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Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Today’s walk was a gamble. As I sat munching my cereal, the hail was bouncing off the windows and the dark skies threatened more was to come.
There were two very different weather forecasts, one predicted hail, sleet and snow, however,  the other, more favourable forecast was clear skies for most of the day.
Every the optimist, I packed my sack full of waterproofs and warm clothing and headed out.

On the motorway the windscreen wipers struggled to clear the window quick enough,  I was starting to question my sanity…..

My luck did improve as I pulled in to the free car park off High Street in the centre of Caergwrle near Ye Olde Castle Inn.  It was only around 9:45 in the morning but I snuck in to the second to last parking space, it pays to get here early if you want a parking spot.
As I changed in to my boots the sun started to make an appearance….perhaps this was going to turn in to a decent day.

Leaving the car park through the  exit on to Bryn Yorkin, I took this road up to the top where it meets a footpath then took the route leading off to the right.
I somehow managed to come off the path but continued North West eventually rejoining the proper path and popping out from the wooded area on to a quiet, narrow road.

There are numerous paths around to avoid too much road walking but I continued on the road given that the alternative route crossed over water a couple of times, perhaps not ideal after all the recent bad weather and flooding.

Hawarden Airfield EGNRAt the T-Junction, I took a right and continued on to the path.
It was around this part of the walk I got some familiar views over towards Hawarden airport, home to Airbus If you strike it lucky, you may see the giant Beluga A300-600ST aircraft which often visits the wing producing factory.
As a pilot who trained out of Hawarden, this view toward the  approach to runway 04 brought back some very happy memories although the PAPI lights are a bit worrying there!

20160115_120542_HDRA thin layer of snow covered the track/bridleway and there was more snow on the ground as I headed towards Bryn-hyfryd and Top-y-Rhos farm.
I reached yet another road, taking a left for a short while then  another left  on to the path to Waun-y-Llyn Country Park
Waun-y-Llynn offers some great views over the Clwydian range, Flintshire and Cheshire, made even nicer with the dusting of snow.

Snowy scene Hope Mountain

Take path straight through to the car park (which could be another good starting point for this walk) then continue straight on up Mountain Road.
There were two possible footpaths to take to get off the road, both covered in a blanket of snow. The first took a diagonal route across what, in these conditions, looked like a featureless field. The second option followed along side a wall. The latter of those two made most scene navigation wise!

Bryn York Estate archery

Head left slightly at the road then cross over to the farm. Again, the snow made it difficult to see the footpath and the fence erected straight along the route didn’t help matters. Luckily it was low enough to step over
At the end of the field take a right on the road then on to the path to  Bryn York Estate which  hosts a number of activities.
You’ll probably spot the signs up for their archery and pass through the estate’s organic orchard.
After exiting the orchard, cross over the road and  continue on the paths back down to Caergwrle.

20160115_132006_HDRTo add a few extra miles on, I took a wander up to Caergwrle castle.
Built in 1227, quite a bit of the structure still remains and some features, such as the old bread oven and well are still visible.
Nice place to finish off the flask of coffee!

This walk is just over 6 miles/10km in total and the route can be downloaded in gpx format from View Ranger….and, apologies for the ‘interesting’ shape of this route!

Route from Caergwle car park

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.

 

Out with Desmond

I had just opened the 8th door of my advent calendar and realised I’ve not been out since the end of October (well, apart from a 4 mile stroll around Thurstaston shore)
I decided that no matter what the weather wanted to throw at me, I was heading out to the hills. This thought came while the news channels were still covering the devastating effects of storm Desmond so perhaps wasn’t my brightest idea!

I had good intentions of planning routes all round the local area, however, as with all good intentions, other things got in the way and I ended up at old faithful, the Moel Famau car park.

Just as I pulled up, the skies turned from a nice blue to black, then the rain came. Huge clumps of the stuff.
Not to worry, the waterproof jacket and over trousers are more than a match and off I headed through the woods following the pinky/purpley coloured arrows before joining the Offa’s Dyke path.
Views on Moel Famau walk
All was good as I headed up towards Jubilee Tower, the route was easy to follow, the sun was starting to make an appearance and it was unseasonably warm (around 10 degrees Celsius).

A few layers were shed, which was to prove a bad move.

Just before the peak I took the left hand path with the intention on pressing on to Moel Dywyll and perhaps  Moel Arthur however, the wind really whipped up in this more exposed area.  Forecasts for Cilcain suggested 25mph winds, gusting 37mph…… then the hail kicked in.

Trying to put my waterproof back on proved to be rather awkward, think of an octopus trying to change a duvet cover and you’ll get the idea.
My Arc’teryx waterproof was on the verge of becoming an Arc’teryx kite.
After that hassle, I decided against a further battle with the waterproof pants, the wind would soon dry my legs off.

Normally my philosophy is to carry on regardless, never wimp out, however, with ice battering my face and the wind trying it’s very best to push me over, the little voices in my head told me the that high, exposed ground was, perhaps, not the best option.
Reluctantly I gave in to the sensible side and turned back towards the last junction I passed, taking  a left,  crossing a style and heading North.

