It didn’t help matters that my  boots were already wet due to all then rain.

Metal Ladder in Rocks
Metal ‘ladder’ in the rocks

After the first waterfall,  Lower Martuljek , or ‘Slap 1’ as it is signed, I had a climb through the  woods  to the next upper waterfall.
Towards the end of the route, hand rails have been put in to the rock, along with metal ‘ladders’ to help with the climb. It’s not an easy walk but the views are fantastic!
I’ve since read websites detailing the dangers of this route.
I managed on my own and, as long as decent boots are worn and care taken, it shouldn’t pose any major problems.

Another Waterfall to cross
Another waterfall to cross

I wandered back the same way before taking the left hand fork to the ‘easier’ path through the woods.
I decided it was too early to go back to the hotel and, as the rain had stopped, I followed the quiet road climbing from Gozd Martuljek  to Srednji Vrh passing another waterfall on my way.
The views across to where I had walked earlier were beautiful, especially now the weather had cleared slightly
From here it was an easy walk back in to Kranjska Gora.

The full route is available as a GPX file

Tuesday 19th September
Horrible weather forecast;  yellow alert for rain and the temperature during the day not rising above 8 Celsius.
My  phone (running the ViewRanger GPS app)  and paper maps wouldn’t last 5 minutes in the persistent heavy downpour so I opted for an extremely easy to navigate route.  I joined D2 and just kept on going  to Mojstrana, a lovely village,  shame about weather!

I concluded it was too far, too cold and too wet to continue on to the waterfall. On a nicer day I may have continued to  Peričnik Falls and got the bus back but today, the prospect of standing waiting for the rather infrequent bus wasn’t something I wanted to be doing.
Instead, I popped in to the Alpine museum in Mojstana, an interesting little museum with the bonus of being warm and dry!  There is a small shop in the museum offering souvenirs and maps. It is also, a good place to get information about weather conditions in the mountains, details on mountain huts etc.
Not far from the museum is the start of via ferrata trail maybe something else for me to tackle in the future!

IMG_3118 Bivouac II
Bivouac at the Alpine museum in Mojstana

The hotel had a themed night tonight, traditional foods and band in costume playing Slovenian folk music. The meal included beef soup, local smoked hams, pasta stuffed with potato in a cheese sauce, goulash and buckwheat.
After my evening meal, I decided I ain’t going back out there so the evening was spent planning some more walks. If the weather forecasts were to be believed, the worst of the weather was over

Wednesday 20th September
Blimey blue skies!
I was up early. Buckwheat on breakfast menu along with ‘semolina tower’.
After my unusual first meal of the day,  the waterproofs went in the rucksack, where they stayed for the duration!
I followed the D2 cycle path West to Ratece,  the last village before the Italian border and  one of the coldest places in the country.  I walked North through the village to  the path leading the point  where the borders of three countries meet.
The route climbed steadily. It was partly path, partly track and easy to follow.

As I climbed I started to see little patches of snow, these became larger and larger patches. Before the final climb, I had a choice,  track or path. I opted for the winding path. The patches of snow became bigger and nearing the peak it became a thick layer of crunchy fresh snow.
An unexpected surprise in September!
Austria, Italy and Slovenia all covered in snow… At least, they were up here!
Over to Austria

I took a brief stroll along the Austrian hills before taking the obligatory photograph where the borders met.
Back in Slovenia,  I followed the wide track from the top down, taking a right at the first fork then a took a right and descended towards Podkoren.
Annoyingly, happily wandering along I missed my path(s) into Podkoren and ended up on the road but at least the traffic was light.
From Podkoren I headed East and just before joining the main road, I took route 3 following the River Sava before dropping down back down to Kranjska Gora.
Download this route as a GPX.

Thursday 21st September

Chilli peppers at breakfast! (-;

Mist on the hillsHeaded out today following the river south passing the Zlatatog statue.
Initially I was following a road. A cyclist rode past singing Bohemian Rhapsody…as you do.
It was early in the morning, the roads were quiet and the mist was rolling down the hills.

I stayed on the road until I hit a bridge, here I crossed and continued up the quiet Vršič Pass. Partway along, road works were being carried out. I wouldn’t say little happens in this part of the world but I later spotted myself on local news walking past!
I left the road when I reached the Russian Chapel, a chapel built by Russian prisoners of war engaged in forced labour in the area during World War.
The climb up to Vršič was well signed as it zigzagged up towards Vršič and, once again I found  snow!

