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Black Pudding Gaiters

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moel famau

First hill walk of 2020!

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

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

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

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

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

Clwydian Hills Views


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

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

Old St Peters Church Llanbedr

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Eggs and meths

Yes, I know I spend far too many hours on the Clwydian Range but it’s just too tempting. A day off work,  35 minutes drive from home and so many routes to choose from.

Today, I paid my £2 to park up in the ‘lower Moel Famau’ car park on the Bwlch Pen Barras road. After my usual visit to make use of the facilities, I headed up towards the paths, taking a route to the right heading North East.

There are a few routes off this wide, multi use path. I continued on the main path, following it round  as it turned North.  Crossing the ford
At a definite ‘crossroads’ I turned left, gradually climbing towards a track where  the route crosses a ford  (marked on the route map).  At the ford the track initially heads  North. Shortly after it turns to head North East, take a left to start the  ascent up the side of Ffrith mountain.

Flowers on roadAt the next junction I turned right, taking the suitably Welsh looking daffodil lined road towards a farm house selling eggs (marked on the map).
These eggs cost £1.20 (well cost me £1.50 as I didn’t have any change!) and come from a flock of free range  Black Rock hens.

At the next junction, I took a left towards Crug Farm and on to the road at Pentre. Here I went left along the road  which becames a track, passing two reservoirs.

Reservoir

Shortly after passing the second reservoir I used a narrow wooden plank to cross over a stream. As I was about half way round distance wise (the climbing was still to come!), it seemed a good place to stop for a coffee.

Filling up my water ‘pouch’ from the stream,  I used my Sawyer Water Filter to pour clear water in to my Alpkit Titanium mug and fired up the meths burner.
Now, despite thinking of myself as an ‘outdoorsy’ type of person, I’d never tried boiling water out in the wild.  I had some success sitting in my back garden but this was my first real test and it went surprisingly well.
Perhaps it was the sense of achievement, perhaps it was the view, but this was one of my nicest cups of coffee for a long time!

Alpkit mug on meths burner
Brewing my coffee, the wooden plank ‘bridge’ can be seen in the background

The meths burner itself is simply a small metal bowl, in to which I pour some meths (I take  small travel bottle with enough meths for a few burns) .
Making sure it is sat on something that won’t catch alight, such as I stone, I use my lighter to fire it up. Initially not a lot happens. Place the metal wind guard around it and wait for the flames.  Once alight, stick the mug on and wait for it to boil
It can be a bit hit and miss, especially on cold, wet or windy days but Bare Bones provide a great guide and you get a great sense of achievement after making your first coffee!

Once I’d finished my cuppa, I left my intended route and followed a new path which was not marked on my OS map. The Tir Gofal is a bridleway/cycle route/footpath which heads South towards Pwl y Rhos. It soon became obvious that this was predominantly a cycle route, the trye marks had made the route very muddy.
ViewsDespite not being on the map I had a good idea where I was heading, directly towards the Moel Famau path and as the weather was starting to close in, I was rather pleased that I could see the path I wanted but it soon became clear that path was on the wrong side of a fence!  The route then took a turn, almost back on itself, making  a horse shoe shape. I was walking  back to Moel Dywyll, following along side the path I actually wanted but in the wrong direction – oops!
This path eventually spat me out on to Offa’s Dyke. Not an ideal route  and I could have avoided it by continuing to the West after the coffee break, but it did add a few extra miles on which helped with the ViewRanger 500 mile challenge!

As I past the cairn the rain started to fall. One of those sudden downpours, as if someone had turned a tap on above my head.
Perhaps it was the gloomy skies, perhaps it was because I was already 8 miles in to the walk, but the path to  Jubilee tower at the peak of Moel Famau had never seemed so steep.

The view from the top was non existent so I headed straight down on the Offa’s Dyke path. It was quiet today, there were only a few other people on this route but I decided to leave it and join a quieter path so took the next left through the Clywd forest and back to the car park.

Yet again, a different route in a very familiar area…..and the eggs were delicious!

Alternate, solo Valentine’s

It’s Valentine’s Day. The cards, presents and flowers are nowhere to be seen so, rather than a candle lit dinner, I decided upon a slice of malt loaf up a hill.