River or pathNow for a different problem.
The ground from here on in was muddy, extremely muddy and slippery.
Somehow I managed to stay on my feet and my bum remained mud free by pulling off moves and agility that Beth Tweddle would have been proud of.
My path came to a ‘crossroads’, I could have continued straight on, shortening my walk, however, given my earlier route failure, I took a left, heading North following the Clwydian Way towards the reservoir and Cae Newydd.

MudAt the next junction I headed right, this path went South initially on tracks and through the odd stream before becoming a narrow wooden walk way.
At the base of Ffrith mountain I went West before taking the mixed use route to my left. This soon becomes a big wide track, big enough in fact for a large digger which was busy doing some work in the area.

By the time I reached the car park, I’d completed about 9.5 miles. Not bad, but I had hoped for more.
An excuse to book another day off work and go on another walk I guess!

 

The Pendinas reservoir

9.30am, Sunday, the sun is out and a quick decision on what to do with the day is required.
It ended up as  a case of putting a pin in a map then a route was quickly drawn up and I headed to Llandegla Forest.

After the turn off from the main road, the route to the car park is a singe track road with passing places which lead me to believe that I’d be pulling up in a small car park perhaps containing a little hut  selling snacks….how wrong I was – the place is vast!
Not only that, it was extremely busy. Where everyone went, however, I don’t know, a few yards from the car and I hardy saw another person.

Worlds EndThe area is predominantly for cyclists but there are lots of footpaths for walkers and, on the whole the two are kept separate.

There are four signed trails;

  • orange at 2.5 miles around the reservoir,
  • black grouse/purple at 2 miles,
  • turquoise intermediate at 2 miles
  • the brown long route at 7 miles.

I started on the brown route, following it to the spruce plantation then took a left where it crosses the Offa’s Dyke path. This path goes through heather on a narrow path, occasionally on wooden planks.

Footpath

When this path comes out to a road, take a right and follow it along to World’s End. It’s a quiet road so you shouldn’t see much traffic.

Just after a river passes over the road, it takes a sharp bend, this is where you leave the road and get back on to the Offa’s Dyke footpath.

This path does become quite narrow with quite a steep rocky drop to the right hand side but offers some great views.

Leave the Offa’s Dyke by taking a path down to the right hand side through woodland, this can be quite difficult to spot.
The path drops down on to a road below but you’ll soon leave the road, taking a path to the left which climbs to Eglwyseg Glen.

The route continues through fields, follow this and you will briefly join the Clwydian Way, however when this forks to the left, keep to the right.
ViewsWhen reaching a track heading towards the phone mast,cross the road and the path continues virtually directly opposite. It’s quite difficult to find initially but easy enough to follow once on it.
Once this reaches the road, take it to the right, eventually taking a right back in to the Llandegla forest.
Follow the Clwydian Way back to the crossroads with the ‘brown path’, the path on the right leads back to the car park.

There’s nothing better after a long walk than a decent cuppa and the coffee served up in theLlandegla cafe cetrainly didn’t disapoint.  Unfortunately the kitchen was closed by the time I got back but the cakes looked good (and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t have a sweet tooth at all!) There is also a vast array of energy bars and gels.

All in all, a great day and I’ll definetely return, will have to try out some of the bike trails.
At the time of writting, all day car parking is £4.50
For more information, visit their website: http://coedllandegla.com/

Download a copy of the route

 

 

Zip World

I received a gift voucher for the Velocity zip (does any one do the smaller Titan zip?!) at Zip World, Bethesda as a Christmas present and booked it for my birthday as part of a long weekend which included a trip up Snowdon.
Despite being June, it was drizzly, not particularly warm and a bit windy. I was a bit worried that the booking would have to be rescheduled, lucky, however, it went ahead.

After pulling up in the large car park, the first stop was the cabin selling coffee and bacon batches!
Registration/signing in takes place in the main building. You can also leave any keys here so they don’t get lost on the way down or cause discomfort under the safety harness.
Speaking of the safety harness….safety is emphasised through out the experience and this begins when getting kitted out. You’re allocated a time slot, at which point  you are weighed and given your jump suit, harness, helmet and goggles.
I had brought my own Go-Pro esque camera as ZipWorld provide helmets with attachments for various camera types. Just ask when getting the kit. The helmets are number, enter this in to one of the computers there and you will be emailed a personalised video of your ride.
Once in our outfit, everything is checked and cross checked by two members of staff then you head off to the first of the zip wires, the ‘Little Zipper’. Even this small zip wire was longer and faster than any I had done previously, reaching speeds of around 45mph. This acts as a confidence builder and is a good introduction to  being hooked up to the wire and the braking technique (putting your arms out at a specified point) The Little Zipper itself is great, exhilierating fun.
On reaching the bottom it was on to what resembled an old army truck for the fairly long and very bumpy drive through the quarry. Some cracking views on the way, even through the cloudy gloom. The driver provides commentary on the history of the area and points out interesting features on the way up…..it slowly starts to sink in how high the Velocity is going to be!
At the top, riders go down in pairs and a television screen allows you to watch the previous pair coming in to land.
Needless to say, when your turn comes, all your equipment is checked, cross checked and the staff make sure you know exactly when to commence braking (when you see a particular feature on the landscape)

The ride itself is awesome! Even on a damp, cloudy day the views were fantastic as they zip (excuse the pun) at around 120mph. It’s only when you feel like you’ve stopped when actually you’re doing about 50mph do you really appreciate the speed!