IMG_20170921_130626348_HDR~01

This is virtually a linear route I altered it slightly by crossing on to the other side of the river on the way back.
Despite having to return the same route, this was a lovely walk with some fantastic views!
This route is available to download

IMG_20170921_131746658

As I got back to Kranjska Gora, a number of interesting cars were driving through, many parking up in my hotel’s car park. All were taking part in the Ramble Rally, a 5 day rally through Europe.

Friday 22nd September
Sadly, all to quickly the last day had come….and my walking boots are still saturated! It was a short walk from the hotel to Vitranc chair lift.  I Paid €7 for a one way trip.
This was a new and fun experience given that this was a chair lift more usually taking skiers up the hill.  It was a strange feeling looking down to see nothing below my feet.
Alighting at the top was something niggling in the back of my mind during the journey up. It was fairly simple, lift the bar and run off….well jog quick enough to be quicker than the lift!
I filmed a section of the ride

From the station the walk to Vitranc was well signposted and, once again, it wasn’t long until I found the snow!
The sign below amused me, Vitranc 15 minutes  or 25 minutes for tourists…needless to say I saw this as a challenge and, I’m pleased to say, got there in 15 minutes!

Sign to Vitranc

It was a bit of a slog to the top of Vitranc which, in the winter months, is used for down hill skiing competitions 
Views from walk down VitrancSadly, the hut at the peak was closed so I continued towards Ciprnik.
As this was a 15 mile walk and I had packing to get back to, I decided to give the snowy route up to Ciprnik a miss and continued on.
The snow actually making my navigation easier, just follow the other set of footprints ahead!
The path slowly made its way down, through the woods towards the ski jump centre at Planica.  A little hut along the path offers some great views.
At the bottom of the hill I took the road down to the D2 cycle path. From here, I could have taken a right back to Kranjska Gora but instead decided to quickly pop over the border to Italy.
 Lago di Fusine Inferiore Lake ItalyThe walking was easy, just stay on the D2 before taking the road for the last part of the way to the lake, Lago di Fusine Inferiore.  This is a lovely spot to sit and take in the last of the sunshine. There’s a bar on the side of the lake and plenty of seats offering fantastic views.
From here it was a straight walk back to Kranjska Gora, although I did go via one of the local villages to stock up on drink.

The walk, from the top chairlift station is available as a GPX file.

Saturday 23rd September
Time for a quick cup of coffee and cereal before heading back to the airport for the flight back to Manchester.
A real mix of weather, torrential rain, snow and warm sunshine but another fantastic trip and I know I will be back and I’m sure visit number 10 won’t be too far off!

 

Walking Through Cwm

Yep, there is nothing like a rather rude sounding village to get me giggling like a stupid child but (surprisingly) walking through Cwm was a humorous coincidence. I was wondering where to walk, I opened the OS mapping on ViewRanger, found a place with some walks, check for car parking on Google Maps.
Dyserth ticked all the boxes, plenty of paths  and free parking. It was an easy drive there, M53, A55 then not far from the A5151. First impressions, Dyserth is a very hilly town!
I parked up in the waterfall car park. I had arrived early and there was only one other vehicle but I can imagine it can get very busy here.
After paying a visit to ‘Loo of the year 2009’,  I left the car park,  took a left and headed up hill. Following the road up to the traffic lights, I went straight across and joined Cwm Road (cue some giggles), a pleasant, hilly residential road. As I climbed up, I got some great views across to the coast below.
Shortly after taking a left on to Lower Foel road, I got on to the path through Foel woods.
Sign to Cwm North WalesAt the end of the woods I crossed a small road over to the farmland opposite, following the signs to Cwm.
Cwm itself is a small village containing a church and a nice looking pub, The Blue Lion The pub has extremely limited opening times (Thursday to Sunday from 18:00 to 24:00) and needless to say, was closed when I got there.

