Sunday, 29 January 2012

28/1/12 - The Fairfield Horseshoe

Distance - 10.5 Miles
Ascent - 3656ft
Wainwrights - 8 (Low Pike, High Pike, Dove Crag, Hart Crag, Fairfield, Great Rigg, Heron Pike, Nab Scar)
Greatest Extravagance - Costa Coffee Medium Americano - £2.99

Fairfield Horseshoe

This trip was booked before Xmas, when Rocket announced that he had new boots and needed to test them out.  He has subsequently cleared out the rest of the shop by purchasing everything else going, including Yaktrax.

Sometimes, you have to think that the gods are smiling on you.  After a week looking at weather reports and seeing big black clouds over Ambleside, we have been rewarded with the most beautful weather you could hope for.  When we get to the hotel, we manage to squeeze into the last parking space available and then this happens when I check in.

Mere Mortals have to make do without slippers
We leave at 6:30am and stop off at the last service station on the M6 before the turnoff.  Hopefully tonights beer is going to be cheaper than the liquid gold that they hawk here.  Usual conversations comparing who has the best lunch.... my two types of cob, malt loaf and punnet of sausages get high marks, but Gav has brought scratchings.  Get to the hotel, park up to let the boys layer up on all their newly purchased layers.

We can start the walk from the hotel and head North West through the grounds of Rydall House.  We can see what we are going to walk and navigation is not going to be an issue.  The skies are blue and the sun is out and after admiring the camping pods in the grounds, people start having to stop to disrobe.  Hats, gloves and eventually jackets are all discarded.

Just before the snowline
The first ascent is a steep one up Nab Scar, where we very rapidly climb to 1500ft.  I pretend that I am interested in taking a lot of photos and admiring the view behind us to Ambleside to disguise my fatigue.

But at one point I was in front
Once getting on Nab Scar, the route (in all its glory) is laid out to us.  We have a succession of peaks to attain, drop down a bit and then moving on to the next.  All in a perfect horseshoe shape.  Its really just a question of how much the snow will hinder us and how much of a drop there is between the peaks.

Heron Pike is pretty easy, a long gradual climb.  Great Rigg gains its height over a much shorter distance.  We keep following the traffic up and a lot of people are taking advantage of the glorious weather.  Conversations reveal that yesterday was all hail, snow and winds, so we have stuck lucky.

Gav conquers Great Rigg
We can stop for lunch here, or get to the top of Fairfield - which is our highest point of the day.  We decide that Fairfield makes the most sense.  The snow is getting deeper, reaching knee height in the drifts.  Through science, I am able to prove that I am the fattest bloke on the hills.  Whenever I tread in someone elses footprint, the snow goes down just that little bit deeper.

Fairfield at 2850ft is the high point.  Loads of people are here.  We all have a chat over lunch.  Rocket pulls faces at the people who are delighing at their macadamia flapjacks.  He thinks they are too posh for the hills and their twin ice axe lashed to their rucksacks proves this. 

We are then confused by the request from a middle aged gent who asks us if we have any suncream.  We have compeed, whisky and fine pork related products but cannot oblige his request.

Just about to share my punnet
The amount of other diners also stops me from looking for my geocaches.  The nut flapjackers are sat on it.

Three at the top
All the pausing going uphill kind of distracts you.  On the way down, its becomes apparent how relentless it is as we dont stop as much with gravity on our side.  It seems to go on and on forever.  To make things even crueller, we can see civilisation and the pubs. 

Follow the wall all the way down
After checking football results, having an unplanned scramble down high brock craggs and meeting a 70 year old bloke who seemed rather too confused to be going up at 4pm, we leave the snow and follow the stream at Low Sweden Bridge to the town.

The weather, views and impending night out put us all in good spirits.

First stop for entertainment is the Spa.  The jacuzzi is a nice starter.  The steam room gives Gav his first opportunity to insult the geordies and in an unexpected brave move from yours truely, the three of us find ourselves in an outdoor hot tub with a couple on a romantic break.  She was quite chatty, he scowled.

Change and get the second guide book of the day out.  50 more great pub crawls has a route in ambleside.  Having ticked off 8 wainwrights, we then do 6 Camras - The salutation, royal oak, unicorn, golden rule, queens hotel and white lion leads to Ambleside's only club, the cellar bar.

Salutations, my fiends.
Food is taken on board at the Unicorn.  Only minor confusion about whether the pie comes with salad and vegetables.  The golden rule has both a one eyed pirate and then provides us with evidence that this is a university town, as a group of students in golfing gear come in.  Somehow, I have managed to lose the photo that Rocket secretly took. 