Definitely back on the to-do list again!!

The cloud base is low on the Clwydian hills

It’s the middle of August, I’ve got a day off work, what could possibly go wrong!

Well, for starters,  I thought it was summer, a time for warm, sunny days, unfortunately, the weather had other ideas!

I parked up in the main Moel Famau car park. Parking here costs £2 for the day.
Access to the car park is through a barrier in to which you put your money.
There is a public toilet here and, at busier times, a van selling drinks and snacks.

There are a number of routes up from the car park. I took the main path,  heading roughly North West,  through the woodland.
At one point the path splits, one way is the more direct route up to the peak and the Jubilee tower, the other path, to the left, is slightly further put more pleasant.

The top of Moel Famau can get very busy with lots of people milling around the tower. Many visitors head straight up, take a look at the views then go straight back down again. So, to avoid the crowds (not that there was anyone out today!) take the left hand fork just before the peak, on to the Clwydian Way/Offa’s Dyke path.

Cloudy view from Moel Famau
Usually there would be great views over to Wirral, Merseyside and Snowdonia, however, not today!
At least, up to this point it was’t raining, it was  humid but not raining. This soon changed as I continued on to Moel Dywyll.

Staying on the Clwydian Way I continued to the steps leading down to the road opposite which stands the distinctively shaped Moel Arthur.  This hill is home to a small hill fort and, possibly, a Bronze Age burial mound.
This route, however, passes the hill rather than climbs it and I took the path which runs parallel to the road in a North Easterly direction. The path climbs a bit before leading through fields to a quiet road not far from the village of Cilcain.

The path continues through fields and woodland before climbing back up Moel Famau. Yes, a climb near the end of an 11 mile walk isn’t ideal but, on the bright side, you don’t need to go all the way back to the peak!

Rainy walk Moel FamauBy now the rain was torrential so I took the  fire roads back down to the car park to make for an easier, faster route.
Was very glad of a decent waterproof by this point!
There are several, more pleasant routes back down to the car park, however, this particular route can be downloaded from my ViewRanger pages.

There is also a short video on the new Black Pudding Gaiters YouTube channel

Foel Fenlli (Iron Age Mums are haunting my cagoule)

Foel (or Moel) Fenlli is the second highest peak of the Clwydian Range in Denbighshire, North Wales.
It’s peak is at 511 metres/1,677 ft, slightly lower than it’s neighbour Moel Famau but attracts far fewer walkers making it far more pleasant.

The best place to start the walk is the Bwlch Pen Barras car park. This pay and display car park currently costs £1.50 for the day.
The path up Fenlli is to the south of this car park.
There are a number of routes up, I headed to the back of the car park, following the narrower path to the left hand side of the hill.

Views
Views from Foel Fenllli

Take the steps up the final stretch to the cairn at the top where, on a clear day view stretch across to Snowdonia one way and Wirral and Merseyside the other.

The remains of a hill fort are found at the peak, it is believed that the site dates back to the Iron Age.

Take the first path down, signposted with the Offa’s Dyke route acorn symbol and continue to follow these signs taking the path which the right of two small woods and across a couple of fields.

At a ‘crossroads’ take a right, still following the Offa’s Dyke route.
The path comes out on to the A494. Take a right here and again, follow the Offa’s Dyke signs.
After a short distance, take a left off the road, taking a track. Where this forks, take the right hand track, passing some houses before continuing through woodland (it can get very muddy here!)

After passing Bathafarn farm, turn right on the road until the first footpath to the right, crossing a field.
I found this to be over grown and not well signed so stayed to the edge of the field following it round to the far end which had been fenced off (easily climbed!). Continue in a north easterly direction, you’ll see some caravans and, eventually a stream, keep this to your left hand side.

At the right time of the year, the woods at Coed Rhiwsig are great for wild garlic picking. *
Leave the woods, cross over the A494 again, then take a left to for the continuation of the path, a horseshoe route which, when I went in summer,  was very over grown.
Unfortunately the last part of this Cowswalk follows a road, take a right, uphill, passing the Halfway House before eventually reaching the car park.

Look out for the local residents!

This walk is around 8.5 miles in total (13.7km)
And the GPX file is available to download from my ViewRanger page.

 

* wild garlic is easy to spot, it is rather pungent! It is usually ready for picking in Spring and, unlike ‘conventional garlic’ it is the broad green leaves you want rather than the bulb. The white flowers can also be eaten but are rather mild.
I like the leaves whizzed up with some Parmesan cheese and olive oil to make a pesto, goes great with steak!

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