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May 2001

6 May

As I was driving into work on Friday, there was a brief snippet on the news; "Snowdonia will be open again this weekend". Well I scoured the official websites for more but in vain (the Welsh National Assembly site, which was supposed to hold the local information, being particularly useless. Eventually I tried the Conwy Borough Council site (have I ever mentioned that I am a former employee of one of its predecessor bodies?) and it had a list of land that was open again. Progress but the places listed were parks and coastal paths - nothing to inspire me to make the journey - when I hit paydirt. Tryfan and the Glyders were open.

Tryfan, as I have mentioned frequently, is my favourite mountain. However it is not Beryl's. She has heard fearsome tales of it and has always insisted that it is too hard for her to attempt. Well the weeks of inactivity must have had their effect on her because she was really up for going. 

We got to Idwal Cottage just after 9 o'clock. I was expecting to find hordes there, especially as it was a Bank Holiday weekend, but it wasn't bad at all. There was information out. Tryfan, Glyder Fawr and Y Garn were open but not Glyder Fach which links them; apparently it was the National Trust land that was open (for which much thanks - I mention this as I'm not always enamoured with the NT) and Glyder Fach has a different owner.

So we did the circuit of up the north face of Tryfan. down the south face and back via Llyn Bochlwyd. Not far as the crow flies but featuring 2000 ft of near vertical ascent, 1000 ft of slightly less severe descent and then a more typical mountain path with stretches of sharp descent.

The secret with Tryfan is to hit the ridge as early as possible. Whichever way you do it (and there comes a point where the clear path disappears and no two ascents ever follow the same line) there is a tricky bit to reach the list. Unfortunately I left this too late trying to be kind to Beryl, and it was really awkward reaching the ridge. We got there right by the Cannon. 

My memory was telling me that from there it was much easier. However we seem to have followed a particularly scrambly route although we were always just behind someone else. Beryl had real reservations at times about whether she could do it but she battled on to the top.

She had a good look at Adam and Eve. She wasn't sure whether I was winding her up about jumping across between them. Her conclusion was that no woman would ever do it because she would have too much sense. I know that I'm not doing it again; I've got the T-shirt.

The views to the west were wonderful (which is why all my photos are looking that way). It was much more overcast to the east and of course the hills are further away so they don't photograph as well. We had lunch there to take it the views. It was busier than I'd seen the top before but I had expected it to be heaving.

The way down is largely rocky and you have to pick your way carefully until you get on a clearer path. Eventually we were in a line of people. We followed them and didn't follow the route I've always done before into Bwlch Tryfan. Instead we took off the corner with a more direct (ie steeper) drop straight to Llyn Bochlwyd.

From there it's just a case of following the path back.

A superb day out. Beryl is converted to the joys of Tryfan, not that she has any ambition to repeat the trip.


13 May

It was the Ramblers AGM on Friday and, although the published programme was abandonned until July, we decided to offer a short walk on Cannock Chase today as it has started to reopen. Mainly at the northern end where the woodlands are more attractive; it's the Forestry Commission conifers that remain closed.

We had a very pleasant amble n lovely sunshine. The trees are now back fully in leaf (they were still bare when the walking stopped) and there is still a hope of catching the end of the spring flowers. We'd parked at Seven Springs and the only path open from there is towards the Stepping Stones in the Sherbrook Valley. However we cut across before reaching these and took a quiet diagonal path over two small valleys to reach the Sherbrook at Pepper Slade. That was the coffee spot.

We crossed over the valley and came back towards Milford Common along the Heart of England Way before cutting across to the pools and then the Stepping Stones.

It was well worth doing and we were rewarded with an ice cream at the end.

 Photos            Map

20 May

Another amble around the Chase with the Ramblers. We started at Coppice Hill near Brocton and went to look at Freda's grave. Then a long sweep around Oldacre Valley before crossing the Sherbrook at Pepper Slade and up on to the next ridge. This brought us back to the Stepping St6ones and back up the Tackeroo.

Photos            Map

27 May

The good news during the week was that Derbyshire had reopened most of its footpaths. So the news on the Ramblers notice board (and via various e-mails) was id anyone want to join me and Beryl on a walk on Sunday?" In the event, only Linda and Norman took up the offer.

On the Saturday we went to see my dad in Wakefield (doing a stroll around the Southern Washlands area of reclamation and taking in a very short section of the Transpennine Trail as well as the lovely village of Heath). We stayed there overnight thus giving us an easy journey to the start of the walk.

We met up at the Fairholmes car park at the top end of the Ladybower reservoir. My original paln was to go up Margery Hill, the highest point in South Yorkshire. Ah silly me; if it's in South Yorkshire, it can't be in Derbyshire and it hadn't been re-opened. So we did a rejig for a walk to Alport Castles. This is one of those places where the name fascinates me and it was on my "to do" list.