Hang your head, camera thief

After all the pubs, where much to Gav's paranoia we have been followed by the steamy geordies, we try out the Cellar Bar.  Its nicely laid out and we enjoy the muscial accompaniment of "Riverside Mofo" to the tune of the Harry Hill dance music.  We only hope there are more people than the three of us in there.  Our prayers are eventually answered when the staff from the local chinese finish their shift.  Its around this point that we call it a day.

King of the Cellar

Special walking, lucky with the weather, great company and after a breakfast from the gods, we realise that we have had a bargain hotel as well.

49 more great mountain days in the lakes left to do.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

21/1/12 - Nearly in Wales

Distance - 7 Miles
Geocaches - 0
Inspiriatin - Jan 12 CW Magazine
Marilyn Hills - 1

Wapley Hill

When not hunting for Geocaches, I am ticking off local Marilyn Hills.  Its been a while, but I am having to go further afield.  The journey there today possibly highlighted the closest part of Stourport to Wales, as it was just this side of the border and only 36 miles away.

I've spent the week really looking forward to the walk but despite being a Marilyn with the Mortimer trail running along the top, I could not find a route from any of the myriad resources at my disposal.  An unplotted recent copy of Country Walking Magazine came to the rescue and a nice little 7 miler was perfect for my needs.

After a nice drive, parked up at a Picnic Area.  No other cars, but a sign saying shooting in progress.
I'm in the right place
I am half way up the hill, so have a gentle climb up forest path to the summit.  Weather forecasts of a windy day were spot on.  The top of the hill has very well preserved ramparts and an information board.  The ramparts surround a significant settlement area.

They said it would be windy
There are some views over wales from the ramparts, but the best views are on the way down, after navigating the mortimer trail though a tree lined avenue.

Nice walking
Seat for one
Drop down to Stansbatch Farm and pick up a road, which turns into a green lane.  Eventually we meet the road that goes through Horseway Head.  There is no need to put the dog on the lead, there is not a soul about.  Horseway Head turns out to be a collection of around half a dozen houses.  Great views back up to Wapley Hill.

If the first theme of the walk was the hill, the second part of the walk is a river ramble, following the Arrow to Staunton on Arrow.

Weir meet again
The church dominates the area and provides a reference point to aim at.  Quite impressive, with the mound of a Norman motte and bailey castle providing a vantage point to clamber up.

I am Gulliver on the Mound
Through the churchyard (oldest seen tomb 1779) and through the village with lots of black and white buildings and impressive old court and farm.  Still, I wouldn't live there.  They have no pub.

Easy walking northbound through fields and orchards.  Some stunning views as I start to gain height.
Hear the shooting as I get back towards the car.

All this and there is a Jumbo Sausage roll in the car.

The walk ends all too soon.  This was a real blow out, isolated and just what I needed.

Next week, three blokes go up a proper mountain.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

15/1/12 - Bagging Caches in Baggeridge

Distance - 9 Miles
Geocaches - 6
Walk from - CW Magazine (March 2007)
Doghead Parishes - Baggeridge, Gospel End, Himley, Wombourne and the most Black Country of them all, Gornal.


Saturday's walking was curtailed by another university visit to Cardiff.  This is fast becoming a second home to us.  Hopefully, the interview will be successful, when Ellie is convinced I will be buying a second home for her.  Today, I wanted to go somewhere a bit more unusual but couldn't face another long drive.  A visit into the black country is like another planet anyway - so this route from CW Magazine was perfect.

The instructions suggested parking at the Crooked House pub - but as it's 9am, I thought it might be better to go to Baggeridge Country Park instead.  A mistake.... due to a row with a parking machine it ended up costing me £3.90.

Start off by walking southwards through Baggeridge Woods.  There are a few caches in the woods, some found on a previous visit.  Pick up three by the time that I get to the pools.

Too cold for the doodle
This has been great walking.  Frequently meet up with other dog walkers and see that the de rigeur pooch in this part of the world is a staffordshire bull terrier.  You would be surprised at how they can bounce up at you when they get excited.

The pools lead into the grounds of Himley Hall.  Plenty of history at this stately home but my favourite bit of information was that a former occupant was called Dud Dudley.  Double Dud to his mates.

Once visited by Charles 1.  Once owned by the coal board.
Then we have a bit of evil road walking.  Its not too bad, as there is a footpath, but after the tranquilty of the woods, it's a bit noisy.  It does serve a purpose though as it takes me to Gornal and to the Crooked House pub.