view from Mynydd y CwmLeaving Cwm, I took a footpath towards Mynydd y Cwm, one of the hills of the Clwydian Range  I skirted the base of the hill then joined the Offa’s Dyke path. This is a trail which is on my ‘Bucket List’. I’ve walked small sections of it many times but I’d love to do more of the 177 mile route. Today, I’d only be following the Acorn signs for a short distance initially to Marian Ffrith  where, on this lovely summers day, the views were fantastic. As with many of the hills in the area, this was once home to a hill fort.
Dropping back down the hill, I crossed the road and headed towards Marian Mill farm. Continuing on the Offa’s Dyke path, I crossed the A5151 road.
I left Offa’s Dyke when I reached the wide, tarmac North Wales Path. Initially I mistook it for a road given how wide and well surfaced it was. As it was school summer holiday, there were a large number of families walking and cycling. I felt rather over dressed in approach shoes, walking trousers and rucksack!
Dyserth WaterfallAs I got closer to Dyserth, I left the North Wales Path and took the path over the bridge through Maes Hiraddug nature reserve  and down towards the impressive 70 foot high waterfall at Dyserth.
After popping my 50p ‘entrance fee’   (Aug 2017 price)  in to the honesty box it was a short walk back to the car park.

The GPX file for this route is available to download.

Llanfair Talhaiarn

This post should have the subheading, ‘I’ve made the mistakes so you don’t have to’
I had some time off work, no time constraints and the weather forecast was good. I had a number of routes planned and I wanted to go somewhere different, somewhere new.
I opened up the OS map, looking for places with plenty of paths then looked on Google Maps to see if there was anywhere to park up.

  Llanfair Talhaiarn seemed to tick the boxes. A pleasant little village  5 miles south of Abergele, it has a good size car park with toilets, a couple of pubs for refreshments and it is easy to get to, just off the A548.
After leaving the car at the School Lane car park, I headed to the river Elwy, taking the bridge on the A544 to get to the footpath on the other side.
This was a pleasant start to the day.
Easy to follow, well maintained footpaths, a nice river, a waterfall and a little ‘beach’ which if I’d come across it later in the walk, would have made a great spot to brew up a coffee.
The route followed the river,  along the edges of a field and through woodland…
then came the overgrowth.

The path seemed to go on forever through this mass of wet plants. I’m quite tall but plants where taller. It was difficult to see the path on many occasions.
Despite being a warm, summer day with no clouds to be seen, I was drenched.
My trousers stuck to me and my feet squelched with every footstep.
Just when I thought I’d reached the end, there was more. These plants were almost goading me.
No mater how well you plan a walk, there are somethings you don’t expect and this was one such thing.
Sadly, I suspect that unless something is done to clear this path it may well become unwalkable soon
There was eventually a light at the end of this fern covered tunnel…..it came in the way of a muddy track covered in cow manure.
At the end of the track, through a gate I hit a road. This would give me a chance to dry off if nothing else.  I followed the road south for a while, crossing over a bridge. At a second bridge I had a choice, assume that that the track to the right of the cottage with the barking dogs was the way to a path on my planned route or continue to the signposted bridle way.  Not wanting to argue with the dogs, I took the second option.
This was more like it, a good path and nice views.
I carried on until I reached a farm house. According to the maps, there was a footpath running behind the house. I couldn’t see it. There were a number of signs, none pointing to where the path should be so I continued along the bridleway which brought me out on to a road.
I spotted another track on the map which would lead me back the route I had planned, however, the ‘access forbidden’ signs on the gate made it clear this was no footpath! Once more I went back to the road and continued up hill.
Not to worry, there were another two footpaths up by a farm, one of those would lead back on track.  I walked up the farm track and opened the gate. According to my GPS I was right where the path should but there was nothing. No path, no signs. I really didn’t want to go trudging through the farmers land looking for the route so, again, I returned to the road.
To be fair, the walk along the road wasn’t too bad, I’d only seen the one car and the views were good. I’d come to the conclusion that if all else failed, I had an ‘escape route’ .  I  could follow this road to the main road then back to where I had parked the car.
There was one last route I could take, crossing over the sheep fields towards Llyn Du. The path was easy to find from the road and the lake was a good reference point. A little voice in my head kept telling me that this part may be easily navigable but at any point the path and signs could disappear and I wouldn’t have the road to fall back on.  I put these thoughts to the back of my mind, I wasn’t to be defeated!
Things were going well until I reached the farm at Cefn-treflech. There were a number of signs between the road and the farm then nothing. Well, not quite nothing, a post lay on the floor in front of the gate. I wondered if this once had the route labelled on it. To make matters worse,  the owner of the property had come outside. I didn’t want to go marching through his property, he might get angry, he might have a shotgun or worse, he may ask if I needed directions!
Once I was through the rusty gate, walked round the back of the house and on past another farm, I started to enjoy the views.
This seemed like a good spot to fire up the JetBoil and make myself a coffee.
I consulted my map. Perhaps I should have braved looking for the path at the side of the house near the second bridge. Not too worry, this coffee stop was enjoyable and I could see clearly where to head next. I confirmed the route on my map and with my GPS – all was good!
Nope, this was the calm before the next storm!
From the coffee stop, I headed towards the woods. A sign confirmed I was heading in the right direction. Splendid. I then ended up in more tall, wet foliage but, to make matters worse, there were also two meter high prickly blackberry bushes. At times the only way I could get through was to turn my back, duck down and let my rucksack push the worst of the branches out of the way. I couldn’t see the path at all but, amazingly, one I reached a crossroads with a track I was right on course. I crossed the track and followed the sign. Again, the plants made the path impossible to see so I checked the GPS and compass and headed in what seemed to be the right direction, unfortunately, although I achieved the objective of reaching the woods without being ripped to shreds, I was in the middle of a mountain bike track.
I couldn’t find any information about this track, only finding this one YouTube video. Luckily for me there were no bikes around as I weaved my way as best I could through the woods in roughly the right direction.
I could see the track I needed but a barbed wire fence stood between it and me. It seems that I’m not the only person to have made a mess of navigation, at one point the painful bits of the fence had been removed. I managed to step over and follow the track down to the road to Llanfair Talhaiarn.