Plan B was however slightly subverted. The aim was to catch the bus which runs up the Upper Derwent Valley to save about 3 miles of road walking to the first path. However the driver of the bus coming the other way told us that our bus, the 10:35 wasn't running and the next bus wasn't due until 11:05. So we set off walking. Not only did the 10:35 pass us but also the 11:05!! Still it wasn't too bad walking along the side of the reservoir and we had a good old natter.

We left the road at West End, a big spur off the Howden reservoir. The climb up through woods was quite steep, especially as our fitness was less finely honed than normal. Norman however pointed out that no climb ever stops Linda from talking (how ungallant .....even if true) after the wood we were on a clear track across the moorland past various shooting butts until we reached Alport Castles. 

This is an area of cliff overlooking Alportdale; there is also one outlying pinnacle, the Tower. We had made good time so we had an explore going up the valley side for nearly a mile. The wind had blown up a bit and then (adding to the on-off mizzle of the morning). We took refuge in a grough and had a bite to eat.

When we re-emerged we realised that the weather had improved. The wind had dropped and become distinctly warmer. The walk back down the valley was very pleasant, particularly as the cloud lifted so that we got a proper view of first Kinder and then the Mam Tor ridge. The land around was extremely green and we were entertained by curlews.  We passed the Castles again and continued across Rowlee pastures and the top side of Hagg Side woods. The last section of the footpath was still closed as it does eventually cross a farm yard. Instead we dropped down through the woods (lovely birdsong there).

When we got back to Ladybower we had about a half mile walk back to the cars. Another good day. Not the most spectacular walk but very pleasant and good company.

Photos            Map

29 May

Bank Holiday Tuesday and Beryl and I returned to Snowdonia. The aim was to do the Watkin Path and I was banking on the Nantgwynant car park being open. The car park at Pen y Pass is closed and I hadn't wanted to mess about with a park-and-ride o the start of the walk.

The weather forecast had been good and the car park was sunny. However looking up Cwm Lllan the summit was under cloud even if Yr Aran and Lliwedd were clear. It was so good at the start that Beryl was regretting not bringing shorts; she later had cause to be glad she hadn't.

I've walked the path before (1992 with Andrew, Charles and his daughter, Rachel) but Beryl hadn't. The start is very pretty, partly because you get less hardy plants with the start being comparatively low (57m compared to 359m at Pen y Pass). The stream gradually narrows to a series of waterfalls before you enter the great bowl of Cwm Lllan. The walking is not difficult as it's a long gradual climb, with relics of the mining that once took place here.

One feature of the bowl is the Gladstone Rock. I thought that Mr Gladstone did some electioneering here in the 1890s. However more research shows that he made his speech at the Rock as part of the official opening of the Watkin Path. It's a fair way to trek to give a speech espcially when you remember that he was 82 at the time!

When I came before the cloud base was quite low. We'd entered it as we started the steeper climb up to the Pass of the Arrows. Today the cloud level was much higher and we reached the Pass in good visibility. By now I could see the whole of the Hebog ridge beyond Yr Aran and once at the Pass we left the path briefly to have a good look at the Horseshoe. We'd heard that Crib Goch has been heaving since they re-opened the mountain; there seemed to be plenty of silhouettes on it.

The final section is steep and mucky as you go up the side of the high buttress of Snowdon itself. The impression was made worse because the cloud was down here. There was one old chap whom we'd been talking to on the way up who decided he'd had enough. He reckoned that as he'd been to the summit many times before, he should simply turn around and go back and enjoy the better visibility.

The top was cold and crowded. Beryl had her first view inside the cafe although she was less than edified by the experience. She resisted the "I've climbed Snowdon T-shirts". Actually when we came this way before, Charles handed out "I've climbed Snowdon" badges, Made by his wife, Janet, who'd hired a badge-making machine for reasons totally unconnected with walking. These all had 4 figures on in the different colours of our waterproofs.

Just before we left the top the cloud lifted quite suddenly. It was totally unexpected and it didn't promise to last long. However it stayed like this for about 2 hours and we had a very pleasant afternoon. We returned the way we came. I had thought about using the Rhyd Ddu which is lovely at the top end. It had re-opened over the weekend. Unfortunately you have to cut across open ground to rejoin the Watkin Path and I didn't think that this was a good idea in the context of FMD restrictions.

We'd lots of time so the return was very relaxed and enjoyable. Even the mucky section was less treacherous than Beryl was expecting. We popped into Beddgelert where there is a wonderful ice-cream shop; I think that they are made on the premises and the selection is as varied and inventive as you'll find. A decent journey back and not fancying cooking we stopped at the Falcon in Hinstock where I had a really nice duck and pidgeon casserole.



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