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May 2000

1 May

The day of days; completing the Wainwrights

It was everything I'd hoped it would be. I drew the curtains and the weather was super; a lovely kipper for breakfast; Ian and Charles linked up with us on time at the meeting point near Boot.

The route was carefully planned. Start out up Stanley Gill Force; we'd been there before but wanted to revisit it. It is a lovely way to gain a lot of height without major effort because you are distracted by views of the waterfall. Then we went via Whincop's Bridge and Whincop farm (places I'd hold dear) before striking across unwalked moors towards Green Crag. I'd been up there during the weekend with Reg but in the cloud hadn't been convinced that I'd actually reached the summit. Therefore I needed to check this before proceeding to Harter Fell which had been deliberately picked as the final Wainwright.

The way across could have been very wet but we steered a good route across a watershed before the pull up to Green Crag. The views off the moor were good but the extra height to the summit improved them a lot. Charles was trying to wind me up by saying how Wainwright reckons the views there are much better than off Harter Fell. However this was My Day and it was easy to rise above this.

Green Crag but more from Eskdale (Photo: J Dawson)

You have to tack a long way round to get from Green Crag to Harter Fell before a very steep climb. The temperature had dropped a bit and there was a nice breeze and we stormed up this. I stopped where the terrain levels out abot a 100 ft below the summit. I didn't want to rush this. There was a bit of a crag to get some views, catch your breath and regroup before going on to the summit.

This is a wonderful craggy expanse; the Nuttalls say that it is just about the best summit in England and they are spot on. You have to scramble on to the absolute top (not where the trig station is) and we all gathered up there; Beryl wasn't too sure but then managed it with ease. Pause for photographs and to reflect on the achievement. When we dismounted, bottles of champagne kept appearing from rucksacks; we drank and bottle and a half and I still brought a full one back down (a present from Ian and JD).

Harter Fell somewhat hazily in the distance (Photo: J Dawson)

We split up here; Charles, poor sad Wainwright-bagger that he is, wanted to go on to Hard Knott and Ian went with him. I thought that would be too far for Beryl so we took the direct route off the fell and then had a glorious walk back along the river. I was thinking that, for all I'd enjoyed Mallorca, the Esk was looking as pretty as anything I'd seen there. Someone had even thoughtfully placed a bench by the stream for us to rest and enjoy just being there. Strangely we didn't see anyone else from leaving Charles and Ian until we were virtually back to St Catherine's church right at the end of the walk.

One final task; drive up to the telephone box below the Hardknott pass and collect Charles and Ian. This probably saved them at least an hour of walking back.

All in all a wonderful day. If I'd written the script for it I couldn't have made it any better.

6 May

Twenty years ago I used to travel regularly between Worcester and Colwyn Bay using the A5 and the Horseshoe Pass. Near Shrewsbury I noticed an interesting-looking line of hills. I wondered what they were but never managed to pin them down. Some years later I was travelling from Reading to Bala and was passing right by them. I had to stop for petrol and I asked what they were all. The name sounded very Welsh; something like "Braethwr". I wasn't much the wiser.

I now know that the name was Breidden. I've long had the inkling to walk there but, for the last couple of years, I've been waiting for the new Explorer map to come out. Having got the Wainwrights out of the way and having got a pass-out for the day, today was the chance to go for it.

I was up early and it was only an hour's drive, crossing into Wales, so I was walking by 8am. Not totally a good thing. There was morning haze so I reversed the walk to start with what was planned as an extension along the Severn and so give the sun chance to burn off the haze. Unfortunately there was heavy dew and long grass so my feet were soon sodden!!

Actually the river bank section was somewhat dull and there wasn't much of a foot path. I was glad to get away from it and on to Braggington Lane, a long track towards the hills, made longer by a bad map-reading error on my part; it's amazing how you can make a map fit where you think you are even though you might be some distance away.

I did eventually start climbing Middletown Hill which has a pleasant ridge, somewhat like the Malverns but on a smaller scale. The mist still hadn't cleared and in fact it hung around doggedly all day so that I didn't get the long views.

Down a bit although I found a passable contouring track (but not public footpath); I was going to follow the proper footpath which dropped much further. However I then found that it soon turned into a stream bed and thought better of it. The track lasted for about a quarter of a mile before rejoining the public path and a long steep pull up through woods to Moel y Golfa. This is the high point of the Breiddens and a Marilyn. It has all the basics of a really nice top. The conifer gives way to deciduous trees for the final section and even they clear giving way to rocky outcrops at the summit. It is clearly not visited much so that you have a fair chance of getting the summit to yourself (as I did) There is also an interesting Romany monument there. Unfortunately there is also a derelict hut with telegraph poles and cable up to it making the top slightly scruffy. The best thing to do is to walk along the ridge a little and face the other way, looking westwards, as you take in the hill and its setting.

The ridge was pleasant as was the descent (with a couple of interesting scrambly sections). The whole top has a good set of waymarks to help you through the trees. A bit of road walking followed although it contours high above the valley. Then came the worst bit of the walk. The footpath from Trewern Cottage to Upper Farm was virtually non-existing; there is one gate, a lot of clambering over hedges and two decrepit gates at the end (one of which had a dead sheep wrapped around it so that I didn't try to open it).