In conclusion, this wasn’t one of my favourite walks!  Llanfair Talhaiarn is a lovely village and a great base for walking, it’s shame the navigation is made awkward.
I can understand why landowners don’t want people trudging through their land, their home, their place of work but, put up a few signs, make the paths obvious and you won’t have people  climbing over fences and being in places they shouldn’t be.
As a crude analogy, my office has signs to the training rooms, the toilets and the reception. Visitors find where they need to be and we don’t have people wandering past our desks looking lost.
I’m sure I’ll revisit Llanfair Talhaiarn  in the future, perhaps trying some of the paths to the other side of the village.
In the meantime, my route is available to download as a GPX file.…good luck!

JetBoil Flash Review

I’ve a new toy – the JetBoil Flash basically, a portable device for boiling water.

In the past, my rucksack contained a couple of flasks of juice and I would march along my route, hardly breaking stride as I reached round for a swig.
More recently I started to fill a flask. I would make up a coffee before I left home/base and it would be there when I needed it. Trouble was, I often ended up drinking cold coffee, especially in winter and much of the drink would spill or leak.
I progressed on to a meths burner. It wasn’t the easiest thing to use but it was cheap, light and usually/eventually provided enough boiling water for a drink –  just add instant coffee and milk.
I did, however, have problems in winter,  in the wet and when I forgot my lighter – the most likely problem!

Jet Boil BitsStep forward the  JetBoil Flash cooking system. It is self contained (at least it would be if I had the smaller gas canister!) and boils water in around two minutes.
Every thing except the  a screw top gas canister comes straight out the box.

I packed my rucksack and headed to my usual playground – the Clwydian Range.
Initially, I noticed the sack did feel a bit heavier but after a few minutes climb didn’t notice the extra load. Needless to say, not only would the smaller gas fit in the mug, it would also reduce the weight considerably.

I had followed the first part of the walk many times before but today seemed so much more picturesque. Spring was in full force leaving a technicolour vista punctuated by the imposing, snow capped Snowdon in the distance.
Views from Moel Famau to Snowdon

I took the Offa’s Dyke path up Moel Famau and continued to the west passing Moel Dywyll before dropping down towards the road.  I’d often been around this area and wondered where the track to the left hand side of the road went….so I followed it.
The path soon moved away from the road and I found a spot with lovely views to christen my JetBoil.

Jet Boil in the fieldSetting it up was easy.
I took the orange ‘feet’ out from the mug, unfolded them then clamped  on the gas canister.
Next out was the stove itself. Flip out the gas regulator on the site and screw the stove on to the gas canister.
Covering the bottom of the mug is a measuring pot which is handy for keeping dry ingredients  – coffee in my case.  Popping the bottom off reveals the flux ring heat exchanger.  This does the clever stuff which enables the JetBoil to work so well.
Little lugs can be found on the bottom of the mug, line these up with the stove and give it a small turn to lock in place. No chance of accidentally knocking the cup over, something that happened a few times with the slightly top heavy meths burner and mug.

