Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Sandstone Trail Day 3 - Kelsall to Frodsham

Distance: 14 miles
Ascent: 450m
Weather: overcast but warm
Blackthorn, elderberry, bramble, dogberry, hawthorn, rowan
Fieldfares, swallows, buzzards calling
Dirty bogs: 0
Close encounters: big dog, small cat, big hedge cutter, flies

The rain had stopped overnight and it was overcast as we set off from Kelsall and actually a bit warmer than expected, especially as the start of the walk was uphill.  We were accompanied part of the way by the vicar's cat who, while friendly, wasn't much help with finding the footpath.

Along the path through Nettleford Woods we spotted lots of trees coming into fruit, including blackthorn (sloe) and took a detour into Delamere Forest and the visitor centre - this started off as the Sandstone Trail Alternative Route but soon we took alternative alternative routes and made our own way back to the Trail along the side of Blakemere Moss. The lake had less water and more tree stumps in it than we'd expected but was definitely not a dirty bog. The signs were very clear on that.

Out of the forest, we stopped for tea and scones at a b&b on the edge of Manley Common then continued around the side of Simmonds Hill and Alvanley Cliffs. The wooded cliff edge was steep sided and rocky, with lots of steps up and down. We stayed high and emerged at the memorial and viewpoint, looking out over the Ellesmere Port and the Mersey estuary. The path zigzags down into Frodsham, we crossed a busy  road to visit the marker at the end of the Trail then headed to the railway station.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Sandstone Trail Day 2: Bickerton to Kelsall

Distance: 13.5 miles
Ascent: 400m
Weather: Rain, rain, drizzle, mist
Swallows, wet cows, wet goat-sheep

Day two started by heading back up uphill on to the Peckfordton Hills, it was already raining, a big bank of rain forecast to cross the entire country during the day.

We walked through the tall sweet chestnut trees over Bulkeley Hill then around under Peckfordton Point and Table Rock. From further along, we looked back to these hills to see Peckfordton Castle Hotel, flag flying, rising out of the trees.

Ahead of us was Beeston Castle on the next hilltop, we skirted it through the woods, then peered over the wall at the medieval reenacters sheltering under their tarpaulins in the grounds. We crossed the canal at Wharton's Lock then we were out into fields. The ground was deeply cracked from the long hot spell but today's rain had made it muddy and slippy underfoot. The route crossed many fields and narrow quiet lanes, the rain continued to fall all day. We had lunch at a partially sheltered bench under an oak tree on the edge of Willington Woods.

Primrosehill Woods' deciduous trees, ferns and fungi looked primordial in the mist. We walked along Urchin's Kitchen, a narrow gorge formed by glacial runoff with mosses and ferns, swampy ponds in the bottom. The hum of the racing at nearby Oulton Park audible in the peace of the woods.

A last stretch of rocky sandstone path ended the day on the trail, before leaving the path and heading into Kelsall where we are staying at the Royal Oak.

Sandstone Trail Day 1: Whitchurch to Bickerton

Distance 15.5 miles
Ascent 400m
Weather: sunny
Kestrel, buzzards, long tailed tits, Mr Squirrels, bunnies, donkey, jay
Hangovers from hell: 1

After a delayed start (due to me nearly being murdered by a glass of wine) we caught the train from Manchester to Whitchurch and by 12.45 were on our way on the Sandstone Trail. The walk first crosses town, which is very attractive little streets, through the edge of a park and out along the Llangollen Canal.

The sunshine was warmer than we'd dressed for, but quite welcome.

Things we saw floating in the canal:  pretty boats, logs, rabbit.
Things we saw that had recently been in the canal: small boy and his scooter.

Lunch was had at a bench by Grindley Brook Lock no 5 watching the narrow boats navigated the waterway.

We crossed fields of cows, fields of maize and fields for fancy racehorse training. There are lots of big farms and estates here, you could tell it was proper countryside because of the bonfire and pungent smells.

The last part of the day was up on Bickerton Hill, which is actually two Bickerton Hills, sandstone hills rising high above the Cheshire plains. There were lots of views, plus the fort of Maiden Castle, Mad Alan's Hole and a deep tree covered ravine at Muskets Hole. The woods were also covered in young pheasants, they were everywhere.