A long pull up the track in the valley to Breidden Hill itself topped with a splendid monument to Admiral Lord Rodney. This seems to make it the focus for more casuaI walkers. I had lunch on top and a long natter to a couple up there with their grand-daughter. The woman was revisiting the place just after the summit where she'd slipped and broken her wrist 12 months earlier.

You don't get much of a walk near the summit before you descend on to some very pleasant paths through Forestry Commission land. However the path that I was trying to follow was blocked one field beyond the woodland and I decided to drop down to the road and tack round the problem. This also meant passing the Lord Rodney pub; I felt that I was being told something so I  called in. They had a very good selection of real ales for a remote pub on a back road. I tried the Greene King IPA..

There was only a mile or so back to the car from there. I was finished by 3 and home by 4. This was essential because we were going to see the CBSO in the evening. Still it all seemed so much easier than slogging up to the Lakes and back (as well as using a lot less petrol)

7 May

Walking with SRG in the White Peak. We were parked at the head of Bradforddale and much of the walk was the reverse of one I did from Elton 6 years ago. Longdale, Elton, Winster, edge of Stanton Moor, Robin Hood's Stride, Youlgreave and back up Bradforddale; 13 miles in total.

The weather was very good and many of us were walking in shorts. The area is very pretty. Strangely I didn't particularly enjoy it and I quite put my finger on why. I didn't even go up to the top of Robin Hood's Stride and it is one of my favourite places. Do I need the stimulus of new places to walk? Is it like a drug and I need ever larger quantities?

13 May

Out on my own again on a Saturday. A pass-out on condition that I was back in time for a trip to the pictures. I went off to Wales again to pre-walk my next expedition for the Ramblers (and also to bag a Marilyn).

I parked at Montgomery; it's 20 years since I've been there and I'd forgotten what a pretty town it is. I had a bit of trouble finding the path initially because of new housing not marked on the map. However that soon passed and I found my way over to the Offa's Dyke Path without too much fuss. The Path southwards was easy walking being flat and dead straight; not one of the more interesting sections of a superb long distance path.

When I left it (taking the road to Pen y Bryn Hall) the navigation became really difficult. Not a finger post or way mark until I was nearly back in Montgomery. Lots of obstructions especially around Gt Weston Farm. Still I've got long legs and these helped me get across many fences.

The Marilyn for the day was Caeliber Isaf.  I approached it by the track to Stone House and then on the footpath straight up to the road and bridleway which skirts round the hill. There should have been good views along this section but there was a similar mist\haze to that around the Breiddens last week. The track climbs steeply from Camberllan and it takes some persistence to get through the trees in places. At the top of the wood, I left the public path and struck up for the top of the hill. There is no proper access and I was really getting over fences here. The question was whether it was worth it. The views were still limited by the haze and it was difficult to tell precisely where the summit was. I decided to continue trespassing to get get down to the road to the north of the hill.

More obstructed paths as I made my way northwards.  I was thinking about using roads and great lanes when I finally got spotted a way mark at 213949. This was the start of the climb up Town Hill and this was really lovely and made better by the sun appearing. The summit is fascinating; a distinguished war memorial. a trig station, a view finder (the haze was still a problem) and two newly planted coppices.

A pleasant descent with views of the castle ruins and back to the car for 3:15. Just time for an ice cream before leaving on schedule.

Unfortunately I can't use it as my Ramblers walk. There are far too many dodgy sections for a group. I must send in a footpaths complaint to Powys CC.

21 May

There is a lovely and relatively unknown area along the Staffordshire-Cheshire border especially the Dane Valley. I go there 2 or 3 times a year, mainly with the Ramblers and I don't tire of it.

This was a Ramblers walk (from one of John Merrill's books) starting at the Derbyshire Bridge car park at the top end of the Goyt Valley. We walked over towards Axe Moor but didn't go up to the summit; there isn't a public footpath up there. We crossed Axe Edge from where all paths lead to Three Shires Head. It was very quiet there largely because it was still quite early in the day; I have known it quieter but only in foul weather.

Down the Dane Valley to Gradbach and then cross the river and cut back; we had lunch in a super spot high on the valley side. Up through the intriguingly named Higher Bongs and across to Wildboarclough, enjoying the views of Shutlingslow which I think is a delightful hill (although very unpopulated today).

The high spot of the walk for me was the climb up Cumberland Brook. I've often looked at this path on maps but been discouraged by the road work at the bottom end to access it. The road is a pain but the climb is superb along the ever-narrowing brook. It's so full of interest that you don't notice the effort even though you climb 200m. There is a ledge above the second waterfall with a stunning view; I could make out Caradoc and the Long Mynd even though visibility wasn't the clearest.

The track to the Cat & Fiddle is fairly uninteresting and it was more road back to the cars. About 11 miles and with the added pleasure that the threatening rain held off.


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