I  removed the top from the mug and poured in enough water to reach the ‘2 cup’ mark.
I put the lid back on, turned the regulator to start the gas flow, clicked the lighter on the opposite side and it started to boil up the water.
Simple!
Boiled changes colourIt sounded vicious but in less than two minutes, the water had boiled.
A handy feature is the marking on the side of the mug which turns orange when the water has boiled. This takes the guess work out of the boiling and stops the urge to pop the lid to see how hot the water is getting.
The neoprene ‘cozy’ covering the mug ensures the mug is safe to lift up. Incidentally,  the side strap of the  ‘cozy’  can be used to store teaspoons.
Once boiled, stop the gas flow, twist the mug to unlock and brew  some coffee……or tea, or cook noodles, make up dried food….there are a whole load of things you can create and JetBoil have posted some recipes on their website

After my cuppa, I continued on my walk.
I could have remained on this path right around the ‘base’ of Moel Famau, however, keen to increase my mileage for the ViewRanger challenge, I turned off on to a road to my right.
At a junction, I took another right towards the small village of Llangynhafal.
A footpath passes to the left of the  Golden Lion Inn and through the campsite behind. The views from this campsite are spectacular, however (at the moment at least) the only ‘facility’ is a tap in the corner of the field.
Airbus Beluga from Hawarden
The path crosses a road before following the base of Moel Famau, at one point I got cracking view of the Airbus Beluga aircraft taking wings from the nearby factory in Hawarden.
Near a farm, the path joins a concrete ‘road’. There is a path which continues South, however, it was impossible to tell what was the route and what was a gate in to their garden even checking against my GPS and paper OS map. I wasn’t brave enough to risk trespassing so continued along the road to a junction in Hirwaen where I took a left.
There are a number of ways back  on to the original route, I took a left at Pen-y-waen, from there I headed East back to the car park.

All in all, a very enjoyable walk and I can definitely see the JetBoil getting a lot of use!

Download this route as a GPX file

 

Misty Minera Mines

I was nearing the end of my week off work.
The first walk I had done during my annual leave was lovely. Blue skies, sunshine and fantastic views. This walk however was a complete contrast.

I parked up for free at the Minera Mines car park, an interesting open access site containing an the remains of the old mine. Amazingly, despite being about 35 minutes drive from my house, I’ve never been here before and only discovered it by accident looking at an OS Map on my laptop.

Misty MinesIt was very misty when I got out of the car and headed up towards the old mine which had stood on this site since 1845.
The remains looked imposing in the mist which suited the scene.
The first written record of lead mining at Minera dates back to 1296, however it wasn’t until 1845, when a steam engine was built, that the Minera Mining Company was created.
Sadly, by 1900, the price of lead  had fallen while the costs of running the steam engine rose and by 1914 the mine had closed.

Face in the treeAnother piece of history around here is the old disused railway line which now forms a pleasant footpath but was once part of the line between Wrexham and  Brymbo.
Funnily enough, like my last walk, this path also took me past a disused quarry, once once the largest lime workings in the north of Wales.
The path skirted along the northern side of the quarry before I turned right to join the quiet, narrow road to Llandegla Forest.
Although primarily geared up for cyclists,  a number of footpaths criss-cross the forest and it’s well worth downloading the walking map from their website.

I took the Reservoir trail initially, up to and around part of the Pendinas Reservoir. From there, I joined the Black Grouse trail. The end of this trail was easy to spot!

Black grouse trail Llandegla

The paths through Llandegla are well marked and easy to follow, however, I was about to leave the dense woodland and onto the misty moor beyond.
All went well initially, two finger pointers marked where two routes split and I headed off to the right along a clearly defined (albeit narrow) path . Soon, however, this path disappeared.  In front of me was water and boggy ground. I put my left foot down in to a stream nothing too deep….then my right leg plunged in to  knee high icy water. It soaked through my boots, gaiters and trousers. As I backtracked, my left leg went in to deeper water.
Misty moorsI returned to dry land and checked my map, compass and GPS. Yes this was the route I wanted but I couldn’t see a way through that wouldn’t require a flotation device!
Consulting the map, this path followed parallel to the water course for some distance – that would not be pleasant on a cold, misty January day!
There was another possible route about 200 metres to the East.
I made my way over the boggy ground until I hit  another obvious path going in the right direction. I followed before it too disappeared.
There is nowhere as lonely as  a misty, featureless moor with no obvious path and little viability. I knew I wanted to head south towards the road. I was armed with map and compass but (sorry purists ) I was very grateful for my GPS as a picked my way through.