It was getting towards dusk and we were getting very hungry indeed, me especially as I had not made it to breakfast, as we dropped down off the hill to the welcome of the Bickerton Poacher.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Pembrokeshire Coastal Path Summary

Total walked distance: 208 miles
Total ascent: 7800m
13 days walking

Day 0 - 6 miles - to Amroth, Wiseman's Bridge Inn
Day 1 - 15 miles, 570m - to Manorbier Beach, Castlemead
Day 2 - 19 miles, 620m - to Warren, Corston House
Day 3 - 21.5 miles, 650m - to Hundleton, Highgate
Day 4 - 15 miles, 360m - to Millford Haven, Lord Nelson
Day 5 - 13 miles, 450m - to Dale Village, Lobster Pot
Day 6 - 16 miles, 430m - to Musselwick Sands, Lobster Pot
Day 7 - 10 miles, 300m - to Broad Haven, Anchor
Day 8 - 12 miles, 650m - to Solva, Cambrian
Day 9 - 12.5 miles, 570m - to Whitesand (via Skomer and Ramsey islands), Grove Hotel
Day 10 - 15 miles, 750m - to Trevine, Cranog
Day 11 - 19.5 miles, 950m - to Goodwick, Seaview
Day 12 - 15 miles, 670m - to Newport Sands, Castle Inn
Day 13 - 18 miles, 900m - to St Dogmaels, Cardigan Castle

Friday, 8 June 2018

Pembrokeshire Coastal Path Day 13

Distance 18 miles
Ascent 900m
Weather bit cooler, overcast, few spots of rain
Stonechat, meadow pipits, buzzard
Horses in gorses 7

We left Newport this morning under cloudy skies but dry, walking via the Spar out to the estuary, where there were oyster catchers, snoozy swans and canada geese amidst the gulls and labradors.
This last section is described as a long, remote and rugged day's walk, dominated by two big climbs, although the rest of the way was hardly flat. A long steep climb started us off up on to the cliffs, which seem darker and more solid looking than those south of here.

At Godwr Mawr we stopped at the top to watch the guillemots, razorbills and house martins nesting. I've been informed that apparently yesterday there were also razorbills on the cliffs. The path to was narrow and grassy, often overgrown, with bracken dotted with bluebells. There was an odd hawthorn tree here and there, stunted and mishapen into the direction of the winds.

We has a sit down with some cows at Gerddi-bâch, they were most interested in us to start with but then wandered away.

The path veers steeply down near Carag Bica, there were choughs squawking loudly. Lots of sea birds but no fins or seals today. The shore started looking more rugged, with caves and a natural arch, thought one of the caves might be an archway but there were voices so I think it was people inside with a torch. At Bwn Bach, a steep decent into a narrow inlet took us over an impressive rock arch carved out by the waves underneath. A kestrel was circling around worrying the other birds. I expect  this place appears on Instagram a lot.

We stopped for lunch at Ceibwr Bay and then headed back up. The cliffs at Traeth Godir-côch are very geological indeed, huge waves of rock curved around and folded up, caused by the movement of tectonic plates. It looked like more recently there'd been a fire. We saw a fox and fox cubs (or possibly three cubs) playing on a scrubby section below is, they scattered into the bushes when they saw us. Cemaes Head is a nature reserve, but we're not sure what for, as it didn't seem much different to anywhere else, and then we joined a lane and walked down into St Dogmaels, which is the end of the Pembrokeshire Coastal trail.

Our day's walk carried on into Ceredigion, we are staying in Cardigan, at the castle. I have learned that bopty means bakery.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Pembrokeshire Coastal Path Day 12

Distance 15 miles
Ascent 670m
Weather warm and sunny

From the hotel we walked around into Lower Fishguard Town around the Marine Walk, where it was laundry day in the car park.

A plaque at Goodwick harbour tells a grand (and possibly fictional) story of a heyday of transatlantic liners porting here before they moved to Southampton. Fishguard harbour is pretty but not touristy, there is no beach here. A path leads out to the remains of a small fort, armed with some cannons and a crow. These (apart from the crow) date from 1797 French invasion, the last successful invasion of Britain, despite being a bit crap and surrendering within two days.