Parking up in the upper Moel Famau/Bwlch Penbarra car park, I eventually tracked down the one working pay and display machine and headed up Foel Fenlli. I glanced over to Moel Famau behind me, watching the hordes of people strolling up to the Jubilee Tower like ill equipped sheep.  I concluded I’d made the right decision with this route….albeit not a well planned route. I had planned nothing other than head up and over Fenlli and just go where ever I fancied. Somewhere different would be preferable but, given the crisp sunny day it was just nice to be out, and away from the masses.

It’s quite a steep climb to the top of Fenlli (511 meters) but once at the peak there are some lovely views and  the remains of the Iron Age hill fort can clearly be seen.

View from Foel Fenlli
Foel Fenlli peak

From the peak,  I continued South down a steep scree path to join the Offa’s Dyke path to Bwlch Crug-glas and on to the junction of paths to the East.
It was at this junction I drew up a rough route plan. I had never ventured over to the East of the A494 so quickly devised a route towards Mount Pleasant.

The first step on this hastily arranged plan was a left, heading North East, passing through plenty of mud and a farm gate.
Where the path splits, I could take either, both led to the same location. For no particular reason I continued on the ‘top path’ before taking a right and dropping down to Plymog and crossing a A494.

River near LlanferresThe next path was almost directly over the road. Crossing over a river, I continued to where a spring joined the river and plonked myself down on a large piece of concrete jutting in to the water.
An ideal place for lunch.
Here, there was nobody about at all and I was far enough away from the main road for a peaceful break.

Crossing stream

I eventually made my way on to the path in to the woods, using stepping stones and a small wooden bridge to make my way over the water.
The trees became fewer as I walked towards what was presumably an old quarry at Bryn-yr-ardd.

As the path became more of a track, I took a left almost going back on myself, into the woods. As I passed old, derelict buildings, I crossed a stile to my right, deeper in to the woods towards the buidlings at Mount Pleasant where I took another right heading initially East and then turning to the North.
The original ‘plan’ was to take the next path to the West towards Llanferres, however, I spotted a cave marked on the map so continued North through the woods of Big Covert. Unfortunately, as this was a very haphazardly planned route,  I didn’t have the exact co-ordinates of the cave. After a short wander in the general vicinity proved unfruitful, I decided to return another day (with my head torch!) and rejoined the path.to the small village of Maeshafn.

Woods near MaeshafnTaking a left when I reached the road, I took the next footpath on the right, walking South West to the track. At the crossroads, I took a right towards the houses and continued West to the A494, crossing the road and taking the narrow road almost opposite through Llanferres.
At the end of Rectory Lane I took the path through the field heading North West, passing to the left of the farm at Fron Hen.

When reaching the road, I took a left and another left at the t-junction heading to the lower Moel Famau car park. From there I followed the path parallel to the road back to the top car park.

The gpx file for this 7 mile walk can be downloaded from the ViewRanger website

An Evening with Frank

Another day, another storm.
I’m sure the amount of storms that have hit the UK has increased tenfold since they started naming them. This evening ‘Frank’ was on it’s way bringing wind and rain.

We parked up near the church in Cilcain, a small village near the foot of Moel Famau, reached via a single track road off the A494.
Armed with the Coleman CHT 15 headlamp (and plenty of batteries and a few spare torches!) we walked East, past the church, following the road to the left. We took another left at the next junction where the road eventually became a muddy track heading South East.
The climb here was gradual but the work rate soon increased as we joined the Offa’s Dyke path to the South towards Moel Dywyll.

So far, the navigation was fairly straight forward but, with the pitch black skies and various routes becoming available, the GPS became a very welcome bit of kit!
It’s  disorientating walking in these conditions, even on hills visited numerous times previously, however, the views over to the twinkling lights of Wirral, Liverpool and beyond are fantastic. Sadly, this photo doesn’t do it justice.
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There are tales of ghosts who haunt this part of the Clwydian hills and sightings of UFOs flying overhead.  Personally, I don’t believe such stories, but, it might have been fun to see a spirit or alien though!
You can understand how such stories come about when you turn off the head torches and look out in to the silent, inky blackness.

Once we reached the first cairn the wind had really got up making walking quite difficult. By the time we had got to Jubilee Tower we concluded it would be unsafe to stay there for our coffee break given that the wind was gusting around 45mph!

We dropped down and took the Clwydian Way path to the North which had become very muddy and slippery. I managed to stay on my feet….unlike others (-:
It was here we fired up the Jetboil to get a welcome brew on.
We returned to the car a few hours later, slightly windswept and extremely muddy but an enjoyable walk!

Walk mapThis 6 mile route can be downloaded from ViewRanger.

 

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