Esclusham Mountain.Eventually, I hit the road, it was nice to feel tarmac under my extremely wet feet.
I took a left, following the road until a crossroads of paths and roads. I had a route back whichever way I went but continued on the path straight on.
This also followed moorland but the path was slightly easier to follow.  Again, there were a couple of routes further along; one down Minera Mountain or the one I took to Esclusham Mountain.

 

RubbishFrom the trig point, I descended Esclusham to the road, where I walked East along the  back towards where I had parked the car.
The weather was still very misty and there was little in the way of views…apart from litter. Surprising considering it was a quiet, single track there was a lot of rubbish, even more surprising was the car radio I found left on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

I soon grew bored of walking along the road, so turned off to my right following a footpath through a farm. I reached a muddy area containing a feeder surrounded by sheep and a lama!
Cows blocking the path
The stile is behind her bum!

Their field led to another far, far, far muddier field. I assumed that this field contained cows, however, I couldn’t see any.
I made extremely slow progress through this quagmire before discovering the cows.
They were standing in a group, in the corner, right opposite the stile…a sneaky climb over the fence was required!

From here, it was an easy walk back to the Country Park where I had left my car.
I trudged the final stretch. I was cold, wet and extremely muddy.
This walk came at the end of a week off walk and was in complete contrast to the first walk of the holiday.  I really like the country park and will be returning and I’m sure this route would be nice in the summer but, I definitely don’t recommend it on a cold, wet, misty day!

Download the route as a GPX file

Boudin Noir Guêtres

Thursday 15th September
Eek, just before I’m due to fly out to Lyon, I discover French air traffic controllers are planning a strike. Many flights from the UK were being cancelled.
The strike was mainly affecting the budget airlines flying in to Paris and, luckily for me, my Air France/FlyBe  Embraer aircraft  took off from Manchester pretty much on time.

bus from airport to AnnecyAfter around 90 minutes in the skies, we landed at Lyon airport where I had a two hour wait for the coach to Annecy Gare Routière via Chambéry and Aix-les-Bains.
I had pre-booked my tickets online for €34.

I sat with a drink at the Premium Bar near the check-in  waiting for the coach to arrive at the stops opposite.

After chucking  my large rucksack in the boot space of the coach, I  settled down for the two hour journey through the French countryside.
After several hours travelling from my home in Wirral,  the bus station at Annecy was a very welcome sight and from here it was a short walk in  pretty much  straight line to the Ibis Annecy Centre Vieille Ville hotel.
The hotel situated in the centre of town  was nice and clean with a little balcony over looking court yard. Te room, however, was very small.

view from balcony hotel Ibis Annecy
View from hotel balcony

After taking some time to unpack and freshen up, I took a stroll to le Munich for dinner. It was the Boudin Noir on the menu which caught my attention!

I started with Carpaccio. An Italian starter at a German themed bar/restaurant in France near the Swiss border – truly European! I love my beef as rare as possible and it doesn’t get much rarer than this. A very good start to my first meal of the trip.
French black puddingAs for the French black pudding main course…very nice although I think the English black pudding still beats it!

After dinner I took a stroll around the picturesque old town before retiring to my room.


Friday 16th September
After a decent breakfast at the hotel, I took a stroll down to the train/bus station to pick up some time tables for some days out I was thinking of taking.
Annecy FranceToday’s plan was to take  good wander around Annecy’s market stall filled streets and on towards the mountain-fringed lake.  Getting lost in the old, narrow streets before  stopping for coffee at one of the many cafe cum bars in town.
The old town reminded me of Venice or Bruges with its canals and buildings bedecked with flowers.
A lovely place to aimlessly wander.

Saturday 17th September
Horrible weather.
I made my self couple of cheeses toasties for breakfast before getting the waterproofs on and walking around the lake to the village of Talloires.
Leaving the hotel, I walked East around the ‘top’ of the lake before following the shore around.
On a nice day I imagine the views across the lake are beautiful and the water to be filled with swimmers and sailors. Today, however, I was wet enough on dry land!