From the harbour we climbed steadily upwards, then dropped down a bit then climbed upwards some more. Repeat.

We saw a red kite and guillemots on the nooks and crannies of the cliffs. The path wiggles its way around heads and coves, along the boundaries of fields and the cliff edge and along little hawthorn lined paths. There were plenty of butterflies, bees and songbirds. Also flies, but they are less romantic.

We had a sit down at the beach at Aber Bach, which was very peaceful, then walked around to Pwllgwaelod bay where we had lunch at the Old Sailors pub, sat out in the garden in the sunshine.

A sustained climb up onto Dinas Head brought us to the view point, topped with a trig point (142m) looks our to sea. We got grunted at by ravens and stonechats. On the way down, we followed the 'cliff edge path' sign down a steep grassy slope, leading to a narrow path clinging to the side of the cliff. We got a very good view of the gulimots and gulls on Needle Rock, but it was a bit vertigo inducing. A sit down and ice-cream at Cwm-yr-Eglwys was appreciated.

The way continued up a narrow lane and then through woodland, or possibly just a big hedge, ot was hard to tell through the trees. Not many views.

Crossing a pebble beach, there were loads of gulls having a paddle in a fresh water pool under the cliff at Cwm Rhigian. As we walked up on the cliff on the other side, we could see the flocks of birds waiting their turn on the ploughed field above.

The path crossed some high, jagged cliffs before gently descending down to Parrog, at the estuary, then follows the salt marsh into Newport, which is prettier than I'd expected. There have been tractors coming and going all evening, hopefully they'll stop soon as they are noisy.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Pembrokeshire Coastal Path Day 11

Distance 19.5 miles
Ascent 950m
Weather warm and sunny
Choughs, wheatear, grey heron,adder, seals, dolphins (or possibly porpoises)
Number of girls in canoe designed for one: 3

It was supposed to be cooler today, but already quite warm when we set off at eight thirty, without much of a breeze at all. By mid afternoon it was decidedly hot. Also someone has been round with a strimmer and the dead, dry grass now covering the path was very slippy.

We saw an early peregrine, looking out to sea from a rocky perch, and also a kestrel on a pointy rock. We tried to fix a broken gate into a sheep field, and out on the other side had some sheep-on-the-path related anxiety, thankfully the lamb jumped up to the wall on the right, not the cliffs to the left.
We went round a point marked in itallics on the map as Castell Coch but there was nothing much to see, which was rather disappointing. Other places we passed today were Pant y Dwr, Pwl Hêr, Pwl Bach and Aber Felin.

We had a sit down by the beach at Aber Fawr, where we overheard some chaps discussing where the fence used to be while pointing out to thin air and sea.

We stopped for lunch on a bench at Carn Ogof with amazing views over the bays of Pwll Deri and Porth Maynmellyn to Dinas Mawr and the islands. The bench was really uncomfortable. We continued on around the peninsula passing iron age fort and springs, feeling more like rocky mountain tops, even quite boggy in places, with heather, gorse and bracken. Towards the end of the walk there was even a proper cow-y bog. It's like they were expecting us.

As we walked through the hills we could see the Carreg Oneg bay lighthouse, complete with bridge over to the mainland. Second lunch was had on a rather sloped bench just before we reached the car park, where most people were ending their day's walk and waiting for the bus. We walked on.
An adder was sunning itself by the edge of a quiet path right next to the car park, it slithered away into the heather.

A great day for wildlife, there was one seal at Trwyn Llwyd, and at least three lazing on the rocks in the sunshine a bit later. A bunny tail darted across the path. We stood for ten minutes watching dolphins jumping far out in the waters at the top of Strumble Head, saw a very plush looking fox, a brief peregrine falcon, a kestrel in the distance, a buzzard circled overhead and lastly there were oystercatchers in the bay at Goodwick.

Things were rather rushed once we'd arrived at the hotel but we've got dinner, beers and a sit down so we are happy.