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February 2001
 

4 February

Another day out on my own. It rained all the way to the start of the walk and all the way back. Given that I should be grateful that it was dry all the time that I was walking and not complain about the day being grey and the mist at the high points. Actually I really enjoyed the walk and could tell that it would be a belter on a nice sunny day.

I parked at Enville and went out over the Sheepwalks.  This is the parkland around Enville Hall where I’d walked before. The ground rolls a lot and this characterised much of the walk. After leaving the estate I went over some unconsidered paths, including one point where my navigating was severely tested. Have you noticed how, on such occasions, your mind makes the landscape fit where you think you are on the map. It was trying to do this here but fortunately one corner of the brain rebelled and kept saying “The path has too many kinks” and “You should be going downhill not up”. So I stopped and puzzled it out and was delighted when I did.

I reached the road at Pidgeon House Farm and went south on it before turning into woodland. This is owned by the Woodland Trust and is called the Wilderness. Like most of the woodland I passed through during the day it is mainly broadleaved. When I re-do this walk I must plan to spend more time there and have a good look round.

On to Compton House Farm and then into a much larger area of woodland. The map calls it Arley Wood but the signs say “Forestry Commission – Shatterford Woods”. There is a typical Commission track for much of the way through but you do leave this and start a sharp, muddy climb to Witnells End. However, where the main path leaves the woods, I turned eastwards along the edge of the woods (and also across a big, ploughed field with no headland – ugh!). This dropped to a footbridge and then there was another sharp climb out through this year’s Christmas trees. There were good views round from here. This led in to the Boddenham estate. I think that this must be open to the public; it all had a slightly manicured feel and there were notices for the main parts. I stopped to take a photo at Bottom Pool. Another place to spend more time on a future walk.

I climbed up on a long and very muddy path towards the wildlife sanctuary marked on the map. This was where I picked up the Worcestershire Way and followed it to its end on Kinver Edge, where it joins the Staffordshire Way. This meant going through Kingsford Country Park (as well as a fairly grotty bit through caravan park and light industry).

Plain Sailing with the navigation now. Just follow the Staffordshire Way back. No views off Kinver Edge  because of mist but the path out on the other side of Kinver town was mush better than I expected. I must have walked nearly all of the Staffordshire Way by now.

Photos                Map

11 February

My walk around Hanbury as prewalked last month

There were 11 in the group. The day was dull and the ground was even wetter than the on the prewalk. The sad bit was that it started raining just before we got to the best section of the walk around Draycott and Hanbury. This obscured the views over the Dove Valley. As a result I kept going and we took a late lunch when in the shelter of the woods around the Fauld Crater. The consensus was that we should take the direct route back rather than get soaked.

I did persuade them that we should go through the woods at least to get the view to Tutbury Castle. I certainly did not want to carry on to the castle as the fields along the river were clearly sodden. We then returned, having fun up one very soggy bank, and went to see the Crater. I got some photos this time although I don't reckn that they do justice to the crater. From there it was only a short walk (albeit over one seriously ploughed field, to Hare Holes Farm and then good track back to the cars. We took advantage of one ford to get our boots somewhat cleaner.

Just over 9 miles in total so a reasonable day.

Photos                Map

17 February

A truly stunning day. Charles wanted to knock off some Wainwrights on the Helvellyn ridge. The reward, after several miserable walking days and lots of working days when we had to look out on sunshine, was crystal clear visibility. We saw just about every significant peak in the Lakes, the northern Pennines and (I think) Ingleborough in the far distance.

To keep the distance reasonable and also to allow me a new line of ascend, we parked on the Thirlmere side just south of Thirlspot. We walked northwards, high above the road with superb views of the lake and Raven Crag but with Skiddaw and Blencathra dominating the views. The path rises gradually until Fisherplace Gill where it climbs sharply beside the falls. I like waterfalls so I enjoyed these.

We followed the valley as it turned to the south-east above the falls before climbing out at the end. It's a long pull up to Whiteside with no real path across tussock grass. You do however get a view of the Dodds as you track under Raise. The summit gave us our first all-round view and this was superb. We'd seen more and more of the western and north-western fells as we climbed but now we could see over to the High Street ridge and, beyond them, Cross Fell and the northern Pennines.

The ridge had a lot of compacted ice on it and was awkward in places, especially the climb up to Lower Man. The top of Helvellyn was quite busy but we stopped there for lunch, having a look at the ice climbers making the direct ascent from Red Tarn. This ought to have been horrific but as I looked at them I was thinking "I could do that"; well, provided I had the right gear.

Charles' Wainwright-bagging took us on to Nethermost Pike and Dollywagon Pike before doubling back to Nethermost and descending via Birkside. This was very icy at first because it is out of the sun. There were other tricky spots later on but none quite as icy as that. It was an enjoyable descend on the whole with good views over Thirlmere and also the Steel Fell to Helm Crag Circuit. Charles and I relived the day we climbed Steel Fell from Dunmail Raise; nearly 1000' of seemingly vertical ascent.

At the bottom we had 2.5 miles to walk back through the woods. On the map this looks like a Forestry Commission track but it turned out to be a much more interesting path rising and winding through the trees.

For Charles three new Wainwrights. For me, a new route and rediscovering the joys of the Lakes after a deliberately long absence. For Beryl, the thrill of conditions that she has not tackled before and the confidence that comes with meeting it with ease. For all of us a good curry in Ambleside before the journey back. 

  Photos           Map

18 February

Stafford Ramblers dinner ramble. Beryl and I went on the A walk which started from the venue for the meal, the Blacksmiths Arms in Alton. This is as in Alton Towers and the first part of the walk involved going around the park.