Lake Annecy shore

For the first part of this 11 mile route, I followed the tree-lined  path to the side of the lake until it ended near the village of Chavoire, here, I headed inland slightly along the D909, Route d’Annecy.
Château de Menthon-Saint-BernardIn the village of Veyrier du Lac, I took the quieter road to the right of Route d’Annecy, parallel to the lake. This road took me around housing estates before dropping back down to the shores of the lake.
At the Palace De Menthon hotel, I was forced back in land and slightly up hill where there I got some nice views over to Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard, the birth place of Bernard of Menthon (St Bernard), the patron saint of skiers.

The road continued round in to the ‘Reserve Naturelle du Rock de Chere‘ park. There are a number of routes around the wooded rocky outcrop.  I followed the well signed path nearest to the lake towards the view point  at Belvedere.
Despite the poor weather all day, it cleared up just in time to stop and take some photos.
It was a very good spot to see some Red Bull Elements which was taking place in the village!

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Talloires didn’t have much to offer and the Red Bull Elements was just finishing off so there was little to keep me in the village. Luckily I had just few mins to wait for the infrequent bus service back to Annecy and bonus… it was free!
This route is available to download from the ViewRanger website.

Sunday 18th September
After breakfast I donned the waterproofs again before making my way to Gorges du Fier,  considered to be one of the natural wonders of the Alps.Footpath to Gorges du Fier,
I headed West out of Annecy on D2201 road.  The route continued along roads through the town and industrial areas until reaching the woods around the river Fier with it’s ‘interesting’  footpaths consisting of seemingly randomly placed wooden planks!
The path follows the river, ending at the gorge’s pay booth. Entry at the time of writing (Sept 2016) was €5.50.

The route through is linear,  ending at a  La Clairière des Curieux, an information area  detailing the gorge.
Keep an eye out for blue footprints on the path to see ‘faces’ in rocks.

Two faces in the rock Gorges du Fier, Annecy
Two faces in the rock

The 6 mile route to and around the gorge is available to download as a GPX file.

Leaving the gorge, I took a different route back, following the railway line along a quiet road towards the hydro power plant.
This was a far nicer route than the one I took out to the gorge and is also available to download as a GPX.

Monday 19th September
This morning I was  travelling by bus from the main bus station in Annecy to Geneva, Switzerland. Return tickets are reasonably priced and are purchased at the Annecy bus station.
I got off at Seujet. (Google maps helped to find the right stop!)

To be honest, there wasn’t too much in Geneva to hold my interest but it’s another city to tick off my ‘to see’ list.  I took a wander around the town which was filled with watch shops. I passed through the park and on to Jet d’Eau.
I must admit, this jet of water is impressive. I took the jetty out to get up close to the  140 metres (460 ft)  jet.

jet d'eau Geneva
The area around the lake near the Jet is a nice spot to stop for a quick drink. Luckily for me, the shops and bars in town accept the Euro as well as the Swiss Franc, albeit at a 1-1 exchange rate.

Personally, I found a day trip was more than enough time to see the town, leaving on the 5.15 bus…bad move as we got stuck in the rush hour traffic.

Tuesday 20th September
Sunshine!
Today the plan was to climb the hills on the Western side of lake.
Wandering through the town, along the waters edge, I headed right down Rue des Marquisats, taking another right at the roundabout .
Continuing up Avenue de Tresum and Boulevard de la Corniche, I turned off to the left down Ave del la Visitation towards Cathédrale de la Visitation,  Catholic basilica dating from the early 20th-century.
Already there were great views back over to the town and lake.
Sign post on walk, Annecy FranceAt the end of the road I entered the woodland and followed the well signed paths to the South, parallel to the lake.
There were a number of view points along the route. A rather elaborate cairn marked the point at 767 meters.

img_2124
A cairn apparently!

Most of the views on this part of the walk were towards the town. I was surprised how sprawling the area actually is.
There are a number of routes through the woods, I continued to the point about 5 miles in to the walk, where the path curled round, almost in a horseshoe shape. In my mind, this was the part of the walk with the far better views.
Originally the plan was to drop down in to one of the lake side villages, however, the paths down where very steep and, to be honest, I was enjoying the views from the higher path.

Views of lake Annecy
Not a bad view!

Eventually the path slowly made its way down to the shore at La Puya.  From here it was a nice walk back through the port area  back to the hotel

I think must have been my favourite walk on the holiday and is definitely recommended.
A GPX file of this 9 mile route is available to download

 

Wednesday 21st September
More sunshine!
After breakfast, I wandered down to train/bus station to get a ticket for the 9am bus to Lyon, my home for the next night.
The coach had  plenty of luggage space  and even a coffee machine at front!