It must be more than 20 years ago that I last visited here.  We used to drive up in my green mark II ford escort listening to tapes of the latest indie bands on a Sunday night - when a third consecutive night in the Swan got too much.  I would have struggled to find it now, so glad that I have re-established contact with his unique watering hole.

Marbles appear to run uphill
I will come back when it is open.

The walking follows some rough land at the rear, much of which has been used to make a BMX track.  No real footpaths but we are looking to get onto the disused railway line.

This provides some great walking.   Added bonus is that it elevated, flat and has some good views.  Follow this for two miles, leading me into Wombourne.  Turn east here and follow the Wom Brook through the town before picking up the countryside again. 

Surprisingly good Views from Battle Hill
Couple more caches on the way back to the car.

Camera on Cache
Plenty of variety on this walk, woods, stately homes, old railway lines, wonky pubs and to top it all - six more caches on my total.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

8/1/12 - Lutley Surprise

Geocaches - 11
Distance - 3.8 Miles
First Cache


First geocaching trip of 2012.  Currently on 1746 and the aim is to get to 2000 by the end of April.  The problem I have is that I have to go further and further afield to get any decent rounds in.

Today, I looked at the Geocaching map.  At one point, it was going to be Penn but that was too close to Wolverhampton.  Instead, I looked at Halesowen and a around near Lutley. I didn't have high hopes, expecting it to be an inner surburbia romp around alleys but it turned out to be a very good walk along bridlepaths, with plenty of great views across Clent and the distant tv ariels on the hill in god knows where.

Park up on Lutley Mill Road - right in the middle of a housing estate.  Take a bridle path past the Mill Farm and soon can see there is nothing to worry about.  This is all green lanes, views and a high volume of joggers.  Maybe making their new year's resolutions.

Take in first 5 caches to Grange Farm, where I take a detour towards Foxcote, taking in a couple of other caches not part of the trail.

TV Mast Hill in background.  Camera on a cache.
Should have paid attention, as there are bonus co-ords in some of the caches, but only noticed around half way through.

Some road walking alone a surprisingly busy road before getting back on the trail proper at White House Farm.  Nice, isloated green path with a brook running alongside.

Another cache location
Make a mistake with my route planning, missing number 7 and going straight to number 8.  Little bit of road walking and then stumped from getting number 9 because a man washing his car at GZ.  Oh well... the extra four on route made up for my mistakes and not tackling the bonus.

A perfect quick round for a man with high goals and very little time..... thanks to vj1 for the round.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

7/1/12 - Shrawley, take a bow

Distance - 5 Miles
Walk Inspiration from Julie Royal
Caches - 1 in the woods and I have found it

Shrawley Woods

First walk of the new year.  Although its not an adventure in distance to get there, it is a classic walk in some lovely countryside.  I don't mind that it was only a couple of months ago that I was last here.

Today, I have the inspiration for a great walk but not the time.  I need to get to Worcester to buy a new diary in the sales.  You can always get them cheaper at the first weekend and who wants to record the first 7 days of the year anyway.

Jan 1 - Buy new talking scales to support new year's weight loss
Jan 2 - Test scales..... they report "oof - one at a time please".

Waste of time.

So a quick local walk and as it is the first of the month, old Julie provides the inspiration.  She wants me to park at the New Inn, but as they have started charging £3 (redeemable against a future drink, but alas, I am also on the wagon), I have modified the route to start at The Burf.

Quick Walk down a good bridle path, before picking the southbound river path down to Oliver's Mound.  The river is showing the reults of the week's storms, so Molly is kept well away.  Although saying that, I am off to Worcester for my diary, so could always pick her up from there.

No Swimming

Up to the mysterious Oliver's Mound.  Site of an 12th century castle and English Civil War gun emplacement, its now just a grassy hill with some nice views over New Pool.

Drop down to the pools.  Julie wants to walk 100 yards on the Shrawley road, which is taking your life into your own hands if the sickness inducing shuttlebus is on its rounds.  I make the better decision to walk through the grounds of Shrawley Wood house on some great paths.

Timer should be on 10 secs, not 2, you doofus
Pick up Layes Pool, where someone has taken the plug out as it is now bone dry and skirt the woods for some great views over Woodbury Hill and the Malverns.  Really nice walking under a clear blue sky.

Through the woods, across the stepping stones at the forge (photos on previous blog) and up across fields before back to the car.

Need a haircut

Super walk.  Nothing too strenuous but a nice start to 2012.