We dropped down from the village through woods to the Churnet and followed the valley a little way. Then we climbed out on the other side through Park Banks. We ignored the chance to take the footpath across the amusement park walking eastwards along the perimeter; it is seriously fenced off to prevent intruders. This took us across the line of my recent Weaver Hills walk and down to Brookleys Lake. We then went along Wootton Lane all the way to Farley.

A strange thing happened here. Ron stopped at the phone box to ring his wife, Chris, to give here directions for the pub; she was joining us for the meal. We walked on a bit, over a stile and across the field to Parkhouse Farm before waiting for him. Tony had stayed at the stile to make absolutely sure he was OK. But he never arrived and when Tony returned to the phone box Ron wasn't there either. well what a mystery and there were several inventive explanations for Ron's disappearance

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he had been abducted by aliens

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he was an alien and he had been making for his return to the planet Zog ("RB phone home")

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he had stripped off in the phone box, turned into SuperRon and flown off to save the planet 

In the meantime we consoled Stan, who was leading, with references to the old adage that he was allowed a loss rate of 12% in this terrain and conditions.

We dropped back down through Barbary Gutter to the Ramblers Retreat and then did a loop around Dimmingsdale. There are lots of paths here but I'm not a fan. They always seem so dark and dank.

On returning to the valley we followed the Staffordshire Way back to Alton. This goes over Toot Hill which has an outcrop with a superb view over the Churnet 

Ron reappeared at the pub about 20 minutes after we did. He was distinctly vague about where he'd been. Well, wouldn't you be if you'd just saved the planet?

Photos           Map

22 February

It's a bit of a cheat really to include this as a walk. Beryl and I were en route to Minehead for a weekend of walking on Exmoor. We'd allowed time for doing touristy things without firm plans so we popped into a tourist information  office.

My train of thoughts went like thisafter looking at a road map. we are driving along the length of the Quantocks. Isn't the top a Marilyn. What's it called. Can't remember. Look in the OS book of walks on Exmoor for inspiration. Ah yes, Will's Neck. Can I do the walk without the book. No but have a look at this Explorer map. Ah there's a car park about three-quarters of a mile away and with less than 200 foot of climb. Let's see if we can find it.

Well we did find it and the sun came out. So we had a pleasant stroll along the ridge with views across to Exmoor and over the Bristol Channel into South Wales.

Photos            Map

23 February

This walk was intended to link up two Marilyns. We walked from our hotel and had to get across a fair bit of Minehead to the real start of the walk. I struck lucky with a couple of fairly pleasant lanes covering much of the distance, when we might have just been trekking across housing estates.

This took us to Periton and the climb up Periton Hill. It's not particularly demanding and I have to say that it's not a desperately interesting hill. Much of it is covered in conifers so it is gloomy and you can't see a lot. This was made worse by an overcast day with intermittent rain. I didn't take any photographs on this section of the walk. Even the trig station at the top is in the middle of a clump of trees.

Down the hill (well down, back up and down again due to a touch of geographical dysfunctionality). This tok us back across the A39 and on a long lane to Selworthy. This wasn't unpleasant as there as it was contouring around Selworthy Beacon at a reasonable height with good views. We stopped to look around the village, much of which is owned by the National Trust. It has several thatched cottages with the yellow wash walls that we came to recognise as typical of the area.

We climbed up the beacon from the church. It's a pleasant climb up through deciduous woods and I saw a hawk (a buzzard, I think, although it was on the small side) take off from one tree. As we left the wood quite near the top, we stopped for lunch and this turned out to be quite a sun trap. We did a slight detour to take in Bury Castle, an old hill fort, before heading for the top; that was the second Marilyn of the day.

The walk back to Minehead was very straightforward along the South West Coastal Path. For the first time we realised how strong the wind was. It was coming from the north and the cold had teeth in it.

Photos            Map

24 February

We started out from Horner over one of many packhorse bridges in the area and headed through Horner Woods in the direction of Porlock. We then  circled above the woods before picking up a bridleway marked on my map as Flora's Ride. 

The plan was to follow this to Stoke Pero but I missed the point where it turned into the woods. The track we did follow brought us back to the lane and I decided that our best bet was to follow this past Pool Farm on to the open moor. Our reward was a couple of sightings of red deer. I would have followed this all the way to the ridge but we spotted a good track which provided a short cut to Lang Combe Head. From there it took us about 30 minutes to get to Dunkery Beacon. It's the highest point on Exmoor and also in Somerset and it has an enormous mound to celebrate this double achievement The views from the top are spectacular.

We continued along the ridge to the road which we then followed down to Webber's Post. There is a good path down to Luccombe from there and then tracks back to Horner via Chapel Cross.

Photos            Map

25 February

A short walk of about 7 miles from Malmhead up the Bratworthy Valley. This was the inspiration for the Doone Valley in "Lorna Doone" and this image is marketed in the area.

I thought that we were going to have a lovely day in spite of a sprinkling of overnight snow. However the bright sunshine experienced on the drive over dispapeared whilst we were getting our boots on and it never really returned.

The route was easy to find up the valley bottom. However I remember it more for the birdlife than the river scenery (which doesn't compare with Dovedale or Yorkshire). There were friendly chaffinches and robins in the car park, a dipper and a buzzard in the valley proper and we tracked a heron for the best part of a mile as it kept going upstream for about 100 yards a time in its bid to escape us.

The path becomes a concessionary one up the valley and it crosses the stream to climb up Great Tom's Hill. The return journey was quite bleak across cold, windswept moortops where again we saw a pair of deer in the distance. The path brought us back to Oare and a short walk down the road to the car. There is a choice of routes into Malmhead; over the bridge or across the ford. Being an exhibitionist I opted for the latter.

A very relaxing but we could have done with a less extreme wind. 

Photos            Map

 

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