After arriving at the main bus station, I got 5 Euro 50 day ticket and boarded tram T1 to the  stop near Quality suites Confluence.  A very nice hotel but rather out the way from the main part of town.

Hotel room LyonThe room was lovely and included a kettle, hob microwave. Oddly though the hall way separated the toilet from the sink/sower room!

After unpacking, I wandered around for some snaps in the lovely weather.
Sadly this really was just a flying visit. My time was spent zig zagging between the streets of the old town and walking along the river.
It would have been nice to see the ruins but it just wasn’t possible on this whistle stop visit.

Dinner was taken at Les Chandelles. I later discovered this restaurant had very poor reviews but I enjoyed the meal….especially the unusual dish of head of veal!
Perhaps a return visit is required to see the rest of the sites and sample some better food?
Lyon at night

 

Thurs 22nd September
Time to go. After a quick shower, I walked to the train station and got a coffee and baguette. It seemed suitably French and definitely filled a corner!

Back to the hotel for check out which was at 11am. Luckily I left the hotel early as the trams weren’t running. A change of plan was required! I took two metro trains to  Gare part dieu. Easily done and covered by the €1.80 ticket.
From there it was on to the shuttle train to the airport.

All in all an enjoyable trip!

 

The Sun Does Shine on the Clwydian Range

I know, I  go to the Clwydian Range a lot….a hell of a lot.
In my defence, it’s less than 40 minutes drive from home and there are so many routes. I’m still discovering new ones years after I first went.

I’ve recently started parking in Llanferres. I had parked in the same spot last week when I (finally) discovered the cave near Maeshafn (that’s one for another post!)  It is usually cold, wet and cloudy whenever I visit this part of the world, today, however, the forecast was good and the skies were clear!

After parking up, I walked towards the Druid pub and followed Rectory Lane to the end where it becomes a footpath. Here it’s a bit of a climb through fields, passing through a gate which isn’t clearly marked as being part of the footpath.
Dangerous gateThe path continues heading South West, ending up in a small woodland.
Not too sure about the barbed wire around the gate though!
I continued on this path, taking the next right, almost heading back on myself.
The views from around here were beautiful.
I had forgotten how good the Clwydian Range could look.

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Continuing on this horseshoe, I could look down from above onto the village of Llanferres where I had left the car. I made my way to the narrow road at Pen-y-waun, taking a left where the path joins the road and another left at the road junction.
Ahead of me was the Moel Famau car park and a handy stop to the use the ‘facilities’!

Not far from the car park is a small pull-in off the road on the left. Here a path  leads from the road towards the  Bwlch Penbarra car park.
From the far end of the car park, I  headed up Foel Fenlli, going up and over the top, around the location of the old fort before dropping down to Bwlch Crug-glas.

Coffee brewing on the meths burner
Coffee brewing on the meths burner

Passing a small woods on my left I walked through a large field of sheep and found a great sheltered spot to fire up the meths burner and make myself a cup of coffee,
Civilised waking!

After one of the nicest cups of instant coffee I’d drunk in a long while, I carried on along the path just skirting the route I had taken earlier in the day.
At the crossroads I continued straight on. The path here wasn’t too well signed. I headed roughly South East through the fields to a stile.
Once over the stile, the route became very difficult to see as I ducked under branches, stepped over fallen trees and made my way across the boggy terrain.

20170125_125656
Difficult to see where to join/leave this path!

There was no clear path through when I reached the road, it was a case of climbing over the fence.
It was difficult to see the ‘official’ route from the road.
It was over grown and a rusty set of gates stood in front of the public footpath sign.

Crossing the road, I took a right then walked down the first road on my left.  I stayed on this narrow, quiet road for a while until it became a path towards the quarry.
When reaching Burley Hill Quarry, I took the path to the left, though the woods alongside the now disused limestone quarry.
Apparently, this is a good spot for fossil hunting, I also spotted the entrance of a small ‘cave’.

At the end of the woods is the village of  Maeshafn, home to the Miners Arms pub. The food here looks amazing especially considering how far off the beaten track it is!

After the pub, I followed the road to the left. Just after crossing a bridge, I took the footpath on the left back to Llanferres.

The total walk was around 9 miles and was very enjoyable, obviously the clear blue skies helped A GPX of the route can be downloaded.

And to round off such a good day….a drive home with the top down in the Abarth 124!

20170125_1420001

 

 

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